Monthly Archives: February 2012

Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti

ON THIS DATE (37 YEARS AGO)
February 24, 1975 – Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 5/5
# Allmusic 5/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Physical Graffiti is the sixth studio album by Led Zeppelin, released on 24 February 1975 as a double album. Recording sessions for the album were initially disrupted when bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones considered leaving the band. After reuniting at Headley Grange, the band wrote and recorded eight songs, the combined length of which stretched the album beyond the typical length of an LP. This prompted the band to make Physical Graffiti a double album by including previously unreleased tracks from earlier recording sessions.
Physical Graffiti was commercially and critically successful; the album went 16x platinum (though this signifies shipping of eight million copies, as it is a double album) in the US alone.

ALBUM SLEEVE DESIGN
The album’s sleeve design features a photograph of a New York City tenement block, with interchanging window illustrations.
The album designer, Peter Corriston, was looking for a building that was symmetrical with interesting details, that was not obstructed by other objects and would fit the square album cover. He said:
     “Physical Graffiti, the used clothing store in the basement of 96 St. Mark’s Place
We walked around the city for a few weeks looking for the right building. I had come up [with] a concept for the band based on the tenement, people living there and moving in and out. The original album featured the building with the windows cut out on the cover and various sleeves that could be placed under the cover, filling the windows with the album title, track information or liner notes.

The two five-story buildings photographed for the album cover are located at 96 and 98 St. Mark’s Place in New York City. To enable the image to fit properly with the square format of the album cover, the fourth floor (of five) had to be cropped out, making them appear as four-story buildings in the image. The whole image underwent a number of small tweaks to arrive at the final image. The buildings to the left and right were also changed to match the style of the double front. Tiles were added on the roof section along with more faces. Part of the top right railing balcony was left out for a whole window frame to be visible. The front cover is a daytime image, while the back cover is the same image but at nighttime.”

Mike Doud is listed as the cover artist on the inner sleeve, and either the concept or design or both were his. He passed away in the early 1990s, and this album design was one of his crowning achievements in a lifetime of design. In 1976 the album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of best album package. (Doud would later win a Grammy for best album cover of the year in 1978).
Physical Graffiti was the band’s first release on their own Swan Song Records label, which had been launched in May 1974. It was a commercial and critical success, having built up a huge advance order, and when eventually released it reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Pop Albums chart. Shortly after its release, all previous Led Zeppelin albums simultaneously re-entered the top-200 album chart.
In 2003, the album was ranked number 70 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”
ORIGINAL ROLLING STONE REVIEW
Physical Graffiti is Led Zeppelin’s bid for artistic respectability. This two-record set, the product of almost two years’ labor, is the band’s Tommy, Beggar’s Banquet and Sgt. Pepper rolled into one.
In a virtual recapitulation of the group’s career, Physical Graffiti touches all the bases. There’s a blues (“In My Time of Dying”) and a cosmic-cum-heavy ballad (“In the Light”); there’s an acoustic interlude (“Bron-Y-Aur”) and lots of bludgeoning hard rock, still the band’s forte (“Houses of the Holy,” “The Wanton Song”); there are also hints of Bo Diddley (“Custard Pie”), Burt Bacharach (“Down by the Seaside”) and Kool and the Gang (“Trampled under Foot”). If nothing else, Physical Graffiti is a tour de force.

The album’s — and the band’s — mainspring in Jimmy Page, guitarist extraordinaire. His primary concern, both as producer and guitarist, is sound. His playing lacks the lyricism of Eric Clapton, the funk of Jimi Hendrix, the rhythmic flair of Peter Townshend; but of all the virtuoso guitarists of the Sixties, Page, along with Hendrix, has most expanded the instrument’s sonic vocabulary.
He has always exhibited a studio musician’s knack for functionalism. Unlike many of his peers, he rarely overplays, especially on record. A facile soloist, Page excels at fills, obbligatos and tags. Playing off stock riffs, he modulates sonorities, developing momentum by modifying instrumental colors. To this end, he uses a wide array of effects, including on Physical Graffiti some echoed slide (“Time of Dying”), a countryish vibrato (“Seaside”), even a swimming, clear tone reminiscent of Lonnie Mack (the solo on “The Rover”). But his signature remains distortion. Avoiding “clean” timbres, Page usually pits fuzzed out overtones against a hugely recorded bottom, weaving his guitar in and out of the total mix, sometimes echoing Robert Plant’s contorted screams, sometimes tunneling behind a dryly thudding drum.
Physical Graffiti only confirms Led Zeppelin’s preeminence among hard rockers. Although it contains no startling breakthroughs, it does affford an impressive overview of the band’s skill. On “Houses of the Holy,” Robert Plant’s lyrics mesh perfectly with Page’s stuttering licks. On “Ten Years Gone,” a progression recalling the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” resolves in a beautifully waddling refrain, Page scooping broad and fuzzy chords behind Plant, who sounds a lot like Rod Stewart. Elsewhere, the band trundles out the Marrakech Symphony Orchestra (for “Kashmir”), Ian Stewart’s piano and even a mandolin (both for “Boogie with Stu”).
Despite some lapses into monotony along the way (“In My Time of Dying,” “Kashmir”) Physical Graffiti testifies to Page’s taste and Led Zeppelin’s versatility. Taken as a whole, it offers an astonishing variety of music, produced impeccably by Page. On Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin performs rock with creativity, wit and undeniable impact.

They have forged an original style, and they have grown within it; they have rooted their music in hard-core rock & roll, and yet have gone beyond it. They may not be the greatest rock band of the Seventies. But after seven years, five platinum albums and now Physical Graffiti, the world’s most popular rock band must be counted among them.
~ Jim Miller, Rolling Stone, 3-27-75.










TRACKS:
All songs written and composed by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, except where noted.                               
Side one                             
1              “Custard Pie”     4:13
2              “The Rover”       5:37
3              “In My Time of Dying” (Traditional; arr./adap. Page, Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham)           11:04
                               
Side two                             
1              “Houses of the Holy”      4:02
2              “Trampled Under Foot” (Page, Plant, Jones)       5:37
3              “Kashmir” (Page, Plant, Bonham)             8:32
                               
Side three                          
1              “In the Light” (Page, Plant, Jones)            8:46
2              “Bron-Yr-Aur” (Page)     2:06
3              “Down by the Seaside”                 5:13
4              “Ten Years Gone”            6:32
                               
Side four                             
1              “Night Flight” (Jones, Page, Plant)            3:36
2              “The Wanton Song”        4:07
3              “Boogie with Stu” (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant, Ian Stewart, Mrs. Valens)            3:53
4              “Black Country Woman”               4:24
5              “Sick Again”        4:42
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The Beatles: Penny Lane-Strawberry Fields Forever – Double A-sided Perfection



February 13, 1967 – The Beatles: “Penny Lane” b/w “Strawberry Fields Forever” (Capitol 5810) double A-sided 45 single is released in the US.

