By GERRY GALIPAULT
(July 9, 2005)
Happy 50th birthday, rock ‘n’ roll!
Fifty years ago, on July 9, 1955, the rock era was born. What’s so special about that day? That’s when Bill Haley & His Comets’ “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” began the first of an eight-week reign atop Billboard’s Hot 100 pop singles chart.
It wasn’t the first rock record, but it certainly became the burgeoning genre’s most successful song, a defining moment that continues to resonate today.
From that point on, rock turned popular music on its ear. Many legends would soon follow – Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, U2, Madonna, Nirvana – all the way to today’s Coldplay.
So many events, names, faces and recordings have come and gone since. To mark the occasion, Pause & Play is going back, way back, to a feature it abandoned in the mid-1990s – “As It Were (a rock history moment).” Only for now, it’s going to be P&P’s “As It Were Project.” Because it’s so time-consuming to compile a chronology of rock history, we’re going to piecemeal it. Pardon the ongoing construction, but please join us as we put together “As It Were” moment by moment, day by day, month by month – beginning … now …
Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Jan. 3, 1987. The Queen of Soul was one of 22 inductees that year — the most in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame history. Others included B.B. King, Bill Haley, Bo Diddley, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Ricky Nelson, Roy Orbison, Smokey Robinson and Muddy Waters.
Britney Spears‘ marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander was a short one in 2004. On Jan. 4 that year, the marriage was annulled less than 55 hours after they tied the knot at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. When they shared the news with Spears’ mother and managers, “Everyone went crazy because there was no prenup,” Alexander told ABC News in 2012. The annulment said Spears “lacked understanding of her actions, to the extent that she was incapable of agreeing to the marriage.”
Bruce Springsteen‘s debut album, “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.,” was released 40 years ago on Jan. 5, 1973. Featuring “Blinded By the Light” and “Spirit in the Night,” the album was a slow seller but eventually became a multi-platinum hit and reached No. 60 on the Billboard chart. It was lauded by critics for its gritty depiction of life on the Jersey Shore.
David Bowie celebrated his 50th birthday (which was the day before) at a benefit concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Jan. 9, 1997. He was joined by Robert Smith, Lou Reed, Foo Fighters, Sonic Youth, Frank Black, Billy Corgan and Placebo. Proceeds benefited the Save the Children fund.
Hello, music censorship. The BBC banned Frankie Goes to Hollywood‘s “Relax” in 1984 – thus, assuring its hit status. The song and its video had been played more than 80 times on Radio One, but after the band appeared on the “Top of the Pops” TV show, programmers decided the heavy sexual overtones were too much. Fifteen days later, the song debuted at No. 1 on the British singles chart, where it stayed for five weeks.
In 1980, Paul McCartney was arrested at Tokyo International Airport in Narita for possession of nearly a half-pound of marijuana. His concert tour of Japan scrapped, the former Beatle spent nine days in jail before being deported.
Pink Floyd completed recording its landmark “The Dark Side of the Moon” LP at Abbey Road Studios in London in 1973. It debuted on Billboard’s album chart two months later and stayed there for 741 weeks, an all-time record for longevity on any chart.
RCA Records announced in 1970 that it had signed 21-year-old give-away millionaire/peace activist Michael James Brody Jr. to a recording contract. Brody, who liked to hand out large bills to strangers, made his debut as a rock singer and guitarist on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” His first single was his own composition, “The War Is Over.”
A repentant Paul McCartney, known as Prisoner No. 22 for nine days, was deported from Japan in 1980 for bringing nearly a half-pound of pot into the country. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” McCartney shouted to reporters as he boarded a plane at Narita International Airport. “I’m very sorry that the tour was canceled.”
Michael Jackson suffered second-degree burns to his scalp when an overcharged explosion set his hair on fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1984.
Sixteen-year-old Brenda Spencer opened fire on a San Diego elementary schoolyard with a .22-caliber rifle in 1979, killing the school’s principal and chief janitor and wounding nine children and a police officer. “I just did it for the fun of it. I just don’t like Mondays,” she told reporters over the phone shortly after the shootings. Bob Geldof of the British post-punk sextet Boomtown Rats was on a promotional tour of the United States at the time and was so shaken by the crime, he penned “I Don’t Like Mondays.” The song spent four weeks at No. 1 in Britain in July that year but peaked at only No. 75 in America.
Burt Sugarman’s 90-minute “Midnight Special” premiered as a regular series on NBC 40 years ago on Feb. 2, 1973. (It originally appeared as a special on Aug. 19, 1972.) The first episode featured host Helen Reddy with Ike & Tina Turner, George Carlin, Curtis Mayfield, Don McLean, Rare Earth, The Impressions, Kenny Rankin and The Byrds. The show came on at 1 a.m. after “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.” In the first few seasons, hosts were changed weekly; Reddy was permanent host for two seasons (1975-76).
“The day the music died” … Feb. 3, 1959 – 22-year-old Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, 17-year-old Ritchie Valens and pilot Roger Peterson were killed when their chartered plane crashed after take-off in poor weather conditions near Clear Lake, Iowa. Two legends who decided not to board that flight? Waylon Jennings and Dion DiMucci.
Michael Jackson gave his first interview in 14 years, sitting down with Oprah Winfrey on live television in 1993. It would become the most-watched interview in TV history. Candidly, he spoke of his relationship with his father, Joe, whom he said called him ugly, beat him and scared him. “I don’t know if I was his golden child or whatever it was. Some may call it a strict disciplinarian or whatever, but he was very strict. He was very hard. Just a look would scare you. There’s been times when he’d come to see me, and I would get sick.”
Broadway great Ethel Merman, 75, died after undergoing brain surgery in New York in 1984. Her string of successful musicals included “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Girl Crazy” and “Panama Hattie.” She was best known for singing the hits “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “I Got Rhythm.”
In 1992, Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love were married in Honolulu by a female nondenominational minister, with a roadie as a witness.
Private Elvis Presley, US 53310761, was discharged from the Army in 1960, after serving a two-year hitch as a jeep driver in Friedburg, West Germany. As soon as he returned home to Memphis, RCA got him into a studio to record his first post-Army single, “Stuck On You.” It entered the charts on April 4 and was No. 1 three weeks later.
E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, who wrote “Over the Rainbow” and other songs for the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” died in an auto accident in 1981. He was 82. The Academy Award-winning lyricist also wrote such jazz standards as “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?,” “April in Paris,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon” and “What Is There to Say?” When he was blacklisted by movie studios in the McCarthy-era 1950s, he returned to Broadway and penned songs for such musicals as “Bloomer Girl,” “Finian’s Rainbow” and “Jamaica.” He was inducted in the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 1972.
In 1969, Paul McCartney married freelance photographer Linda Eastman, the same day George Harrison and wife Patti were arrested on marijuana possession charges.
In 1962, Bob Dylan’s self-titled debut album was released by Columbia Records. The album, produced by the label’s legendary talent scout John H. Hammond, featured “Talkin’ New York,” “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” and “Song to Woody.” It failed to crack the Billboard chart, but later was appreciated as a milestone for folk music.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono were married in 1969, during a 10-minute ceremony at the British Consulate Office in Gibraltar, overseen by registrar Cecil Wheeler. They then went to Paris for their honeymoon. Paul and Linda McCartney had wed only eight days earlier.
To capitalize on the success of their singles “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me,” The Beatles‘ debut album “Please Please Me” was rush-released in the U.K. by Parlophone Records on March 22, 1963. The entire 14-song album was recorded in one day (Feb. 11 that year) at EMI Studios.
“All You Need Is Cash,” the fictional story of The Rutles, premiered on NBC in 1978. The 90-minute special followed the Rutles’ saga from a rathskeller in Hamburg to a breakup with so many lawsuits that “Sig sued himself accidentally.”
Psychedelia was at its peak in 1967, with Jefferson Airplane‘s “Surrealistic Pillow” and The Doors‘ self-titled album debuting on the American charts.
