Today in Rock & Roll History: December 4th

1956: Elvis Presley stopped by Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee and found Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash watching Carl Perkins in the studio. The four ended up having an impromptu jam session and the went unreleased until the 1981 when parts were issued in Europe as The Million Dollar Quartet.

1961: “The Wanderer” by Dion entered the Billboard Hot 100. The song later peaked at #2 and was written by Ernie Maresca, who wrote some of Dion’s biggest hits, including his highest charting single, “Runaround Sue.”

1962: The Beatles made their London television debut on the children’s television show Tuesday Rendezvous, performing “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” at Wembley Studios.

1964: The Beatles’ fourth studio album, Beatles for Sale, was released in the UK, where it soon after spent 11 weeks at #1. Eight of the album’s fourteen tracks appeared on Capitol Records’ concurrent release, Beatles ’65, issued in North America. The album marked a departure from the Beatles’ previous work, partly due to the band’s exhaustion after a series of tours that had established them as a worldwide phenomenon. The songs introduced darker musical moods and more introspective lyrics, with John Lennon adopting an autobiographical perspective in compositions such as “I’m a Loser” and “No Reply.”

1965: The Byrds had their second #1 in the US with “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season).”

1965: “A Well Respected Man” by The Kinks entered the Billboard Hot 100. The record later peaked at #13 and became one of the band’s best known songs.

1965: “Lies” by the Knickerbockers entered the Billboard Hot 100, later becoming the group’s biggest hit, peaking at #20.

1965: The Rolling Stones released their fifth American studio album, December’s Children (And Everybody’s). Drawn largely from two days of sessions recorded in September to finish the British edition of their Out of Our Heads LP and to record their new single “Get Off of My Cloud,” bassist Bill Wyman described the record as “not an album,” but “just a collection of songs.” The album went to #4 in the US and its title came from the band’s manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. According to Mick Jagger, it was Oldham’s idea of hip, Beat poetry.

1966: “It Takes Two” by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston was released. The single became Gaye’s most successful duet single to date, peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the R&B chart, and was later outperformed by Gaye’s duets with Tammi Terrell.

1969: During the Rolling Stones’ final day of recording at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, the band recorded “Wild Horses.” Starting with just chorus, the rest of the song was written on the spot in the studio. The song was shelved by the band due to contractual issues with their record company, but former Byrds member Gram Parsons heard it and asked if he could it with his new group, The Flying Burrito Brothers, who released it as part of their second album, Burrito Deluxe, in May of 1970. The Stones later released their version a year later as part of their Sticky Fingers LP.

1971: Led Zeppelin topped the UK chart with their untitled fourth studio album.

1971: Cat Steven’s fifth studio album, Teaser and the Firecat, peaked at #2 on the Billboard pop chart.

1971: The Montreux Casino in Switzerland burned down during a concert by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention after a fan set the venue on fire with a flare gun. Deep Purple, who had been preparing to record an album at the casino’s entertainment complex, watched the blaze from their hotel room. The event, as well as the smoke that spread over Lake Geneva, inspired the song “Smoke on the Water,” which later became Deep Purple’s second top 10 hit in the US.

1971: “Family Affair,” the lead single from Sly and the Family Stone’s fifth studio album There’s a Riot Goin’ On, became the group’s third #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Billboard R&B, and Cash Box charts.

1976: Robert Palmer debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 with his version of the calypso song “Man Smart, Woman Smarter.”

1988: Roy Orbison played his final concert at the Front Row Theater in the Cleveland suburb of Highland Heights. Two days later Orbison died of a heart attack.

1995: The Beatles released “Free as a Bird,” the group’s first song in 25 years, 15 years after the death of John Lennon. Originally composed and recorded in 1977 as a home demo by Lennon, the 1995 studio version incorporates contributions from Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, and was co-produced by Jeff Lynne. The single was issued first in the UK, followed by its release in the US a week later. The song was released as the promotional single for Anthology 1, the first of three compilation albums which had been released in November.

Birthdays Today

Alex North, composer best known for his many film scores, who wrote the music for “Unchained Melody,” was born Isadore Soifer in Chester, PA in 1910.

Freddy Cannon, singer known for such hits as “Tallahassee Lassie,” “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans,” and “Palisades Park,” was born Frederick Anthony Picariello, Jr. in Revere, MA in 1936.

Bob Mosley, bass guitarist, songwriter, and vocalists for Moby Grape, was Paradise Valley, CA in 1942.

Dennis Wilson, co-founder and drummer for the Beach Boys, middle brother of bandmates Brian and Carl, and only surfer in the band, was born in Inglewood, CA in 1944.

Chris Hillman, singer, songwriter, bassist and original member of the Byrds, founding member of the Flying Burrito Brothers, solo artist, and member of Manassas and the Desert Rose Band, was born on Los Angeles, CA in 1944.

Southside Johnny, singer, songwriter, and frontman for Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, was born John Lyon in Neptune, NJ in 1948.

Bob Griffin, bassist for BoDeans, was born in Waukesha, WI in 1959.