On This Day in Rock History: July 9

Let’s take a look at some of my favorite moments that happened in rock history on this day over the past decades.

1954: Elvis Presley records Blue Moon of Kentucky at Sun Studio in Memphis, TN. The tune was written in 1946 by bluegrass musician Bill Monroe. The song was the B-side to That’s All Right, Elvis’ first single that was released on July 19 that year. That’s All Right was written by blues singer by Arthur Crudup in 1946. In 1950, Crudup also wrote one of my favorite songs performed by Elvis, My Baby Left Me.

1955: The rock & roll classic Rock Around the Clock is released by Bill Haley & His Comets, a no. 1 single and their biggest hit. Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers wrote the tune in 1952. What I’ve always liked about Bill Haley’s version are the fantastic guitar and sax solos by Franny Beecher and Joey Ambrose, respectively.

1959: Simple Minds lead singer James “Jim” Kerr is born in Glasgow, Scotland. Jim started his music career in 1977 with the punk rock band Johnny and the Self Abusers. In November 1977, the band changed its name to Simple Minds. Their first album, Life in a Day, came out in April 1979. I’m mostly familiar with the band’s work from the 80s. Some of my favorite songs from that period include Waterfront (1983), Don’t You Forget About Me (1985), Alive and Kicking (1985), Sanctify Yourself (1986) and Belfast Child (1989). Jim continues to record and perform with the Simple Minds, which released their 16th studio album Big Music in 2014.

1962: Bob Dylan records the iconic Blowin’ In the Wind at Columbia Recording Studios in New York City. It also happens to be one of the first folk songs I learned when starting to play the guitar.

1966: A closet rocker who shall remain unnamed is born. He once played in a band with big ambitions. While a professional career in music didn’t work out, which perhaps was for the better, music changed his life. He continues to be a huge rock music fan to this day.

1969: The Beatles record Maxwell’s Silver Hammer at Abbey Road Studios in London. The song was written and sung by Paul McCartney, though like most Beatles songs, it was credited to Lennon-McCartney. Written in October 1968, the tune was initially planned to be on the White Album. Instead it became the third song on the A-side of Abbey Road.

1971: David Bowie starts recording sessions at Trident Studios in London for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It was his fifth studio album and features some of my favorite Bowie songs, including Starman, Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City and Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.

1983: Every Breath You Take by The Police hits no. 1 on the U.S. singles charts where it would stay for eight weeks and become the biggest hit on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles in 1983.Written by Sting and included in the band’s 1983 album Synchronicity, it was also a no. 1 single for four weeks in the UK. Andy Summers’ signature guitar sound on the song became widely sampled thereafter.



Two Milestones in Beatles History

I’ve been so much caught up at work this week that I sadly couldn’t find the time to write about two milestones in my favorite band’s history: The day John Lennon met Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr’s 76th birthday.

This week saw two important milestones in Beatles history.

John and Paul Meet For the First Time…

On July 6, 1957, 16-year-old John Lennon met 15-year-old Paul McCartney. John was performing with a skiffle group called the Quarrymen at a garden fete of St. Peter’s Church in Woolton, Liverpool. Paul’s classmate from Liverpool Institute Ivan Vaughan, who sometimes played tea-chest bass for the Quarrymen, introduced him to John.

Paul and John chatted with each other for some time. Paul noticed that John’s guitar was out of tune and showed him how to tune it. He also sang a few songs to John. Both were impressed of each other from the get-go.

Later on, John and Pete Shotton, who played washboard for the Quarrymen, were talking about Paul and decided he’d be a great addition to the band. About two weeks later, Pete ran into Paul in the street and invited him to join the Quarrymen. After thinking about the invitation, Paul agreed.

It would take another year and a half before John, Paul, Stuart Sutcliffe (a friend of John’s from art school) and George Harrison (one of Paul’s friends) would become The Beatles. During a residency in Hamburg, Pete Best joined the band as a drummer. He was replaced by Ringo Starr in 1962.

