April 13 – Sting Of The Jungle

Call him pompous or egotistical if you will, but one thing that can’t be said of Sting is that he won’t show up for a good cause. One of the big voices in the Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and on the Wembley stage for 1985’s Live Aid to a fundraising concert for out-of-work autoworkers in Canada more recently, if there’s a wrong to be righted, Sting will probably sing out for it. And Big Apple music fans were able to benefit from that 20 years ago today…and 22 years ago too! That was when the 2000 and 2002 Rock for the Rainforest Concerts were held at Carnegie Hall.

Sting’s always been something of an environmentalist and long ago he realized one of the big problems for the planet was the deforestation of tropical rain forests, particularly the Amazon (but also to lesser extents ones in Africa and south Asia.) It was hastening extinction of numerous species, adding to climate change problems and forcing a number of indigenous people from their traditional lands. So he and his wife, Trudie Styler started a non-profit organization called the Rainforest Foundation in 1987, aiming to raise money to preserve forest lands and fight plans for development for mining, urbanization, dams and the such in sensitive areas. Given his profession and history, it was natural that he’d try to highlight it and raise money through a concert. The first one was in 1991 and saw him joined by Elton John and some Brazilian classical and bossa nova artists like Gilberto Gil and Antonio Jobim. It raised about $250 000, and won good reviews, so he ran one again in ’92, with Elton returning and being joined by James Taylor and Don Henley. It became an annual spring tradition in New York throughout the decade, then switched to every second year after 2000. Several times they even managed to get the Empire State Building lit up in green lights to mark the event. Elton and James Taylor have been regulars, and the list of other performers through the years is quite impressive – Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Sheryl Crow plus comics Whoopi Goldberg and Bill Murray just for starters. The 2000 one was noteworthy for the only appearance by Stevie Wonder, while 2002’s saw a lineup that included Nina Simone and Ravi Shankar in addition to Sting and Elton as always.  2019 appeared to be the last one, with it changing venues to the Beacon Theatre in the city. Rolling Stone reported it featured Sting (of course) as well as an “extremely rare Eurythmics reunion” and “Bruce Springsteen (who) came onto the stage and called on John Mellencamp to help him sing ‘Glory Days’”. Also in attendance, Bob Geldof who taped the show with his smart phone “a look of absolute joy on his face.”

Presumably any plans for one in 2020 and ’21 were scuttled by the pandemic and right now it doesn’t seem like one is on tap for this year, although one might expect an announcement soon. After all, Sting spoke out again recently saying “legend has it that Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burned. While obviously bristling at the dubious factoid that such a stupid man could be a musician, none of us, including me, can be complacent about the tragic dimensions of the disaster taking place in the Amazon…(fires for land clearing) are up 80% from last year…this is criminal negligence on a global scale.” Sounds like a guy who’s readying to take the stage with some angry words and ditties soon to us!

To date, the foundation has saved 28 million acres of rainforest in 20 countries and led battles to stop several large developments. The concerts have raised at least $20 million and are listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “largest environmental fundraising event”.

April 5 – The Kegger That Reverberated For 30 Years

It was a party for the ages on this night in 1980 in Georgia. But I doubt many realized it at the time – they were too busy getting drunk and just having a good time!

Some hit bands are put together by committees (think the Monkees); others are built to be super-groups from the best of other bands (Asia, Led Zeppelin). Many get there by a group of people determined to be stars who studiously practice and write together for years (maybe Toto, for instance). Then there’s R.E.M.

The most successful American alt rock band, and the pride of Athens, Georgia came together by accident on this day 42 years ago. The four knew each other somewhat; Michael Stipe hung out at Peter Buck’s workplace (Wuxtry Records); Mike Mills and Bill Berry were friends at the University of Georgia there. Presumably they all knew one another and had some level of common musical interest and as we now know, some musical talent. However, they really didn’t come together with an aim to change the face of the musical landscape. They just decided to jam together a little to add some background noise to a friend’s party!