PENNY LANE

“Penny Lane” is a song written by Paul McCartney, credited to Lennon–McCartney.
Recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, “Penny Lane” was released in February 1967 as one side of a double A-sided single, along with “Strawberry Fields Forever”. Both songs were later included on the Magical Mystery Tour LP (1967). The single was the result of the record company wanting a new release after several months of no new Beatles releases.
The song’s title is derived from the name of a street near Lennon’s house, in the band’s hometown, Liverpool. McCartney and Lennon would meet at Penny Lane junction in the Mossley Hill area to catch a bus into the centre of the city. The area that surrounds its junction with Smithdown Road is also commonly called Penny Lane. At the time, in the 1960s, this was a significant bus terminus for several routes, and buses with “Penny Lane” displayed were common throughout Liverpool.
Locally the term “Penny Lane” was the name given to where Allerton Road becomes Smithdown Road and its busy shopping area. Penny Lane is named after James Penny, an 18th century slave trader. The street is an important landmark, sought out by most Beatles fans touring Liverpool. In the past, street signs saying “Penny Lane” were constant targets of tourist theft and had to be continually replaced. Eventually, city officials gave up and simply began painting the street name on the sides of buildings. This practice was stopped in 2007 and more theft-resistant “Penny Lane” street signs have since been installed though some are still stolen.

Beatles producer George Martin has stated he believes the pairing of “Penny Lane” with “Strawberry Fields Forever” resulted in probably the greatest single ever released by the group. Both songs were later included on the US Magical Mystery Tour album in November 1967. In the UK, the pairing famously failed to reach #1 in the singles charts, stalling one place below Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Release Me”. In the US the song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a week before being knocked off by The Turtles song “Happy Together”. The song features contrasting verse-chorus form.
Following the success of the double A-side “Yellow Submarine”/”Eleanor Rigby”, Brian Epstein enquired if they had any new material available. Both songs, though recorded during the sessions for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, were left off the album, a decision Martin regretted, although The Beatles usually did not include songs released as singles on their British albums. This was also the first single by The Beatles to be sold with a picture sleeve in the UK, a practice rarely used there at that time, but common in the US and various other countries (such as Japan).

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked “Penny Lane” at #449 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.



STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER

“Strawberry Fields Forever” is a song by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and attributed to the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership. It was inspired by Lennon’s memories of playing in the garden of a Salvation Army house named “Strawberry Field” near his childhood home. The Strawberry Fields memorial in New York City’s Central Park is named after the song.
“Strawberry Fields Forever” was intended for the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), as it was the first song recorded for it, but was instead released in February 1967 as a double A-side single with Paul McCartney’s “Penny Lane”. “Strawberry Fields Forever” reached number eight in the United States, with numerous critics describing it as one of the group’s best recordings. It is one of the defining works of the psychedelic rock genre and has been covered by many other artists. The song was later included on the US Magical Mystery Tour LP (though not on the British double EP package of the same name).

Strawberry Field was the name of a Salvation Army Children’s Home just around the corner from Lennon’s childhood home in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool. Lennon and his childhood friends Pete Shotton, Nigel Walley, and Ivan Vaughan used to play in the wooded garden behind the home. One of Lennon’s childhood treats was the garden party held each summer in Calderstones Park near the Salvation Army Home every year, where a Salvation Army band played. Lennon’s aunt Mimi Smith recalled: “As soon as we could hear the Salvation Army band starting, John would jump up and down shouting, ‘Mimi, come on. We’re going to be late.'”

Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” and McCartney’s “Penny Lane” shared the theme of nostalgia for their early years in Liverpool. Although both referred to actual locations, the two songs also had strong surrealistic and psychedelic overtones. Producer George Martin said that when he first heard “Strawberry Fields Forever” he thought it conjured up a “hazy, impressionistic dreamworld”.
The period of the song’s writing was one of change and dislocation for Lennon. The Beatles had just retired from touring after one of the most difficult periods of their career, including the “more popular than Jesus” controversy and the band’s unintentional snubbing of Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos. Lennon’s marriage with Cynthia Powell was failing, and he was using increasing quantities of drugs, especially the powerful psychedelic LSD, as well as cannabis, which he had smoked during his time in Spain. Lennon talked about the song in 1980: “I was different all my life. The second verse goes, ‘No one I think is in my tree.’ Well, I was too shy and self-doubting. Nobody seems to be as hip as me is what I was saying. Therefore, I must be crazy or a genius—’I mean it must be high or low’ “, and explaining that the song was “psycho-analysis set to music”.

Lennon began writing the song in Almería, Spain, during the filming of Richard Lester’s How I Won the War in September–October 1966. The earliest demo of the song, recorded in Almería, had no refrain and only one verse: “There’s no one on my wavelength / I mean, it’s either too high or too low / That is you can’t you know tune in but it’s all right / I mean it’s not too bad”. He revised the words to this verse to make them more obscure, then wrote the melody and part of the lyrics to the refrain (which then functioned as a bridge and did not yet include a reference to Strawberry Fields). He then added another verse and the mention of Strawberry Fields. The first verse on the released version was the last to be written, close to the time of the song’s recording. For the refrain, Lennon was again inspired by his childhood memories: the words “nothing to get hung about” were inspired by Aunt Mimi’s strict order not to play in the grounds of Strawberry Field, to which Lennon replied, “They can’t hang you for it.” The first verse Lennon wrote became the second in the released version, and the second verse Lennon wrote became the last in the release.
“Strawberry Fields Forever” was well-received by critics, and is still considered a classic. Three weeks after its release, Time magazine hailed the song as “the latest sample of The Beatles’ astonishing inventiveness”. Richie Unterberger of Allmusic hailed the song as “one of The Beatles’ peak achievements and one of the finest Lennon-McCartney songs”. Ian MacDonald wrote in Revolution in the Head that it “shows expression of a high order… few if any [contemporary composers] are capable of displaying feeling and fantasy so direct, spontaneous, and original.” In 2004, this song was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. In 2010, Rolling Stone placed it at number three on the 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. The song was ranked as the second-best Beatles’ song by Mojo, after “A Day in the Life”.

Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys said that “Strawberry Fields Forever” was partially responsible for the shelving of his group’s legendary unfinished album, Smile. Wilson first heard the song on his car radio whilst driving, and was so affected that he had to stop and listen to it all the way through. He then remarked to his passenger that The Beatles had already reached the sound the Beach Boys had wanted to achieve. Paul Revere & The Raiders were among the most successful US groups during 1966 and 1967, having their own Dick Clark-produced television show, Where the Action Is. Mark Lindsay (singer/saxophonist) heard the song on the radio, bought it, and then listened to it at home with his producer at the time, Terry Melcher. When the song ended Lindsay said, “Now what the f*** are we gonna do?” later saying, “With that single, The Beatles raised the ante as to what a pop record should be”.

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The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones, Now!






ON THIS DATE (47 YEARS AGO)
February 13, 1965 – The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones, Now! is released in the US.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 5/5
# Allmusic 5/5

The Rolling Stones, Now! is the third American studio album by The Rolling Stones, released on this date in 1965 by their initial American distributor, London Records.

One of the biggest and most artistically successful of The Rolling Stones’ early American releases, Now! was built around seven tracks taken from their UK No. 2 LP, put out in the UK just a month earlier, plus a handful of singles and previously unreleased songs.

This was a time of hyperactivity for The Rolling Stones, with songs recorded in London – Bo Diddley’s I Need You (Mona) dates from way back in early 1964 and had been left off the American edition of their debut LP – Chicago and Los Angeles. There’s Barbara Lynn Ozen’s Oh Baby (We’ve Got A Good Thing Goin’), Leiber and Butler’s Down Home Girl, Allen Toussaint’s Pain In My Heart (made famous by Otis Redding) and the classic Bert Russell, Solomon Burke and Jerry Wexler soul vamp Everybody Needs Somebody To Love – all were recorded in one marathon session on November 2 1964.

Of these covers, Down Home Girl – a hit a few months previously for Alvin Robinson – was probably the most successful, the band nailing a lazy New Orleans soul groove so tight it would later feature on a more than one big hip hop record.

So in early 1965 things were moving very fast. To get some idea of The Stones’ vertiginous trajectory at the time, it’s worth pointing out that they had played two shows in two different Californian cities the day before that LA session. Less than 48 hours later they would be 2586 miles away playing a show in Rhode Island.


But perhaps the most startling thing about Now! was just how fast the song-writing duo of Jagger/Richards (actually Richard at this point, the ‘s’ wouldn’t reappear until the late 1970s) was developing.

The brilliant country-blues Heart Of Stone had originally been recorded – with either Jimmy Page or John McLaughlin on additional guitar – in London in July 1964, though it wouldn’t appear on a UK LP until Out Of Our Heads over a year later. However, this new LA version marked a big step forward for the band. Here was a song that wore its insouciant confidence as casually – and as strikingly – as a well-tailored, button-down shirt.

“If you try acting sad,” Jagger sings, “you’ll only make me glad, better listen little girl…”

What A Shame – an eerie electric blues recorded, appropriately, in Chicago, the home of electric blues – would later turn up on Heart Of Stone’s B-side, while the simple pop-romp Off The Hook was a Nanker Phelge composition, one of the few songs created by the band together where all song writing royalties were equally split.

Surprise, Surprise, recorded in London at the end of September 1964, took the band away from a pure blues base and pulled some vibrant soul and revival-tent fervour from the song writing, finishing on a gorgeous diminished chord which adds a feeling of feverish melancholy to the song. It wouldn’t even appear on a UK release until 1970, by which time the world was a very different place indeed, and the very idea of splitting your albums apart for different markets was (as Mr Jimmy put it in 1969’s You Can’t Always Get What You Want, and also under very different circumstances) Dead.

Now!, which reached Number 5 in the US, is the sound of a band changing as fundamentally and enthusiastically as the world around them. This was a record, after all, that had room for something as fresh and of-the-moment as Off The Hook, for Don Raye’s 1940 big-band boogie-woogie classic Down The Road Apiece and for a strict blues number like the future UK Number 1 version of Willie Dixon’s Little Red Rooster.

On Now!, The Rolling Stones realised that they could do anything they wanted to, that no style, genre or set of songwriters could claim any kind of direction over them. The road ahead was suddenly looking very clear indeed.

The Rolling Stones, Now! is generally considered a very strong album and a highlight of their early American releases. Upon its February issuing, The Rolling Stones, Now! reached #5 in the US and became another gold seller for The Rolling Stones. In 2003, the album was ranked number 181 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

REVIEW
by Richie Unterberger, allmusic
Although their third American album was patched together (in the usual British Invasion tradition) from a variety of sources, it’s their best early R&B-oriented effort. Most of the Stones’ early albums suffer from three or four very weak cuts; Now! is almost uniformly strong start-to-finish, the emphasis on some of their blackest material. The covers of “Down Home Girl,” Bo Diddley’s vibrating “Mona,” Otis Redding’s “Pain in My Heart,” and Barbara Lynn’s “Oh Baby” are all among the group’s best R&B interpretations. The best gem is “Little Red Rooster,” a pure blues with wonderful slide guitar from Brian Jones (and a number one single in Britain, although it was only an album track in the U.S.). As songwriters, Jagger and Richards are still struggling, but they come up with one of their first winners (and an American Top 20 hit) with the yearning, soulful “Heart of Stone.”



TRACKS:
All songs written by Jagger/Richards, except where noted.
Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” (Solomon Burke/Berns/Wexler) 3:00
2. “Down Home Girl” (Jerry Leiber/Arthur Butler) 4:13
3. “You Can’t Catch Me” (Chuck Berry) 3:40
4. “Heart of Stone” 2:49
5. “What a Shame” 3:06
6. “Mona (I Need You Baby)” (Ellas McDaniel) 3:35


Side two
No. Title Length
7. “Down the Road Apiece” (Don Raye) 2:56
8. “Off the Hook” 2:36
9. “Pain in My Heart” (Allen Toussaint) 2:12
10. “Oh Baby (We Got a Good Thing Goin’)” (Barbara Lynn Ozen) 2:06
11. “Little Red Rooster” (Willie Dixon) 3:04
12. “Surprise, Surprise” 2:29

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February 9, 1964 – The Beatles: Washington Colosseum

ON THIS DATE (48 YEARS AGO)
February 11, 1964 – At the Colosseum in Washington, DC, the Beatles played their first U.S. concert.  The opening acts were Tommy Roe, the Caravelles, and the Chiffons.
When the Beatles first came to the U.S. in 1964, primarily to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York on February 9th, 1964, they also performed two live concerts.  The first of these concerts — and their first ever in the U.S. — was performed in Washington, D.C. at the Washing- ton Coliseum on February 11th.  Not to be confused with an outdoor athletic-type coliseum, the Washington Coliseum was an indoor arena where professional and college basketball teams played.  Originally built in 1941, it was first named the Uline Arena when it hosted hockey games.  It was renamed the Washington Coliseum in 1959.  It held a capacity crowd of about 7,000 people.  Although the building still stands today near Washington’s Union Station, it is now used as an indoor parking garage. However, it is a protected property by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, and is slated for redevelopment.  In the 1960s it hosted a variety of music acts and concerts, of which the Beatles’ February 11th, 1964 concert was one.


