This week in rock history, the Beatles arrived in New York, Bill Haley passed away, the Clash began recording their studio debut, Sonny Bono declared his candidacy for mayor and Phil Spector was in a major car crash.
February 7, 1964: The Beatles land in New York
Beatlemania had a modest start: Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101, departing from London’s Heathrow Airport for New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. However, its arrival was met with 3,000 hysterically screaming fans, many of them in tears, in one of the most iconic moments in rock & roll history.
The Beatles, all in their early 20s, were in New York to make their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, although they stopped for a now-famous press conference at Kennedy Airport. (When asked about the current campaign in Detroit to “stamp out the Beatles,” Paul McCartney replied, “We’re bringing out a Stamp Out Detroit campaign.”) Though they had just scored their first major radio hit in the United States with “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” their American reception still shocked the band. Little did they know that their arrival at JFK was only the beginning.
February 9, 1981: Bill Haley dies
Bill Haley, the unlikely singer behind “Rock Around the Clock,” was a major international force between 1954 and 1957. In that time, accompanied by his band the Comets, he sold approximately 60 million records and appeared in the earliest teen-oriented rock movies.
Haley, a native of Highland Park, Michigan, was the first significant American rock artist to tour Europe, a move that would greatly motivate the Beatles and Elvis (the latter of whom would eclipse his homeland success overseas in the late Fifties). Though the Comets disbanded in 1962, “Rock Around the Clock” is still considered one of the most influential rock standards of all time.
Haley died in his sleep in Harlingen, Texas, at age 55. He had been battling alcoholism for some time. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid “79896 Billhaley” to mark the 25th anniversary of the musician’s death.
February 10, 1977: The Clash begin recording their debut album
In the Clash’s earliest days, the band had one righteous muse: Mick Jones’ grandmother. The matriarch of the singer-guitarist’s family attended the band’s earliest shows at some of the scruffiest locales in London and lent her apartment to the band. It was in her flat that the group masterminded much of their eponymous studio debut.
The 1977 record was a quick hit. The lyrics, written almost entirely by Jones and Joe Strummer, were bristling with streetwise intelligence, and the histrionic guitars shaped much of punk to follow. The album was not released that year in the United States, though, as CBS Records decided the content was unsuitable for radio. The U.S. release came two years later, after the Clash’s follow-up studio album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope.
The Clash, and Mick’s grandmother, currently enjoy several placements in Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums list. The Clash rings in at Number 77.
February 5, 1987: Sonny Bono declares his candidacy for mayor of Palm Springs, California
After Sonny Bono repeatedly butted heads with Palm Springs’ city planning officials while opening a restaurant, the “I Got You Babe” singer took a different tactic: he decided to run the city.
Bono announced his candidacy for major of his desert hometown in 1987, with talk radio host Marshall Gilbert stepping in as his campaign manager. Despite having no substantial experience in politics, Bono won the election, serving as mayor from 1988 to 1992. During his time in office, he helped found the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which is now an important event in the movie industry.
Bono was elected to Congress as a Republican in 1994 and was reelected in 1996. He died in a skiing accident in 1998, at age 62, and was buried at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, near his beloved Palm Springs.
February 10, 1974: Phil Spector is seriously injured in a mysterious car crash
Troubled, hotheaded producer Phil Spector – he of the legendary “Wall of Sound” pop production technique, who recorded acts ranging from the Ronettes to Leonard Cohen (and put a gun to the latter’s head) – was involved in a major car accident in 1974. Though he escaped with his life, he did suffer multiple head wounds and bodily burns and underwent surgery. A statement from his secretary, relayed later in the year to Rolling Stone, expressed confusion as to why Spector had even been in a car en route from Los Angeles to Phoenix or who he had been with during the drive.
The accident left Spector badly scarred, and he underwent plastic surgery. The event heightened his reclusive tendencies, further wrapping the producer in a veil of mystery that would only lift, tragically, when he was convicted for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2009.
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