On This Day In Rock & Roll History: October 22

1966: The Supremes A’ Go-Go, the ninth studio album by The Supremes hit no. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200, marking the first time an all-female band reached the top of the records charts. It remained for 60 weeks on the chart and eventually sold approximately one million copies in the U.S. and 3.5 million worldwide. The record included the no. 1 hit single You Can’t Hurry Love.

1966: Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys entered the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Written by Brian Wilson with lyrics by Mike Love, the complex tune was recorded in Los Angeles at various studios over a two-month period, relying on top session musicians, according to Songfacts. At an approximate cost of $50,000, it became the most expensive pop song ever recorded at the time. Good Vibrations peaked at no. 1 in December that year, becoming one of four no. 1 singles The Beach Boys scored in the U.S. The song is widely recognized as one of the most important compositions and recordings of its time. It was ranked no. 6 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2011 and included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

1969: Led Zeppelin released their second studio album Led Zeppelin II on Atlantic Records in the U.K. Produced by Jimmy Page, the album was recorded between January and August that year at various locations in the U.K. and North America between four European and three American tours. The record includes various of the band’s early classics, such as Heartbreaker, Ramble On, Moby Dick and the epic Whole Lotta Love, which also appeared separately as a single in the U.S. and became the band’s first hit there. The album was a huge international success, reaching no. 1 in the U.K., U.S., Canada and various other countries.

1976: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band release Night Moves, Seger’s ninth studio album. On four of the nine songs Seger was backed by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, including Mainstreet. The record also includes the classics Night Moves and Rock And Roll Never Forgets. All three tunes were also released separately as singles. Night Moves peaked at no. 4 on Billboard Hot 100, giving Seger his first big hit since Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man from 1969. The album became Seger’s second Gold record in the U.S. and his first to receive Platinum certification. It ultimately achieved sextuple Platinum.

Sources: This Day In Music, Songfacts Music History Calendar, Songfacts, Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, YouTube

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On This Day In Rock & Roll History: July 22

1967: The Pink Floyd, as they called themselves then, played The Beach Ballroom in Aberdeen, Scotland. At the time, the band was still led by Syd Barrett (lead guitar, vocals). The other members included Roger Waters (bass, vocals), Richard Wright (keyboards) and Nick Mason (drums). Famous for its dance floors, The Beach Ballroom also attracted other famous acts, such as The Beatles, Cream and The Who. While I was able to confirm the date of the performance, I could not find the set list. But given the concert happened only a few months after the band had recorded their studio debut The Piper At the Gates of the Dawn, it’s safe to assume tunes like Astronomy Domine, Interstellar Overdrive, Bike and Arnold Lane were part of the set. Here is a clip of Astronomy Domine, apparently captured in May 1967 on the BBC’s broadcast Look of the Week – the closest I could find.

1969: During a studio session for The Beatles’ Abbey Road, John Lennon recorded his lead vocals for Come Together. Paul McCartney did an overdub of the electric piano. Electric guitar and maracas were also overdubbed. In addition, McCartney made his next to last attempt to record the lead vocals for Oh! Darling. The final take was captured during the next day’s session, the culmination of a week-long effort. McCartney wanted his voice to sound as if he had performed the song on stage all week.

The Beatles_Abbey Road

1973: David Bowie released Life On Mars as a single, backed by The Man Who Sold the World. Both tunes were written by Bowie. Life On Mars initially appeared on his fourth studio album Honky Dory, which was released in Dec 1971. The Man Who Sold the World was the title song of Bowie’s third studio release in November 1970. Life On Mars became one of his biggest hits, climbing to no. 3 on the U.K. Singles Chart and charting for 13 weeks. It was one of many songs that reflected Bowie’s fascination with space. Examples of other space tunes he wrote include Space Oddity, Moonage Daydream, Starman, Hallo Spaceboy and Dancing Out In Space.

