Though he would be more closely connected with the city in the 70’s, Elvis Presley played Las Vegas, Nevada for the first time tonight in 1956. Billed as the “Atomic Powered Singer” he had a two-week contract to open for The Freddie Martin Orchestra and comedian Shecky Greene, but audience response was so lackluster the promoter tore up the contract after the first week, but the trip wasn’t a total loss: While in Vegas, Elvis and his band had seen Freddy Bell and the Bellboys do a rock-and-roll cover of the Big Mama Thornton blues song Hound Dog, and started working it into his set.
Featured entertainment at the Fox and Hounds Pub in Caversham England tonight in 1960 was a guitar duo called The Nerk Twins, which would be totally unremarkable except that The Nerk Twins were John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who’s aunt owned The Fox and Hounds Pub.
Peter and Gordon had their only #1 hit today in 1964 with A World Without Love, a song credited to Lennon/McCartney but written by Paul and given to Peter because he happened to be the brother of Jane Asher, Paul’s girlfriend until ’68. The song would also hit the #1 spot in the United States, making it and Elton John’s cover of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds the only Beatles songs to top the American charts performed by someone other than The Beatles.
The Rolling Stones released their 9th British and 11th American album Sticky Fingers today in 1971. It was their first with Mick Taylor, the first without Brian Jones, the first where Mick Jagger played guitar, and it was the first use of the band’s famous “tongue-and-lips” logo. The cover, designed by New York pop artist Andy Warhol, caused quite a lot of controversy for it’s close-up shot of a jean-clad male crotch with little-left-to-the-imagination outline of the manhood of the model, who most fans assumed to be that of Jagger, but actually belonged to Warhol art-film star and New York gay culture icon Joe Dellesandro. It’s widely considered to be one of The Stones best albums, but reviews at the time were mixed, with Rolling Stone magazine reviewer Jon Landau writing, “As I listened to Sticky Fingers for the first time I thought Brown Sugar was good, but not that good. I certainly hoped it wasn’t the best thing on the album. As it turns out, there are a few moments that surpass it but it still sets the tone for the album perfectly: middle-level Rolling Stones competence. The lowpoints aren’t that low, but the high points, with one exception aren’t that high.”
The Ramones released their debut album today in 1976. Though the album artwork received some accolades, the cover shot of the band lined up against a brick wall has been copied so many times it’s now a central recurring theme on a website dedicated to bad band photography called “The Hall of Douchebags“.
Former Sun Records recording artists Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins played a show together tonight in 1981 in Stuttgart, Germany. The show was recorded and released as the album The Survivors Live, a reference to the 1956 “Million Dollar Quartet” session in Memphis that had included their now-dead friend Elvis Presley.
David Bowie went to #1 on both sides of the Atlantic today in 1983 with his 15th studio album Let’s Dance, which had the title track hit #1 on the singles charts and two more in the top 5, Modern Love and China Girl, a song he’d co-written with his friend Iggy Pop (Iggy recorded it first on his ’77 album The Idiot). The album also marked a major career stepping stone for an up-and-coming Texas-blues guitarist by the name of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Roy Orbison celebrated his 52nd birthday tonight in 1988 at a Bruce Springsteen concert. Bruce, being a fan of Roy’s, stopped the show at one point to have the audience sing happy birthday to him.
Johnny Thunders (real name John Genzale Jr.), lead guitarist with the highly influential New York Dolls and later The Heartbreakers (not to be confused with Tom Petty’s band of the same name), was found dead in New Orleans today in 1991. Police ruled his death a heroin overdose, but his room had been ransacked and robbed, and a coroner’s report found an insufficient level of the drug for an overdose as well as advanced-stage leukemia, but police declined to reopen the case.
Peter Hodgson of Liverpool England found a gold mine in his attic today in 1995, coming in the form of a reel-to-reel tape made on a recorder his father lent to Paul McCartney in 1959 containing 16 songs from The Beatles, including one of the earliest Lennon/McCartney compositions Hello Little Girl and a cover of Ray Charles’ Hallelujah, I Love Her So.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Roy Orbison would be 78 if he’d made it past December of the year he celebrated his 52nd birthday with Bruce Springsteen.
Captain Sensible (real name Ray Burns), guitarist with influential British punk band The Damned, is 60.
Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark would be 54 if he hadn’t died at age 30 from an overdose of alcohol and a fairly wide variety of drugs.