Music’s oddest pre-gig rituals

Singing live requires preparation, both mental and physical. Muscles need loosening up and anxiety kept to a minimum as performers get ready to go out there and do their stuff, developing many tried and tested remedies for their pre-gig jitters.

Some are practical – Todd Rundgren told the Salt Lake Tribune he always scoffs a heartburn tablet to prevent on-stage burps – while others are simply there to focus the mind and prevent panic.

1. Mumford & Sons

In the first flush of his band’s success, Marcus Mumford used to suffer from intense tension headaches before a show. He told Rolling Stone that he had gone to extreme lengths to try and tackle them: “I’ve tried everything, pills, even went and had my brain scanned.”

In the end, it was a suggestion from producer T Bone Burnett (whose surname is curiously apt, in the circumstances) which sorted the problem out. We don’t recommend you try this, but Marcus lights a stick of palo santo, an incense wood found in South America, and breathes in the fumes. He found it to be so helpful at clearing his head he jokingly took to calling it “the holy wood”.

2. Selena Gomez

Some opera singers swear by the efficaciousness of a teaspoon of olive oil before singing; it’s said to lubricate the throat, and prevent undue stress and tearing. Selena Gomez has taken this on as part of her pre-performance routine, but only after reading about it in a magazine interview with Kelly Clarkson.

When she appeared on Ellen DeGeneres’s US chat show, Selena revealed that this is not something she would do for pleasure: “It’s awful. You let it go down and it coats your throat. I gag every time.”

3. Rihanna

It’s not uncommon for artists to go into a huddle before showtime. Rihanna leads her team in a prayer, asking God to bless each note, a ritual that, according to the International Business Times, is so intense it supposedly once caused her to be 70 minutes late on stage. Passion Pit (who are American) have a far quicker way to get themselves pumped. As Vulture reported, they gather in a circle to shout “roote to scoot mate!” in very bad Scottish accents.

And country star Zac Brown and his band are so committed to their backstage huddle – particularly the moment they all scream, “Ooh girl!” in unison – that on the rare occasions where they’ve forgotten to do it, they’ll come back off stage and have another go.

4. Coldplay

Coldplay are another band who like to gather together for a quick hug before taking to the stage, and whether it’s due to this moment of intimacy or just to put his mind at rest, Chris Martin admits that he’s taken to making sure his mouth is minty fresh before heading into his bandmates’ open arms.

He told Australia’s Melbourne Herald Sun: “For me, there are about 18 things I have to do before I can go out to perform – most of them are too ridiculous to repeat! One is I have to brush my teeth before I go on stage, otherwise I just don’t feel smart.”

5. Adele

Adele is not someone who approaches performance with a calm demeanour. Quite the reverse, in fact, as she revealed to MTV: “I’m scared of audiences… I’ve thrown up a couple of times. Once in Brussels, I projectile vomited on someone. I just gotta bear it. But I don’t like touring. I have anxiety attacks a lot.”

But it was only after meeting Beyoncé, and collapsing in a state shortly afterwards, that she had an epiphany: “I had a full-blown anxiety attack… I went out on the balcony crying hysterically, and I said, ‘What would Sasha Fierce do?'”

So she created her own alter ego, taking Beyoncé’s alter ego Sasha Fierce and adding the spirit of June Carter Cash. And when she’s feeling nervous about an important gig, that’s when she assumes the ferociously confident personality of Sasha Carter, if only to save passing stagehands from a wet and unpleasant shock.

6. Lorde

Lorde has taken to dealing with the backstage collywobbles by first retreating to a safe place, then nourishing herself in a way that won’t have unpleasant consequences later, which for her means berries and seaweed. In 2014, she told the Guardian: “Usually before a gig I have a sleep in my dressing room under a blanket I take everywhere with me. I eat some berries or some dried nori (which I get all over my face) in place of dinner, because a couple of hours before the performance, my stomach starts heaving and I feel like I’m going to throw up – even when I’m not that nervous. It’s the weirdest thing.”

And after the nap and berries, it’s time for the stagewear, which at the time of the interview was her suit: “There’s something about putting it on that feels like a ritual, entering into a kind of pact with the stage. Once I’ve got my suit on, I can do anything.”

