This Week In Rock History: George Michael Busted and the World Meets ABBA - Rolling Stone
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This Week In Rock History: George Michael Busted and the World Meets ABBA

Also, Aerosmith release a classic and the Beach Boys banned from Washington


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This week in rock history the world met ABBA, Aerosmith hit it big with their third album, the Beach Boys battles Washington, Duran Duran covered Public Enemy and George Michael left a public bathroom in handcuffs.

April 6th, 1974 –  ABBA wins the Eurovision Song Contest

Most Americans have never heard of the Eurovision Song Contest, but for the past five decades the annual contest has been one of Europe’s biggest cultural events. Every country submits a musical act and a winner is decided American Idol-style. In 1974 Sweden entered ABBA and their song “Waterloo.” After winning the pop band went on to take over the entire world, scoring hit after hit until their break-up in 1982. In 2005 “Waterloo” was voted the greatest song in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest. Five years later ABBA was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The group hasn’t performed since their split, and have refused to reunite depite being offered a reported $1 billion for a tour.

April 8th, 1975  – Aerosmith release Toys In The Attic

With the release of 1975s Toys In The Attic critics stopped looking at Aerosmith as just another band ripping off the Rolling Stones. Songs like “Sweet Emotion,” “Walk This Way” and the title track were simply too good to dismiss, and they finally landed a hit in the Top 40. To many fans the album is a highwater mark for the band. They’ve gone in a considerably poppier direction in the past 25 years, and some in the band are craving a return to the Toys In The Attic vibe. “It’s clear to most of the members in Aerosmith that the fans want to return to old school,” drummer Joey Kramer told Rolling Stone in 2009. “That’s obviously what the band has always done best. We’ve had some success with pop songs, but we’ve also had some miserable failures. Pop failures are much harder to take than legitimate rock songs that don’t cut it.”

April 5th, 1983 – The Beach Boys banned from the National Mall by James Watt

The Beach Boys of the early Eighties were about as All-American as any Sixties rock band could be.  Every Fourth of July weekend they performed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. But in 1983 Secretary of the Interior James Watt banned them and opener the Grass Roots, saying that rock bands attracted the “wrong element.” He then announced that Wayne Newton would take their place. The news caused an absolute uproar, angering even Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Watt was forced to apologize. The Beach Boys returned to the National Mall the following summer, but by that point Watt was long out of a job. In September of 1983 he was talking about affirmative action when he uttered his now legendary quote: “I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent.” It was the perfect storm of offensiveness, and he was soon forced to resign.


April 4th, 1995 – Duran Duran squander their comeback with bizarre covers album

Duran Duran have always had trouble capitalizing off momentum. Just two years into their career, after the release of 1983’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger, they splintered off into solo projects that kept them apart for three years. For the next seven years they struggled mightily to regain their Rio-era buzz – but they finally scored two massive hits in 1993 with “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone.” After a grueling world tour and a long break, however, the group decided what the world wanted to hear was Duran Duran’s take on songs by Grandmaster Flash, Sly Stone, Public Enemy and the Temptations. It wasn’t a good plan.

“Some of the ideas at play here are stunningly wrong-headed,” wrote J.D. Considine in his Rolling Stone review of the disc. “Like the easy-listening arrangement of Elvis Costello’s ‘Watching The Detectives’ or the version of Zeppelin’s ‘Thank You’ that sounds like the band is covering Chris DeBurgh. But it takes a certain demented genius to recognize Iggy Pop’s ‘Success’ as the Gary Glitter tune it was meant to be or redo ‘911 Is A Joke’ so it sounds more like Beck than Public Enemy.” The LP was a huge commercial flop and it obliterated all the hard-earned goodwill they scored just two years earlier.

April 7th, 1998  – George Michael arrested for committing “lewd act” in a men’s room

Hard as it may be to imagine, George Michael was firmly in the closet until April of 1998. That was when he was arrested outside of a Beverly Hills public bathroom for “engaging in a lewd act.” A few months later Michael sat down with MTV to explain what happened. “I got followed into the restroom,” he said. “Then this cop – I didn’t know it was a cop, obviously – he started playing this game, which I think is called, ‘I’ll show you mine, you show me yours, and then when you show me yours, I’m going to nick you.’ Actually, what happened was once he got an eyeful, he walked past me, straight past me and out, and I thought, that’s kind of odd. I thought, maybe he’s just not impressed. And then I went to walk back to my car, and as I got back to the car, I was arrested on the street. … If someone’s waving their genitalia at you, you don’t automatically assume that they’re an officer of the law… I’ve never been able to turn down a free meal.”

The incident got Michael more press than he’d received in years, and  – showing remarkably good humor – he spoofed the incident in his song and video “Outside.” Marcelo Rodriguez , the arresting officer, was so offended by the video that he sued Michael for $10 million. He eventually lost the case. In recent years Michael has admitted that he occasionally still has anonymous sex at public places. “A very large part of the male population, gay or straight, totally understands the idea of anonymous and no-strings sex,” he told the BBC after being photographed at a gay cruising spot in England. “The fact that I choose to do that on a warm night in the best cruising ground in London – which happens to be about half a mile from my home – I don’t think would be that shocking to that many gay people.”

LAST WEEK: The Beatles Call It Quits and the Ramones Begin


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