Every time I do another installment of this ongoing series, I’m amazed how many dates I still have left to cover. November 17 turned out to be one of them.
In case you see one of these posts for the first time, the idea is to highlight things that happened on a specific date throughout rock history. By no means are these posts meant to be a comprehensive list of events. Instead, I select stuff I find interesting, mainly focusing on the ’60s and ’70s, my two favorite music decades. With that little disclaimer being out of the way, let’s get to November 17!
1964: The Beatles recorded a session for the BBC radio program Top Gear, which at the time was still a new show that only had debuted four months earlier. In addition to an interview with host Brian Matthew, who by the way worked for the BBC for a whopping 63 years from 1954 until 2017, The Beatles recorded six songs: I’m A Loser, Honey Don’t, She’s A Woman, Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby, I’ll Follow The Sun and I Feel Fine. The program first aired on November 24, 1964. Except for I’ll Follow The Sun, all recordings from the show were included on the compilation album Live At The BBC released in November 1994. Here’s I Feel Fine, a song with a great guitar riff I’ve always dug. Credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the tune first appeared as the A-side of the band’s eighth single in the UK. The track hit no. 1 there, as well as in the U.S. and many other countries.
1966: The Beach Boys topped the UK Singles Chart with Good Vibrations, the first of only two no. 1 singles they scored in that country; the second one in 1968 was appropriately called Do It Again. Unlike these days where Britain makes lots of waves, I suppose back then the waters were calm and folks there didn’t care much about surfing and cruising in cars. While I enjoy The Beach Boys’ surfing and car songs, although they all sound very similar, it was always their fantastic harmony vocals that attracted me the most. If I could only choose one song, it would be Good Vibrations. Composed by Brian Williams with lyrics by Mike Love, the tune was recorded in Los Angeles at various studios over a two-month period. Songfacts notes the making of the complex track included 17 recording sessions and many top studio musicians, resulting in an approximate cost of $50,000, making it the most expensive pop song ever recorded when it came out. Widely recognized as one of the most important compositions and recordings of its time, Good Vibrations 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.
1971: Faces, an excellent British band that was always a bit undervalued compared to contemporaries like The Who and The Rolling Stones, released their third studio album A Nod’s As Good As a Wink… to a Blind Horse. Faces’ second record that year and their second to last album became their best-selling release worldwide, hitting no. 2 in the UK and no. 6 in the U.S. on the Billboard 200. The record also featured the band’s highest-charting single in the U.S.: The excellent Stay With Me, which reached no. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. The tune was co-written by Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood. I said it before and I’ll say it again: Stewart once was a smoking hot rocker!
1973: Quadrophenia, the sixth studio album by The Who, entered the British charts at no. 2, a position it held for another week. It was the band’s second rock opera after Tommy from May 1969. Among the record’s distinct features are Pete Townshend’s use of multi-track synthesizers and sound effects, as well as John Entwistle’s layered horn parts. While Quadrophenia was received positively in the UK and the U.S., the supporting tour was impactd by technical issues with taped backing tracks. These tapes provided the album’s instrumentation The Who could not replicate on stage. Perhaps foolishly, Roger Daltrey insisted that the band stick to their four-piece line-up and not add any supporting backing musicians. After various setbacks, the tour ended early in February 1974 . It would take 22 years before Quadrophenia was revived as a live show in London’s Hyde Park in June 1996. Instead of The Who, the performance was credited to Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle. The show also featured actors and other musicians who among others included David Gilmour and Zak Starkey, marking the beginning of the drummer’s ongoing association with The Who. Here’s the album’s powerful closer Love, Reign O’ver Me. I still get goose bumps each time I listen to Daltrey’s crazy vocals on that tune.
1980: The last item in this list of events shall belong to John Lennon, who on that day released Double Fantasy, the final album during his lifetime. The record marked Lennon’s return to music after a five-year break during which he had mostly focused on family life. While I’m admittedly not a fan of Yoko Ono’s music, Lennon’s songs still make this record a great listening experience. After a less than stellar initial reception, Double Fantasy became a huge international success in the wake of Lennon’s murder in New York City three weeks after the album had come out. It’s kind of idiotic how people oftentimes suddenly “discover” musicians after their death, especially if it involved tragedy. Here’s one of my favorite tunes from the record: Watching The Wheels.
Sources: Wikipedia; The Beatles Bible; This Day in Music; This Day In Rock; Songfacts; YouTube