Editor’s note: Since October 6, 2012 (the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ debut single, “Love Me Do”) we’ve been on a half-century celebration cycle in which we are scheduled to relive every Beatles innovation, every release of the Beatles’ landmark career in real-time, right until the inevitable 50th anniversary of their breakup in 2020. But what other long-forgotten anniversaries are being overshadowed by the Fab Four? To answer that question, we present another installment in this series: “The 50th Anniversary of Something Else.”
I blame the media for the breakup of The Beatles.
Not Yoko. Not Linda. Not Allen Klein. Not heroin. Not money. Not Ringo’s desire to write songs. The media.
Anyone with third-grade reading comprehension could scan the chilly “self-interview” press release included with advance copies of Paul McCartney’s first solo album, McCartney (released April 20, 1970). It is as plain as day that he never actually says he was quitting the Beatles:
Q: “Is this album a rest away from the Beatles or the start of a solo career?”
McCartney: “Time will tell. Being a solo album means it’s ‘the start of a solo career’ and not being done with the Beatles means it’s just a rest. So it’s both.”
The following day, newspapers all over the world blasted, “Paul Is Quitting The Beatles!”
It’s akin to two schoolboys reluctant to fight until one onlooker, tired of seeing the pair dancing around each other, shoving them to the ground so the fists can start flying. Nice going, fake news. But other significant real news events took place in April 1970:
April 4 and 12, 1970: Janis Joplin briefly reunites with Big Brother and the Holding Company for two shows at the Fillmore and Winterland
Big Brother always got a bad rap for either being out of tune, playing too loud, or playing too stoned during their heyday. But try to find a San Francisco band in the late ’60s not guilty of all of the above. Once Clive Davis signed the group to Columbia, Joplin was suddenly surrounded by people trying to get her to ditch the band and go solo. To silence her critics, she formed a band populated with pro studio cats and horn dogs. Then, her critics complained that the new band sounded “too stiff.”
But Big Brother and Joplin sound unbeatable on these two shows, which slipped under the radar before she debuted the Full Tilt Boogie Band the next month and joined the 27 Club a few months after that. The Fillmore set on April 4 came about when promoter Bill Graham asked the band to fill in when Jethro Tull had canceled on short notice. Also of note is that on April 2, Joplin, an earlier proponent of tattooed ladies, got inked on her wrist and chest, the latter of which read, “One For The Boys.” Due to the timing, I’m inclined to think Big Brother are the boys she was referring to.
April 4, 1970: Diana Ross issues her first solo single.
When you consider that seven of the last nine “Diana Ross and the Supremes” singles were actually Diana and the Motown third-tier girl group The Andantes or session singers, this first “solo” single is a bit of a misnomer. Whatever hype was accorded to Ross the Boss’ invading your personal space anthem “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” it only reached number 20, 10 chart positions behind the first post-Diana Ross Supremes single, “Up the Ladder to the Roof.” So much for top billing.
April 10, 1970: Emerson, Lake and Palmer form
On the same day that The Daily Mirror forced Macca to quit The Beatles or else risk looking indecisive, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake must’ve seen the headlines and thought that with the Fab Four out of the way, now was their chance to change the face of pop music again by joining forces with Carl Palmer. No, they did not. But to have been a fly on the gong when Emerson told the other two, “I want to stab my Hammond B3 with daggers,” and they retorted, “Take a number, pal.” No, they did not.
April 10, 1970: Jim Morrison almost exposes himself again
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Jim Morrison was awaiting trial for “lewd and lascivious behavior” during a Miami concert the year before. Then, he decided that he wanted to give his willy some Boston exposure. He asked if the audience wanted to see something that rhymes with “sock.” But fearing that the audience might expect him to produce a cuckoo clock, a shamrock, a butcher’s smock, or a bust of Johann Sebastian Bach, he laid out all his lascivious cards on the table by screaming, “Would you like to see my genitals?” With the power in Boston Arena already switched off, keyboardist Ray Manzarek dragged a drunk Morrison off the stage. This may seem like the pathetic yelps from a more unenlightened time, but hey, at least the Lizard King asked first.
April 11, 1970: Peter Green announces he’s leaving Fleetwood Mac
Before Fleetwood Mac became a musical chameleon with their ever-changing lineups, it was hard to imagine the band carrying on without founding member and blues guitar god Peter Green. The Green Manalishi himself announced that he was leaving the group to devote himself to “what God would have me do.” When you throw LSD and schizophrenia in the mix, Green carried out such saintly duties as sleeping in train stations and pointing a shotgun at Fleetwood Mac’s accountant’s head to get him to stop sending him royalty checks.
April 14, 1970: Mike Nesmith leaves the Monkees
The Monkees phenomenon provided a condensed version of Beatlemania with a faster rise and a more precipitous fall, the kind of fall the individual Beatles wouldn’t feel until well into their solo careers. Such was the distaste for their brand that Nesmith’s first three solo singles with The First National Band charted significantly higher than the last three Monkees singles, two of which were just Nesmith with Nashville session men. Nesmith’s last official act as a Monkee on this day was appearing in a Kool-Aid commercial. As the anthropomorphized sweaty pitcher himself might have exclaimed (although a lot more world wearily), “Oh yeah!”
April 24, 1970: Grace Slick attempts to dose Tricky Dick
White Rabbit in the White House? It almost happened on this day. Because Slick, like President Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia, was an alumnus of Finch College. She received an invitation for a tea party at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., addressed to her maiden name, Grace Wing. A plan was hatched in Slick’s mind that Tricia’s dad needed to be dosed with 600 micrograms of LSD and that radical leftist Abbie Hoffman would be a suitable escort. When Hoffman was recognized and barred entry (since it was after all an “all-ladies event”), Slick decided to abort the mission. Given Nixon’s Vietnam strategy in ascendence, maybe introducing acid logic where “logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead,” maybe it was for the best.
April 29, 1970: Allman Brothers road manager kills a club owner over $500
When club owner Angelo Aliotta paid the band only half of their contracted $1,000 because they started late, road manager Twiggs Lyndon Jr. returned to the club to settle up. A scuffle ensued, and Lyndon stabbed Aliotta to death with a 10-inch fishing knife he brought along for persuasive purposes. Lyndon’s lawyer used the temporary insanity defense. To prove that working for the Allman Brothers would drive one to manslaughter, a dope-addled Berry Oakley took the stand. When Oakley admitted under oath that he hooved on a doobie pretty much all the time, Lyndon was acquitted. He would find employment working for the Dixie Dregs until 1979 when he died in a parachuting accident.
April 30, 1970: James Brown issues his first record with Bootsy Collins, “Sex Machine”
Without this great meeting of the minds, we wouldn’t have a host of latter-day Brown hits like “Super Bad,” “Soul Power,” “Talking Loud and Saying Nothing,” and “The Grunt.” We also wouldn’t have had Parliament-Funkadelic, Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart,” star-shaped basses, and this incredible Nissin Noodles commercial that will make anyone’s day.