Today in Music History (March 20)

1969 John Lennon marries Yoko Ono at the British Consulate Office in Gibraltar. Lennon details this event--and his and Ono's subsequent bed-in--on The Beatles' "The Ballad of John and Yoko".

1973 - Slade hit No.1 on the UK singles chart with "Cum On Feel The Noize", the group's fourth UK No.1.

1977 -T Rex play their final ever gig.

1982 - Joan Jett And The Blackhearts begin their seven week run at the No.1 spot on the US singles chart with "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", a No.4 hit in the UK. The song was written and originally performed by The Arrows.

1991 - Michael Jackson signs a $1 billion contract with Sony, the richest deal in recording history.

Today's birthdays include...producer/dub icon Lee "Scratch" Perry (81); guitar great Jimmie Vaughan of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan (68); and Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom (56).


Today in Music History (March 16)

1948 - Billie Holiday is released from prison early because of good behavior.

1974 - During a US tour Elvis Presley plays the first of four nights at the Midsouth Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee. He hadn't played his hometown in over a decade.

1977 - After being with the label for just six days the Sex Pistols were dropped from A&M. 25,000 copies of "God Save The Queen" were pressed and the band made £75,000 ($127,500) from the deal.

1992 - During a Metallica gig at Orlando Arena fans dangled an usher by his ankles from the balcony as trouble broke out at the concert. The band were charged $38,000 for repairs and cleaning after the audience trashed the building.

2010 - A rare Led Zeppelin recording from the group's 1971 gig at St Matthew's Baths Hall in Ipswich, England was unearthed at a flea market. The bootleg copy of the audio from the group's gig on November 16th 1971 was picked up for just "two or three pounds" by music fan Vic Kemp.

Today's Birthdays include...Heart guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Nancy Wilson (63); Public Enemy's own Flavor Flav (58); singer/songwriter Tracy Bonham (50); and Van Halen bassist Wolfgang Van Halen (26).

What We're Listening To...

Field Music is a British band that has been around for over a decade now. Tones on Town is our fave of theirs.

• Of the two brothers in Field Music (both are multi-instrumentalists) one records on his own as School of Language. The album Sea from Shore is in the same vein as Field Music but a tad less polished, in a good way.

The Holy Fuck are Canadian dudes whose music can probably best be described as instrumental electronica played with (analog) instruments. Latin is very cool. "Red Lights", "Latin America" and "Lucky" are our fave tracks.

• Ex-Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes' Matador is one of the best records we've heard in a while. Probably better than anything his old band ever did.

Martin Courtney is from a Brooklyn via NJ band you may have heard of called Real Estate. His solo record Many Moons is mellow, singer/songwriter fare but lively, with some breezy tunes.


Paupers, Pirates and Pop Stars

A Story of Obsession and Invention
Stephen Witt
[Penguin - 2015]

Witt chronicles the invention of the mp3, the widespread music piracy it made possible, and the response from both the music industry and law enforcement to these developments. Interestingly, Witt’s portrait of the music pirates, for the most part, falls into either trying-to-be-cool (as in the infamous Rabid Neurosis group that disseminated thousands of albums over its decade run) or the altruistic but legally na├»ve (ex: Oink’s Pink Palace, which counted NiN’s Trent Reznor among its members) yet fails to achieve sympathy for any of them. (In case you're wondering, Napster is barely mentioned, which makes complete sense within the context of Witt's narrative.)

The music business is ostensibly represented by Doug Morris, one of the most colorful and successful executives the industry has ever known. Morris’ rise depicts how the alternately greedy, embarrassed and ultimately successful in its own way music business still manages to exert an imposing influence despite a decimated marketplace (100+ million CDs were sold in 2016, down from 500+ million a decade prior).

How Music Got Free is an informative and, at times, a compelling read; one whose best attributes, arguably, are depicting how across-the-board greed and stupidity does not affect everyone equally, regardless of intent or milieu; and how the battles for copyrights and preservation of intellectual properties in this seismic market and paradigm shift (streaming services are the number one method of consuming music these days) left artists to suffer the financial consequences. As one of the top former pirates himself responds, when asked about his listening habits these days, "I have a Spotify account like everybody else."