Rock Star Birthdays – March
It’s unusual to have two members of the same band with their birthdays in one month, but March has two birthdays from one of the most iconic and influential bands of the 1960s – The Velvet Underground, but we start in date order with…
ROGER DALTREY – 1ST MARCH 1944
To someone of My Generation, The Who were the band we grew up with. Crombie coats, mohair suits, Lambretta scooters and weekends on the beach in Brighton, for us The Who were the Mod band par excellence – the Faces before The Small Faces – and they went on to influence artistes from Led Zeppelin to The Clash. Bono of U2 said, “More than any other band, The Who are our role models.”
After expulsion from London’s Acton County Grammar School in 1963, Daltrey formed a band called The Detours and in the next two years the basis of The Who was formed – initially with Daltry on lead guitar and Townshend on rhythm guitar. By 1965, the extraordinary Keith Moon had joined and with Daltrey firmly on vocals and Townshend now on lead guitar The Who were ready to rock. After their first tour of America, the band presented the full-length rock opus Tommy, which shattered barriers and established The Who as a major artistic force in the world of music. Daltrey released his first solo album in 1973, and followed that with a number of solo chart successes. He also established a stage and (somewhat offbeat) film career after starring in the movie of Tommy (1975). He pursued films more steadily after the death of Keith Moon at the age of 32 in 1978, and turned to production with the drama McVicar (1980).
LOU REED – 2ND MARCH 1942
Born Lewis Allen Reed, Lou Reed co-founded and wrote many of the songs for the New York rock group The Velvet Underground (1965-70), the influential band which recorded such cult favorites as “Heroin,”, “Sweet Jane” and “Sister Ray.” The Velvet Underground, at first associated with Andy Warhol and the singer Nico, was never a huge popular success, but it has been credited with influencing a generation of punk and post-punk rockers in the 1970s and ’80s. Reed’s solo hits from the ’70s include “Walk On The Wild Side” and “Street Hassle,” as well as re-vamped versions of several of his Velvet Underground songs. By the end of the 1990s, Reed was an elder statesman of rock and roll, a mature songwriter with a reputation for thoughtful urban ballads. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
JOHN CALE – 9TH MARCH 1942
John Cale was born and grew up in Garnant, a mining village on the edge of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales. He spoke no English until he was seven and was, therefore, unable to communicate with his English father, a miner. His musical talent was immense and after Goldsmith’s College in London he gained a scholarship to the Tanglewood Music Centre in Massachusetts with famed American composer Aaron Copland. Unhappy with the restrictions on his work he moved to New York where he met not just Lou Reed (they shared a flat, food and needles), but Andy Warhol. Warhol taught Cale that “the tools of art are anything you can put your hand on”. And when he and Reed formed the Velvet Underground, Cale, nominally the band’s bassist, put his hands on assorted instruments to great effect. The iconic viola drone on “Venus in Furs” is his work, as is the distorted organ on the 17-minute “Sister Ray”.
ELTON JOHN – 25TH MARCH 1947
Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight he took on the name “Elton John”, in homage to saxophonist Elton Dean and blues singer, Long John Baldry. Most of his greatest hits – he had a top 40 single every year from 1970 to 1996 – were written with lyricist Bernie Taupin and although he is probably best known for the re-write of his “Candle in the Wind” for the funeral of Princess Diana, his 1969 “Your Song” was described as a near perfect pop song and between 1972-75 he had seven consecutive albums reach Number 1 in the charts. Of the six Elton John albums to make the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in Rolling Stone in 2003, all are from this period, with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road ranked highest at number 91; similarly, the three Elton John albums given five stars by Allmusic (Tumbleweed Connection, Honky Château, and Captain Fantastic) are all from this period too.
ERIC CLAPTON 30TH MARCH 1945
Born Eric Patrick Clapp in Surrey, he was raised by his grandparents Rose and Jack Clapp when his natural mother could not face bringing up an illegitimate child at the age of 16. He received a £14 acoustic guitar for his fourteenth birthday, then proceeded to copy the great blues guitarists note for note.
The rest is not history, but legend…
• There was Roosters, a local R&B group that included Tom McGuinness, a future member of Manfred Mann, and now part of the Blues Band.
• Clapton and McGuinness left to join Casey Jones And The Engineers.
• Then the beginning of the glory with the Yardbirds, an aspiring R&B band, who needed a replacement for their guitarist and the first of the nicknames from the crowd at the Crawdaddy club in Richmond – Slowhand.
• Then the perfect band – John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, one of Britain’s top blues bands and the second nickname – God!
• Next came the Powerhouse with Manfred Mann’s Paul Jones, Spencer Davies’ Steve Winwood and Pete York and Graham Bond’s Jack Bruce. They recorded three tracks – “Crossroads”, “I Want To Know” and “Steppin’ Out
• And this led directly to superstardom with the formation of Cream in 1966 where Graham Bond’s drummer Ginger Baker joined Clapton and Bruce.
And so on and on from strength to occasional weakness and yet more strength with Delaney and Bonney, Derek and the Dominoes and then again under his own name discovering his voice again and rediscovering his guitar. Clapton has already earned the title as the greatest white blues guitarist of our time, but at the present time he seems to be working on his voice and his songwriting.
He has contributed to numerous artists’ albums over many years, including John Martyn, Phil Collins, Duane Allman, Marc Benno, Gary Brooker, Joe Cocker, Roger Daltrey, Jesse Davis, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Rick Danko, Champion Jack Dupree, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Freddie King, Alexis Korner, Ronnie Laine, Jackie Lomax, Christine McVie, the Mothers Of Invention, the Plastic Ono Band, Otis Spann, Vivian Stanshall, Stephen Stills, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, Doris Troy, Roger Waters and many, many more.