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by Mike Breen 03.23.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary at 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jim_morrison_penis?

This Date in Music History: March 23

Teens rally against The Doors in Miami and Chaka Khan earns late-career accolades

On this day in 1969, a reported 30,000 people showed up at the Orange Bowl in Miami for the "Rally for Decency," a response to singer Jim Morrison's alleged "indecent exposure " during a concert by classic rockers The Doors three weeks earlier. One of the more infamous arrests in the history of Rock & Roll, an apparently wasted Morrison was reportedly erratic throughout the Miami show; Morrison's people admitted as much, but the evidence that the Lizard King pulled Lil Jim out during the show was never ironclad. Despite tons of photographers in attendance, there wasn't one shot of Morrison whipping it out onstage. (Some in the audience insisted he exposed himself, but others said it appeared Morrison was doing that third grade trick where kids poke their index finger out of their zipper to create the illusion of a penis. Today, it's widely reported that Morrison merely simulated masturbating on stage, which Lady Gaga does every time she goes grocery shopping.) 

The Rally for Decency was organized by local teens from an area church in response to the incident. Conservative politicians took great joy in the event; like the right wing "wedge issuing" of today, it was a great way to keep people afraid of scary popular music and rally them to their anti-counterculture side. Morrison's behavior was indicative of the threat Americans faced if the longhairs were not defeated in the culture wars of the time.

Just like when there's a big GOP rally today and you can be sure people like The Statler Brothers and Kid Rock are going to make an appearance, the "decency" rally drew a who's-who of squares — according to a report that ran in The New York Times, the guest list included Kate "God Bless America" Smith, white-bread vocal group The Lettermen, Mickey Mouse Club member Anita Bryant and actor/comedian Jackie Gleason, whose huge appetite for alcohol was not only well known, but celebrated (the famous quote, "I'm no alcoholic. I'm a drunkard. There's a difference. A drunkard doesn't like to go to meetings," is credited to the former Honeymooners star, who, of course, also made threatening your wife with violence a running gag on his hit show.) 

At the rally, Gleason expressed some wishful thinking, reportedly saying, ""I believe this kind of movement will snowball across the United States and perhaps around the world." Tricky Dick Nixon (another wonderful example of impeccable morals) also expressed support, writing a letter to the teen who headed up the rally that read, in part, "This very positive approach which focused attention on a number of critical problems confronting society strengthens my belief that the younger generation is our greatest natural resource and therefore of tremendous hope for the future." 

Eventual culture war veteran Pat Buchanan (then a Nixon aide) gave Nixon a note during his briefings the day after the rally that showed evidence that the administration's interest was politically motivated. It read, "The pollution of young minds … an extremely popular issue, one on which we can probably get a tremendous majority of Americans" (according to history.com). 

The rally, of course, failed to get rid of the evil counterculture. And the world hasn't ended. (Yet.)

Morrison died in Paris in 1971 while his indecency case was being appealed (according to Rolling Stone, he was found guilty of indecent exposure and "open profanity" after his 1970 trial). In December of 2010, Florida's Clemency Board pardoned Morrison at the request of departing Florida governor Charlie Crist. 

Here's an hour-long concert by The Doors at the Hollywood Bowl. So as to not cause society to crumble once it is viewed, we scoured the footage thoroughly for any intentional or inadvertent penis flashing. You should be safe.

Click on for Born This Day featuring David Grisman, Damon Albarn and Chaka Khan.

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by Mike Breen 03.22.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music History at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
pict1001

This Date in Music History: March 22

Queen gets denied by MTV and Angelo Badalamenti is a soundtracking genius

On this day in 1984, Rock legends Queen started filming the music video for their song, "I Want to Break Free." Queen was a band that embraced the concept of music videos early on. The current Spectacle exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center, about the history of music videos and where it's at today, cites the band as a vanguard act of the video age thanks to early clips for songs like "We Will Rock You"/"We Are the Champions" and, especially, "Bohemian Rhapsody."

By 1984, MTV was finding its legs and providing an outlet for new clips by artists; in the early days, the network had little to chose from to fill 24 hours a day with vids, so they played anything available, including those early Queen clips. The "I Want to Break Free" video featured the band members dressed as women in a parody of suburban life and British evening soap operas. The clip had Freddie Mercury decked out in a short skirt, tight sweater, big falsies, a wig and that trademark mustache, running the vacuum cleaner. It also featured Mercury in his more familiar uniform — leather pants, no shirt and that trademark chest hair —  and classic ’80s music video elements like choreographed dancers prancing in the haze from a smoke machine.

