Today in rock history: on this date in 1980, notorious punk rock wild man Darby Crash died as a result of a heroin overdose. As lead singer of trailblazing Los Angeles punk band The Germs, Crash (born Jan Paul Beahm) built quite a reputation for being an unpredictable, wild frontman. As The Germs grew more infamous for its rowdy shows, the band started getting blacklisted and banned from many Los Angeles-area clubs and venues. The band put out one album during their tenure, the groundbreaking GI (which stood for “Germs Incognito,” a pseudonym the band would sometimes go by in order to get gigs after being banned from clubs) which came out in late 1979 and was produced by Joan Jett. A true original, Crash was only 22 at the time of his death but he clearly broke down a lot of doors for west coast punk rock and influenced many key players from that vital scene.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1974, Jamaican recording artist Carl Douglas scored one of the biggest and most successful "one-hit wonder" songs of all-time. “Kung Fu Fighting,” a song originally scheduled to serve as the B-side of a single for another intended release went on to sell millions upon millions of copies all around the world and topped singles charts in just about every country that charts record sales. On this date, the song began the first of a two-week run at the No. 1 spot on U.S. Billboard charts; a feat it also duplicated on the publication’s soul charts as well. The song, intended to capitalize on the martial arts film craze of the day was a slow seller at first but constant rotation in dance clubs helped make it a successful seller in no time. Recorded in only 10 minutes and in only two takes, this song which was originally thought of as just a throwaway number, helped kick start the disco movement and remains a recognizable and well-known song to this day.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1949, idiosyncratic and brilliant singer and songwriter Tom Waits was born in Pomona, California. Inspired by beat poets and Bob Dylan, Waits’ unique, unmistakable voice, his humor and his razor sharp lyricism have made him one of the most revered and remarkable artists of the rock era. From his 1973 debut album Closing Time right up until the present day, Waits has created and released some of the most acclaimed and exceptional albums of the last forty years. An artist whose songs have been covered by acts as diverse as The Eagles, The Ramones and Rod Stewart, Waits also doubles as a movie actor who boasts a pretty impressive filmography to his credit as well.
Today in rock history: on this date in 1985, Sun City an album credited to the Artists United Against Apartheid was released. Assembled by long time Bruce Springsteen sidekick and band member Steven Van Zandt, the album was created to bring awareness to the ongoing segregation problem that was prevalent in South Africa. The album featured the single “Sun City,” which was performed by an all-star cast of musicians including Lou Reed, Jackson Browne, The Fat Boys, Hall and Oates, Jimmy Cliff, Bonnie Raitt and Run DMC to name a few. The single and the album brought to light the racial injustices that were still going on in that part of the world where concerts and performances were still only open to white audiences as late as the mid-1980s. The album was also relevant in that it included the debut of “Silver and Gold,” a song penned and performed by U2’s Bono with some help from Rolling Stones members Ron Wood and Keith Richards. Apartheid, the system of segregation in South Africa, was abolished in 1991 and some of the credit for exposing this injustice and bringing it to a worldwide platform goes to this bold project Van Zandt organized.