This Week In Rock History: Michael Jackson Becomes a Superstar, Neil Young Goes to Jail and Van Hagar is Born

Also, Blondie tops the charts with 'Rapture' and Elton John teams up with George Michael

March 22, 2011 3:30 PM ET
Michael Jackson performs at the Motown 25th anniversary celebration March 16, 1983.
Michael Jackson performs at the Motown 25th anniversary celebration March 16, 1983.
Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

This week in rock history Neil Young and Eric Clapton got busted, Debbie Harry rapped, Michael Jackson moonwalked, Van Halen began the second phase of their career and Elton John teamed up with George Michael.

March 20th, 1968: Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Jim Messina and Richie Furay busted
Many people would pay good money to hear Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Stephen Stills jam into all hours of the night, but in March of 1968 people who lived near Stephen Stills' girlfriend's house in California's Topanga Canyon had had enough of the noise and called the police. At the time Buffalo Springfield had been rehearsing for their performance at a new Sunset Strip club with their friend Eric Clapton and a good time was being had by all – until two Malibu police deputies stormed into the house. Stills' road manager Chris Sarns grabbed a giant stash of marijuana and ran to flush it, but was busted just before he finished the job. Young, Clapton, Jim Messina, Richie Furay and many others were hauled off to prison, but Stills somehow made it out a window.

At the prison everybody was stripped down and sprayed with DDT. "Neil was afraid of having a [seizure] because they denied him his medicine," Sarns told Young's biographer Jimmy McDonough. "They separated him from the rest of us and put him in a tank with a bunch of drunks." The next day their lawyers sorted everything out, but the incident put further strain on the band and just weeks later Buffalo Springfield played their last concert until their 2010 reunion.

March 21st, 1981:  Blondie's "Rapture" tops the charts
Most Americans had never heard rap music until Blondie's "Rapture" blew up in early 1981, hitting Number One on March 21st of that year. At the time Blondie were key players in the New York downtown music scene, and they had Fab Five Freddy (who was namechecked in the song) and Jean-Michael Basquiat in the video. In 2004 Rolling Stone asked Debbie Harry what the track did for the evolution of rap. "Creatively it did one thing in particular," she said. "It was the first rap song to have its own original music. Commercially it made rap viable for the mainstream charts. I don't think it was a tremendous influence. I am nowhere close to being a rapper."

March 25th, 1983:  Michael Jackson unveils The Moonwalk on TV
A lot of amazing things happened at Motown's 25th Anniversary concert at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium: Linda Ronstadt sang with Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross reunited with The Supremes, Marvin Gaye performed on national TV for the final time and the Temptations sang together with the Four Tops. Much of that has been forgotten because it was also the night when Michael Jackson stepped outside of The Jackson 5 and performed "Billie Jean," debuting the moonwalk to the shrieking crowd. It remains the most famous performance of Jackson's long career.

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Song Stories


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