Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Cat Named Hercules

May 7, 1990: Tom Waits is awarded $2.5 million when a jury finds that Frito Lay unlawfully used a Waits soundalike in Doritos commercials. I'd let a company unlawfully use my voice for half that.

May 7, 1982: Rock impresario Neil Bogart dies at age 39. Best known for founding the disco record label Casablanca, Bogart also promoted Kiss and pioneered bubblegum at Buddah Records. Shortly before his death, he founded Boardwalk Records and signed Joan Jett. Her first solo hit, "I Love Rock and Roll," is spending its last day of seven weeks at Number One on the day Bogart dies.

May 7, 1977: Olivia Newton-John plays her first concert in New York City, at the Metropolitan Opera House. Hmmm, that's not the first venue I'd associate with her.

May 7, 1972: Reginald Dwight legally changes his name to Elton John. (Trivia question: Elton also took a new middle name. What is it? Answer below.) On the same date, the Rolling Stones release the double album Exile on Main Street. The lead single from the album, "Tumbling Dice," is already rocketing up the U.S. singles chart.

Birthdays Today:
Prairie Prince of the Tubes and of the later, post-fame edition of the Jefferson Airplane, is 56. Name-dropper alert: I met Prince backstage at a concert during the early 90s, and apart from being unusually tall, he didn't seem especially unusual at all.

Pete Wingfield is 58. Wingfield, who played on dozens of other peoples' records, had a single moment of solo fame with his single "Eighteen With a Bullet." Based on a bit of record-chart jargon (a bullet refers to a designation that a record will continue to rise on the charts), it actually reached Number 18 with a bullet on the Billboard chart during the week of November 22, 1975.

Bill Kreutzman of the Grateful Dead and Bill Danoff of the Starland Vocal Band are both 60, which is about as weird a coincidence as that of Danoff's one-time wife, Taffy, sharing a birthday with Jon Anderson of Yes.

R&B/disco singer Thelma Houston is 63. "Don't Leave Me This Way" had spent a week at Number One, and was still high on the chart this week in 1977.

Johnny Maestro is 67. He sang lead on the 1958 classic "16 Candles" with the Crests, and 11 years later with the Brooklyn Bridge on "Worst That Could Happen."

Number One Songs on This Date:
1991: "Baby Baby"/Amy Grant.
The first of four monster hit singles from the album Heart in Motion--they were hard to dislike, at least until you'd heard them about 500 times.

1988: "Wishing Well"/Terence Trent D'Arby. D'Arby famously called his debut album Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby the best album since Sgt. Pepper. That was good for publicity, but as music criticism, not so much, although "Wishing Well" was probably the most interesting single to make Number One that year.

1977: "Hotel California"/Eagles. This spent only one week at Number One before being dethroned by Leo Sayer's "When I Need You." A nice record, that one, but c'mon.

1974: "The Loco-motion"/Grand Funk. Yes, this was a weird choice to cover for a band renowned as one of the most heavy-duty outfits in the world only a few years earlier, but they demolished it about the way we'd have expected. The real descents into could-be-anybody light rock, "Bad Time" and "Sally," were yet to come.

1966: "Monday Monday"/Mamas and the Papas. One of those records that seems as if it's always existed. Forty years of continuous airplay will do that.

Trivia answer:
Reginald Kenneth Dwight renamed himself after British jazz musician Elton Dean and singer Long John Baldry. For a middle name, he lifted a title from a song on his then-current album Honky Chateau, yielding the euphonious handle Elton Hercules John.


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