Elvis Presley with his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sidemen Scotty Moore and Bill Black, opened a two-week two show a day run at the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas today in 1956. He’d had his first #1 hit with Heartbreak Hotel 12 weeks earlier, made his first appearance on the Milton Berle Show, and performed for thousands of screaming girls, but Las Vegas was chock full of conservative middle-aged gamblers who were not amused. One reviewer for Newsweek wrote they “took to him like corn liquor at a champagne party”. A much larger Elvis would be back in Las Vegas in the 70’s, playing for two shows a night for two months at a time.
The Rolling Stones had been playing regularly at The Crawdaddy Club in London’s Richmond Neighborhood since February when The Beatles showed up to see them tonight in 1963. They hit it off immediately, and John Lennon and Paul McCartney would give them one of their songs, I Wanna Be Your Man, to cover, which convinced Mick Jagger and Keith Richards that they were fully capable of writing their own songs. The Stones would quickly outgrow the place, and their residency was assumed by another local R&B group, The Yardbirds, featuring Eric Clapton on guitar.
Folkie Brit singers Peter and Gordon were at #1 in England today in 1964 with the song World Without Love. Peter was one Peter Asher, the older brother of Paul McCartney’s then-girlfriend actress Jane Asher, and as such would often be slipped unrecorded Lennon-McCartney songs, but this one was the first #1 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Paul wrote it, but didn’t think it was good enough for The Beatles. He’d already offered it to fellow Liverpudlian Billy J. Kramer, who didn’t much like it either. After Peter and Gordon broke up in ’68, Asher became the head of Artists and Repertoire for the Beatles Apple label, and immediately signed a then-unknown James Taylor to a contract.
The Beatles were at #1 again today in 1969 with the song Get Back, credited to The Beatles with Billy Preston, the only time another performer got credit on the label, though the band themselves had got credit for backing up Norwich crooner Tony Sheridan. The song also marked the first time a Beatles single had been released in true stereo in the U.S.
The Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers was released at home in England today in 1971. The album’s iconic cover was designed by New York pop artist Andy Warhol for a reported $15,000. The jean-covered crotch with working zipper was widely assumed to be that of singer Mick Jagger, but actually belonged to the star of Warhol’s movie Flesh Joe D’Allesandro, where his role as a “hustler” made him an icon of Manhattan’s gay subculture.
New York proto-punks The Ramones released their self-titled first album today in 1976. The album’s simple cover, with the four leather jacketed members leaning up against a brick wall, was ranked #58 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 greatest album cover list, and inspired thousands of band-leaning-against-brick-wall photos, which have in recent years become a running joke on the interwebs, especially on a site called “The Hall of Douchebags“.
The Sex Pistols’ second “bass player” Sid Vicious filmed his scene for the movie The Great Rock and Roll Swindle today in 1978, singing a cover of the Paul Anka written Frank Sinatra hit My Way. Syd would die of a heroin overdose before his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen less than a year later.
Record producer Lou Adler, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame four years ago, was sued today in 1987 by singer-songwriter Carole King, who claimed he owed her $400,000 in unpaid royalties and had illegally taken rights to many of the songs she’d written that had become huge hits for an astonishing variety of artists including The Shirelles, The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, and The Monkees.
John Genzale, better known as New York Dolls then Heartbreakers (not to be confused with Tom Petty’s band of the same name, started a year later), and finally solo punk guitarist Johnny Thunders died of a heroin overdose today 1991. While American rock radio actively squashed the late 70’s punk rock rebellion forming in New York, the British loved it. Many Dolls fans there started bands of their own, and Thunders and the Heartbreakers went there to replace The Ramones on a tour with The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Damned. The Heartbreakers signed to The Who managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp’s Track Records label to make the legendary L.A.M.F. album (Like A Mother ****er). Afterward John stayed behind in London and recorded solo work with guest appearances from the likes of Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, and Steve Marriott.
Liverpool resident Peter Hodgson was cleaning his attic today in 1995 when he made a somewhat valuable discovery: A reel-to-reel tape containing 19 of The Beatles earliest recordings from 1959. It seems Hodgson’s father had lent his recorder to Paul McCartney back in the day.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Texas singer Roy Orbison would be 81. It was tonight in 1988 that he decided to celebrate his 52nd birthday by going to a Bruce Springsteen concert. The Boss led the E-Street Band and the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to him. He died of a heart attack in December of that year. Roy was enjoying a huge resurgence in popularity, largely due to his work with The Traveling Wilburys.
Ray “Captain Sensible” Burns, guitarist of influential Brit-Punk band The Damned is 63, and though relatively unknown in America is a major star in Britain. Still, The Damned managed to damn near sell out the Showbox here in Seattle earlier this month.
Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark would be 57. if he hadn’t overdosed at age 30.