Elvis Presley, backed by his rock and roll hall of fame inducted sidemen Scotty Moore on electric guitar and Bill Black on bass, played the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport tonight in 1955. The show was broadcast on KWKH TV vastly expanding the audience, and was opened by Johnny Horton, Hoot and Curley, Tibbey Edwards, Floyd Cramer, and Slim Whitman, who as we learned in Tim Burton’s 1996 film Mars Attacks! can make Martian’s heads explode.
The Beach Boys were in a Los Angeles recording studio today in 1964 laying down what would be their first #1 hit, I Get Around.
The Who played on the radio at home in England for the first time today in 1965 on the BBC’s Joe Loss Pop Show. They’d already done two broadcasts on Radio Luxembourg. Rock and Roll fans were glued to the radio station broadcasting from the tiny Grand Duchy between France, Belgium, and Germany as it was decidedly less conservative than the BBC, which was totally unfriendly to the new musical style, and let Britain’s handful of major record labels totally dictate which artists got on the air, which eventually led to “pirate” stations on ships anchored in the English Channel, but 30’s big band leader Joe Loss was willing to take chances on his short-lived program.
The Rolling Stones were playing a 14,000 seat town hall in Austria tonight in 1967 when someone thought it might be fun to toss a smoke bomb on stage. Some 150 of them were arrested after the small riot that broke out afterward.
American über-producer Phil Spector finally finished editing, mixing, and otherwise rescuing The Beatles Let It Be album today in 1970. The album had been started two years earlier, before the Abbey Road album as Get Back. Paul McCartney in particular was swept up in the “back-to-basics” movement that had been a reaction to the heavily-produced and often quite psychedelic recordings that had mostly started with The Beatles, and Paul wanted badly to go back to playing live rock and roll, but the others did not. So Paul came up with the idea that they would play live in the studio, film the performances, and had the band work with engineer Glyn Johns, who was never really sure of his role, nor was their usual producer George Martin. They were unhappy with the result, and had brought in Spector to “fix” it. It had taken him a year and two months, but the album was pressed and released by May 8th. All four Beatles would release solo albums that year, and the band would officially be broken up by the end of December.
Janis Joplin hit #1 on the U.S. charts today in 1971 with Pearl. Unfortunately she wasn’t around to enjoy it, she’d died back in October at age 27.
Fleetwood Mac had already been through two guitarist-leaders and had moved from England to Los Angeles when they scored their biggest hit ever today in 1977 when Rumours went to #1. It would go on to sell over 40 million copies, making it the 6th best selling record of all time, behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, The Eagles Greatest Hits, AC/DC’s Back in Black, and The Bee Gees soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.
Eric Clapton was in court at home in England today in 1990, after being clocked at 105 mph. He was fined £310, pocket change to Slowhand-Leadfoot, but his license was suspended for 3 months,which was pretty hard on the exotic car-enthusiast.
The Black Crowes played a show in Knoxville Tennessee tonight in 1999, and nothing unusual came out of it until a year later, when one Joshua Harmon filed a lawsuit seeking substantial monetary compensation for the hearing loss he’d suffered as a result. His case was dismissed by a judge who pointed out that rock and roll concerts are frequently loud, The Black Crowes are nowhere near the loudest band, and if he was concerned about his hearing he should have brought ear protection, as the damages caused by loud music are no secret.
American soul-singer Edwin Starr, who’d had a huge hit in 1970 with the Vietnam protest song War, died of a heart attack today in 2003 at age 61 in his adopted home of Nottingham England.
A notebook that then 12-year-old John Lennon had drawn a picture for the Lewis Carroll poem The Walrus and The Carpenter, which had later inspired him to write I Am The Walrus, sold at auction today in 2006 for $240,000.
An 1877 Steinway grand piano that sat in Motown Records studio “B” in the 60’s and was used by artists including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Edwin Starr, was put on display in the original studio today in 2013, now a Detroit museum called Hitsville USA, after being restored at considerable expense financed by Sir Paul McCartney.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Serge Gainsbourg would be 89. The French singer, songwriter, pianist, actor, and writer had written his biggest hit, Je t’aime…moi non plus, in 1967 at the request of his then girlfriend Bridget Bardot, who recorded it with her in a two-hour session that the engineer later claimed had included “heavy petting” in the vocal booth, the later rerecorded it in ’69 with then-girlfriend Jane Birkin. The Bardot version would finally be released in 1986, but the Birkin version would be a huge hit despite being banned by radio stations all over the world for it’s lurid sexuality. Serge died at age 62, and his funeral brought Paris to a standstill.
Motown singer Marvin Gaye would be 78 if he hadn’t been shot to death by his father the day before his 45th birthday.
Leon Russell would be 75 if he hadn’t passed back in November. The multi-instrumentalist played piano in the group of Los Angeles studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew on records by artists as varied as Jan and Dean, Doris Day, The Byrds, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Frank Sinatra, The Ventures, Eric Clapton, Elton John, and many more. His song Delta Lady was a hit for Joe Cocker, and Superstar was a huge hit for The Carpenters, and he had his own in 1972 with Tight Rope.
Guitarist Kurt Winter, who replaced Randy Bachman in The Guess Who and wrote their hit Hand Me Down World, would be 71 if his kidneys hadn’t failed at age 51.
Lynyrd Skynyrd bass player Leon Wilkeson, who famously played a “Fenderbird” bass with a Fender Precision bass neck grafted onto a Gibson Firebird body he’d bought from The Who’s John Entwhistle, would be 65 if he hadn’t died at 49. He survived the 1977 plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zant and Steve and Cassie Gaines, but his arm was so badly injured doctors had recommended amputation, and though Leon refused and kept it, it was never the same and he had to change his playing style to accommodate the lack of movement.
The Modern Lovers and The Cars drummer David Robinson is 68. He was the one who came up with the latter band’s name, and designed all of their album covers.