Today in Rock & Roll History: October 26th

1961: 20-year-old Bob Dylan signed his first recording contract with Columbia Records.

1962: Bob Dylan recorded for the first time with a backing band at Columbia Studio A. Several takes of Dylan’s “Mixed-Up Confusion” and Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right Mama” were deemed unusable, but a master take of “Corrina, Corrina” was selected for his next album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. An alternate take of “Corrina, Corrina” from the same session would also be selected for a single issued later in the year.

1962: Motown launched its first package tour with a concert in Washington DC. Dubbed The Motown Revue, the tour featured the label’s artists such as Marvin Gaye, the Miracles, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, and Mary Wells. Throughout the tour, the Revue was joined by non-Motown performers such as James Brown, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and Dusty Springfield. Most of the venues for the early Motown Revue tours were along a collection of east-coast venues known as the “chitlin’ circuit. In the deep south, racism became an issue for the tour, with the label’s African American performers being attacked or threatened by white residents. While Motown artists generally played to mixed audiences in the north, in the South, white and black audiences attended separate shows, or were allowed to attend the same show as long as each race stayed on either side of police rope that divided the performance hall. Motown artists are credited with helping to break down barriers so that future audiences no longer needed to be separated by color.

1964: On last day of recording their fourth album, Beatles For Sale, the Beatles held four recording and mixing sessions, working on “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Words of Love,” “Baby’s in Black,” “I’m a Loser,” and “Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!” During they day’s third session, the band began recording the Carl Perkins song “Honey Don’t.” While John Lennon had previously sung the song during live and radio performances, Ringo Starr sang instead to satisfy his vocal spot on the album. Afterward, the Beatles taped a remake of “What You’re Doing,” and recorded and edited their second Christmas record, which was pressed and distributed to fan club members that December.

1965: At Buckingham Palace, The Beatles were appointed Members of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. Since it was unusual for popular musicians to be appointed as MBEs, a number of previous recipients complained and protested, with several handing in their own medals in disgust.

1968: Dion entered the Billboard Hot 100 with “Abraham, Martin and John.” The single became his last top 10 single, reaching #4.

1968: The San Francisco International Pop Festival kicked off at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. The two-day weekend festival included performances by the Animals, Canned heat, the Chambers Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Deep Purple, Jose Feliciano, the Grass Roots, Iron Butterfly, Procol Harum, Buddy Miles, and Johnny Rivers.

1968: English rock band Smile played one of—if not their first—live gig at London’s Imperial College in support of Pink Floyd and The Troggs. A few years later, after the departure of lead singer and bassist Tim Staffell, Smile’s guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor joined bassist John Deacon and Freddie Mercury to form the classic lineup of Queen.

1970: “Your Song,” originally included on Elton John’s self-titled second studio album, was released as a single in the US. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 a month later, eventually reaching #8.

1973: Paul McCartney and Wings released the single “Helen Wheels,” named after Paul and Linda’s Land Rover. Released prior to the British release of the group’s Band on the Run LP, Capitol Records’ vice president persuaded McCartney to include the song on the US version of the album. In the US, “Helen Wheels” peaked at #10 in January the next year and reached #12 on the UK chart.

1981: “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie was released. The song became Queen’s second #1 hit in the UK and reached #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. Bowie had originally gone to Mountain Studio in Montreux, Switzerland to sing backing vocals on another Queen song, “Cool Cat,” but after not being satisfied with his performance, Bowie had his vocals removed and instead helped Queen finish a song they had been working on called “Feel Like.” Out of their collaborative jam session came the song’s final version, re-titled “Under Pressure.”

Birthdays Today

Mahalia Jackson, civil rights activist and one of the most influential gospel singers in the world, who was described by Harry Belafonte as “the single most powerful black woman in the United States,” was born in New Orleans, LA in 1911.

Keith Hopwood, rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist in Herman’s Hermits, was born in Davyhulme, Manchester, England in 1946.

Maggie Roche, singer-songwriter who performed with her two sisters as the Roches, was born in New Jersey in 1951.

Bootsy Collings, funk, soul, and R&B singer-songwriter and musician who backed James Brown in the early 1970s as a member of the Pacemakers who later joined Parliament-Funkadelic, and whose various collaborations have established him as a leading name in funk, was born William Earl Collins in Cincinnati, OH in 1951.

Keith Strickland, singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and founding member of the B-52s who switched from drums to guitar after the death of Ricky Wilson in 1985, was born in Athens, GA in 1953.

Frank Mertens, musician, composer, and keyboardist and original member of Alphaville, was born in Enger, Germany in 1961.

Natalie Merchant, lead singer and lyricist with 10,000 Maniacs who left for a solo career in 1993, was born in Jamestown, NY in 1963.