Roy Orbison had his first hit today in 1960 with Only The Lonely. It peaked at #2 on the U.S. singles chart, but he’d recorded it himself only after offering it to The Everly Brothers and his friend Elvis Presley, who’d turned him on to motorcycles, but didn’t think much of the song.
The Beatles played a lunchtime show at The Cavern Club in Liverpool today in 1962. They played there again that evening, and then one more show at the Liverpool Cabaret Club at the urging of manager Brian Epstein, who was trying to get them on the lucrative cabaret circuit, but the “variety” cabaret audience, used to comedians, dancers, and crooner-type singers didn’t think much of The Beatles at all.
Dressed in a flashy “Carnaby Street” outfit he’d bought in London, Bob Dylan committed a major heresy as far as the hard-core folk crowd at the Newport Folk Festival in Newport Rhode Island today in 1965 was concerned: He plugged in a Fender Stratocaster for his headlining set with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band backing him up. Most of the audience were quite enthusiastic, but a large contingent of folkie purists booed loudly.
Neil Young played with David Crosby, Graham Nash, and his old Buffalo Springfield bandmate Stephen Stills for the first time tonight in 1969 at the Fillmore East in New York. Neil had only been invited to play with them live, but ended up recording with them as well, pretty much whenever he felt like it, on and off for the next 30 years.
Today in 1969 , almost a full month before the more famous Woodstock, and with several of the same performers but several notables who missed it, was the first of the three-day Seattle Pop Festival, held at Gold Creek Park in Woodinville, just across the valley from where the Chateau St. Michelle Winery is today. Tickets were $6 a day, or $15 for all three. The lineup featured 26 artists, including Chuck Berry, The Byrds, The Chicago Transit Authority, Albert Collins, Bo Diddley, The Doors, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Guess Who, It’s A Beautiful Day, Lee Michaels, Santana, Ten Years After, Ike and Tina Turner, Vanilla Fudge, Alice Cooper, The Youngbloods, Spirit, and making their third Seattle appearance since just before Christmas of ’68, Led Zeppelin. Spirit at the time were performing a song called Taurus, which had a guitar riff that is very similar to the one Jimmy Page later came up with for Stairway To Heaven, a fact noted by the children of Spirit’s late guitarist Randy California, who were recently unsuccessful in an attempt to sue Zeppelin for royalties.
T Rex hit #1 in England with Get It On today in 1971. When it was released as a single in the U.S. the record label retitled the song Bang A Gong (Get It On) to make it seem less sexually suggestive.
AC/DC released their 6th album Back In Black today in 1980. Though original lead singer Bon Scott had written most of the songs with Angus Young, he’d died of “misadventure” back in February. At one point he’d told Angus that if anything ever happened to him, he should get Brian Johnson, the lead singer of English band Geordie to replace him. Angus briefly considered ending the band, but the Scott family convinced him that Bon would have wanted him to carry on. Back in Black ended up being the band’s most popular album, and the second-best selling album of all time behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton died of a heart attack today in 1984 at age 57. She’d been the first to record Lieber and Stoller’s Hound Dog (later a huge hit for Elvis Presley), which went to #1 on the R&B charts for 7 weeks in ’53, and wrote Ball-N-Chain, later recorded by Janis Joplin.
E-Street Band backup singer and rhythm guitarist Patti Scialfa gave birth to her and Bruce Springsteen’s first child, Evan James Springsteen, today in 1990. The two would be married a little less than a year later.
The second attempt at reviving the original Woodstock festival ended today in 1999. Like the original, Woodstock ’99 was held in upstate New York, but this one was at an abandoned Air Force base that had been declared an “E.P.A. Superfund site” that had been cleared of trees leaving no shade in the 100+ degree heat for the 200,000 people who paid $150 to see performers that included Insane Clown Posse, James Brown, George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars, Sheryl Crow, The Offspring, Bush, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruce Hornsby, The Dave Matthews Band, Rage Against the Machine, Megadeth, Metallica, Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson, John Entwhistle, and Creed, who teamed up with Robby Kreiger from The Doors. MTV covered the event extensively, and pay-per-view watchers got to see the whole thing, but it turned ugly. Bathroom facilities were completely inadequate, vendors were charging $12 for a single slice of pizza, $4 for a bottle of water (many attendees got sick drinking polluted water), and eventually the crowd grew unruly and rioted, setting fires, looting vendor booths, 3 people died, and there were four reported rapes, including reports of a crowd-surfing woman who was pulled down and gang-raped during Limp Bizkit’s set. MTV host Kurt Loder said of the last day, “It was dangerous to be around. The whole scene was scary. There were just waves of hatred bouncing around the place. It was clear we had to get out of there…. It was like a concentration camp. To get in, you get frisked to make sure you’re not bringing in any water or food that would prevent you from buying from their outrageously priced booths. You wallow around in garbage and human waste. There was a palpable mood of anger”.
Iron Butterfly guitarist Erik Brann died of a heart attack today in 2003 at the way-too-young age of 52. He’d played on the band’s biggest hit, In-A-Gadda-Davida, at age 17.
Paul McCartney’s ex-wife Heather Mills told the press today in 2010 that the pain and trauma she’d felt when she lost her leg when she was hit by a police motorcycle in London was nothing compared to the pain and trauma of divorcing the ex-Beatle two years earlier, even though she’d made off with £24.3 million of his money, plus annual child-support payments of £35,000 a year.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
William “Benny” Benjamin, drummer for the Motown/Tambla session band The Funk Brothers, would be 92. He died of a stroke at 43.
Nazareth lead guitarist Manny Charlton is 76.
The Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty is 74.
José “Chepito” Areas, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his percussion work with Santana, is 71.
Uriah Heep bass player Mark Clarke is 67.
Thurston Moore, guitarist for influential New York band Sonic Youth is 59. They toured with Neil Young and took many of Seattle’s “grunge” bands under their wing. Watch for Sub Pop records founder Bruce Pavitt in this video.