The Second Weekend in August, 1969 ... Part One

Posted by Whitmore, August 10, 2009 11:38am | Post a Comment
I wonder if anything significant about this past weekend will be remembered in 40 years time, other then Sonia Sotomayor being sworn in as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice and maybe Tiger Woods’ unbelievable play at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. This weekend back in 1969 is definitely remembered for a variety of odd and groovy and trivial and horrifying reasons.
In the summer of 1969 I was living carefree at 4200 Franklin Avenue in Los Angeles near Griffith Park, with my parents, grandmother, two sisters, and of course our Siamese cat Pandora and a Great Dane named Dijo who would eventually, later in the year, attack me without provocation. She was a nutty and twisted beast. And typical of August in LA, it was annoyingly hot and smoggy. If you didn’t live here back then you just don’t know smog-- lung scorching air under a sky colored golden toasty brown to the apex. Now that’s pollution! This was also the first summer I really started noticing music. I culled some change from my mom’s purse to buy my first single, which also happened to be #1 on the Billboard charts this weekend in 1969, and would be for six consecutive weeks -- "In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)" by Zager and Evans. In the UK the #1 song was "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones, which has noticeably survived the tastes of time better then “2525.” The #1 album in the US was the self-titled second album by Blood, Sweat & Tears. Earlier in the year in March it was briefly at the top of the charts, but with three successive Top 5 singles, it returned once again to the number one position. In 1970 it would win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.  
Also this weekend 40 years ago, the Beatles posed for one of their most iconic images-- the Abbey Road album cover shot of the George, Paul, Ringo and John at the zebra crossing on Abbey Road. They were mostly done working on their newest album and, having applied the last overdubs that morning to the longest track, "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," photographer Iain Macmillan was given ten minutes to get the cover photo done. At 11:35 am on Friday, August 8, 1969, the image was shot. Of course, when the album was released in September, the cover art only fueled the rumors and speculation that Paul McCartney had indeed died in a car crash in 1966 and all the symbolic references only confirmed the sad fact.

The cover image was said to represent Paul’s funeral procession, with a bare-foot Paul as the corpse and out of step, while the white Volkswagen parked near the walkway with the license plate reading 28 IF meant Paul’s age if he had lived. Of course, McCartney was 27 and the VW Beetle belonged to a neighbor who lived across the street from the studio. After the album came out, the license plate would be swiped several times. Later, in 1986, the VW was sold at an auction for $23,000 and is currently on display at the Volkswagen Museum in Wolfsburg, Germany. By the way, to completely geek out on useless information, the man standing in the background on the right side is Paul Cole (1911- 2008), an American tourist completely unaware of being photographed until he saw the album several months later.
Meanwhile, out here on the west coast, the heir apparent to the Beatles as the greatest band in the land, Led Zeppelin, was touring all over Southern California. On the 8th they played in San Bernardino at the Swing Auditorium. Jethro Tull was the tour's main support act, but a local band, The Caretakers, had the opportunity to open the show. Zeppelin’s set list included: "Train Kept a Rollin'," "I Can't Quit You Baby," "Gotta Keep Moving," "Dazed and Confused," "White Summer / Black Mountainside," "You Shook Me," "How Many More Times" and a medley which included "Lemon Song," "Schooldays," "Hideaway," and "Hail Hail Rock 'N' Roll." The next night Led Zeppelin played at the Anaheim Convention Center and on Sunday they played down in San Diego at the Sports Arena.
In Las Vegas at the International Hotel, Elvis Presley was playing two shows a night all weekend long, the dinner show at 8:15 and the late show at midnight.
On the east coast, performers at the annual Schaefer Music Festival in New York’s Central Park at the Wollman Skating Rink included Gordon Lightfoot with Tom Paxton on Friday night and Herbie Mann on Saturday with Roy Ayers and the brilliant and inimitable guitar genius Sonny Sharrock, who always claimed he was "a horn player with a really fucked up axe."
Also in Manhattan, Zorba closed at the Imperial Theater after 305 performances.
On television that weekend in 1969, guests on the David Frost Show included actor James Mason, poet Allen Ginsberg, artist Peter Max and The Beach Boys. On Saturday night, The Johnny Cash Show from The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, and one of the most popular shows on the air, had comedian Soupy Sales along with singers Diana Trask, Pat Boone and Tom T. Hall.
On the cover of the August 8th issue of Life Magazine was the classic photograph of the American flag planted on moon; the moon landing had just occurred two weeks earlier. Articles included “Down to the Moon...And the Giant Step” and “A GI's Long Last Month in Vietnam.” 
The August 9th edition of Rolling Stone magazine, #39, featured a cover story of the Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, who died the previous month from what a coroner's report confirmed as "death by misadventure," noting his liver and heart were heavily enlarged by drug and alcohol abuse.
In the Sunday Times Magazine for August 10th, the cover and centerfold displayed the famous "mirror" photo of astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s space helmet; the accompanying article was entitled "From Blast-off to Splashdown."
More to come, the weekend is only getting started ...

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Brian Jones (1), Los Angeles (205), Led Zeppelin (29), Zager And Evans (1), Abbey Road (5), Beatles (103), 1960's (84), Buzz Aldrin (1), History (52), 1969 (5)