Today in Rock & Roll History: February 7th

1963: The Beatles’ second UK single “Please Please Me” was released as the group’s first in the US by Vee-Jay Records, almost a month after it’s release in the UK, where it had become their first #1 hit. Originally conceived by John Lennon as a bluesy, slow song after hearing Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely,” producer George Martin persuaded the band to increase the tempo.

1964: The Beatles arrived in the United States, where they were greeted by thousands of screaming fans at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

1964: “Dead Man’s Curve” by Jan and Dean was released. It became the duo’s fourth top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #8.

1964: The Kinks appeared on ITV’s pop music program Ready Steady Go! performing their version of the Robert Blackwell song “Long Tall Sally.” Also on the program were Manfred Mann, performing “5-4-3-2-1,” the show’s second theme song.

1964: An angry letter from a father in Sarasota, Florida became a part of a two year FBI investigation into whether or not the Kingsmen’s 1963 recording of “Louie Louie” violated the Federal Interstate Transportation of Obscene Matter statutes. Several concerned parents alleged that the song contained obscene lyrics under the guise of “teenage rock & roll.” The Federal Communications Commission contacted the Kingsmen’s label, Wand Records, and asked if there was improper motivation of anyone involved in the recording to make the recorded lyrics so unintelligible as to give rise to reports that they were obscene. As far as the label knew, the trouble was started by an unidentified college student who had made up a series of obscene verses and sold them to fellow students. The National Association of Broadcasters also reviewed the lyrics and told the FBI that the lines delivered would be unintelligible to the average listener. That spring, after listening to the song at various speeds, the FBI concluded that it could not be determined if the song was obscene, and the investigation had concluded, until in the summer of 1965, when a mother wrote directly to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, insisting “Louie Louie’s” lyrics were an “auditory illusion” crafted by a mastermind. That fall, the members of the Kingsmen and the songs’ original writer, Richard Berry, were questioned by the FBI. All of them said that there had been no deliberate attempt to include any obscene or suggestive wording. In December of 1965, the case was finally concluded, finding no evidence of obscenity. The perceived incomprehensibility of the Kingsmen’s recording had been the result of the session being recorded with a single microphone hung from the ceiling, which forced singer Jack Ely to stand on his toes and shout.

1968: “Angel of the Morning” by Merrilee Rush was released. Written by Chip Taylor, the composition was initially turned down by singer Connie Francis, thinking it was too risqué for her career. Taylor then produced a recording of the song by Evie Sands, but it was never released due to her label’s poor finances. After being recorded by a number of other artists, it was Merrilee Rush’s rendition that became a hit. Rush and her backing band, the Turnabouts, had been the opening act for a Paul Revere and the Raiders tour, which helped her catch the attention of Tommy Cogbill in Memphis. Cogbill had been looking for the right voice for the song. Despite being credited to Rush and the Turnabouts on the single, both the single and the subsequent album of the same name were recorded with the American Sound Studios house band, who’d also backed Elvis Presley on his famous Memphis recordings. “Angel of the Morning” entered the US singles chart in May that year and peaked at #7 eight weeks later.

1969: Tom Jones’ UK variety show This Is Tom Jones premiered on ABC TV after the network paid over $20 million for the rights to broadcast the show in the US.

1969: The Who recorded “Pinball Wizard” at Morgan Studios in London. It was released a month later and reached #4 in the UK and #19 on the US singles charts.

1970: Led Zeppelin’s second album Led Zeppelin II reached #1 on the UK chart.

1970: Sly and the Family Stone topped the Billboard R&B chart with “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”

1970: Shocking Blue became the first Dutch band to reach #1 in the US when their only top 40 single “Venus” hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

1975: Paul Simon achieved his first and only solo #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”

1979: Stephen Stills became the first major label artist to record on digital equipment at Record Plant studio in Los Angeles. Using a 3M system which was installed with the intention of replacing the existing analog system, engineer Michael Braunstein and producer Barry Beckett recorded Stills and the California Blues Band performing a new take on Stills’ song “Cherokee,” which had appeared on his self-titled debut album. Stills refused to cooperate with the various demands made by CBS Records, who felt the music would not sell in the contemporary market, so the master tapes from the session were impounded and have yet to see the light of day.

1979: The Clash played their first show in the US at the Berkeley Community Theatre in California with opening act Bo Diddley.

1980: Pink Floyd kicked off a North American and European tour in support of their latest album The Wall with the first of seven shows at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

1981: Steve Winwood debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 as a solo artist with “While You See a Chance.”

1981: John Lennon posthumously reached #1 on the UK singles chart with “Woman.”

1999: Blondie went to #1 on the UK singles chart for the first time in eighteen years with “Maria,” the group’s sixth UK #1 single. Blondie became the first act to have #1 hits in the UK in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and at the age of 54, lead singer Debbie Harry became the oldest female artist to achieve a UK #1.

Birthdays Today

King Curtis, R&B saxophonist, producer, and session musician, was born Curtis Montgomery in Fort Worth, TX in 1934.

Earl King, blues and R&B guitarist, singer, and songwriter, was born in New Orleans, LA in 1934.

Jimmy Greenspoon, keyboard player, composer, and member of Three Dog Night who also played with artists that include Linda Ronstadt, the Beach Boys, America, Donovan, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, and Leon Russell, was born in Beverly Hills, CA in 1948.

Alan Lancaster, songwriter, bassist, and founding member and one of the lead singers for Status Quo, was born in London, England in 1949.

Andy Chapin, keyboardist with The Association, Steppenwolf, and the Rick Nelson Band, was born in Chicopee, MA in 1951.

Brian Travers, sax player for UB40, was born in Birmingham, England in 1959.

Steve Bronski, keyboardist, percussionist, and founding member of Bronski Beat, was born Steven William Forrest in Glasgow, Scotland in 1960.