Today in Rock & Roll History: January 27th

1956: Elvis Presley’s single “Heartbreak Hotel” backed with “I Was the One” was released by RCA Records, who had recently purchased Presley’s contract from Sun Records for $35,000. The record sold 300,000 copies in its first week, eventually selling over 1 million, and became Presley’s first gold record and his first #1 hit.

1962: Joey Dee and the Starliters took over from Chubby Checker at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with their own song capitalizing on the current dance craze, “Peppermint Twist.” The single remained at #1 for three weeks and was their first of two top 10 singles in the US.

1965: Paul Simon was broadcast on BBC radio for the first time on the Five to Ten show discussing and playing thirteen songs, twelve of which appeared on his solo album released exclusively in the UK, The Paul Simon Song Book.

1965: Bob Dylan began recording his seventh studio album, Blonde on Blonde, in New York. Released that summer, the LP peaked at #9 on the Billboard pop chart and reached #3 in the UK.

1967: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles released “The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage,” the first single form their album Make It Happen.

1968: The Bee Gees made their American debut with two shows at southern California’s Anaheim Convention Center playing several songs that had already become top 10 hits in the States. Supporting acts were Vanilla Fudge and Spanky and Our Gang.

1970: Van Morrison’s third album, Moondance, was released. An immediate success, the LP helped establish Morrison as a major artist in popular music, and several of its songs became FM radio staples in the early 1970s.

1970: John Lennon wrote “Instant Karma!” in the morning and recorded it that evening. Guitarist Eric Clapton was unable to attend the session at Abbey Road Studios on such short notice, so Lennon invited Beatle bandmate George Harrison instead, and Harrison invited producer Phil Spector. Also present at the session was Klaus Voormann on bass and Alan White on drums. Ten takes were recorded between 7pm and midnight and the single was mixed from 3-4am the next day. The record was released in the UK just ten days later, making it one of the fastest-released songs in pop music history. Spector was later enlisted to produce the Beatles’ final album Let It Be as well as future solo albums by Lennon and Harrison. Lennon had remarked to the press that he “wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch, and we’re putting it out for dinner.”

1971: David Bowie, in drag, arrived in the US for the first time in support of his recently-released album, The Man Who Sold The World. Bowie wasn’t allowed to perform during the three week visit due to work permit restrictions, but a US tour had been encouraged by his record label due to the album “not faring as well as expected in the UK.” Bowie had to get over his fear of flying to make the trip and later said in 1999 that his subsequent album, Hunky Dory, “reflected my newfound enthusiasm for this new continent that had been opened up to me. That was the first time a real outside situation affected me so 100 percent that it changed my way of writing and the way I look at things.”

1973: Electric Light Orchestra released their elaborate eight-minute reworking of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” as the lead single from their second studio album, ELO 2.

1973: Midway through the Rolling Stones’ Pacific Tour, Japanese officials made a final confirmation that the Rolling Stones would not be allowed into the country, citing fan riots that had been widely publicized during their American tour the previous year. The five shows that were planned for the Nippon Budokan were scrapped and over 50,000 tickets were refunded. The Stones didn’t perform in Japan as a band until 1990, during their Steel Wheels Tour.

1973: Timmy Thomas topped Billboard’s R&B chart with his only major hit single, “Why Can’t We Live Together.” It was his highest reaching record on the Hot 100 pop chart, where it reached #3, as well as in the UK, where it peaked at #12.

1973: Stevie Wonder had his second #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and first single to top the pop chart in a decade with “Superstition.”

1979: After Billy Joel’s breakthrough fifth studio album The Stranger peaked at #2 on the Billboard pop chart in 1978, his next LP, 52nd Street, became his first to go to #1. The album was also his first to reach the top 10 in the UK.

1982: The B-52’s released Mesopotamia, an EP produced by David Byrne of Talking Heads that was originally intended to be their third studio album. Due to conflicts with Byrne and pressure from their record label, recordings sessions were aborted and only six of the planned ten songs were released.

1983: John Mellencamp, then known as John Cougar, released his sixth studio album, The Kid Inside. The album was recorded in 1977 as the follow-up to his debut LP, but MCA Records opted to not to release it and dropped Mellencamp from the label. The project went unreleased until Mellencamp’s former manager, Tony DeFries, released it on his own MainMan label in an attempt to capitalize on the recent success of Mellencamp’s breakout album, American Fool.

1984: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s sixth and final album, Milk and Honey was released. Assembled by Ono and Geffen Records, it was also Lennon’s eighth and final studio album and the first posthumous release of new Lennon music.

1984: Cyndi Lauper released “Time After Time,” the second single from her debut solo album, She’s So Unusual.

1997: The Stranglers released their thirteenth studio album, Written in Red.

2009: Bruce Springsteen released his sixteenth studio album, Working on a Dream.

Birthdays Today

Jerome Kern, one of the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th century who wrote more than 700 songs such as “Ol’ Man River” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and collaborated with lyricists including Johnny Mercer and Ira Gershwin, was born in New York City in 1885.

Elmore James, blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter known as the “king of the slide guitar,” was born in Richland, MS in 1918.

Ross Bagdasarian Sr., singer-songwriter, record producer, and actor, better known by his stage name David Seville and for creating the cartoon band Alvin and the Chipmunks, was born Rostom Sipan Bagdasarian—Fresno, CA in 1919.

Doc Pomus, blues singer and songwriter best known as the lyricist of many rock and R&B hits such as “Save The Last Dance For Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “Little Sister,” and “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame,” was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1925.

Bobby “Blue” Bland, blues singer, was born Robert Calvin Brooks in Barretville, TN in 1930.

Buddy Emmons, session musician widely regarded as the world’s foremost pedal steel guitarist of his day, who recorded with artists that include Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons, The Everly Brothers, The Carpenters, Roger Miller, John Hartford, Judy Collins, John Sebastian, and Ray Charles, was born in Mishawaka, IN in 1937.

Bruce Tate, vocalist and founding member of The Penguins, was born in 1937.

Kate Wolf, folk singer and songwriter, was born Kathryn Louise Allen in San Francisco, CA in 1942.

Kevin Coyne, musician, singer, composer, film-maker, and poet, was born in Derby, England in 1944.

Nick Mason, drummer and founding member of Pink Floyd, was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham, England in 1944.

Nedra Talley, singer and member of The Ronettes, was born in New York City in 1946.

Kim Gardner, musician, session player, and member of groups including The Thunderbirds, The Creation, Ashton, Gardner and Dyke, Quiet Melon, and Badger, was born in Dulwich, London, England in 1948.

Mick Jackson, bassist for Love Affair, was born in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire in 1950.

Brian Downey, drummer and songwriter for Thin Lizzy, was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1951.

Seth Justman, keyboardist and songwriter for the J. Geils Band, was born in Washington, D.C. in 1951.

Gillian Gilbert, keyboardist, guitarist and, singer with New Order and co-founder of The Other Two with husband and New Order drummer Stephen Morris, was born in Whalley Range, Manchester in 1961.

Margo Timmins, lead vocalist for Cowboy Junkies, was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1961.