Band names with surprisingly mundane origins

Asking a band why they gave themselves the name they have has to be the single most obvious question in pop. Very few acts have a decent answer beyond “we just liked it”, and certainly no one has managed to reach the gold standard set by The Beatles, whose common response was something along the lines of: “I had a vision when I was 12. And I saw a man on a flaming pie, and he said, ‘You are The Beatles with an A.’ And so we are.”

The fact that it’s just a pun on both Buddy Holly’s Crickets and beat music was felt to be too obvious to comment upon. So, to save at least 10 bands and further interview awkwardness (and unnecessary storytelling), here are the less vivid, and more humdrum accounts of how they got their names.

1. The Jam

Popular culture has found a few uses for the word ‘jam’ that could have been invoked in the naming of Paul Weller’s first band. It’s a term for improvising music, it denotes things which are stuck or crushed together, there’s a thrillingly urban traffic connotation that echoes The Clash naming themselves after a newspaper headline about conflict… It could all be so, so punk rock.

However, the true origin came from the breakfast table. Young Paul was wondering what name to choose when his sister Nicky piped up “We’ve had Bread and Marmalade, why not The Jam?” And lo, their legend was preserved forever more.

2. Nickelback

Outside of North America, Nickelback may be among the most commonly misspelled names in rock – NickEL, not NickLE – possibly because it’s too similar to the name of a fish (stickleback) and nickel isn’t a commonly used word. But the humdrum reality of the name is that it came from bass player Mike Kroeger’s day job serving coffee. As each drink routinely cost an amount of dollars and 95 cents, he’d spend his time giving customers five cents (or a nickel) in change, and saying, “Here’s your nickel back.”

Fun fact: Nickelback were originally called Village Idiots.

3. Sleater-Kinney

DIY music scenes like to take ordinary things and give them mythical status by taking them away from their original context. So, when Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein formed a band in Lacey, Washington, and started rehearsing in a room near Sleater-Kinney Road, it seemed natural to make use of these two angular and opaque words for their new musical project.

As a band name, Sleater-Kinney is so opaque it could refer to anything from a supergroup to a lawsuit, and they will already have known what it would look like to see their name in lights, as at appears on the road signs for exit 108 on Interstate 5.

4. Tangerine Dream

With a name like that, you’d think Edgar Froese had either literally woken up in a citrus trance and feverishly scribbled the words in his dream journal, or that he was being deliberately colourful, to try and approximate a psychedelic reverie. However, the slightly more boring truth is that he misunderstood the lyrics to the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (which is, to be fair, exactly that kind of trippy vision).

As English is not his first language, he thought John Lennon’s “tangerine trees” was “tangerine dream”, and named his band in homage. Mind you, he wasn’t the first to make such a lyrical mistake. The Mystery Trend took their name from the “Mystery Tramp” in Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, and The Lightning Seeds got their name from Prince’s Raspberry Beret: “The thunder drowns out what the lightning sees.”

Music legends we can’t believe never toured the UK

Previously on BBC Music, we brought you 8 bands you probably didn’t know are still touring. Now it’s time to turn the spotlight on those you might have assumed had toured the UK at some point in their illustrious careers. A few have made appearances here in some capacity – a one-off gig or TV performance, or in a different guise – but they’ve never played their music out across the nation. And with regards to the top two on our list, great news – they’ll be here soon.

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince will be in the UK in August, playing what Newsbeat called a rare UK date in Blackpool as headliners of this August’s Livewire. Ah, Summertime. And although the news seems to have come out of the blue, Will Smith has actually been talking about getting his old hip hop duo back on the road for some time. In October 2015, he was interviewed by Zane Lowe for Beats 1 and said: “Jeff and I actually have never done a full tour… This summer [2016] will be the first time we go out on a full world tour.”

That didn’t happen, but the ambition he showed back then might well translate into more than just one UK show. Keep your eyes peeled on listings.


TLC dominated 90s RnB with hits like Creep, Waterfalls and No Scrubs, resulting in the trio becoming the most successful American girl group of all time (second only to the Spice Girls globally). Then, tragedy: Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes was killed in a car crash in 2002. Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins and Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas continued as a duo.

TLC occasionally visit Britain – they were here for the 2012 MOBO Awards – but they’ve never played a UK gig. Until now. On 9 May, they’re making their debut at Koko in London and this year will also see the release of their their first album since 2002’s 3D. If you couldn’t get a ticket for Koko, fear not – the group have hinted that this might be their last album, but they intend to keep TLC on the road.