The clip was well received (and the single did well) in the U.K., but not so much in the U.S., thanks in part to MTV's decision to "ban" it from the network (a clear sign they were becoming less desperate for music clips to air now that everyone was starting to make them). It wouldn't run on the network until 1991.

Cross-dressing had become fairly common in Rock & Roll by that point. The Rolling Stones, New York Dolls and David Bowie had all playfully donned women's clothing for album covers, live shows, videos and photo shoots. For some weird, unclear reason, Queen weren't allowed to indulge in that bit of cheeky humor — perhaps because Mercury was a rare "out" gay man in the public eye during a time when AIDS had so many people in a panic (Mercury told NME in 1974, "I am as gay as a daffodil, my dear." I'm assuming NME said back, "No shit.")

Straight or bi guys in drag were cool with MTV, apparently, but if the cross-dresser is gay … well, God forbid anyone in the U.S. be exposed to that.

Kind of odd to think of MTV playing moral watchdog given the tripe of reality-exploitation shows about teen moms and drunken boneheads that infest the channel. And they play videos by that transvestite Lady Gaga all the time. (Note: I've been informed that Lady Gaga is not a transvestite, but actually a woman. My apologies to Ms. Gaga, her fans and her family.)

Below is a cool, hour-long documentary on Queen from the BBC called Days of Our Lives. At about the 21 minute mark, the film addresses the "Break Free" controversy. Guitarist Brian May seems to believe the banning of the video by MTV killed Queen's chances of bigger success in the states during those latter years (he doesn't mention that the song was also not very good). 

Queen remains an important band to many Rock fans and musicians, their influence more evident in some of the music of today's younger artists' music than it has been for decades (think Foxy Shazam or My Chemical Romance).

The "Break Free" clip follows to doc. Weirdly, the version posted on the official Queen YouTube page is labeled as unsuitable for certain audiences and requires users to sign in to view it. Seems people are still incredibly afraid of a man in a leather dress, fake tits and giant hot pink earrings. (It sure didn't hurt Rudy Giuliani's career.)



Click on for Born This Day featuring Shatner, Stephanie Mills and Angelo Badalamenti.

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by Mike Breen 03.21.2012
Posted In: Music History at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
moondog_poster

This Date in Music History: March 21

The first Rock & Roll concert and Son House's 110th birthday

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.

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by Mike Breen 03.20.2012
Posted In: Music History at 08:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
dixie

This Date in Music History: March 20

Wrong Right attacks right Dixie Chicks and a tribute to Lee "Scratch" Perry

On this day in 2003, the Iraq war quagmire began. Depending on where you stand and your perspective of "facts," the war was a) a huge mistake based on fabricated information, b) a nobly-intentioned-attack-turned-Bush-administration-blooper ("Whoops, sorry!"), or c) a perfectly reasonable military operation that spread democracy and made Toby Keith a billionaire.

It is estimated the war has killed well over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and displaced over 2 million. Our government claims that 4,422 Americans have died as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom (and over 31,000 have been injured).

The South Carolina State Legislature marked the beginning of the war by attacking a Country music trio. State Rep. Catherine Ceips introduced a resolution that commanded the Dixie Chicks to apologize to President Bush for daring to say in front of an audience in London that they were embarrassed to be from the same state (Texas) as W.

Chick Natalie Maines DID apologize a week before, saying she should not have been disrespectful to the Prez. But it apparently didn't matter and the Chicks became another tool used to raise support for the war. In an interview with Tom Brokaw a month later, Bush said that the group members had a right to say what they wanted. But, "I don't really care what the Dixie Chicks said. I want to do what I think is right for the American people." Whoopsie.

Despite Bush being the one proved wrong, no one EVER apologized to the Dixie Chicks, who lost a substantial amount of money due to the ginned-up controversy.

On that same day, Bruce Springsteen played a concert in Australia and dedicated "Land of Hope and Dreams" to "innocent Iraqi civilians." He opened the show with his stunning acoustic version of "Born in the U.S.A.," followed by a cover of Edwin Starr's "War (What Is It Good For)."

