Musings On Music History: The Loss Of The Lizard King, The Meeting Of The Future Insect Minds, and Jello For Mayor
07.03: On this day in 1969, Rolling Stones founding member and guitarist, Brian Jones, was found dead in his swimming pool not even a month after having departed the Stones for “musical reasons,” whatever that means. His death was labeled “death by misadventure” by the coroner, but there are still people, to this day, who claim that he was murdered. We may never know exactly how he died. What we do know, however, is that Brian’s role in the Stones lineup had gone from frontman and lead guitar in the early days to second fiddle next to Mick and Keith, whose songwriting skills greatly outweighed Brian’s swagger. Next to them, he really didn’t have much to offer, so he left. For “musical reasons.”
07.03: On this day in 1971, The Doors frontman Jim Morrison died in a Paris bathtub. His official cause of death was heart failure, but many fans speculated it was the result of a covered-up drug overdose. Their theory can never be proven, however, because French law did not require an autopsy. The third of three ’60s talents to die in less than a year, following Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, Morrison had retreated to Paris to gather himself after the chaos of the previous years, during the rise of The Doors and his subsequent run-ins with the law and Ed Sullivan. With these deaths, many people considered the ’60s truly and officially over, in spirit and in music. We could speculate all day and night about what kind of music Jim, Jimi, and Janis would’ve made had they survived themselves, but that kind of thought experiment is fairly fruitless. Instead, we just like to enjoy what was left behind. Long live The Lizard King!
07.04: What a wonderful world, indeed, as American jazz great Louis Armstrong, or Satchmo as we love to call him, was born on this day in 1900. One of the greatest trumpeters and bandleaders during the big band and swing eras of jazz, inarguably the most popular time for jazz, Armstrong’s amazingly raspy, deep, and smokey voice will, in our mind, forever reverberate through our heads with the tune “What A Wonderful World.” What a great song and an amazing talent. For real, seek out his work, a greatest hits collection, whatever, and you will not be disappointed. Happy birthday, Louie. You are one of the original rock stars.
07.06: This day in 1957 witnessed the meeting of two teenagers who would go on to change the course of popular music in the 1960s. Who were these two young lads, you ask? Why, a coupla nobodies named Paul McCartney and John Lennon, that’s who. The pair discovered each other after Lennon’s band, The Quarrymen (the pic is from that actual performance!), finished a set at a church social in their hometown of Liverpool, England. And the world would never be the same…
07.06: On this day in 1971, the world lost Satchmo – Louis Armstrong. He died of a heart attack at his residence in Queens. A monumental talent, Armstrong presided over jazz’s most popular times, the swing and big band eras, when jazz was to the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s what rock was to the ’60s: insanely popular, vilified and celebrated equally, simultaneously tagged as the devil’s music and as the best thing that happened to popular culture during its respective years. And Armstrong fed into both of these viewpoints, by making people gyrate in “immoral” ways and taking music in new directions with his music.
07.07: On this day in 1940, a Starr was born. Ringo Starr, to be specific. The last of the Beatles to actually become a Beatle, Ringo joined the group in 1962 after manager Brian Epstein fired their first drummer, Pete Best. And the rest is rock and roll history, for better and worse. Ringo solidified a band that, in 8 short years going on eternity, would transform not only itself, but the musical landscape of the ’60s and beyond. Just listen to their first #1 single, “From Me To You,” and their last #1 single, “The Long And Winding Road,” and you will hear a band that evolved right before the eyes of the world. How does a band go from “Love Me Do” to “Come Together” in just six years? Yes, it boggles our mind, too.
07.08: On this day in 1970, the world’s coolest “Loser” was born, as Beck (last name Hansen; born Bek David Campbell), strummed his way into the world. Beck is one of the most talented and successful underground singer/songwriters ever to bust a singsong rhyme just as easily as he strums a slow jam. From his first hit, the afore-referenced “Loser”, to the release of the astonishing Odelay to the new millenium’s Sea Change and Guero, Beck has never been afraid to try on new styles, to walk down different paths, whether anynoe follows him there or not.
07.08: On this day in 1980, Jello Biafra officially lost his bid to become Mayor of San Francisco. The Dead Kennedys frontman ran on a platform forcing businessmen to wear clown suits within city limits and promoting a citywide ban on cars. The lifted and famous dessert slogan, “There’s always room for Jello”, helped him finish 4th out of 10 candidates, receiving 3.5% of the vote. How awesome would that have been? Streets crowded with people in clown suits. It’d either be the funniest or the creepiest thing we’ve ever seen. Probably both.