On this day in 2003, The Rolling Stones were slated to perform in China and, like certain big tech companies, were keen to oblige the nation's government in order to take advantage of the lucrative marketplace. The event came as China seemed ready to fully embrace Western popular music performers; since Wham! broke the barrier in the mid ’80s, the country has allowed performers from Sonic Youth and Linkin Park to Public Enemy, Nine Inch Nails and Ill Divo the chance to come play for their Chinese fans without much fuss. That was until the "Bjork incident," when the Icelandic singer performed in Shanghai in March of 2008 and attempted to lead the crowd in a chant of "Tibet! Tibet!," according to reports in Rolling Stone. That led to even more vetting before artists are allowed to play the country.
But even in the salad years of westerners performing in China, the country had tight restrictions and guidelines. While even Ed Sullivan allowed the Stones to perform "Let's Spend The Night Together" with altered lyrics ("Let's spend some time together"), the Chinese government wasn't so permissive, reportedly demanding set-list approval before the show could go on. The band was told they could not play four of their biggest hits due to apparently salacious lyrical content — "Best of Burden," Brown Sugar," "Honky Tonk Women" and the aforementioned "Spend the Night."
Those shows ultimately ended up canceled due to an issue in China of a bit more importance — the SARS outbreak — but the band did return in 2006 and played by the rules, leaving those classics out of their sets.
So here's a chance to not take your country's freedoms for granted. Watch this old clip of "Let's Send the Night Together" from a 1967 episode of Top of the Pops and sing along as loud as you can.
Click on for Born This Day featuring Liza Minnelli, Al Jarreau, James Taylor and Blur's Graham Coxon.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a March 12 birthday include Jazz singer Al Jarreau (1940); singer/actress Liza Minnelli (1946); Soft Rock legend James Taylor (1948); bassist for Metal icons Iron Maiden, Steve Harris (1956); and guitarist for BritPop champs Blur, Graham Coxon (1969).
Australia dragged out INXS and Canada put Bryan Adams up as representatives of their respective cultures when those countries hosted recent Olympics. Britain has a lot more notable musicians to showcase, leading to impossible "Beatles to reunite!" rumors as soon as it was announced that England would host this year's summer games. When it was announced that filmmaker Danny Boyle would produce the closing ceremonies, it became clear that the musical reps would at least be hipper than Herman's Hermits (though hopefully Boyle won't work creepy Trainspotting-style ghost babies into the extravaganza … or James Franco's severed arm, for that matter).
Indeed, Blur — in the midst of a string of reunion (or rather broken-hiatus return) dates since 2009 — were booked to play the closing party, representing the BritPop explosion that created a mini-version of the British Invasion in the ’90s. I bet Noel and Liam Gallagher have some choice words about that selection (and anything else you care to ask them about). Blur is currently also working on a new album with its original lineup.
Blur is set to headline the closing of the 2012 Summer Olympics in Hyde Park alongside The Specials and New Order. Here's Blur performing at the recent BRIT Awards, where their closing set forced Adele's acceptance speech to be cut short (Blur had no idea), resulting in a middle finger salute from the singer. Blur was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Music award at the ceremonies.