1977: My Aim Is True, the debut album from English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, was released in the U.K. According to the liner notes, “My Aim Is True was recorded at Pathway Studios, Islington in a total of Twenty four hours studio time and at a cost of 2000 pounds. As I still had my “day-job” these sessions had to take place on “sick days” and holidays during late 1976 and early 1977. The musicians were members of the Marin county band Clover, who could not be credited at the time due to contractual reasons.” My Aim Is True was the first of five Costello albums in a row that were produced by Nick Lowe. The record received many accolades. In 1997, Rolling Stone named it as one of the best albums of the year and in 2004 also ranked it at no. 168 in its 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time list. Pitchfork ranked Costello’s debut at no. 37 of the Top 100 Albums of the 1970s. In 2007, the album was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Here’s a clip of the record’s fourth single Watching the Detectives.

Sources: This Day in Music.com; Setlist.fm; Wikipedia; Billboard; http://www.elviscostello.info: My Aim Is True (1993) Liner Notes; Rolling Stone; Pitchfork; YouTube

On This Day in Rock & Roll History: July 6

1957: John Lennon and Paul McCartney met for the first time. Lennon’s skiffle band The Quarrymen performed at a garden party at St. Peter’s Church in Woolton, Liverpool. While the band was setting up for their gig, Ivan Vaughan, who occasionally played with them on tea-chest bass, introduced his school classmate 15-year-old McCartney to Lennon (16 years). They hit it off right away. McCartney showed Lennon how to tune a guitar and sang a few songs, including Eddie Cochran’s Twenty Flight Rock, Gene Vincent’s Be-Bop-A-Lula and a medley of Little Richard songs. A few weeks later McCartney joined The Quarrymen and the rest is history.

The Quarrymen

1963: Live at the Apollo by James Brown and The Flames peaked at no. 2 on the Billboard Albums chart. Altogether, the amazing live album remained in the chart for 66 weeks. After the record company’s had refused to fund the recording, Brown paid for it himself. In 2012, the record was ranked no. 25 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The accompanying write-up called it “Perhaps the greatest live album ever recorded.”

1967: Pink Floyd appeared for the first time on the BBC music show Top of the Pops. They performed See Emily Play, their second single. Written by Syd Barrett, the song was also included in the band’s U.S. edition of their debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. See Emily Play climbed to no. 6 in the U.K. Singles Chart. The tune is also included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock. It’s one of three Pink Floyd songs in the list, which includes artists alphabetically and does not rank songs. The other two are Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2 and Money.

1972: In another appearance on Top of the Pops, David Bowie presented his new single Starman. Written by Bowie, the song reached no. 10 on the U.K. Singles Chart. It was also included on his fifth studio album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Sources: The Beatles Bible; This Day in Music.com; Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: 500 Songs that Shaped Rock; Wikipedia; YouTube

On This Day in Rock & Roll History: July 4

This is a re-post from last year with some amendments.

The Fourth of July is associated with many festivities, such as barbecues, picnics, festivals, carnivals and of course fireworks. America’s Independence Day has also seen some music milestones throughout rock history. Following are some of them.

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 met again in New York’s Catskill Mountains to perform at Woodstock.

First Atlanta International Pop Festival 1969

1974: Steely Dan play in Santa Monica, Calif. 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, Texas. 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, 30 Farm Aid concerts have been held. Farm Aid 2017 is scheduled for September 16 in Burgettstown, Pa. In addition to the three founders, the line-up includes Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, The Avett Brothers and Sheryl Crow, among others. For more information, visit https://www.farmaid.org/concert/

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).

Hope your Fourth of July rocks – most of all be safe!

Fourth of July Bitmoji

Sources: Wikipedia, This Day in Music, Farm Aid website, YouTube

 

On This Day in Rock & Roll History: July 1

It’s hard to believe today is July 1st and here we are in the thicket of summer – a good occasion to pause and take a look back at what happened on that day in rock & roll history.

