Friday, 18 November 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 122 (Top Ten): Facts I Didnd't Know Before Starting This Website

There’s always something you didn’t know isn’t there? For instance, I’ve just learnt that David Cameron first stood for office in 1997 in my home town of Stafford – thanks to not having any local connections and a surprising surge of good taste he was soundly trashed by not only Labour but the Monster Raving Loony Party too. In musical terms I like to think I know everything about the groups on this website – but past series of ‘Mastermind’ have proved that sadly I don’t (I did quite well on a Beatles round once, did OK on The Beach Boys and failed miserably at Belle and Sebastian. Now that Mastermind is back for another series I’ll keep an eye out for any more specialist rounds about AAA bands I can show off/fail miserably at).In the meantime, here’s 10 surprising AAA facts for you, things that I either never knew or only confirmed to be true after researching this site (what a shame the QI series has already done a series about ‘A’ or I’d have sent this lot in to the production team...):

The Beach Boys: Fans know of course that Dennis Wilson sadly drowned in 1983. Big fans will be able to tell you that Dennis was trying to retrieve objects he’d thrown overboard from his houseboat in a fit of pique the year before. True fans will know that the irony of this is that Dennis was the only Beach Boy who could swim any distance and the only one actually into the ‘surfing’ craze the band cashed in on. But how many of you knew that Dennis’ family had to get special dispensation from the US Government to have the drummer’s ashes buried at sea off the coast of California as per his request? Or that the request was only granted at the last minute thanks to the intervention of president Ronald Reagan, himself a Beach Boys fan?

The Beatles: I’d heard about this before working on the site but only half-believed it! When the band were looking at what to make as their third feature film (ie the one after ‘Help!’) someone at Apple (probably John Lennon) had the bright idea of buying up the rights to JRR Tolkein’s Lord Of The Ringos (sorry, Lord Of The Rings). The idea was that the four Beatles, who had at least read the book even if they weren’t all as big a fan of it as Lennon, would play the main roles with their usual supporting cast of Victor Spinetti and a few new friends to play the ‘lesser’ roles. Apparently Lennon bagged ‘Gollum’, McCartney was typecast as ‘Frodo’, Harrison would have made a spectacular ‘Gandalf’ and Ringo would, of course, be ‘Bilbo Baggins’(In fact that casting’s so obvious I’m amazed he wasn’t cast as Bilbo Baggins in the Peter Jackson feature films!) Back in 1967 when the project was being discussed Tolkein was still alive and not at all happy at the idea of these four rowdy pop musicians doing his book, but Apple did get as far as buying up the rights to the film – in fact the much hoo-hahed New Zealand-loving 72 hour long Peter Jackson version had to buy the rights to the film off The Beatles in order to make it in 2000! I wonder what the music would have been like? (Probably Bo Hansson’s ‘Inspired By Lord Of The Rings’ album, worst luck). And weirdly, that’s not the strangest project that nearly became The Beatles’ third feature film: there were also plans to adapt ‘A Talent For Loving’ into a film, with the Beatles four sides of a split personality into murder, rape and prostitution!

CSN: For years I keep coming across a single phrase: that back in 1979, at the prototype stages of digital recordings, the first musician to use the equipment was Stephen Stills. Alas the album was never released (it would have compromised a few outtakes from the ‘Thoroughfare Gap’ sessions plus bits and pieces from CSN’s ‘Daylight Again’ and his solo album ‘Right By You’ plus a few other songs and re-recordings of old favourites), which means that Ry Cooder is the person in the history books as the first person to actually release an album recorded using digital equipment (the wonderfully named ‘Bop Till You Drop’). The first song ever recorded using this technology, though, goes to a special synthesised re-recording of ‘Cherokee’ from Stills’ first solo album: you can hear it on Youtube here and, well, it’s weird actually, with the original’s emotional horns and frantic spirit replaced by a cold synthesised world. If nothing else, though, it proves that Stills beat Young at his own game yet agin, two years before the latter released ‘Trans’...:

Dire Straits: ‘Good morning, Mr Knopfler!’ ‘How do kids! What say instead of revising for your history exams you tell me how this riff I’ve been working on sounds? It goes like this – doo doo doo ‘Sultans Of Swing’... Chances are it wasn’t anything like this or the ‘School Of Rock’ film, but it is true that, before his big break at the age of 29, Mark Knopfler was a history teacher at the Loughton College in Essex. Not just for a couple of weeks in between gigs either but for three whole years (or one and a half ‘A’ Levels). Before that Mark had worked as a reporter at the Yorkshire Evening Post (a fact the clueless reporters didn’t seem to know when I went for a job interview there – you’d think the entertainment writer would have known that fact at least!) If only Mark had been my teacher, I’d have always done my homework for him...

