The Beatles were at Abbey Road Studios today in 1967 putting the finishing touches on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which came in the form of a short section of noise that plays in the “run-out-groove” immediately following A Day In The Life. Engineer Geoff Emerick took the reel tape they’d talked and made noises on and physically cut it up with a razor blade, then reassembled the pieces in random order with some of them backwards. Though there were no secret or hidden messages for fans to discover, John Lennon did come up with the idea of adding a 15 MHz whistle audible only to dogs, but American dogs were spared as it wasn’t included on our version.
Janis Joplin played in London for the first time tonight in 1969, and was already a big enough star there that she played The Royal Albert Hall. The opening act was about as far from Janis’s bluesy style as possible, a “progressive” rock band that had released their debut album back in August that called themselves Yes.
Tony Orlando and Dawn went to #1 today in 1973 with Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree. While yellow ribbons as a welcome-home symbol would become popular with families of soldiers serving in Vietnam, the subject of the song had just been released from a 3-year prison sentence, but the practice started with the wives and girlfriends of U.S. Cavalry soldiers in the 1800’s. It inspired an Army marching-cadence song and a corresponding John Wayne movie from 1949, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon. It would go on to be the biggest selling single of that year (6 million copies), and to this day you will find yellow ribbons tied to trees, telephone poles, and freeway overpasses near Fort Lewis or any other military base in America, any time our troops are sent in harm’s way.
A group calling themselves Women Against Violence Against Women issued a press release today in 1976 urging a boycott of any and all products of Warner Communications Incorporated, after an ill-advised billboard had been put up on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood advertising Black and Blue, the 15th studio album from The Rolling Stones. The billboard was a shot of model Anita Russell, bound by ropes, beaten and bruised by makeup, and seated with legs spread wide on an over-sized copy of the album, with the message “I’m Black and Blue from the Rolling Stones…And I Love It!”. The incident was parodied in the 1984 “mockumentary” This Is Spinal Tap in a scene where record executive Bobbi Flekman (Fran Drescher) has to explain to lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) why the cover of their new album Smell The Glove is sexist, which makes Nigel ask, “Well, what’s wrong with being sexy then?”. The Stones billboard was taken down a day later.
British folk singer Sandy Denny died today in 1978 at age 31 of a brain hemorrhage that was apparently the result of a fall down a flight of stars a month earlier. She’d been a member of Fairport Convention and a solo artist, but when she sang on The Battle of Evermore on Led Zeppelin IV, she earned the distinction of being the only person not named Robert Plant to sing on a Led Zeppelin album.
Joe Strummer, frontman with The Clash, “disappeared” for three weeks today in 1982. Their album Combat Rock was set to be released soon, but tickets for a series of shows in Scotland had not been selling well, and management cooked up the “mystery” as a publicity stunt and excuse to cancel the shows, going so far as to arrange a trip to Texas, where he would stay with his friend Joe Ely, but Joe decided to take it a bit further and without telling anyone went to Paris instead, where he “mostly dicked around”, but also ran the Paris Marathon (he later said his “training regimen” was to drink 10 pints of beer the night before). The rest of the band and their management were furious, which led to fights between Joe and guitarist Mick Jones, and the demise of The Clash a few years later.
Paul McCartney set yet another Guinness World Record today in 1990 when he played to 184,000 fans at the Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janiero, Brazil, the largest crowd ever to show up for a single performer. Paul’s record would be crushed later that summer when 350,000 people showed up to see Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters play The Wall at the Berlin Wall, and again in 1994 when some 3,500,000 people showed up at Rio’s Copacabana Beach to see Rod Stewart, a record that still stands.
R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck had moved to Seattle some years before after marrying former lawyer Stephanie Dorgan, the owner of the Crocodile Cafe nightclub, and was on a British Airways flight from SeaTac to London’s Heathrow airport today in 2001 for his band’s appearance at the Nelson Mandela Freedom Day Concert at Trafalgar Square when, after taking a sedative to help him sleep on the flight, drank at least 14 glasses of red wine before trying to play a Compact Disc in the first-class cabin, where he was seated with R.E.M. (and formerly Mudhoney) tour manager Bob Whittaker, son of the famous mountain climber and REI chairman, and given the title “refreshments coordinator” in the Sub Pop 200 corporate guidebook. Unfortunately Buck was trying to get the CD to play in a food-service cart, and when it wouldn’t work became frustrated and up-ended the cart, flinging bits of Continental and English Breakfasts about the cabin and on the well-heeled passengers, and apparently became a bit abusive toward the flight attendants trying to calm him down. When the plane landed, he was arrested by Scotland Yard and charged with common assault on flight crew members, disobeying an aircraft commander, being drunk on an aircraft, threatening and abusive behaviour, and “criminal damage to a quantity of crockery”. Buck claimed to remember nothing of the incident “until he woke up in jail cell”, and after a lengthy trial that saw character testimonials from R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe and U2 singer Bono Vox, Buck was cleared on grounds of “non-insane automatism”, a result of the combination of sleeping pills and alcohol.
91 year old Doris Richards died of cancer today in 2007. She’s most famous for buying her son Keith the guitar for his 15th birthday that he would learn to play and start The Rolling Stones.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
James Osterberg Jr. is 68. He’s much better known by the stage name he adopted as the mild-mannered lead singer of Detroit band The Stooges: Iggy Pop.
Robert Smith, guitarist, singer, and songwriter of influential British band The Cure is 56.