In 1963, Lesley Gore went into a studio with four songs to record, one of which was “It’s My Party.” Wall-of-sound producer Phil Spector also wanted “It’s My Party” – but for his all-girl group, The Crystals. Gore’s producer, Quincy Jones, rushed her version through and saw it race to the top spot in just four weeks. Gore said she was unaware of the rush job at the time.”I didn’t find out about it until the mid-’70s when Quincy told me about it,” she told Pause & Play. “He said he had dealt with Phil. All I know is that I was just 17 years old, we cut the song and the following Friday I was driving along and heard it on the air. I couldn’t believe it; I was flabbergasted.”
Rob Pilatus, one-half of the disgraced pop duo Milli Vanilli, died in 1998 of an apparent drug overdose in Hamburg, Germany. He was 32. Pilatus and partner Fabrice Morvan fronted the dance-pop group founded by producer Frank Farian. The group’s debut Arista album, “Girl You Know It’s True,” sold more than 6 million copies in 1989, spawned three straight No. 1 hits and netted the duo the Grammy Award for best new artist. They later were stripped of the award when it was learned they never sang on the album.
Tammy Wynette, the first lady of country music, died in 1998 in her sleep from an apparent blood clot in her lung at her Nashville home. She was 55. The former beautician was discovered by producer Billy Sherrill in the mid-1960s and shot to stardom with her trademark hit, “Stand By Your Man,” in 1968. She recorded more than 50 albums, sold more than 30 million records, had 20 No. 1 country hits from 1967 to 1976 and was married to country legend George Jones from 1969 to 1975. Despite frequent health problems, she enjoyed international popularity well into the 1990s, lending her vocals to The KLF’s dance hit, “Justified & Ancient,” in 1992.
Paul McCartney stunned the music world in 1970 with the announcement that he was leaving the Beatles and, that same day, was releasing his solo debut album, “McCartney.” In an interview with himself, which was tucked into the album sleeve, McCartney cited personal, business and musical differences, “but most of all I have a better time with my family.” He said he wasn’t sure if his break from the Beatles was temporary or permanent and that he didn’t anticipate an active songwriting partnership with John Lennon ever again
The Star Club in Hamburg, West Germany, opened in 1962, with the up-and-coming Beatles topping the bill. Nearly 2,000 fans lined up outside the club on Grosse Freiheit (Great Freedom) to see other acts such as Tex Roberg, Roy Young, the Graduates and the Bachelors. The former movie house stayed open during its self-dubbed “rock-and-twist parade” until 4 a.m.
After his second heart attack in just over a year and other ailments, singer-actor Frank Sinatra died 15 years ago (on May 14, 1998) at a Los Angeles hospital. He was age 82. The next night, all the lights on the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed for 10 minutes and the lights on the Empire State Building turned blue.
Elton John was riding high in 1975 with the release of “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.” It scored a few firsts: It was the first album in rock history to be certified platinum (for sales of more than 1 million) on the day of its release, and it was the first LP ever to debut at No. 1. There was a downside; critics didn’t care for the album, and it spawned only one chart hit, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.”
Sister Souljah was a little-known rapper until the Washington Post quoted her in 1992 as saying “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?” Her comments came in an interview after the Rodney King verdict and the ensuing riots in Los Angeles. President Clinton denounced Souljah’s remarks as “the kind of hatred we do not honor.” The Post said her album, “360 Degrees,” contained “probably the most fervid denunciations of white people ever marketed by a major label.”
The Kinks’ Dave Davies stumbled into drummer Mick Avory‘s cymbals and was knocked unconscious during a concert in London in 1965, forcing the cancellation of the band’s remaining tour dates.
Bassist Ronnie Lane, co-founder of the Small Faces, died in 1997 in Trinidad, Colo., after a 20-year battle with multiple sclerosis. He was 51. Lane co-wrote many of the band’s best-known songs, including the U.K. No. 1 “All or Nothing” and “Itchycoo Park,” which reached No. 16 on Billboard’s pop chart in early 1968. He formed the British rock quartet in 1965 with guitarist Steve Marriott, organist Ian McLagen and drummer Kenney Jones. After Marriott left in 1968 to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton, the band became The Faces and added Jeff Beck Group singer Rod Stewart and future Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood. Lane left in 1973, and Jones joined The Who in 1978. Lane teamed with Pete Townshend in 1977 for the “Rough Mix” album, which cracked the Top 50. In one interview, Lane said his battle with MS left him “a bloody useless cripple.”
The body of folk-rock singer Jeff Buckley was found in the Mississippi River off Beale Street in Memphis in 1997, six days after he jumped in fully clothed for a swim and disappeared under the surface after a boat passed. He was 30. Buckley, the son of the late folk legend Tim Buckley, was in Memphis to begin recording the followup to his 1994 breakthrough album, “Grace” (Columbia). That album, which peaked at No. 149 on Billboard’s pop chart, contained his modern-rock hit “Last Goodbye.”
“Urban Cowboy,” starring John Travolta and Debra Winger, premiered in 1980, introducing country music to a new generation of consumers and briefly touching off a mechanical bull craze. The movie was set at singer Mickey Gilley‘s honky-tonk club in Pasadena, Texas. The platinum-selling soundtrack album, released on Asylum, featured songs from Gilley, Charlie Daniels Band, Bonnie Raitt and former Gilley backup vocalist Johnny Lee, who scored a Top 5 pop hit with “Lookin’ for Love.” Lee met “Dallas” actress Charlene Tilton on the set of “Urban Cowboy” and married her on Valentine’s Day 1982.
Bulletin, June 6, 1968 – “Robert F. Kennedy, 42, died at 1:44 a.m. PDT Thursday, 25 hours after he was hit by bullets fired in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.” It was a gripping moment in U.S. history, and for music as well. At the time, the No. 1 song was Simon & Garfunkel‘s “Mrs. Robinson,” which lamented a nation’s lost innocence. A few days later, as the eight Kennedy children participated in an emotional Mass, Leonard Bernstein conducted Gustav Mahler’s “Fifth Symphony” and Andy Williams followed with his rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Later in the year, Dion immortalized RFK in the hit “Abraham, Martin and John.”
Everyone was jumping on the “ban” wagon in 1987. Radio stations in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Denver, New Orleans, Minneapolis and Burlington, Vt., joined BBC’s Radio One in refusing to play George Michael‘s “I Want Your Sex.” Particularly “angry” over the BBC’s decision, Michael said in a news release, “The media has divided love and sex incredibly. The emphasis of the AIDS campaign has been on safe sex, but the campaign has missed relationships. It’s missed emotion. It’s missed monogamy. ‘I Want Your Sex’ is about attaching lust to love, not just to strangers.” Undeterred, the song debuted stateside at No. 51 (and eventually peaked at No. 2). Meanwhile, in Singapore, the government’s Controller of Undesirable Publications axed Simply Red‘s “Men and Women” and Prince‘s “Sign ‘O’ the Times,” the citing the albums’ “crude lyrics.”
Guitarist Brian Jones quit the Rolling Stones in 1969, citing “musical differences.” In reality, Jones’ drug and legal problems and unreliability forced the group to make a change, offering him a hefty settlement. Jones considered forming a CCR-like blues band, supposedly along with John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix, but it never came to be: He was found dead in his swimming pool a month later.
George Michael, Sting and Whitney Houston led an all-star tribute to jailed South African black leader Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday in 1988, held at London’s Wembley Stadium. Among the other performers were Dire Straits, Phil Collins and Stevie Wonder.
Thousands witnessed the “No Nukes” benefit concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1979. The MUSE Concerts for a Non-Nuclear Future featured Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, the Doobie Brothers, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills. A film and soundtrack album were released later in the year.
The Beatles began a three-day stand at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan Hall on June 30, 1966, playing in front of 10,000 fans and 3,000 police officers at each show. Right-wing Japanese nationalists protested the concerts, claiming the hall was intended for sumo matches and martial arts and not rock shows.
KISS marveled the comic-book world with the 1977 release of “KISS Book,” telling the tale of the group’s antics. Each band member reportedly dripped their own blood into the red ink used to print the Marvel Comics book. It went on to sell more than 500,000 copies.
Elvis Presley recorded “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog” and “Anyway You Want Me,” using the Jordanaires for the first time as backup singers, in a New York studio in 1956.
