On This Day – Like A Rolling Stone

On this day in 1965 one of Dylan’s most iconic songs was released as a sing.  Like A Rolling Stone at 6 minutes long was considered too long and too ‘heavy’ to be a single and Columbia resisted releasing it.  It was only released after it had been leaked to a popular night club where influential DJs heard, and loved, it.  It was, and is, Dylan’s most successful single reaching number 2 in the USA and number 4 in the UK.

 

The song itself was written after a long and exhausting tour of the UK.  It probably started life as a 10 or more page rank referred to as a ‘piece of Vomit’ by Dylan.  It talked about loneliness, loss, and compassion, not the staple of love and romance that were the main themes for hit singles.  Robert Shelton, Dylan biographer, said “A song that seems to hail the dropout life for those who can take it segues into compassion for those who have dropped out of bourgeois surroundings. ‘Rolling Stone’ is about the loss of innocence and the harshness of experience. Myths, props, and old beliefs fall away to reveal a very taxing reality.”

 

Whatever it was really about and how you look at it one this is obvious. It was revolutionary. It took 2 fraught days to record, started in ¾ time. Mike Bloomfield played guitar, Al Kooper sat in on organ, although originally that part was slated to be on piano.  All in all, the song evolved and found itself as the musicians explored it.  The organ sound was brought up in the mix because Dylan liked it and against the best advice of  Tom Wilson, the producer.  Even after the take that became the single was recorded Dylan insisted that the band keep recording.  There were another 11 takes.

 

There has been a lot written about this song.  Many people think that it was the finest thing that Dylan ever recorded.  Certainly it was influential as it has been covered by Hendrix, the Stones, and Green Day amongst many others.  Every local pub band in the land uses it as a got stand by.

 

This song changed popular music. Or perhaps more correctly, it changed the way the men in suits in record companies looked at possible singles.  This song was raucous. It had electric guitar licks and a loud organ on a ‘folk’ record.  It was 6 minutes long.  It was about despair and loss, not about love.  In spite of all the received wisdom, people loved it and bought it.  It changed recorded popular music and elevated Dylan and propelled his career to new heights.

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On This Day – Bobby Fuller, Murdered?

bobby fullerOn This day in 1966 Bobby Fuller was found dead in his car in Hollywood. He had committed suicide according to the police. The cause of death was inhalation of petrol fumes. In order to kill himself he had drenched himself in petrol and stuffed a petrol soaked rag in his mouth. Before that he had broken his finger and beaten himself up. Oh yes, after he had killed himself and his body went into rigor mortis he drove his car back to the car park outside his flat.

In other words the official cause of death is highly suspect.

There are many theories about what really happened. One is that he went to a LSD party, was killed in a fall and the body was arranged to resemble a suicide. Another theory is that Bobby was killed so that some of his business associates could collect on an insurance policy. Then there is a theory that BF had been dating a girl who had been going out with an extremely jealous man with gang connections and that she disappeared shortly after his death.

His family hired a private detective to investigate his death but he quit after being shot at and warned off. I doubt if anyone will ever know the truth.

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On This Day – Hell Hath No Fury.

The Fab Four at their most Fab.......

The Fab Four at their most Fab.......

On this day in 1966, The Philippine police pulled their security of the the Fab Four (those impish mop tops so beloved of my mother….) Their crime? They forgot to go and see Imelda Marcos’ collection of shoes. It would seem that when they arrives in the Philippines they were sent an invitation to a party being given by Imelda (wife of the dictator/president). Whether they never received it or ignored it is unknown. In any event they did not go and so earned the ire of the government. Without the police protection the irrepressible leaders of pop culture beat a hasty retreat in the face of press anger, bomb threats and riots.

For the rest of us who do not have £160 to spend on the Fabs I think that Revolver is their best album…

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On This Day – Stones Bombed!

classic rock music

classic rock music

During he Exile on Main Street tour There was the usual madness, Forged tickets, riots, ticket-less fans trying to get in to venues (2000 in Detroit), drug arrests, the band being unable to book hotel rooms to their standard in Chicago (OK they did decamp to Hugh Hefner’s place, which ain’t too shabby a hang out).

The kicker though was in Montreal on 17th July 1972. A bomb went off under the equipment van. No injuries but the equipment inside the van was badly damaged. The show went on, after a riot by the 3,000 fans who had bought forged tickets. As far as I am aware, no one ever claimed responsibility for planting the bomb.

I think that this was the tour that Keef came up with his famous quotation “Heroin isn’t a problem, policemen are.”

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On This day – Cream Rises to The Top.

Cream of the crop.

Cream of the crop.

On this day in 1966, or as clsoe to today in 1966 as to not to matter, Cream came into existence. Formed by Eric Clapton (late of the Yardbirds and John Mayall) and Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce (both late of the Graham Bond organisation) Cream had a huge influence on popular music.

