The Beatles were together for the first time since returning from their third and last-ever North American tour today in 1966, at Abbey Road Studios, spending the entire day recording one song: John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields Forever. The uber-psychedelic masterpiece was lyrically based on the Liverpool Salvation Army orphan’s home yard where John had played as a kid, and though they were intending it to be the first song they’d record for the new Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, it didn’t make it. Instead they released it on a single, backed with a Paul McCartney song also set in Liverpool, Penny Lane, and again on their Magical Mystery Tour EP. The name would be used 19 years later for a memorial garden at New York’s Central Park, right across the street from John and Yoko’s apartment in The Dakota building where he’d been killed 5 years earlier by nutter Mark David Chapman.
Ringo Starr hit #1 with the song written for him by George Harrison, Photograph, today in 1973. He would shoot a “promotional film” for it at the Tittenhurst Park house he’d just bought from John Lennon and Yoko Ono where The Beatles had done the same thing for John’s Imagine. The lyrics of lost love would take on a whole new meaning for Ringo when George died of cancer in 2001, and at the 2002 Concert for George, he would bring the audience to tears with it.
Chicago had their only #1 hit in England today in 1976 when bass player Peter Cetera’s plaintive love ballad If You Leave Me Now from their album Chicago X hit the top spot there. It would top the U.S. charts as well, earn the band their only Grammy award, further move the band away from the politically-charged lyrical content of their first albums, and pave the way for the departure of Cetera to a lucrative solo career as an “easy listening” or “soft rock” superstar.
At the height of their increasing popularity Derry, Ireland band The Undertones split up today in 1983. Lead singer Feargal Sharkey would go on as a solo artist, while the rest of the band would meet up with Seattle guitarist and singer Steve Mack in London and form That Petrol Emotion, who would draw rave reviews from British music press, especially BBC DJ John Peel who’d been a big Undertones fan, but break up 5 years later. Mack would return to Seattle and go into the computer industry (though he still plays in local band Stag today), but he’d been watched very closely by many in this town, who were fully aware he’d become Seattle’s biggest rock star since Heart or Queensryche in Europe at least, and some of them would go on to become quite famous on their own a few years later. These days Mack, who holds a degree in computer science and works for Amazon, is fronting Seattle band Stag, which includes among others, Nordstrom President of Merchandising Pete Nordstrom, who is really a very good bass player and has much more fun rocking out than he does heading a major chain of luxury department stores.
41 year old drummer Paul Caravello, better known by his stage name Eric Carr, died of cancer today in 1991. He’d replaced original KISS drummer Peter Criss who was booted for drunkenness in 1980, and been the only other member of the band to have their own make-up “persona”: The Fox.
45 year old Farrokh Bulsara, better known by his stage name Freddie Mercury, died of complications from AIDS today in 1991. The flamboyant frontman for Queen had been in declining health for some time, but had only publicly acknowledged he had the disease the day before.
The Rolling Stones bass player Bill Wyman was in court today in 1992, finalizing the divorce from his wife, British disco-pop singer and model Mandy Smith. They’d been married for all of two years, but he’d famously started dating her in 1983, when she was just 13 years old.
61 year old blues guitarist Albert King died of lung cancer today in 1993.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
The Beatles first drummer Pete Best is 76.
Booker T. and The M.G.’s and Stax Records session bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn would be 75. He died in 2012.
The Move and Electric Light Orchestra drummer Bev Bevan is 73.
Keyboard player, singer, and one-hit-wonder Lee Michaels is 72.
Influential Welch band Budgie guitarist Tony Bourge is 69.
Blondie drummer Clem Burke is 61.