Friday, April 02, 2010

"Boulder To Birmingham" by Emmylou Harris

Birthday wishes go out today to Emmylou Harris, the roots country singer-songwriter whose unique voice and striking appearance belie her low-key performance style...

While my favourite album of hers remains 2000's exemplary Red Dirt Girl, the more I hear of her earlier work the more I like; that goes very much for Boulder to Birmingham, which first appeared on Harris' 1975 album Pieces of the Sky. The song details her grief following the death of her mentor, Gram Parsons, who died of a drug overdose in September 1973 at the age of 26.
share on: facebook

Happy Birthday Penelope Keith

Most actors would give their eye teeth to be involved in one classic program, let alone two; which makes the career of Penelope Keith all the more extraordinary, since she's had a hand in eight, of which at least three are timeless classics of the Britcom genre...

PhotobucketThe first of these was The Good Life, which first aired in 1975, in which she played the hilariously snooty middle-class homemaker Margo Leadbetter. After three series' of that, in 1979 she undertook the role Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, a gentry woman displaced by les nouveau riches in To the Manor Born, which also ran three series. In 1990 she played the more down-to-earth Jean Price, MP, in No Job for a Lady.

In between these came roles in Sweet Sixteen, Moving, Executive Stress (another favourite of ours), Law and Disorder and Next of Kin; she also hosted a panel show on ITV entitled What's My Line?

Since the 1990s Keith has concerned herself more with stage work, and offscreen has served as High Sheriff of Surrey - one of only three women ever to hold that post. Made an OBE in 1989 for her charitable work (as President of the Actors' Benevolent Fund and with the National Trust in southwest Surrey, where she lives), she was elevated to CBE (which she is shown holding at left) in 2007.

The first three series of The Good Life were recently released on DVD under the show's North American name Good Neighbors; since then it's been devoured and enjoyed anew by the Pop Culture Institute's crack team of researchers*, proving that the classics - show and costar alike - never go out of style. Next stop: all three seasons of To the Manor Born, which has also been released on DVD alongside the superlative Silver Anniversary Special first shown at Christmas 2007.
share on: facebook

Gratuitous Brunette: Chris Meloni

If there is one tried-and-true rule in the lawless world of cyberspace it's that mentions of Chris Meloni will bring enough traffic to your site to clog the Holland Tunnel; of course, the same goes for any number of soulless pop tarts and vapid TV starlets whom I'd rather die than mention*, so in this case it helps that Chris Meloni is a) a very talented actor, and b) HOT. Not hot... HOT. Even, dare I say it, HAWT. Did I mention that he's hot? Oh yeah... I did.

PhotobucketA n y w a y... So if we can get past his hotness for a minute - although, frankly, why would we want to - but strictly hypothetically, if we could we'd encounter an actor savvy enough not to be typecast for one.

Consider, if you will, the two roles for which he is best known: police detective Elliot Stabler - the moral compass of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - and Chris Keller, the amoral serial killer who gives a certain flare to male rape on Oz. That's proper range, yo...

Amazingly, Meloni turns 49 today - every one of those years a good one.

*You know who you are...

share on: facebook

"I Heard A Rumor" by Bananarama

While it's not unusual for me to post a birthday hat trick of videos for a solo artist, I believe this is the first time I've ever done so for an individual member of a band - in this case, Keren Woodward of Bananarama. It's even more unusual in this case, I think, because (unlike Bananarama bandmate Siobhan Fahey, say, or Belinda Carlisle of The Go-Go's) Woodward had no solo career to speak of... She did, however, succeed in landing ex-Wham! heartthrob Andrew Ridgeley, which in its way is just as rewarding as a gold record with your own name on it*.

And yet, it's not so unusual when considering a) the ground broken by Bananarama within the music industry itself, and b) the general awesomeness of their music. In fact, I could probably do this for the birthdays of all four members** of the band and never once repeat a video.

I Heard a Rumour was the first single from Bananarama's fourth studio album, Wow!; released in September 1987, it features the Stock Aitken Waterman sound at its peak of freshness. I always liked the song because it reminds me of those first few carefree years after high school, when everything seemed possible because I didn't know better. Good times...

*Especially if you're a renowned star-fucker like me!
**Bananarama always had three members; after Siobhan Fahey left to, you know, marry
Dave Stewart of Eurythmics in 1987 and generally exude cool as a member of Shakespears Sister in 1988 she was replaced by Jacquie O'Sullivan (formerly of the Shillelagh Sisters).

share on: facebook

"Shy Boy" by Bananarama

As alluded to in the previous post, it was on this day in 2008 when I first posted the video for Cruel Summer to mark the birthday of Keren Woodward; the following year on the same day I went to repost it and... Unique among all of Bananarama's videos on YouTube, the video existed but without an accompanying soundtrack - not even an record label authorized non-embeddable version!