Michael Jackson made pop chart history (yet again) by becoming the first artist to score five No. 1 singles from the same album. He accomplished that in 1988 with “Dirty Diana,” the fifth hit off his “Bad” album. The previous No. 1s were “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Bad,” “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Man in the Mirror.”
Dozens of people were injured after Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose sparked a riot at Riverpoint Amphitheatre in a St. Louis suburb in 1991. Twenty minutes into the show, Rose walked offstage after noticing a fan videotaping the concert. When he didn’t return, the crowd of 19,000 grew angry and damaged the venue and the band’s equipment. Rose was charged with assault and property damage but never surrendered to police. A year later, he was arrested at New York’s Kennedy International Airport and later was given two years probation and ordered to pay $50,000 to community groups.
Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones was found dead in the swimming pool of his English home in 1969. The coroner’s report cited “death by misadventure.”
Doors lead singer Jim Morrison died in 1971 of a heart attack in the bath of his home in Paris. Ten years later, surviving members Ray Manzarek, Robbie Kriegerand John Densmore joined hundreds of fans in a graveside tribute at Pere Lachire cemetery.(Feel free to ignore the filmmaker who recently claimed that Morrison is alive and well and living in southern Oregon. Rodeo photographer Gerald Pitts, who says he met Morrison in 1998, says the rocker staged his death because of a French conspiracy to kill him, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix with narcotics because they were all Vietnam War protesters.)
Brian Wilson joined his fellow Beach Boys on stage for the first time in 17 years, playing to 70,000 fans at Anaheim Stadium (Calif.) in 1976.
High winds sent 40 spotlights crashing onto a bandstand during a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons concert in Philadelphia in 1980. Pianist Jerry Corbetta suffered a broken hand, requiring surgery. Backup singer Toby Tyler had minor cuts of the head, neck and arm. Valli, who wasn’t injured, accompanied both to the hospital. Four fans were treated and released. The concert was part of the city’s three-day Fourth of July Freedom Festival.
With Bruce Springsteen‘s blessing, 2 Live Crew released the controversial single “Banned in the USA,” which heavily sampled the Boss’ “Born in the USA,” in 1990. The release came several days after three members of the Miami rap group were formally charged for performing their raunchy songs at a club in Hollywood, Fla. A Broward County record store owner also was slapped with obscenity charges for selling the group’s “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” album.
In 1957, John Lennon and Paul McCartney met for the first time at St. Peter’s Parish Church Garden Fête in Liverpool, England, where The Quarry Men skiffle group was appearing. Lennon was impressed with McCartney’s ability to tune a guitar and his knowledge of rock lyrics. McCartney began performing with the Quarry Men three months later.
Louis Armstrong, who topped the charts with “Hello, Dolly!” at the height of Beatlemania in 1964, died in his sleep in New York in 1971, two days after his 71st birthday.
The Jacksons‘ much-ballyhooed “Victory” tour opened in Kansas City, Mo., in 1984. Stung by criticism of greed for the tour, Michael Jackson canceled a mail-order ticket arrangement, pledging to donate his proceeds to charity.
The Yardbirds, the blues-based rock band that spawned three guitar heroes (Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck), broke up in 1968, prompted by Beck’s departure in November 1967. Singer Keith Rolf and drummer Jim McCarty formed Together, while Page founded The New Yardbirds – that quickly evolved into a little band called … Led Zeppelin.
Mama Cass Elliot died of a heart attack brought on by obesity in London in 1974. A coroner’s report overruled earlier accounts that Elliot choked on a ham sandwich.
Johnny Carson was mighty mad at Barbra Streisand for canceling a well-promoted appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” in 1975. He told his audience: “Don’t get mad at me, folks, get mad at her. It is possible she never will be on the show again.”
Kenny Rogers left the New Christy Minstrels in 1967 to form the First Edition. Past Minstrels players included Barry McGuire (“Eve of Destruction”) and Kim Carnes (“Bette Davis Eyes”).
Chuck Berry was sentenced to four months in prison for tax invasion in 1979. He pleaded guilty to shortchanging the government more than $200,000 on his 1973 federal income tax return.
Only nine days after getting married in a Caesars Palace suite in Las Vegas, Cher filed for divorce from Gregg Allman in 1975. In a statement, Cher said: “Gregg and I made a mistake and I’ve always believed it best to admit one’s mistakes as quickly as possible. We just cannot live together as man and wife.”
Boy George, wanted for questioning about alleged heroin use, was placed under 24-hour medical care in 1986. The day before, police arrested five people, including George’s brother, on drug charges after a series of London raids. Virgin Records appealed to the media to leave George alone for one month.
Jerry Lee Lewis fought for his life in 1981 after doctors in Memphis were forced to perform additional surgery on a perforated ulcer. He was given a 50-50 chance of survival.
Minnie Riperton, whose five-octave voice made her one of pop’s most distinctive singers, died of breast cancer in Los Angeles in 1979. Her biggest album, “Perfect Angel” (produced by longtime friend Stevie Wonder), contained the hit “Lovin’ You,” a No. 1 in 1975. Riperton had a mastectomy in 1976 and was a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society’s 1978 and ’79 campaigns.
“It’s not just the greatest show on Earth,” said Live Aid organizer and singer Bob Geldof. “It’s the greatest gig in the galaxy.” That pretty much summed up the feelings after nearly 2 billion people worldwide watched the broadcast of the megabenefit concerts staged in Philadelphia and London in 1985. The event, which raised more than $70 million for hunger relief in Africa, attracted such stars as U2, Paul McCartney, The Who, Mick Jagger, Madonna, Bob Dylan and David Bowie – to name a few.
In 1992, Olivia Newton-John revealed that she had breast cancer, but doctors expected her to make a full recovery because the cancer was detected early. “I am making the information public myself to save ‘inquiring minds’ 95 cents,” she said, referring to the National Enquirer.
Folk-pop balladeer Harry Chapin (“Cat’s in the Cradle,” “Taxi”) was killed in 1981 when his Volkswagen Rabbit was struck by a tractor-trailer on the Long Island Expressway. He was 38. Chapin was trying to drive his disabled car to the shoulder of the highway when it was hit by the truck. More than five years later, Chapin’s widow, Sandy, received $10 million from a jury’s verdict in her lawsuit against the truck’s owners.
Billie Holiday, one of jazz’s all-time greatest singers, died of a heroin overdose in 1959. She was 44. Bouts with drugs and alcohol and numerous arrests in the ’50s marred an otherwise remarkable career that saw her record with Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Artie Shaw.
A high school teacher in Stanford, Ky., was fired in 1984 for showing her class the R-rated rock film “Pink Floyd – The Wall.” The Lincoln County school board viewed the film and considered it pornographic. The teacher told the board she held a file folder over the projector lens during the film’s nude scenes.
Acid rock reached its peak in 1968 with the chart appearance of Iron Butterfly‘s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” The album’s focal point was the 17-minute title song, which was also trimmed for the Top-40 format. The album sold more than 3 million copies, spent 140 weeks on the chart and was Atlantic Records’ biggest-selling LP until Led Zeppelin came along. Led by singer-keyboardist Doug Ingle, Iron Butterfly broke out of San Diego, snared a record deal and gained national exposure by touring with The Doors and Jefferson Airplane in 1967.
In 1969, while the Apollo 11 crew was landing on the moon, band leader Duke Ellington sang his first and only solo song, “Moon Maiden,” during the TV coverage of the historic event. In the song, he told a space woman, “Your vibrations are coming in loud and clear.”
Tony Orlando, lead singer of Dawn, surprised a concert audience in suburban Boston in 1977 when he announced he was temporarily retiring to devote more time to his family. Orlando’s publicist said the singer “still has problems with the death of (actor) Freddie Prinze.” Prinze, star of the hit TV series “Chico and the Man,” committed suicide earlier in the year. Orlando told the crowd: “I’m going to take a guitar and sit singing along the bedside of an ill child.”
Playing songs off his “Bringing It All Back Home” album, Bob Dylan made his “electric debut” at the Newport (R.I.) Folk Festival in 1965, but he was greeted by a chorus of boos from folk purists angry over his conversion to rock.
Vanessa Williams reluctantly gave back her Miss America title in 1984, saying Penthouse’s publication of sexually explicit photos of her and another woman made it impossible for her to finish her reign. Williams was the first black woman to hold the title and also the first to lose it. She went on to a successful recording career.
