Tuesday, June 20, 2006

All Through the Night

June 20, 2004: Organizers of Paul McCartney's appearance in St. Petersburg, Russia, hire three jets to seed the clouds above the outdoor venue with dry ice so it won't rain during the show. This strikes me as one of the strangest historic events we've ever noted on this feature, although I'm not sure why.

June 20, 2000: The Ronettes are awarded $2.6 million in back earnings from Phil Spector, who was ruled to have cheated them of royalties during their recording heyday. It is the first indication that the new century is not going to be the best one Spector ever had.

June 20, 1974: A giant outdoor festival in Knebworth, England, features what's supposed to be the best sound system ever used at such a show. It weighs 12 tons and requires five technicians to operate, not counting the guy whose job it is to say "check, check" for 20 minutes before the show.

June 20, 1969: The three-day Newport Pop Festival opens in Northridge, California, with performances by Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Albert King, Ike and Tina Turner, and Spirit. (On succeeding days, CCR, the Rascals, Three Dog Night, Marvin Gaye, Jethro Tull, and the Byrds would also appear.) Northridge is a residential community not equipped to handle the influx of 200,000 fans, and in response, the City of Los Angeles bans outdoor festivals. On the same day, David Bowie records tracks for his single, "Space Oddity."

Birthdays Today:
Cyndi Lauper is 53. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" will be in the first sentence of her obituary, but "All Through the Night" and "Time After Time" (which was Number One 22 years ago today) are better songs and superior performances.

Lionel Richie is 57. Few performers were capable of creating such extremes of the sublime ("Easy," "Sweet Love," and "Sail On" with the Commodores) and the ridiculous ("Endless Love," "Ballerina Girl," his daughter Nicole).

Anne Murray is either 59, 60 or 61, depending on the source. She was an unlikely pop star to begin with. However, she put at least one record into the Hot 100 in all but one year between 1970 and 1983, including "You Needed Me," a Number-One song in 1978.

Brian Wilson is 64. Two days younger than Paul McCartney, and could have been more influential, if he hadn't lost two midlife decades of productivity.

Number One Songs on This Date:
1989: "Wind Beneath My Wings"/Bette Midler.
Although this version is the most famous, the song had been recorded by lots of other people before Bette did it, including Gladys Knight and the Pips (under the title "Hero"), Sheena Easton, Willie Nelson, Patti LaBelle, and Lou Rawls, whose version made the Hot 100 in 1983.

1980: "Funkytown"/Lipps Inc. That sing-songy Casio keyboard sound guaranteed that this would be a monster. It also guaranteed that, one by one, people would grow to hate it passionately after they'd heard it once too often.

1978: "Shadow Dancing"/Andy Gibb.
During its seven-week run at Number One, "Shadow Dancing" kept Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" stuck at Number Two, proving again that there is no God.

1971: "It's Too Late"-"I Feel the Earth Move"/Carole King. King's brilliance as a songwriter obscures the fact that she doesn't sing very well--yet this remains one of the landmark singles of the 1970s, and a 45 buyer's dream.

1917: "The Star-Spangled Banner"/John McCormack.
It wasn't the National Anthem yet--that official declaration wouldn't come until 1931--but patriotism was at a fever pitch in the summer of 1917, only a couple of months after the American declaration of war against Germany. McCormack, the most famous Irish tenor of them all, was also one of the biggest-selling stars of the Pioneer Era. You can find snippets of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and other famous recordings here.


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