This Day In Classic Rock [Videos] 3/31

RCA Victor unveiled their project of the last 9 years, the 7-inch 45 RPM single today in 1949. Most people still bought single songs at that point, and RCA didn't feel all that much competition from Columbia, which had introduced the 33 1/3 RPM "Long-Playing" record the year before, but both formats sported much better fidelity and longer playing time than the 10-inch 78 RPM single that had been the standard. RCA's first record was Texarkana Baby by Eddy Arnold, which was pressed in green vinyl to signify that it was a country-and-western song as opposed to red for classical or yellow for children's music, but black vinyl was cheaper and soon all records would come that way until much later when the novelty of colored vinyl would make a comeback for collectors.

One of rock's greatest classics was released today in 1958 when Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode hit the stores. Chuck had changed the lyrics to make it more radio friendly: The poor colored boy who could play the guitar just like ringing a bell became a "country" boy, though there was no country in it. Rolling Stone magazine would later name it #1 of the 500 greatest guitar songs of all time, and it would be covered by everyone, from Buddy Holly, to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Aerosmith, The Sex Pistols, The Stray Cats, and Marty McFly in Back to The Future.

The Beatles were working on A Hard Day's Night today in 1964 when they recreated one of their many live TV performances on a movie sound-stage in front of an audience of paid extras as screaming fans, one of whom was 13 year old future Genesis drummer and later frontman Phil Collins.

Jimi Hendrix was playing The Astoria theater in London tonight in 1967 on the first night of a tour with The Walker Brothers, Cat Stevens, and Englebert Humperdinck, when at the finale of his show he whipped out a can of Ronsonol lighter fluid and set his Fender Stratocaster on fire for the first time. Jimi would burn quite a few more Strats (most notably at the Monterrey Pop Festival later that summer), but the charred remains of this one would sell at auction in 2008 to Microsoft co-founder and Hendrix fanatic Paul Allen for £280,000 ($467,000), and now sits in a glass case at the EMP museum here in Seattle.

Led Zeppelin released their 7th studio album Presence today in 1976. The album had been recorded in an astonishing 18 days, largely thanks to Jimmy Page working some 20 hours a day, and the fact that they had to be done in that time because the studio they'd booked was being given over to The Rolling Stones, who were about to start work on Black and Blue. But things weren't going so smoothly for Robert Plant, who was still recuperating from injuries suffered in a car crash on the Greek island of Rhodes, and sung all his vocal parts from a wheelchair. The album artwork was created by the London design firm Hipgnosis, most famous for their Pink Floyd album covers, and featured in various photographs a black obelisk referred to by all involved as "the object". Page later admitted it was a joke reference to the '68 Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that he thought it was quite amusing.

Def Leppard released their 5th studio album Adrenalize today in 1992. It was their first since the overdose death of guitarist and principal songwriter Steve Clark the year before. They'd replaced him already with former Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell who appeared in all the videos they made for the album even though he didn't play on it.

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were on their Unledded tour in Auburn Hills Michigan tonight in 1995 when a paying customer tried to kill Page with a knife because of "the Satanic music he was playing". Lucky for Page the man didn't make it past two security guards, but one of them wasn't so lucky when he got the business end of the nutter's knife, but he made a full recovery.

Rock and Roll Birthdays

Shirley Jones, singing actress and Danny Bonaduce's TV Mom from The Partridge Family is 86.

Tijuana Brass trumpeter and bandleader Herb Alpert is 85. He and business partner Jerry Moss founded A&M records in his garage in 1962.

Mott The Hoople and Bad Company guitarist Mick Ralphs is 76.

The Turtles guitarist Al Nichol is 72.

Focus organist, flutist, singer, and lead yodeler Thijs van Leer is 72.

AC/DC lead guitarist Angus Young is 65.

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