On this day in 1967, The Beatles continued work on arguably their best song, "A Day in the Life." After a debate over how to end the track following the huge orchestral build-up (sustained choral vocals were considered, but scrapped), the group decided to simultaneously strike a massive E chord on three pianos and sustain the notes for as long as possible. Adding overdubs (and a contribution from producer George Martin on harmonium), the final resonating notes hang in the air for over 40 seconds on the recording. As the held chords faded on the pianos in the studio, the engineer had to crank the recording level, which picked up some incidental sounds (like a creaking chair and, certainly, something about Paul being dead) from the studio.
That E-major chord that closes the song — and the whole Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, considered one of the best ever — is widely considered one of the most famous chords in Rock/Pop history. Which means that The Beatles are responsible for the most popular opening chord in modern music — the mysterious G7sus4-ish that kicks off "A Hard Day's Night" — and the most notable final chord with the "A Day in the Life" finale.
Below is audio of BTO guitarist Randy Bachman explaining the "Hard Day's" chord mystery (frustrated guitarists should feel better about their inability to figure it out), followed by today's biggest Pop superstar performing that famed final note from Sgt. Peppers.
Click the jump for "Born This Day" featuring live footage from one of the final Sublime concerts with Bradley Nowell.
On this day in 1994, the MTV Movie Awards paid tribute to The Beatles with a special performance by the band that recorded the Beatles songs (or rather, the songs The Beatles covered in their early days) for the soundtrack to the film Backbeat.
As seen in the clip below, the band included Hamilton, Ohio's Greg Dulli of the recently reunited Afghan Whigs, Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum, Don Fleming of Gumball, Mike Mills of R.E.M., Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Dave Grohl, in his first performance since Kurt Cobain's death just three months earlier.
The best part of this may be Dulli and Moore wrestling mid-song.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 4 birthday include Jazz singer Morgana King (1930); Mexican-American Country, Rock and Tejano musician/singer Freddy Fender (1937); Mamas & Papas singer turned actress Michelle Phillips (1944); late guitarist with Paul McCartney's Wings, Jimmy McCulloch (1953); New Jack Swing/R&B vocalist Al B. Sure! (1968); Canadian-born, British-based Electronic musician/DJ Richie Hawtin (1970); Soul/Funk artist Nikka Costa (1972); Dave Matthews Band bassist Stefan Lessard (1974); and R&B comebacker (and co-founder of "family band" DeBarge) El DeBarge (1961).
DeBarge is one of those celebrities who have unfortunately had to deal with public attention and scrutiny while attempting to overcome his addiction to drugs. He death with ensuing legal problems, cleaned up and made a highly-touted, Grammy-nominated comeback album in 2010 appropriately titled Second Chance (his first in almost 20 years).
DeBarge's triumphant return included a set at the 2011 Macy's Music Festival in Cincinnati. He also sang with Chaka Khan during her set.
DeBarge has struggled since the release of Second Chance, returning to treatment — he told Atlanta radio station V103 that friends 50 Cent and Babyface (who co-produced the comeback album) intervened and insisted he not give up and return to rehab. And, just this past March, he got arrested for "suspicion of possession of drugs for sale." (The case was dropped because the judge said there was not enough evidence.)
He's clearly still fighting his demons. And so are some of his family members. Just about a week ago, an arrest warrant was issued for brother Mark DeBarge for drug possession charges in Hollywood.
Hopefully they'll all get things worked out before it's too late. El DeBarge reportedly met with Whitney Houston at a party two days before her untimely passing. That has to be a wake-up call.
As long as he's musically on point, fans will continue to give him second, third, fourth or more chances.
Today in 1996, one of the greatest, most influential bassists ever, Bernard Edwards of Disco/Funk group Chic, passed away after contracting pneumonia while on tour in Japan.
My personal favorite bass line is Sly Stone's lick on "If You Want Me to Stay," but it's hard to deny the power of Chic's "Good Times," a Disco-era hit that helped lay the groundwork for Hip Hop. Edwards' bass line from the song is considered one of the most sampled pieces of music ever and it has been mimicked almost as often. Songs that wouldn't exist with Edwards' riff include Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," Hip Hop trailblazers Sugarhill Gang's breakthrough "Rapper's Delight," Blondie's "Rapture," Daft Punk's "Around the World" and Wham!'s "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)" (hey, they can't all be winners).
R.I.P Bernard Edwards. And thanks for the groove.
Click on for Born This Day featuring Bez, Skip Spence, Grandmaster Caz and Robert Christgau.
Today marks the 60th anniversary of what is widely considered the first Rock & Roll concert, DJ Alan Freed's deliciously monikered "Moondog Coronation Ball." The concert (co-produced by local record store owner Leo Mintz) was another testament to the underrated importance of Ohio in the development of Rock & Roll, taking place in Cleveland at the Cleveland Arena, which hosted hockey and basketball games (it was demolished in 1977). Freed, of course, was the great Cleveland DJ (and "King of the Moondogers") who was crucial in the popularization of Rock & Roll, introducing both the genre's name and the music to the world through his radio program on AM station WJW.
