The Beatles set a new world record for concert attendance today in 1965 with their show at New York’s Shea Stadium. 55,600 fans showed up to see them play a half-hour set opened by King Curtis, The Young Rascals, Brenda Holloway, and Sounds Incorporated. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were in the audience, and Bob Dylan visited them in their hotel after the show to enjoy some of what he’d turned them on to on their first American tour the summer before, which is perfectly legal now in the State of Washington.
A year later The Beatles were playing to 32,000 in DC Stadium in the nation’s capitol tonight in 1966. The show was picketed by all of 5 members of the Klu Klux Klan, including the Imperial Grand Wizard for Maryland, who were incensed by John Lennon’s comments, which he’d already retracted, about the band being more popular than Jesus. John’s comments barely raised an eyebrow at home in England, but the reaction in the American bible belt and South Africa soured them on ever touring again.
Led Zeppelin headlined the Hemisfair Arena in San Antonio Texas tonight in 1969, with opening acts Jethro Tull and Sweet Smoke. Some paying customers took time to heckle the band for the length of their hair.
Meanwhile on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in upstate New York, the Woodstock festival (Max’s farm was some 40 miles from the first-choice site near Woodstock) got underway today in 1969 with first act Ritchie Havens,(who died this year). The “Aquarian Exposition: Three Days of Peace And Music” was not the first such festival, in fact the Sky River Pop Festival and Lighter Than Air Fair and the Seattle Pop Festival had already taken place, with many of the same performers, but Woodstock, saw a near half-million fans and it’s proximity to one of the nation’s media hubs in New York City got it a lot more attention. Many of the artists would gain their first national attention from the film that followed, especially Santana and Joe Cocker. Promoters had hoped for Bob Dylan as headliner, and chose a location near his home hoping he would at least attend, but Bob left for England’s Isle of Wight festival just before the show. Led Zeppelin had been invited, but manager Peter Grant wanted them headlining their own shows after playing Seattle Pop, and they were being heckled as long hairs in San Antonio. Joni Mitchell was invited to attend, but pulled out at the last minute when she was invited on The Dick Cavett Show, and wrote the song Woodstock based on TV news reports and the experiences of her then-boyfriend Graham Nash. John Lennon and/or the then-disintegrating Beatles had been invited to play, and while urban myth has it that he declined because promoters didn’t want Yoko Ono on stage, Lennon’s visa to enter the U.S. had been blocked by the Nixon administration. The Chicago Transit Authority were invited to play, but had signed a contract with San Francisco promoter Bill Graham, who had them playing the Fillmore West that weekend, and as they found out later, didn’t want them competing with Santana, another of Graham’s acts. The Doors were invited, but declined thinking the event would be a “second-rate Monterrey Pop Festival”. Iron Butterfly were billed for Sunday but were stuck at an airport. Jethro Tull stuck with the Zeppelin tour because Ian Anderson “didn’t like hippies and public nudity”, of which there was plenty. The Jeff Beck Group, Free, Tommy James and the Shondells, The Byrds, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, The Moody Blues, Arthur Lee and Love, Spirit, Procul Harum, and Roy Rogers (who was asked to sing Happy Trails at the end) all declined invitations.
A futuristic comedy based on a play by Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman of the “underground” comedy troupe The Firesign Theater, Americathon 1998 premiered in Hollywood tonight in 1979. Starring John Ritter as the President of a bankrupt United States which resorts to a TV Telethon hosted by Harvey Korman. The George Carlin narrated movie featured rock and rollers Meat Loaf and Elvis Costello, who along with The Beach Boys, contributed to the film’s soundtrack.
Paul Simon played a free show in New York’s Central Park today in 1991 to an audience estimated at three-quarters of a million people.
Sixteen John Lennon solo albums were made available for digital download on iTunes today in 2007, in a deal with Yoko Ono which followed a long legal battle between The Beatles Apple Corps Ltd. and iTunes maker Apple Computer Inc. over the use of the fruit.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Electronic instrument inventor Lev Sergeyevich Termin, known in the West as Leon Theremin, would be 117, if he hadn’t checked out at age 97. His namesake instrument was made famous in rock and roll by it’s use on The Beach Boys Good Vibrations, and by Jimmy Page on Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused. There is one you can play in a hands-on display at The Pacific Science Center.
Spencer Davis Group drummer Pete York is 71.