While George Harrison would claim that The Beatles invented the “music video” almost 20 years before the advent of MTV, it was actually Bob Dylan, who today in 1965 was in an alley at the side of London’s Savoy Hotel, making a short promotional film for his song Subterranean Homesick Blues, which was being made for inclusion into D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary of Dylan’s ’65 U.K. tour, Don’t Look Back. It was Bob’s idea to flip through cue cards containing key words from the lyrics, but he got his friends Donovan, beat-poet Alan Ginsberg, and American singer Bob Neuwirth to help him make them, and Ginsberg and Neuwirth appear in the background in the film. The cue-card thing would be copied innumerable times in other band’s videos and commercials, and lyrics from the song would be used as the name for a political group (Don’t need a Weatherman to tell which way the wind blows…), and rock bands (Better stay away from those that carry ’round a Firehose).
John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr signed a management deal today in 1969 with The Rolling Stones American manager Allen Klein. Since the death of Brian Epstein two years earlier, their business affairs had become an increasing point of contention between the bickering Beatles, and today’s signing didn’t help, because Paul McCartney was insisting that their affairs be handled by American lawyer Lee Eastman, his wife Linda’s father. John had been impressed that Klein knew all the words to his songs, and thought he did a good job for The Stones, but Paul refused to sign the contract, which led to a short and very uncomfortable period of dual-management. Eventually Eastman was booted from Apple Corps Ltd. but he, and later his son John, would continue to manage Paul’s affairs, and were largely responsible for getting him into buying up the rights to other performers work and making him one of the richest entertainers in history.
The Beatles 12th and final album Let It Be was released today in 1970. The band had already broken up, and in reality they’d recorded it before their 11th album Abbey Road, intending to call it Get Back, but hadn’t been pleased with the result of their first attempt to work without George Martin producing, so without asking them, manager Allen Klein had hired Phil Spector to come “fix” it.
Graham Bond was a singer and keyboard player, who with The Alexis Corner Blues Band and his own Graham Bond Organization, had been one of the first to use a Hammond organ as a rock and roll instrument (Deep Purple’s John Lord would later say he learned everything he knew from Bond), the first to use the Mellotron, and had given musical starts to Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker who would later join Cream. But by today in 1974 his financial affairs were in chaos, he’d been doing way too many drugs, and had become obsessed with the occult, when he threw himself under the wheels of a Piccadilly line train at the Finsbury Park tube station in London, taking his own life at 36.
Popular BBC disc jockey Johnnie Walker quit today in 1976 after being told by management that he must pretend to like The Bay City Rollers, who he had described on-air as “musical garbage” despite them being at the height of their popularity. Walker would move to the U.S. for 5 years, working radio jobs in San Francisco and Bethesda Maryland, but he was back in London and on the BBC again by ’87.
Neil Bogart, who had started Casablanca Records in 1973 and immediately signed KISS to a record contract, died of Lymphoma today in 1982 at 39. He’d signed other rock acts (most notably T Rex and Joan Jett), but his label was most famous for disco acts like Donna Summer and The Village People, and the label was notorious for it’s cocaine-fueled parties.
Pink Floyd’s bass player Roger Waters released his first solo album today in 1984. The Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking was a “concept” album centered around the thoughts of a man on a mid-life crisis road trip in Central Europe, and his fantasies of sex with a hitch-hiker he picks up along the way. Despite having Eric Clapton among the musicians assembled for the production, it would be one of his worst-sellers, taking 11 years before being certified “gold” by the RIAA.
The Rolling Stones postponed their upcoming European tour for 6 weeks today in 2006, as their lead guitarist Keith Richards was in a hospital in New Zealand undergoing cranial surgery after falling out of a coconut tree while on holiday in Fiji.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Robert Johnson, the “King of the Delta Blues” would be 105 if he hadn’t been the first member of the “27 Club” after supposedly being poisoned by the jealous husband of one of his many female admirers.
The Yardbirds original bass player Paul Samwell-Smith is 73. He quit the band in 1966 to become a record producer, to be replaced famously by Jimmy Page.
Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten would be 73 if he’d made it past 29. He was the subject of Neil Young’s song The Needle and the Damage Done.
T Rex drummer Bill Legend is 71.
The Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz is 65.
Van Halen drummer Alex Van Halen is 63.