Today in Music History July 15

1978, The Rolling Stones started a two-week run at No.1 on the US album chart with Some Girls the group’s seventh US No.1 album.  It was a commerical and critical success, with many saying it was their best since 1972’s classic Exile on Main Street. The cover was designed by Peter Corriston, and featured The Rolling Stones in garish drag alongside select female celebrities and lingerie ads. The cover immediately ran into legal trouble when Lucille Ball, Farrah Fawcett, Liza Minnelli (representing her mother Judy Garland), Raquel Welch, and the estate of Marilyn Monroe all threatened legal action for the use of their images without permission. The album was then re-issued with a cover that removed all celebrity images. Below is the re-issued cover.

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2007, Prince continues his unique independent streak (and thumbing his nose at the music industry and convention) by releasing his album Planet Earth as a ‘covermount’ in the UK Mail on Sunday newspaper, 10 days before it was to released to stores.  The music industry was not pleased.  Stephen Miron, the newspaper’s managing director, said: “No one has done this before. We have always given away CDs and DVDs, but this is just setting a new level.”

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Sources: This Day in Music.com; Wikipedia

The Story of Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land from NPR Music’s NPR 100

 

Woody Guthrie.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Some have called “This Land Is Your Land” an alternative national anthem. Others say it’s a Marxist response to “God Bless America.” It was written and first sung by Woody Guthrie. Over time, it’s been sung by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Folklorist Nick Spitzer has the story of an American classic.

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in 1912 in Okemah, Okla. He recorded “This Land Is Your Land” during a marathon April 1944 session in New York for Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records. Guthrie was on shore leave from the Merchant Marines, one of his many occupations during the Depression and war years.

Growing up in small-town Oklahoma, Guthrie heard church hymns, outlaw ballads, blues, fiddle tunes and popular music. The Guthries had been fairly prosperous — Woody’s father was a small-time politician and businessman — but the family unraveled in the topsy-turvy oil economy of the ’20s and ’30s. The Guthrie family relocated to Pampa, Tex., after Woody’s mother was committed to a mental institution for a mysterious nervous condition. That’s when Woody took to the road.

As a boy, he’d already proven himself to be a gifted street entertainer — dancing, playing guitar and harmonica, making up songs as he went. Words and music became a growing passion for him.

Original Lyrics

“This Land Is Your Land” wasn’t released by Folkways until 1951, but the song was originally written in February 1940, when Woody Guthrie first arrived in New York City from Oklahoma. Guthrie had a keen ear for the recordings of Virginia’s Carter Family, and he was not afraid to borrow. A 1930 gospel recording, “When the World’s on Fire,” sung by the Carters, must have provided the tune for what would become “This Land Is Your Land.”

Musician, activist and Guthrie’s fellow traveler Pete Seeger has probably sung “This Land” more than anyone else. He says that Guthrie made good use of the popular melodies of the day.

“He tended to write words first, and later on picked out a tune,” Seeger says. “Woody once said, ‘When I’m writing a song and I get the words, I look around for some tune that has proved its popularity with the people.'”

Social Commentary

A man happier on the road than at home, he’d walked, hitched and ridden the rails all over the country. He went first to the Gulf Coast, then west to California, where he joined the half-million so-called Okies and Arkies — Dust Bowl refugees migrating in search of better lives. Although Guthrie purposefully threw himself into these travels partly to escape family troubles and his disintegrating first marriage, what he saw and experienced as he cris-crossed the country contributed to his emergence as a social commentator.

He was irritated by Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” sung by Kate Smith, which seemed to be endlessly playing on the radio in the late 1930s. So irritated, in fact, that he wrote this song as a retort, at first sarcastically calling it “God Blessed America for Me” before renaming it “This Land Is Your Land.” Guthrie’s original words to the song included this verse:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.’
But on the backside, it didn’t say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.

This verse was recorded by Moses Asch in 1944, but not released. In fact, Guthrie’s recorded version was more or less lost until Smithsonian archivist Jeff Place heard the acetate master during a 1997 transfer of the recording to a digital format. Still, it was sung at rallies, around campfires and in progressive schools. It was these populist lyrics that had appealed to the political Left in America.

Radical Verses

Guthrie’s folk-singing son, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger have both made a point of singing the more radical verses to “This Land Is Your Land,” also reviving another verse that Guthrie wrote but never officially recorded. This verse was scribbled on a sheet of loose-leaf paper now in the possession of daughter Nora’s Woody Guthrie Archives.

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple,
by the relief office I saw my people.
As they stood hungry,
I stood there wondering if God blessed America for me.

Nora Guthrie says she has an idea why these words may not have been recorded at the 1944 session — and why the ‘private property’ verse that was recorded was not issued. “This is the early ’50s, and [U.S. Sen. Joseph] McCarthy’s out there, and it was considered dangerous in many ways to record this kind of material,” she says.