So it was that on an unseasonably cold spring night, what would become R.E.M. and about 300 others, mainly from the UofG, jammed into an abandoned Episcopal church on Oconee Street in Athens to throw a party for Kathleen O’Brien, who was celebrating her birthday. O’Brien worked at the campus radio station which no doubt endeared her to the boys in R.E.M. A good time was had by all by the few accounts, and the quartet played a handful of rather unmemorable covers of artists from Jonathan Richman to the Sex Pistols to the Stones. They played a couple of originals, rough versions of tracks that could eventually make the Murmur album like “Perfect Circle“.

And that might have been the end of the story if not for some unknown person’s greed. Or thirst. In true college form, the party was a “kegger”, with beer aplenty. Someone actually stole several kegs from the party. Poor student O’Brien had put down a deposit on the metal kegs and was on the hook for quite a few dollars. The musicians felt bad for her, and arranged to play a local bar – Tyrone’s OC – on May 6 to raise funds to pay her beer losses. In the meantime, they practiced a bit and haphazardly settled on the name that would take them into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame some 25 years later!

Tyrone’s bar burned down a couple of years later, but the music tourist can still see the steeple and part of the ruined church to this day.

While the band broke up after 31 years, various members have at times worked together since and they seem on amicable terms. Ironically, they saw a sudden resurgence in popularity of their ’80s single “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” in the early days of the pandemic  (it hit recharted on iTunes in early 2020). Mike Mills said of that, “we certainly never saw that coming with this song…you just never know how it’s going to work out.” Same goes for starting a new band, or any other venture, but in R.E.M.’s case, that kegger turned out pretty well!

April 2 – The Tree Began To Rattle Across America 35 Years Ago

U2 kicked off the Joshua Tree Tour on this day in 1987. The tour helped propel The Joshua Tree to become one of the decade’s biggest albums and them into superstar territory.

Fittingly (for an album named after a place in the American desert) the tour began in Tempe, AZ at the Arizona State University Activity Center (now known as the Wells Fargo Arena) ,on a Thursday night. Bono was struggling to ward off laryngitis, and invited people to sing along which they apparently were happy to do. The announced crowd was 25 000, even though the arena is only designed for 14 000 or so, and the band played through 21 songs (most of the Joshua Tree plus some old favorites like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day” as well as a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm”, a song they’d played frequently for the past year or so) . The first leg of the tour wrapped up in New Jersey in May, by which time they’d done 29 concerts for 465 000 fans. Eventually it finished up in December of that year after 110 shows, and not only did it help them make a major impression on America, it helped America make a major impression on them. Their follow-up album, Rattle and Hum was inspired by their time in the U.S. and even included a few live tracks recorded on the tour, including “Bullet the Blue Sky” from the Tempe.

The ’87 tour set them on the road to superstardom and the album did so well, they decided it was a tour so nice, they’d do it twice! In 2017, they went on tour again for the album’s 30th anniversary, playing every song on the album – remarkably they’d not done ‘Red Hill Mining Town’ before in concert – headlining the Bonnaroo Festival during it, and playing some 66 shows for over 3.25 million fans. That tour brought in close to $400M, all the better to pay for the expenses of things like the 200′ wide hi-res screen they used behind the stage! typically they supplemented The Joshua Tree with eight or nine other tracks including “Sunday Bloody Sunday” to open, “Bad”, “Pride” and “Beautiful Day” and the once-panned “Miss Sarajevo” as an encore.

It looks quiet in the U2 camp in terms of touring for 2022, but they are keeping busy nonetheless. They are putting out a special edition EP for Record Store Day later this month with their oft-forgotten ’82 single “A Celebration” and a new song; as well they are apparently in negotiations with Netflix about having a TV series about them.

