The Beatles bass player died in Hamburg today in 1962. Not that one, as everyone knows, he died in a car crash in ’66 and was replaced with a lookalike who somehow could sing, write songs, and play left-handed just like him. Here we’re talking about their original bass player Stu Sutcliffe. He and John Lennon had attended art school together in Liverpool, the two had come up with the name Beatles as a tribute to Buddy Holly’s Crickets, and it was Stu who went under the scissors of his German girlfriend Astrid Kircherr and first got the popular German haircut the others would adopt and became their trademark (Pete Best had curly hair that wouldn’t conform to the “moptop”, and kept his in their early “rockabilly” style, perhaps one of the reasons they booted him later). Stu had already quit the band in Germany when Paul McCartney and Best were deported , and John had gone back to England as well, but Stu stayed behind, got engaged to Kircherr, and entered art school. He was a promising abstract expressionist painter, but it was at the Hamburg college of art he started having bad headaches, light sensitivity issues, and temporary blindness, and while doctors in Germany and England couldn’t seem to find anything wrong with him, he died in an ambulance after collapsing at Astrid’s house of a brain aneurysm at age 21.
A school in Northern Wales sent home a letter to all parents today in 1965 asking them to send their kids to school in proper school uniforms (think Harry Potter at Hogwarts) and absolutely not “corduroy trousers, like those worn by The Rolling Stones“.
The third time was the charm for the Barrett-Strong song I Heard It Through The Grapevine. It had been recorded first by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, but Motown Records owner Berry Gordy didn’t like it and refused to release it. Another version by Gladys Knight and The Pips did fairly well, but the version Marvin Gaye recorded today in 1967 would be a smash hit. Yet another cover by Creedence Clearwater Revival would do pretty well too three years later.
The Doors were playing a show in Boston tonight in 1970 when at one point a drunken Jim Morrison asked the audience if they’d like to see his genitals. No doubt many of them would have, but keyboardist Ray Manzarek had already been through Jim’s arrest in Miami and got up and dragged him off stage, just as the management was cutting of the power.
Paul McCartney issued a press release through the Apple Corps office today in 1970 announcing that The Beatles had broken up. “I have no future plans to record or appear with The Beatles again, or to write any music with John“, it read. Lennon, who had already quit the band in September but kept quiet about it for the sake of the others and as not to hurt sales of the forthcoming Let It Be Album, was furious, and when asked for comment on Paul’s announcement, snapped “Paul hasn’t left. I sacked him”.
Peter Frampton was well-known in British music circles, having played not only with Humble Pie and The Herd, but as a studio guitarist with Harry Nilsson, Jerry Lee Lewis, and solo albums by The Who’s John Entwhistle and The Beatles George Harrison (who introduced him to the “talk box” guitar effect he and Joe Walsh would make famous). He’d released four solo albums (the first had guest appearances by Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, and Klaus Voorman) and toured extensively, but he was relatively unknown in the U.S. today in 1976 when his 5th album Frampton Comes Alive! went to #1. It would be the biggest album of that year, make him one of the most recognizable rock stars in the world, but two years later when Saturday Night Fever producer Robert Stigwood came up with the idea of casting him and the three Bee Gees in an ill-adivsed movie based on The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it would all but kill the careers of all four.
The British music magazine Melody Maker published a short review of a show by the up-and coming Sex Pistols today in 1976. It read simply “We hope we shall hear no more of them”.
London heavy metal band Iron Maiden had their first #1 album today in 1982 with their third, Number Of The Beast.
Gravel-voiced singer and pianist Tom Waits was in court today in 1990, suing Frito-Lay Inc. for using a Tom Waits sound-alike in a Doritos commercial. The jury awarded him $ 2.5 million in punitive damages, and talking to reporters afterward, he said “Now by law I have what I’ve always felt I had: A distinctive voice”.
5000+ people showed up at the Seattle Center Flag Plaza Pavilion today in 1994 for a Kurt Cobain memorial that featured Courtney Love reading parts of Kurt’s suicide note, and short speeches by disc jockeys from 3 radio stations, including a very depressed and reluctant Scott Vanderpool. Though Courtney’s speech to the crowd was taped, she showed up after most had left to commiserate with fans.
The final episode of The Osbournes aired on MTV tonight in 2005. The show had reached an audience of some 8 million during it’s three year run, the most popular show ever on MTV, but Ozzy was at a loss to explain it’s popularity. “I suppose Americans get a kick out of watching a crazy Brit family like us make complete fools of themselves every week”, he said. Ozzy later admitted that we was completely wasted during most of the show, and can’t bring himself to watch it.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Burke Shelley, singing bass player for influential Welch band Budgie, is 69. Metallica were big fans and covered a couple of their songs, and many of their albums were art-directed by Roger Dean, famous for his work with Yes.
Fred Smith, bass player for influential CBGB-scene band Television is 68.
Brian Setzer, guitarist and frontman for 80’s rockabilly revivalists The Stray Cats and later the jump-blues big band Brian Setzer Orchestra is 57.