This Week in Music History: July 23 to 29Jul 24, 2012
By David Ball
At the end of their July 25, 1969, gig at the Fillmore East in New York City, Crosby, Stills and Nash were joined by Neil Young for the first time, which made the folk-rock supergroup even more supergroupy. The trio were looking to expand their sound, so Atlantic Records head Ahmet Ertegün recommended the Toronto-born rocker and Stephen Stills’ old Buffalo Springfield band mate.
Somewhat surprisingly, Stills was originally leery of bringing his old collaborator aboard (he apparently wanted to distance himself from Buffalo Springfield). Graham Nash also needed convincing since he didn’t know much about Young. After a series of meetings, the duo agreed to add him to the group. (Young’s contract allowed him to also maintain his career with his new band, Crazy Horse.)
David Crosby’s reaction to the new addition: “Where am I?!” Actually, I made that up, but it is David Crosby, so it could be true, don’t you think?
Young appeared on only a few songs at the Fillmore gig, mainly in a supporting role. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young kicked off their first tour (fleshed out with supporting members drummer Dallas Taylor and Motown bassist Greg Reeves) with an August 17, 1969, concert at Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. The band’s second tour stop was at a small, insignificant music and art fair called Woodstock, where, interestingly, Young skipped most of the group’s hour-long acoustic set and requested to be cut out of the documentary.
As a full-time member of the group, Young wrote some of the band’s best songs, including the Canadian folk masterpiece “Helpless” and one of rock’s best and most virulent protest songs, “Ohio.”
CSN&Y broke up in 1971, but have reformed many times over the years. Their last studio album, Looking Forward, came out in 1999, and the group staged a well-received “Freedom of Speech” tour in 2006.
Paul Anka’s “Lonely Boy” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 26, 1959. Written by Anka, the song was the Ottawa-born teen idol’s only No. 1 hit in his illustrious – and still active – 57-year career. He had score another chart-topper in 1957 with “Diana,” but that was on the Billboard Best Sellers in Stores chart, a precursor to the Hot 100.
Anka can be seen performing “Lonely Boy” in the low-budget exploitation teen film, Girls Town, which was released on October 5, 1959. In this truly unwatchable motion picture, the singer-songwriter also performed “It’s Time to Cry,” “Girls Town Blues” and “Ave Maria.”
In addition to featuring Anka in his first on-screen role, the film also starred blond “sex bomb” Mamie Van Doren and jazz singer Mel Tormé, as well as a supporting cast featuring several children of famous actors, including the hack sons of silent film legends Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. Incidentally, Anka’s 1959 followup single was the far more timeless “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart.
Honestly, I didn’t make this up…
A riot erupted after MC Hammer’s July 28, 1991, concert in Penticton, B.C., – he was in town as one of the headliners for the Penticton Peach Festival. Approximately 2,000 fans looted and smashed stores in the downtown area and wrecked tourist hot spots located on the nearby beach. Penticton’s then-mayor, Jake Kimberley, read the Riot Act and 90 idiots were jailed while 60 people received injuries during the mayhem.
What caused the riot? Well, I have a few theories: Hammer’s faulty decision to open with “U Can’t Touch This,” followed by 90 minutes of all-new untested material; the Los Angeles–based rapper was misheard by approximately 2,000 fans as saying “It’s riot time!” instead of “It’s Hammer time!”; or approximately 2,000 fans finally realized en masse that they actually paid money to see MC Hammer perform.
Joking aside – although I’m kind of being serious about the latter theory – according to a Castanet.net story from 2006, “the cumulation of several large events over one weekend resulted in a mob of thousands descending on the downtown area.”
Founded in 1947, the Penticton Peach Festival is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year from August 8 to 12, and two of the fest headliners are the great Canadian rock bands Lighthouse and 54-40. No riots are expected, unless Hammer is a last-minute replacement for 54-40 lead singer Neil Osborne.
A happy birthday goes out to one of the most influential bassists in rock!
Gary Lee Weinrib, better known to the music world as Geddy Lee, the bassist, keyboardist and lead singer for progressive rock band, Rush, was born in North York, Ont., on July 29, 1953. Gary became “Geddy” because Lee’s mother, a Polish immigrant and Second World War concentration camp survivor, had a thick accent and had trouble pronouncing his name.
Lee took up bass as a teenager, influenced by the likes of Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, The Who’s John Entwistle and Cream’s Jack Bruce. He was recruited to join Rush by childhood friend Alex Lifeson when he was just 15 years old, also assuming lead singer duties. Rounding out the young power trio was drummer John Rutsey.
Lee’s dexterous and highly adventurous bass style was clearly inspired by his musical heroes, however even in their formative years, Rush sounded nothing like the heavy blues bands that they were reportedly influenced by, such as Blue Cheer, Cream and especially Led Zeppelin; only “Here Again,” from their 1974 self-titled debut, comes close.
Still, Rush weren’t a full-on progressive rock band until Neil Peart replaced Rutsey in the summer of 1974. The proficient drummer and deep-thinking lyricist helped redefine the trio. The conventional rock heard on the first album was replaced with harder-hitting and technically challenging material – and a slew of hit albums soon followed.
During the mid-1970s through the 1980s, Rush became one of the most popular touring bands in the world and produced some of progressive rock’s greatest albums: 2112, A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres (not to mention two of rock’s most admired live albums, 1976’s All the World’s a Stage and 1981’s Exit…Stage Left). And when the band’s defining albums, Moving Pictures and Signals, were released in the early ’80s, Rush became one of the biggest rock bands in the world. The affable threesome remain superstars today and continue to put out one bestselling studio album after another. Their latest effort, Clockwork Angels, harkens back to their 1970s hard-hitting prime.
Even though his voice is off-putting to some, Lee’s high-register vocal chops – compared favourably, believe it or not, to Woody Woodpecker and Robert Plant on speed – put a distinctive stamp on Rush’s music. It’s impossible to imagine any other singer capable of doing a better job on the group’s dozens of radio hits, including “Fly by Night,” “Closer to the Heart,” “The Spirit of Radio,” “Tom Sawyer” and “Subdivisions.”
An avid wine collector and huge baseball fan, Lee is one of the most respected bassists of his generation. His legion of admirers includes Primus’ Les Claypool, Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris and Metallica’s Cliff Burton. Lee is a six-time winner of GuitarPlayer’s Best Rock Bass award and is also enshrined in the respected magazine’s Hall of Fame.
My favourite of Lee’s non-Rush work includes his memorable comedic turn on Bob and Doug McKenzie’s 1981 hit single “Take Off.” Lee and his band mates were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1994 and made officers of the Order of Canada in 1996.
Next week: The Crew Cuts and Terry Fox
“Closer to the Heart” by Rush, from Exit…Stage Left