Wednesday, July 13, 2005

History Lesson: And I Cannot Lie

July 13, 1985: Live Aid is held in London and Philadelphia. I don't realize how big it's going to be until that day, and I spend much of that Saturday afternoon at my radio station running reports from the venues. That night, the Mrs. and I set up a second TV set in our crummy little one-bedroom apartment so we can watch the live MTV broadcast on cable and the rebroadcast highlights of the day on ABC. Best moment: the Led Zeppelin reunion. Worst moment: MTV letting the VJs sing along on "We Are the World."

July 13, 1973:
The Everly Brothers break up on stage in California, mid-show, as Don says "The Everly Brothers died ten years ago" and Phil smashes his guitar and walks off. Like many musical divorces, this one isn't permanent. The boys reform in 1983 and return to the road; in 1984, they record EB84, featuring Paul McCartney's lovely "On the Wings of a Nightingale."

July 13, 1969: It's reported that over 100 radio stations have banned the Beatles' "The Ballad of John and Yoko" because of the line, "Christ you know it ain't easy." It goes to Number 8 in America anyhow.

July 13, 1963: The Rolling Stones play their first gig outside of London, opening for the Hollies in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire.

Birthdays Today: Roger McGuinn of the Byrds is 63. Born Jim, changed it to Roger for religious reasons. (I have no idea.) It was his jangly guitar that made the Byrds the Byrds. Cheech Marin is 59. Cheech and Tommy Chong might have been the biggest rock stars in the country for a brief moment in late 1973 and early 1974, when their "hard rock comedy" was more compelling than a lot of the music being released.

Number One Songs on This Date:
1991: "Baby Got Back"/Sir Mix-a-Lott.
The first time, it's shocking. The second time, it's kind of funny. The third time and beyond, it's offensive. The moment at which American popular music jumped the shark.

1989: "Good Thing"/Fine Young Cannibals. Three straight Number-One songs, each with a single week at the top: "Good Thing," the Simply Red cover of "If You Don't Know Me By Now" and "Express Yourself" by Madonna. Not a bad musical summer. Of course there was also Milli Vanilli, Richard Marx, and New Kids on the Block, so everything's relative.

1974: "Rock Your Baby"/George McCrae. It dethroned "Rock the Boat" by the Hues Corporation from the top spot, so I think we can safely say the disco era began sometime in July 1974.

1962: "The Stripper"/David Rose. Oh, those lascivious trombones.

1937: "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down"/Russ Morgan.
Five different versions of this charted in the summer of 1937; Morgan and Shep Fields would reach the top, Eddy Duchin would get to Number 2 at about the same time. You know this tune, by the way. It's the theme song from the Bugs Bunny cartoons.

(Late correction: "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" is actually the theme song to the Looney Tunes series; some of the Bugs Bunny cartoons, especially the oft-repeated ones from the 1950s, used another theme. If we can't be historically accurate when we're discussing cartoons, then what the hell's the use?)

(PS: Still looking for answers to the question of why we listen to our old records. How come we don't throw them away like old magazines? What do we get from them that's enough to keep us hauling them around all our lives? If you've got an opinion, click Comments or e-mail me.)


At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like you, I didn't realize that the Live Aid concert in 1985 was going to be so big until that day wore on.
The radio station I worked at carried all of it. I got to kick it off that morning with performances from Billy Ocean and Tears for Fears live in Australia. Later in the day, I watched it on TV and was captivated by it. The CBS affiliate in Green Bay even carried it, taking a feed from MTV. However, that same day, President Ronald Reagan underwent surgery to remove a polyp from his colon and CBS News kept breaking in with updates. (I think Vice President Bush was out of the country at the time, prompting Alexander Haig to keep boasting that HE was in charge!)

I remember Phil Collins performing in London, hopping on a Concorde and flying straight to Philadelphia to perform again. Collins also played
drums on Led Zeppelin's
"Stairway to Heaven."
Unfortunately, VCRs cost about $350 back then and with a salary of about $180 a week in those days, a VCR was an unaffordable luxury item. I should've taped it off the radio, but I was young and impressionable and was afraid of breaking the law regarding copyright infringement. (Like anybody would've sued me over it.) When it was over, it was one of the few times I felt like I had watched something really felt good.

At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haig claimed to be in charge after Reagan was shot in 1981, not in conjunction with Reagan's surgery.

Reagan signed a letter turning over presidential power to Bush temporarily. It was so unusual that some members of the White House press corps thought Reagan was resigning permanently.


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