Ray Charles had been building a following since he moved to Seattle in 1947, but today in 1959 he was in New York recording What’d I Say, a song he had made up on the spot at a live gig as a time-filler. It would go to #1 on the Black “R&B” chart, but also remarkably for the time get to #6 on the White “Pop” chart, further breaking down racist barriers and making Ray a sort of Jackie Robinson of early rock and roll.
The Kinks had their 2nd British #1 hit today in 1965 with Tired of Waiting for You. Ray Davies said he wrote the music on the train to Pye Studios and the lyrics at a coffeeshop during a break in the session. He and brother Dave argued, naturally, about how putting that heavy guitar sound over a ponderous song might ruin it, but heavy guitar enthusiasts are glad they did.
The Beach Boys bass player and principal songwriter Brian Wilson started recording what Rolling Stone magazine would tag as #6 of the 500 greatest rock and roll songs ever recorded today in 1966. Brian said Good Vibrations came from something his Mom had told him as a kid, that dogs could pick up on vibrations from humans. Described by their publicist as a “pocket symphony”. Wilson had been building on multi-track recording techniques he’d been working with on their Pet Sounds album, layering elements not usually used in rock music like strings and Leon Theramin’s namesake electronic hand-proximity instrument (used so effectively by Jimmy Page on Dazed and Confused), and the results were groundbreaking. Released as a single, it would be the Boy’s 3rd #1 hit, and influence musicians ever-after, especially The Beatles, who Paul McCartney freely admitted they’d ripped off his production directly on A Day in the Life and Strawberry Fields Forever. Moreover the concept of “vibrations” would enter the lexicon, with George Harrison famously saying that Yoko Ono “gave off bad vibes”.
Maurice Gibb of The Bee Gees married Scottish singer, actress, and Telly personality Lulu today in 1969 in the small Buckinghamshire town of Gerrard’s Cross, which didn’t stop some 3000 uninvited guests from showing up. They were back together after Lulu’s much publicized but in reality uneventful “affair” with Davy Jones of The Monkees.
Led Zeppelin had brought the largest sound system ever used with them for their show in Adelaide Australia tonight in 1972, for what was expected to be the loudest rock show ever and the start of their first tour down under, but heavy rain left them fearing electrocution from all that power, and the show was postponed until the next day, when it was indeed…however briefly… the loudest.
The Rolling Stones bass player Bill Wyman said in an interview today in 1980 that he fully intended to quit the band on their 20th anniversary in 1982. The rest of the band were having none of it, and managed to keep him in line until 1993, when he finally quit to be replaced by Darryl Jones, who has never been made a full member of the band.
Queen frontman Freddy Mercury made his final public appearance tonight in 1990 at the Brit Awards at the Dominion Theater in London, where he and the band collected an award for Outstanding Contributions to Music. Freddy was looking frail, and though the subject came up frequently in the English tabloids, he publicly denied having AIDS until 2 days before his death of it in 1991.
Bob Stinson, lead guitarist of influential Minneapolis band The Replacements, was found in his apartment today in 1995 dead of drug and alcohol related organ failure. His younger brother Tommy was “The ‘Mats” bass player, and took over that role from Seattle’s Duff McKagen in Guns-N-Roses in 1998 ’til 2016.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Avant-garde artist, Plastic Ono Band singer, and the widow of The Beatles John Lennon, Yoko Ono is 84.
Bobby Hart is 78. With his partner Tommy Boyce, who died in ’94, he wrote some of the biggest hits of the 60’s, including I’m Not Your Stepping Stone (Paul Revere and the Raiders), Words (The Leaves), Last Train to Clarksville and The Monkees Theme (The Monkees), and had their own hit in 1968 with I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight?
Styx keyboard player, singer, and principal songwriter Dennis DeYoung is 70.
Original Bachman Turner Overdrive drummer Robbie Bachman is 64. He quit the band in 1980, and more recently joined former bandmate Blair Thornton in a lawsuit to prevent a reunited Fred Turner and his older brother Randy from touring as BTO.
Brian James, guitarist with influential punk bands The Damned and The Lords of the New Church is 61.