Today in Rock & Roll History: April 18th

1967: The third album by Pretty Things, Emotions, was released. The album had been completed largely to fulfill their contract with Fontana Records after the band had become displeased with the label’s intervention in response to poor sales of their recent singles.

1970: “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum topped out at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The record sold over two million copies and it was Greenbaum’s only Top 40 hit.

1973: Neil Young’s directorial debut Journey Through the Past, which combined backstage concert footage with experimental sequences, premiered at the Dallas Film Festival.

1973: The Miracles released Renaissance, the group’s first album without former lead singer Smokey Robinson, whose position had been filled by Billy Griffin.

1975: John Lennon made what became his final live performance as part of the “Salute To Sir Lew Grade: The Master Showman,” performing “Slippin’ and Slidin’” and “Stand By Me”—both from his newest album, Rock ‘n’ Roll—as well as an updated take on “Imagine” that reflected his recent troubles with the US government. Members of the band wore masks made by sculptor Ruby Jackson on the backs of their heads, referencing what Lennon considered to be the two-faced business dealings of media mogul Lew Grade, with whom both Lennon and Paul McCartney fought for years for the rights to their own songs. Other artists at the star-studded gala included Julie Andrews, Tom Jones, and early Lennon hero Peter Sellers, who performed before a group of Hollywood elite. The show was televised later in mid-June.

1981: After the disbanding of British bands Yes and Led Zeppelin, former Yes drummer Alan White and bassist Chris Squire got together with Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page for a series of jams that turned into a proposed supergroup called XYZ, referring to ex members of Yes and Led Zeppelin. Joined during sessions by former Greenslade keyboardist Dave Lawson, the project never got off the ground. Squire and White afterward joined guitarist Trevor Rabin and fellow Yes alumni Tony Kaye and formed a new group called Cinema, which turned into a Yes reunion when they were joined by singer Jon Anderson. Meanwhile, former Yes guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Geoff Downes formed Asia with Emerson, Lake & Palmer drummer Carl Palmer and King Crimson’s bassist John Wetton.

1982: Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder hit the top of the UK singles chart with their duet “Ebony and Ivory,” McCartney’s 24th #1 hit single as a songwriter. In mid-May, the single started seven weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. The title had been inspired by comedian Spike Milligan, who’d said “black notes, white notes, and you need to play the two to make harmony, folks.”

1988: Eric Clapton’s Crossroads box set was released by Polydor Records. The multi-disc compilation includes Clapton’s work with the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends and Derek and the Dominos, as well as his solo career.

1989: Doolittle, the second album by Pixies was released in the US a day after it was issued in the UK. The album was the group’s first to chart in the US as well as their first international release.

1992: Annie Lennox debuted at #1 on the UK chart with her first solo album, Diva. In the US, the album made it to #23.

2006: Matthew Sweet and Bangles singer and guitarist Susanna Hoffs released Under the Covers, Vol. 1, the pair’s first album of covers of songs from the 1960s and 1970s.

2011: Mike + The Mechanics released The Road, the group’s first album after the departure of singer and keyboardist Paul Carrack.

Birthdays Today

Al Lewis, lyricist, songwriter, and music publisher best known for co-writing “Blueberry Hill,” was born in New York City in 1901.

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, blues musician, was born in Vinton, LA in 1924.

Paul A. Rothchild, record producer who worked with the Doors, Janis Joplin, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, John Sebastian, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, Tim Buckley, Love, and many others, was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1935.

Glen Hardin, pianist, arranger, and member of the Crickets who also performed and recorded with artists such as Elvis Presley, Emmylou Harris, John Denver, and Ricky Nelson, was born in Wellington, TX in 1939.

Mike Vickers, guitarist and saxophonist with Manfred Mann, was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England in 1940.

Lennie Baker, saxophonist for Danny & the Juniors and vocalist and sax player for Sha Na Na, was born in Whitman, MA in 1946.

Alexander “Skip” Spence, singer-songwriter, early guitarist for Quicksilver Messenger Service, brief drummer for Jefferson Airplane, and guitarist and co-founder of Moby Grape, was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada in 1946.

Les Pattinson, bassist and co-writer for Echo & the Bunnymen, was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire, England in 1958.

J.D. Wilkes, visual artist, musician, filmmaker, author, leader of Legendary Shack Shakers, and a solo artist, was born Joshua Wilkes in Baytown, TX in 1972.