The Monkees were at #1 on the charts today in 1966 with their first single Last Train To Clarksville. Written by the songwriting team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, the Clarksville in question is in Tennessee, a stone’s throw away from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home to the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, and in the song a soldier is asking his girlfriend to get on the train so they can have one last night together before he ships out to Vietnam. Hart had served in the Army himself, they ended up using the song in a training film shown to draftees entering the service the next year. While Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork could actually play instruments, Davey Jones could not, and Mickey Dolenz eventually learned how to play the drums as the show progressed, but fans were not pleased to learn that The Monkees had not played on the recording, let alone written the song. In the mid 70’s Boyce and Hart teamed up with Dolenz and Jones, and legally prevented from using the band name, toured as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, and Hart, playing songs they’d written for the Monkees, as well as their hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone, and their own hit I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight?
Atlantic Records released the third album from Led Zeppelin today in 1970. Most of the songs for it, as well as many that ended up on later Zeppelin albums, were written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant at an 18th-century stone cottage in Wales that Plant’s family had taken him to on holidays in the 50’s called Bron-Yr-Aur. It had no running water or electricity, and Page thought it was perfect, later saying “It was the first time I really came to know Robert. Actually living together at Bron-Yr-Aur, as opposed to occupying nearby hotel rooms. The songs took us into areas that changed the band, and it established a standard of traveling for inspiration… which is the best thing a musician can do”. The cottage is still there, and has become a bit of a pilgrimage site for Led-Heads.
Elvis Presley played the first show of a 15-date tour tonight in 1971 at the Minneapolis Metropolitan Sports Center. The crowd would not leave at the end and as they cheered for an encore, arena announcer Al Dvorin was asked to let them know there wouldn’t be one, and uttered the phrase “Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the building”, which was repeated often enough that it became the title of a 2004 movie starring Kim Basinger as a cosmetics salesman who accidentally serial-kills Elvis impersonators.
The manager of the Virgin Records store in Nottingham England was arrested today in 1977 for displaying a large poster advertising the Sex Pistols album Never Mind the Bollocks. “Bollocks” is an English slang word that eventually came to equate “nonsense” or “poor quality”, but the original meaning was “testicles”, which authorities found offensive, and they threatened many record stores citing an indecency-in-advertising law dating back to 1898.
The Clash’s drummer Nicky “Topper” Headon was arrested in London today in 1983 for walking his dog while drunk, though it’s unclear whether it was Topper or the dog that was drunk.
Guitarist Link Wray died of a heart attack in his adopted home in Copenhagen Denmark at age 76 today in 2005. He hadn’t intended to be an instrumental performer, but after getting tuberculosis while fighting in the Korean war, had a lung removed, which left him unable to sing. His 1958 hit Rumble was banned by many bible-belt radio stations on the grounds that it promoted juvenile delinquency, a rare feat for a song with no words. Jimmy Page considers him one of his biggest early influences.
Keith Richards autobiography Life was at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list today in 2010, and has gone on to sell well over a million copies.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Guitarist, songwriter, singer, and producer Ike Turner would be 85. He’s most famous for his collaborations with wife Tina, but is also credited with writing Rocket 88, which he recorded with his band the Rhythm Kings in 1951, and is widely considered the world’s first-ever rock and roll song. He died in 2007 at age 76.
Singer Art Garfunkel of Simon And is 75.
Los Bravos drummer Pablo Gomez is 73. With their 1966 song Black is Black, they became the first rock and roll band from Spain to have hits outside that country.
Country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers would be 70. He was close friends with Keith Richards, and the two would often indulge in their favorite pastimes, guitars and heroin at Keith’s home in Nellcote France while the Stones were recording Exile on Main Street (until Mick Jagger kicked him out), but the second of those two hobbies killed him in 1973 at age 26.
Herman’s Hermits lead singer Peter Noone is 69, and fronting one of two current touring versions of Herman’s Hermits (the other is with original drummer Barry Whitwam), who opened for a Beatles tribute band at Kent’s Showare Center last December, interesting because at the start of the “British Invasion” Noone’s Mickey Most-produced band (he was just 15 at the time) were as big as the Fab Four.