Elvis Presley

Elvis only played three gigs outside of the US, all of them in Canada. It’s thought that the illegal alien status of his Dutch-born manager, Colonel Parker, was the primary reason he never performed outside North America, although documents that came to light in 2015, as reported by the Mirror, suggest plans were being made for The King to visit, and possibly play gigs in, Britain and Japan not long before his death in 1977.

Elvis did set foot in the UK at least once – at Prestwick airport, South Ayrshire in 1960 on his way home from military service in Germany. In 2008, however, a strange story came to light that perhaps he’d spent the day driving around London observing landmarks with English singer Tommy Steele in 1958. Theatre producer Bill Kenwright revealed Steele’s secret on Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 show. At the time, Steele was appearing in a production of Dr Dolittle in Woking, Surrey.

Pop stars who built a pub in their home

In the introduction to a 2012 Quietus interview with Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris, journalist John Doran wrote: “He comes from a different age when rock stars simply wished to achieve what their dads dreamed of – escape from the city to a nice satellite town, upmarket fishing, great seats at the football, a lot of travel and perhaps even one’s own pub inside the house for all their mates to drink in.”

Harris achieved all of those things, including the in-home pub, and he’s not alone. As we’ll find out, building a local that’s very local indeed remains an ambition for many of today’s pop stars, too. It’s an emblem of success, and perhaps also a consequence – offering those who can’t go to the pub without being bothered the chance to recreate the experience in private.

Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris

Steve Harris isn’t just Iron Maiden’s bass player, he’s the heavy metal group’s primary songwriter and that means receiving very substantial royalty cheques for almost 40-years-worth of hit records. When he first put his 11-bedroom mansion in Sheering, Essex on the market in 2013, he was asking for £6.75 million, as NME reported. You could understand why – parts of the listed building date back to 1427, and the property came with a gorgeous indoor swimming pool and gym, nine acres of land, a tennis court, full-sized football pitch (Steve’s an avid footballer and West Ham fan) as well as its own pub, thought to be called The Horse And Cart, above.

His property, which he’d owned since the 1980s, didn’t sell, forcing Steve to keep slashing the price, reportedly down to under £4 million. He now divides his time between homes in Los Angeles and Barbados.

Ed Sheeran

Judging by the time in 2014 he had an impromptu bar-side singalong at The Surrey Cricketers in Windlesham, as reported by Get Surrey, Ed Sheeran feels comfortable in the pub. Or he certainly used to. His fame is now such that he recently revealed to the Guardian that he suffered a panic attack on a flight from Spain to London, while he was on his own with “no friends, no security, at two in the morning, on easyJet, with all the p***** Benidorm lot”. He added: “I just don’t like groups of people that I don’t know any more… I can go to a pub, but only if it’s a pub that no one would go to.”

This perhaps explains why Ed has built an subterranean pub in his home. He told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe about it in January, as reported by NME: “I had a bar before, a bar where you could pour beers but now this has a selection of beers, which is cool. There’s an underground tunnel to get there that you can close off. If I have a party, everyone goes in the pub and no one can get in the house, so you get no one raiding the cupboards or smashing anything. You have to go underground to get to the pub.”

Inspiration is fleeting

Inspiration is fleeting – it’s up to the songwriter to bottle that lightning as fast as they possibly can, before the phone rings and half of the golden chorus they’ve just imagined falls out of their heads forever. But some songs are so quick to write, their essence – whittling and polishing aside – was captured in only slightly more time than it takes to play them from start to finish.

Here are some of the most speedily captured flashes of inspiration in musical history.

Ray Charles – What’d I Say

The subtext with each of these songs is that while it may have taken just a few minutes to write the song, there’s a lifetime of preparation behind that moment of inspiration. No one exemplifies this better than Ray Charles. At a 1958 gig in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, he found himself 12 minutes short of material, and with an expectant audience waiting to dance. Turning to the Wurlitzer electric piano he brought with him (because he hated relying on venues to provide a decent piano to play), he pounded out an insistent four note riff, set to a rhumba beat, and began jamming boogie-woogie licks over the top of it.

His horn section joined in, playing stabs, then Ray improvised a couple of verses, before going into a call-and-response section with his backing singers, the Raelettes. Each element will have come from years of working the clubs, but never arranged with this fire and vitality before. As the band played, the room began to shake from the vigour of the dancers, and as soon as they finished, Ray was besieged with fans wanting to know where they could buy his latest creation.

