Musings On Music History: A Double Dose Of Lennon, Diamond Dave Jumps, and Sid’s Sad Tale
10.09: Today is a double dose of Lennon. John (1940) and his son Sean (1975) were both born on this day. Imagine that. We miss John. Still. He’d be 70 today, but we can envision him still going strong, voicing his opinions like it seems no one else can, and making music that matters. Or maybe he’d have gone the way of so many others, performing oldies shows and being solely remembered for his past achievements. Somehow, we doubt that scenario, though. Happy birthday, John, wherever ye may be.
10.09: On this day in 1973, Elvis and Priscilla Presley parted ways. The couple divorced after six and a half years of marriage. Elvis’ wandering hands and eyes were too much for Priscilla, who embarked on an affair of her own with her karate instructor, whom Elvis had encouraged her to take lessons from to fill her time. Oh, he helped out in that respect, for sure. This, however, couldn’t trump the numerous affairs Elvis himself had throughout the courtship of and marriage to Priscilla. They shared custody of Lisa-Marie, departed the courthouse arm-in-arm, shared a kiss, and went their separate ways.
10.10: On this day in 1955, the first face of Van Halen, David “Diamond Dave” Lee Roth jumped into this world, running with the devil and getting hot for teacher. Man, what was either camp thinking when they broke up the Brothers Van Halen and Diamond Dave? Yeah, we don’t know either. Not to dis Sammy Hagar, but, come on, there is no comparison in the Van Halen canon. And if you actually prefer Sammy over “Just a Gigolo” Dave as the frontman for Van Halen, then stop reading right now, go sit in the corner, and think about what you’ve done.
10.12: On this day in 1978, Sid Vicious, former bass player for The Sex Pistols, was arrested and charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, who’d died from a stab wound to the abdomen. Sid attempted suicide ten days after Spungen’s death and subsequently found himself in Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward, where he would spend two weeks. Vicious, addicted to heroin and a “live fast, die young” punk attitude, had no memory of killing his true love and died a few months later, like so many musicians before and since, of a heroin overdose. Sadly, at the time of his death, Sid had been clean for the better part of four months, since the death of Spungen. He was celebrating his release from Riker’s Island, after spending nearly two months there for an incident involving a smashed beer mug on someone’s face, when a friend (some even say his own mother) suggested they get some heroin. It is still unknown who killed Spungen, as some have suggested that one of the two drug dealers to encounter the couple that night could be equally culpable.
10.12: On this day in 1997, John Denver was the sole occupant of a Long-EZ aircraft that crashed off the coast of California. A certified pilot with over 2700 hours of flight time, Denver died that day as the small, experimental plane plunged into the Pacific. Nobody’s really sure what happened, but “Take Me Home, Country Roads” still rocks, in its very own folksy and serene way, today.
10.13: On this day in 1941, the sounds of a screaming baby, not silence, resounded through the little delivery room of a hospital in Newark, New Jersey, as Garfunkel’s better half, Paul Frederic Simon, was born. He says you can call him Al, but that’s just weird. Where do you get Al from Paul, Frederic, or Simon? Anyway, Paul Simon is still crazy after all these years, hanging out with some guy named Julio down by the schoolyard.
10.13: Ed Sullivan died on this day in 1974. Not himself a musician, Sullivan, nevertheless, loved music and enjoyed his position of influence in the music world. Every Sunday night, millions of Americans gathered around their televisions, eagerly awaiting the musical acts that Sullivan would bring into their homes as part of The Ed Sullivan Show. From the Jackson 5 singing their very first single to The Beatles first live American television appearance, from Elvis Presley shaking his suggestive hips to the infamous Doors appearance (in which they dared to sing the actual lyrics to “Light My Fire,” including the “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher,” a big no-no in 1967), the power of Sullivan’s show to sell records wasn’t lost on any band or musician. In this fractured and specialized media world of today, it is hard to imagine someone with that kind of influence, but Sullivan had it and everyone knew it.
10.13: On this day in 1947, the other face of Van Halen, Sammy Hagar, was born. If you can name a song, besides “I Can’t Drive 55,” that Sammy sang before or after Van Halen, you are awesome. We can, but we aren’t saying what it is. Okay, it’s “Heavy Metal,” but that’s the only other cool Hagar solo-song we can think of. We talked about this earlier, when “Diamond” David Lee Roth also celebrated his birthday, that Dave’s original and revived stint with Van Halen defined and defines that band and totally rules over Sammy’s run. We’ll take a poll, though, to be fair. By a show of hands, who out there thinks Sammy was a better frontman than Dave? If you raised your hand, slap it right now. Now wag your finger at yourself and tell yourself that you’ll never do or think or say anything that stupid again. But this is Sammy’s birthday, so have a shot of Cabo Wabo tequila and sing along to “Why Can’t This Be Love.” Then, go sit in the corner and apologize to Dave.
10.14: Buddy Holly opened a show for Bill Haley & His Comets (“Rock Around The Clock”) on this day in 1955. A talent agent caught the set and soon arranged for Holly to cut a demo and sign to Decca Records. Holly’s first hit, “That’ll Be The Day,” came from those demo sessions. Holly’s very short career blossomed soon afterwards. His death, in February 1959, along with Richie Havens and the Big Bopper, in a plane crash on a snowy night in Iowa, lives forever as “The Day The Music Died.”