KISS introduced its new drummer, Peter Criss, at a New York Palladium show in 1980. He replaced Eric Carr.
In 1969, Elvis Presley made a grand return to Las Vegas, performing 57 shows from July 26 to Aug. 28 at the International Hotel, for the first time since 1956. They were his first live performances in more than eight years.
In 1979, Iran observed the first day of Ramadan by banning Western music from radio and TV stations. Only religious sermons and revolutionary songs were permitted.
John Lennon‘s four-year battle with the U.S. Immigration Service over a marijuana possession conviction in England ended in 1976, when the agency finally approved his application for permanent resident status.
A crowd of 600,000 fans, more than three times the size promoters expected, gathered for the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen Race Track in New York in 1973. The 15-hour concert featured the Grateful Dead, The Band and the Allman Brothers Band.
Bob Dylan was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident near his Woodstock, N.Y., home in 1966. He went into semiretirement and later brought in members of The Band to rehearse and record with him. The recordings quickly showed up in bootleg form, and not until 1975 with “The Basement Tapes,” were they officially released.
Long before Live Aid and Farm Aid, rock stars occasionally gathered for a common cause. In 1971, George Harrison and friends hosted the Concert for Bangladesh at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Joining Harrison were Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Billy Preston and Ravi Shankar.
Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, J.J. Jackson and Martha Quinn. These names are etched in rock history. Why? They helped usher in the music video revolution as the original video-jocks on MTV, the 24-hour music video cable channel which premiered in 1981. The first video played was the Buggles‘ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
Paul McCartney announced the formation of Wings in 1971. The band included former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine and American session drummer Denny Selwell, as well as McCartney’s wife, Linda – much to the consternation of critics who regarded her talentless. Wings first appeared on the singles “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and then on the “Wild Lamb” album.
Jeff Baxter left Steely Dan in 1974 and joined the Doobie Brothers.
In 1979, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt were among the performers who joined 20,000 fans and California Gov. Jerry Brown at the Los Angeles Forum for a musical tribute to Little Feat singer-songwriter Lowell George. Two months earlier, during the middle of a tour, George died of a drug-induced heart attack. He was 34.
“American Bandstand,” with a young Dick Clark as the host, made its network TV debut on ABC in 1957. “Bandstand” began broadcasting locally in Philadelphia in 1952 and was then a showcase for Philly-area singers like Fabian and Frankie Avalon. “Bandstand” went on to become TV’s longest-running pop music series.
On the morning of Aug. 8, 1969, photographer Iain Macmillan stood on a step-ladder and a police officer held up traffic for the Beatles‘ famous “Abbey Road” album cover. Macmillan had only 10 minutes to get a shot of John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison walking the zebra crossing outside EMI Studios on Abbey Road in London.
Christine McVie, wife of bassist John McVie, joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970. Before, she was known as Christine Perfect (her maiden name) and had been in the British blues-rock band Chicken Shack.
Just as “Revolver” was released in 1966, the Beatles opened their final U.S. tour in Chicago. John Lennon held a press conference there and reluctantly apologized for earlier remarks that the Fab Four were more popular than Jesus.
Singer Kyu Sakamoto, whose “Sukiyaki” took America by storm in 1963, was among 524 people killed when Japan Air Lines Flight 123 crashed in rugged mountains northwest of Tokyo in 1985. He was 43. “Sukiyaki” was the first foreign-language song to top the U.S. charts.
In 1965, The Beatles arrived at New York’s Kennedy International Airport to begin another U.S. tour.
In 1990, Curtis Mayfield was paralyzed from the waist down after a lighting structure fell on him before an outdoor concert at the Brooklyn Boys and Girls High School in New York. Wheelchair-bound, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer released an album (“New World Order”) in 1996. He died the day after Christmas 1999 at North Fulton Regional Hospital in Roswell, Ga. He was 57.
Beating out Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono, Michael Jackson was the high bidder at $47 million for ATV’s music catalog, including the publishing rights to hundreds of Beatles songs in 1985. Ten years later, Jackson and Sony merged music publishing businesses. Since 1995, Jackson and Sony/ATV Music Publishing have jointly owned most of the Beatles songs. McCartney owns the rights to “Love Me Do,” “Please, Please Me,” “P.S. I Love You” and “Tell Me Why.”
The three-day Woodstock Music & Arts Fair opened on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, N.Y., in 1969. A half-a-million strong showed up for “peace, love and music” – lots of music, from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Grateful Dead, Santana, Sly & The Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, The Band, Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Richie Havens, among many others.
In 1995, Foo Fighters made their network TV debut on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” playing “This Is a Call.”
Elvis Presley died of a heart attack brought on by drug abuse at his Graceland mansion in Memphis in 1977. He was 42. More than 80,000 fans converged on Graceland the following day to mourn the rock era’s all-time No. 1 performer. Presley sold more than 480 million records worldwide and continues to hold records for most charted albums, most Top-10 singles, most Top-40 songs and most weeks at No. 1. He also starred in 31 movies.
Madonna married actor Sean Penn in Malibu, Calif., in 1985. They had met on the set of her video for “Material Girl.” Their four-year marriage was rocky from the start. They bombed together in the 1986 film “Shanghai Surprise,” and Penn had several run-ins with paparazzi; he even spent time in jail for assault in 1987. “I never liked being under the spotlight,” Penn told MaleFirst.co.uk. “Our marriage guaranteed that we lived in the public gaze, which meant that we had no real marriage at all. We didn’t even have time to have a proper conversation. She was in the process of becoming the biggest star in the world. I just wanted to make my films and hide.”
At the 1986 Monsters of Rock Festival in Castle Dongington, England, drummer Rick Allen made his first live appearance with Def Leppard since losing his left arm in an auto accident on Dec. 31, 1984. A year later, the band released “Hysteria,” the biggest-selling album of its career (more than 20 million copies sold worldwide).
Popular Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, one of the world’s greatest singers of Sufi devotional music and an influence on rock groups such as Pearl Jam, died in 1997 in a London hospital from an undisclosed illness. He was 49. His songs appeared on the “Dead Man Walking” and “Natural Born Killers” film soundtracks.
“High School Musical 2” premiered on Disney Channel in 2007, and drew more than 17 million viewers — at the time, the largest basic-cable audience ever. The film included a cameo by Miley Cyrus. BTW: Robbie Nevil, who had a Top 10 hit in 1986 with “C’est La Vie,” co-wrote “High School Musical” songs with Matthew Gerrard.
Frances Bean Cobain, the only child of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain and Hole frontwoman Courtney Love, was born in Los Angeles in 1992.
Dick Cavett had quite the lineup for his ABC prime-time show on Aug. 19, 1969 – Joni Mitchell, Jefferson Airplane, Stephen Stills and David Crosby – the latter three fresh off an appearance at Woodstock.
U2 lead singer Bono married his longtime girlfriend, Alison Stewart, on Aug. 21, 1982, at All Saints Church in Raheny, Dublin, Ireland. They had met at Mount Temple Comprehensive School and began dating in November 1975. They now have four children. (BTW: Bono wrote “The Sweetest Thing” for his wife after forgetting her birthday during the band’s “The Joshua Tree” recording sessions.)
The Supremes scored the first of their 12 No. 1 U.S. hits with “Where Did Our Love Go” on Aug. 22, 1964. It was also the first of five straight No. 1s (followed by “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Back in My Arms Again”).
In 1962, 21-year-old John Lennon married his first wife, Cynthia Powell, at the Mount Pleasant Register office in Liverpool, England … witnessed by Paul McCartney and George Harrison; Beatles manager Brian Epstein was his best man. She was pregnant at the time, and gave birth to their only child, Julian Lennon, in April 1963. They divorced in November 1968.
Paul Anka‘s duet with Odia Coates, “(You’re) Having My Baby,” began a three-week run at No. 1 in 1974, just as women’s groups voiced objections to the song. The National Organization for Women awarded Anka one of their annual “Keep Her in Her Place” awards. Conceding to pressure, he agreed to change the lyrics to “having our baby” whenever he performed it on tour.