“If my dad had done the recording, I don’t think it would have meant anything to him if he was imprisoned, actually,” she says. “He was quite used to living without and having nights in prison and things like that. Like most of the things, if we’re talking about my dad, it gets very complex here. So I think, you know, The Weavers originally just recorded the first three verses — which, in one way, was very, very helpful to my dad, because we had no money. So thank God that they recorded something, and our family was able to get some royalties from that.”

Later in his life, Guthrie lost his ability to play guitar and sing, but he continued to write and inspire a younger generation of performers. Bob Dylan and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg and the band Wilco — these are just some of the musicians who have followed in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie. When Guthrie recorded “This Land Is Your Land,” he ended with this verse:

When the sun comes shining, then I was strolling,
With the wheat fields waving, the dust clouds rolling,
The voice come a-chanting, and the fog was lifting.
This land was made for you and me.

 

 

 

Today in Music History July 14

1912, Born on this day, Woodrow Wilson ‘Woody’ Guthrie in Okemah, Oklahoma. Guthrie was a folk singer and songwriter in the 1930s and 1940s, famous for his ‘Dust Bowl Ballads’ and protest songs. One of his best known songs, This Land is Your Land, was written as a protest answer to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America. His work was a major influence on a whole generation of folk and rock musicians, including Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.  He frequently performed with a guitar with the slogan This Machine Kills Fascists displayed on it. Guthrie had the neurodegenerative disorder Huntingon’s Disease, which took his life on October 3rd 1967.

 

 

1958, The Quarrymen, featuring future Beatles John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison, along with John “Duff” Lowe on piano and Colin Hanton on drums, recorded a vanity disc at a electronics shop studio owned by a man named Percy Phillips. The band recorded ‘That’ll Be The Day’ and ‘In Spite Of Danger’ in one take each.

 

1977, Elvis Costello and The Attractions made their live debut supporting Wayne County at The Garden, Penzance, Cornwall, England.

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Roughly 5 months later, he performed on SNL and famously stopped the planned song Less than Zero, and launched into Radio Radio.  This got him banned from the show for more than 12 years.

 

Sources: This Day in Music.com; Wikipedia; YouTube

Today in Music History July 13

1985Live Aid, held at both Wembley Stadium, London (attendance ~72,000) and  JFK Stadium, Philadelphia (attendance ~100,000). The world’s biggest rock stars took part in the worldwide event, raising over £40million. It is estimated over 1.5bn people (about 40% of the world’s population at the time!) in 160 countries tuned in, making it the biggest live broadcast ever known. Artists who appeared included Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, The Who, U2, David Bowie and Mick Jagger, Queen, Tina Turner, The Cars, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Bryan Adams, Hall and Oates, Lionel Richie and Led Zeppelin.  Of note, Phil Collins performed in both London and Philly, after catching a Concorde flight to the US after the end of the London show.  Sadly, not Bruce Springsteen, who watched it from his NJ home.  He has been quoted as saying that he regrets not “tossing his guitar in the car and driving on down.”

For more info, check out this History Channel link

 

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(Note: poster above doesn’t include many artists who showed up to play – Bob Dylan, Madonna, etc.

Sources: This Day in Music.com; Wikipedia; History Channel

 

1996, Over 2,000 guitar players, including Chet Atkins and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, set a new world record for the largest jam session ever when they played ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ for 75 minutes at Nashville’s Riverfront Park. (From This Day in Music.com)  Reminds me of the massive jam session that an Italian town did in 2015 to Foo Fighers Learn To Fly to beg them to play their town- and of course it worked!  Since I can’t find any video of the 1996 Heartbreak Hotel jam session, this will have to do (plus its one of the coolest things ever – it still gives me goosebumps and brings a tear to my eye its so awesome)

 

Today in Music History July 12

1962, The Rolling Stones made their live debut at the Marquee Jazz Club, London, with Dick Taylor on bass (later of The Pretty Things) and Mick Avory on drums, (later of The Kinks). Billed as The Rollin’ Stones, they were paid £20 for the gig From This Day in Music.com

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According to the Rolling Stone fansite, Its Only Rock and Roll, here’s the set list:

1. “Kansas City”
2. “Baby What’s Wrong”
3. “Confessin’ the Blues”
4. “Bright Lights, Big City”
5. “Dust My Broom”
6. “Down the Road Apiece”
7. “I’m a Love You”
8. “Bad Boy”
9. “I Ain’t Got You”
10. “Hush-Hush”
11. “Ride ‘Em on Down”
12. “Back in the U.S.A.”
13. “Kind of Lonesome”
14. “Blues Before Sunrise”
15. “Big Boss Man”
16. “Don’t Stay Out All Night”
17. “Tell Me You Love Me”
18. “Happy Home

For a short summary of the gig, see the article on Rolling Stone.com

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1969, Zager and Evans started a six week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with ‘In The Year 2525, (Exordium And Terminus)’. The song was also No.1 in the UK, making them the only one hit wonders ever in both the US and UK singles charts. From This Day in Music.com

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