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Rock & Roll Factoids!

Tags: band song record

In 1955, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips opened America's first all-female radio station, WHER in Memphis. When the station presented the foreign news, the ladies would amuse their listeners by announcing, "And now, the news from abroad."

Before recording That's All Right, Mama, Elvis auditioned to be a singer in a local band in Memphis and was told by the bandleader, "Stick to driving a truck because you'll never make it as a singer!"


Syd Nathan, one of the early pioneers of independent record labels who owned the King Records label in Cincinnati, was hesitant to record James Brown's latest Song, Papa's Got A Brand New Bag. When Nathan asked what the song was about, Brown replied, "I have no idea."


One of the bizarre recordings that Wrecking Crew member, Leon Russell, played piano on was the Halloween classic, Monster Mash


The piano player who played the opening piano chords on The Shangri-Las hit single Remember (Waling in the Sand) was none other than a 16 year old teenager from Long island named Billy Joel! 


Jack Ely, guitarist and singer of The Kingsmen, in describing the band's recording session for the iconic garage rock anthem, Louie Louie, said that when the band entered the studio, their intention was to record Louie Louie as an instrumental, but they changed their mind at the last minute and he decided to add a vocal track!


Ooh la la!  Rod Stewart, who would go on to achieve fame as a singer, plays the harmonica on the 1964 ska-influenced hit, My Boy Lollipop.


Reg Dwight (later to be known worldwide as Elton John) was paid 12 Pounds to play piano on The Hollies' 1969 hit, He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.


Brian Jones, co-founder of The Rolling Stones, was proficient at over 60 musical instruments.  Besides playing sitar and other exotic instruments on various Rolling Stones recordings, he also played saxophone on The Beatles’ You Know My Name (Look Up The Number), the B-Side on the band’s Let It Be single in 1970. 


Before going on to fame in The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page was a much in-demand session guitarist on the UK recording scene.  Among the many recording sessions he played were Mary Anne Faithful’s As Tears Go By and the Tom Jones hit, It’s Not Unusal.


Prior to his psychedelic solo career, Jimi Hendrix played with The Isley Bros. and, although he was never credited for the session, Hendrix played guitar on the band’s version of the Don Covay song, Mercy Mercy


Jimi Hendrix was inspired to write the song Purple Haze after having a dream about being able to walk underwater!


When Keith Richards was asked in an interview how he came up with the guitar riff and some of the lyrics for the song I Can't Get No Satisfaction, he said he wrote the song while he was sleeping.


The Deep Purple classic rock song, Smoke On The Water, was inspired by an incident that occurred at a 1971 Frank Zappa show in Montreux.  During the show, one of the concert goers fired a flaregun and "burned the place to the ground"!


Believe it or not: despite all of the hits that they've had, The Who have never had a number one record in the UK or the US.

The Who's 1976 hit, Squeeze Box, was originally intended to be introduced on a television special planned in 1974. In the performance of the song, the members of the band were to have been surrounded by 100 topless women playing accordions as they played the song. Fortunately for all concerned, the performance never happened.


The last song Janis Joplin recorded before her untimely death was Happy Trails (aka the theme song to The Roy Rogers Show), as a birthday greeting for John Lennon.


The final chord of The Beatles' "A Day In The Life" was played by ten hands in three pianos simultaneously: John Lennon's, Paul McCartney's, Ringo Starr's, George Martin's (their producer and Mal Evan's (their roadie).


In 1966, Donovan sang some of the background vocals on the Beatles' Revolver track, Yellow Submarine.  


A year later, Paul McCartney would reciprocate by; whispering the phrase, “Quite Rightly”, on Donovan’s classic 1967 hit, Mellow Yellow


McCartney would also appear on the Beach Boys track, Vegetables (he chomped along on a bunch of carrots).


 One of the pseudonyms used by Paul McCartney in his career was Paul Ramon; a name he would use when he checked in to a hotel while on tour during the wild days of Beatlemania.  Many years later, when the legendary punk rock band, The Ramones, were trying to come up with a band name for themselves they were inspired by McCartney's Paul Ramon pseudonym and decided to call themselves the Ramones!


The Beatles single, Hey Jude, was the first song that the band recorded on an eight-track tape deck.   Clocking in at 8 minutes and 10 seconds, Hey Jude was also the longest hit single to ever appear on the UK charts.

The original title of the double album, The Beatles aka The White Album was A Doll's House (was this an oblique Henrik Ibsen reference?)


The original title of The Beatles' Abbey Road album was (gasp!) Everest. When the band was told that they should travel to Mount Everest to have their picture taken for the album cover, the idea was quickly dismissed and they simply walked outside in front of Abbey Road Studios to be photographed walking across the street.