In 1981, Mark David Chapman was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for shooting and killing John Lennon outside the former Beatle’s New York City apartment building in December 1980. On Aug. 23, 2012, Chapman was denied parole for the seventh time. The now-57-year-old killer is next scheduled to go before the parole board in August 2014.
Aaliyah Dana Haughton, known in the pop world as Aaliyah, was killed along with eight others in a plane crash in the Bahamas after filming the music video for “Rock the Boat” on Aug. 25, 2001. She was only 22. (Later, it was learned that the pilot had falsely obtained an FAA license and had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system.) The Queen of Urban Pop was named by Billboard magazine as the 10th most successful female R&B performer of the past 25 years.
Popular ’80s singer Laura Branigan died of a previously undiagnosed brain aneurysm on Aug. 26, 2004, at her home in East Quogue, N.Y. She is best remembered for “Gloria,” which peaked at No. 2 for three weeks in late 1982. It stayed on the Billboard chart for 36 years, then the longest chart run ever by a female artist. She had two other Top 10 hits, “Solitaire” (1983) and “Self Control” (1984).
While “All You Need Is Love” was dominating the airwaves, the Beatles were in Wales in 1967, beginning a six-month involvement with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi when they got word that their manager, Brian Epstein, died of an apparent accidental overdose of sleeping pills in London. He was 32. Epstein, who owned a local record store, discovered the Beatles playing in a Liverpool cellar pub and masterminded their rocket ride to fame and fortune.
Blues-rock guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin in 1990. Hours after Vaughan performed at an all-star concert with Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and Buddy Guy at the Alpine Valley Music Theater, his copter was bound for Chicago and encountered heavy fog. It crashed into a man-made ski slope in East Troy, killing Vaughan, the pilot and three members of Clapton’s entourage.
Green Day dominated the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 28, taking home seven awards, including Best Rock Video, Best Group Video, Viewer’s Choice and Video of the Year (for “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”). Hosted by Diddy at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, the VMAs were held shortly after Tropical Storm Katrina passed South Florida … and later became Hurricane Katrina.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney brought cameras and took pictures of the crowd between songs at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on Aug. 29, 1966 … knowing that this would be The Beatles‘ final live concert (not counting the Apple rooftop in January 1969).
In 1992, the 20th annual Reading Festival in England had a lineup for the ages – Nirvana, Suede, Public Enemy, Manic Street Preachers, Ride, The Wonder Stuff, Public Image Ltd., The Charlatans, Pavement and more. It turned out to be Nirvana’s last U.K. appearance; Kurt Cobain, wearing hospital garb, was rolled onto the stage in a wheelchair by journalist Everett True — making light of rumors about the lead singer’s mental health. Their performance was released on DVD (“Live at Reading”) in November 2009.
NASA announced that *NSYNC singer Lance Bass would enter into cosmonaut training in Star City, Russia, to become the first celebrity astronaut. He completed the training, but later he couldn’t afford the $23.8 million ticket to fly aboard a Russian Soyuz module after several sponsors pulled out of the project.
U2 released its first recordings, a three-song EP titled “Three” (or “U2-3”), in its native Ireland in 1979. The songs: “Out of Control,” “Boy/Girl” and “Stories For Boys.” Two of the songs, “Out of Control” and “Stories For Boys,” appeared on the group’s full-length debut album, “Boy,” in 1980.
It wasn’t quite Woodstock, but the Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival on Bull Island near Griffin, Ind., was a big event in 1972. Organizers had hoped to attract 50,000 fans, but 200,000 showed up to watch Santana, Foghat, Eagles, Cheech and Chong, Canned Heat, Flash, Ravi Shankar, Rory Gallagher, Lee Michaels, Black Oak Arkansas, The Amboy Dukes, Gentle Giant and more. During the three-day festival, three concertgoers drowned, the promoters were woefully unprepared for the massive crowd, several bands canceled (such as Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath and Allman Brothers Band) and with little police presence, there was general chaos throughout the entire event.
In a weekend of song and computer technology, more than 200,000 people celebrated the US Festival at Glen Helen Park in San Bernardino, Calif., in 1982. Over the three days, Sept. 3-5, the well-behaved crowds were treated to performances by Fleetwood Mac, the Kinks, the Cars, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffett, the B-52’s, Ramones, Talking Heads and The Police, to name a few. Also on hand were Grateful Dead and Santana, the only groups to appear at both the US and Woodstock festivals. Stephen Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple Computers Inc., forked out $12.5 million to conduct US and said he was prepared to lose $10 million.
More than a year after its release, “Fleetwood Mac” — the band’s second eponymous album — topped the Billboard chart on Sept. 4, 1976. “Fleetwood Mac,” the first Mac album for new members Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, featured three Top 20 hits: “Over My Head,” “Rhiannon” and “Say You Love Me.” It stayed on the album chart for 148 weeks. By February 1977, with “Rumours,” the group’s worldwide superstardom was solidified.
Twelve years after forming in Blackwood, Caerphilly, Wales, Manic Street Preachers scored their first U.K. No. 1 song, “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next,” in 1998. (It was the only Manics song to be officially released as a single in the United States, but it was only heard on Modern Rock stations, and did not chart.)
Jimi Hendrix made what turned out to be his final live performance at the Open Air Love and Peace Festival in Fehmarn, West Germany, on Sept. 6, 1970. He was backed by Billy Cox on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. Hendrix died 12 days later in London.
After attending the premiere of the movie “The Buddy Holly Story” the night before, drummer Keith Moon of The Who died of a sedative overdose in his London apartment in 1978. He was 32. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine readers picked him the second-best drummer of all time, behind Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham.
British media personality David Frost visited with The Beatles at Twickenham studios where they were filming a promo performance of “Hey Jude” in 1968. Four days later, their performance appeared on Frost’s ITV music-comedy variety program, “Frost on Sunday,” on Sept. 8. The following week, “Hey Jude” (the first single on the Beatles’ Apple label), debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Who knew Marc Bolan had his own TV show? It’s true. On Sept. 9, 1977, David Bowie sang “Heroes” and dueted with Bolan on “Standing Next to You” during a filming of the T. Rex singer’s ITV show. “Marc” only lasted six episodes … because the glam-rock legend was killed in a car crash only a week after taping the Bowie episode (on Sept. 16). He was two weeks short of his 30th birthday. Bowie attended his funeral.
In 1962, the BBC banned Bobby “Boris” Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers‘ “Monster Mash,” deeming it “too morbid” for airplay. On Oct. 20 that year, “Monster Mash” topped the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed No. 1 for another week. The Halloween classic was re-released twice in the U.S., in 1970 and 1973 (reaching the Top 10). In the U.K., it went to No. 3 in 1973. BTW: Leon Russell was a member of The Crypt-Kickers.
The Saturday morning cartoon series “The Jackson 5ive” premiered in 1971. Because of their recording and touring obligations, the Jackson brothers – Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael – could not provide their voices for their cartoon characters; only their music was used. (However, Diana Ross voiced herself in the debut episode.) The Rankin/Bass show lasted for two seasons and 23 episodes.
Country music icon Johnny Cash, “The Man in Black,” died of complications from diabetes at Baptist Hospital in Nashville in 2003 — less than four months after wife June Carter Cash died. He was 71. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur died six days after being shot in Las Vegas in 1996. He was 25. In 2002, Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Chuck Philips’ yearlong investigation suggested that the murder was arranged by the Compton gang Southside Crips.
On the same day that “Bang-Shang-a-Lang” debuted on Cashbox magazine’s Top 100, the Saturday morning cartoon series “The Archie Show” – featuring The Archies – premiered on CBS in 1968. Music for the show was assembled by song publisher and rock producer Don Kirshner, with Ron Dante on lead vocals.
For the first time in his long career, Bob Dylan debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart with “Modern Times,” on Sept. 16, 2006. It was his first U.S. No. 1 album in 30 years, since “Desire” in 1976, and at age 65, he became the oldest artist to debut at No. 1.
Ohio-based funk band Wild Cherry‘s one and only hit was a big one. “Play That Funky Music,” based on their early band experiences, cracked the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1976, and stayed there for two more weeks. Written by lead singer-guitarist Rob Parissi, the song’s refrain of “Play that funky music, white boy,” didn’t play well in Boston; it was edited for radio airplay to say “yeah, funky music” instead. The song sold more than 2 million copies.
