The Beatles arrived in Washington D.C. today in 1964 for their first show on American soil at the Washington Coliseum, conveniently located right next to the train station. They were just 48 hours removed from their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, the single most watched event in Television’s short life, but not everyone had been impressed by the lads from Liverpool. They’d sat around the hotel over breakfast reading reviews with headlines like “Beatles Bomb” that dismissed them as a fad and substandard musicians, and no one had taken it harder than their manager Brian Epstein, who angrily cancelled the rest of their scheduled interviews until his press agent convinced him to change his mind. Their senses of humor and quick wit at these events were pure gold to the American press, who couldn’t believe they weren’t scripted, and no one was having more fun with them than Ringo Starr, who suddenly found himself an equal in the band where at home in England he’d just been the drummer. The rest of the band brushed off the criticisms, with John Lennon telling a reporter “If everybody really liked us it would be a bore”. By showtime in DC it was back to full-blown Beatlemania, with 8000 fans showing up at the basketball/hockey arena. Their new Vox guitar amplifiers, built just for them, were up to the task of keeping up with Ringo’s Ludwig drum kit, but the primitive P.A. system was only for the vocals, and the band could barely be heard over the incessant screaming of teenage girls, to the point where one of the 350 police officers who surrounded the stage was seen putting bullets in his ears as plugs. The band had been set up toward the center of the arena, so that during the 12-song half-hour set they stopped to re-position the microphones and Ringo’s kit to face another part of the crowd. Concerts at the Washington Coliseum would continue for only three more years when they were banned after a riot at a Temptations show in ’67, it would serve as a makeshift jail in ’71 for some 1200 Vietnam War protesters, and later suffer the humiliation of being used as a garbage transfer station by Waste Management Inc., but when that company applied for a demolition permit in 2003, a successful campaign was started to place it on the National Register of Historic Places largely because it was the spot of the first Beatles show in America. It now serves as a parking lot, awaiting the completion of redevelopment plans.
Ringo Starr became the second married Beatle (John Lennon had been mostly-secretly married to Cynthia since ’62) today in 1965, to his Cavern Club days pregnant girlfriend Maureen Cox in a ceremony at a register office in London. Manager Brian Epstein served as best man, and John and George were there as witnesses, but Paul was on holiday in Tunisia. That first child Zak would eventually become a drummer himself, playing with Oasis and, being the godson of Ringo’s friend Keith Moon, his replacement in the current lineup of The Who. The would have two more sons, Jason and Lee, before divorcing in 1975 over Ringo’s numerous affairs (Maureen would have one of her own, with George, which John said was “like incest”) and increasing alcoholism. She remarried, to Hard Rock Cafe and House of Blues founder Isaac Tigret, who well known for collecting rock memorabilia for his restaurants, sometimes called her his “ultimate collectible”. They had a daughter together in Dallas, but she died of leukemia in 1994 after lengthy treatment at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center here in Seattle in which she received bone marrow transplants from Zak, with her current and former husband and all four children at her side.
Older KZOK fans will remember, but it’s hard to believe for younger listeners that Led Zeppelin were once played on Top 40 Radio in America, and they scored their 3rd Top 20 Single when Black Dog (backed with Misty Mountain Hop) hit #15 today in 1972.
An Auckland, New Zealand charity raised some $850 today in 1973 by selling sheets and pillowcases used by The Rolling Stones after their show at the Western Springs Stadium there the night before.
Mötley Crüe parted ways with their lead singer Vince Neil today in 1992. He claimed he was fired after showing up at practice and saying he’d lost his passion for the band and wanted to become a race-car driver, but the others maintained he’d quit. The band would get a new singer, but continue to fizzle in popularity and eventually break up as other hairspray-spandex-glam-metal “butt rock” bands of the 80’s Ratt, Stryper, Winger, White Lion, Europe, and Britny Fox did that year as Seattle bands Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam were driving the “grunge” musical revolution that forced them from American radio airwaves.
Paul McCartney was in High Court in London today in 2008 with Heather Mills to reach a financial settlement after their divorce. The hearings would last 7 days, involve hordes of lawyers, and Heather would leave with £24.3 of the £125 million she’d originally asked for (Just over $37 million).
Estelle Bennett, who’d started The Ronettes with her sister Veronica “Ronnie Spector” Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, and carried on a brief affair with George Harrison (while her sister was romantically involved with Keith Richards) on their first tour of England in 1964, died of colon cancer at age 67 today in 2009, and it was revealed that she had also been suffering from anorexia nervosa, schizophrenia, and had lived homeless on the streets of New York after The Ronettes second breakup in 1972.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Rockabilly guitarist Gene Vincent (born Vincent Eugene Craddock) would be 82 if he hadn’t died of a ruptured ulcer at 36. Gene had nearly lost a leg in a motorcycle accident, and was again badly injured in a car crash that killed fellow rockabilly star Eddie Cochran on their first tour of Britain in 1960, but Gene would move there three years later where he formed a band that included future Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, though the accidents led him to drink heavily which would cut short his career.
One-hit-wonder Bobby “Boris” Pickett would be 79 if he hadn’t died of leukemia in 2007.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted lyricist Gerry Goffin would be 78. He and first wife Carole King (her birthday was two days ago) were part of the famous Brill Building songwriting sweatshop in New York in the 60’s, responsible for an impressive list of hits recorded by the likes of The Shirelles, The Drifters, The Chiffons, Little Eva, and The Monkees to name but a few. He passed last June.