The Hollywood Bowl opened in Bolton Canyon near Los Angeles.
The natural amphitheatre that later became home to the Hollywood Bowl was originally a Cahuenga Indian ceremonial ground. Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, by 1919 it had become known as Daisy Dell and was a popular picnic spot with Los Angeles families. That year it was bought as part of a 59 acre purchase of land by the newly-formed Theatre Arts Alliance, who were keen to find a location to stage outdoor productions.
Alliance members William and H. Ellis Reed identified the natural amphitheatre and, on their advice, the Alliance purchased the site for $47,000. A female pianist, believed to be local woman Carrie Jacobs Bond, subsequently tested the acoustics by playing a piano placed on a barn door in approximately the same location as the venue’s iconic band shell.
Although the Alliance was restructured the following year, the site itself quickly became a popular venue for productions ranging from choral concerts to Shakespeare plays. The first Easter Sunrise Service was performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in March 1921 without any formal structure in place, and even when the venue formally opened as the Hollywood Bowl on 11 July 1922 the stage was a simple wooden platform covered with a canvas awning while the audience sat on moveable wooden benches.
Within just four years, however, the Bowl had become so popular that permanent seating was installed along with a band shell that further helped to reflect sound towards the audience. It has since become one of the most iconic live music venues in the world, and continues to be the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
On the 6th July 1957, John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles met for the first time at the St. Peter’s Church garden fête in Woolton, Liverpool. Lennon was playing guitar with his skiffle band, The Quarrymen, who were performing on a bill beneath the Liverpool police dogs display team and the Band of the Cheshire Yeomanry.
McCartney arrived at the fair in the late afternoon, where the band had already begun playing. According to McCartney’s own recollection of the day they were halfway through the song Come Go With Me by American doo-wop group The Del-Vikings that had been released the previous year.
Following their afternoon performance, the Quarrymen went inside the church hall opposite the fête to set up for an evening ‘Grand Dance’ at which they had also been booked to play. It was here that the band’s sometime tea-chest bass player Ivan Vaughan introduced McCartney, with whom he was at school.
McCartney showed the band how to tune a guitar to standard tuning instead of the open G banjo tuning they used, and then sang some rock n roll including Twenty Flight Rock, Be-Bop-A-Lula and a medley of Little Richard songs. Lennon was apparently impressed with McCartney’s musicianship and later that night agreed with the Quarrymen’s washboard player, Pete Shotton, that they should invite him to join the band. After a Scout camp in the Derbyshire Peak District, he accepted.
Lennon and McCartney both stayed in touch with Ivan Vaughan. His wife – a languages teacher – later helped McCartney to write the French lyrics for the Rubber Soul song Michelle.
Authorities in the Californian city of Santa Cruz banned rock and roll music at public gatherings.
The previous evening had seen around 200 teenagers attend a concert at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium by the Los Angeles-based Chuck Higgins and his Orchestra. Higgins and an earlier band, the Mellotones, had scored a West Coast hit four years earlier with the saxophone instrumental “Pachuko Hop”. This jump blues single has since been described as one of the key releases that bridged the upbeat jazz styles of the 1940s to the frenetic rhythm and blues that was to emerge the following decade.
Shortly after midnight members of the Santa Cruz police, under the command of Lieutenant Richard Overton, entered the venue and shut down the concert. He later described the predominantly teenage crowd inside the auditorium as being ‘engaged in suggestive, stimulating and tantalizing motions induced by the provocative rhythms of an all-negro band.’
The next day the Santa Cruz authorities announced an outright ban on rock and roll music, with the justification that ‘rock and roll and other forms of frenzied music [were] detrimental to both the health and morals of our youth and community.’
According to a report in a local newspaper from the time, the Chief of Police had said that, ‘we have nothing against rock and roll music…it’s just what some people do while listening to it.’ Within days, however, Santa Cruz’s teenagers had begun to protest against the ban. In response City Manager Robert Klein announced that the music, ‘along with other harmless types of swing music, enjoyable to young and old’ was welcome. Despite this, a scheduled concert by another rock and roll artist was cancelled by the auditorium manager.
On the 19th March 1962, American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan released his eponymous debut album.
