This week in rock history, Rush became Canada’s ambassadors of rock, the Sex Pistols sued Malcolm McLaren, the Pixies split, Victoria Beckham was nearly kidnapped and Gary Glitter left prison after serving a sentence for child pornography.
January 8, 1979: Rush are named Canada‘s official ambassadors of music
A decade after Rush formed in Toronto, Canada, the power trio were the toast of the country. Their 1974 self-titled record was one of the top-selling debuts by any Canadian act, and their brainy lyrics and interwoven fretwork earned them hordes of fans in the international rock community. By the end of the decade they’d grown in leaps and bounds, in both success and musical style, from their debut single, a 1973 cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away.”
The Canadian government was impressed, and then some. In 1979, they bestowed the group with the title of official Ambassadors of Music for the country. The honor would prove fruitful in getting members Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart out of their parking tickets – as well as selling approximately 40 million albums worldwide.
January 13, 1986: The Sex Pistols sue former manager Malcolm McLaren
At their most volatile, the Sex Pistols only answered to one man: their manager, Malcolm McLaren, whose keen media manipulation and proto-punk style sensibilities (influenced by his longtime girlfriend, designer Vivienne Westwood) lent the band much of their fame. After the Sex Pistols broke up in 1978, McLaren continued to release outtake material from the band, including much of the soundtrack to The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle in 1979 and the contentious Flogging a Dead Horse compilation of 1980.
In 1986, the surviving members of the Sex Pistols sued McLaren for overdue royalties, and they received approximately £1 million in an out-of-court settlement. McLaren forged on, managing other bands (although famously, his ideas didn’t sit well with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who rejected his offers). He also enjoyed a prolific solo career – that’s his version of the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” in Kill Bill Vol 2, and Eminem sampled McLaren’s early hip-hop track “Buffalo Gals” in “Without Me.” The impresario even wrote an opera before passing away in 2010.
January 14, 1993: The Pixies announce their breakup
As Kurt Cobain attested, the Pixies were one of the most important bands in the world. Their harsh surf guitars and male-female vocal harmonies combined with pop melodicism in a completely fresh way – especially on their second album, Doolittle, which veered into cleaner production sound courtesy of British super-producer Gil Norton.
However, during Doolittle‘s recording sessions in late 1988, the band began to unravel. Band members Black Francis and Kim Deal grew increasingly tense and started to act out. Deal was almost fired from the band when she refused to perform at a concert in Europe, and Francis flung his guitar at her during another show. They continued to record and perform but effectively stopped speaking. After the release of Trompe le Monde in 1991, the band fractured and went on hiatus. In January 1993, Black Francis told the BBC that the Pixies were finished.
For the next 11 years, Francis and Deal denied rumors of the band reuniting with a vehemency that proved very convincing. However, they did reform in 2004, to worldwide enthusiasm. Their set that summer at the Coachella Music Festival so moved headliners Radiohead, the band offered a rare performance of “Creep” at the request of their heroes. A bit miraculously, the Pixies continue to tour today.
January 8, 2000: British police stop a kidnap attempt on Victoria Beckham
In 2000, Posh Spice – Victoria Beckham – became the target of an extensive kidnapping plot in her native England.
The pop star was then newly married to soccer star David Beckham, living in London with one child, Brooklyn. That January, Scotland Yard received a warning that someone would soon attempt to kidnap Victoria and her son for an enormous ransom. The police moved the family to a secret location. No arrests were made in the case, but Beckham was targeted again by a stalker that March, receiving death threats. At one point she was forced to flee an awards ceremony when police suspected the presence of a sniper.
The Beckhams were targeted once again for kidnapping in 2002. This time, authorities were warned of an armed gang. However, evidence proved inconclusive after the now-defunct tabloid News of the World misidentified one man accused of involved in the plot. He later accepted an apology and a charitable contribution from the paper.
January 11, 2000: Gary Glitter is released from prison after serving two months for possessing child pornography
Gary Glitter was a force of the British glam rock scene. He landed 26 hit singles on the U.K. charts from the 1970s to the 1990s, including “Hello, Hello, I’m Back Again” and “Another Rock & Roll Christmas,” and he contributed an influential personal style including tight suits and a dark pompadour. His “Rock & Roll Part 2” became a recognizable gear-up song at sports events, making Glitter equally popular in both mainstream and art circles (no easy feat).
Glitter’s bright career came to an end in November 1997 when he was arrested for possessing and downloading thousands of images of child pornography, as well as for having sex with an underage girl. (The latter charge was dismissed after it was revealed that the witness was paid for her story by, again, News of the World.) As a result, the singer was shunned from popular culture. His upcoming bookings were cancelled, and record stores in the U.K. pulled his albums. Even his cameo in the Spice Girls’ movie was cut. Glitter was added to the Sex Offenders Registry and went to prison for two months (half of his original sentence). He was also convicted in Vietnam of molesting two young girls, serving nearly three years in jail there.