On This Day in Rock & Roll History: Thanksgiving

As I was listening to Q104.3’s countdown of the greatest 1043 classic rock songs of all time, which they do each year around Thanksgiving, I thought it would be fun to take a twist on this recurring feature of the blog.

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Following are some events in rock history that happened on Thanksgiving throughout the decades:

Thanksgiving 1966 (Nov 24): The Beatles go into the studio and devote an entire session to recording John Lennon’s gem Strawberry Fields Forever. It came after John, Paul, George and Ringo took a break following their decision to stop touring. The song was supposed to be included on the band’s next album, which would become Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Instead, it was released as a single in February 1967, together with Penny Lane. Both tunes were also included on the B-side (1967 singles) of Magical Mystery Tour, the soundtrack to the 1967 film of the same name.

Thanksgiving 1967 (Nov 23): The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd, The Move, The Nice, The Outer Limits, The Eire Apparent and Amen Corner play their seventh night at the Sophia Gardens Pavilion in Cardiff, Wales, UK. The show was part of a 16-date tour these artists performed together.

Thanksgiving 1969 (Nov 27): The Rolling Stones play the first of four shows at New York City’s Madison Square Garden during their 1969 North American tour. Altogether, about 55,000 people saw the Stones over the four nights. It was the band’s first U.S. tour since July 1966 and the inaugural with Mick Taylor who had replaced Brian Jones in June that year. Shortly thereafter (July 3, 1969), Jones passed away under somewhat mysterious circumstances at the age of 27.

Thanksgiving 1974 (Nov 28): John Lennon joins Elton John on stage in a surprise guest appearance at Madison Square Garden. Previously, Lennon promised John he would join him, if Whatever Gets You Thru the Night, which featured John on piano and backing vocals, would hit the top of the charts – it did and was Lennon’s only solo No. 1 in the U.S. during his lifetime! In addition to the song, they played I Saw Her Standing There and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Only 10 days earlier, John had released a single with a cover version of Lucy, which featured Lennon on guitar and backing vocals under the pseudonym Dr. Winston O’Boogie. The Madison Square Garden performance with John would be Lennon’s last concert appearance. Following his death, John wrote a moving tribute song titled Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny).

Thanksgiving 1976 (Nov 25): The Last Waltz, the final concert of The Band, is held at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The epic show featured more than a dozen high-caliber special guests, including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Ronnie Wood and Eric Clapton, among others. Martin Scorsese filmed the event and together with The Band’s lead guitarist, Robbie Robertson, turned it into a documentary. Released in 1978, the film has been hailed by many critics as one of the best rock concert movies ever. But The Band’s drummer Levon Helm, in his 1993 autobiography, claimed that Scorsese and Robertson (the film’s producer) essentially portrayed the band as Robertson’s sidemen.

 

 

 

On This Day in Rock History: October 29

It’s been a while that I have looked on the rock history calendar, so let’s see what comes up for October 29.

Just like the feature’s previous installments, this list is not meant to be complete. And, yes, it fully reflects my taste and as such is arbitrary.

1944: Denny Laine was born in Birmingham, England. Denny was part of the original line-up of The Moody Blues and can be heard on the band’s 1965 debut album, The Magnificent Moodies. He co-wrote four of the album’s songs and was the lead vocal on the band’s first hit, Go Now. Laine also played with Paul McCartney as part of Wings from 1971-1981. Between 1973 and 1976, he recorded 11 solo albums. Happy birthday, Denny!

1963: George Martin mixed all the 14 tracks from The Beatles’ album With The Beatles in stereo, according to The Beatles Bible, which by the way is a terrific resource for Fab Four nerds like myself. Supposedly, all it took was three hours, and he only ended up spending some additional time on one song the following day, Money (That’s What I Want). I suppose it all reflects that The Beatles never cared much about the stereo mixes of their songs but would spend days on the mono versions. Even Martin once said, “You’ve never really heard Sgt. Pepper until you’ve heard it in mono.”

1965: The Who released their single My Generation, the band’s signature 60s song. Written by Pete Townsend, the tune captured the anxiety of teenagers at the time. The single hit No. 2 in the U.K., making it The Who’s highest charting single there. The song is also No. 11 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The Who have released so much great music that I would be hard pressed to say which song is my favorite. My Generation is definitely among their tunes I like the most. One of its outstanding features is John Entwistle’s amazing bass solo.

1971: Duane Allman, one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time, was killed in a motor cycle accident at the young age of 24. Duane was a co-founder of The Allman Brothers Band and led them for two and a half short years. He played on the band’s first three studio albums and At Fillmore East, which some music critics have called one of the greatest live albums in rock music. Duane was also a highly sought after session musician. He can be heard on recordings from many famous artists, such as Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, Boz Scaggs and, of course, Derek and the Dominoes. While Allman received no credit for Layla, he came up with the song’s epic guitar riff.

