Years before The Beatles made people start buying them and stop buying singles, RCA-Victor demonstrated their new 33 1/3 RPM “Long-Playing” record today in 1931 at the Savoy Hotel in New York City. The format was a total failure and wouldn’t be revived for another 17 years, not because The Beatles hadn’t been born yet, but because the record players cost almost $100…well over $1000 in today’s money.
The Doors performed their hit Light My Fire on CBS’s The Ed Sullivan Show tonight in 1967. The show’s producers had met with the band beforehand to express their concern that the lyric “girl we couldn’t get much higher” promoted drug use, and asked the band to change the last word to “better”, to which the band agreed. But when they went live Jim Morrison, either intentionally because “better” doesn’t rhyme with “liar”, or because he forgot, kept the original lyrics, and a furious Sullivan immediately cancelled another six scheduled appearances. When a producer informed them they’d been 86’d Jim said, “Hey man….we just did the Sullivan show”. By December, they’d be back on TV, on the less-conservative Jonathan Winters Show.
The Student newspaper at Drake University in Iowa published an article today in 1969 titled “Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?“, which seems to be the starting point of media discussion on both sides of the Atlantic of rumors that he had been killed in a car crash in Scotland in 1966, and the band not wanting to alienate fans had replaced him with a look-alike that was somehow able to sing, play instruments left-handed, and write songs like him. For some reason The Beatles were also compelled to send secret messages to their fan base, such as John saying “I buried Paul” on Strawberry Fields Forever (he later said it was actually “cranberry sauce”), the back-masked “turn me on, dead man” when Revolution #9 was played backward, the “funeral flowers” on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, and the fact that Paul wasn’t wearing shoes in the crosswalk photo on Abbey Road. By October their press office responded not with secret messages but a clear “What a load of rubbish! …We get letters from all sorts of nuts, but Paul is still very much with us”. In November LIFE magazine caught up with Paul and Linda at their Scottish farm, and Paul cleared the air: “Perhaps the rumour started because I haven’t been much in the press lately. I have done enough press for a lifetime, and I don’t have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family and I will work when I work. I was switched on for ten years and I never switched off. Now I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days.”
The Sex Pistols played a show for inmates at the Chelmsford Prison in Essex England today in 1976. The prisoners enjoyed the show, but a fair amount of the population of Britain at the time wished they had stayed there.
Queen rented the Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium, hired 65 professional models, and rented bicycles for all of them to ride around the dog track naked today in 1978, as they made a promotional film (they wouldn’t be called “rock videos” until MTV came along a few years later) for their latest single Bicycle Race. When the company they’d rented the bikes from found out what they were doing with them, they demanded the band buy all the seats.
Rob Tyner, lead singer for the influential Detroit band The MC5, who’d urged a generation to “Kick out the jams, motherf***ers!” at the start of every show, died of a heart attack today in 1991. He was just 46.
A 19 year old rock fan was removed from an airplane at the Denver airport today in 1998 for verbally abusing members of Hootie and The Blowfish, who’d been in the first class section.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Country music legend and a big influence on rockers as well, Hank Williams would be 90. He died in the backseat of a Cadillac he was being driven to a show in of chronic alcoholism and prescription drug abuse at 29 in 1953.
Elvis Presley’s bass player Bill Black would be 87. His “slap” technique of playing the stand-up “bass fiddle” became central to the early “rockabilly” style of rock and roll, and he was eventually inducted into the Rock and roll Hall of Fame as a sideman two years ago, but wasn’t around to enjoy it as he had died during surgery for a brain tumor at 39.
Steely Dan drummer Jim Hodder would be 66. He quit the band in 1974, and worked as a session musician, playing on albums by Linda Ronstadt, Sammy Hagar, and David Soul among others until he drowned in his swimming pool at 42.
The Tubes lead singer John Waldo “Fee” Waybill is 63, and playing the Snoqualmie Casino on January 10th.
Steve Williams, drummer for Welsh band Budgie, is 60. Never hugely popular in the U.S., they are considered one of the first “Heavy Metal” bands, influential to bands like Metallica, who have covered two of their songs.