Wherein I relate random bits of trivia that either A) have been stuck in my head for a long time or 2) came out of my research but didn’t exactly fit a given post or series. Enjoy!
++Not so much rock trivia on this one but nevertheless, interesting: In 1939, Billie Holiday recorded a song called “Strange Fruit,” about the lynching of black men in the Southern United States. The song was written by a guy named Abel Meeropol, a New York teacher and songwriter.
Sympathetic to the cause of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg who were executed in 1953 for treason, Abel adopted their two sons. (Who got little support from their own family.) The two Meeropol brothers have been in the press lately as they are asking President Obama for exoneration for their mother whom they believe was unjustly executed. (Russian records show that Julius was clearly a spy.)
++Phil Spector’s first hit was a song he wrote when he was with a group called the Teddy Bears. It’s called “To Know Him is To Love Him,” and while yes it’s a love song, the phrase actually came from his father’s tombstone.
++According to the musical documentary Soundbreaking, when George Martin wanted to add strings to The Beatles‘ “Eleanor Rigby,” he decided to give them a staccato feel after hearing Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack for Hitchcock’s Psycho:
++As I mentioned in my series about The Police, their original guitarist was a Coriscan guy named Henry Padovani. While he largely stayed under the radar for years, in 1988, Police manager Miles Copeland appointed him as Vice President of IRS Records, a role he performed until 1994. He still performs and in fact, just released an album in September.
++When the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964, one of the other acts was the cast from the Broadway play Oliver! Standing in the wings watching them perform was an 18-year-old Brit who was starring as the Artful Dodger.
To himself he said, “I watched the Beatles from the side of the stage, I saw the girls going crazy, and I said to myself, this is it, I want a piece of that.” And so in September 1966, Davy Jones along with his bandmates premiered in a TV show called The Monkees. In 1967, The Monkees outsold the Beatles and Rolling Stones combined. I was a total Monkees fan.
++There is a concert sequence in the movie A Hard Day’s Night. A 13-year old Phil Collins is one of the attendees in the audience. You can see a brief clip here with Collins explaining why he was there.
++Drummer Henry Spinetti, who was a session man with so many great artists (Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Eric Clapton), is the brother of the late actor Victor Spinetti. Victor appeared in A Hard Day’s Night (as TV director), Help and Magical Mystery Tour. George’s mother fancied him.
++Celine Dion tried to name her Las Vegas show Muse but was threatened with a lawsuit by the same-named band. She offered them $50,000 USD for its use but they rejected it as they did not want to be mistakenly known as her backup band.
++The Beatles’ recording of “Twist and Shout” is notable for John Lennon’s impassioned vocal. George Martin apparently planned for this to be the last song to be recorded on their debut album, Please Please Me.
Martin wanted Lennon’s voice to be ragged, more or less as he heard it at the Cavern. Lennon’s voice was already shot from a 12-hour session. But he sucked on a couple of throat lozenges, gargled with milk (!) and took his shirt off. He later said his voice was not the same for a long time afterward, and that “every time [he] swallowed, it felt like sandpaper.”
++According to Woodstock founder Michael Lang’s book, tired from incessant touring behind Tommy, Pete Townshend did not want to play the festival. But Lang and his partner were convinced they needed The Who for Saturday night. They kept bringing the subject up all night but Townshend “refused to be swayed.”
The partners stayed up all night, outlasting Pete who started dozing around 4 am. They kept waking him up and finally at 8 am, Townshend couldn’t take it any more. “Okay we’ll do it,” he said. “Just let me go to fucking bed.” The Who came on at 5 a.m. Sunday morning and played most of Tommy plus some other stuff.