Ten days after the Sept. 11 terror attacks (on Sept. 23, 2001), the all-star “America: A Tribute to Heroes” was aired on all four major U.S. TV networks and other cable outlets commercial-free to raise money for victims and their families. Led by actor George Clooney, celebrities performed and manned the telethon-style telephone bank. The benefit concert raised more than $200 million. Performers included Bruce Springsteen, U2, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey and Paul Simon.
Making its first live performance on U.S. television, Queen was the musical guest for host Chevy Chase during the eighth-season premiere of “Saturday Night Live” in 1982. Freddie Mercury and Co. performed “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Under Pressure.”
Suave British singer-songwriter Robert Palmer, who scored a U.S. No. 1 with “Addicted to Love” in 1986, died from a heart attack in 2003 at the Warwick Hotel in Paris. He was 54. Known for his mixture of rock, soul, jazz, reggae and blues, the dapper Palmer won Grammys for “Addicted to Love” and his second biggest hit, “Simply Irresistible” (1988), and made a dent visually with the Terence Donovan-directed sexy music videos for both songs. He was also a member of the short-lived Power Station, which spawned two hits, “Some Like It Hot” and a cover of T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong.”
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Donovan made his U.S. TV debut on ABC’s “Shindig!” in 1965. The Hollies, The Turtles and The Dave Clark Five appeared on the same show.
In 1982, John Cougar had the No. 1 album in the U.S. (“American Fool”) and the No. 1 song (“Jack & Diane”). “Jack & Diane” spent four weeks at No. 1 and became the biggest hit of his career.
“(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?,” Oasis‘ second album, was released on Oct. 2, 1995. It sold more than 347,000 copies in its first week in the U.K. (where it spent 10 weeks at No. 1), and it entered at No. 4 on the Billboard chart in the U.S. It contained the indie hits “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” “Champagne Supernova” and “Wonderwall.”
In 1990, an all-white jury convicted Fort Lauderdale record store owner Charles Freeman of obscenity for selling 2 Live Crew‘s “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” album, which had been banned in three South Florida counties by a federal judge because of obscene lyrics. About a month later, Freeman was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine but was spared a one-year prison term.
The Beatles‘ first single, “Love Me Do,” was released in the U.K. 50 years ago on Oct. 5, 1962, via Parlophone Records. The B-side was “P.S. I Love You.” Surprisingly, “Love Me Do” peaked at only No. 17 on the British singles chart. It didn’t reach American shores until April 1964, when it became the fourth of six Fab Four No. 1s that year.
After 741 consecutive weeks, Pink Floyd‘s “The Dark Side of the Moon” fell from the Billboard albums chart on Oct. 8, 1988. It debuted on the U.S. chart on March 17, 1973, and stayed there for a record-breaking 15 years. It has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide.
High-powered guests couldn’t save Fox Broadcasting’s “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers,” which debuted in 1986. Her first guests were Cher, Elton John, David Lee Roth and Pee-wee Herman. Rivers and Cher joined John on a version of “The Bitch Is Back.” The talk show was canceled two and a half years later.
Neil Diamond scored the first U.S. No. 1 of his career with “Cracklin’ Rosie,”which hit the top spot in 1970. It spent one week at No. 1, preceded and succeeded by a pair of Motown songs — Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and The Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There.” “Cracklin’ Rosie” was also his first and biggest hit in the U.K., where it peaked at No. 3. Diamond’s other U.S. No. 1s? “Song Sung Blue” (1972) and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” with Barbra Streisand (1978).
NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” debuted in 1975, with the show’s first host, comedian George Carlin. His musical guests were Billy Preston and Janis Ian, who sang her Top 10 hit, “At Seventeen,” and “In the Winter.” Preston performed “Nothing From Nothing” and “Fancy Lady.”
Rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly pioneer Gene Vincent — best known for “Be-Bop-A-Lula” — died of a perforated ulcer in 1971. He was only 36. During a British tour in April 1960, Vincent, fellow singer Eddie Cochran and songwriter Sharon Sheeley were seriously injured in a car crash. Cochran died the next day. Vincent was the first inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 1997 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a year later.
Led Zeppelin, formerly known as The New Yardbirds, made its first stage appearance in 1968 at Guildford Technical College’s University Hall after just three rehearsals. (Guildford is now Surrey University.) Three days later, they appeared at London’s legendary Marquee Club.
Fleetwood Mac‘s classic “Rumours” was released on Oct. 15, 1976, and became one of the biggest-selling albums ever.
In 1965, the Beatles became the first rock ‘n’ rollers to receive MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) awards from the queen. The scene outside Buckingham Palace that day was mass hysteria as thousands of fans tried to storm the gates. After the ceremony, Paul McCartney said of Queen Elizabeth, “She was just like a mum to us.” John Lennon said, “She was showing a bit of leg. She looked good.”
Stevie Wonder‘s “Songs in the Key of Life” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1976, just the third album to do so. (Can you name the first two that premiered at No. 1?) It had been more than two years since Wonder’s “Fulfillingness’ First Finale,” but “Songs” proved worth the wait. It contained a bevy of groundbreaking songs, such as “I Wish,” “Sir Duke,” “Isn’t She Lovely” and “As.” (The first two No. 1 debuts? Elton John‘s “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” and “Rock of the Westies.”)
Manfred Mann completed a cross-Atlantic sweep in 1964, topping the singles chart in America with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.” Named for and fronted by the South African jazz/blues pianist born Michael Lubowitz, the British rock group went No. 1 in the United Kingdom earlier that summer.
Americans didn’t know The Buggles until MTV used their U.K. hit “Video Killed the Radio Star” as the first music video to air on the cable channel in August 1981. But “Video Killed the Radio Star” made its mark in the U.K. two years earlier, topping the pop chart on Oct. 18, 1979. The song was written by Buggles members Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn with Bruce Woolley, who recorded the first version of it with his band Woolley & the Camera Club.
Three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were among six people killed in a plane crash outside Gillsburg, Miss., in 1977. The band was traveling in a chartered jet from Greenville, S.C., to a show in Baton Rouge, La. Killed were singer Ronnie Van Zandt, guitarist Steven Gaines and his sister, Cassie. The other band members escaped with injuries.Initially, it was thought that the plane had run out of gas, but a court ruled later that the plane’s personnel and mechanical integrity were to blame.Three days before the crash, the band’s sixth LP, “Street Survivors,” was released with an ominous cover photo – the band was pictured standing amid flames. The album also included an order form for a “Lynyrd Skynyrd survival kit.” MCA immediately recalled it and replaced it with a generic design.
Bob Dylan made a rare TV appearance in 1979, performing “You Gotta Serve Somebody” on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
Elton John‘s “Candle in the Wind,” rewritten in 1997 to honor the late Princess Diana, was declared the biggest-selling chart single of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records. “Candle in the Wind 1997” sold more than 33 million copies worldwide in just 40 days and reached No. 1 in 22 countries. Bing Crosby‘s “White Christmas” is still listed as the world’s best-selling song ever, but it was released in the 1940s before charts were compiled.
George Michael outbid Robbie Williams and the Gallagher brothers of Oasis for John Lennon‘s Steinway Model Z piano, paying $2.1 million at an auction in 2000. A private British collector had owned the piano since 1992. Lennon purchased the piano in December 1970 and composed and recorded “Imagine” on it.
Def Leppard was seriously overworked in 1995. The band entered the Guinness Book of World Records by performing three concerts on three continents within 24 hours: Tangiers, Morocco; London, England; and Vancouver, Canada. Each show lasted at least one hour.
The Guinness Book of World Records honored Paul McCartney in 1979 for becoming the most successful composer and recording artist of all-time. Guinness credited the former Beatle with writing or co-writing 43 songs that sold more than 1 million copis each from 1962 to 1978.
The Rolling Stones made their first (and nearly last) performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. A coast-to-coast TV audience witnessed fans tearing the studio to shreds. The spectacle angered Sullivan so much that he issued a statement saying, “I promise you, they’ll never be back on our show.” The Stones did return in May 1965 and were praised by the venerable host.