Dylan had arrived in New York from Minnesota the previous year, but had quickly worked his way into the coffee houses and folk clubs of Greenwich Village. It was here that he became known to established folk singer Carolyn Hester who invited him to join her as a harmonica player. While rehearsing in her apartment in September, Dylan met Columbia Records’ talent scout John H. Hammond who stated he decided to sign Dylan “on the spot” although in reality the contract wasn’t finalised until the end of October.
The album was recorded over six hours of sessions on the 20th to the 22nd of November. Legend has it that the album cost $402 to produce, but this figure was only stated as a joke by John Hammond – the true cost is unknown. Although there were a couple of false starts, five of the final recordings were the first take as Dylan refused requests to do a second.
Only two tracks on Dylan’s debut album were his own compositions and it failed to hit the Billboard 100, selling less than 5,000 copies in its first year and earning Dylan the nickname “Hammond’s Folly” from record executives. Despite this set-back, however, he returned to the studio shortly after the release of his first album to begin work on his second, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which consisted almost entirely of original songs. Opening with the now-classic Blowin’ in the Wind, it was this album that established Dylan as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation.
Gold records were originally presented to artists by their own label, primarily as a form of self-congratulatory publicity. The very first framed gold record of this type was presented to the American bandleader Glenn Miller by RCA Victor in February 1942. This was in recognition of the sale of 1.2 million copies of his single “Chattanooga Choo Choo”. In 1956 Elvis Presley later received a gold record after selling 1 million copies of “Don’t Be Cruel”, but this was again a company award.
The Recording Industry Association of America was formed in 1952 to develop the burgeoning recording industry, and introduced its own industry-wide award program six years later. Issued to recognise any single that sold over a million copies (or an album that achieved one million dollars in sales), the first gold record was awarded to Perry Como for “Catch A Falling Star” that later won him the Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal.
Como had previously awarded the McGuire Sisters with a company gold record on the Gisele MacKenzie Show for their million-selling song Sugartime. He was in turn presented with his RIAA gold record on live television by announcer Frank Gallop who erroneously referred to “Chase a Falling Star” before Como performed a comedy arrangement of the song.
Increasing record sales in the 1970s led to the introduction of the platinum award to recognise singles that sold more than two million units, but the number of required sales was halved in 1989 to its current level of 500,000 for gold and one million for platinum.
On the 17th February 1966 Brian Wilson, the co-founder of the Beach Boys, began the first recording session for the song Good Vibrations at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles. Part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, Good Vibrations arguably established the recording studio itself as an instrument and secured the Beach Boys their first million-selling single.
The Beach Boys were recording their eleventh studio album, Pet Sounds, when the instrumental parts for the first version of the song were recorded on the 17th February. Originally logged as part of the Pet Sounds sessions, recording of Good Vibrations was put on hold while the album was completed. However, following the release of Pet Sounds a reported further 90 hours of recordings were made that were gradually edited into the three minutes 35 seconds that make up the final song.
Referred to by Wilson as a “pocket symphony”, the modular process used for Good Vibrations involved the recording and re-recording of individual sections of the song using the Wall of Sound formula, that had originally been developed by record producer Phil Spector. The sporadic sessions for instrumental sections alone lasted until August, after which the vocal parts were recorded. The final mix was completed on the 21st September, after a final Electro-Theremin overdub was added.
Finally released on the 10th October 1966, Good Vibrations reached the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. It had cost up to $75,000 to produce, making it at that time the most expensive single ever recorded.
George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was performed for the first time at a concert by Paul Whiteman and his Palais Royal Orchestra called An Experiment in Modern Music.
Whiteman had previously worked with Gershwin when he conducted the original performance of Blue Monday, a one-act ‘jazz opera’ composed by Gershwin with lyrics by Buddy DeSylva. Although it was a Broadway flop, Whiteman was impressed by Blue Monday and had a conversation with Gershwin in which they discussed the idea of composer writing a jazz concerto.