The Beatles also made another live concert appearance during their February 1964 U.S. visit – at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on February 12th.  In New York there were two shows, but in Washington, only one.  However, the D.C. performance was filmed in black and white video by CBS with the permission of the Beatles’ then manager, Brian Epstein.  This filmed version of the live D.C. performance was then packaged into a “closed-circuit” offering by a private company to be aired several weeks later at selected theaters across the U.S.  More detail on this follows below.  But first, the Washington performance.
The Beatles traveled from New York to Washington, DC early on this day by rail, as an East Coast snowstorm had caused all flights to be cancelled.

A special sleeper carriage was attached to the Congressman, the Pennsylvania Railroad express train. The carriage was called The King George, and was already full with press people by the time The Beatles boarded.
Originally, we were going to fly to Washington, but, because of the heavy snow storm that I was told was coming, I advised Brian Epstein to make special arrangements to get a special train to take us to Washington. We went down to Washington and had a lot of fun on the train but we almost got killed when we got off the train. Some 10,000 kids had broken through the barriers. I remember being pinned against a locomotive on the outside, and feeling the life going out of me. I said to myself, ‘My God! Murray the K dies with an English group!’ George looked at me and said, ‘Isn’t this fun?’ I did my show that night direct from their dressing room.
Murry the K, The Beatles Off The Record, Keith Badman
Upon arrival at Washington’s Union Station The Beatles were greeted by 2,000 fans who braved the eight inches of snow on the ground. They gave a press conference before visiting WWDC, which had been the first US radio station to play a Beatles record.
The group and their entourage checked in at the Shoreham Hotel, where they took the entire seventh floor to avoid fans. One family refused to be relocated so the hotel staff cut off the hot water, electricity and central heating, telling them there was a power failure and they had to move.
The Beatles’ concert that night was at the Washington Coliseum, a boxing arena. Upon their arrival at the venue the group held a press conference.

The February 11th, 1964 concert at the Washington Coliseum, located at 3rd and M Streets N.E., occurred during a cold and snowy night.  It was the Beatles’ first live American performance after their televised appearance on the CBS Ed Sullivan Show.  They had arrived in D.C. earlier that day by train from New York. Before their show that evening, they also appeared at a brief press conference. At show time, there was a sold-out, over-capacity crowd of 8,092 fans, most of whom were girls.  Before the Beatles came on, there were three other opening acts. The Caravelles did their hit “You Don’t Have To Be A Baby To Cry,” Tommy Roe did “Shelia,” and The Chiffons did “He’s So Fine” and “One Fine Day.” 
When the Beatles came on, the place erupted with screaming and incessant flash bulbs.  The Beatles played for nearly an hour.
SET LIST:
Roll Over Beethoven
From Me to You
I Saw Her Standing There
This Boy
All My Loving
I Wanna Be Your Man
Please Please Me
Till There Was You
She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand
Twist and Shout
Long Tall Sally
Performing in the round, and Ringo Starr’s drum riser was turned 180 degrees after the third song by Mal Evans, to allow the audience behind them to watch the performance. This was repeated again after I Wanna Be Your Man, and following She Loves You they turned 45 degrees.

In addition to this somewhat awkward set-up, George Harrison’s microphone wasn’t working during the opening song, and he was given a faulty replacement. It didn’t dampen the audience’s appreciation, however; they responded with typical screams of Beatlemania, causing one of the 362 police officers present to block his ears with bullets.
Many of the fans pelted The Beatles with jelly beans, after a New York newspaper had reported The Beatles discussing their liking for them.
That night, we were absolutely pelted by the fuckin’ things. They don’t have soft jelly babies there; they have hard jelly beans. To make matters worse, we were on a circular stage, so they hit us from all sides. Imagine waves of rock-hard little bullets raining down on your from the sky. It’s a bit dangerous, you know, ’cause if a jelly bean, travelling about 50 miles an hour through the air, hits you in the eye, you’re finished. You’re blind aren’t you? We’ve never liked people throwing stuff like that. We don’t mind them throwing streamers, but jelly beans are a bit dangerous, you see! Every now and again, one would hit a string on my guitar and plonk off a bad note as I was trying to play.
~ George Harrison, The Beatles Off The Record, Keith Badman
Brian Epstein had allowed CBS to film The Beatles’ performance, which was shown by the National General Corporation in a telecast in US cinemas on 14 and 15 March 1964. The performance has since been released on DVD, and extracts were included in Anthology.
After their live D.C. the performance, the group attended a masked ball at the city’s British Embassy.  Reportedly, British Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home decided not to attend for fear of being upstaged by the group.  During the party, an unidentified woman cut off a lock of Ringo’s hair without asking him.  The Beatles stayed at the embassy party for a time and then returned to their rooms at the Shoreham Hotel.  The following day, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, meeting with British Prime Minister Home at the White House, says of the Beatles: “I like your advance guard.  But don’t you think they need haircuts?” 

People were sort of touching us as we walked past, that kind of thing. Wherever we went we were supposed to be not normal and we were supposed to put up with all sorts of shit from lord mayors and their wives and be touched and pawed like A Hard Day’s Night only a million more times. At the American Embassy, the British Embassy in Washington, or wherever it was, some bloody animal cut Ringo’s hair, in the middle of… I walked out of that. Swearing at all of them and I just left in the middle of it.
~ John Lennon, 1970 Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner
The Beatles that day returned to New York by train for their Carnegie Hall concerts – two 25-minute performances before 2,900 fans attending each show.

