This week in rock history, the Rolling Stones recorded “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the Stooges began laying down Fun House, Keith Relf of the Yardbirds and Frank Sinatra passed away, and Weezer released their smash debut album.
May 12, 1965: The Rolling Stones record “(I Can‘t Get No) Satisfaction“
Humanity may be better off not knowing what Keith Richards dreams about, but it sure paid off once: when the Rolling Stones’ guitarist conjured the riff to “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in his sleep.
As he’s explained in interviews, Richards heard his now-famous three-note run in a dream, woke to plant the riff on his tape recorder and mumble “I can’t get no satisfaction,” and then fell back asleep soundly. The band was initially worried that the hook was reminiscent of Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” but committed it to tape anyway at RCA Hollywood Studios the following week. Written with singer Mick Jagger and produced by band manager Andrew Loog Oldham, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” launched the Stones’ true British Invasion fame as their first No. 1 single in America in June of 1965. The track was included on the American version of that year’s Out of Our Heads.
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May 10, 1970 – The Stooges begin recording Fun House
When the Stooges recorded what would become their bristling second album, Fun House, civility went off the table. In its place: plenty of drugs. “We had a certain purity of intention,” wild frontman Iggy Pop reflects in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, where the album resides at Number 189. “I don’t think we did ever get it from the drugs. I think they killed things.” But from the sound of the album, released on July 7, 1970 (or 7/7/70), the creative process was still electric, with scabrous proto-punk tracks “Loose,” “L.A. Blues,” and the winding seven-minute-plus title cut.
Fun House proved to be an influential force on punk rock, despite initially tepid sales. It was recorded at Los Angeles’s Elektra Sound Recorders in a 15-day blast and produced by former Kingsmen keyboardist Don Galluci, who proved crucial in capturing the Ann Arbor, Michigan, group’s live ferocity to tape. Fun House featured the iconic Stones lineup of Iggy Pop (vocals), Ron Asheton (guitar), Dave Alexander (bass), and Scott Asheton (drums), with woodwind support from Steve Mackay (saxophone).
May 14, 1976: Keith Relf of the Yardbirds dies of electrocution while playing electric guitar
Aside from their own hit singles, the Yardbirds helped predict some of the greatest rock music of all time. Their lineup in the Sixties included three of rock’s most immortal guitarists before they hit international glory — Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page — and was a steadily influential force in distortion-drenched, blues-rock experimentalism. The group charted with singles “For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul,” and “Over Under Sideways Down” but disbanded in 1968, though an incarnation reformed in 1992 and remains modestly active.
Unfortunately, the Yardbirds’ lead singer and harmonica player, Keith Relf, never got to realize his own rock stardom as fully as his six-stringers did. He died from electrocution while playing an improperly grounded electric guitar near an exposed gas pipe in his London home recording studio. He was 33, and in the process of regrouping another one of his vaunted rock acts, Renaissance.
Relf was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posthumously in 1992.
May 10, 1994: Weezer release The Blue Album
Weezer formed in 1992, at the apex of grunge rock, and seemed a perplexing, preppy anomaly by comparison. Mercurial, brilliant frontman Rivers Cuomo, formerly a long-haired metalhead, peered out nervously behind smudged black plastic glasses, singing reedily about Mary Tyler Moore and gang violence (“Buddy Holly”), playing Dungeons and Dragons alone (“In the Garage”), and the fatalist undertow of surfing (“Surf Wax America”). Yet these songs formed the crux of Weezer’s hit self-titled debut (commonly referred to as the Blue Album for its cover photo), which shot the young quartet into triple-platinum sales.
The Blue Album forms half of the Weezer’s beloved origins: together with 1996’s esoteric Pinkerton, it has achieved cult status and is defended rabidly by the group’s earlier fans (the same followers who often decry the band’s current output as shallow and complacent by comparison). It was produced by Cars frontman Ric Ocasek and featured the group’s original lineup: Rivers Cuomo (singer/guitarist), Patrick Wilson (drums), Brian Bell (guitarist) and Matt Sharp (bassist; he left the group after Pinkerton and now fronts the Rentals). The Blue Album peaked at Number 16 on the Billboard charts and spawned the hit singles “Undone (The Sweater Song),” “Buddy Holly,” and “Say It Ain’t So” — as well as innovative, cheeky music videos (“Undone” and “Buddy Holly” with burgeoning director Spike Jonze) and widespread emulation of Cuomo’s nebbish, erudite persona.
May 14, 1998: Frank Sinatra dies
Ol’ Blue Eyes disdained many things – warm vodka, wearing brown after dark, hitting the town without a dame on each arm – but he especially loathed the idea of leading a static life. “You’ve gotta love livin’, baby,” he said often. “Because dyin’ is a pain in the ass!”
When Frank Sinatra passed away from a heart attack at age 82, he was celebrated around the world for living a glamorous, passionate life that few could equal. A cultural icon from the Swing Era until his death, he sold millions of records, won Grammys and an Academy Award, mingled with mobsters, was befriended by presidents (most famously Kennedy and Clinton), and romanced beautiful starlets with abandon.
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, on December 12, 1915, Sinatra rose to early musical fame as a swing heartthrob before he turned traditional pop crooner—ultimately releasing over 200 records in his career, 51 of them Top 40 albums—as well as won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his tragic turn in 1953’s From Here to Eternity. He also founded Reprise Records, a still-thriving imprint and an unlikely bastion of excellent rock & roll (Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, the Beach Boys all signed there), served as the highball-slinging ringleader of the Rat Pack, donated millions to humanitarian causes, and generally went about his life with unparalleled zeal. Following his death in Los Angeles, he was mourned in the international press and buried in Cathedral City, California.