Chuck Berry opened “Berry Park” near his home in Wentzville, Missouri (about as far from St. Louis as Tacoma is from Seattle) today in 1961. It had a restaurant, guitar-shaped swimming pool, a golf course, a small zoo, hotel suites, a nightclub, and rides including a Ferris wheel. He was at the peak of his popularity, and in particular having a profound influence on teenaged musicians across the Atlantic, but the heyday would be short lived: Two years later he would be arrested for “transporting a minor across state lines for immoral purposes” and sentenced to a year and a half in prison.
The Beatles played the last show of a 7 week run at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany tonight in 1962. They played for 4 1/2 hours on weeknights, and six hours on Saturdays. Sometimes they would stretch the songs to 20 minutes or more to fill time. A fair number of them were Chuck Berry covers.
Filming began for a TV show loosely based on the The Beatles’ Hard Days Night today in 1966. The three Americans and British kid with a Beatle haircut would be known as The Monkees. Their first single, a Boyce and Hart composition called Last Train to Clarksville, would be released a month before the debut show aired in September.
Seattle had it’s first native son (or daughter) on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine today in 1969, Jimi Hendrix, who had wowed the San Francisco scene (Rolling Stone started there, but would later move to New York) at the Monterey Pop Festival almost a year earliuer, but had not yet played Woodstock.
The Rolling Stones announced their upcoming tour by playing live on a flatbed truck rolling down 5th avenue in New York City today in 1975. Drummer and jazz fanatic Charlie Watts stole the idea from New Orleans Dixieland bands, who would advertise their evening gigs by playing while walking down the street during the day.
The Who earned a dubious distinction, entering the Guinness Book of World’s Records as The World’s Loudest Rock Band tonight in 1976. They’d been measured at 120 decibels…the level at which hearing damage starts to happen. 130 decibels is the threshold of pain, a level that has since been achieved many times over, most notably by The Clash in Seattle’s Paramount Theater in 1979.
The BBC banned the Sex Pistols single God Save The Queen (originally titled No Future,but changed to coincide with Queen Elizabeth II’s “Silver Jubilee”), from all radio stations in Britain today in 1977. The London Daily Mirror predicted that the ban would drive the song to number one on the charts, but it couldn’t bump a Rod Stewart single that had been on the charts for a month, and only got to number two. The BBC ban certainly helped sales, but Manager Malcolm McClaren had already arranged a publicity stunt: A week later the band would play the song from a barge on the Thames in front of the Houses of Parliament.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Peter Yarrow is 78, the Peter of Peter, Paul, and Mary. Yarrow wrote their biggest hit, Puff The Magic Dragon, which many thought to be about puffing, or taking drags-on marijuana cigarettes rolled in “little Jackie Papers”. Yarrow actually based the song on a poem about the loss of childhood innocence written on his typewriter at Cornell University by a classmate he later tracked down and paid royalties to.
John Henry Bonham would be 68 today. “Bonzo’s” hard-hitting style, as heard through Jimmy Page’s recording production, was what gave Led Zeppelin its “heavy” sound, and John remains one of rock’s most influential and highly regarded drummers of all time. He died in 1980 at age 32, a coroner’s report found that he had consumed 40+ shots of vodka in the last 24 hours of his life, and he’d asphyxiated on his own vomit. There were no other drugs found in his body. Led Zeppelin wisely disbanded after his death. Roger Taylor of Queen later said “The greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummer of all time was John Bonham who did things that nobody had ever even thought possible before with the drum kit. And also the greatest sound out of his drums—they sounded enormous, and just one bass drum. So fast on it that he did more with one bass drum than most people could do with three, if they could manage them. And he had technique to burn and fantastic power and tremendous feel for rock`n`roll”.