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February 9, 1964 – The Beatles, Ed Sullivan and over 73 Million Friends


ON THIS DATE (48 YEARS AGO)
February 9, 1964 – The Beatles made their live U.S. television debut in their first appearance on CBS-TV’s “The Ed Sullivan Show.” An estimated 73.7 million Americans watched as John, Paul, George and Ringo performed “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

A record setting 73 million people tuned in that evening making it one of the seminal moments in television history. Nearly fifty years later, people still remember exactly where they were the night The Beatles stepped onto Ed Sullivan’s stage.
In the weeks leading up to the performance, several Beatles records had already hit number one on the U.S. charts, and the radio airwaves were saturated with their tunes. The delirium and ground swell of anticipation surrounding The Beatles’ arrival from England had not been seen around since Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956. But even that experience could not have prepared the Sullivan staff and the New York City authorities for what was about to happen.

The story of how The Beatles landed on The Ed Sullivan Show began with the group’s formation in Liverpool in 1960. They spent their first couple of years playing in small clubs throughout Europe. During late night gigs in the city of Hamburg, Germany, sometimes playing as long as eight hours a night, The Beatles perfected their act. However, it was not until an appearance on the British television show, “Val Parnell’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium” and the 1963 release of their first album, Please Please Me that “Beatlemania” began to spread. That March the album hit number one on the British charts, and by the end of the year, The Beatles’ music permeated UK radio. The “Fab Four” even performed for the royal family. It was only after this burgeoning success at home did The Beatles and their manager, Brian Epstein, choose to launch their American invasion. They decided when they had a #1 song on the U.S. charts, then they would lock in the date of their Ed Sullivan debut.

There are a number of stories regarding exactly how The Beatles came to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. The most popular is that in 1963, while arriving at London’s Heathrow airport, Ed Sullivan and his wife Sylvia encountered thousands of youngsters waiting excitedly in the rain. When Sullivan asked what all the commotion was about, he was told that a British band named The Beatles was returning home from a tour in Sweden. When he got to his hotel room, Sullivan purportedly inquired about booking the group for his show.

However, it was not until later that year that The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein reached an agreement with Ed Sullivan to bring the group to America to perform live for the first time on U.S. television. Following dinner at the Hotel Delmonico in New York City, a handshake between the two men sealed the deal for performances on three shows to air in 1964. In return, The Beatles would receive $10,000 for their three appearances and top billing.
Prior to their debut on the Sullivan show, The Beatles’ record “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was leaked in advance of its planned US release to radio stations across the country. When attorneys for Capitol Records were unable to stop American DJs from spinning the tune, the record label relented and, on December 26, 1963, dropped the album ahead of schedule. The record sold 250,000 copies in the first three days. By January 10, 1964 it had sold over one million units and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was the number one song on the Billboard charts by month’s end. In the weeks leading up to The Beatles’ performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Beatlemania went viral. Radio stations played the band’s music nearly non-stop; teenaged fans sported “Beatle” wigs, and bumper stickers across the country warned, “The Beatles Are Coming.”
The Beatles touched down at New York’s Kennedy Airport on February 7th, 1964. They were met by a throng of reporters and a hoard of three thousand screaming fans. Upon disembarking the plane, The Beatles were whisked to a press conference hosted by Capitol Records in which they playfully answered questions from the media.
When asked “How do you find America?” Ringo Starr jokingly replied, “Turn left at Greenland.”
While The Beatles spent the next two days cooped up at The Plaza Hotel, fans did all they could to get closer to the band. Groups of teenagers set up camp outside The Plaza, some even posing as hotel guests in an attempt to see their favorite group. As the show approached, over 50,000 requests for seats came into CBS. However, The Ed Sullivan Show, which originated from CBS’s TV Studio 50, could only accommodate an audience of 700.

For weeks, celebrities were calling in to get tickets for their kids. Walter Cronkite and Jack Paar scored seats for their girls; composer Leonard Bernstein tried but failed; while Richard Nixon’s 15-year old daughter, Julie, became one of the lucky few to get a seat. Even Sullivan himself had trouble getting extra tickets. On his show the week before The Beatles’ debut, Ed asked his audience, “Coincidentally, if anyone has a ticket for The Beatles on our show next Sunday, could I please borrow it? We need it very badly.”

It should be remembered that while this hullabaloo was happening, there was still an air of gloom in America. Just 77 days prior to The Beatles’ appearance on Sullivan, President Kennedy had been assassinated. By now, the country was ready for some much needed diversion, and it came in the form of four young lads from Liverpool – their sound, their look, their energy and their charisma.

At 8 o’clock on February 9th 1964, America tuned in to CBS and The Ed Sullivan Show. But this night was different. 73 million people gathered in front their TV sets to see The Beatles’ first live performance on U.S. soil. The television rating was a record-setting 45.3, meaning that 45.3% of households with televisions were watching. That figure reflected a total of 23,240,000 American homes. The show garnered a 60 share, meaning 60% of the television’s turned on were tuned in to Ed Sullivan and The Beatles.

Ed opened the show by briefly mentioning a congratulatory telegram to The Beatles from Elvis and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker and then threw to advertisements for Aero Shave and Griffin Shoe Polish. After the brief commercial interruption, Ed began his memorable introduction:
“Now yesterday and today our theater’s been jammed with newspapermen and hundreds of photographers from all over the nation, and these veterans agreed with me that this city never has witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves The Beatles. Now tonight, you’re gonna twice be entertained by them. Right now, and again in the second half of our show. Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles! Let’s bring them on.”
At last, John, Paul, George and Ringo came onto the stage, opening with “All My Loving” to ear-splitting screeches from teenaged girls in the audience. The Beatles followed that hit with Paul McCartney taking the spotlight to sing, “Till There Was You.” During the song, a camera cut to each member of the band and introduced him to the audience by displaying his first name on screen. When the camera cut to John Lennon, the caption below his name also read “SORRY GIRLS, HE’S MARRIED.” The Beatles then wrapped up the first set with “She Loves You,” and the show went to commercial. Upon return, magician Fred Kaps took the stage to perform a set of sleight-of-hand tricks.

Concerned that The Beatles’ shrieking fans would steal attention from the other acts that evening, Ed Sullivan admonished his audience, “If you don’t keep quiet, I’m going to send for a barber.”

As hard as Ed tried to protect them, the other acts that night suffered from the excitement surrounding The Beatles. Numbered among those performers were impressionist Frank Gorshin, acrobats Wells & the Four Fays, the comedy team of McCall & Brill and Broadway star Georgia Brown joined by the cast of “Oliver!”
The hour-long broadcast concluded with The Beatles singing two more of their hits, “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to the delight of the fans in attendance and those watching at home.

The show was a huge television success. As hard as it is to imagine, over 40% of every man, woman and child living in America had watched The Beatles on Sullivan.

