March 15 is a heavy day in general, and for rock in particular. To the ancient Romans, the “ides” marked the mid-point of any given month—a period of time that was sacred to Jupiter, the god-of-gods among the ancients. The Ides of March, then, was Jupiter’s feast day smack in the middle of the month named for Mars, the sword-wielding deity of war. That’s not just heavy, it’s cosmic.
The Ides of March is also best known as the occasion on which Roman emperor Julius Caesar fell victim to a fatal gang-knifing by Senators who objected to his recent claiming of the title “dictator perpetuo”; i.e.—“dictator for life.” J.C. didn’t get to rest on that particular laurel for terribly long.
So with that kind of blood and thunder surrounding the Ides of March, it’s no wonder that it also may mark the birthdate of rock-and-roll itself.
On March 3rd or 5th, 1951 (exact recollections vary), Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm, under the name Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats, recorded “Rocket 88.” By the middle of the month, the 45rpm single was loose among the public and the lightning bolt that is generally acknowledged to be the first rock-and-roll took hold. All music and culture to follow in its wake was thereby changed forever after.
Fittingly, March 15 is the birthday of an array of music stars that seem to encapsulate the whole classic rock canon. Among them are:
- Dee Snider (1955) – Twisted Sister frontman, free speech defender against the PMRC
- Bret Michaels (1963)—Poison frontman, VH1 Rock of Love star, Celebrity Apprentice winner
- Mike Love (1941) – Beach Boys co-founder
- Mark Hoppus (1972) – Blink 182 co-frontman and bassist
- Phil Lesh (1940) – Grateful Dead co-founder and bassist
- Ry Cooder (1947) – guitar guru, rock composer, multi-instrumentalist
Beyond birthdays (as well as possibly beyond this dimension), March 15th marks the day on which dark, mysterious fantasy horror author H.P. Lovecraft departed this mortal coil for afterlife destinations unknown.
Lovecraft is most famous now for creating the Necronomicon, the tentacle-faced dragon-man god Cthulu, and the story that inspired the 1985 splatter horror classic, Re-Animator. The spooked-and-spooky author also made a profound impact on hard and heavy rock, beginning with the late-1960s cult psychedelic band called H.P. Lovecraft on up to EDM star Deadmau5’s song, “Cthulu Sleeps.”
Heavy metal, in particular, has embraced and drawn from Lovecraft since its earliest incarnations. Metal Lovecraft tributes include:
- “Behind the Wall of Sleep” – Black Sabbath, based on the short story, “Beyond the Wall of Sleep”
- “The Thing That Should Not Be”—Metallica, based on the story, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”
- “The Call of Ktulu” – Metallica
- “The Dark Eternal Night” – Dream Theater, based on the story, “Nyarlathotep”
- “Kutulu” (The Mad Arab Part II) – Mercyful Fate
- “Cthulu Dawn” – Cradle of Filth
Also metal-related, but back on our mere human plane, Kiss released their first hugely popular studio album, Destroyer, on March 15, 1976.
Finally, the Ides of March is the name of an early ’70s pop-rock group centered on singer-songwriter Jim Peterik. Later in his career, Peterik composed popular songs for numerous other artists, scoring big hits for .38 Special (“Caught Up in You,” “Hold on Loosely”), Sammy Hagar (“Sammy Hagar”). He also created monster radio smashes as a member of Survivor, including, of course, “Eye of the Tiger.”
Still, the Ides of March remains Peterik’s signature vehicle. Appropriately, then, the band’s one enduring anthem is the hard-driving, horned-up “Vehicle.” It kicks ass on any day of the year but, yes, most especially on the Ides of March.
Mike “McBeardo” McPadden is the author of Heavy Metal Movies: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos, and Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big Scream Films Ever! (Bazillion Points).