Ed Sullivan did not care much for the Rolling Stones, but he knew that his audience did, and so he brought them on his long-running Sunday night CBS variety show not just once, but six times between 1964 and 1969.
The first time, October 25, 1964, Stones fans went so crazy after “Around and Around” that Sullivan had to ask for quiet to continue the show. After “Time Is on My Side” at the end of the show, Sullivan followed an old showbiz reflex by saying, “Come on, let them hear it!” No more unnecessary exhortation has ever been given to any audience anywhere. The resultant screaming made it difficult for Sullivan to talk briefly to Mick Jagger and plug the next week’s guests. The crazed audience disturbed him; so did the Stones’ dress and deportment, which caused a few viewers to write and complain. After the show, Sullivan is said to have remarked, “I promise you, they’ll never be back on our show.”
Shrewd as he was, however, Sullivan was willing to listen when the Stones’ management approached him about another appearance. But he wanted something in return: “Before even discussing the possibility of a contract, I would like to learn from you,” he told them, “whether your young men have reformed in the matter of dress and shampoo.” They had. Here they are on May 2, 1965, wearing jackets and performing to an audience far less amped that the one that had greeted them seven months before.
On February 13, 1966, the Stones appeared for a third time. This time, the show’s director cut to screaming girls in the audience as the band performed “Satisfaction,” which had been a #1 hit the previous summer, and he focused mostly on Mick in closeup. Later in the show, Jagger and Keith Richards performed “As Tears Go By” as a duo, and the band closed with “19th Nervous Breakdown.”
On September 11, 1966, the Stones were among the guests for Sullivan’s season-opening show. Heedless of their superstar status, Ed ruled them with an iron hand, demanding that the members wash their hair before going on. But they were rebellious rock stars, too, and so they refused Ed’s edict to stay in the theater between the dress rehearsal and the live show. They ended up having to escape from a mob of fans in the street before performing “Paint It Black, “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby,” and “Lady Jane.” Sullivan told the audience, “You’re screaming much better this year.”
So: after four appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, and with a firm understanding of both the show’s value to them and the quirks of its host, you might think the Stones would cruise through later appearances without a hitch. But their January 15, 1967, appearance was the most rebellious of all. On that night, Sullivan did not want the Stones to sing the title line of their hit, “let’s spend the night together.” He told them to sing “let’s spend some time together” instead. Jagger agreed, but was annoyed when the show’s talent coordinators kept reminding him about it during the dress rehearsal. On the air that night, he did as he was told, but he exaggerated the line and rolled his eyes as he sang it.
(It’s often said that Mick agreed to sing the altered lyric, but then sang the original lyric on the air. Not true. That was Jim Morrison on “Light My Fire,” eight months later.)
It would be nearly three years before the Stones appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for a final time. On that occasion, Ed went to them, flying to California where the band taped performances of “Gimme Shelter,” “Love in Vain,” and “Honky Tonk Women.” On November 23, 1969, Mick “laid a divorcee in New York City” without incident, Keef looked spectral, the audience screamed, Ed promised to visit the band backstage later in the week, and the Sixties were nearly over.
(Put together from a series of posts in my WNEW.com archives.)
(This post, edited a bit, is from five years ago today, when The Mrs. and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. You can do the math.)
[Before our 25th anniversary] we went through a lot of pictures so we could put together a montage of the last 25 years, which have whizzed by us in an eyelash. . . .
I had a lot more hair. A lot. Staggering amounts of hair, on my head and on my face. I am positively bearlike in more than a few of the photos. I think I was fatter early on than I would be later in the 80s and 90s, although it might have been that I was less careful to hide it. A few of those pictures show The Mrs. with the waist-length hair she had when I first met her. Others show her during her unfortunate Afro phase, and with the big hair everybody had in the 80s. Some of our fashion choices then are not ones we’d make now—no more matching sweaters, for example—but they’re no more egregious than the choices you were making in those bygone years, I’m sure.
We also found pictures of our parents that had been taken for their 25th wedding anniversaries. “I don’t feel like I’m as old as our parents look in those pictures,” she said. Neither do I. Their generation, high-school graduates of the pre-rock 50s, often looked older younger, if you know what I mean. Page through a high-school yearbook from the 50s and you’ll see people who look 18-going-on-40, ready to jump into lifelong employment selling insurance or raising a family. Which many of them did. (One of my favorite pictures of my late mother-in-law breaks that mold; in it, she looks precisely like the young, trim, and athletic woman she was at the time, and not like a matron in waiting.)
We’ve had nine addresses, in six towns, in three states, so we found ourselves looking at backgrounds, too: “Is that Central Avenue or Jefferson Street?” “Remember the kitchen in that place?” We looked back on eventful vacations, wild weekends, old friends, departed relatives, and other characters and events of our life together.
