Woody Guthrie was holed up in his room at the Hanover House Hotel in New York City today in 1940 when, sick to death of hearing Kate Smith singing Irving Berlin’s God Bless America on the radio, wrote the lyrics to another of America’s great anthems, This Land Is Your Land. Originally titled God Blessed America, it was intended as a response to the song Woody considered unrealistic and complacent. His last two verses address inequality, homelessness, and hunger, and seem as relevant today as then, though when kids learn the song these days the last two verses are usually left out, but it was the political content that made Bob Dylan want to do it and gave it a whole new life in the 60’s.
The Beatles began filming their second feature film today in 1965 in the Bahamas under the working title Eight Arms To Hold You. John Lennon had not yet written the movie’s eventual title track Help!, which they would record in April.
Though they had met in Germany while he was in the Army and she was just 14, they’d been married for a little less than 5 years when Priscilla Presley moved out of Elvis’s Beverly Hills mansion today in 1972, and into a 2 bedroom apartment near the ocean. Elvis had carried on affairs with all the female leads in his movies (save one: the recently late Mary Tyler Moore, who later said “I could have slept with Elvis! What was I thinking?!), including a fairly public one with Viva Las Vegas co-star Ann Margaret that Priscilla had read about in tabloids. Their divorce would be finalized in October, and she would get a lump sum payment of $750,000, child support for their one daughter Lisa Marie, and a small percentage of The King’s business interests, but when he died in 1977 she would turn the Memphis Graceland mansion she’d moved into in ’63 into one of America’s most popular tourist attractions and go on to a fairly successful acting career.
Though she never really had one at home in America, Suzi Quatro had her second #1 hit in England with Devil Gate Drive today in 1974. Women in rock and roll to that point had mostly been only singers, but Suzi was a bad ass bass player from Detroit, who’d started out playing drums in her Dad’s jazz band, then formed all female garage rockers The Pleasure Seekers with her sister in the late 60’s, becoming fixtures in the Motor City rock scene that produced The Bob Seger System, The Amboy Dukes, Iggy and the Stooges, and the MC5. But most Americans would come to know her in her recurring role as Leather Tuscadero on the hit TV comedy Happy Days.
AC/DC made a short promotional film (they wouldn’t be called “rock videos” until the advent of MTV 5 years later) for their song It’s A Long Way to The Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll) today in 1976, specifically for the Australian music program Countdown. The band performed on a flat bed truck cruising Melbourne’s Swanston Street, with singer Bon Scott joined on the bagpipes by members of the Rats of Tobruk Pipe Band.
The Grammy Awards celebrated it’s 20th anniversary tonight in 1978 on live national television hosted by John Denver, with Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors winning Album of the Year, while The Eagles Hotel California won Record of the Year.
The Sex Pistols bass player Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen were arrested for possession of heroin today in 1978. Nancy would be dead in October, with Sid charged with her murder, though he died of an overdose a little less than a year later himself while awaiting trial. The Pistols singer John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon later said that Sid’s lawyers had been paid for by Mick Jagger, and publicly praised the Stones singer for never seeking any publicity for it.
All the members of Oasis were banned for life from Cathay Pacific Airways today in 1998 following “abusive and disgusting behaviour” on a flight from Hong Kong to Perth Australia.
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers bassist Howie Epstein, who’d replaced Ron Blair when he tired of touring in ’82, died of a heroin overdose today in 2003 at age 47.
British Culture Minister Margaret Hodge formally placed EMI Records recording studio at 3 Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood, City of Westminster, London on the nation’s historically protected sites today in 2010, thwarting EMI’s plans to sell it to a developer and preventing any future alterations, noting the studio had produced some of the very best music in the world, including 90% of the material The Beatles recorded, notably their 1969 album that would make it forever known as simply Abbey Road.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Guitarist Johnny Winter would be 73 if he hadn’t passed in 2014.
The Sweet bassist and singer Steve Priest is 69.
Aerosmith rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford is 65.
Queensrÿche guitarist Michael “The Whip” Wilton is 55. He was born in San Francisco, but moved to Bellevue at age 6, and studied an incredibly diverse number of musical styles at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts.