On This Day – Joe Hill Dies

On this day in 1915, Joe Hill was executed for a murder that he probably did not commit in Utah USA.  Joe Hill was an itinerant worker,and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).  As a socialist he was an enemy of  The State.  (Remember in the USA to this day being branded a Liberal is tantamount to political suicide).

Hill had risen in the ranks of the IWW.  He travelled organising workers in the name of the IWW, wrote poems, songs, satirical poems and making speeches.  He used popular tunes for his songs a very subversive tactive used for years by political activists.  His song “The Preacher and the Slave” used the tune of the well known hymn “In the Sweet Bye and Bye”.  It also gave rise to the phrase “Pie in the sky” to reflect the belief that promisses of a better here after were just lies meant to make workers accept their poo lot in life.  He also wrote “There is Power in the Union” which was echoed, years later by songs like “Part of the Union” by the Strawbs.

Hill’s importance to modern music lies in the belief that his was a political trial and execution, and the inspiration it gave musicians.  (Hill was executed even though there was an appeal for clemmency by President Woodrow Wilson).  A poem was written about him by Alfred Hayes (“I dreamt I saw Joe Hill Last Night”) it was turned into  song called simply “Joe Hill” by Earl Robinson in 1936.

The song was sung by many singers prominent in the protest movement in the 50s and 60s such as Paul Robeson (himself treated  disgracefully for his beliefs), Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, the Dubliners, and Dylan.

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On This Day – ‘We Built This City’ Hits #1 (despite being absolute crap)

On this day in 1985 Starship (ex Jefferson Starship, ex Jefferson Airplane, ex Airplane, ex Jefferson, ex Jefferson Steamboat, ex Jefferson Ric Shaw) made it to number 1 with an abomination.

‘We Built This City’ was written by Bernie Taupin (words smith for Elton John), Martin Page (ex Q-Feel), Dennis Lambert (ex Lambert and Nuttycombe (?) who also wrote Rhinestone Cowboy), and Peter Wolf (ex the wonderful J Geils band – he should have known better). It was produced by Jeremy Smith and Peter Wolf (he REALLY should have known better).

It was Starship’s first single. It also managed to reach the list of the “Worst 50 Songs Ever” as compiled by Blender.com to mange the feat the songs had to be both popular, and dreadful. This one managed on both fronts, in spades. It shares this accolade with such songs as “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da” by Marmalade, “I would Do Anything For Love” by Meatloaf, and “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus. (Of course Celine Dion was also represented in the list – goes without saying)

The sight of a big haired, shoulder padded, spanky clean Grace and co singing such banal (but catchy) lyrics is appalling. Almost as much as the premise is that this is some sort of anti-commercial anthem while it is, in fact, steeped in 80s corporate rock commercial values and production.

Forgive me, but you have been warned!

Now For Some Covers!

This is Great!

I was looking for a copy by Frenzal Rhomb but couldn’t find one…..I also could not find a clip of the great Kid Carpet (another bristol boy) performing where he often sings “We built this city on slavery” as a reference to Bristol’s past. Never mind, if you get the chance go and see him and find out just what can be done with musical toys.

Really, forget this, go back to the start, when Grace and co made music to be proud of. From White Rabbit to this, it beggars belief.

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Arrivals – 16th November

Born on this day, any more?

1938 Troy Seals (James Brown’s backing band)
1938 Toni Brown (Joy of Cooking)
1949 Patti Santos (It’s a Beautiful Day)
1962 Mani (The Stone Roses)

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On This Day – Bowie Makes it to US TV!

It seems strange now to think that it was not until this day in 1975 that Bowie made it to national US TV. He appeared on The Cher Show singing ‘Fame’.

Looking back it is easy for us to think that Bowie’s rise to fame was easy and virtually instant but that is far from the truth. He started his first band in 1962, the Konrads. He then played in various bands and as a solo artist (using his real name of Davie Jones) until 1966 when he changed his stage name. Incredibly now, he was worried that sharing his name with one of the Monkees would harm his career. There were also at least 7 singles released under his name or with bands like The Lower Third that all sank like a stone until he released ‘The laughing Gnome’. Some kind people call this a novelty song, the rest of us call it crap.

In spite of this single, or because of it – it did reach number 6 in the UK, Bowie was signed by Deram and released a self titled album in 1967. It did not chart. Two years later he released the album ‘Space Oddity’ which reached number 16 in the US. This was to be a higher rating album in the US than The Man Who Sold The World, Hunky Dory, The Rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Aladdin Sane, and Pinups. It was not until 1974’s Diamond Dogs that Bowie broke the US market.

So an instant and trouble free rise to mega-stardom? Nah, but cream always rises to the top in the end.

