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Monday, August 13, 2007

On this Date in History

Sex Pistols

August 13, 1961 - Berlin is divided. Just about everyone who became active in punk rock was just a child, and some were not quite born yet. Most of us in the Old Skool grew up under the shadow of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall. I post this photo of the Sex Pistols because they name-check the Berlin Wall in their humorous song, "Holidays In the Sun."

holiday in the sun cover

Oddly enough, on this date in 1926, a major player in the Cold War, Fidel Castro was born. In 1521, the Aztec nation fell to an invading Cortez (the Killer). Not a good month in terms of peace and quiet, August...there was some rock n roll rumbling on this day in 1952.

On this day in 1952, the original version of "Hound Dog" was recorded by Willie Mae (Big Mama) Thornton. It was the first hit for the song-writing team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. (The also wrote "Kansas City," which was a hit for Wilbert Harrison, and I've got to say that the cute Beatle, Paul, sang a killer cover of it; "On Broadway" made a hit by The Drifters, and and the smash hit for Drifter, Ben E. King, "Stand By Me" which smart Beatle John recorded under the gun of Phil Spector's famous production.)

Four years later, Hound Dog got the world' s attention when it was recorded by Elvis Presley.

Musician-composer Johnny Otis (he wrote "Willie and the Hand Jive") said he shared writing credit with Leiber and Stoller, but as soon as the Elvis version started earning the big money, Otis was cut out of the picture. The oldest story in rock n roll. Strangely, this is the beginning of Death Week in Memphis, home of Elvis, Graceland, and the birthplace of rock n roll. I'm sure that Johnny Otis story is not remembered in Memphis at this time of year. For those who are living under a rock, Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977 at his home, Graceland, in Memphis. At this time of year, Memphis's population swells by the number of fans who flock to Elvis Presley Blvd. to do what fans do.

This is the window at the legendary Sun Studios where between Elvis and Sam Phillips, the world went from black & white to technicolor. Although, I have no problems with the black & white era of anything...

sun studio sign

I wonder sometimes during my visits to Memphis - what did the Sex Pistols do when they were here in 1978? They played the Taliesyn Ballroom which was at 1447 Union Avenue (go to that address today and you will find a Taco Bell). It was their second-ever gig in the US on January 6, 1978, which was also the weekend of Elvis' first post-mortem birthday. If you read PUNK MAGAZINE, you know that John Holmstrom had kind of a crappy time in Memphis. But how about the band? Did the Pistols pay homage to any of the founders of rock n roll that they famously dissed during their ascent to media notoriety? Did they sneak in a visit to the Stax Museum or stumble upon the Historic Home of Memphis Slim, which is around the corner from Stax's front door?

Happily for me, my polar opposite musical loves meet and make music in Memphis. Ever since the 90s, a decade that for me was musically blah, I have been listening to anything and everything recorded by the three men who met and formed a band in Memphis - The Oblivians. They're punk, they're garage and they got soul and they got Quintron and they got no bass! They boasted both the Shakespeare and the John Keats of new millienium rock in Jack and Greg Oblivian. What more do you want?

Greg Cartwright
Greg Cartwright, the John Keats of garagepunk.

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