March 21 – Moondog Began It All 70 Years Ago

Last week we talked about a U2 concert where only about a dozen people showed up. Many times we’ve talked about Live Aid and the Beatles legendary rooftop appearance in 1969 recently immortalized by the film Get Back. But today we remember a concert that might have been an even more significant ticket – the first rock concert ever was held this day in 1952. In Cleveland, fittingly, the city now home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Radio DJ Alan Freed was behind it and hosting (Freed is generally credited with coining the term “rock and roll”). He was working with WJW in Cleveland which was mainly a classical music station. However, as a local record store owner was selling a lot of R&B records, he sponsored a weekly late night show of that sort of music, hosted by Alan Freed, aka “Moon Dog”. They decided to bring some of the acts they played – Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers, the Rockin’ Highlanders (a Black group that apparently played in kilts) and others to a live dance/show at the Cleveland Arena. Dubbed the Moondog Coronation Ball, the 10000 seat arena filled…unfortunately, due to counterfeit tickets and math problems in ticket printing, about twice that many kids showed up. A huge push to get in caused the fire department to complain and the police shut it down after just one song… first concert, first concert conflict with local authorities all in one night!  Still, one song in, the world of rock concerts had begun. Music would never be the same.

Alas, there aren’t any concerts taking place there anymore. The Cleveland Arena, which at one time hosted both professional hockey and basketball, was torn down in 1977. By then it was looking rather ragged and old-fashioned compared to other similar sports facilities and parking was entirely inadequate for large crowds. A Red Cross office building now stands on the site on Euclid Ave. 

March 16 – And U2 Make 12?

Everyone’s likely seen some half-decent bar bands in their day, but how many people get to see decent bar bands that go onto become the biggest act in the world? Well, on this day in 1981, about a dozen did, if you believe the entertainment urban legend, because that’s supposedly how many people were in attendance for a show by U2 in Anaheim, California.

The Irish lads had put out their debut album, Boy, a few months earlier and were touring far and wide to promote it. After playing some shows on their own side of the Atlantic in the fall of 1980, they did a quick tour of the northeastern states (and Toronto, Canada, a city they’d play three times on that tour alone) hitting cities like New York, Buffalo and Philadelphia in December but came back in early 1981 for a bigger North American tour. They started that set at the Bayou in Washington DC on March 3, and before wrapping it up on May 31 in Bruce Springsteen’s old stomping grounds of Asbury Park, NJ, had criss-crossed the continent playing an array of cities like Austin, Chicago, Cleveland, Seattle, San Jose, Vancouver and more. The shows in Canada seemed to pay off – the album had risen to #4 on the charts there. Stateside however, while the album got a bit of notice, it was a slower process. Boy peaked at #63 on Billboard, and Rolling Stone only reviewed it in April, about six months after its release and after the bulk of this tour. (The magazine gave it a 3.5 out of 5 star rating, by the way, calling “I Will Follow” a “beguiling, challenging, perfect single” but noting that some of the other songs of “bass-heavy trance pop ramble without resolution.”)

On March 15, they played L.A., where radio station KROQ had been playing the lead single, “I WIll Follow” to death, in the words of one fan. The following night, Monday, March 16, they played a few miles away in the suburb of Anaheim at the Woodstock Concert Theater, which was really from all accounts a somewhat grubby bar, with a large pool table in the middle of the dance floor. Mike Muckenthaler worked the door of the club back then and told U2gig.com that it was largely used for heavy metal shows, especially after fans at a Social Distortion show got rowdy and turned management there against “punk.” U2 got booked, along with local opening acts Radio Music and Second Wind (“rock ballady in a Foreigner way” recalls Michael Marsh), largely because the owners of the club thought they would be kind of like A Flock Of Seagulls – new wave light.

So, we have a little known Irish band with one song on one radio station playing a major city Sunday, followed by a bar in a suburb on Monday. The Monday before St. Patrick’s Day no less. Not exactly the formula for drawing a big crowd! And so, the legend goes, the bar which could fit 400 held exactly 12 people to see U2 that night.

The legend may be partly myth, but it’s not too far off reality. Muckenthaler, who was working there and still has a flyer from it (admission: $3) recalls that there were indeed only a dozen “paid tickets.” However, the local acts and their roadies got to bring in friends, so there were more people there who didn’t pay, ones who were “comped” or on “guest lists”. LeRoy Lucian estimates there were 100 people there in total, Muckenthaler says the number was considerably fewer than that. What all seem to agree upon was that it was a dynamite, short set, with the boys playing “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” a second time in the show for an encore. A U2 fansite counted a total of only 20 different songs played during the entire tour – they were promoting their first record, remember. But what it lacked in quantity was made up for in quality. “It was like seeing the Doors at the Whiskey in the ’60s, before they took off,” Muckenthaler enthuses.

