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12 Days of Christmas Past

Classic Rock Holiday History


12 Days of Christmas Past

The Band's final performance was in late November 1976. (©2001 MGM Studios Inc.)

11th Day of Christmas Past

The year of America’s Bicentennial celebration was also the year that the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty is constitutional, the year that Jimmy Carter of Georgia became the first candidate from the deep South to be elected President since the Civil War, and the year that the "Son of Sam" began a yearlong murder spree that terrorized New York City.

Big Ones

On Christmas Day 1976, the EaglesHotel California went to #1 on the U.S. album chart. It would remain on the chart for 107 weeks.

Chicago’s only #1 single in Britain, “If You Leave Me Now” reaches the top spot on the chart.

The Song Remains the Same becomes Led Zeppelin’s 7th #1 album in the U.K. It will reach #2 in the U.S. A concert documentary of the same name debuts in New York City.

Queen releases its second consecutive album bearing the name of a Marx Brothers movie. On December 18, A Day At the Races ships gold, and eventually goes platinum. It reaches #5 in the U.S.

Rod Stewart’s single “Tonight’s the Night” goes to #1 in the U.S. and stays there for eight weeks. It only makes it to #5 in Britain, where many radio stations banned it because it was about the seduction of a virgin.

Last Waltzes

THE rock event of the holiday season was the final performance of The Band at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom. Among the featured guests are Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond and Neil Young. A three-record set and a Martin Scorcese documentary follow.

Tommy Bolin, who had played guitar for Deep Purple, James Gang, and Zepher died of a heroin overdose at age 25.

Heart disease and ulcers claim 42 year old blues guitarist Freddie King, cited by Eric Clapton as one of his major influences.

Live Debuts

In December 1976, Billy Idol’s Generation X performs live for the first time at the Central College of Art in London.

Linda Ronstadt makes her U.K. debut, at the Birmingham Odeon.

Stormy Holidays

If you had suggested in December 1976 that Sex Pistols would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 30 years later, you would have contributed to a storm of controversy that surrounded the release of the band’s debut single, “Anarchy In the UK” from their impending debut album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. The song glorified groups that advocated violence against the government. In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas:
  • At EMI records, workers refuse to package the single for shipment.

  • In Lancaster Poly, England the town council cancels a scheduled Sex Pistols concert saying, “We don’t want that sort of filth in the town limits.”

  • In its review of the single, the weekly music magazine NME says, “Johnny Rotten sings flat, the song is laughably naïve, and the overall feeling is of a third-rate Who imitation.”

  • On a London TV show, the host goads the band to “say something outrageous.” Guitarist Steve Jones obliges with a brief but descriptive retort to the interviewer, “You dirty bastard … you dirty f***er … what a f***ing rotter!”

  • The mother of drummer Paul Cook tells the London Daily Mail that her son is no longer welcome at home, and that she is planning to convert his bedroom into a dining room.

Watch Out For the Big Pig

Londoners, stiff though their upper lips may be, are visibly surprised to see a 40-foot pig floating above the city. This particular pig was of the inflatable variety, and had just been photographed for the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals album when it broke loose from its moorings. Apparently the worst that happened was that air traffic controllers had to issue a warning to pilots to watch out for the big pig.

Best of the Best

“The Hits” list at KILT Radio in Houston for the week of December 29 included the Top 100 Songs of 1976.

1976 Holiday Season Releases

ABBA – Arrival
Jackson Browne – The Pretender
Electric Light Orchestra – A New World Record
Kansas – Leftoverture
Kiss – Rock and Roll Over
Lynyrd SkynyrdOne More From the Road
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Night Moves

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