In an era when segregation was very much prevalent in society, the Moondog Coronation Ball drew attention for its unsegregated bill, featuring both black and white performers, as well as welcoming both black and white fans to attend. (Freed's black fans were reportedly shocked to discover at the concert that the DJ was actually white.) The popularity of this new-fangled Rock & Roll music became apparent the evening of the show when wwaaaaayyy more people showed up for the concert than the arena could accommodate. The arena held just under 10,000 people, but 20,000 turned up, partly due to additional tickets being accidentally printed. Fans stormed the gates, overcrowding the arena and leading the media to call it a "riot" (adding to Rock & Roll's reputation for being "dangerous," which only made it more popular). The Moondog Coronation Ball is still held today, though the excitement level, of course, is a little more muted.
Read more about that historic concert from the BBC (which declares that the Moondog event "laid the foundations for every rock gig that followed, from Woodstock to Glastonbury") here. Here's a clip from a documentary about Freed (the concert is discussed at around the 4:30 mark) by fellow DJ Frank Allan. (Be sure to check out this excellent site maintained by Freed's family about the legendary music man.)
Click on for Born This Day featuring DJ Premier, Solomon Burke, Deryck Whibley and Son House.
On this day in 1987, the Beastie Boys' debut LP Licensed to Ill became the first Rap/Hip Hop album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard album charts. Though the band members today seem embarrassed by some of the ridiculousness evident all over the album (including, no doubt, the Wiffle Ball Bat-assisted sexual assault references), it could have been worse for the now-enlightened MCs, who originally wanted to title the record, Don't Be a Faggot. Columbia refused to release anything by that name so the group was eventually convinced to go with something a little less … dumb.
In 1999, Beastie Adam Horovitz wrote a letter to Time Out New York apologizing for their youthful indiscretions on that first album, saying he wanted to "formally apologize to the entire gay and lesbian community for the shitty and ignorant things we said on our first record. There are no excuses. But time has healed our stupidity. … We hope that you’ll accept this long overdue apology."
The Boys' still perform bits of Ill, but with some careful self-editing. Here they are doing "Brass Monkey" at Madison Square Garden a few years back.
But what we really wanna know is … when does Tom Carvel get his even-longer overdue apology?
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a March 7 birthday include celebrated French composer Maurice Ravel (1875); legendary Jazz sideman and producer, late drummer Lee Young (1917); one of the greatest frontmen in Rock & Roll history, J. Geils Band's Peter Wolf (1946); the man who played one of the most recognizable organ solos in Rock on "Whiter Shade of Pale," Procol Harum's Matthew Fischer (1946); Pop/Dance music performer Taylor Dane (1962); singer/songwriter for Louisville based Hard Rock crew Tantric, Hugo Ferreira (1974); and multi-instrumentalist with Funk/R&B/Rock & Roll legends The Isley Brothers, Ernie Eisley (1952).
Ernie Eisley was born in Cincinnati 60 years ago and he joined his brothers' group when he was old enough, playing bass on the band's "comeback" hit, the funky "It's Your Thing," in 1969. His bros — led by Ronald Isley — were already hugely successful, selling a million copies of their 1959 single "Shout," not to mention "This Old Heart of Mine" and "Twist and Shout," which, of course, became one of the group's biggest songs thanks to a cover version by a little British band called The Beatles.
When Ernie teamed up with his brothers, they became more of a "band" than a "vocal group," and enjoyed a long string of hits for which Ernie was crucial (either as songwriter or player), including "Fight the Power," "Between the Sheets" and a reworked version of their older tune "That Lady," this time featuring an amazing Rock guitar lead from Ernie.
The group split in the ’80s — Ernie found success with Isley-Jasper-Isley, the group formed with brother Marvin and his brother-in-law — and joined forces again in 1991; littlest bro Marvin retired in 1997 (and passed away two years ago), leaving only Ernie and Ronald. In 2001, the Isleys hit the charts with "Contagious," which made them the only group to have a Top 100 hit in six decades in a row (from the ’50s-’00s). The Isleys were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — a no-brainer, really — in 1992. While Ronald embraced being embraced by contemporary R&B and Hip Hop artists from R. Kelly to Tupac Shakur (and spent some time in the jail for tax evasion in more recent years), Ernie retreated from the spotlight somewhat, working with community groups and schools in St. Louis, where he now lives. But he still hits the road from time to time with Ronald and has continued to work as a solo artist.
Ernie has also participated in the "Experience Hendrix" tribute tours of the past few years. It's fitting — Hendrix played guitar with the Isleys when Ernie was 11 years old, even living with the Isley family in New Jersey for a couple of years before becoming hugely successful on his own.
