Week in Rock History: Fleetwood Mac Breaks Up, Johnny Cash Dies - Rolling Stone
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Week in Rock History: Fleetwood Mac Breaks Up, Johnny Cash Dies

Plus: Ed Sullivan bans the Doors

jim morrison the doors 1967

Jim Morrison of the Doors

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

This week in rock history, the Doors enraged Ed Sullivan, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie left Fleetwood Mac, a stalker mailed Björk a bomb, the Strokes made their stage debut and Johnny Cash passed away.

September 17, 1967: The Doors are banned from The Ed Sullivan Show for refusing to change their lyrics
At the peak of their popularity, the Doors were not interested in compromise – no matter who was asking.

Upon the release of their second album, Strange Days, the Los Angeles band was booked to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. They were allotted two songs: “People Are Strange,” the dejected lead single from the record, and their previous hit, “Light My Fire.” Backstage, minutes before the show began taping, producers asked singer Jim Morrison to change the line “Girl we couldn’t get much higher,” claiming that the line suggested illegal drug use and wasn’t fit for the audience. Morrison refused irritably, but the rest of the group agreed to swap in less controversial lyrics.

Once the Doors took the stage for their live set, however, Morrison regained control; he delivered “People Are Strange” with glassy detachment, then swung into a riotous version of “Light My Fire” – and sang the offending line anyway. The band could be seen smirking in the background, but the host wasn’t so pleased; Ed Sullivan closed his show with a broad show-biz smile, then stormed offstage and banned the Doors from his show for life.

September 12, 1990: Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie announce that they’re leaving Fleetwood Mac
Try as they might, no group in the 1970s could top Fleetwood Mac for inter-band drama. The blues-rockers loved, married and divorced each other in unyielding chaos. Lead singers Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were longtime lovers and collaborators, but their tumultuous romance ended definitively by 1976. The marriage between keyboardist Christine McVie and bassist John McVie unraveled in the same year, and drummer Mick Fleetwood also split from his wife.

The members found a vehicle for their incredible animosity in 1977’s Rumours, but its vast success (over 40 million copies sold to date) could not salvage the group; they went on hiatus throughout the 1980s and Nicks, Buckingham and Christine McVie released notable solo albums.

In 1990, the group (sans Buckingham) embarked on their exhaustive “Behind the Mask” tour, in which they played the biggest arenas of their career. On the road, both Nicks and Christine McVie announced that they would leave Fleetwood Mac at the conclusion of the tour.

The classic lineup reunited briefly to perform “Don’t Stop” at President Bill Clinton’s inaugural ball in 1993, and have performed together in occasional incarnations since. Lindsey Buckingham recently told Rolling Stone that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the band toured and/or released an album next year.

September 17, 1996: A stalker mails Björk a bomb
Björk narrowly escaped disfigurement, and quite possibly death, when police officers intercepted a letter bomb addressed to her.

A sulphuric acid-spraying device, set in a hollowed-out book and rigged to explode upon opening, was mailed to the Icelandic singer’s London home. It was intercepted at a nearby post office and turned over to authorities, who diffused the bomb and identified the sender as a deranged American fan named Ricardo Lòpez. The stalker was dead by the time police reached him; he left behind 18 hours of video footage in which he’d filmed himself creating the acid weapon, ranting at length about the singer and committing suicide.

Björk remains reluctant to speak about the attack, but did say upon the release of 1997’s Homogenic that the frightening event led her to write more intimate songs.

September 14, 1999: The Strokes make their live debut
Two years before Is This It brought the world to their doors, the Strokes played their first gig to less-than-overwhelming results.

The inaugural show, at the now-defunct dive the Spiral in New York City, was “attended by four or five friends and some of our girlfriends,” bassist Nikolai Fraiture recalled later to Pollstar. The band had formed less than a year before and were still getting their bearings, in every sense; they rehearsed in a tiny, shared practice space and had a small handful of tunes in their arsenal.

But the Spiral set led swiftly to greater venues. Before long, the group had booked a weekly residency at the downtown hub the Mercury Lounge. In January of 2001, they released The Modern Age, their three-song debut EP that sparked their massive, career-defining bidding war between major labels.

September 12, 2003: Johnny Cash dies
Country music’s “Man in Black” passed away during a well-deserved last career resurgence. He was 71.

The gravel-voiced singer/songwriter, influential enough to be a rare inductee of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died due to complications from diabetes. His health had been in steady decline for years and caused him to miss the MTV Music Video Awards the previous month, where he was nominated in an unprecedented seven categories for his elegiac cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” The video, directed by Mark Romanek and featuring personal footage from Cash’s life, won prizes at the Grammy Awards and CMA Awards.

Cash, a forceful and haunted singer/songwriter, released such hits as “I Walk the Line” and “A Boy Named Sue” in his 60-plus years as a recording artist. He garnered 13 Grammys and, alongside his beloved wife June Carter Cash, was the subject of the Oscar-winning 2005 biopic Walk the Line. Carter Cash passed away just four months before her husband.

LAST WEEK: Keith Moon Dies


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