This week in rock history, Bob Dylan won his first Grammy, Paul and Linda McCartney got busted, Led Zeppelin were forced to change their name, the Police played their final concert and Madonna released Ray of Light.
February 27, 1980: Bob Dylan Wins His First Grammy
In 1963 The Grammys could have given the Best New Artist award to Bob Dylan, but they went with Robert Goulet. Three years later they could have given album of the year to Highway 61 Revisited, but they went with Frank Sinatra’s September of my Years. Thirty-one years ago this week Bob Dylan finally won a Grammy when his born-again anthem “Gotta Serve Somebody” won Best Rock Male Vocal Performance. He played the song during the show (watch below), and seemed shocked when Ted Nugent called his name out as the winner. “I didn’t expect this,” he said. “I want to thank the lord for it.”
February 28, 1970: Led Zeppelin (Temporarily) Change Their Name
Led Zeppelin’s 1970 European tour ran into a snag right as it started. Countess Eva von Zeppelin, a descendent of Zeppelin Aircraft founder Ferdinand von Zeppelin, was none too pleased that a rock & roll band was using her family name. “They may be world famous,” she said. “But a couple of shrieking monkeys are not going to use a privileged family name without permission.” She threatened to sue them, putting their February 28, 1970 Copenhagen gig in jeopardy. Zeppelin manager Peter Grant talked her into a meeting with the band, and she almost was appeased after discovering they were actually nice young men – until she caught a glimpse of the cover of their debut LP, which shows the Hindenburg bursting into flames. Rather than attempt further damage control, Grant and Jimmy Page decided simply to change the group’s name to the Nobs for the one show. The show went off without a hitch, a lawsuit never surfaced and the publicity around the incident actually helped the young band get their name out.
March 1, 1984: The Police play their final concert
On March 1, 1984 The Police played ended their epic Synchronicity world tour in Melbourne, Australia. It was the last time they’d play a full concert until their reunion tour in 2007. “I remember the backstage scene after the show like a kind of hallucination,” guitarist Andy Summers wrote in his 2006 memoir One Train Later. “As we were accosted by one person after another raving about the band and the performance, gasping out how great it must be in the Police, I felt like I was drowning in a sea of worship but could only smile back and say, ‘Yeah … great … Thanks,’ knowing the grim truth that they had just witnessed the final gig.”
March 2, 1975: Paul and Linda McCartney busted in Los Angeles with pot
Five years before Paul McCartney’s infamous bust in Tokyo, he was pulled over for running a red light in Los Angeles. A cop searched the car and found eight ounces of marijuana. Linda said it was all hers and was arrested, though charges were later dropped. The bust didn’t make the couple more cautious about traveling with drugs. In 1980 Paul had his infamous bust, getting caught with a half pound of pot in Japan, and in 1984 Paul and Linda were busted with pot in Barbados and England.
March 3, 1998: Madonna releases Ray Of Light
Madonna had been going through a minor career slump before the release of Ray of Light on March 3, 1998. Erotica (1992) and Bedtime Stories (1994) hadn’t been the blockbusters she delivered in the Eighties, but the William Orbit-produced Ray Of Light yielded the massive hits “Frozen,” “Ray of Light,” “Nothing Really Matters” and “The Power of Good-Bye.” It was also one of the most acclaimed albums of her career.
“Meet the latest brand-new Madonna, the Chemical Mother,” Rolling Stone‘s Rob Sheffield wrote in his review. “Ray of Light is her maternity album as well as her avant-dance album, riding the electronica wave with her new collaborator, U.K. beat master William Orbit. She’s not exactly subtle about it, either. In just the first song, ‘Drowned World/Substitute for Love,’ Madonna throws in trip-hop drum loops, jungle snares, string samples and pointless computer bleeps (lots of those). She shows off all these trinkets from her expensive collection of electronica gimmicks as if she’s unpacking her shopping bags after a day at the outlet malls and she doesn’t even care if they clash.”