There is certain music lore that is common knowledge: Billy Joel went to Hicksville High School, Paul McCartney likes to spend his summers out in the Hamptons, Lou Reed grew up in Freeport.
But here are a few bits of our Island’s rock music history that many may not have known.
Bring these tidbits to your next Jones Beach tailgate and use them to distract that guy selling bootleg t-shirts while you plan your escape.
18. Frampton Comes to Town
On Aug.24, 1975, British rock star Peter Frampton recorded the live version of “Show Me the Way” that appears on the album Frampton Comes Alive! during a gig at the now-defunct Long Island Arena in Commack. The album went eight times platinum and yielded multiple hit singles that remain classic rock radio staples to this day. “Show Me the Way” charted at No. 6, making it the biggest among them. The most interesting part? Frampton wasn’t even headlining, he was one of two opening acts for blues-rock band Ten Years After.
17. Who Does That?
The Who played Long Island Arena a number of years before Mr. Frampton, but with decidedly less triumphant results. After their set, a herd of fans stormed their dressing room and began pilfering all of the trendy mod clothing they had hanging around, even going so far as to pluck the gold spangles from guitarist Pete Townshend’s matador suit while he was still wearing it.
16. The Stones in Montauk
In preparation for their 1975 American tour, the Rolling Stones hid out in Montauk, holding late-night rehearsals and disturbing the locals with their decadent lifestyles. During their stay, they gained the inspiration for their famous song “Memory Motel”. But it wasn’t at the Memory Motel where Mick and the boys spent their nights. It was at the Montauk Church Estate of pop artist Andy Warhol, which they rented for $5,000 a month.
15. Groovin’ on The Barge
New Jersey-based blue-eyed soul band The Rascals had a number of hit singles in the 1960s, including “Good Lovin”, “Groovin” and “People Got to Be Free”, which all went to No. 1 on the Billboard music charts. But in the summer of ’65, before they ever hit the charts, they were best known as the house band on The Barge, a floating nightclub on Shinnecock Bay in East Quogue.
14. Up In Smoke
The Vagrants, featuring Long Island Music Hall of Famer Leslie West of Mountain, spent that same summer down the road as the house band for The Castaway in Hampton Bays, but it wasn’t until they took a residency in Island Park’s The Action House in 1966 that things became list-worthy. The mob-connected Action House was paying The Vagrants an exorbitant $1,500-a-night fee for a grueling 28-day-a-month schedule. This led the garage rockers to get creative with their performances. They incorporated pyrotechnics into their act, having fireworks explode as one of their songs reached its peak. One night after a performance, however, a leftover explosive wound up torching the stage along with all of the band’s instruments. This somehow did not throw them off schedule; the booking agency had them equipped with new instruments and ready to play the very next day.
13. Groan of The Lizard King
The following year, The Doors came to The Action House for a two-night stint and brought with them all the rock & roll debauchery they are remembered so fondly for. Singer Jim Morrison reportedly commanded the bartender to procure 15 shots of Jack Daniel’s prior to taking the stage. He consumed them all. Sometime during the set, Morrison ordered up another 15 shots and put them away with ease. At this point the Lizard King began to show signs of heavy intoxication and, before being dragged off stage by his bandmates, he attempted to remove his clothes, a wild party trick that got him arrested at a Miami concert that same year. The following day was even uglier: the band had to remove Jim from the stage once more, this time after a prolonged period of groaning into the microphone that he had crammed into his mouth.
12. The House of The Jim Morrison Boogie
The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett is nationally known for its unique ability to attract some of music’s most legendary figures into its tiny 200 person main room. Rock luminaries such as Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Sting, Billy Joel, Jon Bon Jovi, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, David Crosby and countless others have all performed there. Things got particularly wild one night when Eric Burdon of the Animals was performing and the entire bar, spurred on by the owner himself, did the Jim Morrison Boogie and got totally naked. Not to be outperformed, Eric Burdon joined in on the festivities, turning “The House of the Rising Sun” into the Talkhouse of the falling skivvies.
11. Not Just A Learning Institution
SUNY Stony Brook University is one of Long Island’s best venues for higher learning. But it was once one of the best venues for great rock music as well. The list of bands that played on campus in the late ’60s and early ’70s is its own lesson in rock ‘n’ roll history. The Grateful Dead, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Santana, The Allman Brothers, Joni Mitchell, U2, even the godfather of rock himself, Chuck Berry, have all plugged in at the university at one time or another.
