Week in Rock History: Aaliyah Killed in a Plane Crash

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August 27, 1967: Beatles manager Brian Epstein is found dead in his London home
One man turned the Beatles from a scruffy group of street brats into a worldwide event: their manager Brian Epstein.

Epstein first met the Beatles in 1961 at the Cavern Club in Liverpool; at the time, he ran the city’s popular NEMS record store. Struck by the band’s charming energy and tight melodies, and equally appalled by their unprofessional stop-and-start performance demeanor and tough stage garb of leather and denim, he began managing the group and immediately overhauled their image. Per his insistence, the Fab Four donned suits, trimmed their hair and delivered cleanly orchestrated sets capped with their now-famous group bow. Epstein’s steady hand also guided the Beatles into their formative partnerships with producer George Martin and Parlophone Records and ran their merchandising empire (though his uneven profit divisions earned him some criticism).

Epstein died from an accidental sleeping pill overdose in his London home at age 32. At the time, the Beatles were in Wales studying with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who told the distraught musicians that Epstein’s death was unimportant because it occurred in the physical realm. Jimi Hendrix felt otherwise: he canceled his London performance that evening out of respect for the fallen manager.

August 23, 2007 : Queen guitarist Brian May earns a doctorate in astrophysics
The ax-slinger behind "We Will Rock You" always had his mind in the clouds. Initially a PhD candidate of astrophysics at the prestigious Imperial College, London (with a few honors in physics to supplement), May postponed his schooling in the early 1970s when Queen achieved worldwide success. Yet even as the guitarist crossed the globe with the swaggering rockers, he pursued his scientific goals, co-authoring two research papers, 1972’s MgI Emission in the Night-Sky Spectrum and 1973’s An Investigation of the Motion of Zodiacal Dust Particles Part 1.

In the summer 2007, more than three decades after leaving school, May completed his studies with a 48,000-word thesis and was awarded his doctorate by Imperial College. He was formally presented with his degree a few months later at London’s Royal Albert Hall – a stage he’d already tread as frontman of the Brian May Band. He currently serves as the Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University and contributes to The Sky at Night, a monthly documentary program on the BBC.

May’s continuing research on fat-bottomed girls has also yielded notable results.

LAST WEEK: Elvis Dies at Graceland

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

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