The Beatles were doing the last show of their first complete tour of England tonight in 1963, at the Gaumont Cinema in Hanley, between Manchester and Birmingham. They’d been the opening act for 17 year old Helen Shapiro, a London singer and EMI records labelmate who’d had four top-ten hits already starting at age 14, but during the course of the tour Please Please Me had gone to #1. Far from considering reversing the order, John Lennon and Paul McCartney insisted on remaining the openers for the duration, and even wrote a song for her, Misery, but she never recorded it. “It was actually turned down on my behalf before I ever got to hear it. I never got to hear it or even give an opinion. It’s a shame really”, she said later, and when they got back to London John, George, and Ringo joined her in “miming” (now called lip-syncing) to her song Look Who It Is on the BBC’s Ready Steady Go!
Canadians Neil Young and Bruce Palmer had been in Hollywood for a week trying to find Neil’s American acquaintance Stephen Stills today in 1966, and were about to give up and head for San Francisco, when Ritchie Furray, driving a white van with Stills spotted Young’s 1953 Pontiac hearse, hung an illegal U-turn and chased them down. They headed back to the house where Stills and Furray had been staying and agreed to start a band, naming it for the Buffalo-Springfield Company steamroller parked across the street.
Former Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck debuted his new band The Jeff Beck Group in London tonight in 1967, with Ron Wood on bass, Aynsley Dunbar on drums, and mostly hiding behind the amplifiers or with his back to the crowd because of stage-fright was the lead singer, a then relatively unknown Rod Stewart.
Led Zeppelin played the BBC’s Top Gear tonight in 1969. At the time Top Gear was a radio program focusing on “progressive” music that featured live performances and presented by, among others, the legendary John Peel, who would go on to be The Beeb’s most popular disc jockey until his death in 2004 (He was instrumental in making Seattle bands Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney widely popular in Britain before they were here). Top Gear continued as a radio show until 1975, but the name would be revived two years later for an automotive television program that eventually became not only England’s top-rated show, but got an increasingly huge audience world-wide, and often featured members of rock royalty doing laps in their “Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car” feature. Lead “presenter” Jeremy Clarkson was fired last year for abusing an underling, and he and co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond now have a show on Seattle’s Amazon, called The Grand Tour, while the BBC brouight back Top Gear with new “presenters”, disc jockey Chris Evans, several moto-journalists, and American former Friend Matt LeBlanc.
Slade became the first band since The Beatles to have a song, in this case Cum On Feel The Noise, enter the British charts at #1 today in 1973.
28 year old Alice Cooper, having recently left 36 year old girlfriend Raquel Welch, married 19 year old dancer and choreographer from his Welcome to My Nightmare tour Sheryl Goddard today in 1976. They’re still together, have 3 kids, and Alice claims he’s never cheated on her.
Testifying before a U.S. Senate committee today in 1983, a Hell’s Angels member identified only as “Butch” admitted that the motorcycle club had pledged to kill Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones after he’d publicly blamed them for the death of Meredith Hunter at the free concert at the Altamont Speedway south of San Francisco in 1969. Butch said “There’s always been a contract on the band. Two attempts to kill them that I know about. They will some day. They swear they will do it”.
German singer Gabriele Kerner, better known by her stage name Nena, had her one hit today in 1984, when 99 Red Balloons went to #1 in England. Originally done in German as 99 Luftballons, it had already topped the charts at home, and it was the original German version that would hit #2 in the U.S. just behind Van Halen’s Jump.
Apparently having been forgiven for trying to bring 8 ounces of Pot into Japan 10 years earlier, Paul McCartney played the first of 6 sold-out shows at the Tokyo Dome tonight in 1990. 8 ounces seems to be the regular traveling amount required by herbal-enthusiast Macca, he and wife Linda were caught with the same amount in Los Angeles yesterday in 1975, though the arresting officer only charged her.
A new band featuring members of Tacoma’s Sunny Day Real Estate put together by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl to play the songs from his Foo Fighters album he’d recorded all by himself, oddly enough called The Foo Fighters, played live for the first time at the Satyricon nightclub in Portland tonight in 1995.
Norman “Hurricane” Smith died of old age at 85 at home in England today in 2008. He’d been a glider pilot for the RAF during WWII, then tried to get a career as a jazz musician going, but ended up taking a job as an apprentice recording engineer at EMI’s studios in London. He ended up engineering every recording by The Beatles through 1965’s Rubber Soul. John Lennon gave him the nickname “Normal Norman”, but by ’67 EMI promoted him to producer and he recorded the first 4 albums for Pink Floyd and one of rock’s first “concept albums”, S.F. Sorrow for The Pretty Things.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg temporarily renamed the stretch of 53rd Street in Manhattan directly in front of CBS’s Ed Sullivan Theater “U2 Way” today in 2009 in honor of the band’s appearance on Late Night With David Letterman every night that week.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Mike Pender, guitarist with Liverpool band The Searchers, is 76.
Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show bass player Jance Garfat would be 73 if he hadn’t passed in 2006.
Terence “Snowy” White, guitarist with Thin Lizzy, several Pink Floyd tours, and with Roger Waters, is 69.