Sunday, February 19, 2006

Misadventure, Rumours, and Death

(Editor's Note: I know I did one of these today-in-history things just a couple of posts back, but there's so much weirdly interesting stuff in the annals of this date that I'm compelled to do another one.)

February 19, 2004: Johnny Cash's family blocks an attempt by a pharmaceutical company to use "Ring of Fire" in commercials for hemorrhoid cream. The idea doesn't come from some twentysomething marketing geek who wouldn't know Johnny Cash from Jonny Quest--it comes from Merle Kilgore, who co-wrote the song (and who would get paid if it were used in a commercial).

February 19, 1997:
A judge dismisses a $7 million lawsuit against Motley Crue by a fan who claimed he lost his hearing at one of their concerts. C'mon dude, it was Motley Crue.

February 19, 1982: Ozzy Osborne visits the Alamo in San Antonio wearing a dress. And as if that won't draw enough attention, Ozzy decides to urinate on the side of the building, whereupon he is arrested.

February 19, 1980: Bon Scott of AC/DC dies at age 33 of acute alcohol poisoning and "death by misadventure." Those readers who know me personally know how greatly I detest AC/DC, but I'll say this: Compared to Brian Johnson, who replaced Scott as AC/DC's lead singer, Scott was Frank Sinatra.

February 19, 1977: Fleetwood Mac's Rumours is officially released. That this album even exists is a minor miracle, given the prodigious drug use and the serial coupling and uncoupling of band members during its recording. For all that, its artistic achievement is even more remarkable.

February 19, 1958: Motown Records releases its first record, the Miracles' "Got a Job", which is an answer record to the Silhouettes' famous "Get a Job."

Birthdays Today:
Falco would be 48, had he not been killed in a traffic accident in 1998. I heard "Rock Me Amadeus" again the other day, and it occurs to me that it was more of a landmark record than we could have known in 1986. Its combination of hideously unpleasant vocals over a dark and seething instrumental track was followed in the 90s and 00s by lots more best-selling sonic ugliness purporting to be art.

Lou Christie is 63. Possessor of one of popular music's great falsettos. Get the singles, including "Lightning Strikes," "Rhapsody in the Rain," and the legendary "I'm Gonna Make You Mine." Avoid the rest.

Smokey Robinson is 66. In the 60s, Bob Dylan called Robinson "America's greatest living poet." That was an exaggeration, but Smokey had the greatest lyrical gift of anybody at Motown, and one of its most distinctive voices, too.

Number One Songs on This Date, Wayback Edition:
1956: "Rock and Roll Waltz"/Kay Starr.
Early tale of culture clash in which Kay's parents try to waltz to her rock-n-roll records, and thus an ancestor of Cheap Trick's "Surrender."

1940: "In the Mood"/Glenn Miller Orchestra. In their day, the Miller Orchestra was not considered a jazz band, but this record swings. It's the one big-band hit everybody knows.

1930: "Happy Days Are Here Again"/Benny Meroff Orchestra.
In the depths of the Depression, this became a huge hit, with three best-selling versions as spring came in 1930. Franklin D. Roosevelt adopted it as his campaign song.

1924: "It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'"/Wendell Hall. Yet another massively popular ukulele record from the early 20s, but that's not how I know this song. It's one my mother used to sing around the house when we were kids.

1906: "My Gal Sal"/Byron G. Harlan. Harlan was one of the major stars of the pre-1920 pioneer era of recording, and it's no wonder, given that he was a longtime neighbor of Thomas Edison, who invented the phonograph. You can navigate to an MP3 of "My Gal Sal" here, at the Internet Archive. Note the sound quality, which is quite good. I am guessing it's been digitally cleaned up, but that's not the point--100 years ago, cylinders were the most popular recording format, and they actually had superior fidelity to the flat vinyl discs that replaced them.


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