Nicki Minaj – Super Bass

BBC News recently ran a report on the amount of professional songwriters used to create certain hits, with some being experts in beats and grooves, some working on melodies, and some bringing the key moment, the hookline, written by specialists known as top-liners. Ester Dean is a particularly hot top-liner of the moment, having written refrains for Rude Boy and S&M by Rihanna, and Turn Me On by David Guetta. She also wrote the “boom badoom boom / boom badoom boom” section of Nicki Minaj’s Superbass, and like all of her greatest creations, she claims never to have spent more than five minutes on any one song.

She told the the New Yorker: “I go into the booth and I scream and I sing and I yell, and sometimes it’s words but most time it’s not. And I just see when I get this little chill, here [touches her upper arm, just below the shoulder] and then I’m, like, ‘Yeah, that’s the hook.’”

Showstopping moments from Series 50 of Later… with Jools Holland

Back in October 1992, a new music show crept on to the schedules. In contrast to the hectic, yoof-oriented pop TV of the day, its emphasis was on stripped-back performances that let the music do the talking. Twenty-five years and 50 series on, Later… with Jools Holland is still going strong and providing a much-needed fix of live music on TV.

There was some nice continuity in the seventh episode of the current run, which featured the return of Malian singer Oumou Sangaré – a guest on the first ever series. Naturally, Jools also welcomed back a number of old favourites, including Paul Weller and Goldfrapp. And there was also room for a host of exciting artists making their Later debuts, including three on our list of standout performances from the anniversary series.

1. Ed Sheeran – Shape of You

With Shape of You still riding high at the top of the singles charts, Ed Sheeranappeared on the second episode of the series and unveiled the song’s stripped-back live version. Using his famous loop pedal to create all the parts himself, the song’s remarkable simplicity is laid bare – but like a good magic trick, it doesn’t lose any of its wonder just because you know how it’s done.

2. Beth Ditto – Fire

It’s been a while since we heard from former Gossip singer Beth Ditto, so this was a very welcome return from one of the most arresting voices – and presences – in music. Having swapped minimalist disco-punk for a bigger, swampier rock ‘n’ soul sound, Beth roared the gospel clad in a shimmering gold robe.

3. Blondie – Call Me

Blondie’s new album Pollinator is a smart update of their classic pop-punk sound, written in cahoots with many of the artists they’ve influenced (including Sia, Charli XCX and Nick Valensi of The Strokes). For their third Later appearance, Debbie Harry & Co. thrilled the studio audience by pulling out this 1980 No.1, still sounding as fresh as the day it was born.

4. Dave – Picture Me

Nice touch, this – 18-year-old South London rapper Dave begins his song Picture Me, which is about where he sees himself in five years’ time, at the piano before grabbing the mic, walking away from the piano, then returning to it at the end of the track. The BBC Sound of 2017 nominee was making his Jools debut and the response to his performance was huge.

5. Lorde – Green Light

Ahead of performing at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Hull, New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde made her second appearance on Later…, playing comeback single Green Light, a track she’s described as “different, and kinda unexpected. Complex and funny and sad and joyous and it’ll make you DANCE.” It’s all those things and, oh boy, she nailed it – this is mesmerising.

6. Royal Blood – Lights Out

Also making a comeback in 2017 are noisy Brighton two-piece Royal Blood, who played Lights Out, the first single from their second album How Did We Get So Dark? It’s a big song that they’ll no doubt be making a centrepiece of their many festival appearances this summer, including on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.

Pop stars you didn’t know played golf

Pop music and golf make for strange bedfellows. Pop is all about freedom of expression whereas golf is a tightly-controlled world of immaculate greens, perfectly pressed slacks and ensuring the ball goes exactly where you want it to.

But there are exceptions. The most famous rock ’n’ roll golfer is Alice Cooper, who, when he’s not cavorting with snakes or staging his own execution, likes to play 36 holes every day. But he’s not the only pop star who’s handy with a five iron. As the Open Championship begins, read on to find out which other singers and rappers are on the fairway to heaven.

Justin Timberlake

As well as looking immaculate in plus fours and a tank top, JT is one of the best golfers on the pro-celeb circuit, playing off a handicap of just six. He even owned his own golf club near Memphis for eight years, spending an estimated $25m in rebuilding the course before selling it on in 2014. These days, he tends to play at the Lakeside Golf Club in Burbank, where fellow players include Jack Nicholson and Joe Pesci. You wouldn’t want to accidentally hit one of their balls.