According to legend Gershwin forgot about the conversation until early January 1924 when his brother, Ira, read an article in the New York Tribune that said Whiteman would perform a jazz concerto by Gershwin at a concert on 12 February. His musical Sweet Little Devil was due to open in Boston at the end of the month, yet Whiteman was able to persuade Gershwin to write the piece after promising he only needed to submit a piano score. Whiteman’s arranger Ferde Grofé orchestrated the piece, while the band added their own touches such as clarinettist Ross Gorman who turned the opening solo into an extended glissando that has since become the accepted way to open the piece.
Gershwin himself played piano when the piece was premiered at Aeolian Hall in New York City. He hadn’t scored the piano part and so performed from memory, improvising some parts. The audience, which included composers such as John Philip Sousa and Sergei Rachmaninoff, responded enthusiastically to the piece but critics were divided. It has since gone on to become one of Gershwin’s most famous pieces and a vital part of American musical history that proved how jazz elements could be used in so-called ‘serious’ music.
On the 7th February 1964, the Beatles visited the United States for the first time. Their welcome at New York’s Kennedy Airport by 3,000 screaming fans was unprecedented, even for a band that had already become accustomed to hordes of followers at home in Britain and in Europe. Within two days, their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show had put them in front of around 40% of the entire population of the country – an estimated 73 million people.
1963 had seen the release of the Beatles’ first two albums – Please Please Me and With the Beatles – as well as five number one singles including She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand. The latter, released in the UK on the 29th November was kept from the number one spot for two weeks due to a resurgence in the popularity of She Loves You amidst the media storm that kick-started Beatlemania. A few weeks later, on the 26th December, I Want To Hold Your Hand became the first Capitol Records Beatles release in the USA, selling a quarter of a million copies in the first three days and finally hitting the number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 on the 1st February.
The Beatles’ arrival in America six days later couldn’t have been any better timed, despite their Ed Sullivan Show appearance being booked before the single was even released. By the time they performed their first live concert to 20,000 fans at the Coliseum in Washington D.C. on the 11th February, Beatlemania had taken a firm grip on America.
The 3rd February 1959 was the Day The Music Died, when rock and roll pioneers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. The disaster gained its name twelve years later as a result of Don McLean’s hit song American Pie.
On the 23rd January 1959, Buddy Holly began the headline Winter Dance Party Tour of 24 cities in the American Midwest with support from Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper and Dion and the Belmonts. Touring was a very profitable activity for musicians and Holly – recently married and with a pregnant wife at home – was keen to pack in as many performances as possible.
However, the tour involved covering gruelling distances in a bus that soon developed a fault with its heating system. The situation was so bad that Holly’s drummer Carl Bunch was hospitalised with frostbitten feet. The bus was promptly replaced, but with less than half the dates already covered the musicians were frustrated and tired.
After playing a concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, on the 2nd February Holly opted to charter a plane to get him to the next venue. The plane, contrary to popular opinion, was not called American Pie and was only identified by the serial number N3794N. In addition to Holly and the pilot, 21 year-old Roger Peterson, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper took the remaining seats following some negotiation and a coin toss. They took off at 12:55am on the 3rd February, but flew only 6 miles before crashing amidst deteriorating weather.
The Damned had released what is recognised as the first ever punk single a month earlier. “New Rose” may have been the first single by a punk band, but numerous groups had already built a sizeable following through chaotic live shows that arguably culminated in the Sex Pistols’ own performance at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4 June 1976.
The Sex Pistols were signed to the EMI record label on 8 October and soon entered the studio to record their debut single which they did less than two weeks later on 17 October. Chris Thomas, who had previously worked with such influential bands as The Beatles and Pink Floyd, agreed to produce the single, which sent shockwaves through the recording industry.
In sharp contrast to the traditional rock n roll lyrics of “New Rose”, “Anarchy in the UK” was rooted in the anger and nihilism of the early British punk movement from its opening line. It reached number 38 on the UK charts, but this fails to reflect the impact that the record had on the country.
Less than a week later the band appeared on the Today programme broadcast on Thames Television in London. The host, Bill Grundy, later claimed that he and the band were all drunk when he invited them to ‘say something outrageous’ in the closing seconds of the show. Guitarist Steve Jones responded by calling the host a range of names littered with profanities. The band’s appearance was splashed over the national newspapers the next day, bringing both the band and the punk movement to national attention. Within a few weeks EMI ended the band’s contract.