10 Fun Facts About the Beatles' Ed Sullivan Debut

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Holy crap, this happened 50 fucking years ago.
Fifty years ago this Sunday, the Beatles ushered in a new era in pop music and youth culture when they made their first live appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. While the four lads from Liverpool were still mostly unknown to Americans in 1964, they were already the most hyped rock and roll band in U.S. history by the time they arrived from England at New York's Kennedy Airport. More than 40 percent of U.S. televisions were tuned in to Ed Sullivan that night to see what the fuss was about.

Most of those who tuned in -- teenage girls, in particular -- never forgot what they saw. It was the nation's first glimpse of the most important band in rock and roll history. The Beatles had three singles and two albums on the U.S. charts at the time, with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" having sold a million copies in less than a month after it was leaked early to radio. But no one in the U.S. knew much of anything about them other than what they could learn from an album sleeve.

The Ed Sullivan Show would provide a formal introduction. The group had already rocketed to superstardom in England after an appearance on their homeland's Ed Sullivan equivalent, Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium. They'd even performed for the Queen. With "I Want to Hold Your Hand" topping the charts and all over radio, now it was America's turn.


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The Blasters at Continental Club, 1/24/2014

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Photo by Lynn A. Long
Unflappable, battle-hardened rock and rollers: The Blasters
The Blasters
Continental Club
January 24, 2013

With rare Houston performances by Barrence Whitfield and the Savages and hallowed SoCal roots gods the Blasters, the city has had a whopper-sized dose of old-time rock and roll in the past couple of weeks.

Phil Alvin and his hard-traveling cohorts -- drummer Bill Bateman, bassist John Bazz, and guitarist Keith Wyatt -- did a number on a full house at the Continental Club Friday night, tearing off rabid, blitzkreig versions of two dozen nuggets from one of the most storied catalogs in roots-rock.


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When Parrotheads Attack: Exile in Margaritaville

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Photo by Tony Nelson
Actual Parrotheads at last week's Jimmy Buffett show.
One night last week, I embarked upon a foolhardy and ill-fated mission to spend 24 hours straight converting myself into the biggest Jimmy Buffett fan in the Twin Cities metro area.

For the uninitiated, Jimmy Buffett is the undisputed champion of wearing Hawaiian shirts and celebrating drunk, bacchanalian behavior, and his tribe is known as the Parrotheads. For more on his musical exploits, read this review from St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center. As a pop-culture figure, he sits on a throne of golden calamari, and his Margaritaville brand produces clothing, frozen food, and alcoholic beverages.

As I knew stability would be needed, I recruited the help of my coworker, Grant Richardson -- a stable and happy-go-lucky character from the Minneapolis underground noise/punk/metal scene. A challenge of the mind, body, and spirit, I regretfully admit to the world that we were overtaken by margaritas, rum, cheeseburgers, and coconut shrimp. My esophagus still stings from heartburn, a cruel reminder of the madness induced by an overexposure of paradise.


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The Rice Hotel Speakeasy: Houston Music During Prohibition

Note: This is Part 2 in a series that timelines through bits of the first century of Houston's nightlife until about the start of what was found to be Houston's oldest running bar.

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Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Rice Hotel dining room
The Rice Hotel (now the Post Rice Lofts) is located where the first capital of the Republic of Texas once stood. The Rice Roof at the Rice Hotel was one of Houston's top dance clubs among local elite and whatnot for some time.

By the time Prohibition came about in the early 1920s, the Rice Roof was where much of Texas' elite supposedly kept their private stocks of alcohol in individual cabinets. The Rice Hotel Dining Room Orchestra played here as well as several jazz "territory bands." One such group was Peck's Bad Boys, an influential local group led by Houstonian John "Peck" Kelley. They never recorded, though they were said to be largely popular while remaining generally ahead of their time. They possibly played at the Rice Roof and at college nights at the Lamar Spanish Dining Room, too.

Prohibition-era nightclubbing in Houston was said to happen in speakeasies made out of houses located in the Neartown area along present-day Westheimer, better known today as Montrose.


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Negative Approach & the Casualties at Walters, 11/2/2013

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Photos by Nathan Smith
Negative Approach
Negative Approach, the Casualties, the Krum Bums
Walters Downtown
November 2, 2013

Now that virtually every hardcore band that ever pushed a van in the early '80s has reformed for a trek or three around the country, it's fair to say that Detroit's Negative Approach stands out as one of the best. A lot of their peers are coasting, playing old favorites to old fans. But NA's performances still crackle with malice, and they still inspire wicked pits.

Their trip to Warehouse Live with OFF! last September was one of the gnarliest shows of the year, so I was especially interested in seeing what they could do with a headliner's slot. All the better that they were bringing along the Casualties, the long-running NYC street-punk band that always draws a crowd dressed to kill.

When I got to Walters, the floor was already crowded with colorful mohicans, liberty spikes and tattoo ink for the Krum Bums, the Austin punks well-known around these parts for their silly hair and shout-alongs. A big, energetic mosh pit roiled up front as the band egged everyone on with their metallic, twin leads.


