The Beatles were at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London today in 1962, working with producer George Martin on their first major recording session. They did four songs, including Love Me Do, one of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s earliest original songs. Martin thought them “a bit rough”, but was impressed by their confidence, enthusiasm, and musicianship with the notable exception of drummer Pete Best, who he immediately complained to manager Brian Epstein about. The band was already considering sacking Best, and would replace him with Ringo Starr in August. In September they would re-record the song with him, but Martin was still not happy, and did a third version with studio drummer Andy White. The Ringo version was released as their first single in Britain and Canada, the Andy version (with Ringo on tambourine) was released as the American single, and the Pete Best version was thought lost for years until it was released on the Beatles Anthology 1 came out in 1995.
Roy Orbison’s first wife, the “pretty woman” Claudette, who had grown up around motorcycles and shared Roy’s love for them, was killed today in 1966 when a truck pulled out in front of her bike while they were on their way home in Texas. She was only 25. A grieving Roy threw himself into work. He’d wanted to star in movies like his friend Elvis Presley, but only managed one. The Fastest Guitar Alive was originally supposed to be a dramatic western about a Confederate spy with a guitar-gun sent to rob the U.S Mint in San Francisco. It was a box-office flop, and MGM cancelled the other 4 films set to star him.
British shock-rocker Screaming Lord Sutch was touring the East coast of the U.S. in a custom Rolls Royce hearse today in 1968 when he played the Freehold Hullabaloo in Freehold New Jersey with opening act The Castilles (featuring Bruce Springsteen on lead vocals). Sutch had stolen much of his horror-themed stage show…and part of his stage name… from American bluesman Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (an idea later picked up by Alice Cooper), but it never caught on. His debut album of the following year, Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends, was voted The Worst Album Of All Time by BBC listeners in 1998, despite contributions from Jimmy Page (who also produced the album), John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Nicky Hopkins, and Noel Redding.
Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett played his first gig since leaving the band tonight in 1970 at the Olympia Hall in London. His backing band included his Pink Floyd replacement and old school chum David Gilmore, who along with the audience were quite baffled when Syd abruptly took off his guitar and walked off stage without explanation during the 4th song.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono jammed onstage with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention tonight in 1971 at the Fillmore East in New York City, a show described at length in former Turtles singer and “Eddie” of The Mothers “Flo and Eddie” Howard Kaylan’s new book Shell Shocked. The show was recorded, and much of it made it on to Lennon’s 3rd solo album Some Time In New York City.
Def Leppard had been a band for all of two years, and had recently changed the spelling of their name from Deaf Leopard in order to seem “less punk rock”, when they played a show at the Crookes Workingman’s Club in their hometown of Sheffield England tonight in 1979. The show was favorably reviewed in the British Sounds magazine, which led to them being signed to a recording contract with Phonogram (Mercury records in the U.S.).
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Crosby Stills and Nash, Stevie Wonder, Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan, and Jackson Browne played for 85,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl tonight in 1982 in a concert called Peace Sunday: We Have A Dream, a protest against President Reagan’s massive defense build-up.
Former Decca Records artist and repertoire man Dick Rowe died of diabetes today in 1986. Rowe is mostly famous for passing on the opportunity to sign The Beatles, saying “Nobody cares about guitar groups anymore”, though he would later sign The Rolling Stones to a contract after the Beatles proved him so very wrong.
Keyboard player Billy Preston, who appeared and/or recorded with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and many more, died of kidney failure today in 2006 at 59.
U2 bass player Adam Clayton’s personal assistant and housekeeper Carol Hawkins went on trial in Dublin today in 2012 for stealing some €3 million (nearly 4 mil U.S.) from his bank accounts.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
The Byrds guitarist Clarence White would be 69 had he not been hit by a drunk driver while loading equipment after a show at age 29.
Guitarist Peter Albin of Big Brother and The Holding Company is 69.
Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth solo, Public Image Ltd., and Whitesnake guitarist Steve Vai is 53.