The Beatles were at EMI’s studios in St. John’s Wood (later to be known as “Abbey Road”), London today in 1964, putting the finishing touches on their 6th single Can’t Buy Me Love b/w You Can’t Do That. The “A” side was a Paul McCartney song written in January while they were playing 18 straight nights in Paris, and they’d recorded it there at EMI’s Marconi studio, but producer George Martin thought he could do it better, and did. Paul McCartney’s lyrics were a scathing sociopolitical commentary on materialism, but American journalists refused to believe that someone “wouldn’t care too much for money”, and pressed him for the songs “true” meaning. A frustrated Paul replied, “I think you can put any interpretation you want on anything, but when someone suggests that Can’t Buy Me Love is about a prostitute, I draw the line!”
Pink Floyd played a show at the Ricky Tick Club in West London tonight in 1967. Film director Michelangelo Antonioni was in attendance, and thought the darlings of London’s burgeoning psychedelic scene would be perfect for his new film Blow Up, but Floyd weren’t interested, so he ended up using The Yardbirds in a scene filmed at an MGM soundstage, done up as a perfect recreation of The Ricky Tick Club.
The Beatles were back at Abbey Road today in 1969, spending George Harrison’s 26th birthday recording a song he started by lifting a line from from one of Apple Corps Ltd.’s other signees James Taylor (“Something in the way she moves”) and worked lyrically to be about his wife Pattie Boyd, and musically imagining himself writing a Ray Charles number: Something. While the majority of the band’s songs were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, George’s Something would go on to be their second-most covered song (behind Paul’s Yesterday), and be called later by early Beatle-hater Frank Sinatra “the most beautiful love song ever written”.
Led Zeppelin played to some 25,000 fans tonight in 1972 in Auckland, New Zealand. It was the biggest crowd ever assembled in that country, with a special train chartered to bring people in from Wellington, and also the loudest: Zeppelin’s state-of-the-art new P.A. system made it so loud they could be heard 5 miles away.
Paul McCartney released his first record with his new band Wings today in 1972, Give Ireland Back to The Irish, a single inspired by the “Bloody Sunday” shooting of Northern Irish protesters in Derry by the British Army in late January. It would immediately go to #1 in the Republic of Ireland and Spain (?), #21 in the U.S., and got to #16 on the British charts despite being banned outright by the BBC. All the members of Wings knew the song was inflammatory and would be banned, but didn’t expect that their Northern Irish guitarist Henry McCulloch’s brother would be beaten up for it.
Mod-revivalists The Jam, heavily influenced by 60’s bands like The Who, The Kinks, and The Small Faces, signed to Polydor Records in England today in 1977 for £6000. Though they were often lumped in with the “Punk” movement, they wore snappy suits with skinny ties, rode Italian Vespa and Lambretta scooters, and had legions of fans doing the same. They would become one of Britain’s best-loved bands, and you can to this day walk into any U.K. pub from Southhampton to Inverness and find The Jam on the jukebox, and though they never really caught on in America, they visited Seattle once, a spectacular show at the Market Showbox in 1980.
Jump from Van Halen’s last album of it’s first David Lee Roth period, 1984, went to #1 today in 1984, where it would stay for 5 weeks. Although they were never as popular in England as they were here, they would still get to #7 on the Brit Charts.
Bob Dylan was at Radio City Music Hall in New York at the Grammy Awards tonight in 1998, receiving three of them and performing his song Love Sick. Dylan’s production company had hired dancers to “stand in the background, groove to the music, and give Bob a good vibe”, but one of them, future performance artist Michael Portnoy, ripped off his shirt to reveal the words “Soy Bomb” painted on his chest, and ran up next to Dylan to dance spastically. Portnoy would later give reporters a convoluted art-school explanation of his stunt, and while the Grammy organization decided not to press charges, they also did not pay him his promised $200, and he would be parodied on Saturday Night Live by Will Ferrill.
President Obama presented the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song at a White House ceremony to Stevie Wonder today in 2009. The newly created lifetime achievement award had been given just once before, to Paul Simon, created to give America something akin to the Knighthoods being handed out to British musical royalty (the third prize would go to Sir Paul McCartney in November). Obama acknowledged he was thrilled to be presenting it to one of his personal heroes. saying Stevie had been the soundtrack to his youth, and that he doubted Michelle would have married him if he hadn’t been a fan. He’d used Signed, Sealed, Delivered as his campaign theme song in 2008 to no objection from Wonder or the Motown record label
The City of Los Angeles honored the late George Harrison on what would have been his 72nd birthday today in 2015, by planting an insect-resistant Yew tree near the Griffith Park observatory. It replaced one that had been planted after his death in 2001 that had died from an infestation of Beetles.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
The Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison would be 74. The youngest and probably funniest member of that band died of lung cancer at age 58.