The Beatles played live for the last time today in 1969. Ringo Starr later remembered, “There was a plan to play somewhere. We were wondering where we could go…Oh, The Palladium or The Sahara, but we would have had to take all the stuff, so we decided ‘Let’s go up on the roof'”. With only 8 days lead in time carpenters hastily constructed a deck on the roof of Apple Corps headquarters at 3 Saville Row in the heart of London’s business district, between the 18th century chimney-stacks (just like Mary Poppins!). They ran wires up from two 8-Track tape decks in the studio downstairs so that engineer Alan Parsons could record it, and film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg set up several cameras. George Harrison invited his friend Billy Preston to play keyboards, hoping that the presence of another talented musician would keep the band on their best behavior, as had happened when he’d invited Eric Clapton to play with them in the studio in the midst of the then-usual infighting and bickering. It was a cold Thursday, and they started at around noon, playing 9 takes of 5 songs for a total of about 42 minutes, and crowds gathered on the roofs and in the windows of adjacent buildings, and a larger crowd began to form in the street below, which naturally attracted the attention of the police, who Apple employees would not let in the building until they were threatened with arrest, which prompted Paul McCartney to improvise the line “You’ve been playing on the roofs again, and you know your Momma doesn’t like it, she’s gonna have you arrested!” into one of the three takes of Get Back. John Lennon famously ended the performance with the quip, “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition”.
Soldiers of the British Army’s First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment were on hand in the Bogside area of Derry in Northern Ireland today in 1972 for a protest march by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. It was a Sunday. Violence between Irish separatists and the British occupiers had been increasing, and while the N.I.C.R.A. was a non-violent group, that didn’t stop the soldiers from setting up barricades, firing tear gas, and using water-cannons against them, and when reports of an Irish Republican Army sniper reached commanders the order was given to load live ammunition, and after some rock-throwing soldiers opened fire on the crowd, wounding 26 and killing 14. Paul McCartney, of Irish descent, was first to write and record about it, with his Give Ireland Back To The Irish laid down just two days later, released as the first single from Wings, and promptly banned by the BBC. John Lennon, also of Irish descent, wasn’t far behind with two songs about the event on his Some Time In New York City Plastic Ono Band album (Sunday, Bloody Sunday and The Luck of The Irish), Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler was inspired to write Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and 11 years later U2 came out with their own song Sunday, Bloody Sunday.
Having just changed their name from Wicked Lester, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss performed as KISS for the first time tonight in 1973 at the Popcorn Club in Queens, NY.
Texas blues guitarist Sam “Lightnin'” Hopkins died of cancer today in 1982 at 69. Hugely influential on rock guitarists to follow, Rolling Stone magazine put him at #71 on their Top 100 list.
Nirvana played in Adelaide Australia tonight in 1992 on their first and only trip Down Under.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Marty Balin, founding singer of The Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and later Starship, is 75.
The Small Faces and Humble Pie guitarist and frontman Steve Marriott would be 70 if he hadn’t died in a house fire at 44.
Genesis drummer Phil Collins is 66. When singer Peter Gabriel left the band in 1975, they auditioned some 400 potential replacements before realizing that Phil, who’d been singing backup vocals all along, was the best man for the job, and they went on to sell far more records than they ever had with Peter.