The Beach Boys Rip Off Chuck Berry, John Lennon Offends The Bible Belt, CBS Sweeps The Clash Under The Rug: This Day In Classic Rock [Video]
The Beach Boys released Surfin’ USA today in 1963. The original lyrics were written by non-surfer Brian Wilson, who asked his girlfriend’s brother where all the hot surfing spots were. Unfortunately the music was not all all original, lifted note-for-note from Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen. Berry’s publishing company sued, and won royalties and got Berry credit on all subsequent releases of the song, but Carl Wilson later said they’d run into him in Copenhagen, and “Chuck Berry loves Surfin’ USA.”
An interview with John Lennon titled “How Does A Beatle Live? John Lennon Lives Like This” was published in the London Evening Standard this afternoon in 1966, with John telling Maureen Cleeve, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. We’re more popular then Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was alright, but his disciples were thick and ordinary.” His comments went pretty much unnoticed at home in England, but launched a major backlash in the American “Bible-Belt”, with staged burnings of Beatles records and threats of death and bodily harm from good Christians like The Ku Klux Klan and others. The Beatles were already souring on playing live, and the reaction to John’s comments contributed greatly to their decision to give it up completely.
The Rolling Stones, had their fourth American #1 hit with Ruby Tuesday today in 1967. It was originally the “B” side to their Let’s Spend The Night Together single, but that song had been banned by most American radio stations as indecent, so they switched letters at the record pressing plant.
CBS Records released the debut album from The Clash in England today in 1977, but they refused to release it in the United States, where radio stations were playing decidedly safer and less thought-provoking fodder. In the book Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money in the Record Business, a CBS vice-president set himself on a fact-finding mission to discover why one of their artists was garnering massive critical acclaim and becoming one of the best-selling import records in the country with over 100,000 copies crossing the Atlantic, but unheard on American radio stations and unreleased on the American label. When he went to the office of one of their promotional agents, he found the man chatting away on the telephone, and a brand-new Rolex watch on his desk, inscribed “Thanks in advance for all the help, REO Speedwagon“. CBS eventually released The Clash in 1979.
The Internal Revenue Service raided the home of Jerry Lee Lewis today in 1978, towing away cars worth a reported $170,000 to be sold to pay his tax debt.
The Band were attempting a comeback tonight in 1986, with two sets at the Cheek to Cheek Lounge in Winter Park Florida, a decidedly smaller venue than they’d been used to playing in their heyday. Guitarist Robbie Robertson had grown weary of touring and called it quits after their famous Last Waltz show at the Winterland in San Francisco in 1976, but by 1983 Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel were short on cash and missed playing together. At the end of two sets of their hits, Manuel ominously thanked Hudson for “25 years of incredible music”, and went back to his hotel room and hung himself. It was totally unexpected, and Danko said later, “I can’t believe in a million years that he meant for that to happen. There was just no sign… I have to think this was just a goddamned silly accident.” An autopsy revealed that Manuel was extremely drunk, and had snorted a fair amount of cocaine. He was just 42.
Three days after being diagnosed with severe bronchitis and laryngitis after playing what would be their last show in Munich, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was rushed to a hospital in Rome this morning in 1994, after overdosing on a combination of Champagne and Rohypnol (sometimes referred to as “Roofies”, or “The Date-Rape Drug”), which is usually prescribed for insomnia. He spent most of the day unconscious, but flew back to Seattle 5 days later. His wife Courtney Love later said this was his first suicide attempt.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Yes bass player Chris Squire is 65.
Former Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, and Voivod bass player Jason Newsted is 50.