Rockabilly singer Johnny Burnette, who with his Rock and Roll Trio had hits with Train Kept A’ Rollin’ (later covered by The Yardbirds and Aerosmith) and You’re Sixteen (later a hit for Ringo Starr), was fishing very early this morning in 1964 on Clear Lake North of San Francisco in California, when his unlit boat was hit by a speeding cabin cruiser and he was thrown from the boat and drowned. He was just 30.
The Beatles taped their last appearance on CBS’s Ed Sullivan Show today in 1965. Ed and his entourage had been at Heathrow Airport in London in ’63 and saw how their fans welcomed them home from a short tour of Sweden, and this was their fourth appearance on the show, and though they wouldn’t play live in the U.S. again, they would make short films for their songs (the precursor to the rock videos shown on MTV) Paperback Writer, Rain, Penny Lane, and Strawberry Fields Forever, for which the Sullivan show was granted exclusive U.S. broadcast rights.
All “Pirate” radio stations broadcasting into Britain from ships in the English Channel and North Sea were shut down today in 1967, as Parliament had just passed the Marine Broadcasting Act. The stations, including Radio Caroline and Radio London were perfectly legal when they’d started broadcasting from international waters, set up by entrepreneurs to meet demand for rock and roll music, which the BBC would not play. Some 21 stations were broadcasting to an estimated audience of 10-15 million listeners by ’67 when the BBC finally decided to meet the demand and started 3 more channels, many hosted by disc jockies who’d worked at pirate stations. Pirate radio came back in a big way in the late 70’s and early 80’s, as the BBC was ignoring “punk” rock and other popular new styles, and today there are still some 150 illegal radio stations in the UK. The whole thing was loosely fictionalized in a 2009 British movie called The Boat That Rocked, retitled Pirate Radio for the North American market.
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown were at #1 with Fire today in 1968. Singer Arthur Brown would perform the song live with stage makeup (later copied by the likes of Alice Cooper, KISS, and Marilyn Manson), a flaming helmet, and sometimes naked ( for which he was deported from Italy).
Steven Stills was staying at a very nice hotel in San Diego early this morning in 1970, when he was found crawling through a hallway babbling incoherently, and was arrested on suspected drug charges, but when he came down he was released as no actual drugs had been found since Steven had taken them all.
The legendary Stiff Records label, funded on a £400 loan, released it’s first single today in 1976: So It Goes by Nick Lowe. The label was at the vanguard of the “new wave” or “punk rock” movement in England, and would include Lowe, The Damned, Lene Lovich, Wreckless Eric, Elvis Costello, and Ian Dury and The Blockheads in it’s roster, which it promoted with catchy slogans like “The World’s Most Flexible Record Label”, “We came, we saw, we left”, “When you kill time, you murder success”, and most famously “If it Ain’t Stiff, it Ain’t worth a f***”.
Michael Jackson bid $47.5 million dollars for the ATV Music Publishing catalog today in 1985, beating out Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono, who were trying to put together enough cash for the rights, which included some 250 Beatles songs. Paul had joined financial forces with John’s widow, but she pulled out of the deal citing “astrological” reasons. Jackson had come to stay with Paul and Linda when they recorded Say, Say Say in 1982, and Paul had given Michael a fatherly talk about the importance of publishing rights in the music business, and Michael, after seeing all the songs Paul owned the rights to said he would own the rights to The Beatles songs one day, to which Paul laughed, “Great. Good joke.” Paul told the whole story to David Letterman in 2009:
Robert Calvert, singer and lyricist with influential “space rock” band Hawkwind, died of a heart attack today in 1988. The band continues to this day, centered around Calvert’s partner, guitarist Dave Brock, and has had some 50 musicians in the lineup since forming in 1969, including Cream drummer Ginger Baker, Mötorhead bassist Lemmy Kilmiester, and the naked guy with the flaming helmet, Arthur Brown.
Ex Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl debuted on television tonight in 1995 with his new band The Foo Fighters on Late Night With David Letterman. The band’s debut album was performed entirely by Grohl, who started working on the songs shortly after the death of Kurt Cobain, only adding other members in order to play live.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
David Crosby, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with The Byrds and Crosby Stills Nash and Sometimes Young, is 72, though his liver, which he got in a Phil Collins-funded transplant in 1994 is somewhat younger.