Click on for Born This Day featuring Chester Bennington, Natacha Atlas, Jerry Reed and Lee "Scratch" Perry.

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by Mike Breen 03.19.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music History at 09:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mlb/wood

This Date in Music History: March 19

Musicians who died too soon and happy birthday to Terry Hall of The Specials

This date in music history is a sad one, marking the "gone too soon" deaths of several young musicians with a lot ahead of them.

• Guitarist Paul Kossoff was the cofounder of British Rock band Free with singer Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser. The band's 1970 Fire and Water album spawned the band's best-known song, "All Right Now," but the band split by the end of that year. They reformed in 1972 and put out two more albums before calling it quits for good. Kossoff did solo work, played with many other artists and formed a band called Back Street Crawler. The guitarist was in poor health in the years after Free, reportedly due to drug problems and frustration over the demise of his most successful musical project. Kossoff died on a flight from L.A. to New York in 1976 from heart problems. His father spent the rest of his life campaigning against the perils of drug abuse, even doing a touring one-man show about his son. Kossoff's headstone contains the epitaph, "All Right Now."

Kossoff was 25.



• When the "Proto Grunge" band Green River broke up in 1988, the band split into two new groups. Mark Arm and Steve Turner formed the influential Mudhoney, while Bruce Fairweather, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard formed the glammy Rock band Mother Love Bone with young, enigmatic singer Andrew Wood. MLB signed with PolyGram and released an EP. Then, just days before its debut album was to be released, Wood was found passed out by his girlfriend. He had overdosed on heroin. Placed on life support, Wood died three days after being admitted to the hospital, on this date in 1990. (Ament and Gossard would solider on, finding a new singer — Eddie Vedder — and forming Pearl Jam.)

Wood was 24.



• Drummer Jeff Ward was a successful drummer from the Ministry camp, meaning he worked with bands like Revolting Cocks, Lard and, of course, Ministry. Ward also spent time playing drums with Nine Inch Nails. The drummer (who also worked with a band called Low Pop Suicide) committed suicide on this date in 1993 by locking himself in his garage with the car running.

Ward was 30. Here's a track from another Ministry side project, 1000 Homo DJs, featuring Ward on "cop vocals."


Click on for Born This Day featuring Bun B, Billy Sheehan, Ricky Wilson and Terry Hall:

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by Mike Breen 03.16.2012
Posted In: Music History at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
reba-mcentire-for-my-broken-heart

This Date in Music History: March 16

Reba loses her band and Dave Matthews introduces Judah Friedlander to the world

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":

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by Mike Breen 03.15.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary at 09:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
prance

This Date in Music History: March 15

Prince is inducted into the Rock Hall and Lightnin' Hopkins' 100th birthday

On this day in 2004, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted a fairly heady class of artists, welcoming Traffic, ZZ Top, The Dells, Jackson Browne, Bob Seger, George Harrison and Prince. Prince was inducted by Alicia Keys and the notoriously shy singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist gave a slightly humbled (for Prince, at least), short speech of acceptance (he couldn't resist mentioning his efforts to get out of his contract with Warner Bros. — at least he didn't paint "Slave" on his face again). Below is his speech from that night (from rockhall.com):

"Please be seated. Thank you Alicia ... thank you Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s definitely an honor. I don’t want to take up too much time, but I would like to say this. When I first started out in the music industry, I was most concerned with freedom. Freedom to produce, freedom to play all the instruments on my records, freedom to say anything I wanted to, and after much negotiation Warner Brothers Records granted me that freedom and I thank them. Without any real spiritual mentors other than artists ... whose records I admired ... Larry Graham being one of them ... I embarked on a journey more fascinating than I could ever have imagined. But a word to the wise. Without real spiritual mentoring, too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay. And a word to the young artists ... a real friend or mentor is not on your table. A real friend and mentor cares for your soul as much as they do the other one. This world and its wicked systems becomes harder and harder to deal with without a real friend or mentor. And I wish all of you the best."

Prince's performance during the tribute to Harrison (who had died just a few years before his solo induction) was much ballyhooed for his stunning guitar solo, a reminder of just how multifaceted the eccentric performer's talents really were/are. Check the clip below.


Click on for Born This Day featuring would've-been 100-year-old Lightnin' Hopkins.