Céline Dion

Canadian balladeer Céline Dion is another pop star with her own golf course, Le Mirage near Montreal. The Titanic theme singer caught the golfing bug from her husband in the late-90s and went on to become a regular at pro-celebrity golf tournaments. Look closely at the picture above and she even seems to have her own personalised golf buggy. Well, you know that her cart will go on…


In the 90s, Houston’s Scarface was a pioneering gangsta rapper, renowned for his unflinching descriptions of hood life on tracks such as Six Feet Deep (with his group Geto Boys) and Hand of the Dead Body. But these days you’re just as likely to find him on a golf course as in a recording studio. “I play golf every day if I can,” he told Billboard. “The game of golf slows the whole world down and gives you time to think.” His aim is to be good enough to play on the PGA Senior tour. “That idea that just because I’m from the street, I can’t play golf, that’s b*******.”

Niall Horan

You might have thought Slow Hands was a song about getting touchy-feely during a night of passion but it’s also One Direction star Niall Horan’s nickname at his local golf club, as a result of his unhurried swing. Okay, that might not be exactly true… but what we do know, courtesy of Golf Digest, is that self-declared “golf geek” Horan has been playing since the age of 12 and recently got his handicap down to single figures, thanks to the encouragement of his buddy Rory McIlroy. He’s also launched his own golf management agency.

Music pioneers who just missed out on the big time

The history of popular music is littered with examples of trailblazers who, for whatever reason – poor luck, bad deals, being ahead of their time – didn’t get the props they deserved. Sometimes, time catches up with them and at the heart of Arena’s excellent new documentary series American Epic are scores of songwriters whose influence on the course of music in the US and beyond is finally coming into focus.

This list looks at three featured in the series, alongside four others, and we’re just scratching the surface. Who do you think has been overlooked by music history? We’d love to hear your views on Twitter.

Will Shade

Part 1 of American Epic tells the story of how record companies travelled the American south in the 1920s recording the music of ordinary working people. “It was the first time America heard itself,” narrator Robert Redford says, before giving over the second half of the episode to Will Shade, driving force behind the Memphis Jug Band.

Groups like the Memphis Jug Band were too poor to afford instruments, so they made do with what they could get their hands on, including jugs, washboards and kazoos. Shade’s group got a reputation performing on Beale Street in Memphis in the 20s and 30s, and became famous locally, playing to both black and white people. Their raw sound is credited as being proto-rhythm and blues, yet when that style of music, along with swing, took over in the 40s and 50s, the Memphis Jug Band faded from view.

In the above clip Nas makes a direct link between the group and rap music today, saying: “The Memphis Jug Band, it sounds like something today. These guys are talking about women, carrying guns, protecting their honour, chasing after someone who’s done them dirty… This is not high-society black folks they’re singing about; this is the down-under, street, wild black folks. And it’s the same as rap music today.”

Shade counted electric blues musician Charlie Musselwhite among his friends and admirers. In the episode, Musselwhite recalls that Shade would sing the song I’ll Get a Break Before Long later in life. He died in 1966 without anyone really knowing his music, but now, as Musselwhite says: “All these years later, right down on Beale Street by Handy Park there’s a brass note with Will’s name right on it.”

Grandmaster Caz

The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight is an iconic song in the history of American music – hip hop’s first hit. It begins with Wonder Mike’s legendary lyrics, “I said a hip hop the hippie the hippie / To the hip hip hop and you don’t stop / The rock it to the bang bang boogie,” before the second MC on the track, Big Bank Hank, comes in with his verse: “Check it out, I’m the C-A-S-AN, the O-V-A and the rest is F-L-Y / You see, I go by the code of the doctor of the mix and these reasons I’ll tell you why.”

And if you’ve always wondered why someone called Big Bank Hank introduced himself as Casanova Fly, it’s because he reportedly nicked his rhymes from Grandmaster Cazof the Cold Crush Brothers, previously known as Casanova Fly.

In 2014, Caz told the BBC World Service what happened (above, from four minutes): “Hank and I were friends and Hank got a job in a pizza shop in New Jersey, called Crispy Crust Pizza. One day, Sylvia Robinson [Sugar Hill Records co-founder and producer of Rapper’s Delight] walks in and hears him lip-synching to one of my tapes. She asked him, ‘Why don’t you come outside and do that for my songs – we’re auditioning people to become part of this group I’m putting together.”

