Today in Rock & Roll History: July 31st

1957: Ringo Starr became the first future member of the Beatles to play at Liverpool’s Cavern Club when he performed as a member of the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group. The Quarrymen, led by John Lennon, had their first date at the venue on August 7th. In 1962, Starr became the final member to join the Beatles after Paul McCartney and George Harrison had joined a few years earlier.

1959: Cliff Richard and the Drifters had their first British #1 when “Living Doll” started a six-week run at top of the singles chart. The record eventually sold over half a million copies. After the song peaked at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, Richard and the Drifters changed their name to the Shadows to avoid a conflict with the American group of the same name.

1964: “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas was released. Written by Motown songwriters Marvin Gaye, William “Mickey” Stevenson, and Ivy Jo Hunter, it became a signature song of both the group as well as their highest-charting single on the US pop charts, peaking at #2. It became their first song to chart in the UK, where it reached #4.

1966: Cream, featuring guitarist Eric Clapton guitar, drummer Ginger Baker, and bassist and lead vocalist Jack Bruce, performed their first official concert at the sixth annual National Jazz & Blues Festival in Windsor. Each member had already established himself as a key player in the UK blues scene, doing time in bands like the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Manfred Mann, and the Graham Bond Organization. Their 40-minute set included many songs that ended up on their debut album later that year, including “Cat’s Squirrel,” “Spoonful,” “Lawdy Mama” and “I’m So Glad.” Clapton referred to Cream’s music as “blues ancient and modern,” saying, “What we want to do is anything that people haven’t done before.” Bruce added, “We call it sweet-and-sour rock ‘n’ roll.”

1967: The Young Rascals released their third studio album, Groovin’. It became their first top 10 LP on the Billboard pop chart, where it reached #5.

1968: After two days of rehearsing, the Beatles recorded the basic tracks for “Hey Jude” at Trident Studios in London, where Trident had eight-track recording facilities.

1968: Tommy James and the Shondells’ only British hit, “Mony Mony,” went to #1 on the UK chart. In the US, the single peaked at #3.

1971: James Taylor achieved his only #1 single on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart with “You’ve Got a Friend,” written by Carole King. The song was also his first #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and became the highest of his only two charting singles in the UK, reaching #4.

1972: “Honky Cat,” the second and final single from Elton John’s fifth studio album, Honky Château, was released. The record ultimately reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

1976: “Still the One” by Orleans entered the Billboard Hot 100, where it later became their highest charting US single, reaching #5.

1976: George Benson had his only #1 on the Billboard pop albums chart with Breezin’. The album was also his first to top the R&B chart and second #1 on the Jazz chart.

1976: Blue Oyster Cult debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 with “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” the first single from the band’s fourth studio LP, Agents of Fortune. It became the most successful of the band’s four entries on the chart, reaching #12. On the Cash Box singles chart, the song reached #7.

1984: The second single from Bruce Springsteen’s seventh studio album, Born in the U.S.A., “Cover Me,” was released. It later went to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.

1985: The Eurythmics had their only #1 on the UK singles chart with “There Must Be An Angel.” In the US, the song reached #22.

2004: Simon & Garfunkel closed out their European reunion tour with a free concert at the Colosseum in Rome to an audience of 600,000.

Birthdays Today

Ahmet Ertegun, businessman, songwriter, philanthropist, former chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and co-founder of Atlantic Records who was instrumental in popularizing jazz, R&B, soul, and rock on the label, was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1923.

John West, organ and electronic accordion player of Gary Lewis & the Playboys, was born in 1939.

Lobo, singer and songwriter, was born Roland Kent LaVoi in Tallahassee, FL in 1943.

Gary Lewis, singer and leader of Gary Lewis and the Playboys, was born Gary Harold Lee Levitch in Newark, NJ in 1945.

Karl Green, songwriter and bassist for Herman’s Hermits, was born in Davyhulme, Manchester, England in 1947.

Carlo Karges, guitarist and songwriter for Nena, who wrote their most famous song, “99 Luftballons,” was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1951.

Hugh MacDowell, cellist for Electric Light Orchestra, was born in Hampstead, London, England in 1953.

Daniel Ash, solo artist, singer, songwriter, and guitarist for Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, and Love and Rockets, was born in Northampton, England in 1957.

Bill Berry, multi-instrumentalist and drummer for R.E.M., was born in Duluth, MN in 1958.

Jim Corr, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist for the Corrs, was born in Dundalk, Louth, Ireland in 1964.

Will Champion, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and drummer for Coldplay, was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England in 1978.