This Week In Rock History: The Beatles Call It Quits and the Ramones Begin - Rolling Stone
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This Week In Rock History: The Beatles Call It Quits and the Ramones Begin

Also: Madonna flips out on Letterman, N’Sync shatter the Soundscan sales record

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This week in rock history the Beatles ended, the Ramones began, Genesis embraced pop, Madonna flipped out and N’Sync peaked.

April 1st, 1970 – The Beatles hold their final recording session

The Beatles’ recording career ended very quietly in April of 1970. At the time all four members of the band hadn’t appeared together in the studio since they finished “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” seven months earlier.  In early 1970 Phil Spector was given the difficult task of carving an album out of the group’s disastrous Let It Be sessions from the previous year. He called back all four Beatles to flesh out some of the songs, but John refused to show up. For the last session on April 1st Spector just needed Ringo to overdub some drums on “The Long and Winding Road,” “Across The Universe” and “I Me Mine.” Just nine days later McCartney announced that the group had broken up.

March 30th, 1974 – The Ramones stage their first concert

Four years after the Beatles dissolved a Queens, New York trio played their first gig at Performance Studio on 20th Street in Manhattan. It featured Jeffrey Hyman on drums, Douglas Colvin on bass on vocals and John Cummings on guitar. “They were terrible – but they were great,” Tommy Erdelyi later remembered. “I could tell right away that they were exciting, interesting and funny.” After that first gig Colvin realized that he had trouble playing bass and drumming at the same time. Erdelyi agreed to join as the drummer so that Hyman (a.k.a. Joey Ramone) could become the group’s singer. A little over two weeks after that first gig at Performance Studio The Ramones made their debut as a four-piece at a new club on the Bowery called C.B.G.B.


March 28th, 1980 –   Genesis release Duke

Before Genesis cut Duke in late 1979 they decided to take a year off. By that point the prog-rock band had been working non-stop for 13 years, growing from a tiny art-rock band at a British boarding school to a wildly successful arena rock band. The grueling schedule had destroyed the marriage of frontman Phil Collins. His wife took their children to Vancouver and he suspended all band activity so he could follow her there and try to salvage the relationship. When he realized the situation was hopeless he began penning intensely personal songs about his pain. One of those was “In The Air Tonight.” To this day Collins swears that he offered the song to Genesis and they rejected it, and to this day the rest of the band swears that never happened. Regardless, he put the song aside and started to write material for Duke with keyboardist Tony Banks and guitarist Mike Rutherford.

The finished LP shows the band at the halfway point between their prog and pop periods. “Misunderstanding” and “Turn It On Again” are radio-friendly pop singles, while “Duke’s Travels/Duke’s End” would have fit on the group’s Seventies prog-oriented albums. “Misunderstanding” – written by Collins about his failed marriage – gave the band their first top 20 song in America. Less than a year later Collins released “In The Air Tonight” as his debut solo single, but his incredible run of Eighties success began with Duke.

March 31st, 1994 – Madonna goes nuts on Letterman

It’s hard to say what exactly got Madonna so riled up when she appeared on Late Night With David Letterman in March of 1994. It’s possible Letterman got things off to a bad start before she even got onstage. “Our first guest tonight is one of the biggest stars in the world,” he said. “In the past 10 years, she has sold over 80 million albums, starred in countless films and slept with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.” Within one minute of taking the couch Madonna called Letterman a “sick fuck.” It was the first of 14 f-bombs. “You realize this is being broadcast, don’t you?” a slightly shocked Letterman replied.  Things went downhill from there and the incident went down as one of the most famous moments in Letterman history.

March 29th, 2000 – N’Sync shatter Soundscan record

Nobody knew it at the time, but the music industry peaked on March 29th, 2000. That was the day that Soundscan announced that N’Sync’s 2000 LP No Strings Attached sold 2.42 million albums in its first week of release. The album’s single “Bye Bye Bye” was a massive hit and boy band mania had reached a peak. Right around this time teenagers across the country started downloading a new program called Napster, and very quickly paying $18 for a CD at the mall seemed like a relic of the distant past. “I remember that week,” Lance Bass told Rolling Stone in 2009. “The whole thing was a competition with the Backstreet Boys because they did a million in a week. “We’re like, ‘There’s no way we can do a million in a week are you kidding me?’ Then the label called and they’re like ‘You did a million in a day.'” It was a nutty, nutty time. It’s an amazing feeling that we’ll go down in history.”


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