The Monkees, a TV show loosely based on The Beatles A Hard Day’s Night, premiered on NBC tonight in 1966. Interestingly the first hit they didn’t play on save for Mickey Dolenz’s vocal, the Boyce-Hart penned Last Train to Clarksville, was already on the charts. The show would run just shy of two years, ending labor day weekend of ’68, a total of 58 episodes. Many kids who grew up watching would later start their own bands. To keep noise down on the set during filming, any of the “pre-fab-four” not being filmed were sent to a dressing room created from a soundproof former meat locker, which Peter Tork later said served the dual purpose of concealing any pot use that might have been going on, not that anything like that would happen of course.
The Beatles were in the second day of filming Magical Mystery Tour today in 1967, and they still had very little idea as to what they were doing. The “script” consisted of a plain piece of paper Paul McCartney carried with a circle drawn on it, on which they would add ideas about the “strange things” that would happen along the way. Today’s strange things included bus driver Alf Manders taking a short cut to a local fair at Widecombe on the Moor, and getting stuck in the heavy traffic of journalists, photographers, and fans who followed them everywhere they went. The bus ended up having to go a half-mile in reverse before they gave up and headed for Plymouth.
Creedence Clearwater Revival had their first British #1 album today in 1970 with Cosmo’s Factory. The album name was a reference to their Berkley California rehearsal space, which drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford had begun referring to as “The Factory” on account of leader John Fogerty’s rigorous practice schedule. The album was already at #1 in the U.S., staying there for some 9 weeks and selling over 3 million copies.
The soundtrack to the Ritchie Valenz bio-pic La Bamba, starring Lou Diamond Phillips as Valenz, went to #1 in the U.S. today in 1987. Most of the record was Valenz’s songs as covered by Phillips backed by Los Lobos. Others appearing on it were rockabilly revivalist Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats as Eddie Cochran, Marshall Crenshaw as Buddy Holly, Howard Huntsberry as soul singer Jackie Wilson, and blues legend Bo Diddley as himself. The real-life Valenz was just 17 when he was killed along with Holly and “The Big Bopper”J.P. Richardson in a plane crash in February of 1959 on “the day the music died”.
Aerosmith released their 10th studio album Pump today in 1989. According to singer Steven Tyler it was “the second album we’d ever done sober”, and included 4 hits (Janie’s Got a Gun, Love in an Elevator, The Other Side, and What it Takes), but it also landed them in law-school textbooks when a relatively unknown British electronic band called Pump attempted…unsuccessfully… to sue them.
The two women in Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie, announced today in 1990 that they’d be leaving the band at the end of their current tour. They would return for the first time in 1993 at the request of incoming President Bill Clinton, who’d used their Don’t Stop as his campaign theme song.
Former Sun Records rockabilly artist and country-music superstar Johnny “The Man In Black” Cash died today in 2003 at age 71. The year before he’d gone into the studio with über-producer Rick Rubin to record a covers album called American Recordings that included Rusty Cage by Seattle’s own Soundgarden.
The surviving members of Led Zeppelin announced today in 2007 that they would reunite in London’s 02 arena to pay tribute to Atlantic Records head honcho Ahmet Ertegun, who had recently died after falling down at a Rolling Stones show, and to raise money for scholarships in the U.S., the U.K., and Ertegun’s native Turkey. Tickets costing £125 each sold out quickly “lottery” style to fans all over the world, and the show was filmed and released as Celebration Day. The show, with the late John Bonham’s son Jason standing in on drums, went over so well it created a clamor for a tour to follow, but singer Robert Plant was not interested.
Portland-born engineer Ray Dolby died of leukemia today in 2013 at age 80. He started out working for Ampex in California on the tape recorders that documented most of the Classic Rock era, pioneered that companies Video tape innovations that made MTV possible, and the noise reduction system that made the cassettes in your car and Walkman less hissy.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
America guitarist, singer, and songwriter Gerry Beckley is 64. Like his bandmates Dewey Bunnell and Dan Peek, he was the son of cold-warrior U.S. Air Force officers stationed in England and their British wives. They started out playing on-base, mostly doing Crosby Stills and Nash covers, but as they moved into London nightclubs, called their band America because they didn’t want people to think they were Brits trying to sound American.
Rush drummer, lyricist, and occasional author Neil “The Professor” Peart (pronounced “Peert”) is 64.