Hard Rock | Musings On Music History: The Births Of An Idol, A Divine Miss, and The Prince Of Darkness

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11.30: The rebel yelled for the first time today in 1955. Billy Idol took his first steps toward white weddings, Mony, eyes without faces, and rockin' cradles of love. Born William Michael Albert Broad, Idol supposedly gained his nickname during his school days, due to his idle ways. Joining a handful of bands in the '70s as a guitar player, including an early incarnation of Siouxsie and The Banshees and a punk band called Chelsea, Idol moved into the lead singer position with his next band, Generation X. Lasting five years and three proper albums, Generation X tried to remain true to its punk origins, while attempting to pursue more of a rock sound. Tensions boiled over between Idol and other band members due to this dichotomy, however, leading to the departure of the guitar player and the drummer. Pounding it out for one more album, which included an early version of Idol's first solo hit, "Dancing With Myself," Generation X finally called it quits in 1981. Which, of course, allowed Billy to pursue a solo career full of massive rock hits, ubiquitous early '80s videos, and, the cherry on the sundae, a cameo in The Wedding Singer. Man, Billy's got the life.

12.01: The Divine Miss M, Bette Midler, the wind beneath our wings, was born on this day in 1945. Though the kids today (fists shaking in front of our grumpy faces, scowls etched upon our elder brows) may only know Midler for her schmaltzy, monstrous hit song from Beaches or her now-intermittent acting, we know her as a monumentally talented performer, who's been doing it well for many, many years. Midler got her big break at Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse in NYC, in the early '70s. Midler's one of two megastar artists, of whom we can think offhand, to get their start there. Her piano accompaniment came from a young musician and producer by the name of Barry Manilow, who would, as you may or may not know, rule the adult contemporary airwaves for a good portion of the '70s. Miss M moved from the bathhouse scene to the mainstream to the movie screen with ease, releasing her debut album, The Divine Miss M, in 1972 to commercial and critical acclaim, winning a Grammy for Best Newcomer the following year, and earning an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of a talented, yet doomed, singer in The Rose (based loosely on the life of Janis Joplin) in 1979. Divine, indeed. We want to thank Midler's parents for their horizontal mambo nine months prior to her birth and for bringing a great talent into the world, that one song mentioned previously, which we shall not name, notwithstanding.

12.01: On this day in 1999, indie rock pioneers Pavement announced their retirement. Formed in 1989 by Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg as an exercise in studio production, the band eventually became a real band by 1991. That is, they added a drummer and bassist and played live shows to actual live people. Their first two albums, Slanted & Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, considered and revered by many as masterpieces of indie rock, flirted with the mainstream, but Pavement's path would not take it into the everyman's CD collection. Which, it turns out, was fine with both the band and their fans, alike, preserving their reputation and their sound forever. Pavement released five albums in their decade-long life, but their influence has reached across the decade since, as well, inspiring musicians and bands with their lo-fi garage sound, their distinctive voice, and their overall awesomeness.

12.02: Gilby Clarke joined Guns N’ Roses on this day in 1991, replacing founding member and original guitarist Izzy Stradlin, who'd left suddenly after a show in Germany, citing Axl's erratic behavior and Slash, Matt Sorum, and Duff McKagan's drug use (Izzy'd recently found sobriety) as the main reasons for his departure. Long way of saying that Gilby Clarke took control of Guns' rhythm, along with Sorum, and lasted all of three years, an eternity in Guns N' Roses universe. Izzy's departure came on the heels of original drummer Steven Adler's firing and led the way for the rest of the band, except for Axl, of course, to eventually take off. Guns N' Roses lives on in name, but the spirit indelibly existed for only a short time, from 1986 to 1993. R.I.P. Guns N' Roses.

12.03: This day, 1948, the Prince of Darkness (no, not that Prince of Darkness) joined the world. Ozzy Osbourne, nee John Michael Osbourne, grew up in the working class neighborhood of Aston in Birmingham, England. Along with schoolmate Tony Iommi, Osbourne formed the band that would eventually become the progenitors of heavy metal, the greatest heavy-blues band (yes, you heard us, heavy blues) in the world, Black Sabbath. Informed by their roots, their city, and their need to differentiate themselves from all the gooey, dirty-hippy psychedelic rock of the era, Sabbath brought something new to the table, something that critics hated, but that people connected with immediately. They sounded like nothing that'd come before them. There've been other bands credited with being the birth of metal, but Sabbath, in our humble opinion, is heavy metal, is the one band that brought it all together, that included heavy riffs with eerie vocals with lugubrious rhythm with lyrics darker than Armageddon. In Sabbath's albums you hear every metal band that came after them, and, conversely, in every metal band that’s come after them, you hear Sabbath. Even if a metal band's not influenced by Sabbath (which, to us, doesn't compute, but, we guess, could happen), they've been influenced by a band that was dedicated to the amazing darkness that Ozzy, Tony, Geezer, and Bill thrust upon the world. What a different world this would be without the birth of Ozzy Osbourne, The Godfather of Metal, the Biter Of Heads, the writer of suicide-inducing Satanic songs, reality show star, monger of cell phones. Ozzy's true genius lies in his simply being himself, in his innate ability to be creepy and lovable at the same time. We love Ozzy, in all his glory and in all his dangerous depths. Happy birthday, Ozzy! You absolutely rock.

12.04: This day in 1993 claimed the life of one of the greatest composers in history, the one and only Frank Zappa. Some, namely those who don't know his works, might scratch their collective, uneducated heads at the "composer" categorization, but we know differently. Only 52 years old at the time of his death (from prostate cancer), Zappa released more than 60(!) albums in his life, most with his band, Mothers of Invention. A student of contemporary classical composers, such as Varése and Stravinsky, and the popular music he grew up on, such as doo-wop and early rock 'n' roll, Zappa turned his overarching love of all music into something else entirely, a beautiful mash-up of things he loved, presented in complex and challenging styles. We could go on for thousands of words, expounding upon the virtues of exploring Zappa's work, but we shan't. We'll just say check him out for yourself. Pick an album, any album, and listen.

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