1983: Pink Floyd’s masterpiece The Dark Side of the Moon reached 491 consecutive weeks on the Billboard Album Chart, setting a new record. It would stay on the list for another 250 consecutive weeks before falling off. Altogether, Dark Side has been in the Billboard 200 for 923 weeks, making it by far the album with the most weeks on the chart. As a huge Pink Floyd fan, I like many of their albums, but if I would have to select my favorite, it would be this one.

On This Day In Rock History: July 23

This is another installment of the blog’s feature that looks at events throughout rock history I find interesting

Let’s take a look at what happened on July 23 in rock history:

1964: The Beatles hit no. 1 in the U.K. with A Hard Day’s Night, the band’s fifth top single there after From Me to You, She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand and Can’t Buy Me Love. Written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon-McCartney, A Hard Day’s Night was first released in the U.S. on June 26 1964 as part of the soundtrack album of the film. In the U.K. it was paired with Things We Said Today. The B-side to the American version of the single was I Should Have Known Better. Both B-sides were also included on the album. The song’s title originated from a statement Ringo Starr had made, which in turn inspired the title of the movie. Its signature opening chord makes A Hard Day’s Night one of the few immediately recognizable rock songs. Paul McCartney uses it to open his current One on One show – the first time he is playing it as a solo artist!

1969: The Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Women reaches the top spot on the U.K. singles charts, the band’s eighth and last no. 1 single there. The song, which was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards during a vacation in Brazil, also hit no. 1 in the U.S. The B-side was You Can’t Always Get What You Want. In addition to the hit version, the Stones also recorded an alternate version called Country Honk, which was included in their 1969 album Let It Bleed. In my opinion, Honky Tonk Women remains one of the Stones’ best numbers to date.

1983: The Police hit no. 1 on the U.S. album chart with Synchronicity, their fifth and final studio album. It became the band’s most popular release and featured Every Breath You Take, written by Sting, and the biggest hit of 1983. Other singles included King of Pain, Synchronicity II and Wrapped Around Your FingerSynchronicity also topped the U.K. Albums Chart. At the 1984 Grammys, the album scored three awards: Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the album and two for Every Breath You Take (Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and Song of the Year). Synchronicity was also nominated for Album of the Year, which was won by Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

1989: Ringo Starr performs for the first time with his All-Starr Band in Dallas, TX, kicking off his first tour since the break-up of The Beatles in 1970. The concept of this live rock supergroup was developed by David Fishof, the founder of Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, and a music and TV producer.The first All-Starr line-up included Joe Walsh (guitar, piano, talkbox, piano), Nils Lofgren (guitar, accordion, vocals), Dr. John (piano, bass, vocals), Billy Preston (keyboards, vocals), Rick Danko (bass, guitar, vocals), Levon Helm (drums, harmonica, vocals), Clarence Clemons (saxophone, tambourine, percussion, vocals) and Jim Keltner (drums). Over the years, the band has seen many variations, and Ringo continues to perform with them. They just finished their 2016 tour in Los Angeles on July 2, and more dates are expected to be announced for later this year. The present 12th line-up features Steve Lukather (vocals, guitar), Gregg Rolie (organ, keyboards, vocals), Todd Rundgren (guitar, harmonica, bass, percussion, keyboards, vocals), Richard Page (bass, acoustic guitar, vocals), Gregg Bissonette (drums, percussion, vocals), Mark Rivera (saxophone, percussion, keyboards, guitar, vocals) and Warren Ham (vocals, saxophone, harmonica, flute, percussion, keyboards).

In Memoriam of Jon Lord…

Jon Lord was a giant in rock music and perhaps the best hard rock keyboarder of all time.

Four years ago today (July 16, 2012), Jon Lord passed away at the age of 71. This giant keyboarder may be gone, but his music and enormous contributions to rock music undoubtedly are here to stay.

To me as a rock music fan and hobby musician, Jon was one of those guys who make me think, ‘Man, if I ever would learn their instrument, this is how I’d love to be able to play!’ John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) and Clarence Clemons (The E Street Band) do the same to me when it comes to the drums and the saxophone, respectively. Obviously, this list is not meant to be complete!

Jon Lord was born on June 9, 1941 in Leicester, England. His father, Reginald Lord, instilled Jon’s interest in music early on. When Jon was five years old, her started taking classical piano lessons. This provided an important foundation to his later professional work.