Happy Birthday, Ringo…

On July 7, Richard Starkey, known professionally as Ringo Starr, turned 76 years. Ringo was born in Dingle, Liverpool in 1940. He was initially introduced to music by Roy Trafford in 1957 and played the washboard in a skiffle band. That same year, Ringo’s step father Harry Graves gave him a crude second-hand drum kit as a Christmas present. By late 1959, Ringo was playing the drums in Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, which became one of Liverpool’s leading bands. At that time, he adopted his stage name, Ringo Starr.

Ringo first met The Beatles in Hamburg in October 1960, where The Hurricanes were doing a residency just like The Beatles. He subsequently performed with them during a few stand-in engagements there. On October 15, 1960, he recorded with John, Paul and George for the first time as back-up band for Hurricanes singer Lu Walters. It would take close to two more years before Ringo would join The Beatles to complete the band’s classic line-up.

I think Ringo’s contributions to The Beatles are sometimes under-appreciated. Yes, he did not as write and sing as many songs as John and Paul or George for that matter. But he sang lead on With a Little Help From My Friends and Yellow Submarine, two of the band’s signature songs. He also wrote Don’t Pass Me By and one of my favorite Beatles tunes, Octopus’s Garden. And he has co-writing credits for What Goes On and Flying.

Ringo’s drumming has also gained recognition. In 1998, he was inducted in the publication Modern Drummer’s Hall of Fame. He was named the fifth greatest drummer of all time by the readers of Rolling Stone in 2011. Ringo was also inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hame of Fame: as a Beatle in 1988, accepting the honor together with George Harrison and Yoko Ono (representing John Lennon), and as a solo artist in 2015 – making him one of 21 performers who have been inducted more than once.

Just like Paul, Ringo is still going strong. On March 31, 2015, he released Postcards from Paradise, his 18th studio album. He also continues to perform with his All-Star Band. Drum on, Ringo!



On This Day in Rock History: July 4

Here is the second installment of a new feature I recently introduced. Let’s see what happened on Independence Day in rock history over the decades:

1964: I Get Around by The Beach Boys hits no. 1 on the U.S. singles charts. The song was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love and released in May 1964, together with Don’t Worry Baby as its B-side. It became the band’s first no. 1 song in the U.S. and stayed in the top spot for two weeks. I Get Around was also the opener of the Beach Boy’s album All Summer Long, which was released in July of 1964 as well. While the Beach Boys were a hit machine, notably, I Get Around was one of only four singles that made it to the top of the U.S. charts. The others were Help Me, Rhonda (1965), Kokomo (1988) and my personal favorite, Good Vibrations (1966).

1969: The Atlanta International Pop Festival kicks off. Held at the Atlanta International Raceway in Hampton, GA from July 4-6, the festival featured more than 20 performances. Some of the acts included Blood, Sweat & TearsChicago Transit Authority (which later would become Chicago), Joe Cocker, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Winter and Santana. About five weeks later, many of these bands and artists performed at Woodstock.

1974: Steely Dan play in Santa Monica, CA what would be their last live performance until 1993. Instead, Walter Becker and Donald Fagan decided to focus on their recording work. In February of that year, they had released Pretzel Logic, their third studio and gold-certified album, which was also certified platinum in September 1993. It includes one of my favorite Steely Dan tunes, Rikki Don’t Lose That Number. The band’s next album, Katy Lied, was released in March 1975 and also went gold.

1986: Farm Aid II takes place in Manor, TX. The second in the series of benefit concerts featured more than 30 music acts, including The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Bon Jovi, John Mellencamp, Willie NelsonTom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Walsh and Neil Young, among others. Farm Aid was founded by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young in 1985, with the inaugural show being held on September 22 that year in Champaign, IL. To date, 29 Farm Aid concerts have been held. Farm Aid 2016 is scheduled for September 19 in Bristow, VA. In addition to the three founders, the line-up includes Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Alabama Shakes and Sturgill Simpson, among others. For more information, click here.

2003: Barry White, one of the greatest R&B, funk and disco singers with a one of a kind voice, passed away at the age of 58. During his 40-year career, Barry scored 20 gold and ten platinum singles. Some of his most memorable tunes include You’re the First, the Last, My Everything (1974), Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe (1974) and What Am I Gonna Do With You (1975).

