The King of Rock and Roll played his last show ever in his trademark and often-photographed gold lame suit tonight in 1957, and it was one of very few times Elvis Presley played outside the U.S., at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.
The Beatles were at Abbey Road today in 1966 starting in on a new John Lennon song, I’m Only Sleeping. Working with producer George Martin, they came up with the idea of having George Harrison play two guitar solos with the recording tape turned over. It took him quite a few backward passes to work up his parts, but when they turned the tape back over they were delighted to find they’d psychedelicized it in a way that would be copied many times by thousands of bands, themselves included.
Pink Floyd played tonight in 1969 at the Mother’s Club in Birmingham England, and legendary Brit DJ John “Peel” Ravenscroft (OBE) was there, having returned two years earlier from seven in the U.S. where he’d worked as a punch-card computer programmer then radio disc jockey. His show on the offshore pirate Radio London ended almost as soon as it started when Parliament shut them down, but the BBC promised not to exclude rock and roll anymore and Peel would become England’s longest-serving and most respected “presenter” as they call them. He was a huge and early Floyd fan and proponent as shown in his commentary on tonight’s show, some of which ended up on their Ummagumma album: “They sounded like dying galaxies lost in sheer corridors of time and space…”
The Grateful Dead were at their old San Francisco pal promoter Bill Graham’s East Village Manhattan Fillmore East tonight in 1971 when they were joined for a bit by their unlikely friends The Beach Boys.
Pink Floyd were playing the last of four nights at the Los Angeles Sports Arena tonight in 1975 when local police and drug agents finally figured out that Floyd Fans often like to smoke weed. Plainclothes officers arrested 511 of them.
David Bowie was on a train in Eastern Europe today in 1976 when he was detained at Customs on the Polish-Soviet border for having Nazi mementos and books in his luggage. He told the officials the materials were research for a movie about Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, but Bowie was accused in the entertainment press of being a closet Nazi when he said things in interviews like “Adolph Hitler was the first rock star…”, and “Britain could benefit from a fascist leader”, and things came to a head when NME published a photo of him arriving at Victoria Station in a convertible Mercedes seemingly giving the “seig-heil” salute. David pointed out the papparazi had merely caught him mid-wave, but years later admitted that a tongue-in-cheek fascination with all things Third Reich were part of his then-new “Thin White Duke” persona, and that he’d been doing a lot of cocaine.
Ringo Starr got married for the second time today in 1981, to his co-star in the movie Caveman and former Bond-girl Barbara Bach, in a small private ceremony attended by his two surviving Beatle bandmates. They’re still together, splitting time between L.A., rural England, and Monte Carlo. In 2008 Barb’s sister Marjorie married The James Gang and Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh, making the two rockers brothers-in-law, a relationship the quite enjoy as Joe’s played with Ringo’s All Starr Band many times.
Pearl Jam were recording at Southern Track Studios in Atlanta Georgia today in 2009 when bass player Jeff Ament and a crewmember arrived for work, to be greeted by three knife-wielding black ski-masked thugs who smashed the windows of their rented jeep and took $3000 in cash, $4000 worth of instruments and equipment, and Jeff’s blackberry and passport. Meanwhile on Eddie Vedder’s part-time home the Isle of Maui, Aerosmith were playing a court-ordered free show brought on by a class-action suit by fans, possibly including Vedder, who claimed they were stiffed on tickets when Aerosmith feigned illness to cancel a show there, then did a more lucrative one in Chicago without an apology or refund.
British National Heritage marked what would have been the 66th birthday of Badfinger guitarist Pete Ham with one of their ubiquitous blue plaques at the Swansea Rail Station in London today in 2013.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Badfinger guitarist Pete Ham would be 69. He took his own life at the all too familiar age of 27, despondent over the fact that despite being signed to The Beatles Apple Corps label and having several huge hits for his band as well as Harry Nilsson, he had no money thanks to music industry weasels and shysters.
Original KISS lead guitarist Paul “Ace” Frehley is 65.