The ’57 Cadillac Of Guitars, Ronettes Shag Beatles And Stones, And Who’s So Vain? : This Day In Classic Rock [Videos]

The Gibson Guitar company introduced the  Flying V, today in 1958. Designed by then company president Ted McCarty and made of Korina wood (similar to Mahogany) along with the Explorer and the Moderne (which wasn’t put into production until 1982), the guitars embodied America’s love of all things futuristic and fascination with space (see automotive design of the late 50’s and the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair). Blues rock guitarists Albert King and Lonnie Mack started playing them immediately, but they didn’t sell well at all and the line was discontinued the next year, until Jimi Hendrix and Dave Davies of The Kinks, looking for something with a fat sound and distinctive look, started playing Flying V’s in the mid 60’s, and Gibson brought them back in ’67, but original models from the first two-year run are now highly sought by collectors and fetch around a quarter-million dollars each. Other famous players who own Flying V’s include Marc Bolan of T-Rex, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Michael and Rudolph Schenker of The Scorpions and U.F.O., Nancy Wilson of Heart, Neil Young, Keith Richards, Paul Stanley of KISS, and Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield of Metallica.

The Rolling Stones were headliners of the Group Scene 1964 Tour, which started oddly tonight in 1964 at the Granada Theater in Northwest London. Opening acts were The Swingin’ Blue Jeans, Marty Wilde, Dave Berry and the Cruisers, and three  American girls who were already the darlings of England’s “Mod” scene, The Ronettes. Veronica Bennett (later Ronnie Spector after she married their producer Phil) said later, “We must have been quite a sight in the Heathrow waiting room…three black American girls sitting with their legs all crossed the same way, our three identical enormous hairdos piled a foot or so over our heads. When our young chaperon finally showed up, he was all smiles”. So was John Lennon of The Beatles, who had a brief affair with Ronnie before she hooked up with Keith Richards for the rest of the tour, who later said “The first time I ever went to heaven was when I awoke with Ronnie Bennett asleep with a smile on her face. We were kids. It doesn’t get any better than that.” Ronnie’s sister Estelle had a brief romance with George Harrison on that trip, and The Ronettes would famously open for The Beatles on their last American tour in 1966, but Phil Spector was so jealous he made Ronnie stay in California and their cousin Elaine Mayes took her place.

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young made their British debut tonight in 1970 at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Carly Simon’s song about a self-absorbed lover, You’re So Vain, started a three week run at #1 in America today in 1973. Carly has always been elusive as to the subject of the tune, but one early suspect was dismissed: Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who wasn’t credited on the sleeve but can clearly be heard singing backup vocals on the track. By the late 80’s she said she’d written it about a composite of three men she’d dated in Los Angeles, one of whom was actor Warren Beatty, but also hinted she may be lying and it may really be just one person. Other suspects include David Bowie, David Cassidy, Cat Stevens, record mogul David Geffen, and Simon’s boyfriend she’d just broken up with when the song came out, session guitarist Dan Armstrong (for whom Ampeg’s clear plastic guitar is named). In the early 2000’s she began offering clues, one letter at a time, telling NBC’s Dick Ebersol there was a letter “E” in the person’s name, told Regis Philbin there was an “R” in there, and on another occasion an “A“. Several people claimed to have been told the subject of the song, though sworn to secrecy by Simon: Her later-husband Jim Hart (who said it’s not about anyone famous), Singer Taylor Swift, and talk show host Howard Stern who later said “There is an odd aspect to it…he’s not that vain”. Finally just before Christmas she released a memoir, Boys In The Trees, which reaffirms Beatty, won’t identify the other two, and describes relationships with many others (the 70’s were a special time), including the polite reaction to her and sister Lucy’s decline to Sean Connery’s proposal of a “Simon Sandwich”, and especially her marriage to James Taylor.

The mayor of Boston cancelled Led Zeppelin’s scheduled show there tonight in 1975 when fans trying to buy tickets started a small riot that did some $75,000 damage to Boston Garden. The show was rescheduled for February 4th.

EMI Records famously dumped The Sex Pistols from their two-year recording contract today in 1977, paying them £40,000 in “severance”. Their “sacking” seemed to be as much about their behavior as the music (EMI workers had gone on a brief strike, refusing to package one of their singles), after an expletive-laced exchange between the band, it’s “Bromley Contingent” entourage (which included future Siouxse and The Banshees frontwoman Siouxse Sioux), and host Bill Grundy on Thames TV’s Today Show in early December after they’d been brought on as last-minute replacements for EMI label-mates Queen.

Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour was in court today in 2001, winning the rights to the interweb domain name davidgilmour.com, which had been registered by one Andrew Herman, who had filed for it and was selling unauthorized Pink Floyd merchandise.

Session playing pedal steel guitarist “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow, who’d played on records by The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, John Lennon, The Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, Jackson Browne, Joe Cocker, The Everly Brothers, Frank Zappa, Joan Baez, The Band, George Harrison, The Eagles, The Steve Miller Band, Stevie Wonder, Linda Ronstadt, and many more, died after long suffering from Alzheimer’s disease today in 2007 at age 72. He was also a pioneer of stop-motion animation in Hollywood, and worked on the Gumby cartoons, the only Sunday morning cartoon of many of our childhoods Davy and Goliath, it was his finger that poked his Pilsbury Doughboy, he did Land of The Lost’s dinosaurs, and he went on to work on the Star Wars movies and the Terminator films.

Rock and Roll Birthdays

Pink Floyd founding guitarist Roger “Syd” Barrett would be 70. He died from complications of diabetes at age 60.

British folk singer Sandy Denny would be 70. She was a member of The Strawbs, gained more fame as the lead singer of folk-rock band Fairport Convention, and is the only person ever to sing guest-vocals on a Led Zeppelin album on The Battle of Evermore. She died at age 31 after suffering a head injury after falling down a flight of stairs, then being prescribed a painkiller for the resulting headaches that was known to be potentially fatal when combined with alcohol, as it turned out to be.

AC/DC rhythm guitarist, songwriter, backup singer, the “business and brains” behind the band, and older brother of lead guitarist Angus, Malcolm Young is 64. Malcolm was diagnosed with dementia three years ago, was admitted to a nursing home, and for the first time in the band’s history has missed an album and tour (Rock or Bust, which played the Tacoma Dome last year). The band kept it in the family though, filling in at the sessions and on shows is his nephew Stevie Young.

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