True it’s not very rock and roll, but Tacoma-born, Olympia raised, and Gonzaga-educated crooner Bing Crosby recorded what would for many many years be the best selling single in recording history today in 1942, during the darkest time of WWII: Irving Berlin’s lament of the soldier-away-from-home, White Christmas. Backed by the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers, they laid the song down in just 18 minutes. It would go on to sell some 50 million copies, and finally be knocked from the top selling single spot by Sir Elton John’s 1997 re-write of his song Candle in the Wind, changed from being about Marilyn Monroe to his recently departed friend, Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales.
The Beach Boys had their second #1 hit in America today in 1965 with Help Me Rhonda. It would top the charts for two weeks. During the recording session, the band were interrupted by the Wilson brother’s father Murray, who drunkenly staggered into the proceedings to offer unwanted advice and criticize their enthusiasm. The tape was rolling on Murray Wilson’s rant, and was circulated by Beach Boys fans for years.
All of £1 got you into a nice little rock show at the Tulip Bulb Auction Hall in Spalding, Lincolnshire England tonight in 1967 with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, The Move, Zoot Money, Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band (not to be confused with the 70’s New York band Ram Jam), and an opening act playing in a garden shed with sheets pinned up behind them for their psychedelic blobby light show calling themselves The Pink Floyd.
The Rolling Stones went to #1 on both sides of the Atlantic today in 1971 with Brown Sugar, their first single released on their own Rolling Stones Records label. Like most Stones songs this one is credited to Jagger/Richards, though this one was mostly Mick, as he wrote it in Australia two years earlier while he was there starring in the film Ned Kelly. The inspiration had been his girlfriend Marsha Hunt, though he turned them into a lyrical collage of every taboo subject he could think of: Slavery, interracial sex, cunnilingus, lost virginity, sadomasochism, and heroin, though Mick later said he regretted being so nasty, and these days will usually soften the lyrics when they play it live: “Hear him whip the women just around midnight” becomes “You should have heard him just around midnight”.
Some 36 Grateful Dead fans sought medical attention after unknowingly taking a rather large amount of LSD in “spiked” apple juice served at their show at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco tonight in 1971. Of course most of the crowd had taken it as well, and experienced nothing out of the ordinary for a Grateful Dead show, and the afflicted eventually “came down” from their “bad trip”.
Having just put the finishing touches on their second album Nevermind at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, Nirvana played a show at the Jabberjaw Club in Los Angeles tonight in 1991. In the audience was one of their idols, Iggy Pop, and drummer Dave Grohl’s girlfriend at the time, L7 bass player Jennifer Finch, who brought along her friend Courtney Love, who met future husband Kurt Cobain that night.
Two photographers taking shots of old wrecked cars at the bottom of Malibu California’s Decker Canyon today in 1999 found a Ford Aerostar minivan with a skeleton inside that was later determined by the coroner’s office to be that of former Iron Butterfly bass player Phillip Kramer, who’d vanished 4 years earlier, supposedly on his way to LAX airport. His disappearance had been a featured story on America’s Most Wanted, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Unexplained, and Unsolved Mysteries, and while many conspiracy theories were offered, police ruled the death a suicide.
“Wall of Sound” über-producer Phil Spector was sentenced to 19 years-to-life in the California prison system today in 2009 for the second degree murder of his girlfriend, actress Lana Clarkson in 2003. Phil had claimed her death was an accidental suicide, but the lengthy trial and retrials had testimony from four other former girlfriends who all said Spector had threatened them with a gun, and many of the musicians Phil had recorded, including The Beatles and The Ramones, had stories of him brandishing firearms in the studio.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Procul Harum keyboardist and singer Gary Brooker (MBE) is 72.
Oasis guitarist and songwriter Noel Gallagher is 50. Though his band is linked with the 90’s “modern rock” movement, and far more popular at home in England than they are in the U.S., Noel’s songs are largely derivative of 60’s and 70’s bands like The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Faces.