This week in rock history, Elvis scandalized America with his suggestive hips, Brian Jones quit the Rolling Stones, the Smiths launched their first American tour, MC Hammer topped the charts and Dee Dee Ramone passed away.
June 5, 1956: Elvis Presley gyrated his hips for the first time on TV
“Elvis the Pelvis” earned his nickname (and then some) during his second appearance on the Milton Berle Show.. During the 21-year-old singer’s rendition of “Hound Dog,” he debuted his suggestive gyrating-hips movement for the first time, driving a nation of teenagers wild and their parents apoplectic. In that moment, the polarizing power of Elvis Presley was born.
The press compared his “Hound Dog” shimmy to a striptease, some with more vitriol than others; the New York Herald Tribune was one of the most furious outlets, slamming Presley as “unspeakably untalented and vulgar.” Religious organizations protested the implied sexual nature of the movements and the Parent-Teacher Association condemned Presley and rock & roll as instigators of juvenile delinquency. Today, the TV spot is heralded as one of Elvis’s greatest television performances (it also included “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”).
Elvis himself maintained that his movements were not meant to be sexualized; they were just his natural movement with the beat. However, for years afterward, TV shows only shot Presley from the waist up.
June 8, 1969: Brian Jones left the Rolling Stones
One of the last epic fights between guitarist Brian Jones and the rest of the Rolling Stones transpired while they recorded “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” — fitting, as Jones weathered plenty of turnover in his time with the band. The original leader of the Stones (before the songwriting cohesion of Mick and Keith overshadowed him) and the original boyfriend of Anita Pallenburg (before Keef stole her away), Jones split from the group on the grounds that he no longer saw “eye to eye” with them creatively.
But the reasons for Jones’s departure were more complicated than mere artistic differences. During the Stones’ rise to fame, he had become an increasingly erratic and unreliable performer, thanks to decadent drug use and poor health (he suffered from chronic asthma and was hospitalized often, not least because of substance abuse). He felt discouraged from contributing songs and clashed with manager Andrew Loog Oldham.
Jones left the band during the recording of tenth album Let It Bleed and was replaced by Mick Taylor. Tragically, Jones was discovered dead less than one month later, on July 2nd, in the swimming pool of his East Sussex home. The coroner marked his death as a drug-fueled accident, but rumors persist that he was murdered. Jones was 27.
June 7, 1985: The Smiths played the first date of their first U.S. tour
When the Smiths debuted Meat is Murder to American audiences, they did so deliberately in the corn-fed Midwest. In support of their second album, the emotive Manchester foursome hit the road on their first American tour, a month-long jaunt that kicked off at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom. It was their second-ever gig in the States; they’d performed in New York City on the previous New Year’s Eve. The evening was rabidly received, as single “How Soon is Now?” was then sweeping underground radio.
The band stuck largely to the established set list of their previous U.K. tour, performing much from Meat is Murder and their 1984 self-titled debut – and the rare B-side “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” was included in the encore.
June 9, 1990: MC Hammer’s Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em began a record-breaking 21 weeks on top of the U.S. album charts
Before he proved to be his own greatest enemy (IRS notwithstanding), MC Hammer was a money-making phenomenon. The Oakland, California rapper’s third album – which boasted the track “U Can’t Touch This” – topped the Billboard charts for a staggering 21 weeks, the longest uninterrupted run by an album in the U.S. charts’ history.
“U Can’t Touch This,” which sampled Rick James’s “Super Freak,” was primarily responsible for the album’s massive sales; its popularity was sparked by Hammer’s performance on the Arsenio Hall Show in late 1989. Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em was the first rap album to sell over 10 million copies, raising rap music to new mainstream popularity. Hip-hop purists decried the album’s slick pop production and numerous samples (from James, Prince, the Jackson 5, the Chi-Lites and many more), but it remains one of the genre’s top-selling albums of all time.
June 6, 2002: Dee Dee Ramone died of a drug overdose
Dee Dee Ramone, founding member and bassist of the Ramones, was one of the most accomplished songwriters in the punk group; he penned “Rockaway Beach,” “Glad to See You Go” and many other fan favorites. He was also the original lead singer before Joey Ramone intercepted due to Dee Dee’s inability to play and deliver vocals simultaneously.
Born Douglas Glenn Colvin on September 18, 1951, Dee Dee battled drug addiction for much of his life; he was reportedly strung out on heroin for much of the Ramones’ influential late-Seventies-to-mid-Eighties span. He left the band upon the release of 1989’s Brain Drain and briefly pursued a hip-hop career as Dee Dee King, though he continued to write songs for the Ramones.
Dee Dee was found dead in his Hollywood home by wife Barbara on June 6th. The coroner ruled his death as an accidental heroin overdose. He was 50 years old. His tombstone at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery quips, “OK…I gotta go now.”