Jon is best known for being the keyboarder of Deep Purple. In fact, he was the first recruit to what was supposed to become a “supergroup” called Roundabout, a vision of former Searchers drummer Chris Curtis. He was followed by guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore. After Curtis left the band, Jon suggested bringing in his friend Nick Simper on bass, with whom he had played as backup in the Flower Pot Men – yep, that 60s British pop band known for their hit single, Let’s Go to San Francisco, though Jon and I believe also Nick did not participate in the recording of the song.Later on, Ian Paice joined Roundabout as drummer. Rod Evans was the singer of the band, which in April of 1968 changed its name to Deep Purple.

During the first three years of Deep Purple, Jon developed his signature organ sound, relying on a Hammond C3 and Marshall speakers. The combination created a growling, heavy and distorted sound that was simply made for rock! Jon also started fusing rock with classical music, which resulted in Concerto for Group and Orchestra. It was performed live by Deep Purple and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and released in late 1969/early 1970.

My most favorite work of Jon with Deep Purple is on Machine Head, the band’s sixth studio album released in March 1972. In particular, Jon shines on the songs Highway Star, Pictures of Home and Lazy, which all feature organ solos that are simply out of this world. Just the other day, I listened to the album in its entirety. Once again I realized it’s a true gem that is certainly also a highlight when it comes to Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar playing for the band! BTW, Pictures of Home also includes one of the coolest bass solos by Roger Glover.

While it’s probably fair to say that Jon is best remembered for his work with Deep Purple, he also played in English rock band The Artwoods, which like the Flower Pot Men predated Deep Purple;  Pace Ashton Lord founded in 1977 after the first break-up of Deep Purple the previous year; and of course Whitesnake, formed in England in 1978 by former Deep Purple singer David Coverdale. Jon joined them during sessions for their first studio album Trouble and stayed until 1984 after the release of the band’s sixth studio album Slide It In. He plays the Hammond on the original version of the iconic Here I Go Again. After his departure from Whitesnake, Jon joined the reformed Deep Purple, reuniting him with Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover, Ian Gillan and Ian Paice in the group’s so-called Mark IIb line-up .

Jon also released numerous, mostly orchestral/classical/instrumental albums that are not associated with the above bands, such as Gemini Suite (1971), Sarabande (1976), Durham Concerto (2008) and To Notice Such Things (2010).

Jon has received accolades from many rock musicians, including Metallica’s Lars Ulrich (drummer) and fellow keyboard giants Rick Wakeman (Yes) and Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), who died in March 2016 – an apparent suicide. In April 2016, Jon was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Deep Purple – a long overdue recognition.

 

On This Day in Rock History: July 16

I suppose by now I can call this category of posts a regular feature of the blog.

Let’s take a look at some of the things that happened on July 16 in rock history:

1962: The Beach Boys sign a seven-year contract with Capitol Records. In Oct that year, they released their debut studio album, Surfin’ Safari. In addition to the title song and Surfin’, which had both come out as singles prior to the album, Surfin’ Safari also includes 409, one of my favorite early Beach Boys tune and the first in a series of car-themed songs from the band.

1966: Jack Bruce (bass, vocals), Ginger Baker (drums) and Eric Clapton (guitar) form Cream. Over the course of just two years, this amazing power rock trio would release four studio albums and such unforgettable classic blues/rock tunes like I Feel Free, Sunshine of Your Love, White Room and Crossroads. I was fortunate enough to see Jack and Ginger perform with blues dynamo Johnny Winter in Germany in the 80s – one of my first live concerts. Mr. Slowhand remains on my concert bucket list! July 1 6 (2014) also sadly happens to be the day when Johnny passed away at the age of 70.

1969: The Beatles are working at Abbey Road studios on two of my favorite George Harrison songs: Something and Here Comes the Sun. Both tunes were included on the Abbey Road studio album, which was released in September that year. While Let It Be was the last studio album that appeared in May 1970, shortly after the band’s break-up, most of that album had been completed prior to the release of Abbey Road. Originally, the latter was meant to be The Beatles’ final masterpiece. It foreshadowed their break-up with the song The End, the final song in the amazing medley that makes up most of the album’s side two.

2012: Jon Lord passes away at the age of 71. He was best known for being the keyboarder of Deep Purple, the defining hard rock band of the late 1960s/early 1970s, together with Led Zeppelin. Jon also played in a few additional bands, most notably Whitesnake. I think he was perhaps the best rock keyboarder of all time. His fusion of rock with classical and baroque music was pioneering. Jon also demonstrated that hard rock can be so much more than just distorted electric guitars, and what a cool solo instrument a Hammond organ can be! Also see my separate “In Memoriam” post.

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.

 

 

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).