Jefferson Starship‘s Paul Kantner was hospitalized with a brain aneurysm in 1980. The 39-year-old guitarist, who was finishing work on the group’s seventh album, was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after complaining of severe head pains.
Dressed in a sequined Dodgers uniform, Elton John packed Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium in 1975. At the height of his world popularity, John was the first rocker to play at the stadium since the Beatles in 1966.
Hot on the heels of his breakthrough album, “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen appeared on the covers of both Time and Newsweek magazines in 1975. Time’s writer, Jay Cocks, championed Springsteen, while Newsweek’s Maureen Orth painted him as the beneficiary of Columbia Records’ PR hype machine.
The rock musical “Hair” opened on Broadway in 1967.
Guitarist Duane Allman, co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band, was killed in a motorcycle accident in his hometown of Macon, Ga., in 1971. His death came less than three months after the band’s heralded “At the Fillmore East” album was released. The remaining members, including his brother, Gregg, played at Duane’s funeral.
Jam Master Jay, one-third of hip-hop pioneers Run-D.M.C., was shot and killed in his 24/7 recording studio in Queens, N.Y., in 2002. Because of the lack of cooperation from witnesses, the case remains unsolved. “We never really had a good lead,” the case’s llead detective, Vincent Santangelo, told the New York Daily News. “Nobody would or nobody could tell us the who or what. We’re still looking for that person.”
Marvin Gaye‘s father, Marvin Sr., received five years probation in 1984 for fatally shooting the Motown singer, who was ruled to have “tragically provoked” the incident after a quarrel on April 1 that year. “I love my son, I love my son, and I wish he could come through that door,” the ailing 71-year-old former minister said in a rambling statement after the sentencing. Marvin Gaye Sr. died of pneumonia in October 1998.
Then-17-year-old Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees and his bride-to-be Molly were among the survivors of the Hither Green rail crash that killed 49 passengers and injured 78 in South East London on Nov. 5, 1967. A broken rail was blamed for the 11-car derailment between the Hither Green and Grove railway stations on a busy Sunday evening. “We were fortunate to have been in a first-class compartment near the front of the train,” Gibb said in an interview. “I may owe my life to … ‘Massachusetts.’ If our hits were not making so much money, I would not have been able to buy first-class tickets. Most of the people who died in the train wreck were in the second-class compartments, which had no corridor to protect them.”
Led Zeppelin‘s untitled fourth album (commonly referred to as “Led Zeppelin IV” or “Zoso”) was released in the United States on Nov. 8, 1971. Fueled by the FM classic, “Stairway to Heaven,” the album sold a million copies within a week and stayed on the chart for 259 weeks but never reached No. 1. It has sold more than 37 million copies worldwide, the 12th biggest-seller of all time.
The premiere issue of Rolling Stone magazine was published on Nov. 9, 1967, with John Lennon on the cover, dressed in army fatigues he wore for his film “How I Won the War.” Lennon went on to grace the cover two more times in Rolling Stone’s first 10 issues, once with The Beatles and another with Paul McCartney.
Just three blocks from where Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident a year earlier, Allman Brothers Band bassist Berry Oakley suffered a similar fate in 1972 in Macon, Ga. He was 24. Lamar Williams took his place; he died of cancer in 1983.
One-time Little River Band singer John Farnham‘s 12th album, “Whispering Jack,” debuted on the Australian chart in 1986 and later became the biggest-selling album in Australian history, fueled by the international hit “You’re the Voice.” The album sold more than 1.68 million copies. One of the songs he was offered for the album, but declined, was “We Built This City.”
Rod Stewart started an eight-week run at No. 1 in the United States with “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” in 1976. Some radio program directors refused to give the song air time because of the line “Spread your wings and let me come inside,” but they couldn’t hold out for long after it became such a big hit.
T’Pau‘s “China In Your Hand” reached No. 1 in the U.K. on Nov. 14, 1987, and stayed at the top for five weeks, denying George Harrison‘s “Got My Mind Set On You” from becoming only his second No. 1 in his native country. (His first – and only – was 1970’s “My Sweet Lord.”) “China In Your Hand” did not chart in the U.S.
Milli Vanilli producer Frank Farian admitted in 1990 that Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan never sang on their debut Arista album, “Girl You Know It’s True.” The actual singers were Charles Shaw, John Davis and Brad Howe. Pilatus and Morvan claimed Farian made the announcement as a preemptive strike because they wanted to sing on their next album. A week later, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences stripped the dance duo of its 1989 Grammy for best new artist. (Incidentally, Milli Vanilli beat out Neneh Cherry, Technotronic, Indigo Girls, Soul II Soul and Tone Loc for that award.) The group had three straight No. 1s in 1989 – “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You” and “Blame It on the Rain.”
In 1979, the Guinness Book of World Records claimed ABBA was the biggest-selling group in recording history. In later editions, The Beatles would surpass the Swedish pop legends with more than 1 billion in sales worldwide.
Michael Jackson dangled his 9-month-old son, Prince Michael II, over the balcony of his Berlin hotel room to a crowd of screaming fans below in 2002. Jackson was in Berlin to accept an award for his philanthropic work on behalf of children (a lifetime Bambi entertainment award). Jackson quickly issued an apology for the incident. “I offer no excuses for what happened,” Jackson’s statement read afterward. “I got caught up in the excitement of the moment. I would never intentionally endanger the lives of my children.”
Bo Diddley appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1955, performing “Bo Diddley.” He was supposed to do a version of “16 Tons,” but for whatever reason, he went with his own song. This was a groundbreaking night for African-Americans on TV. Sullivan devoted his entire show that evening to black performers, hosted by New York DJ Tommy Smalls (“Dr. Jive”). Diddley was joined by LaVern Baker and the Five Keys.
The Partridge Family‘s debut single, “I Think I Love You,” started a three-week run at No. 1 in the United States in 1970 — less than two months after their ABC sitcom premiered. The Tony Romeo-penned song originally appeared in the eighth episode of the Partridges’ first season (“But the Memory Lingers On”) and later on episode No. 12, “My Son, the Feminist.”
Jerry Lee Lewis was arrested in 1976 outside Elvis Presley‘s Graceland mansion in Memphis, where police said Lewis was drunk, screaming and waving a pistol. He told reporters he resented the good publicity Presley, a former Sun labelmate in the 1950s, always received.
Don Kirshner’s “In Concert” premiered in 1972, as part of ABC’s late-night attempt to lure viewers away from Johnny Carson. The first show featured Chuck Berry, Alice Cooper, Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Allman Brothers Band, Poco and Seals & Crofts, among others.
“The Last Waltz” danced in 1976 at San Francisco’s Winterland theater, with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills and Ringo Starr among the artists on hand to say farewell to The Band.
Band Aid, led by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, recorded “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, in 1984. Benefiting the victims of Ethiopia’s devastating famine, the song quickly topped the British charts a few weeks later and became the country’s biggest seller ever.
Freddie Mercury‘s funeral service was conducted by a Zoroastrian priest on Nov. 27, 1991, three days after the Queen frontman’s AIDS-related death. The surviving members of Queen and Elton John were among the 35 in attendance for a small service at West London Crematorium.
She met him at the candy store, he turned around and smiled at her, you get the picture? Then he crashed his motorcycle and died. The Shangri-Las fell for the “Leader of the Pack,” the girl-meets-boy saga that became the girl group’s only No. 1 song on Nov. 28, 1964, complete with a revving motor, the screeching of tires and a crash. The Queens, N.Y., quartet, made up of two sets of sisters, first landed on the Billboard chart two months earlier with the Spector-ish “Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand),” which peaked at No. 5. Their only other Top 10 hit was 1966’s “I Can Never Go Home Anymore.”
Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller” was released 30 years ago on Nov. 30, 1982. What followed in the days and months ahead was unprecedented: Seven hits came from the album; it’s the best-selling album of all-time; the groundbreaking video for the title track took MTV to new heights, and it won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards.
In 1983, Geffen Records sued Neil Young for the commercial failure of his retro rockabilly album “Everybody’s Rockin’.” The company said it wanted “Neil Young records” and that the album and 1982’s techno-edgy “Trans” were “musically uncharacteristic of Young’s previous recordings.” The lawsuit was dropped in April 1985. Young recorded two more albums for Geffen and returned to his original label, Reprise, in 1988.