So it must have been, and so a dozen, maybe three or four dozen people got to experience something millions of fans would give their eye teeth to see only a few years later – U2 playing a small stage, in a bar small enough to buy a round for them – and everyone else! Two years later, they hit the singles chart in a big way with “New Year’s Day” and the rest as they say, is history. While the Woodstock, at the corner of Knott and Ball, ended up being replaced with a storage unit facility, U2’s career did not crumble. Fast forward three decades and you get to U2’s “360 Tour”, the most profitable tour in music history, grossing about $736 million dollars over 110 shows. The average attendance of those concerts: 66 110…give or take a couple on the “guest list.”! 

*** We’re going to be doing something a little different tomorrow… we’ll be having a post about a great, under-rated band from our friend Max at Power Pop Blog and meanwhile, we have a post about why music matters on his site. We hope you’ll check them both out and enjoy. ***

March 1 – Germans Saw Grunge’s Last Hurrah

The funny thing about history is that more often than not, you don’t know when you see it being made. Such was in all probability the case for several thousand people in Germany on this night in 1994, crowded into an old abandoned airport building in Munich. They figured they were just at another rock show, but history shows it would turn out to be the final performance ever by Nirvana.

Hot on the outrageous success of Nevermind, the trio had released In Utero in September, 1993 to a confused fan base but largely good reviews and had spent the subsequent months promoting the hell out of it. Although two decades on, the album may not sound that out-of-place when compared to its predecessor, it seemed at the time that no matter what Nirvana did, it wasn’t going to satisfy its new, huge fan base. Returning to their punk roots was going to alienate the newbies who heard them played next to U2 and The Cure on radio; too radio-friendly a sound was sure to annoy the hardcore fans and earn them the title “sell-outs.” The pressure on Kurt Cobain was intense. As the NME noted in its review, In Utero was a “profoundly confused record” that veered between punk and pop, “like a great band staggering around looking for a direction.” They considered Cobain to be “scared of the contentment he’s slipped into.” Nevertheless, the British publication graded the album an 8 out of 10; Rolling Stone was even more enthusiastic, rating it a 4-and-a-half out of 5 stars. The album entered the U.S. charts at #1 and was at #3 in Canada within days and earned platinum status in both countries by the end of September.

While popular in Europe, they didn’t have quite the same level of super-stardom, which no doubt was something Geffen Records wanted to fix. So after wrapping up an initial American tour for the album on Jan. 8 in Seattle, the band departed for a lengthy and grueling tour of Europe, with shows almost every night in February in Germany, Spain, France and even Slovenia. To fill out their sound, they brought along a couple of female cellists and guitarist Pat Smear (who would later join Dave Grohl in the Foo Fighters).

The demands of the tour, and of stardom in general, wore on Cobain. He was suffering from stomach problems that had plagued him for much of his life, and while apparently happy with his new wife Courtney Love, he presumably was stressed out by being apart from her so much of the time. All of that didn’t help him with his drug issues. Dave Grohl told Rolling Stone in 2013 that In Utero could be seen either as a “remarkable achievement (but) you can also remember it as a really f**-up time.” He recalled his time together with Kurt recording the album and touring for it thusly: “Living with Kurt was funny. He isolated himself in a lot of ways, emotionally. But he had a genuine sweet nature.” The isolation and physical strain was noticeable during the tour. Fan site livenirvana.com considered their Valentine’s Day concert in Paris the best of the whole tour but by Feb.22, in Italy it remarked that “Cobain is conspicuous by his near total silence between songs.”

The original international airport in Munich had been replaced by a new one in 1992, and eventually was redeveloped as a convention and shopping center, but in the years between, the Flughafen-Munchen Riem had been used for rock concerts and raves. Nirvana had been booked in for the first two nights of March.

