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.
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.
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.
Today is the 15th anniversary of the murder of celebrated rapper Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls, aka Big Poppa, etc., etc.). Since his death, Wallace's status has risen considerably and he's widely considered one of the best MCs to ever hold a mic, for both his smooth, laid-back flow and lyrical prowess.
Caught in the middle of the East Coast/West Coast feuding of the time, Wallace (a NYC native) was killed while in California promoting his soon to be released sophomore album, eerily titled (in hindsight, as was his debut's title, Ready to Die) Life After Death. On March 9, Smalls attended the Soul Train awards show in L.A., where he presented Toni Braxton with one of two awards she would win that night (and was booed by the West-leaning coastal feuders in the audience). Wallace left an afterparty at 12:30 a.m. later that night and, about 50 yards from the party entrance, a black Chevy Impala reportedly pulled up next to the vehicle the MC was in and someone in the Impala shot Wallace four times in the chest. He was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead March 9 at 1:15 a.m.
Despite various theories, confessions and extensive investigations, the case, like that of West Coast star rapper Tupac Shakur (killed about six months prior in similar fashion), remains unsolved.
Life After Death came out 15 days after Wallace's murder. It went to No. 1 on Billboard's album chart instantly. Two more posthumous B.I.G. records were cobbled together — 1999's Born Again, featuring tracks culled from unfinished ones on which Wallace had been working, and the similar Duets: The Final Chapter from 2005, which was widely criticized due to the posthumous pairings with artists many felt Wallace would never have worked with in his lifetime. The album's guests included Eminem, Twista, The Game, Nas, Nelly, Scarface, Missy Elliott, R. Kelly, Bob Marley (?!), Korn (?!?!) and West Coast MCs Snoop Dogg and 2Pac. Amazingly, unlike the posthumously prolific 2Pac, the album really was "The Final Chapter"; the only other Biggie releases to come out after that were a 2007 greatest hits collection and the 2009 soundtrack to the film Notorious, based on Wallace's life and death.
Time magazine's website posted a music video playlist tribute today here. And below is "Living In Pain" from the Duets release, which featured Big and Pac, plus still-alive performers Nas and singer Mary J. Blige:
Click on for Born This Day, featuring Bow Wow, John Cale and Ornette Coleman.
On this day in 1993, two blissfully ignorant adolescents named Beavis and Butt-Head became instant superstars when their Mike Judge-created TV series began its run on MTV. The episodes "Door to Door" and "Give Blood" were the first to air as a series (the notorious "Frog Baseball" and "Peace, Love and Understanding" shorts debuted on MTV's Liquid Television animation showcase).
Some might argue that Beavis and Butt-Head helped shift the direction of society towards the futuristic Dumpocalypse imagined in Judge's underrated live action flick, Idiocracy. I wouldn't go that far, but it certainly helped along the evolution of "snark," the prevailing attitude in so much modern internet journalism and commentary. Coming in at the dawn of the slackerly, often apathetic Alternative music "revolution," B&B echoed the "Whatever, butt-munch" attitude that thrives to this day. Snark is the language of the internet and we can thank Beavis and Butt-Head's dismissive "critiques" of artists, songs and music videos, at least partially, for helping to sink public discourse to that level.
That said, I love those dudes (as much as one can love fictional cartoon characters). The revival run on MTV, featuring new episodes, picked up right where the old series left off. Perhaps like all those old bands that reunite to capitalize on their growing posthumous fame, the freaky, geeky duo returned to the small screen to capitalize on their notoriety as kings of "Whatever."
Here's a short clip from the most recent season, as the boys stumble upon an abortion protest and get psyched to meet some of the "whores" that apparently hang out at abortion clinics. Rush Limbaugh would approve. Hey, maybe he can join their show when he gets cancelled? Beavis, Rush and Butt-Head has a nice ring to it. (Or would it just be Beavis and Two Butt-Heads?)
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 1970, a Cincinnati native (whose "celebrity" we do not celebrate locally, Nick Lachey-style) released one of the few albums we will gladly tell you to seek out and download illegally, should you need to hear it. Lie: The Love and Terror Cult, the "debut album" from singer/songwriter/cult leader/convicted murderer Charles Manson, was recorded on Sept. 11, 1967, and released just months before the murder trial of Manson and his "family." A year after the album was released, four Manson Family members (including Manson) were sentenced to death (in 1972, the sentences were reduced to life in prison after California abolished the death penalty in that state).