1956: Elvis Presley appeared on NBC’s Steven Allen Show to perform Hound Dog, one of the countless great classic rock & roll tunes written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Initially recorded by Willie Mea “Big Mama” Thornton and released in 1953, Presley came out with his version in 1956, turning it into his best-selling song. But what’s memorable about his above show appearance isn’t the tune but the fact that he sang it to a visibly excited dog. While no animals were harmed during the infamous performance, Elvis’ appearance drew mixed reactions. I recall reading somewhere that he himself thought the whole thing was pretty stupid – I couldn’t agree more! Well, I suppose the good ole’ days weren’t always as good after all, whether in TV or elsewhere!

1963: Of course, no look-back on rock history would be complete without The Beatles! On that day in 1963, John, Paul, George and Ringo were at Abbey Road’s studio 2 to record She Loves You and I’ll Get You, the two sides of their fourth UK single. As usually credited to Lennon-McCartney, She Loves You went on to become their best-selling single and is ranked no. 64 on Rolling Stone’s April 2011 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. According to The Beatles Bible, producer Sir George Martin recalled:

“I was sitting in my usual place on a high stool in studio two when John and Paul first ran through the song on their acoustic guitars, George joining in on the choruses. I thought it was great but was intrigued by the final chord, an odd sort of major sixth, with George doing the sixth and John and Paul the third and fifths, like a Glenn Miller arrangement. They were saying, ‘It’s a great chord! Nobody’s ever heard it before!’ Of course I knew that wasn’t quite true!”

The Beatles_She Loves You_Single

1968: The Band released their debut studio record Music From Big Pink. The album’s recording followed The Band’s backing of Bob Dylan on his 1966 tour as The Hawks. The album’s cover artwork is a painting by the maestro himself. Among others, the record includes The Weight, a gem written by Robbie Robertson, and Dylan’s I Shall Be Released. While the record didn’t sell well, initial reception from the music critics was positive, which doesn’t necessarily say much; oftentimes, I feel these guys don’t get it right, but they did in this case! The album is ranked no. 34 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time from 2012.

The Band_Music From Big Pink

1975: 10cc hit no. on the UK Singles Chart with I’m Not in Love, which is perhaps one of the most epic 70s ballads. Written by band members Eric Stewart (local vocals, electric piana) and Graham Gouldman (electic guitar, bass, backing vocals), the tune was the second single from the band’s third studio record The Original Soundtrack. It was the second of the band’s three no. 1 UK singles and their international breakthrough hit. I still do vaguely recall hearing it on the radio in Germany all the time, where it peaked at no. 8 on the charts. In the U.S., it climbed all the way to no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

 

Sources: Wikipedia, This Day in Music, The Beatles Bible, Rolling Stone, YouTube

On This Day in Rock & Roll History: May 12

I suppose by now this recurring feature needs no further introduction. Let’s take a journey back to May 12 throughout rock history.

The Rolling Stones_Satisfaction Single

1965: The Rolling Stones recorded what would become one of the most epic anthems in rock, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, at RCA Studios in Hollywood, LA. Two days earlier, the Stones had recorded an earlier version, which featured Brian Jones on harmonica, at Chess Studios in Chicago. The iconic three-note guitar riff had come to Keith Richards during the band’s third U.S. tour in a dream in a motel room in Florida. He woke up and recorded it with a cassette machine. Released as a single in June and August  1965 in the U.S. and the U.K., respectively, Satisfaction became the Stones’ first no. 1 hit in America in July that year. In the U.K., the song initially received limited radio play, since its lyrics were considered too sexually suggestive, though eventually it reached the top of the charts there as well. Satisfaction was also included in the band’s fourth U.S. studio album Out of Our Heads, which appeared in Sep 1965. Rolling Stone ranked Satisfaction no. 2 in The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2011, behind Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and before John Lennon’s Imagine.

