Today in Rock & Roll History: October 31st

1938: Sister Rosetta Tharpe made her first recording—four sides for Decca Records, backed by Lucky Millinder’s jazz orchestra. The first gospel songs ever recorded by Decca, “Rock Me,” “That’s All,” “My Man and I,” and “The Lonesome Road” were instant hits, establishing Tharpe as an overnight sensation and one of the first commercially successful gospel recording artists. She was also among the first gospel musicians to appeal to rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll audiences and later became known as “the Godmother of rock and roll.”

1960: The Drifters had their last #1 single on Billboard’s R&B chart with “Save the Last Dance For Me,” the same week that it returned to the top spot on the Hot 100 after initially reaching #1 two weeks earlier. It was also the group’s last song to top the Hot 100, but the group did achieve one finale #1 single on Cash Box’s R&B chart in 1964 with “Under the Boardwalk.”

1963: Gerry and the Pacemakers were at #1 on the UK singles chart with “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the group’s third and final song to reach the top.

1963: The first wave of Beatlemania was set in motion when the Beatles returned from a tour of Sweden to find 50,000 screaming fans waiting for them at London Airport. The band initially thought the fans were waiting to see the Queen, but soon realized the extent of their popularity back home. By chance, American television host Ed Sullivan witnessed the crowd and asked “Who are those guys?” Having never heard them, Sullivan contacted Beatles manager Brian Epstein to book the band for three appearances on his CBS show early in 1964.

1964: The Supremes started a four-week run at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Baby Love,” the group’s second of five successive #1 hits.

1965: Lead singer Wayne Fontana left his group, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, for a solo career. The group continued as the Mindbenders, with Eric Stewart as lead vocalist.

1967: Iggy Pop and the Stooges made their live debut at a Halloween party in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Early on, the Stooges had been billed as the “Psychedelic Stooges,” and had a far more experimental sound, incorporating household objects such as a vacuum cleaner and a blender into an intense wall of feedback.

1969: David Bowie appeared at a Halloween gig at the General Gordon pub in Gravesend, England. In a performance that lasted fifteen minutes, Bowie sang “Space Oddity,” then dragged a stool on stage, from which he proceeded to read poetry before he was booed off stage.

1970: Led Zeppelin started a four week run at #1 on the Billboard pop album chart with Led Zeppelin III, the band’s second US chart topper.

1971: Pink Floyd’s sixth studio album, Meddle, was released. The experimental LP included lyrical contributions from each member, and is considered to be a transitional album between the band’s earlier recordings influenced by original member Syd Barrett, and the unified, themed albums largely written by Roger Waters. While successful in the UK, lackluster publicity lead to poor sales in the States.

1975: “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen was released. The single stayed at the top of the UK chart for nine weeks and sold more than a million copies by the end of the following January. It topped the charts in several other markets, reached #9 in the US in 1976, and later returned to the chart at #2 in 1992 following Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991.

1981: The Human League had their first #1 on the UK album chart with their third LP, Dare. In the US, the album was their first to enter the charts and highest-charting overall, reaching #3.

1987: Fleetwood Mac scored their third #1 album in the UK with Tango in the Night.

1988: Paul McCartney released Back in the USSR Again, also known as CHOBA B CCCP and “the Russia album,” exclusively in the Soviet Union. Similar to John Lennon’s 1975 album, Rock ‘n’ Roll, the LP consists entirely of covers of rock and roll oldies. McCartney had originally wanted to release the album in the UK outside of regular distribution channels, therefore making it appear as if it had been smuggled in from the Soviet Union, but EMI turned down that idea. Nonetheless, McCartney’s manager had a batch of LPs pressed with Russian-language covers as a Christmas present to McCartney. This gave McCartney the idea to release the album in the Soviet Union as a gesture of peace in the spirit of glasnost. An agreement was reached with the Soviet government-run record company Melodiya to license 400,000 copies of the album for release in the Soviet Union only with no exports. The album was later released internationally in 1991.

1989: The very first MTV Unplugged show was recorded in New York, featuring UK band Squeeze.

Birthdays Today

Tom Paxton, folk singer-songwriter with a music career spanning more than fifty years, was born in Chicago, IL in 1937.

Eric Griffiths, guitarist in the original lineup of The Quarrymen until he left the group in 1958, was born in Denbigh, North Wales in 1940.

Rik Kenton, bassist with Roxy Music in 1972 and co-founder of Savage Progress, was born in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England in 1945.

Russ Ballard, lead singer and guitarist for Argent, was born in Waltham Cross, Herfordshire, England in 1947.

Bob Siebenberg, drummer and percussionist for Supertramp, was born Robert Layne Siebenberg in Glendale, CA in 1949.

Bernard Edwards, bass player, singer, songwriter and record producer, both as a member of the funk/disco band Chic and on his own projects, was born in Greenville, NC in 1952.

Larry Mullen Jr., drummer for U2, was born in Artane, Dublin, Ireland in 1961.

Johnny Marr, Smiths guitarist, solo artist, and prolific session musician, was born John Martin Maher in Ardwick, Manchester, England in 1963.

Annabella Lwin, singer, songwriter, record producer, and lead singer of Bow Wow Wow, was born in Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar) in 1966.

Alistair “Ally” McErlaine, guitarist best known for his work with Texas, was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1968.

Rogers Stevens, guitarist for Blind Melon, was born in West Point, MS in 1970.