The band took the stage and surprised the crowd by opening with a grungy but decent cover of the Cars song, “My Best Friend’s Girl,” a rather reasonable tip of the hat given that the Cars themselves had originally been considered “punk” but were picked up on by the mainstream audiences when Cobain was a kid. (At another show on the tour, they’d opened with a cover of the Knack’s “My Sharona”.) The fans ate it up but the night seemed ill-fated. The power went out briefly a few songs in, causing them to have to stop and then kick back into “Come As You Are” when the power came back. Ironically, Krist Novoselic joked at that point “Grunge is dead. Nirvana’s over.” And while they did traditional songs from their setlist such as “Dumb”, “In Bloom” and “Pennyroyal Tea”, they somehow didn’t perform “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, their signature tune. They’d been performing the song right after “Come As You Are” on the tour, so whether they just forgot it or made a conscious decision to cut it that night is open for debate. Either way, Cobain’s voice was struggling. Even a healthy man would get worn out from screaming his way through nightly sets of their music He was suffering from bronchitis and his voice was fading through the concert. Laryngitis was setting in.

About 70 minutes after they kicked off with the Cars’ song, they set into “Heart-shaped Box”, the album’s biggest hit and the song they closed all the In Utero concerts with. It was the shortest concert of the tour. As they left the stage, they likely still expected to be on the same stage doing the same material the following night, but Kurt’s laryngitis soon put the kibosh on that. A number of March concerts were canceled, and Cobain headed to Rome to meet up with Courtney and enjoy a bit of R&R – rest and relaxation rather than rock’n’roll. On March 4, she found Kurt unconscious on their hotel floor in Rome, in a coma induced by an overdose of Rohypnol (a prescription insomnia drug) and champagne. Whether it was an accident or a suicide attempt, we’ll never know. We do know it caused the band to cancel 25 or so remaining European concerts scheduled for the spring.

They returned to Seattle. Grohl recalls the last time he saw Cobain, at their accountant’s office. “He smiled and said ‘hey, what’s up?’ and I said ‘I’ll give you a call’ and he said ‘Okay.’ Remarkably, Grohl doesn’t mention the final German show at all in his recent memoir and pays surprisingly little attention to the Nirvana era in general. 

Days later, Cobain was dead from a gunshot legally ascribed as a suicide but right up there with Sasquatch and Area 51 when it comes to conspiracy theories.

History is funny. Presumably Novoselic had no idea on March 1 that Nirvana was over, yet his joke hit the nail eerily on the head.

In Utero went on to sell about 15 million copies worldwide; Grohl went on to long-lasting success fronting the Foo Fighters and posthumous live releases kept Nirvana fans somewhat satisfied through the ’90s, but after this night, no one would ever see Kurt Cobain yelling out anthems for a generation again.

The Cars song as well as “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” and “Drain You” from the March1 concert were released as part of their Live and Loud DVD (most of which was recorded at a Seattle concert from the same tour.) And should you have been in attendance in Munich that night, know that not only did you witness a piece of music history but that you might be in possession of some valuable keepsakes. In recent years, tickets from the concert were fetching  upwards of $2500 on e-bay.

February 17 – The Twins Became Singly Popular

One of the ’80s quintessential bands with some of the ’80s quintessential haircuts put out their opus on this day in 1984 – the Thompson Twins took us Into the Gap.

The “Twins” had been around for about seven years already by this time, and had become an entirely different entity than what they had started as (as Rolling Stone pointed out, they “subscribe to the never-repeat-yourself credo”) . This was the second album of theirs in which they were down to the core trio of Tom Bailey, Allanah Currie and Joe Leeway and were utilizing primarily “new wave” instruments like synths and drum machines. Mind you, they didn’t totally eschew “organic” instruments. Tom played a pretty decent harmonica on “You Take Me Up”, Allanah dusts off a xylophone for “Hold Me Now” and Tom even used an upright bass in parts. The approach had helped them break through somewhat with their previous album, Side Kicks which yielded the hit “Lies.” They got the approach right on Into the Gap by far their biggest-selling (and in this scribe’s opinion, best) record.

In their native Britain it went double platinum (as it did in Canada also) and delivered three top 5 singles: “Doctor, Doctor”, “You Take Me Up” and the timeless “Hold Me Now.” The latter hit #3 in the U.S., their best-showing there and helped the album hit the top 10.