George Harrison's version of I've Got My Mind Set On You is actually a cover song that was originally written by Rudy Clark but made famous by James Ray. James Ray died from a drug overdose at the age of 23 just as he was starting to gain popularity. James Ray also was the first to record "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody" which was also covered by The Beatles.


During the recording sessions for The Doors final album, LA Woman, which was recorded in band's office rather than in an official recording studio, lead singer Jim Morrison cut all of his bluesy vocals in the office bathroom.  The bathroom tile provided enhanced acoustics for Morrison's vocals and subsequently gave the album a much earthier sound.  Despite the turmoil within the band that was a result of Morrison's actions at a Florida concert where he was reputed to have exposed himself to the crowd, The Doors managed to record the classic LA Woman album in less than a week's time.


The Doors were also the first band to ever use a large billboard to promote one of their albums.  Many other bands quickly followed suit.


One last Doors Tidbit: Shortly after the release of their single, Touch Me, The Kinks noticed how similar that song's music was when compared to their classic British Invasion hit, All Day & All of the Night.  The Kinks subsequently won a lawsuit and to this day, part of any monies earned by Touch Me goes to The Kinks bank accounts!

The Who's 1976 hit Squeeze Box was originally intended to be introduced on a television special planned in 1974. In the performance of the song, the members of the band were to have been surrounded by 100 topless women playing accordions as they played the song. Fortunately for all concerned, the performance never happened.

Here's a surprising rock factoid:

Lemmy, the legendary leader of Motorhead was once a roadie for Jimi Hendrix!


Paul Simon named a song on his debut solo album, Paul Simon, after a dish named Mother and Child Reunion he spotted on the menu at a Chinese restaurant. 

Prior to becoming a cast member of the television show, Saturday Night Live, Phil Hartman was a graphic design artist who created such iconic album covers as Steely Dan's Aja.

Hartman also designed the iconic logo for the band Poco.


 Pink Floyd's Shine On You Crazy Diamond is dedicated to the band's former leader Syd Barrett. Syd used to be the leader...until his schizophrenia and the LSD started to catch up with him, and he became rather insane. The band called David Gilmour, who had given Syd guitar lessons during high shool, and would cover for Syd during concerts, correcting his mistakes and filling in when he started playing along to a different tune. Syd eventually got more and more distanced of the band and David got to be the lead guitarist, but lots of the insanity themes they sing about are related to their former bandmate. 

Harry Nilsson's iconic song, Coconut aka “She put the lime in the coconut” used only ONE CHORD in the entire song!  It is the only one chord song to ever make Billboard’s Hot 100 chart!

What's in a band name?  Some folks claim that Blondie named themselves after Hitler's dog, Blondi while others swear that the band took inspiration for their name from truck drivers who would cat-call Debbie Harry shouting "Hey blondie!"


Badfinger, one of the bands signed to the Beatles' Apple Records label were originally called "The Iveys".  Upon signing with the Apple label they changed the group's name to Badfinger which was inspired by Badfinger Boogie which was the original working title of the Lennon & McCartney's With A  Little Help From My Friends, a track off of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.


Cheap Trick came up with their name after attending a Slade concert and  bassist Tom Petersson mentioned that the band used "every cheap trick in the book" as part of their act.

When Angus and Malcolm Young were trying to come up with a name for their new band, their sister Margaret Young, upon seeing a label on the back of a vacuum cleaner that read "AC/DC", suggested they use that as their band name. The Young brothers immediately thought that was a great choice for a name because "it had something to do with electricity, so it seemed to fit"


The legendary Californian folk rock combo, Buffalo Springfield, named themselves after a brand of heavy asphalt roller that they saw parked on the street in Los Angeles!


Steely Dan's band name was inspired by Steely Dan III from Yokohama is a steam-powered dildo, a character that appeared in the  William Burroughs novel, Naked Lunch.


Pink Floyd's original name was Sigma 6. Band member, Syd Barrett, convinced the group to change their name to The Pink Floyd Sound, named after Pink Anderson and Floyd Council (two blues musicians).  Eventually it was shortened to (wait for it) Pink Floyd!


Here's one of the more bizarre stories about what inspired the creation of a rock song.  From the The Mental Floss website: " In 1986, respected newsman Dan Rather was walking down Park Avenue on his way home, when two well-dressed men randomly attacked him, repeatedly demanding to know the answer to the question: “What is the frequency, Kenneth?” The men fled into the night as a doorman came to Rather’s aid. Once assailant William Tager was arrested and identified by Rather, the disturbed man admitted that he mistook the news anchor for the vice president of the future—I have made that same mistake—a politician apparently named Kenneth Burroughs. Michael Stipe was perplexed by this odd event, calling it the “premier unsolved American surrealist act of the 20th century,” leading him to write What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?"





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