George Martin, who had become a record producer and engineer after being trained as a pilot by the Royal Navy just in time for the end of WWII, was made the head of Artist and Repertoire (they’re the people who get to pick the artists) for EMI’s Parolophone record label today in 1955, largely on the basis of his work with Peter Ustinov, Baroque quartets, and comedians like Spike Milligan. The label’s faith him would pay off big time in 1962, when he signed The Beatles to a recording contract (and they’d already been turned down by Decca, who would not make that mistake again when they signed the Rolling Stones) without having heard or seen them, based only on rumors and the enthusiasm of their manager, Brian Epstein. He was Knighted by the Queen for his services as their producer in 1995.
The Beatles started a three-month residency at the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, Germany tonight in 1962. Far from being an “overnight success” in 1964, they would “hone their chops” playing 7 hours a night on weekdays and 8 hours a night on weekends, and it was during this period that their bass player, Stu Suttcliffe, would meet and date German photographer Astrid Kircherr, who would cut his hair into the longer “bowl cut” style popular with German youth that would later become known as “Beatle” haircuts.
The Who taped an appearance for the BBC’s Top of the Pops in a Manchester studio today in 1965, then headed off to a show to open for Donovan at the Town Hall in Wembley, where they in turn were opened for by a band called the Soul Agents, featuring a young lead singer named Rod Stewart.
Britain’s Pye Records released the first single, Do Anything You Say, by David Bowie today in 1966. He’d performed previously as David Jones and The Lower third, but changed his name after learning that former child star Davy Jones had signed up to be on the American TV Show The Monkees.
The Troggs recorded their only hit, Wild Thing, in L0ndon today in 1966, on the second take. It would go to #2 in England and #1 in the U.S.
John Lennon was out shopping today in 1966 when he found a couple of books that piqued his interest: Timothy Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience, and The Tibetan Book Of The Dead,which opens with the lines “When in doubt, relax, turn off your mind, float downstream.”, which made it into a song he started recording 5 days later, Tomorrow Never Knows.
A band from the British Midlands made its first ever live appearance tonight in 1969 in Walsall. Ambrose Slade would later change their name to just Slade, and become hugely popular in England, but remain relatively unknown in America until the 80’s band Quiet Riot would have hits with a couple of their songs in the 80’s.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono issued a press release today in 1970 stating that they were both going to undergo sex change operations. Some in the press took the release seriously, but most were bright enough to check the date: April 1st, and realize that John had always had a keen sense of humor.
There was little concern that the Mar Y Sol (Beach and Sun) festival that started today in 1972 with Rod Stewart, Dr. John, The Allman Brothers Band, Emerson Lake and Palmer, The Alice Cooper Band, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra would somehow end up like the Rolling Stones debacle at Altamont two years earlier. The festival took up an entire small island off the coast of Puerto Rico, which you couldn’t get to without being ferried by the festival’s mosquito fleet of small boats.
A band made up of former British and Scottish kids who’d been moved to Australia by their parents in the mid 60’s, AC/DC, played in England for the first time tonight in 1976.
Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmore lost some $7000 worth of guitars (they’d be worth substantially more today) when burglars robbed his London area house today in 1976.
Van Halen’s lead singer David Lee Roth announced he was quitting the band today in 1985, as he was climbing the charts with his solo release of a cover of the Beach Boys California Girls, with their lead guitarist Carl Wilson on background vocals.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Isley Brothers singer, songwriter, and founding member Rudy Isley is 74. Jimi Hendrix served as the band’s lead guitarist and lived with the family before moving to England to become famous on his own.
Drummer John Barbata is 68. He played with The Turtles, The Jefferson Airplane, The Jefferson Starship, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and as a studio musician with Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, and Dave Mason.
Faces and Small Faces bass player Ronnie “Plonk” Lane would be 67. He died at 51 after suffering for years from Multiple Sclerosis, with much of the treatment paid for by Jimmy Page, and former bandmates Rod Stewart, and Ronnie Wood, as he was largely cut out of royalty payments from his old bands.