Today in Rock & Roll History: January 1st

1955: In an effort to make recordings a mass consumer item and to raise the “deteriorating” moral of dealers, RCA Victor announced a marketing plan called “Operation TNT.” The company dropped the list price on LPs from $5.95 to $3.98, EPs from $4.95 to $2.98, 45rpm EPs from $1.58 to $1.49 and 45rpm singles from $1.16 to $.89. Other record labels followed RCA’s lead and began to drop prices as well.

1962: The Beatles played their first audition for a major record label, Decca Records, in London. Executives declined to offer them a contract and instead signed another band that had auditioned the same day, the Tremeloes. Head of A&R Dick Rowe, who made the decision, recalled that the Beatles were rejected because they came from Liverpool, whereas the Tremeloes, who hailed from Dagenham, were more local and therefore easier to work with. The official reason, given to Beatles manager Brian Epstein, was that “guitar groups were on their way out.” Rowe did however, sign the Rolling Stones to the label at the recommendation of Beatles guitarist George Harrison.

1964: BBC television premiered Top of the Pops, a new musical variety show hosted by radio disc jockey Jimmy Saville. The program was kicked off by Dusty Springfield who performed “I Only Want to Be With You,” followed by lip-synced performances by the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, the Hollies, and the Swinging Blue Jeans.

1966: Simon & Garfunkel had their first #1 single in the US with “The Sound of Silence.” Throughout the month of January, the record twice traded places with the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” as the top song on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. After the poor reception of the duo’s first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., which included the original version of “The Sound of Silence,” Simon and Garfunkel ceased working together and Simon traveled to Europe. After the song began to receive increased radio airplay on college stations, Columbia Records producer Tony Wilson decided to remix the song with electric instrumentation like other popular folk rock hits. In the wake of the new single’s success, Paul Simon promptly returned to the United States to record a new Simon & Garfunkel album at Columbia’s request. Their follow-up LP was titled Sounds of Silence to further capitalize on their recent hit.

1966: New Jersey quintet the Knickerbockers entered the top 40 on the Billboard singles chart for the first time with “Lies,” which made it to #20 during the song’s thirteen weeks on the chart.

1967: The Doors made one of their first, if not their very first, live television appearances on KTLA-TV Channel 5 program Shebang! in Los Angeles lip-syncing their first single, “Break on Through.” The show was hosted by Casey Kasem and produced by Dick Clark.

1968: Berkley, California rock group the Golliwogs made the decision to change their name to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Rejected band names included Muddy Rabbit, Gossamer Wump, and Creedence Nuball and the Ruby. They eventually settled on Creedence Clearwater Revival. The new name was inspired by friend of Tom Fogerty Credence Newball, a television commercial for Olympia Beer that marketed the beverage as “clear water,” and the four members’ renewed commitment to the band.

1969: Scottish pop rock band Marmalade had their only #1 on the UK singles chart with their cover of the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” making them the first Scottish group to top the chart.

1969: “Evil Ways,” the second single from Santana’s self-titled debut album, was released. The song became their first top 40 hit and peaked at #9 on Billboard Hot 100.

1972: Carole King’s third album, Music, the follow-up to her previous #1 LP, Tapestry, reached #1 on the Billboard pop chart.

1972: Faces debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Stay With Me.” The single became the group’s biggest hit in the US, climbing to #17.

1977: The Clash headlined the grand opening of the Roxy in London, establishing both the band and the venue in London’s exploding punk scene. The Roxy’s success was short-lived however, and the club was shuttered just over a year later in April 1978.

1983: The Stranglers released their seventh studio album, Feline. It became the group’s first album to chart in the US, reaching #52, as well as their sixth and final top 10 LP on the UK chart.

1987: “Fire” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band was released as the second single from their live album Live 1975–85. Springsteen wrote the song after seeing his idol Elvis Presley perform in 1977 and it was one of dozens of tracks cut from his 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town. The Pointer Sisters had a hit with the song in 1978 and a studio version by Springsteen was released as part of the 2010 box set “Promises” with newly recorded vocals.

Birthdays Today

Country Joe McDonald, singer, songwriter, guitarist, activist, and leader of Country Joe and the Fish, was born Joseph Allen McDonald in Washington, D.C. in 1942.

Chris Youlden, vocalist for Savoy Brown from 1967-1970 and solo artist, was born in Dagenham, England in 1943.

Morgan Fisher, keyboardist for Mott the Hoople from 1973-1980, was born in Mayfair, London, England in 1950.

Steve Ripley, songwriter, studio engineer, guitarist, inventor, and leader of The Tractors who also worked with artists like Bob Dylan, J.J. Cale, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and, as the founder of Ripley Guitars, created guitars for John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, Jimmy Buffett, Eddie Van Halen, and others, was born in Boise, ID in 1950.