We’ve upgraded to digital cameras and cellphone picture-snapping now, so we’ll be preserving our next quarter-century’s memories in digital form. But just as there’s tactile pleasure in handling old vinyl albums, there’s similar pleasure in flipping through actual photographs. They come in different sizes and shapes; some are bent or faded or torn; some have thumbtack holes where they once hung on a bulletin board. As I hold them, I actually find myself recalling not just the events shown in the photos, but where they used to hang and other times I’ve handled the photos. It’s all very meta, but whatever it is, I don’t think it will be the same with pixels and bytes.
In 2006, Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris released All the Roadrunning, an album of adult love songs that consciously distanced itself from the most of the usual moon-June cliches. One of the finest tunes on the album is about flipping through old pictures and seeing your life reflected in them—an appropriate song for this day.
Once again this week, we are short on time, energy, and inspiration at this blog. If the song below hadn’t popped up on shuffle this morning, there probably wouldn’t be anything here today, either.
In High Fidelity, Nick Hornby wrote:
What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?
There’s a corollary to this idea that we learn “heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss” from pop songs. It’s that we also learn about love through them. Yet most of what we learn is some wispy, moon/June cookie-cutter emotion that’s miles wide and fractions of an inch deep. Nevertheless, songwriters and singers keep recycling the same platitudes, and listeners keep lapping ‘em up as if they were new.
Do we listen to pop music because we’re stupid about love, or are we stupid about love because we listen to pop music?
There’s got to be more to love than the stuff most love songs are about. And there’s got to be more to love than Valentine’s Day, frankly. More than cards and flowers and chocolates and the other totems we’re told to spend money on today. There’s got to be more to it than sex. (Which singers, songwriters, and listeners frequently confuse with love—right?)
So what’s love supposed to be about? What’s a love lesson worth listening to, one worth learning?
This: “The Dutchman,” popularized by Steve Goodman but written by a fellow Chicago folksinger, Mike Smith. This is the greatest love song ever written, because Smith understands that love, to be worth anything, has to endure through everything: not just the tribulations of thwarted infatuation, but the most difficult barriers life can put up. Only when it can do that is it a love really worth singing about.
In 1976, Elton John released Here and There, an album of live recordings from 1974—one side from a royal benefit show in May and the other from the famous Thanksgiving show at Madison Square Garden. It’s got all the earmarks of a quickie, with only nine songs and no big single (although “Love Song” was pressed onto 45s for radio airplay, and deservedly got some). It got up to to #4 on the Billboard 200 album chart in the summer, but was largely forgotten after “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” began roaring up the singles chart.
The original Here and There has liner notes by British DJ Paul Gambaccini describing both shows. He says of the MSG show: “On the uniquely American holiday these thousands were witness not only to Kiki Dee’s opening act but Ray Cooper’s first New York appearance with the Elton John Band.” And also: “Giants were walking the earth.” But there is not one damn word about the giant among giants who was walking the Garden that night: John Lennon, paying off his fabled wager with Elton, who had challenged him to come sing onstage if “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” hit #1.
It’s odd. Surely John Lennon meant a hell of a lot more to “these thousands” than either Kiki Dee or Ray Cooper did, both in 1974 and in 1976. And the songs he performed with Elton and the Muscle Shoals Horns were much more significant than mere live versions of “Crocodile Rock” or “Bennie and the Jets.” I have not been able to determine why the Lennon tracks were left off the original release—legal reasons, if I had to guess—but why his appearance would go unmentioned in the liner notes rhapsodizing about the show, I cannot fathom.
Lennon sang three songs with Elton that night: “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” a couple of weeks after it was the #1 single in America; “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” which was Elton’s new single; and “I Saw Her Standing There.” The latter was released in 1975 as the flipside of “Philadelphia Freedom,” but as best I can tell, the other two remained unreleased until 1981, when they appeared with “I Saw Her Standing There” on an EP released in Europe. “I Saw Her Standing There” was also on Elton’s Rare Masters box set released in 1992. It wasn’t until the superb CD reissue of Here and There in 1995 that all three tracks appeared together as they were heard on November 28, 1974.
Film of “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” surfaced last year on Elton’s website. It was shot by a fan from the 12th row—a fan seated not far away from Yoko Ono, who is prominently featured in it. The video has clearly undergone a great deal of post-production and the audio is dubbed in from Here and There, but all that is forgivable considering the magnitude of what it shows.
On Thanksgiving night, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” was days away from its Hot 100 debut, and the live performance from that night is marvelous. (Lennon is less heavily featured on the studio version, billed as Dr. Winston O’Boogie.) But “I Saw Her Standing There” is the greatest of the three. Elton and Lennon joyfully roar out the lyrics and lead guitarist Davey Johnstone burns the place to the ground. The best part of it, however, might be Lennon’s brief speech beforehand: “We tried to think of a number to finish off with so’s I could get out of here and be sick.”