A week later, the February 24th issue of Newsweek magazine’s cover featured a picture of The Beatles with the title, “Bugs About Beatles.” Inside, the review of The Beatles debut on The Ed Sullivan Show began, “Visually, they are a nightmare: tight, dandified, Edwardian/Beatnik suits and great pudding bowls of hair. Musically, they are a near-disaster: guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat that does away with secondary rhythms, harmony, and melody. Their lyrics (punctuated by nutty shouts of “yeah, yeah, yeah!”) are a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments.” The article ended with the following prediction, “…the odds are they will fade away, as most adults confidently predict.”
So much for adult odds makers. But even at that, it was impossible to imagine what a lasting impression the night would leave.

John Moffitt, then Assistant Director of The Ed Sullivan Show recalls, “Nobody realized the impact to come, how momentous it would be. We didn’t talk about making history. It was more like, ‘What are we going to do next week? Not only are we doing this again, we’re on location.’”

That’s because The Beatles’ second appearance on February 16th, 1964, was broadcast from The Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. Moffitt remembers how fans took over the venue, and when it was time for The Beatles to perform, a teaming throng of teenagers blocked the group’s access to the ballroom. As security guards wedged a passageway through the crowd for The Beatles, the show was being broadcast to America. Unaware of the delay, Ed was about to introduce them. Moffitt recalls…
“Ed is saying ‘And now, here are—(a beat)—The Beatles right after this.’ And he went to a commercial. And during the commercial, finally at the end, The Beatles broke through, they came running up the aisle, they got hooked up, and I believe there was one microphone that didn’t get hooked up. But you couldn’t tell because all you could hear was the screaming.”
Audio difficulties aside, the boys plowed through “She Loves You,” “This Boy” and “All My Loving” for their first set, then turned the stage over to the comedy team of Allen and Rossi (“Hello, Dere”), singer/dancer Mitzi Gaynor, acrobats The Nerveless Knocks and monologist Myron Cohen.

The Beatles returned to close the show with performances of “I Saw Her Standing There,” “From Me to You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” After they finished, Ed called them over and congratulated them, passing along word that legendary composer Richard Rodgers was one their “most rabid fans.”

Again, The Beatles on Sullivan proved a huge ratings success, nearly duplicating the record-setting performance of their first appearance. The second show also attracted 40% of the American population.
The Beatles third and—according to their contract—final performance on The Ed Sullivan Show was technically their first. The show was taped prior to their live February 9th debut, but saved for broadcast until February 23rd, 1964. On this show, The Beatles sang “Twist and Shout”, “Please Please Me” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Other guests that night included stand-up comedian Dave Barry, Gordon and Sheila MacRae, and the legendary American jazz singer Cab Calloway.
On September 12th, 1965, The Fab Four returned to the Ed Sullivan stage one last time. They played “I Feel Fine,” “I’m Down,” “Act Naturally,” “Ticket to Ride,” “Yesterday,” and “Help!” This performance was taped in New York on August 14th, 1965, just one day before The Beatles kicked off their North American Tour with a concert at Shea Stadium that set the attendance record for an outdoor show at the time.
The final appearance of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, like those in February 1964 aired in black and white. However, at the end of the evening, Sullivan broke the news that the following week, his show would start broadcasting in color.

So The Beatles were just a week from having their performance captured and preserved forever in color.

These four historic Beatles performances on The Ed Sullivan Show featured 20 Beatles songs—seven of which became Number One hits. Cumulatively, the four shows attracted an audience of a quarter of a BILLION people. In terms of percentage of America’s population, the first two shows remain the highest viewed regularly scheduled television programs of all time.
The Beatles’ success on The Ed Sullivan Show paved the way for future rock ‘n’ roll groups dubbed the British Invasion, including The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, The Searchers , Gerry and the Pacemakers, Peter and Gordon, etc.
The genius of The Beatles and the American institution that was The Ed Sullivan Show combined to create one of the most defining and indelible moments in the history of music, television and pop culture. It was a remarkable convergence that came at a special time in America, making an impact on the world that will never be duplicated.

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February 7, 1964 – Beatlemania Arrives in New York

The Beatles arrival at New York’s Kennedy Airport
ON THIS DATE (48 YEARS AGO)

February 7, 1964 – Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow lands at New York’s Kennedy Airport–and “Beatlemania” arrives. It was the first visit to the United States by the Beatles, a British rock-and-roll quartet that had just scored its first No. 1 U.S. hit six days before with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” At Kennedy, the “Fab Four”–dressed in mod suits and sporting their trademark pudding bowl haircuts–were greeted by 3,000 screaming fans who caused a near riot when the boys stepped off their plane and onto American soil.


 “All we knew was that a couple of the records had done well in the States. We believed there was still a huge mountain to climb if The Beatles were really to make it there.


At Heathrow there was pandemonium. Thousands of fans had arrived from all over Britain and any ordinary passengers hoping to travel that day had to give up. Screaming, sobbing girls held up ‘We Love You, Beatles’ banners and hordes of police, linking arms in long chains, held them back. We were ushered into a massive press conference, where journalists, spotting me at the side of the room, demanded a picture of John and me together. To my surpirse John agreed. He was usually careful to keep Julian and me away from publicity, but this time, carried along by the momentum of the whole thing, he agreed.


Minutes later we were ushered to the plane. At the top of the steps the boys waved to the packed airport terraces as the screams crescendoed.”
~ Cynthia Lennon, John




Also on the flight were Brian Epstein, Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, plus dozens of journalists and photographers. The flight, Pan Am flight 101, touched down at JFK Airport at 1.20pm to scenes never seen before.


 “It was so exciting. On the plane, flying in to the airport, I felt as though there was a big octopus with tentacles that were grabbing the plane and dragging us down into New York. America was the best. It was a dream, coming from Liverpool.”
~ Ringo Starr, Anthology


At first The Beatles found it hard to believe the reception at JFK was for them.


“There were millions of kids at the airport, which nobody had expected. We heard about it in mid-air. There were journalists on the plane, and the pilot had rang ahead and said, ‘Tell the boys there’s a big crowd waiting for them.’ We thought, ‘Wow! God, we have really made it.”
~ Paul McCartney, Anthology


Five thousand fans, mostly young girls, were crowded onto the upper balcony of the airport’s arrivals building, waving placards and banners to welcome the group. A further 200 reporters, photographers and cameramen from radio, television and the press were also clamoring for The Beatles’ attention.