Hank, who was also Caz’s manager, got the job and became a star. Caz never sued and never got a credit, unlike Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic, who threatened legal action over the use of their song Good Times in Rapper’s Delight.

“Chic’s Nile Rodgers wasn’t happy, but he now says Rapper’s Delight is one of his favourite tracks,” The Sugarhill Gang’s Master Gee recently told the Guardian. “It is one of his most lucrative – we gave him a credit. Then it turned out that Hank’s rhymes had been written by another MC, Grandmaster Caz. We’ve given him credit in public and done shows with him, and he’s cool about it. But I’m sure it bothers him every time he hears it.”

Laura Nyro

In a 2010 Guardian article, music journalist and Saint Etienne member Bob Stanley credits Laura Nyro with being “the first non-folk female singer-songwriter”, adding: “She defied all categories in the late-60s, and Laura Nyro’s music makes more sense now, after four decades of her influence trickling down.”

Her style was to combine elements of doo-wop and soul into Brill Building-like songwriting – best exemplified on the albums Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968) and New York Tendaberry (1969) – and she might have become very famous indeed if she hadn’t asked filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker to not include her performance in his film of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, convinced that she’d been booed while playing. However, a new profile of Nyro in Uncut magazine reveals that when Pennebaker reviewed his footage in 1997, he discovered that the audience were crying out, “Beautiful!” Nyro died from ovarian cancer, aged just 49, before she could take up Pennebaker’s offer to watch the footage again.

Nyro also turned down the chance to play Woodstock, but she was well-known and highly respected by other musicians at the time. Peter, Paul & Mary, Barbra Streisand and The 5th Dimension all had hits with her songs in the late-60s and early-70s, and she would go on to influence countless other songwriters, including Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Tori Amos and Bette Midler, who presented a Radio 2 documentary about Nyro in 2005.

Extraordinary things that also happened on the day Sgt. Pepper was released

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a remarkable album, even by The Beatles’ lofty standards, and evocative of a particularly giddy moment in pop music. But the startling mix of psychedelic whimsy, music hall pastiche, Indian classical music and conceptual art didn’t happen in a vacuum, nor was it the sole interesting thing to have happened at that moment. Far from it, in fact.

This, then, is a snapshot of the world Sgt. Pepper entered, a look at other cultural events that were also going on during 1 June 1967, on the TV, on the radio, in literature and in sport. So, to put the album back in its rightful context on the family Dansette, crack open a bottle of Corona cherryade, grab a slice of Black Forest gateaux and dive in.

Dee Time on BBC One

TV was very different in 1967. There were only three channels, most television sets were black and white, and programming was not 24 hours a day. But some things remain constant, like a nice chat show in the vein of Graham Norton or Jonathan Ross. Simon Dee was the host of Dee Time, and in the early evening of 1 June, he played the gracious host to the British comic actress Thora Hird, singer Julie Rogers, film composer Bernard Herrmann and American comic actor Stubby Kaye.

Musical support came from the Northern Dance Orchestra and The Frugal Sound – a folk group with an astonishingly 60s name, who’d released a cover of The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) a year earlier.

McDonald’s opened their first international restaurant

Although perhaps not as significant an event then as it appears now, the first McDonald’s restaurant franchise to open outside of the United States started serving in Richmond, British Columbia, right in the middle of the Summer of Love, on 1 June 1967. The burger chain would not reach the UK until 1974.

David Bowie released his first album

There were already some fairly way-out albums in the shops when Sgt. Pepper was released. Country Joe and the Fish had released Electric Music for the Mind and Body on 11 May, The Mothers of Invention had released Absolutely Free on 26 May. The Ventures even had an album out called Super Psychedelics, while Paul Beaver put out a musical interpretation of astrology called The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds.

By contrast, David Bowie’s self-titled first album, released on 1 June, was a rum collection of London-centric whimsy, pitched somewhere between Lionel Bart and Anthony Newley, from a man still finding his feet artistically. It’s interesting to note, with the release of Elvis Presley’s album of songs from the movie Double Trouble, that 1 June 1967 is the only date on which the defining artists of the 50s, 60s and 70s all released original albums at the same time.

