Probably the most influential disc jockey of the early rock and roll period, Alan Freed, was indicted today in 1960 for accepting $30,650 from six record companies in exchange for inclusion and preferential treatment on the playlist of his prime time New York radio show, a practice that would later be given the made-up name “Payola“. When the case finally came to trial two years later Freed would be given a small fine and a suspended sentence, but his career never recovered from the scandal. He was fired by WABC, and managed to land short-lived on-air jobs in California and Florida before dying of alcohol related liver failure at 43. 7 other prominent disc jockeys were also named in the legal action, but only one, Dick Clark, managed to continue a successful career. The “Payola Scandal” forever changed the radio industry. Disc jockeys afterward were rarely allowed to choose music, instead playlists were created at the managerial level, but record companies maintained their influence, routing the bribe money through “independent record promoters” directly to the stations ownership through various schemes that would keep the legal battle going even today. Neil Young would nod to Freed in his ’83 song Payola Blues: “This one’s for you Alan Freed, ’cause the things they’re doing today would make a saint out of you”, and he was the inspiration for the ’78 film American Hot Wax.
The Beatles held a party for the music press at manager Brian Epstein’s house tonight in 1967 to mark the release of their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Paul McCartney managed to get hired as the official event photographer American Linda Eastman, who’d he’d been sweet on since meeting her at the Bag ‘O Nails nightclub the week before.
Paul Simon released Kodachrome as a single today in 1973, named for the popular 35mm film made by the Eastman-Kodak Corporation, which has no connection to American photographer Linda Eastman. While Simon was equally as popular in England as at home, the BBC refused to play the song, citing a strict rule against brand-names.
The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards crashed his beloved Bentley today in 1976 after apparently falling asleep at the wheel. He was not injured, but responding constables found cocaine and pot in what was left of the car, and he was fined…again.
Eric Clapton threw a pretty great party tonight in 1979 to celebrate his recent marriage to Patti Boyd, the former wife of his friend George Harrison. There was a small stage set up in the garden and later on in the evening Eric, George, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker, and Mick Jagger played a long set of Little Richard and Eddie Cochran covers.
Less than a half mile from where Marc Bolan of T Rex had died in car crash 3 years earlier, Ringo Starr and his future 2nd wife Barbara Bach who he’d just met on the set of Caveman, avoided having a plaque installed at the site of their own car crash by not dying tonight in 1980, though they did completely ruin their car.
A custom-made 1966 Vox guitar given to The Beatles sold at auction in New York today in 2013 for $408,000. Rarely played but used in the “videos” for I Am The Walrus by George Harrison and …almost…by John Lennon in Hello Goodbye, John had given the guitar as a 25th birthday present to “Magic” Alex Mardas, a Beatle hanger-on who’d convinced them he was an electronic genius and managed to blow a huge amount of Apple Corps Ltd’s money.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Pete Townsend, guitarist, singer, and principal songwriter of The Who is 72, but it wasn’t always that way. When Pete joined The Detours in ’61 at the urging of his school friend John Entwhistle, it was very much lead guitarist Roger Daltrey’s band.
ZZ Top bass player Joseph Michael “Dusty” Hill is 68.
The Ramones lead singer Jeffery “Joey Ramone” Hyman would be 66 if he hadn’t died of cancer at 49.
AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd is 63, and since the 1977 departure of bass player Mark Evans, is the only Australian-born member of Australia’s most famous band, though it’s not entirely clear if he’s still in it. Phil’s spent the last several years mired in legal troubles in his adopted home New Zealand following arrests for pot and methamphetamine possession, and assault charges, and the band left him behind as they embarked on their “Rock or Bust” tour, tapping his former replacement Chris Slade to pound the skins.