Later that night, of course, John and Yoko would reconcile after their separation, and he would spend the rest of his life a devoted family man. It would be the last time he ever appeared onstage.
I wanted to be on the radio because of Larry Lujack. He took over mornings on WLS in 1970, not long before I started listening to the station while riding the school bus in the morning, so he was the first Top 40 jock I ever heard. And it wasn’t long, sometime early in 1971, before I decided that I wanted to do what he did. The thing is, of course, you can’t do what he did. If you tried to imitate his sardonic wit and acerbic style, you were destined to fail. You’d have to be a mighty good actor to fake it, if you weren’t really that kind of person. He cultivated an attitude of not giving a shit about the conventions of what he was doing, while at the same time doing it better than almost anybody.
An aircheck I had never heard before turned up at YouTube earlier this year. It’s about an hour of his show on WCFL in Chicago from December 23, 1972. You hear him trying to identify the artist on one of the new records that was added while he was on vacation, and making fun of the name when he figures it out. Later, he talks up “Tighter & Tighter” by Alive and Kicking by saying, “This is a good song,” and you can tell from the tone of his voice that he’s completely sincere. And that’s the thing about Lujack: to call him a reflexive curmudgeon is to miss something important about him. There were moments in almost every show where you could tell how much he enjoyed what he was doing.
There was another side to Lujack that the audience rarely saw. During one holiday season in the late 60s, he surprised his program director by volunteering to work over Christmas so his colleagues could be with their kids. On December 23, 1972, he delivered what he called his Christmas Address to the Nation. It was mostly an excuse to fool around on the air with his longtime engineer, the legendary Spacey Dave—but it came with a surprising coda, one that may be enough to make you rethink your opinion of him.
This isn’t an all-time great Lujack show. He spends a lot of the aircheck saying what time it is, which Top 40 jocks in general, not just Lujack in particular, did constantly back in the day—did we really need to know what time it was every three minutes? Nevertheless, the clip captures one of radio’s true legends in his natural habitat, hanging out on a Saturday afternoon just before Christmas. The YouTuber who uploaded this tape got the date completely wrong—despite what it says on the video, it’s actually from Saturday, December 23, 1972.
(There will be a post here tomorrow, the last one before Christmas and possibly the last of 2012, so be sure to stop back.)
I’ve done a lot of repeats here over the last year. This is the only one I’m planning this Christmas season. It’s been slightly edited, and it’s from December 22, 2008.
I only wanted one thing for Christmas in 1974: Elton John’s Greatest Hits.
It came out in November, and every time I went into a record store, ultra-cool Elton would look back at me through those tinted glasses, and I wanted to take the record home. Better to wait for Christmas, I thought. Well, sure enough, Mom and Dad and/or St. Nick came through. (As well they might, after two months of begging.) By 9AM on Christmas morning, the record was playing on the big downstairs stereo, and while I was listening, I was also enjoying the visual and tactile pleasures of the album package in addition to the tunes inside. [Thirty-eight] years later, the album is still a triumph of design. The colors are bright and the graphics are sharp; a die-cut inner sleeve contains the track listings and the personnel on them, and the cover picture is reproduced on the record labels themselves.
On December 24, 1974, while I was waiting expectantly for Elton’s album, Elton himself was playing one of his most famous concerts, at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. The Christmas Eve show was broadcast live by the BBC, both on radio and as an episode of its TV series The Old Grey Whistle Test. (Oddly enough, the TV broadcast joined the show in the middle.) Elton was backed by his classic band: Davey Johnstone on guitar, Dee Murray on bass, Nigel Olsson on drums, Ray Cooper on percussion, and by the Muscle Shoals Horns. Whistle Test host Bob Harris described the scene:
It was one of the greatest music experiences of my entire life. That was Elton at his absolute peak in terms of energy, flamboyance, stage presentation, and warmth. . . . I was at the side of the stage throughout most of the concert. Most of the audience were bathed in light, partly from the lights from the stage but also because of television lights used so that the cameras can pick up people’s faces. So I was looking out across the stage toward Elton and then out across the whole crowd into the auditorium, and everyone had a smile on their face. The warmth that was being generated toward Elton that night, you could cut it, you could hold it. Everybody was mouthing the words to every one of his songs, swaying from side to side, arms in the air. Elton also had a smile on his face. It was when he was at his most impish. He was up on the piano, jumping down again, running right up to the audience, smiling, talking. It was one of my greatest nights of music ever.
The show has been widely bootlegged, although not all available bootlegs contain the whole show. At the end, Elton was joined onstage by Rod Stewart and Gary Glitter for a rockin’ rendition of “White Christmas.” Notice the fake snow falling on the band and the audience, as if it were being poured out of a dump truck.
Of all the historic shows I’ve read about, this is the one I most wish I could go back in time to attend—the night when Elton John was just as popular as Santa Claus.