43 years ago today, an unfortunate event took place in Switzerland that led one band to lose all of their equipment while leading another band to compose a tune that, in addition to being their signature song, is also one of the great rock anthems of all time.
On December 4, 1971, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were set to play a gig in the theater of the Montreux Casino, in Montreux, Switzerland, while Deep Purple were in a mobile recording studio – one they’d rented from the Rolling Stones, as it happens – elsewhere within the casino complex. The way the story goes, someone in Zappa’s audience made the highly questionable decision to fire a flare gun into the air inside the freaking theater, causing the highly-flammable ceiling to do what highly-flammable things do when they’re exposed to flares. In short order, the entire casino complex had gone up in flames, destroying the whole place and everything within it. Thankfully, Zappa and the Mothers escaped, while the members of Deep Purple were actually at their hotel, watching the fire and seeing the resulting smoke as it floated across Lake Geneva.
You know what else is cool? Drums! Here are a bunch of songs with pretty boss drum parts. “It’s the beat, the beat, THE BEAT!”
We’ve got some sad news to report: Ian McLagan, the man whose rollicking piano playing – first for the Small Faces, then for the Faces, and eventually for just about everybody in the music business (or at least it seems that way when you look at his discography) – made him one of the most beloved musicians to come out of the UK during the ‘60s, has died at the age of 69.
The news was confirmed via McLagan’s official website, which posted the following message:
“It is with great sadness and eternal admiration that we report the passing of rock and roll icon Ian McLagan. Ian was a member of the ‘Small Faces’ and ‘Faces’ and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. He died today, December 3, 2014, surrounded by family and friends in his adopted hometown of Austin, TX, due to complications from a stroke suffered the previous day. He was 69 years old. His manager Ken Kushnick says, ‘He was a beloved friend to so many people and a true rock ‘n’ roll spirit. His persona and gift of song impacted the music across oceans and generations.’ Ian’s bandmate in Small Faces and Faces, Kenney Jones said, ‘I am completely devastated by this shocking news and I know this goes for Ronnie and Rod also.’ Ian’s artistry, generosity and warmth of spirit touched countless other musicians and music fans around the world. His loss will be felt by so many.”
Today is the 66th birthday of the heavy metal legend who, when asked last year how he felt about being called “the Prince of Darkness,” replied, “It’s better than being called an asshole.”
Born in Birmingham, England in 1948, John Michael Osbourne – that’s Ozzy to you – came from a working-class family, with a dad who worked nights as a toolmaker and a mum who worked days at a factory, but he’s often said that he knew what path he’d be following after hearing the Fab Four for the first time. Indeed, in the 2011 documentary God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, he states as much outright: “As soon as I heard ‘She Loves You’ on the radio, I knew I wanted to be a rock star for the rest of my life.”
31 years ago today, Duran Duran earned their first – and, as of this writing, their only – #1 album in the UK with Seven and the Ragged Tiger, which would prove to be the last full-length studio outing for the so-called “Fab Five” lineup of the band for 21 years.
The process of putting together the follow-up to Rio initially kicked off in France, where Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, and Andy Taylor began writing songs and knocking out a few demos with producer Ian Little, but the proper recording process began when the band headed to Montserrat. Ensconced in George Martin’s Air Studios, Duran Duran and Little joined up with Alex Sadkin, working together for more than a month before heading back to the UK for a charity performance attended by Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Post-concert, the band worked a bit more on the album in London, returned to Montserrat for another session, then headed to Sydney, Australia to finish things up. (That’s also where they filmed the video for the album’s first single, “Union of the Snake.”)
Compared to some of the other moments we spotlight here at Rhino.com, this one seems like it happened only yesterday, but it’s still worth noting: two years ago today, the members of Led Zeppelin received the Kennedy Center Honors for their “lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts,” making it probably the only occasion where the band’s name has found its way into the same sentence – or even paragraph – as Buddy Guy, Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, and Natalia Makarova.
Actually, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones were formally honored the day before, at a gala dinner held at the State Department, where President Barack Obama paid tribute to the band with a speech that he admitted outright was far from the easiest he’d ever had to compose. Nonetheless, Obama found plenty of praise for the band, observing, “It’s been said that a generation of people survived teenage angst with a pair of headphones and a Zeppelin album, and a generation of parents wondered what all that noise was about. Even now, 32 years after John Bonham’s passing, we all, I think, appreciate the fact that the Led Zeppelin legacy lives on. Tonight, we honor Led Zeppelin for making us all feel young, and showing us that some guys who are not completely youthful can still rock.”
36 years ago today, Rod Stewart found his way into the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 for the third time in his career, earning a platinum single for his trouble as well as more than a few sneers from fans who didn’t much care for Rod the Mod going a bit disco.
The opening track on Stewart’s 1978 album, Blondes Have More Fun, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” was co-written by Rod with Duane Hitchings and Carmine Appice, the latter two musicians having worked together as members of Cactus, but as Stewart admitted much later (and after a copyright infringement suit was filed), a portion of the melody was unconsciously plagiarized from the song “Taj Mahal,” written by Brazilian musician Jorge Ben Jor. But that, of course, wasn’t the big controversy when “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” first hit the airwaves.
70 years ago today, the world was first graced with the presence of the man who sat behind the drum kit for The Doors from start to finish – minus one particularly rough day when he just got a little too fed up with the behavior of a certain Lizard King – and continues to maintain the highest level of artistic integrity in regards to band matters.
Born in 1940 in Los Angeles, John Paul Densmore first found his way into playing music via the piano, but when he started playing drums for his school’s marching band, it became clear that percussion was the path he’d be following for the long haul. In 1965, Densmore joined forces with Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, and Robbie Krieger, having met the latter two musicians at a Transcendental Meditation lecture, and saw The Doors through the band’s highs and lows, even sticking with Manzarek and Krieger for those two additional albums after Morrison’s death (Other Voices and Full Circle).