“I was born the same year the greatest automobile in the history of automobiles was created, the 1957 Chevrolet. Thank God only one of us had tail fins.”
― Michael Buffalo Smith, Prisoner of Southern Rock: A Memoir
I think I can beat that. On the day I was born, 27 September 1968, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham walked into Olympic Studios in London for Day One of the recording of their debut record. Little over 30 hours later, and at a total cost of £1,782, “Led Zeppelin” had been completed. So in a sense you could say that Led Zeppelin and I were born on the same day.
The possibility that Robert Plant was giving his vocal cords a workout on “Good Times, Bad Times” at exactly the same time that I was first putting mine into practice is arguably not interesting to most people, but I’m quite chuffed. If you’re going to have a backing band for a momentous event as childbirth, Led Zep aren’t a bad choice. You only get one chance at being born, and I think it’s worked out quite well for both me and the band. Maybe not well enough for Mum to want to go through it ever again, but that’s another story.
So that made me think – what else was happening in the world that day? There was almost certainly a war on the front page of the paper, but what was happening in the music section? This was the 60’s – surely someone was doing something of interest.
And with that, the successor to Musical Micropause has been found. The idea of tracking the international soundtrack to my various birthdays could uncover some very dodgy sounds, particularly if too much time is spent on the New Zealand hit singles of the 1970’s. But sometimes we have to confront these songs, disturbing as they may be.
And let’s not worry about the fact that New Zealand was (and frequently still is) a day ahead of most of you – 27 September is the day that I’m looking for. So just when you thought the sixties were over, it’s back to 1968 we go.
In the Studio…
The Beatles were recording their White Album in September 1968, but having spent Monday the 23rd to Thursday the 26th recording Happiness Is A Warm Gun, they thoughtlessly decided to take Friday off. I’m sure Yoko was behind that.
The Who started recording something variously known as Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy, Amazing Journey, Journey into Space, The Brain Opera, Omnibus and eventually named Tommy on 19 September. Weekends were kept free for UK concert dates to keep some money coming in, so it is probable that some recording was happening on Friday the 27th. Or maybe they were at their local with Ringo.
The only studio activity that I can be certain about as started and finishing on 27 September is Carl Perkins recording Restless, released as a standalone single on Columbia Records, and reaching no 20 on the Billboard country chart. Perkins later rerecorded the song in a duet with Tom Petty.
On the Road…with Pink Floyd
On 27 September 1968 Pink Floyd played at the Queen’s Hall in Dunoon, Scotland as part of their 1968 World Tour. Syd Barrett had been relieved of his duties earlier in the year, and the band were now touring as a four-piece with David Gilmour on lead guitar duties. Due to bad weather, the band’s flight north had been delayed, causing them to miss their ferry to Dunoon. Rather than desert their Scottish fans, the band hired their own boat from Gourock, arriving late, but eventually appearing in front of 400 fans. Nick Mason recalls the gig in his book “Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd”
“At the end of the gig the grateful promoter announced that as we had arrived late he would, with regret, be unable to pay us. After a brief argument where it was made clear that he was within his rights as exercised by his six-foot frame and even larger Highland friends, and with no flights till the next day, we climbed aboard the van for the endless journey south.
Or it would have been endless if the by now exhausted Peter had spotted the sign saying ‘Road Works’ before we hit them. The van was damaged beyond immediate repair and we spent the rest of the night in the police cells of the local village, which were kindly made available to us until we could catch an early morning ferry. Our fellow passengers, a hardy bunch of local farmers, marvelled at our exotic snakeskin boots, Afghan jackets and beads: we looked more like itinerant goatherds than the natives. Eventually we made it to Glasgow airport and the comparative safety of London.”
…with Big Brother and the Holding Company
The good people who run the official Big Brother and the Holding Company Facebook page have given me their approval to share this poster advertising their performance at a Dance Concert at UCI (University of California, Irvine) on 27 September. In August 1968 the band had released their second record, “Cheap Thrills”, along with the single “Piece of My Heart”. The band are photographed below following this release but before the record hit #1 on the Billboard Album charts for the week of October 12. It would go on to spend eight non-consecutive weeks in the top position, and “Piece of My Heart” would become their signature single. The band’s success made a star of Janis Joplin, who left for a solo career in December 1968. Less than two years later, Joplin was dead.
The photo below of Janis and the band during the 27 September show is courtesy of Anteater Antics, a blog of the UC Irvine Libraries, Special Collections and Archives.
…with Big Joe Williams
Born Joseph Lee Williams in Mississippi in 1903, Big Joe Williams was a delta blues guitarist, known for the distinctive sound of his nine string guitar. Williams spent much of the 1920’s and early 1930’s busking, and it is believed that he added the extra strings to keep others from being able to play his guitar. In Chicago on 31 October 1935, Williams became the first to record “Baby Please Don’t Go“. Others to have recorded the song include John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison’s Them.
The above poster is for a show at the Vulcan Gas Company in Austin, Texas on 27 September 1968. “The Vulcan”, as it was known, was the first successful psychedelic music venue in Austin, opening in 1967, and closing in 1970. The Vulcan Gas Company’s Facebook page remembers Big Joe:
Big Joe Williams use to drive over from Mississippi and arrive Friday afternoon. He would pull up to the office door, which was on 4th street. Pull his nine string guitar out of the trunk….no case, bouncing around with the jack and spare tire and sit in his car like the picture below, and play for hours. If there was even one or two people listening to him he would play. At night he did long, long sets. Nobody ever tried to get him off the stage and that is one reason he like to play the Vulcan. He always had a rep for being hard to get along with and crazy. But not with us. He wrote “Baby Please Don’t Go” around 34′ or 35′. A true gentleman of the Road.
…and with John Mayall (and C.T.A.)
By 1968, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers had already farewelled Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. The version of the Bluesbreakers that Mayall took to the United States in early September 1968 now included 19 year old future Rolling Stone Mick Taylor. The band played three nights at “The Bank” in Torrance, California. “The Bank” was a short-lived venue, operating only from August to December 1968.
Among the support bands at “The Bank” was C.T.A, or “Chicago Transit Authority” who were yet to release their first album. When it was finally released in 1970, it was so successful that the real Chicago Transit Authority requested they change their name. The band shortened their name to Chicago and have now sold in excess of 40 million records.
And at Number One this week on the New Zealand charts…
Topping New Zealand charts on 27 September 1968 was Allison Durbin’s “I Have Loved Me a Man”. Written by Janice Weaver and initially recorded by New York Jazz singer Morgana King, “I Have Loved Me a Man” was the first of five charting singles in New Zealand for Durbin. Despite being born in Auckland, New Zealand, Durbin won Australia’s award for Best Female Artist for three consecutive years from 1969 to 1971. It wasn’t the first or last time Australia has claimed one of ours as their own!