The album's original pressing reportedly only sold 300 copies, but subsequent reissues (proceeds from which were given to the families of Manson's victims) kept the notorious cult leader's weirdly experimental, psychedelic Folk Rock songs alive for future generations of musicians to cover. Guns N' Roses were the biggest band to ever cover one of Manson's songs. The convicted killer was an aspiring Rock Star who had schmoozed his way into the SoCal music scene of the late ’60s, most notoriously befriending Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson (The Boys' reworked one of Manson's compositions on the 1969 album 20/20).
Other artists covering Manson over the years include Marilyn Manson (no relation) and wacky actor Crispin Glover.
Here's the song GNR recorded for its 1993 covers album The Spaghetti Incident?, "Look at Your Game, Girl."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and more …
On this day in 1982, comedian John Belushi died from an overdose of cocaine and heroin. Belushi came to prominence as an original "Not Ready For Prime Time Player" on Saturday Night Live, where he debuted his tribute to classic American Rock & Soul with cast mate Dan Aykroyd, The Blues Brothers, and later pushed for the show to feature representatives from the burgeoning Punk Rock scene.
In 1981, after he'd left the show, SNL asked if Belushi would make a cameo. Belushi agreed, but only if L.A. Punk act Fear could be musical guests that week. The band's performance on the show that Halloween was a wild introduction to Punk for many Americans, as the band blazed through the songs "Beef Bologna" and "New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones" in front of a stunned studio audience (who booed when the band announced it was "great to be in New Jersey") and a group of Punk Rock dancers brought in to mosh (Belushi joined the dance team, which also included Punk luminaries Ian MacKaye, Tesco Vee and members of Negative Approach and the Cro-mags). The show cut to a commercial as Fear revved up "Let's Have a War," and the band and dancers reportedly caused $20,000 in damages to the studio (Fear singer Lee Ving later bragged it was more like $500,000). The damage wasn't enough to keep Ving off of TV — a bit actor, Ving appeared on shows like Fame, Three's a Crowd and Who's the Boss in the ’80s.
Clearly, Belushi was a music die-hard. His tombstone reads: "I may be gone, but Rock and Roll lives on."
Here's John Joseph of the Cro-Mags talking about being on the set that fateful night, followed by footage of the performance. And you can check out Ian MacKaye's recollection of events here.
Click on for Born This Day featuring Scotland's greatest hits, including two from The Proclaimers.
On this day in 2003, proto-Rock & Roll singer/songwriter Hank Ballard died after a battle with throat cancer. One of the under-heralded heroes of the development of Rock & Roll, Ballard's career is inexorably tied to Cincinnati, where he recorded for locally-based King Records (as well as the related Federal imprint). Ballard was a member of early ’50s Doo-wop grope The Royals, which had an R&B hit with the Federal single "Get It" in 1953 (despite it's alleged "sexually-suggestive" lyrical content).
The group became The Midnighters and landed a No. 1 R&B hit with Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie," another risque tune that was banned by the FCC from radio play. In 1959, the group became "Hank Ballard and the Midnighters" and moved to the King label proper. A 1959 B-side written by Ballard was covered by Chubby Checker and became a No. 1 smash on the Pop charts in 1960 and again in 1962. The song and accompanying dance (said to have also been developed by Ballard) became an international craze. The book Behind The Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll called the song's success "a major turning point for adult acceptance of rock and roll music."
Despite having one of their songs co-opted and turned into a cultural phenomenon, the early ’60s did bring Ballard and the Midnighters several Pop chart hits, including "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" and the Grammy-nominated "Finger Poppin' Time." Ballard began a solo career in the late ’60s (despite support from James Brown, it never fully took off) and performed with a version of The Midnighters off and on until the year before he died. In 1990, Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (without his Midnighters).
The footage is a little rough, but here's a cool clip of Ballard from 1989 performing "Work With Me, Annie" on one of my favorite live-music TV shows ever, David Sanborn's Night Music.
Click on for Born This Day, featuring Lou Reed, Chris Martin and … Dr. Seuss?
Were it not for the Grim Reaper, two celebrated musical couples would be celebrating wedding anniversaries today. Country music superstars Johnny Cash and June Carter (soon-to-be Carter Cash) tied the knot on this date in 1968 in a Franklin, Ky., church. The bride wore light blue; the groom wore (duh!) black. Their relationship was the basis for the celebrated biopic Walk the Line, which showed the couple's rocky patches in all their glory, as well as their dedication to each other. The couple had just one child together, John Carter Cash (born in 1970). The couple managed to put their problems behind them and remained married until June's death in May of 2003. Cash passed away five months later.
June co-wrote (with Merle Kilgore) one of Johnny's biggest songs, 1963's "Ring of Fire," which is said to have been inspired by her conflicted feelings for Johnny.