The Kinks on Top of the Pops

In the week that The Beatles unveiled their masterwork, the No.1 single was the beatific Silence Is Golden by The Tremeloes, soon to be replaced by the even more beatific Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum. For that week’s Top of the Pops – broadcast half an hour after Dee Time had finished – presenter Pete Murray introduced previously taped performances by The Tremeloes, The Hollies, Vince Hill, Engelbert Humperdinck and the New Vaudeville Band, and new footage of The Small Facesand P.P. Arnold. Best of all was a new performance of Waterloo Sunset (also quite beatific) by The Kinks who were sitting pretty at No.2.

Oh, and there was a dance routine from The Gojos – to Arthur Conley’s Sweet Soul Music at No.13 – possibly depriving the world of the sight of some energetic rug-cutting to the hot No.10 sounds of Seven Drunken Nights by The Dubliners.

The Mersey Sound arrived

While The Beatles were celebrating their new album, another Liverpool artistic high watermark was being reached. Penguin Books published a poetry collection called The Mersey Sound on 25 May, which brought the same youthful irreverence to fusty old verse that rock and pop music had brought to society at large. It featured the work of three poets from Liverpool – Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten. Funny and touching writers all, their verses were informed by modern life and were deliberately accessible, which made them hugely popular. The Mersey Sound went on to become one of the biggest-selling poetry anthologies in the world, selling over 500,000 copies.

Quirkiest world records held by British musicians

This year’s BBC Music Day (Thursday 15 June) is about the power of music, and included among the many events taking place are attempts to break music records. In Bradford, 800 children will gather in the City Park to try and beat the current world record for Bamboo Tamboo (a form of music created by hitting a bamboo stick on the ground, which originates from the carnival traditions of the Caribbean). And in Portsmouth, over a thousand children will join together at the city’s Guildhall Square, with the aim of breaking the world record for the world’s largest djembe drumming ensemble.

To provide some inspiration for those taking part, here’s a list of some of the UK’s quirkiest musical record-holders, from artists playing underwater or in freezing temperatures, to being broadcast in space or coming up with the longest album title ever. A record-breaking drum roll, please…

Katie Melua – deepest underwater concert

Singer-songwriter Katie Melua had to undergo survival training and extensive medical tests before she was given the go-ahead to play the world’s deepest underwater concert back in 2006. Melua then flew from Norway to the Statoil Troll A gas rig in the North Sea, where she and her band performed a show 303 metres below sea level. “This was definitely the most surreal gig I have ever done,” said Melua at the time, who played in front of 20 rig workers as well as an official Guinness World Records adjudicator. “It took nine minutes to go from the main part of the gas platform down to the bottom of the shaft in a lift. Giving a concert to the workers there was something really extraordinary and an occasion that I will remember all my life.”

Paul McCartney – first live concert broadcast to space

As you’d expect, The Beatles’ record-breaking exploits are impressive. The Fab Four have had more UK No.1 albums than anyone else (15), and more UK No.1 singles than any other British artist (their 17 chart-toppers are only surpassed by Elvis Presley’s 21); in 2001, the Guinness Book of Records declared them the best-selling group of all time (by that point, they’d reportedly sold over one billion discs and tapes worldwide). But they’ve got some more unusual records under their belts, too. In 2005, Paul McCartney became the first musician to broadcast a concert to outer space after his show in Anaheim, California was transmitted to two astronauts at the International Space Station, floating some 220 miles above Earth. NASA astronaut Bill McArthur and Russia’s Valery Tokarev were treated to a performance of The Beatles’ Good Day Sunshine, as well as McCartney’s solo track English Tea. “That was simply magnificent,” McArthur told the singer. “We consider you an explorer just as we are.”

Billie Piper – youngest artist to debut with a No. 1 single

Billie Piper launched her career by popping a bubble of gum in an advert for teen pop bible Smash Hits but by 1998, she was more likely to be appearing in the pages of the magazine itself. Her debut single Because We Want To, a rallying call for like-minded teenage rebels in the face of stuffy, conservative parents, sold over 300,000 copies and went straight to No.1, making the 15-year-old Billie (who, like Madonna and Princebefore her, had decided surnames were too clunky for pop stardom) the youngest artist to claim the top spot with their debut release. She had a further two No.1 singles (1998’s Girlfriend and 2000’s Day & Night) before swapping singing for acting, hopping into the TARDIS to star in the rebooted Doctor Who in 2005. The youngest ever artist to score a No. 1 single, meanwhile, is ‘Little’ Jimmy Osmond, who reached the top with his 1972 smash Long Haired Lover from Liverpool.