Saturday, December 5, 2020

Music History Today: December 6, 2020

December 6, 1969: Four people died during a free concert at Altamont, California by the Rolling Stones. One year later, on this date, the documentary Gimme Shelter, which shows the Rolling Stones' horrific concert at Altamont, California, debuted.

The end of the 1960s hadn’t been kind to the Rolling Stones. There were drug charges, legal battles, and deteriorating interpersonal relationships, capped off by the ousting of founder Brian Jones and his subsequent drowning. 

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In November 1969, after a three-year absence, the British bad boys came to reclaim their American throne with a month-long tour culminating in a free concert outside San Francisco, held the day after the release of Let It Bleed. The 1970 documentary Gimme Shelter, directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, captures the end of that tour. 

It opens with a rousing rendition of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” during a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden. Mick Jagger is magnetic in his Uncle Sam top hat and Isadora Duncan-style scarf; the camera keeps a tight focus on his silly-putty mouth and thrusting hips. The film then cuts to a scene of Jagger and drummer Charlie Watts reviewing performance footage. 

 

Their grins and smirks are quickly replaced by frowns, after a radio report recounts the grim reality outside the editing suite: Altamont, the West Coast Woodstock that capped off their tour, drew over 300,000 people but was otherwise a disaster.  
“There were four births, four deaths, and an awful lot of scuffles reported,” says the radio announcer. “We received word that someone was stabbed to death in front of the stage by a member of the Hells Angels.” 
Read more: Pitchfork

 December 6, 1966: The Beatles recorded two takes of "When I'm Sixty-Four," their first work on the upcoming album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Achieving the stature that The Beatles had by late 1966, Paul McCartney realized that whatever they would release would be accepted. Even a nostalgic trip back to the 20’s. 

And taken within the context of being a throw-back of the original “Sgt. Pepper” band, as well as occurring on the scene just after the recent #1 novelty hit “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band, which appeared as coming from this same by-gone era, Paul’s intuition was correct. 
While viewed cooley by many die-hard Beatles fans, "When I'm Sixty-four" eventually won the hearts of their parents as well as becoming an intrinsic element of the “Sgt. Pepper” album.  
Read more: Beatles Ebook 

December 6, 1969: Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," the ultimate "see ya later" song, hits number 1 in America.

These days, you might best know the song "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" as a chant at sports games, but fifty years ago it was a number one hit for a group known as Steam.

The song was actually recorded as a throwaway B-side to a more serious release by singer Gary DeCarlo. He and two friends slapped the song together using some old lyrics they'd written and a lot of filler.

DeCarlo’s label loved the recording, and released it as a single under the band name Steam. Accounts differ as to why the trio never toured as Steam to promote the song, but a different band was eventually recruited in their place, and Steam had no other Top 40 hits.  Read more: MPR News

December 6, 1975: Paul Simon reached number 1 on the US album chart with "Still Crazy After All These Years", which produced four US Top 40 hits, "Gone at Last" (#23), "My Little Town" (#9), "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" (#1) and the title track (#40).

Paul Simon started to write “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” as a sort of kids’ game. Earlier in 1975, the 33-year-old Simon and his first wife Peggy Harper had split up after six years of marriage. 
One day, Simon had their three-year-old son Harper at his apartment, and he was trying to teach Harper how to rhyme. That’s how he came up with the chorus, with all its rattled-off names: “You just slip out the back, Jack / Make a new plan, Stan.” 
Read more: Stereogum

 

December 6, 1977: Jackson Browne released the album Running On Empty.

Running on Empty was Jackson Browne’s most surprising, least typical album, a game-changer that updated his identity from folk-rock troubadour to rock headliner while upending the conventions of live albums. 

Jackson Browne

Instead of offering familiar Browne songs caught on stage, the album featured new material and mixed concert recordings with performances taped backstage, in hotel rooms and on the band’s tour bus. 
The repertoire further broke from his past as an archetypal singer-songwriter by featuring four covers of other writers’ works, while only two of the six remaining tracks were stand-alone Browne compositions. 
Read more: Best Classic Bands

Gimme Shelter (Live) 
Rolling Stones

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