Here's a fantastic archival video from Soul Train featuring The Isleys performing "That Lady."
On this day in 1991, Country superstar Reba McEntire lost eight members of her touring entourage when their charter plane crashed near San Diego, late at night after Reba and the band had performed a corporate gig for IBM. McEntire and her husband received the news at their hotel room nearby where they'd been sleeping. On a recent episode of Oprah's Master Class, hosted by Oprah on the Oprah channel, McEntire recalled the moment she got the news, calling it "the worst thing that's ever happened in my life." She had been extremely close with the musicians and her tour manager, some of whom had been with her for many years.
That October, McEntire released For My Broken Heart, dedicated to her lost friends. The album (her 18th) featured songs about loss and recovery; in the liner notes, McEntire called it "a form of healing for all our broken hearts." The album made it to No. 3 on the overall album charts and No. 1 on the Country charts (pretty much a forgone conclusion when Reba puts out a record); the title track became her 16th No. 1 Country single and the album's "Is There Life Out There" became her 17th.
Click on for Born This Day featuring Flavor Flav, Patty Griffin and "The Hug Guy":
On this date in 1949, American musical icon Hank Williams made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 25. It was the beginning of a very difficult relationship.
Even though things soured, Williams' Opry debut was a career-defining moment. The singer/songwriter wowed the crowd so much, he was called back for six encores (the encores ultimately had to be halted so the rest of the show could go on).
Williams' reputation for heavy drinking put off the Opry initially, but as his star continued to rise — boosted by the success of "Lovesick Blues" (recorded at the Herzog studio here in CIncinnati) — the Country music institution finally relented and invited him to perform.
Williams continued to make Opry appearances over the next three years, but he was banished in 1952 for his alcohol-related issues. Hank died just a few months later, in January of 1953 at the age of 29.
Over the past eight or so years, Hank Williams' grandson, Hank III, and other supporters have participated in a campaign to have Williams posthumously reinstated to the Grand Ole Opry. CityBeat also lent a hand, promoting the "Reinstate Hank" campaign during a tribute presented by the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation in honor of Hank's historic recording sessions in Cincinnati (Herzog studios was located where CityBeat and the CMHF headquarters now reside). Check a clip below.
The reinstatement campaign has yet to work and seems to have lost some steam. But click here to learn more about the attempts to right such a ridiculous wrong.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 11 birthday include the least hirsute (ironically!) member of ZZ Top, drummer Frank Beard (1949); Soft Rock god with Air Supply, Graham Russell (1950); guitarist/singer of Southern Rock group .38 Special, Donnie Van Zandt (1952); Flaming Lips drummer-turned-guitarist Steven Drozd (1969); and Heartless Bastards singer/guitarist Erika Wennerstrom (1977).
Though she and her band are currently based in Austin, Tex., Wennerstrom grew up in Dayton before relocating to Cincinnati. As Wennerstrom has grown, matured, changed and become more confident, so has her band's music. After releasing her first two albums, Wennerstrom headed to Texas and retooled the band, adding two different musicians also from our area — Jesse Ebaugh and Dave Colvin — who joined Wennerstrom in Austin. Since then, the Bastards' albums The Mountain (a more earthy, less balls-out effort) and this year's Arrow (a great combination of everything the band does well) have continued the trend of each successive HB album drawing the group higher praise and more fans.
A happy 35th b-day to Erika. We miss you here in Cincy. Below, check out an interview and acoustic session recorded for American Songwriter.
On this day in 1989, Pepsi dropped Madonna as a spokesperson after complaints about her "blasphemous" video for the single (also used in the Pepsi commercial campaign) "Like A Prayer." The Vatican condemned the video for its imagery of burning crosses and Madonna kissing a black man, while religious groups called for a boycott of all Pepsi-affiliated products. The soft drink manufacturer caved and cut and run from the Pop princess. But Pepsi gave Madonna a nice parting gift — the company was so eager to get away from the controversy that they let her keep her $5 million (yes, million) advance.
Thirty years earlier, another music-related controversy erupted in the U.K. when the BBC decided that The Coasters' song "Charlie Brown" was not fit for airplay. Was it that the Peanuts comic strip was too controversial? Peppermint Patty's sexuality has always been a topic of debate. Were they afraid the youth of England would all mimic Charlie Brown's sparse curly-Q hairdo, essentially killing off the hair-care product industry? Was Pigpen's personal hygiene deficiency deemed a bad influence?
Nope — the BBC was worried about the song because it contained the word "spitball" and they were fearful kids all over would be inspired to destroy society with saliva-drenched missiles. Unlike Pepsi, the Beeb reversed its decision a couple of weeks later, apparently realizing how ridiculous the "ban" was.
Here are clips relating to both controversies. Watch at your own risk!