The Beatles were at the Playhouse Theater in Manchester today in 1962, having been managed by Brian Epstein since January with mixed results. They’d been rejected after an audition for Decca records in February with the comment “Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein”, but he had got them this fine radio gig tonight, on the BBC North program Teenager’s Turn-Here We Go! They played live before a live audience of actual teenagers (John and Ringo were 22 already), and for the first time they were dressed in snappy suits with ties instead of leather jackets and greaser hair, at Epstein’s insistence.
The Rolling Stones were playing the Playhouse theater in Manchester tonight in 1965 when an overly excited female fan fell from the balcony. She landed mostly on the crowd below, which broke her fall, and though she did break a couple of teeth, that looked fairly normal in England at the time. It was the first but certainly not the last time someone was injured in a fall at a Stones show. The triangular blocks installed on the ramp railings at Seattle’s Kingdome were installed to prevent a repeat after someone fell to their death from one during their 1981 tour.
Brian Wilson released the song Caroline, No as a single today in 1966. It would be included on The Beach Boys Pet Sounds album, but Brian was the only one of them who’d played on the song he’d originally written as Carol, I Know, but when he’d told the others the title they’d heard it that way, and it stuck.
Led Zeppelin played a show tonight in 1969 at the Hornsey Wood Tavern in London. Far from the arenas they’d be playing in a few years, this gig was in a meeting room in the back of the pub, with a tiny stage barely big enough to hold John Bonham’s drum kit, so the rest of the band stood on the floor in front of it.
CBS Records honcho John Hammond, who had signed Bob Dylan to a contract some years earlier, was so excited about his new prospect Bruce Springsteen, who he’d arranged a showcase for at Max’s Kansas City nightclub in New York City tonight in 1973, that he suffered a heart attack during the show. John would recover and go on until 1989, three years after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In a year that featured hit songs as varied as Superstition by Stevie Wonder, Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney, We’re an American Band by Grand Funk Railroad, and Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple, one that was awarded Gold status today in 1973 was highly unusual in that: 1) It was an instrumental. 2) It was a Bluegrass guitar-banjo jam by Eric Weisberg and Steve Mandel done for the soundtrack to the movie Deliverance called Dueling Banjos. 3) It’s opening notes would enter the American lexicon forever, sung by way of acknowledgement that some person, place, or thing was “hick”, often coupled with lines from the movie like “you got a real perty mouth”, and “squeal like a pig”.
David Bowie was off on yet another direction with his 9th studio album Young Americans, released today in 1975. He’d been obsessed with black American soul music, particularly the Philadelphia sound, though he’d been living in New York City. He dubbed his own version “plastic soul”, yet sought some genuine players in Sly and the Family Stone drummer Andy Newmark, vocal arrangement and background help from future huge soul singer Luther Vandross, and Puerto Rican session multi-instrumentalist and arranger Carlos Alomar, who called Bowie “the whitest man I’ve ever seen…translucent white.” But it was when John Lennon dropped by Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios to record a cover of his Across the Universe and a song he wrote with David and Carlos, Fame, which would give him his first #1 hit.
Elton John became England’s first rocker since The Beatles to be immortalized in wax at Madame Tussaud’s Museum in London today in 1976.
5 years after the introduction of the newfangled digital compact disc format, Capitol Records thought it was finally safe today in 1987 to get everyone who had bought the first 5 Beatles albums (Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles For Sale, and Help!) to buy them again as smaller but shinier silver platters. They chose the original British releases, so the first 4 were the Mono versions, not the “simulated stereo” Americans had heard.
British pedal steel guitar player Gordon Huntley died of cancer at age 58 today in 1988. He’d been a session player on albums by Elton John, Rod Stewart, and had been a member of Matthews Southern Comfort, who had a 1970 hit in England with a cover of Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock at the same time Crosby Stills and Nash did in the U.S.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Love guitarist and songwriter Arthur Lee would be 72 if he hadn’t died of leukemia at 61.
The Zombies bass player Chris White is 72.
Procul Harum organist and songwriter Matthew Fisher is 71.
J Geils Band singer Peter Wolf is 70.
Ernie Isley, the youngest of The Isley Brothers, who’d started playing drums at age 12 when Jimi Hendrix was still a member of the band and living at their house, is 65.