Tacoma-born crooner Harry “Bing” Crosby entered the Billboard singles charts for the 11th time today in 1954 with his version Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, a song he’d sung before anyone else on his radio show 13 years earlier as America was still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor and the World War just getting underway. Not exactly a rock and roll number, but it held the record as the best selling single of all time up until Elton John remade his own song Candle in the Wind to be about his friend Princess Diana Spencer in 1997.
The Beatles showed up for a performance at London’s Hammersmith Odeon theater tonight in 1964, but rather than screaming for the fab four like they usually did, angry and jealous female fans attacked George Harrison’s girlfriend Patti Boyd, who managed to duck inside before she was injured.
Led Zeppelin arrived in the United States for the first time today in 1968, in Denver Colorado. They’d play a show there the next day, then board a plane for Seattle where they opened for Vanilla Fudge on the 27th, then retired to the Edgewater Inn on Seattle’s waterfront where the infamous “Mudshark Incident” took place. Their first album hadn’t been released here yet, but those who were there were mightily impressed. After shows in Vancouver B.C. and Portland, they were back in Washington State for a show at Gonzaga University in Spokane that was recorded and widely “bootlegged”, but with a new British law allowing copyrights on all recordings to expire, is set to be released sometime in 2017. Zeppelin were paid a whopping $1500 for each of these performances.
Former Sex Pistols singer John “Rotten” Lydon debuted his new group Public Image Limited in London tonight in 1978. Though Johnny would publicly thank former Cream drummer Ginger Baker for playing with them in the 2012 documentary Beware Of Mr. Baker, Ginger didn’t play with them until their 5th album almost 9 years later.
Tacoma-born crooner Harry “Bing” Crosby was back on the charts today in 1982 with a duet he recorded with David Bowie for Bing’s Merry Olde Christmas TV Special, Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy. Bowie admitted at the time he’d been trying to “normalize his career”, but agreed to do the show mostly because he knew his mother liked him. He balked at first at the idea of singing the classic Drummer Boy…”I hate that song. Is there something else I could sing?…so the show’s musical producers came up with the Peace On Earth part, and Crosby and Bowie worked the two together with less than an hour of rehearsal.
Love guitarist Bryan MacLean died of a heart attack tonight in 1998 at age 62, in the middle of Christmas dinner with a fan who was writing a book about the band.
The “Godfather of Soul” James Brown died of complications from pneumonia at age 73 today in 2006.
Rock and Rollers Born on Christmas Day
Poet and lyricist Pete Brown is 76, best known for writing most of the lyrics for Cream.
Fairport Convention guitarist Trevor Lucas would be 73 if he’d made it past 45. He’d been married to Brit folksinger Sandy Denny, the only person not named Robert Plant to sing on a Led Zeppelin album.
Canned Heat guitarist Henry “The Sunflower” Vestine would be 72 if he’d made it past 52.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience bass player Noel Redding would be 71 if he hadn’t passed at age 57. Noel is indeed a fairly common first name, especially in France, though few of the people with it have actually been born on Christmas.
Eurythmics and The Tourists singer Annie Lennox (OBE) is 62, and still counts Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen among her biggest fans.
Shane MacGowan is 59, best known as the lead singer of Irish Folk Rock band The Pogues, who had a huge Christmas hit with The Fairy Tale of New York.