Category Archives: Rock ‘n’ Roll

Music at an Art Fair that became a Festival

It’s Monday 18th August 1969 and the legendary Woodstock Music Festival – actually named as the ‘Woodstock Music & Art Fair’ – has come to an end.  Scheduled to run for three days on a New York dairy farm it has actually run for four and attracted an audience of more than 400,000 people – some with tickets – some without – with traffic jams for miles in every direction!

During a sometimes rainy weekend over 30 acts performed outdoors including the likes of Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Ravi Shankar.

The whole event then symbolized the 60s era of flower power; hippies; peace & love; marijuana and protests about the Vietnam War that is happening the other side of the world.  That ‘feeling’ remains still today to those that went to the Fair and those that wished that they had.

The newspapers of the day referred to the event as days and nights of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’.  Later it was widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history.  This year – 2017 – the festival site has been listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.

 

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‘It’s number 1 – it’s Top of the Pops!’ in 1969.

Many in Britain will know this headline coming across the airwaves.

In July 1969 the charts for 5th July showed the Edwin Hawkins Singers ‘Oh Happy Day’ at number 5; ‘Living in the Past’ by Jethrow Tull at 4; ‘The Ballard of John and Yoko’ by the Beatles at 3; ‘In the Ghetto’ by Elvis at 2 and ‘Something in the Air’  by Thunderclap Newman at 1.

12th July has Thunderclap, Elvis and the Beatles in situ but ‘Hello Susie‘ by Amen Corner had shot up from 14 to 4 pushing Jethro Tull to 5.

19th July still has no change at 1 and 2 but last week’s number 9 – the Rolling Stones ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ is now at number 3; the Plastic Ono Band has shot from 21 to 4 with ‘Give Peace a Chance’ causing ‘Hello Susie’ to slip down 1 to 5.

But we are looking at the situation on 26th July 1969 and at Number One – Top of the Pops is/are the Rolling Stones with their …….

‘Honky Tonk Woman’

This will stay at number 1 until 30th August when Zager & Evans’ ‘In the Year 2525’ knocks them down – to number 2!

Jo Douglas and Six-Five Special

An hour or so ago I was reminding ‘us of a certain age’ some music of 13th July.  This piece, though, touches the downside of my music recall.

It was on Wednesday 13th July 1988 that Josephine Douglas died.  Again there will be readers who ask ‘Who’s she?’.  But others of a certain age will remember her as the deviser, producer and co-presenter of ‘Six-Five Special’ on Saturday evening BBC TV. Without the aid of synthesisers, strobe lights, multi-track tapes, mime, colour and all the dressings of modern pop music ‘Jo’, as she was known, planted rock’n’roll firmly in the laps of people like me. With co-presenter Pete Murray she made the BBC very much aware of the fact that teenagers did exist – and could become avid watchers of programmes for them. The BBC may have been aware but it appears not to have listened. Despite its success the ‘Six-Five Special’ only ran from 16th February 1957 to 27th December 1958.  Other popular music programmes took its place but us of a certain era missed Jo on our TV screens and even more on her departure on this day in 1988.

Music of this day in years gone by

Do you like listening to current popular music?  I used to – but now I seem to live in the past.  The music I have in the car proves that.  Let’s take today – 13th July – as an example.

On 13th July 1957 Elvis Presley had just started a seven week stay at number one with ‘All Shook Up’.  It’s on one of the CDs in my car.

On 13th July 1958 the Everly Brothers were in the second week of a seven week stay with double sider ‘All I have to do is Dream/Claudette’.  Yes that’s in the car as well.

However the music of 13th July 1985 is not in the car – but it is in the cupboard.  So what is/was that I hear some of you asking.  Well  it was a dual-venue concert that was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London (attendance 72,000 people) and the John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia USA where around 100,000 people took part.  On this same day, concerts inspired by the initiative happened in other countries including Austria, Australia, Japan, the Soviet Union and West Germany making it one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time.  It was estimated that a global audience of 1.9 billion, across 150 nations, watched the live broadcasts.  What was this magical event?

It was Live Aid.

We can ‘Rock Around the Clock’ BEFORE the USA!

It was on this day – Monday 12th April 1954 – that Bill Haley and the Comets recorded ‘Rock Around the Clock’.  It was a song written by Max Freedman and Jimmy Deknight. Bill Haley recorded it at the Decca studios. It wasn’t the first rock’n’roll song, and Bill Haley wasn’t the first to record it. But somehow his version caught the mood of the moment. It is considered to be the song that brought rock and roll into mainstream culture all over the world. The song went to Number One in the UK and USA, and it was Bill Haley’s biggest hit.  Many fans consider this band to be as revolutionary as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and they were most certainly the earliest group of white musicians to bring rock and roll to the attention of America and the rest of the world.

Bill had left Essex Records in the spring of 1954 and signed for Decca and the band’s first recording session was set for April 12, 1954 at the Pythian Temple studios in New York City. The recording session almost failed to take place because the band was traveling on a ferry that got stuck on a sandbar on the way to New York from Philadelphia. Once at the studio, producer Milt Gabler insisted that the band work on a song entitled “Thirteen Women (and Only One Man in Town)” that he wanted to promote as the A-side on the group’s first Decca single.  Near the end of the session, the band finally recorded a take of “Rock Around the Clock” but Bill’s vocals were drowned out by the band. A quick second take was made with minimal accompaniment.  Why the ‘minimal?’ – Sammy Davis Jr was waiting outside the studio for his turn behind the mike!

It is said that the Decca engineers later combined the two versions together into one version but Johnny Grande, the Comets piano player, tells a slightly different version, claiming that the only reason a second take was recorded was that the drummer made an error!

Whatever is the truth – ‘Rock’ took the lead with the ‘Thirteen Women’ on the flip side and ‘Rock around the Clock’ became the first of the group’s nine singles in the Top 20 between then and 1956.

Many musicians have claimed that they performed on the recording session for “Rock Around the Clock” but, according to the official record sheet from the session, the musicians on the famous recording were:  Bill Haley on vocals and rhythm guitar; Marshall Lyle on string bass; Franny Beecher on guitar; Joey Ambrose [aka Joey D’Ambrosio] on tenor saxophone; Billy Williamson on steel guitar; Johnny Grande on piano; Billy Gussak on drums and Danny Cedrone on electric guitar.

It was on Friday 9th July 1955 that “Rock Around the Clock” became the first rock and roll recording to hit the top of the US Billboard’s Pop charts, a feat it repeated on charts around the world.  On Billboard the song stayed at the top for eight weeks.

However – in the UK the record was released on Brunswick Records and reached number 17 on the UK Singles Chart in January 1955 – four months before it first entered the US pop charts!  This wasn’t the only entry it had in the UK because it re-entered the UK chart and hit number one in November 1955 for three weeks, dropped off the top for three weeks and then returned to the top for another two weeks in January 1956.  It made another re-entry in September 1956, reaching number 5. The track was re-issued in 1968 and made number 20, and again in 1974, when it reached number 12. The song’s original release saw it become the UK’s first million selling single and it went on to sell over 1.4 million copies in total!