At the time, although the public took to the album readily, not all critics did. While Rolling Stone gave it a decent 3-star rating, enjoying the “hypnotic, swaying groove” and applauding them for slowing “it all down to bring the human factor into clearer focus”than on their previous works, the Brits weren’t so kind to them. Smash Hits in particular panned it, giving it just 2.5 out of 10 suggesting that it’s sales represented the “triumph of naked ambition over talent” and labeling the album as “empty words and plodding tunes sung in a whiney voice.”

The ongoing popularity of “Hold Me Now” might suggest that the more recent review from allmusic might bear more consideration. They rated it 4-stars ,enjoyng the “atmospheric, moody” feel and how “nearly every song…differed from the others” – note the Eastern feel of the title track for instance, or the John Steinbeck-novel-worthy harmonica playing mentioned above. In all they called it “A classic as far as ’80s new wave pop is concerned.” No need for a second opinion from Doctor Doctor on that.

January 30 – You Saw The Movie, 53 Years Ago Was The Real Thing

To borrow from another popular group of the day, The Doors, “this is the end.” Or almost for the 1960s musical kings, The Beatles. If you happened to be in London this day in 1969, around Seville Row, and looked up, you would have seen the Fab Four playing a 40-minute concert up on the roof of their non-descript five-storey Apple Records office. Or, more likely, you probably saw them do that in last year’s well-reviewed documentary, Get Back

It was the first time they’d played together in public for over two years and would turn out to be their last public performance. They were still doing well commercially, with the “White Album” selling huge quantities but critics were starting to question their creativity and direction and the band had gotten to the point they could barely stand each other. Behind the scenes, Yoko Ono’s presence with John was irritating the others and the death of manager Brian Epstein had left them feeling a little adrift.

They had an idea to use the song “Get Back” as a nucleus for a straight-ahead, live rock album but their time together working on that was according to George Harrison “the low of all-time” and he actually quit the band for several days before being cajoled back with the help of Billy Preston (who is the only non-Beatle to ever get credited with co-writing one of their originals, “Get Back.”) Plans to perform a show to record and introduce new material at on a cruise ship or at an African ampitheatre in the desert fell through, resulting in them donning fur coats and playing the set in 45-degree windy weather on their roof. As well as “Get Back” they introduced songs “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Dig A Pony” to the sometimes confused people below. They perhaps might have played longer but London bobbies (police) were trying to get them to shut down due to noise complaints…and given how cold it was, they didn’t seem to complain that much!

Fans looking for the building  will be disappointed to find that Apple Records headquarters are now an Abercrombie and Fitch store. They won’t be disappointed to find that “Don’t Let Me Down”, a popular new song they performed in the set that wasn’t on Let It Be (unlike “Get Back”) is now readily available online and on Beatles compilation albums. And recently, the entire concert has been released to streaming services.

January 22 – Talent Flooded Welsh Stage For Good Cause

Twenty years earlier, African famine had caused a number of international music stars to come together on stage, in 2005 a tsunami caused another tidal wave of talent to try to assist. On this day that year, the biggest charity fundraiser concert since Live Aid took place in the unlikely locale of Cardiff, Wales. It was the first and biggest of several Tsunami Relief concerts staged in different countries to raise funds for victims of the terrible tsunami that had killed some 220 000 people and swept away entire towns about four weeks earlier. That tsunami, caused by the third-strongest earthquake ever measured offshore Indonesia, had ravaged that land and done considerable damage to other Indian Ocean-bordering locations like Thailand and India.

People worldwide were quick to reach for their wallets to help out, and the concept of a fund-raising concert came together quickly… in fact, it was less than four weeks between when the water caused the Indian Ocean destruction and when a Welsh classical singer took the stage and sang “Amazing Grace” in front of over 66 000 fans to open the show. It took place in the Millennium Stadium (now known as the Principality Stadium), home to the Welsh national rugby team. Apparently that’s quite popular there as the stadium can hold up to 74 000 despite serving a city with a population of only about 340 000!

