This is the third installment on CBC’s The Strombo Show called 3 Degrees of That Eric Alper, linking up songs that, at first glance, have nothing to do with one another…Until you dig a bit deeper. You can follow along like the kid’s picture book (“Ding! Turn the page!”) – I’m at the 41st minute of this fine, fine, radio show. You’ll want to start at the beginning to hear the whole show – George is truly the spirit of radio.
This segment is all about anniversaries – celebrations of this date in history with singles and albums, looking back on the month of April with happy times, great memories and…um…oh yeah, one. Major. Lawsuit.
On April 29, 1963, 19-year-old Andrew Loog Oldham signed a contract with The Rolling Stones, becoming their manager. Andrew had seen the band in concert the previous day at the Crawdaddy Club in London. Andrew, previously a publicist of the Beatles, had not even reached majority – as he was only 19 and could not get an agent’s license – his own mother had to sign the partnership agreement. Andrew was a genius, making moves that made The Stones the mega-sellers that they are today – He changed the spelling of the band name from “the Rollin’ Stones” to “the Rolling Stones”. He also removed the “s” from Keith Richards last name saying it “looked more pop”.
Andrew signed the Rolling Stones to Decca Records, which had previously passed on the Beatles earlier, so the label were eager to get their hands on a real rock and roll band. Then Andrew kicked in their sales campaign – big time. He was the one behind the marketing slogan Would You Let Your Daughter Marry A Rolling Stone?” They were marketed as the anti-Beatles. They had long hair, they were scruffy, they even smoked in public. The Stones posed unsmiling on the cover of the first UK album. Behind the scenes, though, both the Beatles and Stones were friends, hanging out and enjoying swinging London together. But, let’s not in the way of a great headline.
The very first single written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards was The Last Time, which was the band’s third UK single to reach #1, following their covers of Bobby Womack and Shirley Womack’s It’s All Over Now, and Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster.” The band loved to do covers in the beginning of their career and it paid off big time:
Now, I mentioned that The Last Time was The Rolling Stones’ 3rd UK single to hit #1, but their very first single was a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On”. That was released in June 1963. The Rolling Stones refused to play it at live gigs, and Decca bought only one ad to promote the single, so it kinda didn’t do well, hitting only #23 on the charts.
Chuck Berry, of course, is known in most circles as one of the Godfather’s of rock and roll. His best-known song – maybe certainly one of the most recognizable songs in music history is “Johnny B. Goode.” The song was a major hit, hitting the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958. One of the greatest guitar songs in history, it easily found a place in the heart of another guitar legend – Jimi Hendrix.
Jimi Hendrix had a hit with “Johnny B. Goode” hitting the Top 40 on the UK Singles Chart in 1972 – umm…yeah…2 years after his death. Jimi’s debut album, Are You Experienced is going to celebrate its 45th Anniversary this year, released in 1967 on May 12 – the album is still considered a masterpiece, displaying his R&B-based, psychedelic, distortion-and feedback-laden electric guitar and launched him as a major new international star. It’s still a landmark recording – Guitarist Magazine and MOJO Magazine named it most influential guitar albums of all time, and Guitar World Magazine named Are You Experienced the greatest album – ever.
Are You Experienced was the very first release by an indie label out of London called Track Records, and yes, they were experienced – in music, at least. Formed by The Who managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, the label was one of the hippest and most successful record companies in the UK. Although they released other records from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Thunderclap Newman and Golden Earring, it really was The Who’s label, intended to provide more creative freedom for the band who released all their albums from 1966 to 1974, including the classics Tommy, Who’s Next and Quadrophenia. When The Who’s drummer Keith Moon died in 1978, Kenney Jones joined the band as a replacement – and he was experienced as well on his own: He was a member of Faces, the lad-rock influential band led by Rod Stewart.
40 years ago this week, with his career in the stratosphere due to successes from his solo albums, Rod Stewart became increasingly distanced from his band mates who were by this time, little more than his backing band. As a result – on April 30th, 1973 –, Faces’ album Ooh La La was released to awful reviews, Rod even told the press it was a “stinking rotten album.” But the title track “Ooh La La” found new life decades later in Wes Anderson’s film Rushmore.
Rushmore is a classic soundtrack, featuring songs like “Oh Yoko” by John Lennon, The Wind by Cat Stevens, and lots of music created by Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo. Mark has scored most of Wes’ feature films like Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums and loves using long-forgotten music in his films. The Clash’s cover of Prince and Thieves appears on the soundtrack. Prince and Thieves has also been covered by Culture Club, and The Orb, and the song also appears in Comedy Central’s Reno 911! movie where it is performed by a little-known group “Sprechen Sie Deutsch”. That was the pseudonym of one Dave Grohl.
Dave Grohl, of course, of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, was a part of the Vote For Change tour in 2004, along with Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, John Fogerty, the Dixie Chicks, Pearl Jam, and R.E.M.
R.E.M, who released their debut album, Murmur in April, 1983 – that’s 30 years ago – has a brilliant guitarist in their own right – Peter Buck. Peter performs on Pete Yorn’s Day I Forgot album, released on 10 years ago this month in 2003, and Pete Yorn’s 5th album, a self-titled release was produced by Frank Black of The Pixies.
The Pixies first full-length album, Surfer Rosa, was recorded by Steve Albini, who also produced Killing Joke.
One member of Killing Joke was Martin Glover, also known as Youth, later produced and remixied tons of alternative rock’s best-loved bands: U2, INXS, The Art Of Noise, Depeche Mode, and one of his biggest albums he had a hand in was Urban Hymns by The Verve.
One of the biggest selling albums of 1997. Urban Hymns it is currently ranked the 17th best-selling album in UK chart history/ The first single for the Urban Hymns album, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic – it was released this month in 1998, celebrating its 15th year anniversary, and the song was involved in one of music’s biggest controversies surrounding plagiarism and sampling. You see, the Verve used an orchestral version of a Rolling Stones’ song, specifically sampling the strings and bongos, for Bittersweet Symphony. Originally, The Verve had negotiated a licence to use a sample from The Stones publisher, but the Stones’ lawyers argued that the Verve had used “too much” of the sample. The matter was eventually settled, and it was not good for The Verve – the copyright of the song went to the Stones’ publisher and the songwriting credits for Bittersweet Symphony were changed to read Jagger/Richards/Ashcroft, as in Richard Ashcroft, the lead singer and writer of The Verve, with 100% of royalties going to the Rolling Stones. Every penny. Forever.
The song The Verve used to sample? The Last Time, the very first single The Rolling Stones wrote themselves. The Orchestra that performed the song The Verve sampled? The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra, who signed The Rolling Stones to their very first management contract 50 years ago this week. Bittersweet Symphony, indeed.