It was none of The Beatles birthdays today in 1968, but they were at Abbey Road working on songs for The White Album when Paul McCartney began playing around with the riff to what would become Birthday, then they took a break and went to Paul’s nearby flat to watch the 1956 rock-and-roll comedy The Girl Can’t Help It. John Lennon said later, “I think Paul wanted to write a song like Happy Birthday Baby, the old 50’s hit. But it was sort of made up in the studio. It was a piece of garbage.” They recorded 20 takes of it, with Yoko Ono, Pattie Harrison, and roadie Mal Evans adding background vocals and handclaps. The song would come to be requested at radio stations all over the world, every single day for somebody’s birthday, and Paul and Ringo played it together for Ringo’s 70th birthday in 2010, and Paul Weller, leader of Britain’s beloved The Jam, played it for Paul at his 70th birthday party two years later, a version that was available for download on iTunes for that day only.
27 year old Jimi Hendrix had been up until 7 AM this morning in 1970 with his German figure skater/artist girlfriend Monika Danneman. When she woke up at about 11, she found Jimi breathing, but unconscious and unresponsive, She called an ambulance, which got there in about a half-hour and took him to St. Mary Abbott’s Hospital in London where he was pronounced dead a little over an hour later by Dr. John Bannister. An autopsy started three days later determined that he’d choked to death on his own vomit, which consisted mostly of red wine, that had been the result of taking barbiturates. Danneman later said that he’d also taken nine of her prescribed Vesparax sleeping pills, 18 times the prescribed dosage. Rumors and conspiracy theories began to circulate almost immediately. Eric Burdon was sure he had committed suicide, and in 2009 a former Animals roadie wrote in his memoir that Hendrix’s then-manager had admitted that he had arranged Jimi’s murder, because he was trying to get out of his contract. His body was flown to Seattle on the 29th, when he was buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Renton where his mother was buried.
The Who’s 5th studio album Who’s Next went to #1 in England today in 1971, the only one of their records to hit that mark. The songs had been written by Pete Townsend in a Tommy-follow-up rock opera to be called Lifehouse, but Pete said later the project had led him to the verge of a suicidal nervous breakdown and he gave up on it. They did manage to record a single album’s worth of the songs without tying them together the way he had with Tommy or A Quick One While He’s Away. The cover art, a photograph of the band peeing (three of them were unable to produce, and the desired stain was achieved by spilling water) on a concrete piling protruding from a slag heap at the Easington Colliery, reminiscent of the ominous black monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, which had come out two years earlier, which Pete said was an ironical answer to that film’s director Stanley Kubrick turning The Who down when they’d asked him to direct Tommy.
Pennsylvania guitarist and singer Donnie Iris had his second hit today in 1976, when his band Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music went to #1. His previous band The Jaggerz had gone to #2 with a song called The Rapper, and Donnie would have a solo #29 in 1980 with Ah Leah!
British multi-instrumentalist, synth-pop pioneer, and avid pilot Gary Numan, who played Seattle’s Bumbershoot two years ago, took off on a solo around-the-world trip in a single-engine Cessna today in 1981, but his trip was cut short in India, where fighter jets forced him to land and he was arrested for not having proper documentation.
KISS appeared in public without their trademark makeup for the first time today in 1983 in an interview on MTV promoting their new album Lick It Up.
John and Cynthia Lennon’s son Julian was at Sotheby’s auction house in London today in 1996 when he outbid everyone for Paul McCartney’s hand-written studio notes for the song he had written for him when his parents divorced when he was 5, Hey Jude. Julian remains close friends with Paul, and said he was more like a father to him than John, who had little contact with him from when he left Cynthia for Yoko Ono until the 70’s when he reconnected with his oldest son at the urging of then-girlfriend May Pang. Paul had started the song with his nickname as “Hey Jules”, but changed it to “Jude” because it was easier to sing.
The 19th Farm Aid concert, a fundraiser organized to keep large corporations from taking over family-owned farms, was held today in 2004 at the White River Amphitheater on the Muckleshoot reservation in Auburn, with organizers Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp being joined by Steve Earle, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lucinda Williams, and The Dave Matthews Band among others.
“B”-movie producer, director, writer, and actor Russ Meyer, who’s 1965 film Mudhoney became the name for one of Seattle’s most famous bands in 1988, died of pneumonia today in 2004 at 82.
Willie Nelson was headed to the funeral of his friend, former Texas governor Ann Richards today in 2006, when his tour bus was pulled over near Lafayette Louisiana. Police found marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms, and arrested him, his manager, and his sister Bobbi. He was given six months probation.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Douglas Glenn Colvin, better know by his stage name Dee Dee Ramone, bass player and songwriter for The Ramones, would be 65 if he hadn’t overdosed on heroin at age 50.