Today in Rock & Roll History: December 6th

1961: The Marvelettes released “Twistin’ Postman,” the follow-up to their hit debut single, “Please Mr. Postman.”

1963: The Beatles released their first Christmas record for members of their fan club. Instigated and scripted by the group’s press officer, Tony Barrow, the flexi disc album features renditions of traditional carols and individual messages from each member of the band.

1964: Ferry Cross the Mersey, starring Gerry and the Pacemakers, premiered at the New Victoria Cinema in London.

1965: The Rolling Stones recorded “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Mother’s Little Helper” at RCA’s Hollywood studios in Los Angeles during sessions for their Aftermath album.

1965: Three days after it was released in the UK, the Beatles’ double A-side single “Day Tripper”/“We Can Work It Out” was released in the US. “Day Tripper” peaked at #5 while “We Can Work It Out” reached #1 in early January.

1965: “Going to a Go-Go” by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles was released. The single peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100, #2 on the R&B chart, and became the Miracles’ fifth million-selling record.

1965: The Byrds released their second album, Turn! Turn! Turn!. The LP’s lead single and title track is an adaptation of text from the Book of Ecclesiastes by Pete Seeger that had previously been arranged in a chamber-folk style by the band’s lead guitarist Jim McGuinn while working with folksinger Judy Collins. The arrangement that McGuinn used for The Byrds’ version utilized the same folk rock style as the band’s first #1 hit, “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The album marked an increase in McGuinn’s songwriting output and rhythm guitarist David Crosby received his first writing credit on “Wait and See.” The album peaked at #17 on the Billboard pop chart, went to #11 in the UK.

1966: A vocal overdub session by The Beach Boys for the song “Cabin Essence” during sessions for the group’s Smile LP became the scene of a climactic argument between member Mike Love and third-party lyricist Van Dyke Parks, causing Parks to gradually distance himself from the project, which ultimately went unfinished until it was revisited by Brian Wilson and Parks and finally released in 2004.

1966: The Beatles recorded “When I’m Sixty-Four,” the first song for their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, as well a Christmas message for pirate radio stations Radio London and Radio Caroline.

1968: James Taylor’s self-titled debut album was released by Apple Records in the UK. It was the label’s first recording by a non-British artist as well as Taylor’s only release with Apple. The album was released in the US in February of 1969.

1968: The Rolling Stones’ seventh British and ninth American album, Beggars Banquet, was released. The LP marked a return to a blues rock style following the psychedelic pop of their previous two albums, Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request, and the album is among the most instrumentally experimental of the band’s career, incorporating Latin beats, South Asian sounds, and African-influenced conga rhythms.

1968: After it was released in the US in October, Deep Purple’s cover of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman” was released in the UK as the first single from their second studio album, The Book of Taliesyn.

1969: “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” reached #1 on Billboard Hot 100. Written and recorded by studio musicians Gary DeCarlo, Dale Frashuer, and producer and writer Paul Leka at Mercury Records’ studios in New York City, the single was attributed to a band called “Steam,” though at the time there was actually no group with that name. After a Georgia disc jockey received numerous requests to replay the song, Mercury Records’ promotional dept authorized the purchase of 100,000 copies to put song on the Billboard pop chart. When other stations saw the record appear on the chart, they picked it up and airplay snowballed. The investment of approximately $50,000 in promotional funds to buy their own records worked for Mercury and “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” reached #1 in the US for two weeks. It was the group’s only top 40 single.

1969: Jefferson Airplane, Santana, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and the Rolling Stones played a free concert to an audience of 300,000 people at the Altamont Speedway in California. The Hells Angels motorcycle club was hired as security for the festival, but they did little to contain the agitation and violence that got progressively worse over the course of the day, leading to the deaths of four people. The situation at the concert degraded so much that one of the event’s primary organizers, the Grateful Dead, decided not to play. What some attendees hoped would be a “Woodstock West” ended up being what one writer for Rolling Stone magazine described as “rock and roll’s all-time worst day… a day when everything went perfectly wrong.” Footage from the Altamont concert was later included in the 1970 Rolling Stones documentary Gimmie Shelter, which debuted exactly a year later.

1969: The Monkees played their last concert at Salt Palace in Utah until their 20th anniversary tour in 1986.

1970: Former Chicken Shack keyboardist and singer Christine McVie released her debut, self-titled solo album under her maiden name, Christine Perfect. Shortly after, McVie joined her husband John as a member of Fleetwood Mac, who had just lost guitarist and founder Peter Green. The band’s members were nervous about touring without Green, but McVie had been a huge fan of the group and was very familiar with their music.

1973: Al Green released his seventh studio album, Livin’ for You.

1973: Diana Ross released her sixth studio album, Last Time I Saw Him.

1974: “Ding Dong, Ding Dong,” the lead single from George Harrison’s fifth solo studio album, Dark Horse, was released in UK. It was later released in the US on December 23rd.

1975: Paul Simon reached #1 on the Billboard pop chart with his fourth solo album, Still Crazy After All These Years. The LP produced four top 40 hits, including “My Little Town,” Simon’s first recorded collaboration with former partner Art Garfunkel since 1970.

1975: The O’Jays topped Billboard’s R&B singles chart with “I Love Music (Part I).”

1977: Jackson Browne released his fifth studio album, Running On Empty, which later peaked at #3 on the Billboard pop chart.

1977: Al Green released his twelfth studio album, The Belle Album. It was his first without longtime producer Willie Mitchell and one of his last albums of secular music.

1980: Denny Laine released his third studio album, Japanese Tears.

1980: John Lennon mixed wife Yoko Ono’s single “Walking On Thin Ice.” It was his last time in a recording studio, and along with his lead guitar track recorded days earlier, it was his final creative act. Released at the end of January in 1981, the song became Ono’s first chart success, peaking at #58 in the US and #35 in the UK.

1988: Short-lived ensemble the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band released their first album, Almost Acoustic. The live album contains songs recorded in November and December of 1987 at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco and the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.

Birthdays Today

Ira Gershwin, lyricist who collaborated with his younger brother, composer George Gershwin, was born Israel Gershwin in Brooklyn, NY in 1896.

Hugo Peretti, half of songwriting and production team Hugo & Luigi with his cousin Luigi Creatore who wrote or produced songs for artists such as Sam Cooke, The Tokens, Elvis Presley, and The Stylistics, was born in New York City in 1916.

Dave Brubeck, jazz pianist and composer, was born in Concord, CA in 1920.

David Ossman, writer, comedian, screenwriter, and member of comedy group The Firesign Theatre, was born in Santa Monica, CA in 1936.

Mike Smith, lead vocalist and keyboard player for the Dave Clark Five, was born in Edmonton, North London, England in 1943.

Keith West, singer, songwriter, producer, solo artist, and lead singer for multiple groups including Tomorrow and the In Crowd, was born Keith Alan Hopkins in Dagenham, Essex, England in 1943.

Miroslav Vitouš, jazz bassist and founding member of Weather Report, was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1947.

Chris Stamey, musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, and co-founder of the dB’s, was born in Chapel Hill, NC in 1954.

Rick Buckler, drummer for The Jam, was born in Woking, Surrey, England in 1955.

Peter Buck, guitarist, co-founder of R.E.M., and a solo artist, was born in Berkeley, CA in 1956.

David Lovering, drummer for the Pixies, was born in Burlington, MA in 1961.

Ben Watt, musician, singer, songwriter, solo artist, and half of the duo Everything but the Girl, was born in Marylebone, London, England in 1962.