The Beatles were at the Saville Theater in London today in 1967 filming for Hello, Goodbye the art form they’d possibly not invented outright, but certainly made popular: The visual counterpart to a song released as a single, then called a promotional film, later known as “Rock Videos“. There were two costume changes: their über-cool street clothes, and the brass-band uniforms they wore for their Sgt. Pepper album photos. Paul’s sported a shiny badge that read “OPD” for “Ontario Police Department” that conspiracies floating around at the time took to mean “officially pronounced dead“. There would two versions made, but not much came of either. MTV wouldn’t come along until 1981, and the British Musician’s Union had cleverly lobbied Parliament to make it illegal for the BBC to show music being “mimed” to, what we now call “lip synching“.
Elton John claimed yet another victory in the seemingly unending British Invasion today in 1973 when his 7th album started an 8-week run at #1 on the American charts. It was the third time he’d topped Billboard, but this would be his biggest ever. Lyricist Bernie Taupin was working under the tentative title Silent Movies, Talking Pictures, and come up with the words in his adopted home California in two and a half weeks. Then Elton, working under another title Vodka and Tonics, went to Kingston Jamaica because The Rolling Stones had just done Goat’s Head Soup there and written all the music in three days while holed up at the Pink Flamingo Hotel. With his heyday band of Nigel Olsson on drums, Dee Murray on bass, Davey Johnstone on guitar, and Ray Cooper as percussionist, they began recording there, but technical problems made them ditch Kingston and head back to the Cháteau d’Hérouville in France and finished it in two weeks, then once again changed the title to that of one of Bernie’s other Hollywood-themed songs, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. It would sell over 30 million copies.
David Bowie finally had a #1 hit at home in England today in 1975 with a re-release of his song Space Oddity, the title a play on the Stanley Kubrick film of a year before, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowie had intended to cash in on the Apollo 11 moon landing in July of 1969, and released it just before, but the BBC had refused to play it until all three American astronauts returned safely to earth and had passed through a quarantine period to make sure they hadn’t picked up any moon diseases.
67 year old session guitarist Tommy Tedesco died of lung cancer today in 1997. Guitar Player magazine called him “the most-recorded guitarist of all time“, having played with Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Jan and Dean, Frank Zappa, Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy, The Ronettes, Sam Cooke, The Everly Brothers, and The Mamas and The Papas to name but a few, and the iconic themes to TV shows like Bonanza, Batman, Twilight Zone, and M*A*S*H.
The British Exam Board, acting on the recommendation of an anti-child abuse group called Kidscape, recalled it’s high school music test today in 2008 and replaced it with copies that did not include in it’s “recommended listening” box Gary Glitter’s 1973 hit I’m The Leader of The Gang, saying “The role model is morally decrepit. It’s just inappropriate”. Gary’s first troubles with child pornography came in 1997 when he took his laptop in for repairs in England and followed him to some 12 countries. After doing time in a Vietnamese prison, he was returned to Britain where he lives as a registered sex offender and is not allowed to leave the country.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Greg Lake, singer, songwriter, bassist and guitarist for King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Asia, and occasionally Ringo’s All-Starr Band, is 69.