Month: January 2014

Freedom’s just another word

Rock the Day Janis & Bobby McGee

Following her death the previous October, Janis Joplin’s cover of Roger Miller’s Me & Bobby McGee is released on January 30, 1971. It becomes just the second posthumous release to reach #1 on the charts. (Otis Redding’s [Sittin’ on the] Dock of the Bay being the first). Me & Bobby McGee is written by Kris Kristofferson, who will record the song himself later on. But Janis’ version . . . well, it’s Janis, and those other two guys can’t break my heart the way Janis breaks my heart. Here is the first take of her first studio recording of the song:

It isn’t easy to explain

Rock the Day Thoroughbred Punk

Erdélyi Tamás is born on January 29, 1952 in Budapest. He grows up to become Tommy Ramone, founder of the influential punk band The Ramones. He is the only surviving member of the original quartet. To celebrate his birthday, here are The Ramones with a cool cover of Baby, I Love You:

Followed of course by the original from the The Ronettes:

Go now

Rock the Day Video Power

We know them as music videos. In the 1960s, they are called promo clips: Independently produced film shorts created for the express purpose of promoting a song. Promo clips are used on TV to drive sales of a record without having to send a group on an expensive live tour. One of the first such clips launches the Moody Blues’ spectacular career. The clip is done for Go Now, the group’s second single, and on January 28, 1965, the song reaches #1 on the U.K. charts. It will reach #10 in the U.S. Here’s that clip:

I believe my time ain’t long

Rock the Day King of the Slide Guitar

Elmore James is born Elmore Brooks on January 27, 1918 in Holmes County, Mississippi. James begins performing at about age 12 when he nails a wire to a wall to make a “diddley bow” for accompaniment as he wails his ailing heart out. He will go on to write the book on guitar and post-WWII blues. James is the blues bridge from Mississippi to Chicago. He serves in the U.S. Navy during the war, and following his discharge returns to Mississippi. Tweaking his guitar in his adoptive brother’s electrical shop, James devises a unique electric sound, using parts from the shop and an unusual placement of two D’Armond pickups. In 1951, he shoots to stardom on the strength of Dust My Broom, a single from the Trumpet label in Jackson, Miss. James’ moonshine habit and a heart condition take him from us when he is 45 years old. He dies in Chicago on May 24, 1963, following his third heart attack. Here is Elmore James with Dust My Broom:

Annie’s been a-workin on a midnight shift

Rock the Day Buddy on the Decca Label

Buddy Holly, newly signed to Decca Records, has his first recording session for the label in Nashville on this date in 1956. Overseen by veteran country producer Owen Bradley, the session yields four tracks, including Holly’s debut single Blue Days, Black Nights and a classic cover Midnight Shift. From that session, here is a previously unknown and unreleased Take 11 of Midnight Shift:

Bugsy turned to Shifty and he said nix nix

Rock the Day Elvis Invades Britain

Long before The Beatles and the British Invasion of the USA . . . No single has ever entered the U.K. charts at #1 until this date in 1958. The song is Jailhouse Rock from the soundtrack of the 1957 Elvis Presley movie of the same name. The song is written by Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber, who are commissioned to do the film’s soundtrack. They are invited to New York in April 1957 to show their progress. They’ve not produced anything. Naturally, they just tour the city until they are confronted in their hotel room by Presley’s music publisher Jean Aberbach. He locks them in the room by blocking the door with a sofa and they do not get out until they’ve finished their work. They do quite well under pressure. They write the songs in four hours. Elvis records them and they are dubbed into the movie, lip-synced. Shooting on the movie starts in May and is finished by June. It premieres in October 1957 in Memphis. Propelled by the movie’s success, Jailhouse Rock explodes into the U.K. on January 25, 1958. Jailhouse Rock the movie is the story of a young prison inmate (portrayed by Elvis) who is mentored in music by his cellmate, and who finds success after his release. For your weekend enjoyment from that 1957 movie, here is Elvis’ greatest moment on film:

His hair was PERFECT!

Rock the Day Warren Zevon’s Birthday

The excitable boy Warren Zevon is born in Chicago on January 24, 1940. He is the son of a dad who is a Russian immigrant, a bookie and a handler of volume bets and dice games for L.A. mobster Mickey Cohen. Warren’s mom is from a Mormon family of English descent. No need to wonder why his music is marked by dark and delightfully bizarre humor. His parents divorce when Warren is 16, he quits school and moves from L.A. to New York, an aspiring folk singer.  Zevon gets through the 1960s writing songs and commercial jingles and releasing some songs that fail to catch on. In the early 1970s, he is touring with the Everly Brothers as their music coordinator/keyboard guy. After spending a brief time in Spain, Zevon returns to L.A., where he hangs out with a bunch of then-unknowns including Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. The 1978 release of the album Excitable Boy is Zevon’s breakthrough. The next 25 years are marked by success, association with just about every rock artist you can think of and struggle with substance abuse.  In 2002 he is diagnosed with cancer of the abdominal lining. He is famously public about this terminal condition, telling the news media that he hopes to live long enough to see the next James Bond movie. Zevon accomplishes that and cancer takes his life on September 7, 2003. He is just 56 years old. With Mick Fleetwood and John McVie in the band, here is Warren Zevon and Werewolves of London:

 

Let’s go little darlin

buddy-holly-winter-dance-party-poster

The tour poster promotes current hits for each group.

Rock the Day We Will Lose Them All

The ill-fated Winter Dance Party tour begins on January 23, 1959 in Milwaukee at George Devine’s Million Dollar Ballroom. Buddy Holly (with a young Waylon Jennings on bass) is the headliner. Some powerful talent joins him on the bill: Ritchie Valens, Dion and the Belmonts, J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson and Frankie Sardo.  The poorly organized tour will hit eight more cities across frigid Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa before it plays the Surf in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 2. Of course that is the final performance, ever, for Holly, Valens and Richardson.  The next tour venue is Fargo, North Dakota, and Holly — weary of long rides in the drafty bus — charters a small plane for himself and his band (Jennings and Tommy Allsup). At the last minute, Jennings gives up his seat to Richardson, who has the flu. Allsup agrees to a coin flip to decide whether he or Valens gets the last seat. Valens “wins”.  On February 3, “the day the music died,” the little Beechcraft Bonanza crashes shortly after takeoff in a frozen cornfield near Clear Lake. The pilot, Holly, Valens and Richardson are killed. Here are songs promoted on the tour poster:



When the night meets the morning sun

Rock the Day Micki Harris and THE Girl Group

Micki

Micki

Many “girl groups” follow them, but the first (and still the greatest) will be The Shirelles. Member Addie “Micki” Harris is born on January 22, 1940 in Passaic, N.J. Micki attends Passaic High School, where she and her friends Shirley Alston Reeves, Beverly Lee and Doris Jackson form the group “the Poquellos,” (Spanish for “Little Birds”) for a school talent show. They are stunningly good and brought to the attention of Florence Greenberg, owner of a small recording label. They begin to record as The Shirelles (named after breathtakingly gorgeous lead singer Shirley Reeves), scoring an early success with Tonight’s the Night. In 1960, The Shirelles become the first “girl group” with a #1 hit : Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, penned by Carole King. The Shirelles pave the way for others, but where I come from, The Shirelles have no equals. Sadly for the world, Micki will suffer a fatal heart attack in 1982. Here are Micki and The Shirelles in a live 1964 performance of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?