10. Jimi’s Double Premiere
The Jimi Hendrix Experience played their one and only gig at Stony Brook University on March 9, 1968. That same day their legendary front man made his debut on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine issue no. 7. This was the only time Hendrix would play on Long Island, but it wasn’t his last Rolling Stone cover, he’s had 16 to date.
9. New Name, Same Sound
Ever hear of The New Bohemians? If not, it’s probably because the Huntington-based ska band sold their name to Paul Simon’s wife, Edie Brickell, for $500 in 1988. Instead you know them as The Scofflaws. The newly branded third-wavers used the money to buy themselves some real instruments and equipment and it was upward from there. As for the new New Bohemians? That same year they went on to record “What I Am”, a one hit wonder that peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.
8. VU on LI
As previously mentioned, it is well known that legendary musician Lou Reed grew up in Freeport, but did you know that some of his Velvet Underground bandmates are also Long Islanders? Original guitarist Sterling Morrison grew up in East Meadow and drummer Mo Tucker was raised in Levittown. Their massively influential rock group gained notoriety in the late 60s with the help of none other than the Rolling Stones’ landlord himself, Andy Warhol.
7. Zappa Gets Burned
In 1968, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention opened for Long Island’s own psychedelic rockers Vanilla Fudge at Westbury Music Fair. The ever-irreverent Mothers entered the theater in white hooded robes playing eerie dissonant sounds on various woodwind instruments. The crowd was understandably disturbed by this, prompting one audience member to shout out: “Yous guys stink, bring on The Fudge!”
6. Farewell, Frank
Speaking of Frank Zappa, the final North American show he played before his death in 1993 was on Long Island. On March 25, 1988, he took the stage at Nassau Coliseum in what would be his last gig on this side of the Atlantic. Highlights of the show included a rendition of classical composer Igor Stravinsky’s “Royal March” accompanied by the Long Island Ballet and not one but two encores alongside Frank’s son Dweezil that included covers of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Allman Brothers and, finally and fittingly, a soulful, Zappa-fied performance of “America the Beautiful.”
5. The Dead Comes Alive!
The Grateful Dead hold the record for most shows at Nassau Coliseum at 42. Some of those notoriously epic shows have been preserved for posterity in their 2002 album Go to Nassau and their 2014 album Wake Up to Find Out. The final track on Go to Nassau is a more than seven minute long version of “Good Lovin”, a tune made popular by The Barge’s old house band, The Rascals.
4. Axl Gets Bent
Guns ‘n’ Roses were slated to perform at Nassau Coliseum on June 17,1991 at the reasonable hour of 9:00 pm, but mercurial front man Axl Rose had other plans. The temperamental but talented singer decided to stay out west to party in the city, leaving management no choice but to fly him in via helicopter in order to get the band on stage right around the same time that parents of young fans were arriving to pick them up.
3. Doin’ Time on the Island
When Vans Warped Tour first came to Uniondale in 1995, its aim was to provide fans with an alternative to music festivals like Lollapalooza that were more entrenched in the mainstream sounds of the time. What they didn’t realize was that they were giving concert goers a glimpse at a man who would one day become a mythical musical figure: Bradley Nowell. The Sublime guitarist and front man played his one and only Long Island show that day. He would tragically die of a heroin overdose less than one year later, just as the band was set to release the eponymous album that would catapult them into the pantheon of rock music.
2. A Lovin’ Homage
Folk-Rock pioneers The Lovin’ Spoonful have some roots on Long Island. Drummer Joe Butler met bassist Steve Boone in Westhampton and formed their original band The Kingsmen in 1963. After becoming a mainstream success as The Lovin’ Spoonful they still found their way out east to party with the likes of Steven Stills and Mama Cass, and in ’66 they immortalized their love for the East End on the final track of their album Daydream entitled “Big Noise From Speonk.”
1. See Floyd Play
Pink Floyd has been known to extend the boundaries of rock music into the visual realm, both with their elaborately orchestrated live performances and in films like ’82’s The Wall and ’83’s The Final Cut. But it wasn’t until 1989 that they brought both mediums together with Delicate Sound of Thunder. This multi-platinum concert film, consisting primarily of performances from a string of five straight nights at Nassau Coliseum in August of ‘88, was made during their Momentary Lapse of Reason tour.