In an interview with the BBC Jack Bruce once said that EC thought that they were a blues band while Jack and Ginger made him play jazz. The truth is that this was a blues influenced, jazz, rock, beat, teen combo the like of which we had not seen before (no, sorry, that’s The Mothers of Invention).

Cream was a blues rock fusion with a tinge of jazz. What really distinguished Cream from most bands at the time was the level musicianship. EC was well known as a guitarist (over hyped to my mind – but that is an argument for another day). Jack Bruce was ‘classically trained’ and one of the first rock bass guitarists with serious talent. Ginger Baker was a rhythmic genius, one of the few rock drummers who could construct an interesting drum solo – although many tried, and failed sadly….

It is not often remembered that Cream only lasted 2 years or so but had a huge influence on the direction of popular music. Given Baker and Bruce’s volatile history while in the Graham Bond Organisation (Including fights on stage, musical sabotage and threats at knife point), it was not likely that the band would be long lived.

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On This Day – The Who Take US By Storm (not really)

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

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

1967 and The Who start their first US tour, supporting Herman’s Hermits!

It is hard to believe that Herman’s Hermits once rivaled the Beatles as the UK’s biggest band.  Child actor Peter Noone (ex Coronation Street) was the lead singer and they had several large (and remarkably dreadful) hit singles.

In 1967 The Who had not morphed into the mega band that they became and so perhaps the pairing was not that strange at the time.  In ’65 they released I Can’t Explain and their album My generation had also been realeased released in 1965.  It was only later in ’67 that they began to become the band we all remember so fondly with the release of  I Can See for Miles.

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On This Day – Live Aid 1985

Rock came out in force It Wembly UK, and Philadelphia USA to raise money to end the famine in Ethiopia. 18 Hours of continuous music by the likes of Quo, The Who, Jagger, Bowie, Queen, Lionel Ritchie, Lou Reed raised millions of pounds for humanitarian aid.

All very good and laudable, 25 years on, famine still happens, the West still lives above a sustainable level for the world, politicians still look for quick popular fixes instead of taking decisions that will make a difference.

On the other hand, Quo resurrected their flagging career.

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On This Day – John Denver

Bad Glands...........

Bad Glands...........

John Denver was charged with drunk driving in 1997.  On July13th the jury returned a hung verdict, they were evenly split.

John Denver’s lawyers had argued that he had a thyroid condition that distorted the blood alcohol tests.

A thyroid condition was known as ‘bad glands’ in my family from the time that my young nephew ballooned until he was the size of a barrage balloon.  His mother, my sister, blamed ‘bad glands’ I assumed it was all the fatty food he was eating…………….

(I wonder if ‘bad glands’ explains some of the apalling music John Denver put out).

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John Henry Hammond

John Hammond died on this day in 1987.

JH was one of those people who were enormously influencial but often overlooked.  Often given credit where it was not deserved but denied the credit that was due to him.

John Hammond was a record producer rather than a talent scout.  Back in the early ’30s he was writing about the racial divide in the USA and ridiculing it using jazz as the vehicle for this line of  reasoning. He was instrumental in promoting Billie Holiday, arranging her first recording debut, she appeared on a Benny Goodman session.  Later he also championed the Count Basie orchestra.

For those two instances he deserves to be remembered.  However along with promoting blues music and musicians he did one other thing that makes him one of the most important people in popular music development.

He oversaw and championed (but did not produce as many think) “King of the Delta Blues Singers” released in 1961 this was a rerelease of all the recordings made by Robert Johnson.  This is possibly one of the 5 most influencial records ever released.

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The Dead’s Last Gig

On this day in 1995 The Grateful Dead gave their last concert before the death of Jerry Garcia at Chicago’s Soldier Field.  Jerry was dead a month later  of a heart attack.  He was staying ata drug rehab clinic at the time.

Jerry Garcia was, for many, the heart of the band.  He was a prodigious talent who started playing guitar when he was 15.  He started hi own band (called Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions) and the basis of the Dead began to form.  Along the way the band changed their name to The Warlocks and eventually to The Grateful Dead.

Although hugely popular as a live act on the West coast the Dead found themselves hugely in debt to Warners after 3 albums.  Their saviour seems so obvious now but at the time was a revelation, a live album.   ‘Live/Dead’ featured a 23 minute version of Dark Star and showed the whole world what the band was about.

To many, the epitome of the band was the release of American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead.  To those who regard themselves as ‘true’ Dead fans there is nothing to compare to the gigs, and albums, whether live or studio were just pale imitations.  The Dead tribe was formed.

While the very epitome of hippydom, the Dead were also consistantly one of the highest grossing live acts in the world.  Even after JG’s death the music went on, this time in the exelent Dick’s Picks series of albums.

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