Today in Rock & Roll History: April 12th

1954: Bill Haley and the Comets recorded the classic rock and roll anthem “Rock Around the Clock” at the Pythian Temple studios in New York City during their first sessions with Decca Records. Near the end of the session, Bill Haley and his band recorded two takes, which were later combined to create the song’s final version. The first recording of Haley’s vocals had been drowned out by band, so a second take was recorded in which Haley sang with minimal accompaniment. It wasn’t until a year later, after the song was featured during the opening credits of the film Blackboard Jungle, that it truly took off, becoming the first rock and roll recording to hit the top of the Billboard and Cash Box pop charts and many other music charts around the world.

1963: Bob Dylan performed his first solo concert at New York’s Town Hall to a crowd of nine hundred people. The show was recorded by Columbia Records as part of a plan to release a live album. Though the album was never released, various tracks surfaced over the years.

1965: Columbia Records released the first single and title track from the debut album by the Byrds, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The record reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US as well as the UK singles chart.

1965: The Supremes released We Remember Sam Cooke, their fifth studio album and a tribute to Sam Cooke, who had died the previous December.

1965: Martha and the Vandellas released their third album, Dance Party.

1966: Jan Berry of Jan & Dean barely survived the crash of his Corvette into a parked car in Los Angeles. The accident occurred a short distance from Dead Man’s Curve in Beverly Hills, two years after the duo’s song of the same name had become a hit. Having received severe head injuries from the collision, Berry was in a coma for over two months and suffered from partial paralysis for a year. While musical partner Dean Torrence maintained the duo’s presence in the music industry during his partner’s recovery, he started his own graphic arts company, Kittyhawk Graphics, creating album covers and logos for many artists including Harry Nilsson, Steve Martin, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, Linda Ronstadt, Canned Heat, and the Ventures. In 1967, almost one year to the day after his accident, Berry returned to the studio to write and produce music.

1968: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention performed at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences dinner in New York. Zappa told the audience, “All year long you people have manufactured this crap, now for one night you’re gonna have to listen to it!” He later said he had no idea how the Mothers got the gig, and that even though a lot of people were offended by the performance, there were some that really liked it.

1968: After nearly two months in Rishikesh, India studying Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, John Lennon and George Harrison left their camp. Along with wives Cynthia and Pattie and friend Alex Mardas, they made the decision to leave after Mardas informed them of rumors of the Maharishi’s inappropriate behavior towards his female students. While waiting for his overnight flight, Lennon began writing the song that later became “Sexy Sadie.”

1968: Pink Floyd released their fourth UK single, “It Would Be So Nice.” Written by keyboardist and vocalist Richard Wright, it was the group’s first recorded release in the wake of founding member Syd Barrett’s departure, but the band’s attempt at maintaining Barrett’s aesthetic fell flat. The song failed to chart and members of the group later expressed their dislike for the whimsical tune. The record’s B-side, “Julia Dream,” was written by bassist Roger Waters, who gradually transitioned into the role of predominant songwriter and vocalist.

1969: The 5th Dimension’s first #1 single, “Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In,” started six weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. The record also made went to #6 on the R&B chart.

1971: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released “House at Pooh Corner,” the second single from their fourth studio album, Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy. Written by Kenny Loggins, the song was based on the popular children’s book of the same name by A. A. Milne. Later that year, Loggins recorded the song with Jim Messina for the duo’s first album.

1971: Stevie Wonder released his thirteenth studio album, Where I’m Coming From. All of the songs on the album were written by Wonder and his first wife, Syreeta Wright, and it was Wonder’s last album produced under his first contract with Motown Records.

1971: The Jackson 5 released their fifth studio album, “Maybe Tomorrow.”

1972: Manassas, a band formed by Stephen Stills, released their self-titled debut double album. Produced by Stills, Chris Hillman, and Dallas Taylor, the album also includes contributions from Bill Wyman and Jerry Garcia.

1973: The J. Geils Band released their third studio album, Bloodshoot. It was the band’s breakthrough release, reaching #10 on the Billboard pop chart. They didn’t achieve a higher charting LP until 1981’s Freeze Frame went to #1.

1974: Poco released Seven, their sixth studio album and first LP made after the departure of Richie Furay.

1975: Bob Seger released his eighth studio album, Beautiful Loser. The LP marked Seger’s return to Capitol Records and relied largely on session musicians from the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.

1975: David Bowie announced his retirement from music for the second time, saying “I’ve rocked my roll. It’s a boring dead end, there will be no more rock ‘n’ roll records or tours from me.” After he first announced his retirement in July of 1973, there was confusion as to whether his second retirement announcement was a publicity stunt or if Bowie had truly called it quits. By the fall, Bowie returned to the studio to record what became his Station to Station LP and soon after re-emerged as the Thin White Duke.

1975: Elton John started a two week run at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Philadelphia Freedom,” his fourth single to top the chart. Written by John and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin between sessions for the Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy album, it was the first song the two had consciously written to be a single. John had asked Taupin to write a song for his friend, tennis star Billie Jean King, and a member of the Philadelphia Freedom professional tennis team.

1975: Al Green reached the top of the Billboard R&B singles chart with “L-O-V-E (Love).”

1979: Former Elvin Bishop Group lead singer Mickey Thomas became the lead singer for Jefferson Starship after the departure of Marty Balin and Grace Slick. Two years later, drummer Donny Baldwin, also previously a member of the Elvin Bishop Group, joined the band and replaced Aynsley Dunbar. Thomas shifted to band leader after the departure of Paul Kantner, and the band continued as “Starship” and later “Starship featuring Mickey Thomas” after disputes over the group’s name.

1982: John Mellencamp, then known as John Cougar, released his fifth studio album, American Fool. It was his commercial breakthrough and spent nine weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart.

1983: R.E.M.’s debut studio album, Murmur, was released by I.R.S. Records.

1986: The debut album by INXS, Listen Like Thieves, peaked at #14 on the Billboard pop album chart.

Birthdays Today

Prentiss Barnes, bass vocalist for The Moonglows, was born in Magnolia, MS in 1925.

Tiny Tim, singer and musician, was born Herbert Buckingham Khaury in Manhattan, NY in 1932.

Herbie Hancock, pianist, keyboardist, bandleader, composer who started his career with jazz musician Donald Byrd and shorty after joined the Miles Davis Quintet, where he helped to redefine the role of a jazz rhythm section and was one of the primary architects of the post-bop sound, was born in Chicago, IL in 1940.

John Kay, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and lead singer for Steppenwolf, was born Joachim Fritz Krauledat in Tilsit, East Prussia, Germany in 1944.

Lois Reeves, singer and younger sister of Martha Reeves who joined Martha and the Vandellas as the replacement for Betty Kelly, was born in Detroit, MI in 1948.

Richard Foos, co-founder of Rhino Records, was born in New York City in 1949.

Kid Creole, singer, songwriter, and co-founder of Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah band as well as Kid Creole and the Coconuts, was born in born Thomas August Darnell Browder—The Bronx, NY in 1950.

Pat Travers, guitarist, keyboardist, and singer, was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1954.

Vince Gill, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, solo artist, and frontman for Pure Prairie League, was born in Norman, OK in 1957.

Will Sergeant, guitarist for Echo & the Bunnymen, was born in Liverpool, England in 1958.

Amy Ray, singer-songwriter, solo artist, and member of Indigo Girls, was born in Decatur, GA in 1964.

Sean Welch, bassist for The Beautiful South and roadie for The Housemartins, was born in Enfield, England in 1965.

Guy Berryman, bassist for Coldplay and Apparatjik, was born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland in 1978.