Keith Moon would have turned 68 today if he hadn’t died in 1978 from swallowing 32 tablets of Heminevrin, a sedative he was taking to help him with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The Who’s chemically induced clown/drummer mixed one too many horse tranquilizers with brandy on the evening of November 20, 1973, causing him to pass out twice during the band’s performance at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. But the show went on! Who guitarist Pete Townsend shouted out to the crowd: “Can anybody play the drums?”, and a young man stepped forward.
Rock blaster Robert Plant, like his Led Zeppelin bandmates, was known to have “entertained” thousands of groupies in hotel rooms all across the land, back in the day when cocksure male rock gods reigned supreme. But when Elvis came to town, the tables were turned, and Mr. Plant found himself playing the part of adoring groupie. Just what went on behind closed door between those two? (It’s safe to say it didn’t involve a mud shark.) Actually, the story goes like this…
“People would say ‘You shouldn’t be sayin’ that. You should be talkin’ about country music.’ And I said, ‘Why not? It’s the truth! Why can’t I say I’m a Beatles fan?’ I used to get criticized for that.” Those words are from country music great Buck Owens, who would have turned 85 today. He was responding to the country purists who accused him of selling out by adding rock elements to his repertoire in the mid-’60s. Most rock fans know that The Beatles recorded a version of Buck’s 1964 hit “Act Naturally,” which featured cowboy-loving Ringo on vocals. But few realize that Buck was a fan of The Beatles even before they chose his song as the B side of “Yesterday.”
Some of my fondest memories are of the times spent carpooling to work with my dad in the early 80s, gauging his reaction to the hits of the day and the humor of the morning DJs. “Those dirty bastards,” he’d chortle at the double-entendres of the radio hosts. Here’s a little ditty about Daddy for his birthday.
“It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day…” I sing in the car. This is about as far as I get before my sweet hubby groans, “Okay, THAT’S enough.” He knows what’s coming next: the entire five verses of Bobbie Gentry’s Southern gothic hit, “Ode to Billie Joe.” Yep, I’ve known the lyrics to that moody little song frontwards and backwards since Daddy first brought home the single in July 1967. The beautiful Bobbie is 70 years old today, and I want to thank her for inspiring me at a young age to write about my life and my observations.
Even if Bob Dylan hadn’t introduced The Beatles to marijuana at New York’s Delmonico Hotel, the boys would have lit up soon enough. From that August 1964 night onward, “let’s have a laugh” quickly became their code phrase for “let’s have a toke.” And laugh they did. At least until they began getting busted for smoking that wicked weed. It turns out that Paul, not the controversial John, was the most prolific pot puffer of all, leading the band in number of arrests.
The theater darkens. The 20th-Century Fox logo flickers on. Then, two very red lips on a black background fill the screen. The theme music begins and the lips sing, “Michael Rennie was ill the day the earth stood still, but he told us where we stand. And Flash Gordon was there, in silver underwear, Claude Rains was the Invisible Man.” You’re immediately drawn in by the tune, the lyrics and the fab falsetto of the singer. The lips continue singing for several verses while the opening credits appear. The theme song, like the movie, is an homage to early science fiction movies, B horror movies, and early rock-n-roll. Soon, people in the audience start wielding strange objects in the theater and talking back to the actors. By now you’re starting to wonder: just exactly what did I wander into? “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” of course. When I first saw this film in the mid-1980s it was like nothing else I’d ever seen. I was titillated, shocked, and rapturously seduced! An article by contributing writer Janet Daniels.
Forty-five years ago this month I was eating Pillsbury Space Food Sticks, building my own mini lunar module from a kit, and drinking Tang — the beverage of astronauts! Like the rest of the world, I was caught up in Apollo 11 moon-landing mania, as Neil Armstrong took that first giant step on July 20, 1969. The event spawned national pride, crackpot conspiracy theories, and countless innovative spinoff technologies. It also inspired an androgynous young British performer to release a song that would define his career.
Which rock star has an asteroid named in his honor? Brainy guitarist/astrophysicist Brian May, of course! The musician best known for his work with Queen turns 67 today. I could always recognize his distinctive style. He used his custom-built “Red Special” guitar to produce sounds that mimicked all kinds of instruments, such as trombones and piccolos. In 2012, readers of Guitar World magazine voted him the 2nd greatest guitarist of all time, and Rolling Stone pegged him at #26 in their list of Top 100 guitarists.
Woody Guthrie, born 102 years ago today, is best known as the dust bowl balladeer who wrote many of America’s most beloved songs, including “This Land Is Your Land.” He was a free spirit and a sprite, a vagabond minstrel who spent his 55 years on earth using music to empower the common man. He wrote of the roads he traveled and the characters he met, of “dusty old dust” and the places he lived on “the wild, windy plains.” He also wrote about a land and a culture far removed from his Tom Joad roots, a place “where the halvah meets the pickle, where the sour meets the sweet.” Yes, folks, it turns out that Woody Guthrie had a Jewish mother-in-law! And folk culture is all richer for it.