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by Mike Breen 03.14.2012
Posted In: Music History at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
sgt.pepper

This Date in Music History: March 14

The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's' shoot and where have all the novelty songs gone?

On this day in 2001, British Pop Art legend Sir Peter Blake sued EMI for more money for his work on a 1967 album cover. That cover is not only his most well-known piece of art — it's also one of the most well-known album covers in history. Blake and wife Jann Haworth created the collaged crowd scene on the cover of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. And they were paid about $350 for their trouble, according to Blake's suit.

The cover included cultural icons from Stan Laurel, Mae West, Lenny Bruce and Tony Curtis to Aldous Huxley, Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan, Carl Jung and Shirley Temple. The use of their likenesses reportedly so scared the label (which feared major lawsuits from the "celebrities"), they had to try and seek permission (whenever possible) for use.

Lennon's (possibly joking) suggestion of having Hitler, Gandhi and Jesus represented on the cover also didn't go over well with the label. Gandhi was featured on the original cover, but was removed because it wouldn't be carried in India. Jesus didn't make the cut at all, coming so soon after Lennon's infamous claims of The Beatles being more famous than Him. Hitler was believed to have been edited out, though Blake recently revealed that if you look carefully, Adolf is obscured behind the Fab Four and Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller. Actor Leo Gorcey (one of the Bowery Boys) reportedly wanted $400 for his appearance on the cover — $50 more than what the artists' received for making it — so he was promptly axed from the pic. And Mexican actor/comedian Tin-Tan respectfully declined and asked that a "Tree of Life" be included in his place (it was, featured in the lower right corner).

Here's a good run down of the others that did make the cut. And check out this video montage of outtakes from the famous photo shoot:

Click on for Born This Day featuring Rick Dees and the death of the American novelty tune.

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by Mike Breen 03.13.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
chef_dead

This Date in Music History: March 13

Scientology and 'South Park' kill Chef, plus Common's uncommon backlash

On this day in 1911, pulp fiction/sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard — who would go on to develop the self-help "Dianetics" program as well as found the Scientology religion — was born. Ninety five years later (to the day), one of his disciples, legendary Soul man Isaac Hayes, asked to be released from his contract with South Park (on which he brilliantly voiced the character Chef) following the cartoon's skewering of the Scientology movement. Hayes initially said he didn't mind the pair's satire of his religion, saying they were equal opportunity offenders, but someone from the "church" must've gotten to him, because he gradually shifted that position. Some reports emerged later that Hayes' announcement was written by someone else; essentially "someone quit for him," Fox News reported.

Still, Hayes was granted his release immediately, though creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone brought him back for an episode (with cobbled together audio previously recorded for other shows), essentially to kill his character off. The episode aired a mere nine days after Hayes (or someone representing Hayes) quit the show.  

Hayes passed away about two years later from complications from a stroke he suffered about six months after leaving South Park. Fortunately, Hayes' contribution to music was so large, the cartoon mess didn't impact his legacy too much. It still begs the question of what was worse for Hayes' career — Scientology or South Park?

Last year, a former Scientologist revealed a memo he claimed was from a higher up in the church who was "investigating" Parker and Stone, allegedly spying on the duo and their associates to dig up dirt. According to the former church member, the memos also show that the church gave up its investigation after not finding any weaknesses to exploit. The Church of Scientology has been repeatedly accused of such intimidation factors involving critics and former members who talk about the religion.

I, for one, have nothing against Scientology specifically, and wish all Scientologists the best of luck in reaching the highest level of their spirituality and one day meeting the church's alien overlords (or whatever it is they believe). So please don't start spying on me and digging through my garbage. You'll only find discarded debt collection notices, well-used Victoria Secret catalogs and empty beer cans, anyway. Heil, Hubbard!

And let's all remember Hayes as one of the baddest muthas in Soul music history and not the celebrity who was guided/misguided by his chosen spiritual beliefs or that fat cartoon character who falls off a cliff to his gruesome death on South Park. (Though, you have to admit, that "Chocolate Salty Balls" song was the jam.) Here he is in all his glory:

Click on for Born This Day, featuring Mike Stoller, Terence Blanchard and Common.

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by Mike Breen 03.12.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music History at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
nyahnyahchina

This Date in Music History: March 12

The Stones censored in China and Blur to headline the Olympics

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.

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