“It has since been reported that their American record company had promised that every person who turned up at the airport would be given a dollar bill and a t-shirt. What really happened was that the receptionists at Capitol Records would answer the phone, ‘Capitol Records – The Beatles are coming.’ There was a lot of mention on the radio, too: ‘The Beatles are coming!’ It was the people handling the Beatles merchandise at the time who were offering the free t-shirt. I had no idea about that at the time, and it was nothing to do with the record company.”
~ Neil Aspinall, Anthology


The promotion was actually due to Seltaeb, The Beatles’ US merchandising organisation run by Nicky Byrne, which had been approved by Brian Epstein to oversee and collect the royalties for the group’s non-musical products in America.


Byrne had struck a deal with the WMCA and WINS radio stations, in which every fan who turned up at JFK would be given one dollar and a free Beatles t-shirt. Unbeknown to Byrne, Capitol had also arranged for posters and car stickers, bearing the legend ‘The Beatles are coming’, to be distributed throughout New York City.


Murray the K, a DJ at the 1010 WINS radio station, had announced the details of The Beatles’ flight number and time of arrival. The information was repeated by rival stations WABC and WMCA, which only increased the already feverish anticipation.


At JFK The Beatles gave their first press conference on American soil.


Q: Are you a little embarrassed by the lunacy you cause?

John Lennon: No, it’s great.



Paul McCartney: No.


Ringo Starr:Marvelous.


George Harrison: We love it.


John: We like lunatics.


Q: You’re in favor of lunacy?


The Beatles: Yeah.


John: It’s healthy.


Q: Are those English accents?


George: It’s not English. It’s Liverpudlian, you see.


Paul: The Liverpool accent – so, the way you say some of the words. You know, you say GRASS instead of GRAHHSS, and that sounds a bit American. So there ya go.


Q: Liverpool is the…


Ringo: It’s the capital of Ireland.


Paul: Anyway, we wrote half of your folk songs in Liverpool.


Ringo: Yeah, don’t forget!


Q: In Detroit Michigan, there handing out car stickers saying, ‘Stamp Out The Beatles.’


Paul: Yeah well… first of all, we’re bringing out a ‘Stamp Out Detroit’ campaign.


Q: What about the Stamp Out The Beatles campaign?


John: What about it?


Ringo: How big are they?


Q: Would you tell Murray the K to cut that crap out?


The Beatles: Cut that crap out!


Paul: Hey, Murray!


Q: A psychiatrist recently said you’re nothing but a bunch of British Elvis Presleys.


John: He must be blind.


Ringo (shaking like Elvis): It’s not true! It’s not true!


Q: Would you please sing something?


The Beatles: No!


Ringo: Sorry.


Q: There’s some doubt that you can sing.


John: No, we need money first.


Q: What do you expect to take out of this country?


John Lennon: About half a crown.


Ringo Starr: Ten dollars.


Q: Does all that hair help you sing?


Paul McCartney: What?


Q: Does all that hair help you sing?


John: Definitely. Yeah.


Q: You feel like Sampson? If you lost your hair, you’d lose what you have? ‘It’?


John: Don’t know. I don’t know.


Paul: Don’t know.


Q: How many of you are bald, that you have to wear those wigs?


Ringo: All of us.


Paul: I’m bald.


Q: You’re bald?


John: Oh, we’re all bald, yeah.


Paul: Don’t tell anyone, please.


John: I’m deaf and dumb, too.


Q: Do you know American slang? Are you for real?


Paul: For real.


John: Come and have a feel.


Q: Aren’t you afraid of what the American Barbers’ Association is going to think of you?


Ringo: Well, we run quicker than the English ones, we’ll have a go here, you know.


Q: Listen, I got a question here. Are you going to get a haircut at all while you’re here?


The Beatles: No!


Ringo: Nope.


Paul: No, thanks.


George Harrison: I had one yesterday.


Ringo: And that’s no lie, it’s the truth.


Paul: It’s the truth.


Q: You know, I think he missed.


John: Nope.


George: No, he didn’t. No.


Ringo: You should have seen him the day before.


Q: What do you think your music does for these people?


Paul: Er…


John: Hmm, well…


Ringo: I don’t know. It pleases them, I think. Well, it must do, ’cause they’re buying it.


Q: Why does it excite them so much?


Paul: We don’t know, really.


John: If we knew, we’d form another group and be managers.


Q: What about all this talk that you represent some kind of social rebellion?


John: It’s a dirty lie. It’s a dirty lie.


Q: What do you think of Beethoven?


Ringo: Great, especially his poems. (Muttering to the others) I’m sick of that one.


Q: Have you decided when you’re going to retire?


John: Next week.


Paul: No.


John: No, we don’t know.


Ringo: We’re going to keep going as long as we can.


George: When we get fed up with it, you know. We’re still enjoying it.


Ringo: Any minute now.


Q: After you make so much money, and then…


The Beatles: No.


George: No, as long as we enjoy it, we’ll do it. ‘Cause we enjoyed it before we made any money.


After the press conference The Beatles were asked to say their names in the order in which they were standing at the microphones, as their individual names were still largely unknown to the American press.


Upon leaving JFK Airport, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr got into a limousine, while John and Cynthia Lennon took another. Brian Epstein, Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans had to hail a taxi to get to their hotel in Manhattan.


I remember, for instance, the great moment of getting into the limo and putting on the radio, and hearing a running commentary on us: ‘They have just left the airport and are coming towards New York City…’ It was like a dream. The greatest fantasy ever. ~ Paul McCartney, Anthology


The group and their entourage were staying at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. The scenes there were as chaotic as those at the airport, with hundreds of fans being held back by the police, 20 of which were mounted on horseback.


That evening a near-constant stream of guests visited The Beatles in their 10-room, 12th-floor Presidential suite, including The Ronettes, Murray the K, and George Harrison’s sister Louise, who lived in Illinois.


At 6pm that evening The Beatles gave a telephone interview to BBC presenter Brian Matthew, to be broadcast on the next day’s radio show Saturday Club.


The Beatles’ first trip to America was filmed, not only by assembled crews from various television outlets, but by a team inside the entourage. A documentary was being directed and produced by brothers David and Albert Maysles, co-funded by Granada Television in the UK and with Brian Epstein’s NEMS company retaining some editorial control.


The Maysles took cameras virtually everywhere during The Beatles’ two weeks in America, providing a unique and insightful document of the unfolding events. These included scenes from inside their hotel suite and limousines, rehearsals for The Ed Sullivan Show, inside JFK Airport, Murray the K broadcasting, and The Beatles in Washington DC and Miami Beach.