In Memoriam of Brian Jones…

Brian Jones was the founder and original leader of The Stones.

On July 3rd in 1969, Brian Jones passed away at the age of 27. Jones, a multi-instrumentalist, founded The Rolling Stones in 1962 and also came up with the band’s name. He led the Stones until Mick Jagger and Keith Richards became the band’s legendary songwriting team. As Brian developed serious issues with drugs, his role started to further diminish. Eventually, he was asked to leave the band in 1969 and was replaced by Mick Taylor.

The Stones’ Facebook page paid tribute to Brian and posted a nice clip from a live performance of Ruby Tuesday, which has always been one of my favorite Stones songs, on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967. The clip proves Stones fans were just as engaged as Beatles fans. It’s available here.

A Little Homage to the Hammond Organ

The Hammond organ is one of my favorite instruments that was made for rock music.

The sound of a Hammond organ regularly gives me the goose bumps. I’ve always thought it’s one of greatest instruments that was made for rock music. So I did a bit of research on the web to inform this post.

It turns out this terrific electric organ was invented by Laurens Hammond and John Hanert and first manufactured all the way back in 1935. Obviously, rock music had not been born yet. Initially, the Hammond was used in churches and later on in jazz music. In the 1960s and 70s it found its way into R&B, rock and reggae. The rest is history.

Perhaps one of the coolest examples of how to make a Hammond an integral part of rock music is Deep Purple. Jon Lord was an absolute genius and possibly the best rock keyboarder ever. His fusion of rock with classical elements was pioneering. He also demonstrated how the Hammond could become an equal lead instrument to the electric guitar.

And while I’m on the subject, why not throw in a list of some my favorite rock songs featuring a Hammond in no particular order:

  • Gimme Some Lovin’ (The Spencer Davis Group)
  • Whipping Post (The Allman Brothers Band)
  • Child in Time (Deep Purple)
  • Light My Fire (The Doors)
  • The House of the Rising Sun (The Animals)
  • Jingo (Santana)
  • A Whiter Shade of Pale (Procol Harum)
  • With a Little Help From My Friends (Joe Cocker)
  • Here I Go Again (Whitesnake)
  • That’s the Way God Planned It (Billy Preston)

BTW, the guy in the photo is the great Steve Winwood playing the legendary Hammond B3.

On This Day in Rock History: July 2nd

On This Day in Rock History looks back to milestones from some of my favorite artists and their music. This is the first post in what may become a recurring feature on the blog. Admittedly, any of these posts will be somewhat arbitrary, since they will focus on my favorite artists, songs and moments. 

Here are some of the music events that happened on July 2 during the past six decades:

1956: Elvis Presley recorded one of my favorite rock & roll songs, Hound Dog. The song was written by the legendary writer duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Initially, Hound Dog was recorded by Willie May “Big Mama” Thornton in August of 1952 – a pretty cool original, BTW!

1969: The Beatles recorded 15 takes of Golden Slumbers/Carrie That Weight for their masterpiece album Abbey Road. The two songs became part of a 16-minute medley that also included You Never Give Me Your Money, Sun King, Mean Mr. Mustard, Polythene Pam, She Came In Through the Bathroom Window, The End and Her Majesty. This last song was also recorded on July 2, 1969 by Paul McCartney. In my (of course completely unbiased!) opinion, the medley hasn’t lost any of its magic to this day!

1979: Sony introduced the Walkman. In the early 80s, I got one of them, a DD. It was quite solid with a black metal housing. It should still be floating around somewhere in my house!

1995: Live 8, a string of concerts in the G8 states (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom and United States) and in South Africa. They preceded the G8 Summit, held in Scotland, July 6-8, calling on world leaders to tackle poverty in Africa. Concerts were held in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Barrie (Canada), Chiba (Japan), Johannesburg (South Africa), Moscow, Cornwall (England) and Edinburgh. Performing bands and music artists included some of the biggest acts, such as Bon Jovi, U2, The Who, Paul McCartney, Neil Young and, not to forget, Pink Floyd, which reunited with Roger Waters for the first time in over 24 years. Live 8 was organized by Bob Geldorf and Midge Ure, who had put together the original Live Aid in 1984.