The first performance on US national TV.

This is from national UK TV 2 years earlier;

And this is supposed to be his first TV appearance (it isn’t) but I just love the flares – not even Bowie could make pink flares cool.

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Arrivals – 9 November

Born this day, any more?

1941 Tom Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revivial)
1943 Lee Graziano (American Breed)
1948 Joe Bauchard (Blue Oyster Cult)
1944 Phil May (Pretty Things)
1969 Pepa (Salt and Pepa)

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On This Day – Elvis Hits 3,000,000!

On this day in 1958 “Hound Dog” by Elvis exceeded 3 million sales in the US alone.

His was the 3rd record to sell more than 3 million copies in the States. Any Idea of what the other 2 were?

While you think about it here a clip of Elvis.

Worked it out yet?

The first 2 records to exceed 3 million sales in the USA were;

White Christmas, Bing Crosby

(I know a particularly dreadful clip….)

The other song to sell more than 3 million copies?

Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Gene Autrey

If you dare here it is……………………

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Arrivals – 6 November

Born on this day, any more?

1916 Ray Conniff (orchestra leader)
1933 Joseph Pope (Tams)
1937 Eugene Pitt (The Jive Five)
1938 P.J. Proby (Hold Me)
1942 Doug Sahm (Sir Douglas Quintet)
1947 George Young (Easybeats)
1948 Glenn Frey (Eagles)
1950 Chris Glen (Sensational Alex Harvey Band)

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On This Day – Townshend Loses It

The Who, good enough to support Herman's hermits?

The Who, good enough to support Herman's hermits?

On this day in 1973 The Who were playing Quadrophenia at Newcastle City Hall, UK. That is they were until Townshend lost it completely attacking their long standing principal sound engineer, Bob Pridden.

His crime? He started a prerecorded tape 15 seconds late.

Townshend grabbed Pridden by the neck dragged him to wards the mixing desk before throwing him to the floor in the middle of the stage. There followed an attack on the mixing desk, amplifiers and equipment by Townshend and a stoppage of 25 minutes in the show.

Pridden picked himself up and walked out of the theatre only to be persuaded to return by Bill Curbishley (record producer) and others. Townshend apologised later but this was another example of The Who’s guitarists erratic behaviour. Not to be confused with the ritualistic destruction of guitars on stage it would seem that Townshend had ‘anger management issues’ (I mean substance abuse issues) that affected his emotions and actions both on and off stage.

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Arrivals – 5 November

Born on this day, any more?

1942 Art Garfunkel (Simon and Garfunkel)
1946 Gram Parsons (Grievous Angel)
1946 Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits)
1948 Pete Hammill (Van der Graaf Generator)
1948 Don McDougall (Guess Who)
1957 Mike Score (A Flock Of Seagulls)
1959 Bryan Adams
1961 David Bryson (Counting Crows)
1971 Jon Greenwood (Radiohead)

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Wanna be in The Beatles?

There is a letter going to be actioned that shows that The Beatles were looking for a drummer who would have replaced Pete Best.

In 1960 a drummer placed an advert in the Liverpool Echo the advert said “Drummer-Young-Free.”

McCartney replied and the letter that going to auction is his reply; It is interesting because the letter invited the (unknown) drummer to an audition. It also said that the drummer should be prepared to drop everything and go off to Hamburg for 2 months. The letter said that the pay would be £18 per week. (Not too shabby in 1960).

So, this was not someone to replace Ringo – he replaced Pete Best a couple of years later. It was was someone to take to Hamburg instead of Pete Best. It is known that PB was in The Beatles, not so much because he was a great drummer but more that he had a drum kit!

Bruce Spicer, a well known Beatles Scholar said “This shows that Pete wasn’t the only person they were interested in,” Spizer said. “They needed a drummer and Pete was convenient. It makes sense that they would have responded to some drummer in Liverpool looking for work. My speculation is that two months in Hamburg intimidated him, maybe he didn’t want to go and never replied. If he had responded, and if he was good, it might have changed everything.”

It was in Hamburg that The Beatles grew into a tight and professional unit ready to take the world by storm. Years later Lennon said that The Beatles were the best rock band in the world at the time when they were playing in Hamburg. (He probably meant the later stints in Hamburg in ’62 rather than the first one). He also said, “I might have been born in Liverpool – but I grew up in Hamburg”

Somewhere there is a man who was a drummer in his youth, who might have, just might have become the best known drummer in the world. Who he was we will probably never know. There are lots of unanswered questions; Did he have an audition? Was he offered the job? Did not bother to reply to Sir Paul ‘cos he did not fancy Hamburg? How did this letter turn up being used as a bookmark in a book at a car boot sale? Why do I never find things like this when I go to car booties?

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