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Filed under george harrison, john lennon, Paul McCartney, ringo starr, The Beatles

February 3, 1959 – The Day the Music Died


ON THIS DATE (53 YEARS AGO)
February 3, 1959 – The Day the Music Died.
On February 3, 1959, a small-plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, killed three American rock and roll pioneers: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, as well as the pilot, Roger Peterson. The day was later called “The Day the Music Died” by Don McLean, in his song “American Pie”. The plane crash has been called the first and greatest tragedy rock and roll has ever suffered.
“The Winter Dance Party” was a tour that was set to cover twenty-four Midwestern cities in three weeks. A logistical problem with the tour was the amount of travel, as the distance between venues was not a consideration when scheduling each performance. Adding to the disarray, the tour bus used to carry the musicians was not equipped for the weather; its heating system broke shortly after the tour began.
The condition of the bus and the grueling pace of the tour are evidenced by the fact that Holly’s drummer, Carl Bunch, had been hospitalized in Ironwood, Michigan, due to a severe case of frostbitten feet that developed when the bus broke down enroute to Appleton, Wisconsin during the overnight trip following the January 31, 1959, show in Duluth, Minnesota. As Holly’s group had been the backing band for all of the acts, Holly, Valens and Dion DiMucci (of Dion and the Belmonts) took turns playing drums for each other at the Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Clear Lake, Iowa, shows.
The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, was never intended to be a stop on the tour, but promoters, hoping to fill an open date, called Surf Ballroom manager Carroll Anderson and offered him the show. He accepted and the show was set for Monday, February 2.
By the time Buddy Holly arrived at the Surf Ballroom that Monday evening, he was frustrated with the tour bus. According to VH-1’s Behind the Music episode, “The Day the Music Died”, Holly was also upset that the laundromat in Clear Lake was closed that day, and he would need time before the next performance to finally clean some undershirts, socks, and underwear. Holly told his remaining band mates, Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup, that they should try to charter a plane to save time and to avoid the cold bus ride of 380 miles (610 km) to the tour’s next stop – Moorhead, Minnesota.
Flight arrangements were made with Roger Peterson, a 21-year-old local pilot who worked for Dwyer Flying Service in Mason City, Iowa. A fee of $36 per passenger was charged for the single-engined 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza 35 (V-tail), registration N3794N (later reassigned). The Bonanza could seat three in addition to the pilot.
Richardson had developed a case of flu during the tour and asked Waylon Jennings for his seat on the plane. When Holly learned that Jennings wasn’t going to fly, he said in jest, “Well, I hope your old’ bus freezes up” and Jennings responded, also in jest, “Well, I hope your old’ plane crashes”. This exchange of words would haunt Jennings for the rest of his life.
Ritchie Valens had never flown in a small plane before, and, in spite of his own fear of flying, asked Tommy Allsup for his seat on the plane. Tommy said “I’ll flip ya for the remaining seat”. Contrary to what is seen in La Bamba, the coin toss did not happen at the airport shortly before takeoff, nor did Buddy Holly toss it. Bob Hale, a DJ with KRIB-AM, was working the concert that night and flipped the coin in the ballroom’s sidestage room shortly before the musicians departed for the airport. Valens won the coin toss, and with it a seat on the flight.
Dion had been approached to join the flight, although it is unclear exactly when he was asked. Dion decided that, since the $36 cost of the flight was the same as the monthly rent his parents paid for his childhood apartment, he couldn’t justify the indulgence.
The plane departed from the ramp and taxied to then-Runway 17 at around 12:55 AM Central Time on Tuesday, February 3. Contrary to popular belief, there was no blizzard at the time but a very light snowfall with winds out of the south at 20 knots, gusting to 30 knots and a cloud ceiling of 3,000 feet above sea level. Since Mason City Municipal Airport was at 1,200 feet, this left 1,800-foot of airspace between the ground and cloud cover. It is unknown whether or not Peterson intended to file a Special-rules VFR flight plan in spite of the obvious weather.
Hubert Dwyer, owner of the plane and the flight service company, watched from a platform outside the tower and “saw the tail light of the aircraft gradually descend until out of sight”, just after 1:00 AM. Peterson had earlier told Dwyer he would file a flight plan with Air Traffic Control by radio after takeoff. When Peterson did not call the tower personnel with his flight plan, Dwyer requested that they continue to attempt to establish radio contact, but all attempts were unsuccessful.] By 3:30 AM, when Hector Airport in Fargo, North Dakota, had not heard from Peterson, Dwyer contacted authorities and reported the aircraft missing.
Around 9:15 AM, Dwyer took off in his own Cessna 180 to fly Peterson’s intended route. Within minutes he spotted the wreckage less than 6 miles (9.7 km) northwest of the airport, (43°13′13″N 93°22′53″WCoordinates: 43°13′13″N 93°22′53″W) in a cornfield then belonging to Albert Juhl. The Bonanza was at a slight downward angle and banked heavily to the right when it struck the ground at around 170 miles per hour (270 km/h). The plane tumbled and skidded another 570 feet (170 m) across the frozen landscape before the crumpled wreckage came to rest against a wire fence at the edge of Juhl’s property. The bodies of Holly and Valens lay near the plane, Richardson was thrown over the fence and into the cornfield of Juhl’s neighbor Oscar Moffett, and Peterson’s body remained entangled inside the plane’s wreckage. With the other participants on “The Winter Dance Party” enroute to Moorhead, it fell to Surf Ballroom manager Carroll Anderson, who drove the musicians to the airport and witnessed the plane’s takeoff, to make positive identifications of the musicians. All four had died instantly from “gross trauma” to the brain, the county coroner Ralph Smiley declared.
Investigators concluded that the crash was due to a combination of poor weather conditions and pilot error, resulting in spatial disorientation. Peterson, working on his instrument rating at the time, was still taking flight instrumentation tests and was not yet certificated for flight into weather that would have required operation of the aircraft solely by reference to his instruments rather than by means of his own vision. The final Civil Aeronautics Board report noted that Peterson had taken his instrument training on airplanes equipped with an artificial horizon attitude indicator and not the far-less-common Sperry Attitude Gyro the Bonanza was equipped with (it was further discovered that Peterson had failed his instrument checkride shortly before the incident). Critically, the two instruments display aircraft pitch attitude but depict such information in a visual manner opposite of one another; therefore, the board considered that this could have caused Peterson to think he was ascending when he was, in fact, descending. They also concluded that Peterson was not given adequate warnings about the weather conditions of his route, which, given his known limitations, might have caused him to postpone the flight out of prudence.

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