Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut album hit record stores today in 1969, but the band had already made their presence known here in Seattle, having opened for Vanilla Fudge at the Seattle Center Arena the day after Christmas. The after-show party at the Edgewater Inn would become the stuff of legend later, but folks who’d been at the show were blown away, notably The Seattle Times critic and KOL DJ Patrick McDonald who raved about them in print, and by the time they returned in May to play the Green Lake Aqua Theater, they packed the place with Zep-heads, despite the fact they were actually opening for Three Dog Night. The album’s cover sported a photo of the Hindenburg exploding in New Jersey in 1937 (which would later get them the threat of a lawsuit from the daughter of the airship’s builder, Eva von Zeppelin), and on the back a photo of the band taken by Jimmy Page’s old Yardbirds bandmate Chris Dreja, but not everyone loved it. Rolling Stone magazine said “they offered little that their twin The Jeff Beck Group didn’t say as well or better three months ago”, and that “If they are to fill the void created by the demise of Cream, they will have to find a producer, editor, and some material worthy of their collective talents”.
The Steve Miller Band hit #1 on the charts today in 1974 for the first time with the title track to their 8th album The Joker. They’d get even bigger with their next album three years later Fly Like an Eagle, which would sell millions of copies, and Steve was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, though no other members of the band were, a point of contention for MIller, who asked for tickets to the ceremony for them and was told he could purchase as many as he wanted…at somewhere around $10,000 a pop, which led him on an angry rant that was widely publicized.
Keith Richards crashed his beloved Bentley today in 1977, and responding police weren’t terribly surprised to find him in possession of cocaine, and weren’t at all impressed that as Keith later said in his biography Life that it was really really good cocaine. But British authorities had already been burned in the press for trying to make an example of the Rolling Stones guitarist 10 years earlier, and levied a fine of £750 (about $1,275) and released him.
Late of the British prog-rock band Curved Air, which had just broken up, American drummer Stewart Copeland invited bass player Gordon Sumner and guitarist Henry Padovani to his London flat to jam today in 1977. Sumner was fond of wearing a black and yellow striped shirt, which earned him the nickname “Sting“, but Padovani would be replaced by Andy Summers by the time they hit it big as The Police.
Van Morrison became the first living Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee to blow off the ceremony tonight in 1993. Van would snub the Hall again in 2009 when he cancelled an appearance with Eric Clapton at their 25th anniversary concert.
Maurice Gibb of The Bee Gees died at age 53 today in 2003 of a heart attack that came unexpectedly during surgery for a twisted intestine. Queen Elizabeth had just named the three Gibb brothers Commanders of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for their services to music, so his son collected the honor at Buckingham Palace the next year.
The Salvation Army announced they were closing the Strawberry Field children’s home in Liverpool England today in 2005. It had been open since 1936, and a favorite childhood play-spot for John Lennon, who immortalized it in song, making it a regular stop on Beatles tours of Liverpool to this day, though it is now a church and prayer-center, and the original wrought-iron gates have been replaced by replicas to prevent their theft.
A 1974 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow with 62,000 miles on it sold at auction today in 2013 to a Russian tycoon for £74,000, substantially more than the £9 to 11,000 it was expected to fetch, largely because it’s previous owner had been Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
British bluesman John William “Long John” (He was 6’7″) Baldry would be 76. He died of a chest infection at 64 in his adopted home of Vancouver B.C., but not before helping jump-start the careers of several of the Rolling Stones, Jack Bruce, Rod Stewart, and Elton John, who he at one point talked out of committing suicide, as mentioned in Elton’s song Someone Saved My Life Tonight.
Scottish singer Maggie Bell, at one time one of the other artists on Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song record label, is 72.
Chris Bell (no relation to Maggie), guitarist of the influential Memphis band Big Star, would be 66 if he hadn’t been killed in a car crash at the age so many rockers seem to leave us at, 27.