Today in Rock & Roll History: August 26th

1966: Donovan released his third studio album, Sunshine Superman, exclusively in the US. The album was not issued in the UK due to a contractual obligation.

1966: The Who released the single “I’m a Boy” in the UK. The song was originally intended to be part of a scrapped rock opera titled Quads.

1966: The Walker Brothers released their second studio LP, Portrait.

1967: Bobbie Gentry’s debut single, “Ode to Billie Joe,” started four weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Gentry’s only top 10 hit, it was her first of two singles to enter the top 40 and later won three Grammy awards.

1967: After arriving in Bangor, Wales, the Beatles attended a seminar given by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Afterward, the group gave a press conference in which they announced that they had given up drugs. “It was an experience we went through,” said Paul McCartney. “We don’t need it anymore. We think we’re finding other ways of getting there.” “Don’t believe that jazz about there’s nothing you can do, and ‘turn on and just drop out, man,’” added John Lennon, “because you’ve got to turn on and drop in, or they’re going to drop all over you.”

1967: Aretha Franklin topped the Billboard R&B chart for the third time with “Baby I Love You,” the first single from her twelfth studio album, Aretha Arrives.

1967: Are You Experienced?, the debut LP by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, entered the Billboard pop album chart, where it stayed for 106 weeks, peaking at #5 over a year later.

1968: Apple Records released their first four single records: the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” backed with “Revolution,” “Those Were the Days” by Mary Hopkins, “Thingumybob” by the Black Dyke Mills Band, and the debut single by singer Jackie Lomax, “Sour Milk Sea.” Lomax’s single had been written by George Harrison during the Beatles’ trip to Rishikesh, India and was originally considered for the Beatles’ self-titled 1968 double album. Instead, Harrison gave the song to Lomax to help launch Apple Records. Produced by Harrison, the recording is a rarity outside of the Beatles’ catalog, featuring three members of the group, Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Paul McCartney. Guitarist Eric Clapton and keyboardist Nicky Hopkins also contributed to the track. The single was ultimately overshadowed by the simultaneously-released singles by the Beatles and Mary Hopkins as part of the new label’s “Our First Four” promotional campaign.

1968: Marvin Gaye released his eight studio album, In the Groove, which was soon after re-titled Heard It Through the Grapevine after the success of his single of the same name. In the Groove was Gaye’s first solo album in two years after duet albums with fellow Motown singers Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell.

1968: Motown Records released Diana Ross & the Supremes Sing and Perform ‘Funny Girl’, the group’s thirteenth studio album in which they cover songs from the original cast LP of the Broadway musical Funny Girl. The album peaked at #150 on the Billboard pop chart, making it the lowest-charting of the Diana Ross-led Supremes albums.

1969: “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley was released. Originally written and recorded by Mark James a year earlier, James’ single failed commercially, so producer Chip Morman handed the song off to Presley. Presley’s version, recorded during sessions at the American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, became one of his most notable hits. It became his first #1 pop hit since “Good Luck Charm” in 1962 as well as his eighteenth and final single to reach the top of the US pop charts.

1970: The third Isle of Wight Festival began with a concert lineup that included Kris Kristofferson, David Bromberg, Redbone, Rosalie Sorrels, Kathy Smith, Judas Jump, and Mighty Baby. Organized and promoted by local brothers Ron and Ray Foulk, the event also attracted acts such as Chicago, the Doors, Donovan, Free, the Moody Blues, Richie Havens, Leonard Cohen, John Sebastian, Procol Harum, Tony Joe White, Mungo Jerry, Terry Reid, Supertramp, Lighthouse, the Who, Joan Baez, Jethro Tull, Cactus, Sly and the Family Stone, Ten Years After, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Miles Davis, and Jimi Hendrix. Between 600,000 and 700,000 people were estimated to have traveled to the island that had a population of less than 100,000. Despite selling tickets beforehand, it soon became clear to organizers that the festival would not make a profit, so it was declared a “free festival.” The commercial failing of the endeavor ultimately ensured that it was the last of three consecutive rock concerts on the island and the last of its kind for over thirty years. Jimi Hendrix’s performance was his last live appearance in the UK.

