One of America’s first teen idols, singer Frank Sinatra, started his own record label today in 1960. He’d left Capitol with his career in decline, and wanted Reprise Records artists to have complete artistic control. The label’s first record was his own, Ring-A-Ding-Ding!, and he recruited a group of his “Rat Pack” cronies and friends for it’s roster (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Bing Crosby to name a few), earning the nickname “The Chairman of the Board”. At the time Frank hated rock and roll music, saying it was “sung, played, and written for the most part by cretinous goons. It manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth.” But he sold the label to Warner Brothers in 1963, and one of the first things they did was sign an agreement with Britain’s Pye Records to distribute recordings by The Kinks. Other releases by Reprise included cretinous goons like The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Neil Young, The Beach Boys, Black Sabbath, Chicago, The Electric Prunes, Fleetwood Mac, Heart, Jethro Tull, T Rex, Warren Zevon, and later Seattle’s Mudhoney, which probably set Frank a-spinnin’ in his grave.
The Monkees issued a press release today in 1967 saying that from now on they would be playing on their own recordings instead of session musicians. Their 3rd album Headquarters would come out in May, and included songs written and performed by Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz, and Davy Jones. None of them were hits, but the songs were used in the TV show, and the album went to #1, until it was knocked from that spot by The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Bob Dylan was at Columbia Records Nashville studio today in 1969, recording his song Lay Lady Lay, which was supposed to be part of the soundtrack to the movie Midnight Cowboy. It wasn’t submitted in time to be included, but Harry Nilsson won a Grammy for his vocal performance on Everybody’s Talkin’.
Today in 1970 was a Friday the 13th, the perfect occasion for Black Sabbath to release their self-titled debut album, considered the first true “heavy metal” record.
David Bowie turned down an offer from the Gay Liberation group today in 1974 to compose “the world’s first gay national anthem”.
Genesis released their first album since the departure of frontman Peter Gabriel, A Trick Of The Tail, today in 1976…Gabriel’s birthday. They had auditioned some 400 potential replacements before settling on their drummer, Phil Collins, who had been singing backup vocals with Gabriel all along. By spring they would embark on a tour, with Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford taking over for Phil so he could focus on singing.
Police raided the home of former Sex Pistols singer John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon today in 1980. He greeted them waving a ceremonial sword, but the only contraband found was a tear-gas canister Lydon claimed was for defense against intruders.
The headstone of Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant was stolen from his grave today in 1982. Police found it two weeks later in a nearby dry riverbed.
Led Zeppelin were presented with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the Grammys tonight in 2004. Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham’s son Jason were on hand to pick up the award given to performers who did not win Grammys when they were active…which does not speak highly of the Grammy awards. Robert Plant was on a solo tour and did not attend.
Rod Stewart played for one hour tonight in 2007 at the 60th birthday party of Blackstone Financial Group CEO and former Yale University “Skull and Bones” club member, billionaire Steve Schwarzman, who paid Rod a cool $1 million.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Peter Tork (real name Peter Thorkelson) of The Monkees is 70. He’d moved to New York’s Greenwich Village to be part of the folk scene there in the early 60’s where he met Stephen Stills, who later auditioned for “the pre-fab four”. The producers turned Stills down, but asked him if he had “any better-looking musician friends”. He suggested Peter, who got the job.
Original Genesis lead singer Peter Gabriel is 63. He quit the band after their Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour in the mid 70’s, but was inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame with them in 2010.