1960 — The Beatles arrive in Hamburg

At the time of their arrival in Hamburg, the Beatles were a five piece ensemble, with a line up consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best. When the Beatles left, two years later, Stuart Sutcliffe stayed behind to be with the girl he had met there, Astrid Kircherr. (It was Astrid who helped to popularise the distinctive Beatles mop-top.)

The Beatles’ time in Hamburg saw them gigging extensively in clubs around the city, indulging in copious amounts of Preludin (a prescription amphetemine) and learning a lot about sex (almost all the women they met in Hamburg were strippers or prostitutes). It also lead, eventually, to their first recording. This single, “My Bonnie”, was what eventually attracted the attention of Brian Epstein to the boys, leading to him becoming the manager of the band for many years.

The Beatles would leave Hamburg in 1962, returning briefly in 1966, after they had become superstars.

Referenced in:
No More Fun — Roger Taylor

1967 — David Bowie records “The Laughing Gnome”

Bowie himself regards it as one of his worst songs.

He’s not wrong. The Alvin and the Chipmunks high-voices, the tortured puns… it’s just horrible. Except for the music. Musically, it’s one of the strongest pieces of his work to that time. It’s the lyrics that let it down.

However, on the plus side, Bowie performed it for an audition in 1968 and failed to get the part – which meant that he continued to record pop music instead of pursuing a career in cabaret.

Referenced in:
No More Fun — Roger Taylor

1969 — Rupert Murdoch begins publishing “The Sun”

Rupert Murdoch was already a media magnate in his native Australia, and in New Zealand as well, when he entered the British media market in 1968. His initial foray was to purchase the “News of the World”, but the following year, he picked up the struggling daily “The Sun”, which was five years old and in serious trouble. He shifted it to a tabloid format with an emphasis on page three girls and sports – he also saved money by using a single printing press for both papers (they had previously each had their own).

The revamped paper first appeared in its tabloid format on November 17, 1969 – the first headline was “HORSE DOPE SENSATION”, and its redesigned masthead was deliberately in imitation of its main competitor, “The Daily Mirror”. In the years that followed, “The Sun” would become one of the dominant newspapers in the United Kingdom (and its success helped to fund Murdoch’s later expansion into the American market). Along the way, Murdoch has made powerful enemies at every turn – but he’s also made even more powerful friends, especially on the right wing of politics in the countries where his enterprises operate.

Referenced in:
Dear Mr Murdoch — Roger Taylor

1933 – Dachau concentration camp opens

Dachau was the first of the Nazi concentration camps. Located near Munich, over the next 12 years, until the camp was liberated by American forces in 1945, thousands of people were interned there. In addition to Communists and Jews, the camp also held ordinary German criminals, Christian clergy and a range of prisoners from various conquered nations. Over 32,000 deaths were documented there – and very likely thousands more were not documented.

After the war, it was used to hold captured SS troops as they awaited trial at Nuremberg, in a small measure of poetic justice. Not nearly enough, though.

Referenced in:
Nazis 1994 — Roger Taylor
Dachau Blues — Captain Beefheart
Ghosts of Dachau — The Style Council

1973 — Elvis Presley’s “Aloha From Hawaii” special is broadcast

Also known as “Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite”, this Elvis Presley concert was broadcast live from the Honolulu International Centre to South East Asia and Oceania. 28 European countries saw it the following day, while citizens of the USA had to wait until April to see it on tv (its original broadcast date conflicted with Super Bowl VII).

Of course, there was another way to see it: you could buy a ticket. Tickets went on sale in Hawaii a week before the concert, and all the funds raised by the concert (US $75,000) were donated to the Kui Lee Cancer Fund. That figure includes $1000 donated by Elvis himself, who took no payment for his performance. The concert cost an estimated $2.5 million dollars to stage, and Elvis Presley Productions claimed that 1.5 billion people watched it, a figure which has largely gone unchallenged (despite that fact that the total population of all the countries it was broadcast to was at that time less than 1.3 billion people).

Referenced in:
No More Fun — Roger Taylor

1971 – Led Zeppelin releases Stairway to Heaven

Despite being one of the best known songs of all time – and one of the most frequently requested on radio – Led Zeppelin’s eight minute opus was not released as a single until years after its legend was well established. It was the fourth track of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, and its length precluded its release in single form in the 45rpm vinyl format.

It at once sums up everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong with seventies rock in one song: it is pretentious and wanky, with lyrics that make little or no sense; but on the other hand, it rocks damned hard, has one of the greatest guitar solos ever, and is completely made of awesome.

Referenced in:

No More Fun — Roger Taylor
That Says It All — Duncan Sheik