Rockin’ in the Free World

September 25, 1993: George Harrison and David Crosby appear on The Simpsons. Their animated selves and voices, that is.

September 25, 1989:
Neil Young performs “Rockin’ in the Free World” on Saturday Night Live, considered one of the show’s greatest musical performances.

September 25, 1981: The Rolling Stones officially open their 1981 tour with the first of two dates at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. Around my college radio station, we’re pumped because on November 20, they’ll play the UNIDome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, just a couple of hours away.

September 25, 1980: Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham meet the quintessential rock demise, asphyxiation from inhaling his own vomit after heavy drinking. Around my college radio station, we’re crushed because Zeppelin’s plans for an American stadium tour are also killed in the accident.

September 25, 1975:
Jackie Wilson suffers a stroke onstage at a New Jersey casino. He lingers in a coma for over eight years before dying in 1984.

September 25, 1970:
The Partridge Family premieres on ABC. “I Think I Love You” has already been released, like a rocket waiting for the fuse to be lit. On the same day, Janis Joplin records “Me and Bobby McGee” during sessions for her album Pearl. A little more than one week later, she’d be dead.

September 25, 1965: The Beatles cartoon TV series premieres on ABC. None of the Beatles are involved in the show, and in fact they reportedly didn’t like it much, as their Liverpudlian accents were softened for American consumption. Thirty-nine episodes of the series were made, and ran regularly until 1969. With so much Beatlestuff out there for our consumption, where are these cartoons?

Birthdays Today:

Anson Williams, Potsie Weber on Happy Days, is 57. Happy Days spawned several minor hit singles during its run–its original theme, “Rock Around the Clock,” made it to Number 41 in 1974; the more well-known theme by Pratt and McClain was a Top-Ten hit in the summer of 1976. Williams and Donny Most (Ralph Malph) charted, too–Williams’ record, “Deeply,” made it to Number 93 in the spring of 1977.

Burleigh Drummond of Ambrosia is 55. I note this for two reasons. First, because I dig Ambrosia, and second, because Drummond is one of only three people I can think of named Burleigh, along with the old baseball pitcher Burleigh Grimes, and my father, who is allegedly named after Burleigh Grimes.

Keeping it in the family, my brother John is 40, and possibly still hung over from this past weekend’s celebrations. His only musical credential is that he played cornet for about five minutes late in grade school.

Number One Songs on This Date:
1988: “Sweet Child o’Mine”/Guns ‘n’ Roses.
This band was poised to become the biggest rock phenomenon since maybe Led Zeppelin, and for a while, perhaps they were. But Axl Rose wasn’t cut out for that kind of stardom. Or for adulthood, really.

1986: “Stuck With You”/Huey Lewis and the News. One of the most comfortable radio records of all time–you could learn the words after hearing it just once, and after hearing it just once, you’d be OK with hearing it again.

1974: “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe”/Barry White.
White’s lone Number One song on the pop charts, in which he dialed down the heavy breathing of his earlier hits. And for which a certain horny 14-year-old listener was grateful.

1971: “Go Away Little Girl”/Donny Osmond. If this were good bubblegum, that would be explanation enough for its three weeks at Number One. It isn’t. If the meta-joke of a pre-pubescent boy singing a song to a girl who’s much too young for him were clever instead of just creepy, that might explain it too. It doesn’t. As it is, the success of this record is one of those things about my favorite decade that defy explanation.

1956: “Hound Dog”-“Don’t Be Cruel”/Elvis Presley.
The Number-One single of the rock era until well into the 1990s, in terms of weeks spent at Number One. Living in Stereo had a great post last week about how “Don’t Be Cruel,” a smash on the country charts at the time, prodded Nashville toward more sophisticated country sounds–but at the same time, how Nashville prodded “Don’t Be Cruel” to be more country than it might otherwise have been.

Tune of the Day: “AM Radio” by Everclear. (The Stepfather of Soul turned me onto this last summer.) It’s based on a sample of Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff,” and it’s all about when the radio was all there was, and all you needed to be cool.

2 thoughts on “Rockin’ in the Free World

  1. Just found you thru About Classic Rock! Love your site, hope you don’t mind if I link to you.

    Can I add one birthday to the 9/25 that you missed – mine :)

    Keep Rockin!

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