January 23 in Classic Rock: Cleveland Doesn’t Rock

Police in Cleveland Ohio, now home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, announced today in 1956 that they would be enforcing a law on the books since 1931 that prevented those under the age of 18 from dancing in public unless accompanied by an adult.

Stevie Wonder played the Cavern Club in Liverpool England tonight in 1966. The Beatles were huge fans, and would have been there if they still lived in Liverpool.

Pink Floyd spent the first of three days at Sound Techniques Studios in London’s Chelsea neighborhood today in 1967, recording two Syd Barrett songs that would be their first single: Arnold Layne was based on a real person, a transvestite who would steal women’s undergarments from clothes lines in Cambridge, while the b-side Candy and a Currant Bun had been called Let’s Roll Another One when they played it live before the record company insisted they remove the drug references.

The Beatles were at the Apple Studios in London today in 1969, when they recorded 10 takes of a song that had started as a George Harrison nugget, reworked by Paul McCartney called Get Back. Released as a single credited to “The Beatles with Billy Preston“, he was the first to get his name in the credits since My Bonnie came out in 1961 credited to “The Beatles with Tony Sheridan”.  John Lennon later said that Paul had looked over at Yoko Ono every time he sang “Get back to where you once belonged.”

Bruce Springsteen played his final show with his band Steel Mill tonight in 1971 at the Upstage Club in Asbury Park New Jersey. Bruce would try several new bands out during the following year, including The Bruce Springsteen Jam, Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom, and The Bruce Springsteen Band before settling on The E-Street Band the following year.

George Harrison became the first ex-Beatle to have a #1 hit today in 1971 when My Sweet Lord topped the charts. George had written the song in praise of the Hindu god Krishna and given it to his friend Billy Preston who’d recorded it two months earlier, but George’s version, produced by Phil Spector would get him sued 5 years later, when it was determined by a court of law that he had “subconsciously plagiarized” the 1963 Ronnie Mack song He’s So Fine, recorded by the girl-group The Chiffons, who interestingly were not produced by Phil Spector.

Chicago’s guitar player Terry Kath was at a party at one of their roadies houses in Los Angeles today in 1978 when he jokingly put a 9mm semi-automatic pistol to his head with the last words, “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded” and pulled the trigger, killing himself instantly one week shy of his 32nd birthday. Jimi Hendrix had famously said Kath was his favorite guitarist other than himself (the two bands had toured together, including a stop at the Seattle Pop Festival in July of ’69), and dispelling rumors of suicide, Chicago’s producer James William Guercio said that Terry had been working on a solo album.

Nirvana were at a small triangle-shaped building on Leary Way in Ballard today in 1988 recording what would end up being their first album Bleach with Skin Yard guitarist Jack Endino producing. Done in just 30 hours of studio time at a cost of $606.13 (lent to them by short-time second guitarist Jason Everman), the album did pretty well on Seattle’s Sub Pop record label on the college radio charts, but after their second album Nevermind changed rock music forever, Bleach would also go platinum.

Lynyrd Skynyrd founding guitarist and songwriter Allen Collins died of pneumonia today in 1990 at age 37. Collins had survived, barely, the 1977 plane crash that killed singer Ronnie Van Zant and fellow guitarist Steve Gaines (he broke two vertebrae in his neck and his right arm was so damaged doctors had recommended amputation, but his father had refused to allow it), but had been paralyzed in a 1986 car crash, and had been unable to play guitar since.

Not to be confused with the Lovin’ Spoonful guitarist, John Sebastian, owner and general manager of KLSK in Albuquerque New Mexico, celebrated his station’s format change to “Classic Rock” today in 1991 by playing Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven over and over again for a non-stop 24 hours. At one point, police showed up at the station with guns drawn after receiving reports from listeners that varied from “One of the DJ’s has died of a heart attack!” to “The station has been taken over by terrorists!”, probably because the first Iraq war had started 8 days earlier.

Rock and Roll Birthdays

Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt would be 107 if he’d made it past 43. His two-fingered style, developed after a doctor suggested taking up the guitar as a way of keeping finger-mobility after suffering severe burns, was highly influential, especially to Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, who was given a Django Reinhardt record to listen to by his boss after losing the tips of several fingers in an accident at a sheet metal plant when he was 17.

E-Street Band keyboard player Danny Federici would be 67 if he hadn’t died of Melanoma at 58.

The Doobie Brothers guitarist Pat Simmons is 67.

The Box Tops bass player Bill Cunningham is 67.

Cheap Trick singer Robin Zander is 64.

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