The Beatles_Yesterday and Today Collage

1966: Mixes of three Beatles songs from Revolver – Dr. Robert, I’m Only Sleeping and Your Bird Can Sing – were made for Yesterday…And Today. The 1966 U.S. compilation album became infamous for its initial cover, which showed the Beatles in white butcher jackets holding decapitated baby dolls and pieces of meat. The negative reaction to the “butcher cover” was so strong that Capital Records recalled 750,000 copies from distributors to replace the cover. While initially it had not been intended as cover art, John Lennon reportedly defended the photograph, saying it “was as relevant as Vietnam,” while Paul McCartney felt the critics were “soft.” George Harrison disagreed, calling the whole idea “gross” and “stupid.” Remarkably, the album still reached no. 1 on the Billboard 200 by July 30, 1966 and remained there for five weeks.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience_Are Your Experienced

1967: The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their debut studio album Are You Experienced in the U.K. Widely considered to be one of the greatest debuts in rock history, Jimi Hendrix’s innovative approach to songwriting and playing the electric guitar had a major influence on psychedelic and hard rock. The album’s U.S. version appeared in August that year and had a different song lineup. It included some of Hendrix’s best known songs, such as Purple Haze, Hey Joe and The Wind Cries Mary, which had all been successful singles in the U.K. The album climbed to no. 2 in the U.K. charts and reached no. 5 on the Billboard 200, staying in that chart for 106 weeks. Not surprisingly, Are You Experienced, is included in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Records of All Time, ranked at no. 15.

Led Zeppelin_Houses of the Holy

1973: Houses of the Holy, the fifth studio album from Led Zeppelin, hit no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard 200, staying in the top spot for three weeks and remaining in the albums chart for 39 weeks. The record, which includes Zeppelin classics like The Song Remains the Same, Over the Hills and Far Away and D’yer Mak’er, is ranked no. 148 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Records of All Time. Initial reviews from music critics were less kind, however. For example, Rolling Stone’s Gordon Fletcher called it “one of the dullest and most confusing albums I’ve heard this year.”

Sources: This Day in Music.com, Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, The Beatles Bible

On This Day In Rock & Roll History: April 22

This time, I decided not to wait for weeks until posting another installment on this recurring feature.

I always have fun looking back at happenings in rock & roll history. One could argue that doing this based on a specific date is rather arbitrary. It certainly is, as is the following list:

The Rolling Stones_Off the Record

1964: Wallace Scowcroft, the president of the UK’s National Federation of Hairdressers, offered a free haircut to the next band to hit no. 1 on the pop charts. Reportedly, he said: “If pop groups had their hair well cut the teenagers would copy them – instead of just asking for a bit off the neck. The Rolling Stones are the worst. One of them looks as if he has got a feather duster on his head.”

The Beatles_Ticket to Ride

1965: The Beatles’ Ticket to Ride was on top of the U.K. singles chart, their seventh consecutive no. 1 hit there. Written by John Lennon and, as usually, credited to him and Paul McCartney, the song was also included on Help!, the Fab Four’s fifth studio album, which appeared in August that year. The Beatles recorded Ticket to Ride on Feb. 15, 1965 at Abbey Road Studios in London, using a new approach. Instead of taping live versions of songs, select the best take, and overdub harmonies or solos, The Beatles now usually recorded a rhythm track first and then built an arrangement around it step by step.

The Troggs_Wild Thing

1966: The Troggs released Wild Thing, a single from their debut album From Nowhere, which appeared in July that year. Written by American songwriter Chip Taylor, the song was originally recorded the prior year by The Wild Ones, an American rock band. But the Troggs’ cover became the most successful commercial version, hitting no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1966 and climbing to no. 2 in the U.K. singles chart. Undoubtedly, the wildest live performance of the tune was by Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Here’s a nice clip of the spectacle. Wild Thing has been called a major influence on garage rock and punk. As performed by The Troggs, it’s ranked at no. 261 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Deep Purple_Machine Head

1972: Deep Purple scored their second no. 1 album in the U.K. official charts with Machine Head after Fireball, which was released the previous year. The band’s seventh studio album includes gems like Highway Star and Smoke on the Water. It remains my favorite Deep Purple album to this day and is perhaps the best classic hard rock album. Surprisingly, the record is not in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, though it scored no. 4 on a reader’s poll about the 10 best metal/hard rock albums of the 1970s, which the magazine published in August 2013.

Sources: This Day in Music, Rolling Stones: Off the Record (book by Mark Paytress, 2003), Rolling Stone