Two of rockabilly’s biggest American stars, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, were on tour together in England today in 1960, playing shows for legions of fans many of whom would go on to start their own bands. They were headed for another show in Wiltshire when the Ford Consul taxi they were riding in blew a tire, the driver lost control, and crashed into a lamp post, killing Cochran instantly and giving Vincent injuries that would cut his life to just another 11 years. The driver, George Martin (no relation to The Beatles producer), was convicted of dangerous driving, sentenced to 6 months in prison, and had his license taken away for 10 years. While the car had been impounded as evidence, a police cadet who would later go by the stage name Dave Dee taught himself how to play guitar on Cochran’s undamaged Gretsch, the same guitar that had eagerly been carried after a previous show on the tour by a wanna-be roadie and fan by the name of Mark Feld, who after the crash would develop a phobia of cars, but nonetheless die in a crash himself (he wasn’t driving) after he had changed his name to Marc Bolan and started a band called T-Rex. The spot of the crash is marked to this day by one of the plaques the Brits like to put everywhere.
Paul McCartney went furniture shopping today in 1965, which would be totally unremarkable had he not been a member of the World’s Most Famous Band. To avoid attention, Paul wore a fake mustache, glasses, hat, and overcoat, which obviously didn’t work as photos of the disguised Beatle were all over the tabloids the next day. Paul has been said to don disguises to “busk” on the street from time to time, and will occasionally be recognized.
Johnny Cash was performing at the White House today in 1970 at the invitation of President Richard Nixon when he was asked to play the song that was a huge hit among the so-called “silent majority” of Vietnam War supporters, Okie From Muskogee. Johnny politely declined, pointing out that it was a Merle Haggard song, and played his own hit A Boy Named Sue instead. Haggard would later say he regretted writing the song, having too grown disillusioned with America’s involvement in Southeast Asia, but it’s redneck-anthem lyrics (we don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee, and we don’t take our trips on LSD…) would lead to covers by The Grateful Dead, The Beach Boys, and Aberdeen’s The Melvins to name a few. Merle passed on his 79th birthday in 2016.
Santana were in San Francisco today in 1970, starting in on what would be their breakthrough album Abraxas. It would come out in September and go straight to #1.
Pink Floyd’s 8th studio album Dark Side of the Moon was certified Gold today in 1973. It would stay on the album charts for a record 10 years, and be the 4th best selling album of all time.
Elvis Presley, who’d developed an intense fear of flying after the 1959 death of his friend Buddy Holly, had apparently gotten over it or was heavily sedated enough that he bought a former Delta Airlines Convair 880 jet today in 1975 for $250,000. He named the plane after his daughter Lisa Marie, and spent another $600,000 to hire the team that had customized Air Force One to include a lavish bedroom, executive bathroom with gold fixtures, conference room, a library, and a state of the art entertainment system with a dance floor. After his death 3 years later the plane was eventually moved to the grounds of Graceland in Memphis, where it remains one of the mansion’s most popular attractions.
Felix Pappalardi was shot to death by his wife Gail Collins in a jealous rage today in 1983. Felix had been the bass player for Mountain, as well as a record producer whose credits include Cream’s Disraeli Gears, Wheels of Fire, and Goodbye Cream. Collins got just 4 years in prison for the murder.
Nirvana were playing one of Seattle’s best-loved original music scene nightclubs, The OK Hotel (located under the viaduct in Pioneer Square) tonight in 1991 when they played Smells Like Teen Spirit, the song that would wipe the spandex-and-hairspray “butt-rock” of the 80’s from American rock radio airwaves, for the first time. The OK Hotel would be used as a prominent scene in Cameron Crowe’s Seattle-rock romantic comedy Singles a year later, but it was damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, and rebuilt as upscale condominiums.
Linda Eastman McCartney died after a long battle with breast cancer today in 1998. She’d begun a career as a rock and roll photographer by accident, working as a receptionist at Town and Country magazine in her native New York when she was asked to go take some pictures of The Rolling Stones at a record company party on a yacht on the Hudson river. Her shots led to sessions with Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Animals, The Doors, Janis Joplin, and her being sent to London to capture the swingin’ Carnaby Street scene where she met the love of her life Paul McCartney at a Georgie Fame show at the Bag-O-Nails nightclub. Linda’s photo of Eric Clapton, used on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, and the picture of her and Paul for an article on Wings make her the only person in history to have both taken a photo and appeared in one on the Rolling Stone cover.
Items selling for big bucks at the Icons of Music auction in Dallas today in 2004 included Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s songwriting piano ($140,000), Kurt Cobain’s Mosrite guitar ($100,000), and a 1966 Rickenbacker 12-string owned by Roger McGuinn of The Byrds ($90,000) that was purchased by Microsoft co-founder (and a pretty decent guitarist) Paul Allen and put on display at the EMP museum here in Seattle.
Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry apologized today in 2007 for recent comments he’d made to a German magazine in which he’d praised the Nazi iconography of filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and architect Albert Speer. He was deeply upset that his comment that “they really knew how to present themselves” had been taken as support of the Adolph Hitler regime.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Producer and promoter Don Kirshner, largely responsible for the careers of Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Harry Nilsson, The Monkees, The Archies, and Kansas, as well as Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert (which ran on ABC TV from 1972-1981) would be 83 if he hadn’t died in 2011.
Founding Little Feat bass player and later Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention member Roy Estrada is 74. He was convicted of sexual assault on a minor in 1977 and served 6 years in prison, only to plead guilty to continuous sexual abuse of a child in 2008 for which he was sentenced to 25 years without the possibility of parole.
Keyboard player Jan Hammer is 69. He was a member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and played on solo albums by Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, Carlos Santana, and Tommy Bolin to name a few.
Pete Shelley, guitarist and frontman with influential British punk band The Buzzcocks, is 62.
Highly sought session drummer and former West Seattle resident Matt Chamberlain is 50. He’s toured or played on albums by an astonishing variety of performers including Peter Gabriel, Stevie Nicks, Kanye West, Elton John, Tori Amos, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Bruce Hornsby, William Shatner (!), and was briefly a member of Pearl Jam, which he left to join the Saturday Night Live band because he didn’t want to tour after spending the previous 4 years on the road with Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. Most recently he was tapped to fill in for Matt Cameron with Soundgarden, who is also now a member of Pearl Jam, when the latter band’s commitments conflicted with the former’s.