Eleven people were trampled to death when concertgoers panicked outside Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati to see The Who in 1979. The victims ranged in age from 15 to 27. Not enough doors were opened to allow fans to get inside, and because the arena used the festival-seating policy, it was first-come, first-serve for good seats. The tragedy prompted Cincinnati and many other cities to ban festival seating.
Experimental rock genius Frank Zappa died in 1993 after a long battle with prostate cancer. His family announced: “Composer Frank Zappa left for his final tour before 6:00 p.m. on Saturday.” He was 52. One of the most prolific artists of the rock era, Zappa wasn’t afraid to dabble in any genre, from satirical rock to jazz-rock fusion. In 1992, Guitar Player editor Don Menn called him “The most important composer to come out of modern popular music.” Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
A deadly melee broke out as the Rolling Stones played during the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in Northern California on Dec. 6, 1969. All of it was captured on film and released a year later as “Gimme Shelter.” The festival included Santana, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The Grateful Dead refused to perform because of the increasing violence throughout the event, which was billed as “Woodstock West.” Hells Angels had been hired and paid $500 in beer to keep fans away from the stage. Fueled by drugs, some fans got out of hand and clashed with the Angels. One fan, 18-year-old Meredith Hunter, was punched then pulled out a gun and was fatally stabbed by Hells Angel Alan Passaro. Passaro later was charged with murder but was acquitted on grounds of self-defense.
Otis Redding entered Stax/Volt Records’ recording studios in Memphis in 1967 to record “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” At the time, Redding was on top of the world: Aretha Franklin had taken his “Respect” to No. 1, he stole the show at the Monterey Pop Festival, and he co-wrote Arthur Conley‘s “Sweet Soul Music.” But three days after he finished “The Dock of the Bay,” he was among seven people killed in a plane crash near Madison, Wis. In March 1968, the song he co-wrote with Steve Cropper became the first posthumous No. 1 song of the rock era.
A night after appearing on the Cleveland local TV show “Upbeat,” Otis Redding and his band mates boarded a twin-engine Beechcraft H18 that he had purchased and headed for his next tour stop, Madison, Wis., on Dec. 10, 1967. Just three miles from Madison Municipal Airport, the plane began to lose power. Pilot Richard Fraser circled for another approach but the plane tailspinned and plummeted into icy Lake Monoma. Killed were Redding, Fraser and Bar-Kays members Jimmy King, Ron Caldwell, Phalin Jones and Carl Cunningham. Twenty-year-old trumpet player Ben Cauley was the only survivor.
In 1964, soul legend Sam Cooke was shot and killed by hotel manager Bertha Franklin in Los Angeles. A court later ruled that the shooting was in self-defense after Franklin said Cooke attacked her while he was in pursuit of 22-year-old Elisa Boyer, who had fled his room. Franklin said Cooke had attempted to rape Boyer and then tried to assault her in anger. Despite the circumstances surrounding his death, more than 200,000 grieving fans attended funeral services in Los Angeles and his native Chicago.
“The Bodyguard,” the soundtrack to the Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner film, began a 20-week run at No. 1 in the United States on Dec. 12, 1992. Fueled by Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” the album went on to sell more than 13 million copies in the U.S. alone, more than any soundtrack album in history. It has sold more than 45 million copies worldwide. It also won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
The Jackson 5 made their network TV debut on CBS’ “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Dec. 12, 1969. They performed their first single, “I Want You Back,” and “Who’s Loving You.” Four days later, their first album, “Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5,” was released.
Former Sex Pistols manager and performer Malcolm McLaren announced in 1999 that he was joining the race for London’s first-ever elected mayor. He said he would propose legalizing brothels, putting bars in libraries and re-introducng trams to the streets of Londontown. “I changed London with the Sex Pistols, I can change London as mayor,” McLaren said. He said Londoners were tired of being “unpaid extras in the most expensive theme park on the planet.” He eventually pulled out of the race, out of fear of splitting the independent candidate vote. The race was won by Ken Livingstone.
“Saturday Night Fever,” starring John Travolta as a Brooklyn youth obsessed with dancing at a local disco, premiered in U.S. theaters in 1977. The movie was a box-office smash, but the soundtrack was even bigger and ushered in the disco movement into mainstream America. The Bee Gees scored three straight No. 1 songs (“How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever”) and wrote other hits for the soundtrack, including “If I Can’t Have You” (Yvonne Elliman) and “More Than a Woman” (Tavares). The double LP, which spent 24 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s pop charts, became the top-selling soundtrack of all time, topping more than 25 million.
Beatlemania began in the U.S. on Dec. 17, 1963 … at least indirectly. Carroll James of WWDC in Washington, D.C., was widely credited as the first U.S. disc jockey to spin a Beatles record on the air, playing “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” He had asked a British Airways flight attendant to bring him a copy of the song. James’ March 1997 obituary in The New York Times reported that a Beatles researcher at UCLA had found playlists and Top 40 charts from other radio stations that show Beatles records had been played before James, with the earliest in February 1963 at Chicago’s WLS (which played “Please Please Me”).
British singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl was struck and killed by a speedboat as she swam in an area reserved for swimmers off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico, in 2000. She had been vacationing with her two sons. Her former husband, record producer Steve Lillywhite, flew to Mexico to be with their children. The boat was owned by Mexican supermarket magnet Guillermo González Nova; a boathand, José Cen Yam, was found guilty of culpable homicide but paid a minimal fine to avoid a prison sentence. That ruling came under fire from MacColl’s family, friends and fans.
In 1986, a California judge refused to reinstate a lawsuit against Ozzy Osbourne and CBS Inc. brought on by the parents of John McCullum, a 19-year-old who they claimed was influenced to kill himself by Osbourne’s lyrics to “Suicide Solution.” The judge ruled that the case involved areas “clearly protected by the First Amendment. “I’m very sorry,” Osbourne said of the lawsuit. “But I think the young man was obviously ill before it happened.” Osbourne said he wrote the song as a lament for a rock musician friend who had killed himself with drugs and alcohol, and that he meant it as an urgent message that suicide is not the answer to troubles. “I’m confused by this whole thing,” Osbourne said. “I’m just a rock ‘n’ roll singer.”
Bobby Darin, one of the greatest entertainers of the rock era, died in 1973 after surgery to repair a faulty heart valve. He was 37. As a child, he was stricken with rheumatic fever that weakened his heart. He had loads of hits (“Mack the Knife,” “Splish Splash,” “If I Were a Carpenter”), tried his hand at acting (and won a Golden Globe for his role in “Come September”) and was a political activist (he supported Robert F. Kennedy for president in 1968 and was there the night he was assassinated).
Diana Ross and the Supremes made their final TV appearance together on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Dec. 21, 1969, performing “Someday We’ll Be Together.” They went out with a bang: “Someday” was their 12th and final No. 1 song, and it was the last No. 1 song of the 1960s. It was credited as The Supremes, but only Ross sang on it; Maxine and Julia Waters took the places of Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong. The male singer in the song was Johnny Bristol, who wrote it nine years earlier.
Joe Strummer, lead singer-guitarist-lyricist of The Clash, died 10 years ago on Dec. 22, 2002, from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. He was 50. At the time of his death, he had been working on another Mescaleros album; “Streetcore” was released posthumously in October 2003. Rolling Stone obituary.
George Harrison scored the first post-Beatles No. 1 song with “My Sweet Lord” on Dec. 28, 1970. He originally gave the song to Billy Preston for his “Encouraging Words” album two months earlier. Harrison said the Edwin Hawkins Singers‘ “Oh Happy Day” inspired him to write it, but he was sued in 1976 by the song publishers of The Chiffons‘ He’s So Fine” for plagiarism and lost.
En route to a New Year’s Eve show in Dallas, Rick Nelson and six others were killed when the rock legend’s leased 1944 Douglas DC-3 plane made a crash landing in De Kalb, Texas, in 1985. Some witnesses said the plane appeared to be on fire. The pilot and co-pilot were the only survivors; they had told investigators that the plane’s gas-fueled heater was malfunctioning during the flight.