George Martin was made head of Artist and Repertoire of EMI’s Parlophone Records today in 1955. George had been working for EMI since 1950, but this was a bit of a dubious promotion. While the offshoot label had once been home to German artists, particularly classical, imported into England, by now it was floundering and seen as the place for insignificant performers. Indeed George spent his first couple of years there recording classical, baroque, cast recordings of hit plays, and regional music from around England, but he scored a hit with Peter Ustinov’s Mock Mozart, and began signing comedy acts like Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers. By the late 50’s he was signing Skiffle and early Rock and Roll Bands, and when presented by Brian Epstein with the chance to sign The Beatles, who’d been turned down by Decca, he set on the path that would lead him to Knighthood, and turn Parolophone from a “sad little company” to a highly profitable one.
The Beatles hadn’t yet met George Martin when they started a 3-month residency at the Top Ten Club in Hamburg Germany tonight in 1961. They would play for 92 straight nights, 7 hours an evening on weekdays, 8 on weekends, with a 16 minute break every hour. It was on this trip that bass player Stu Suttcliffe’s German photographer girlfriend Astrid Kirchhirr would cut his hair into the “mop-top” style that was popular there at the time. The others adopted the look that would later be known as the “Beatles haircut”, with the exception of drummer Pete Best, who’s curly locks wouldn’t hold the style, and it was one of the reasons they eventually kicked him out.
The Who were in Manchester today in 1965, appearing on Top of the Pops for the fist time. Afterward it was off to the Manchester Town Hall, where they opened for Donovan, and in turn were opened for by Rod Stewart and the Soul Agents.
Pye Records released the first single from David Bowie, Do Anything You Say, Today in 1966. Bowie had recently changed his last name from his given Jones to avoid confusion between him and Davy Jones of The Monkees, who were starting to be quite popular in England as well as America, and he’d been recording as David Jones and the Lower Third.
The Troggs recorded Wild Thing in London today in 1966. They played it live in the studio, with no overdubs, and got the keeper take on the second attempt. It would go to #1 in the U.S. and #2 in England a little over a year later.
John Lennon was out book shopping today in 1966, and picked up Timothy Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience and another, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, where he noticed near the introduction the line “When in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream”, which just 5 days later he was recording as the opening line of Tomorrow Never Knows at Abbey Road.
In what was certainly not an April Fools joke, The Beach Boys announced they were suing Capitol Records today in 1969 for $2 million in unpaid royalties.
In what was an April Fools Joke, John Lennon and Yoko Ono issued a press release informing their fans of their intent to undergo simultaneous sex-change operations today in 1970.
AC/DC played in England for the first time tonight in 1976 at the Red Cow Club in London. Meanwhile in another part of town, future stars of Britain’s soon to be big “punk rock” scene The Buzzcocks played their first show ever at the Bolton Institute of Technology, where the power was cut off just three songs into their set. Meanwhile just outside of London, a thief broke into Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour’s house and made off with £7000 worth of guitars that would be worth a lot more today.
Marvin Gaye was shot dead by his own father today in 1984 when he tried to intervene in an argument between his parents. Marvin Gaye Sr. was put on trial for 1st degree murder, but the charges were dropped when doctors found he had a brain tumor.
David Lee Roth quit Van Halen today in 1985. They’d been fighting like cats and dogs on their 1984 tour, and Dave was pissed that Eddie Van Halen had recorded for Michael Jackson and with others, and started his own solo career, having hits with covers of The Beach Boys California Girls (with Carl Wilson on background vocals), and Irving Caesar’s 1929 adaptation of the German hit of the year before, Shöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo (Just a Gigolo). Dave had just been offered $20 million to write the soundtrack to a movie, and was hoping he could get Ed, who was usually inebriated at the time, cleaned up enough to make it a Van Halen project, but the deal fell apart when MGM Studios was sold, and Roth walked. Ed found a new vocalist when he was introduced to former Montrose frontman Sammy Hagar by their mutual auto mechanic, but only after first offering the job to New-Wave singer Patty Smyth of the band Scandal, a gig she turned down.
Almost unnoticed in the Classic Rock world, Issaquah band Modest Mouse were at #1 on the U.S. album charts today in 2007 with their 5th album We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, which featured a new guitarist, Johnny Marr of Manchester England, who’d been hailed for his work in influential 80’s band The Smiths.
An extremely rare British Parlophone-label audiophile-quality autographed copy of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album was auctioned in Dallas today in 2013. The seller expected it would be worth upwards of $30,000, but all were shocked when it went for a little less than $300,000.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Rudy Isley of the Isley Brothers is 76. They had their first hit way back in 1959 with Shout, and in the mid 60’s sported a young lead guitarist from Seattle by the name of Jimi Hendix.
John Barbata is 70. He played drums for The Turtles, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and later era Jefferson Airplane and Starship.
Ronnie “Plonk” Lane would be 69. Bass player with the Small Faces, The Faces, who did one album (Rough Mix) with Pete Townshend, and was owner of a mobile recording studio on which many of rock’s classic albums were made, died after a long battle with MS at age 51.