Capitol Records was started today in 1942 by songwriters Johnny Mercer and Buddy DeSylva, along with Glenn Wallichs, owner of the then-largest record store in Los Angeles. The label would be the American home of artists like Frank Sinatra, The Kingston Trio, Nat King Cole, Bozo The Clown, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and many more, and be the first West Coast competition for New York giants like Decca, Columbia, and RCA Victor. On the same day Wallichs also became the first at a record company to provide a free record to a radio disc jockey, a practice that would become commonplace, and in the 70’s and 80’s sometimes include little promotional gifts of illicit substances inside, not that Gary Crow would know anything about that. Capitol sold out to the British EMI records in 1955, who immediately built the iconic Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood, a round 13 story building designed to look like a stack of records on a turntable now listed on the National Register of historic places.
Janis Joplin arrived in San Francisco today in 1966. The Texas-born singer had been invited by Big Brother and The Holding Company to become their lead singer.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience played the Saville Theater in London tonight in 1967, with Procul Harum, Denny Laine, and The Chiffons as opening acts. Paul McCartney and George Harrison were front row center in order to see Jimi play his cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Though Paul would eventually draft Denny Laine to play in Wings, communications later surfaced that showed Hendrix was eager to start a post-Experience and post-Beatles supergroup with McCartney prior to his death.
Hundreds of people in Glenrowan Australia had signed a petition turned in today in 1969 protesting the casting of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger as Australian bushranger and folk hero Ned Kelly in a new film directed by Tom Jones Tony Richardson. Mick told the press, “I am taking this film very seriously. Kelly won’t look anything like me. You wait and you’ll see what I look like. I want to concentrate on being a character actor.” Mick’s then-girlfriend Marianne Faithful came along with the intention of playing the lead female role, Ned’s sister Maggie, but they were breaking up, and when she got down under she took an overdose of sleeping pills and was sent home after spending a short time in a hospital in a coma. The film came out in October of 1970, and was not well received. Neither Jagger or Richardson attended the London premier, and Mick claims to have never seen it.
The Rolling Stones became the first Western rock band to receive royalty payments for sales of their records in the Soviet Union today in 1975.
The Sex Pistols played a show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester England tonight in 1976. In the audience were several people inspired to start their own highly influential British bands: Morrisey, who would go on as lead singer of The Smiths, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook who would go on to start Joy Division, Pete Shelley who became the leader of The Buzzcocks, and Mark Smith, now known as the acerbic and somewhat bizarre leader of The Fall. These bands became only marginally successful in America, but are household names in England.
Chuck Berry played at The White House tonight in 1979, at the invitation of the American President with the best taste in music, Jimmy Carter (though Barack Obama recently got points for knowing all the words to Stairway to Heaven at the Kennedy Center Honors).
The Police had their 5th (and last) #1 hit in England today in 1983 with Every Breath You Take from their Synchronicity album. In the U.S. the song would win them two Grammy awards.
Bruce Springsteen released his best-selling album, Born In The U.S.A. today in 1984. It was the best-selling record of that year, and contained a remarkable 7 top-ten singles, including the title track, a song often taken as a chest-beating anthem by conservatives and other misguided would-be patriots, but is actually about the negative effects of the Vietnam War on returning veterans.
Elton John began a 6-month court battle to recover the rights to 169 of his early songs from publisher Dick James Music today in 1985, seeking some $51 million in damages. The court eventually denied Elton copyrights to the songs, but ordered the publisher to pay him millions in unpaid royalties.
Iconic American punk rock singer Stiv Bators of The Dead Boys and The Lords Of The New Church was out drinking in Paris early this morning in 1990 when he was hit by a taxi. He was taken to a hospital, but felt fine and left before being seen by a doctor. He died in his sleep from the concussion.
The United States Postal Service announced the results of it’s poll to see which rendition of Elvis Presley would be used on his commemorative stamp today in 1992. Fans overwhelmingly chose the young, skinny Elvis over the bloated, pill popping Las Vegas Elvis.
Small Faces and Faces bass player Ronnie “Plonk” Lane died after a long battle with multiple sclerosis today in 1997 at age 51.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Michelle Gilliam Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas is 69, and the last surviving member of that 60’s singing group. She’s currently on her 5th marriage, having divorced bandmate John Phillips in 1970, and actor Dennis Hopper after 8 days.
Gordon Waller would be 68, half of the British singing duo Peter and Gordon. His partner Peter Asher was the brother of Paul McCartney’s mid 60’s girlfriend Jane Asher, and they were given many unreleased Lennon/McCartney songs to record, including their #1 1964 hit World Without Love. Waller died in 2009.
Wings lead guitarist Jimmy McCulloch would be 63. He first gained fame with the short-lived band created by Pete Townsend of musician friends, roadies, and Who hangers-on called Thunderclap Newman, but died of a heroin overdose in 1979 just shy of being able to join the “27 club”.