1970: Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios opened in Greenwich Village in New York City. At the time, it was the only artist-owned recording studio in existence. Previously a defunct nightclub called The Generation, which Hendrix had frequented, the original plan was to reopen the venue for live music, but Hendrix was advised to convert the space into a professional recording environment, in part because of the high cost of recording Hendrix’s last album, Electric Ladyland, and his constant search for a recording space that suited him. Designed by architect and acoustician John Storyk, Hendrix spent only ten weeks recording in Electric Lady Studios before his death, but it has since been used by many notable artists.

1970: Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle, and Jim Gordon began sessions at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida for their only studio album as Derek & the Dominoes, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, in which they were also joined by guitarist Duane Allman.

1972: New York quartet Looking Glass had their only #1 hit when “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),” the group’s first of two top 40 hits, topped the US singles charts.

1973: Bobby Darin performed his last concert at the Las Vegas Hilton.

1978: The Pretenders made their live debut opening for label-mates Strangeways at Unity Hall in Wakefield, England. After the show, the two groups had dinner together. According to Chrissie Hynde, one of the members of Strangeways had just picked up a pair of pants from the dry cleaners. One of his bandmates asked jokingly if there was any brass in the pockets. The British turn of phrase interested Hynde, and became the inspiration for The Pretender’s first #1 single.

1978: The Canada Jam festival concert was held at Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. Produced by Sandy Feldman and Leonard Stogel, who had produced California Jam and California Jam II, performing acts included The Doobie Brothers, Dave Mason, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, and The Commodores. The event attracted 110,000 people and was the largest paying rock event in Canada’s history at the time.

1983: Thousands of bricks from the damaged archways of the original cellar area of Liverpool’s Cavern Club went on sale at £5 each, complete with an authentication plate signed by former Cavern Club owner Ray McFall. Proceeds from the sale of the five thousand bricks went to Strawberry Field Children’s home. A further fifteen thousand bricks from the Cavern site were also used in the authentic reconstruction of the venue.

1985: The Cure released their sixth studio album, The Head on the Door. The LP became the group’s most successful release to date, reaching #7 on the UK chart and #59 on the Billboard pop chart in the US.

1990: Stevie Ray Vaughan performed his last concert at the Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin. Vaughn was joined during the show’s encore by Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and Jimmie Vaughn. Stevie Ray Vaughan was killed in a helicopter crash the following morning.

1991: English band Blur released their debut studio album, Leisure.

2003: Warren Zevon released his twelfth and final studio album, The Wind. Zevon began recording the album shortly after he was diagnosed with inoperable pleural mesothelioma and it was released just two weeks before his death in September. Guest musicians on the album include Ry Cooder, Tom Petty, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Dwight Yoakam, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh, Jackson Browne, and Emmylou Harris.

2003: Peter Frampton released his twelfth studio album, Now.

2008: Matthew Sweet released his tenth studio album, Sunshine Lies.

Birthdays Today

Jet Black, drummer and founding member of The Stranglers, was born Brian John Duffy in Ilford, Essex, England in 1938.

Fred Milano, single and original member of the Belmonts, was born in The Bronx, NY in 1939.

Chris Curtis, drummer for The Searchers, was born in Oldham, Lancashire, England in 1941.

Maureen “Moe” Tucker, drummer for the Velvet Underground, was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City in 1944.

Valerie Simpson, half of the husband-and-wife songwriting, production, and recording duo Ashford and Simpson who together with Nickolas Ashford, co-wrote such Motown hits as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need To Get By,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” was born in the Bronx, NY in 1946.

Leon Redbone, singer-songwriter and musician who specialized in jazz, blues, and Tin Pan Alley classics, was born in Nicosia, Cyprus in 1949.

Billy Rush, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, was born in Deal, NJ in 1952.

John O’Neill, rhythm guitarist and principal songwriter for The Undertones, was born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1957.

Dan Vickrey, lead guitarist for Counting Crows, was born in Walnut Creek, CA in 1966.