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Social Media Summons the Ghost of Gilley's at Urban Cowboy Reunion

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Photos courtesy of John Schubert
A patron rides El Toro at Gilley's, late '70s
In the late '70s, New York City had Studio 54. Pasadena, Texas, had Gilley's. The massive honky-tonk nightclub, which was the real star of the 1980 John Travolta flick Urban Cowboy, was an entertainment mecca in the booming chemical-plant town -- a place where plant workers could catch big-name country music acts, dance with somebody special or just get completely shithoused with friends after work.

It's safe to say that the joint made an impression. More than 30 years after Urban Cowboy's premiere and more than 20 since Gilley's was destroyed by a suspicious fire, hundreds of the club's old regulars -- now scattered to the wind -- are getting together this weekend at Pasadena's Texas Saloon for an Urban Cowboy reunion to catch up, reminisce and sip a few longnecks.

It's the third time in as many years that the now-annual reunion will take place, bringing together ex-Gilley's staff, performers, plant workers and Urban Cowboy extras from near and far. Deer Park resident John Schubert unwittingly kick-started the whole thing back in 2011 when he joined Facebook and began uploading a few old photos he took back when Gilley's was one of the biggest, hottest nightclubs on the planet.


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Black Flag at Walters, 8/26/2013

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Photos by Jim Bricker.
Black Flag and Good for You
Walters Downtown
August 26, 2013

News that hardcore punk legends Black Flag were heading through Walters on their current tour of the U.S. and Australia inspired no small amount of excitement around these parts. After all, the band hasn't played Houston (or much of anywhere, really) since at least the mid-'80s. But it inspired a lot of questions, too.

Namely, why now? Was guitarist Greg Ginn getting the band back together (or some new-fangled version of it, anyway) just to show up Keith Morris' competing troupe, FLAG? Where, exactly, did he dig up long-lost singer Ron Reyes, and who were the new guys in the rhythm section? Were they in any condition to do proper justice to the angst-riddled anthems that once caused audiences to degenerate into violent mayhem?

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people wanted to see those questions answered live and in person on Monday night. Weeknight or no, Walters was as crowded as it's perhaps ever been, with several generations of punkers showing up ready to see if this new Black Flag was worthy of name.

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Black Flag and the Five Most Insulting Punk 'Reunions' of All Time

Categories: Old People

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This is what Black Flag looks like in 2013.
On Monday, a band calling itself Black Flag is going to set up and play some tunes at Walters Downtown. For some of us, this is a pretty big deal. If you were too young or two fucked-up to remember the legendary L.A. punks' storied early-'80s heyday, this gig likely represents your most legitimate shot in 30 years at catching the band that launched 1,000 tattoos.

While this group has got the name and the founder -- the incendiary, priggish Greg Ginn -- in place, they're not the only loose nuts banging out Black Flag's damaged anthems on tour these days. Another group of SST expatriates calling itself FLAG is also traveling the country, offering up its own version of punk nostalgia. After three decades of nothing, why are we now getting not one, but two Black Flag reunions?

Put simply, it's because a lot of people are ready and willing to trade fistfuls of cash to see them again.


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Songwriting Great Eric Taylor: "Houston Is Still a Real Music Town"

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Photos courtesy of Eric Taylor
Rocks Off hadn't seen Eric Taylor, once a contemporary of Townes Van Zandt, since his last Houston date at 14 Pews in January 2012. But with the release party for Taylor's latest CD, Studio 10, this Sunday at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, we caught up with the veteran Texas singer-songwriter behind "Shoeshine Boy," "Whooping Crane" and Nanci Griffith's "Dollar Matinee" (among many others), from the road.


Rocks Off: I think we have something in common in that Facebook seems to make us both angry. I'm not sure I ever enjoy that Web site. Do you?

Eric Taylor: The Facebook thing is a double-edged sword. Perhaps a necessary evil for some. There are times that it seems a conduit for race-baiting bigots, and there are times it becomes a way for pictures to be shown of little kitties or something someone ate for lunch.

It is supposed to be social networking, and if you can't be somewhat angry about that, then you're not breathing. That being said, it's good to talk to some of my friends.

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Well, It's Official: Ozzy Osbourne Can't Sing Anymore

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Photos by Groovehouse
Thursday night at the Woodlands was the first night of the reunited Black Sabbath's world tour, and to say that anticipation was running high would be underselling it a bit. The band is fresh off the release of its first new album together in 35 years, 13, which went straight to No. 1. Clearly, fans were ready for another go-round with the godfathers of metal.

But to add to the intrigue, Tony Iommi, Black Sabbath's legendary guitarist, has been battling lymphoma for the better part of a year now. Iommi's not a young man. For perhaps the first time, his assumed immortality appears in doubt. Long history of retirement fake-outs aside, this could very well be Sabbath's final trek around the globe. Miss this tour, and you might not get another chance.


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