The show began around 2 PM local time and when all was said and done, some 21 acts took the stage, with video messages from members of the Royal Family, British PM Tony Blair, and Bono added in. Musical acts spanned the genres and generations and included some local rock bands and rappers but to most of us, the most noteworthy were Keane, then up-and-coming Snow Patrol, Jools Holland, locals the Manic Street Preachers (who ironically enough had done a song called “Tsunami” in the ’90s) and the headliner, Eric Clapton. Clapton finished the show with help from Holland, and did a six-song set of old blues numbers including Robert Johnson’s “Little Queen of Spades”, Johnny Otis’ “Willie and the Hand Jive” and the finale of “Shake Rattle and Roll.” Although the crowd was appreciative of the legendary guitarist, the biggest cheers apparently went to the home town Manic Street Preachers, who did five songs culminating in their then new single, “A Design for Life” which hit #2 in the UK.

The Welsh benefit was broadcast live on BBC radio and streamed on their website with highlights shown on TV that night. It raised about 1.25 million pounds (about $3 million in today’s terms) for the relief effort.

A month later, on Feb. 18, a similar show was held in Anaheim, California, with the organizers, Linkin Park, as well as No Doubt, Ozzy Osbourne and the Black-eyed Peas. Tony Kanal of No Doubt said of it, “a disaster of this magnitude, that effects so many people, forces yourself to ask ‘what can I do to help?’ (we decided to) do what we do best to make the most impact in both dollars and awareness.” No Doubt he was right about that.

January 15 – People Started Going To A Go-Go

It was a big day for rock – and women’s fashions – in L.A. this night in 1964. That’s because the place for rock & roll in the City of Angels threw it’s doors open. The Whisky A Go-Go, then and now at 8901 West Sunset Blvd. was open for business. Performing its opening night was up-and-coming singer Johnny Rivers, whose first album (At the Whisky A Go Go) was, as the name suggests, recorded there. Historian Glenn Baker says “Johnny Rivers at the Whisky A Go-Go turned Hollywood upside down.”

The Whisky” actually was the second one; one had operated in Chicago for four years and was dubbed as “America’s first discotheque”. But it was comparatively obscure. Not so the Hollywood one. They began having live music almost every night, with dance music played between sets to keep the people movin’. Since space was limited, they hung up a suspended booth above the floor for the DJ to work in, soon they had the idea of having some nice-looking gals in miniskirts and boots up there boogieing too, hence the “go go dancer” craze.

The club quickly became the place to be seen, and the place to hear rock in L.A. If the Troubadour club nearby jump-started any number of pop and folk careers, from Elton John to James Taylor to Linda Ronstadt, the Whisky did the same for more edgy rock acts. Starting with, famously, the Doors. They were the “house band” there during the summer of 1966, playing opening sets for every band that came through the, well, doors, including Rivers, Buffalo Springfield and even The Turtles. They built up quite a name for themselves months before hitting the record store shelves with their psychedelic music and weird Jim Morrison lyrics, although they got fired after about three months after Morrison didn’t show up for their first set, then got weirder than normal in the second set, while high on acid. Around that time, Janis Joplin (first with Big Brother and the Holding Company, then by herself) became a regular bar patron and performer. Before the ’60s came to an end, B.B. King had played it as well as the Monkees and Led Zeppelin, and both Frank Zappa and Alice Cooper were “discovered” there.

Although it wasn’t quite as in vogue in the ’70s, it had a renaissance in the ’80s with the emergence of glam rock/hair metal in the city. Motley Crue and Guns’ N’ Roses both used it as a springboard to international success, a few years after Van Halen had been regulars on the stage. “It became the place to be,” says Chris Hillman of the Byrds, “a great gig.”  How important has the club been in not only the city’s entertainment history, but the history of rock? Well, for starters it – a club – was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, the first building or venue to be so honored.

The Whisky is still up and running these days, closing in on 60 years later. It still has live music advertised nightly (with patrons needing a mask and proof of Covid vaccination) with events like an “ultimate jam night” on the 18th. If you’re down in SoCal, you might want to pop in some night. You never know when you might see the next Doors or Janis Joplin-of-the-future.