By Scott Vanderpool

Decca Records in England sent 25,000 copies of Texas singer Ray Peterson’s teen tragedy song Tell Laura I Love Her to the shredder today in 1960. It tells the story of a boy named Tommy, who enters a car race hoping to use the prize money to buy his love Laura a wedding ring, but crashes and is killed,  managing to utter the chorus with his dying breath. The song went to #7 on the U.S. charts, and Ray would have another hit when his song The Wonder Of You was covered by his friend Elvis Presley, but in England Decca thought the song was “tasteless and vulgar”, and destroyed the records. A month later, a cover of the song by Welch singer Ricky Valance went to #1 on the Brit charts and sold over a million copies in the U.K.

The single Ringo For President was released in the U.S. today in 1964, sung by a kid’s chorus called The Young World Singers, despite the fact that Mr. Richard Starkey was born in Liverpool England and not eligible to be President of the U.S. The song was also recorded and released in Britain and Australia, where they have Prime Ministers not Presidents, by Australian-turned-British-Kids-TV-Host Rolf Harris, who had a big hit with Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, which he once did on a British radio show with The Beatles singing background vocals.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation banned the playing of anything by The Beatles today in 1966, in response to John Lennon’s “Bigger than Jesus” remarks that also saw mass record burnings and protests in the U.S. “Bible Belt”, brought the band Ku Klux Klan death threats, and led them to never tour again.

The Beatles shot the cover photo of the album that would change the name of the EMI recording studio they were working at today in 1969 to Abbey Road. Working from sketches by Paul McCartney, photographer Iain MacMillan had just 10 minutes to shoot 6 photographs of the band crossing the famous “zebra” crosswalk near the studio while a policeman held up traffic and he perched atop a step ladder. George Harrison wore jeans and a work shirt, while the other three wore suits designed by Tommy Nutter. Paul took off his sandals and went barefoot in the shot they used, adding to the rumor started in the Drake University (Iowa) newspaper that he had died in a car crash and had been replaced by a look-alike (who was somehow able to sing, play, and write songs like him). The Volkswagen Bug to the left was owned by people who lived in a nearby flat, and their license plate (LMW 281F) was stolen repeatedly until they sold the car in ’86 for £2,530. It now resides in a museum in Germany.  58 year old American tourist Paul Cole who (he died in 2008 at 97) was standing to the right, and had no idea he’d been photographed until he saw the album cover 9 months later. Since then thousands of tourists have flocked to the crosswalk to recreate the cover on their own.

Janis Joplin bought a new headstone for the Philadelphia grave of her idol and main influence, blues singer Bessie Smith today in 1970. Smith had died after a 1937 car crash on route 61 between Memphis Tennessee and Clarksdale Mississippi, and urban legend had it that she had passed away after being refused entry to a whites-only hospital, but CBS record executive and jazz writer John Hammond (the man who discovered and signed Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen) wrote that at the time “Down in the deep south no ambulance driver would have even thought of putting a colored person off in a hospital for white folks”.

The Greater London Council denied American punk-metal band The Plasmatics permission to blow up a car on stage at the Hammersmith-Odeon theater in their British debut tonight in 1980. Singer Wendy O. Williams was famous for exploding cars, smashing TV sets with sledgehammers, and cutting up guitars with a chainsaw.

MTV broadcast it’s first ever live stereo concert tonight in 1981 with REO Speedwagon performing songs from their recently released chick-rock album Hi Infidelity in Denver.

Metallica were opening for Guns-N-Roses at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal tonight in 1992, when a premature pyrotechnic blast severely burned frontman James Hetfield, cutting short their set. Guns-N-Roses took the stage, but soon singer Axl Rose complained of a sore throat and cut their set short as well. Unhappy fans rioted, smashing windows, overturning cars, looting stores, and setting fires.

KISS were playing at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium tonight in 1996 when a fan threw his prosthetic leg on stage. All the band members signed the leg and handed it back to him.

Rock and Roll Birthdays

Soul singer Joe Tex would be 78. He died of a heart attack 5 days after his 47th birthday. His songs have been covered by The Doobie Brothers, James Brown, The Monkees, Nazareth, and Phish.

Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show drummer John “Jay” David is 71.

U2 guitarist Dave “The Edge” Evans is 52.

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