Grateful Dead: I only found this out last week actually, while researching the ‘Sleeps With Angels’ review. Turns out that Courtney Love (lead singer of the under-rated Hole, widow of the lesser Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and grunge icon) was born to a bunch of hippie-Christian parents who happened to be big Grateful Dead fans (Rumour has it that her dad – Hank Harrison - was the Dead’s first manager before they met Rock Scully – and all those years I’ve been wondering if she was related to Beach Boy Mike Love!) As a result, Phil Lesh, the Dead’s bass player, is Courtney’s Godparent – and he’s also Godparent-in-law to Kurt Cobain – which might explain why their lives took so many strange turns! (Who honestly thought of asking a member of the Grateful Dead to be a godparent? That’s like asking Michael Jackson to be a babysitter!...)

Hollies: Actually this is the one fact I did know for definitive before working on this site but it’s a good one: The Hollies used to have the longest gap between #1 singles of any band or artist that’s ever lived, according to the Guinness Book Of Hit Singles. They first reached the top in 1965 with ‘I’m Alive’ and only made the top of the charts a second time in 1988, when ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ was re-issued on the back of its use in a beer commercial. That record time was 23 years and 65 days. However, if you count re-issues and re-recordings (as mos boosk do) then the new record-holder is none other than George Harrison, who first topped the charts in 1971 with ‘My Sweet Lord’ and again with the re-recorded version in 2002 the year after his death, a gap of 31 years!

Jefferson Airplane News: On a similar note, it used to be that the oldest female to have ever had a UK number one single is Grace Slick, part of Starship when they hit the top spot with ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ in 1987 (when she was 48). Alas in the past 10 years that record’s been broken first by Cher and then by Debbie Harry. However all is not lost for AAA fans. Want to know who the oldest person to have a #1 record on the dance charts is? Yoko Ono with her remix of ‘Walking On Thin Ice’, released just after her 70th birthday!

Monkees: Both Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones share the same birthday of December 30th – Mike was born in 1942 and Davy in 1945! This made it very easy for fans who wanted to send out birthday cards! Incidentally, that’s the reason the Monkees’ fourth album is named ‘Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd’ – it was something of a joke within the band that the two had so much in common (and yet were so different!) and the ‘Jones’ part was added rather than listing the star sign ‘Capricorn’ twice!

Rolling Stones: Most fans know that bass player Bill Wyman began a relationship with a girl called Mandy Smith in the 1980s when she was 13 and he was 47, eventually marrying when she turned 17. However, what few fans know is that Bill’s oldest son Stephen – born a couple of years before Dad joined the Stones – married Mandy Smith’s mother when he was 30 and she was 46! That means that Bill is his own father-in-law!

Finally, everyone knows that Keith Moon died young, in 1978 at the age of just 32, thanks to an overdose of pills the Who drummer was taking to get him off his addiction to, erm, pills. True fans will also be able to tell you the address of the flat he died in: no 9 Curzon Place, Mayfair, London (Keith had the biggest flat, #12, upstairs). Want to know who else had owned that flat before Keith? The Mamas and Papas’ Mama Cass, who died in the very same flat in 1974 – spookily at the same age! (She was four years older than Keith even though The Who were around the year before The Mamas and Papas). Incidentally, Roger Daltrey’s funeral bouquet, which he prepared himself, was something Keith would have loved a lot – a bouquet of flowers stuffed in a champagne bottle and embedded in a television set!

You see, you’re never too old to learn (unless you’re a member of the Coalition of course!) Join us for more interesting facts next week!

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