The Beatles woke up in their New York City hotel rooms today in 1964, 3 days after their arrival in America, to the news that their appearance on last night’s Ed Sullivan Show had attracted some 73 million viewers in some 23 million households, or roughly 34% of the population of the entire country, making them the most-watched thing on U.S. television ever to that point (that record was again eclipsed in 2013 by Super Bowl XLIX and your Seattle Seahawks). They would also be greeted by press reviews by “music critics” who almost universally labeled them an awful, talentless scourge leading the youth of America swirling down the toilet bowl, but it was too late. American boys would stop going to the barber, the Zildjian cymbal and Ludwig drum companies were selling out of their products to would-be Ringos, and the floodgates of the “British Invasion” were open, though they certainly didn’t know it yet. President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated just 11 weeks before their arrival, the country was in a sour mood, and the band, who had grown up on American artists, didn’t feel they had anything to offer. Paul McCartney said at the time, “They’ve got their own groups. What are we going to give them that they don’t already have?” The next night they would play their first U.S. concert in Washington D.C. to 8000 screaming fans, critics notwithstanding.
Paul McCartney and George Martin were at Abbey Road Studios today in 1967 to record the orchestral build-up in the middle and at the end of A Day In The Life. The 40 players (Paul had wanted a full 90-piece orchestra, but they wouldn’t all fit, and the £367 they shelled out was already considered extravagant by EMI records) showed up as requested in full formal evening attire and a “costume” element (funny hats, clown noses, fake stick-on nipples, gorilla paws, etc.) as they, along with some rather famous studio guests (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Marianne Faithful, Donovan, Michael Nesmith of The Monkees) were going to be filmed for a planned TV special that never materialized, but parts of the film did make it into a promotional film they made for the song.
David Bowie played the opening night of his Ziggy Stardust tour tonight in 1972 at the Tolworth Toby Jug in London. Bowie had modeled his “Ziggy” persona on British rockabilly singer Vince Taylor of the band The Playboys, who’d done pretty well in France in the late 50’s, but it wasn’t Ziggy who played guitar, it was Mick Ronson, who really should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Über-producer Phil Spector was nearly killed in a car crash in Hollywood today in 1974. Thrown through the car’s windshield, a responding police officer detected a faint pulse that paramedics who were about to declare him dead at the scene did not. He was taken to the U.C.L.A. medical center where he underwent multiple surgeries that dramatically altered his looks, and afterward he started wearing wigs to cover the scars.
The Stooges original bass player Dave Alexander joined what Kurt Cobain’s mom would later call “that stupid club” of musicians dead at age 27 when he died of pneumonia as a complication of pancreatitis from heavy drinking today in 1975. He’d been kicked out of the band in 1970 when he showed up at the Goose Lake International Music Festival in their native Michigan too drunk to play.
The Clash began recording their debut album at CBS Studios in London today in 1977. Working on weekends because it was much less expensive, they finished the whole thing in just three of them for a then-ridiculously cheap £4000.
Guns-N-Roses mild mannered singer Axl Rose was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport today in 1998 after getting in a fight with a baggage handler for some reason that was no doubt important to Rose at the time but no one remembers.
The Who’s singer Roger Daltrey was at Buckingham Palace today in 2005, being made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to music, the entertainment industry, and charity.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Tacoma’s Don Wilson is 84. He was working at his father’s used car dealership there in 1958 when he found a mutual love of guitars with car-buyer Bob Bogle, and the two started perhaps the most famous instrumental group in rock history, The Ventures. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. Don is the only member of the band to have been with them throughout their existence, which periodically continues to this day.
Elton John’s heyday drummer Nigel Olsson is 68.
Metallica’s original bass player Cliff Burton would be 55. He was killed at age 24 in a tour bus accident in Sweden while they were on their Master of Puppets tour.