I have no idea what bug it might have been that crawled up the ass of Gawd knows which record label fucks (from, in this instance, Warner Music Group) but refusing free promotion for 25 year old product at a time when music industry revenues are plummeting seems like the absolute pinnacle of douchebaggery, at least to me. Especially since music videos were originally intended for - get this - promotion! No wonder the major labels are going down faster than a coke-addled starlet in a hip-hop video...

A n y w a y... After a period of time too long to mention wasted in searching for a useful version of Cruel Summer I decided to cut my losses and instead found this clip of the trio's first-ever single - Shy Boy (Don't It Make You Feel Good) from their 1983 debut album Deep Sea Skiving; it managed to show the original progenitors of girl power at the height of their girl powers, gave my readers a snippet of the sound of the magical year 1983, and yes, even free promotion for the same people whose sole endeavour in life seems to be thwarting little old me from helping them out*.

In the meantime, today the year came back around again and what should I find? Not one but several high quality clips of Cruel Summer with their soundtrack intact! A true embarrassment of riches! Could it be that my various online screeds have succeeded in drumming some sense into the appropriate heads? I doubt it. But the Interweb gods are smiling nonetheless, so let's just enjoy it while we can, shall we?

*Which, I might add, I do at no cost to them. I don't get free promo stuff like those fat cats in Old Media; whenever I write about something I've bought it with my own hard-earned money! Okay, I'll stop ranting now...
share on: facebook

"Cruel Summer" by Bananarama

Birthday wishes go out today to Keren Woodward, one-third of the groundbreaking all-female pop trio Bananarama...

The song Cruel Summer has been a particular favourite of mine ever since I first heard it in that cruel summer of 1984 - the year after it was released in the UK - and is taken from their eponymous album (named, appropriately enough, Bananarama). For many years its video existed in a peculiar gray area unique to YouTube, wherein the song's vocal track was forbidden due to a specious copyright claim - even though the images were not - and the person responsible for posting the video just left it up sans sound. You can imagine the hilarity that ensued in the comments below!

Well, it's back (for now, at least) and so I plan to take fair use of Fair Use and post it here for you...
share on: facebook

Pop History Moment: Operation Rosario Commenced


It's a safe bet that there were more people in the world who hadn't heard of the Falkland Islands (some exceptions being geography buffs, higher-ups in the Argentinian and British military, and the staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) than would have heard of this remote outpost in the southern Atlantic Ocean before they were invaded by Argentina on this day in 1982 . The assault - codenamed Operation Azul during its planning stage - would henceforth be known as Operation Rosario...

The defense of the islands was mounted by the governor, Sir Rex Hunt, who just two days earlier had received word from the Royal Navy of an impending amphibious assault being mobilized by the Argentine Navy - following their occupation of nearby South Georgia on March 19th. Overall command of the operation was entrusted to Major Mike Norman, also commander of the local garrison, called Naval Party 8901; in all, this force amounted to 68 Marines and 11 sailors - an unusually high number, as the garrison was in the process of changing over - aided by 25 reservists with the Falkland Islands Defence Force. Major Gary Noott assumed the role of military advisor to the governor.

In all 21 Gemini assault craft were deployed by the ARA Santisima Trinidad; under cover of early morning darkness - despite a full moon, it was cloudy - 84 troopers of the 1st Amphibious Commandos Group led by Lieutenant-Commander Guillermo Sanchez-Sabarots had been aiming to come ashore off Mullet Creek but got tangled up in kelp beds, and instead landed near Lake Point. Their stated aim was the capture Government House a short distance to the north in the capital, Stanley. Upon landing they split up; the larger group headed for a British barracks, and the smaller group for the capital.

This first wave of commandos launched a siege on the Moody Brook Barracks, having arrived there shortly after 5:30 AM, a 2.5 mile march from where they'd landed over rough terrain; they fired tear gas into the building, but later discover it to be empty. Half an hour later, on the other side of the island, twenty amphibious armoured personnel carriers came ashore from the ARA Cabo San Antonio at Yorke Bay. During their advance on Stanley they met an exchange of gunfire, with one reported injury on the Argentinian side.

At 6:30 AM the invaders to the north captured the deserted airport; at the same time a 16-man force from the south reached Government House, where they were met by 31 Marines. Three Argentines were injured in this assault, one of whom later died. The British also took three prisoners, although by this point the Islands were in no position to mount much of a defense. Over the next two-and-a-half months military sorties of increasing intensity were interspersed with diplomatic sabre-rattling on the part of Argentina's dictator Leopoldo Galtieri and Britain's Margaret Thatcher (who was no less dictatorial, but at least popularly elected).

Although war was never officially declared, the Royal Navy dispatched a Task Force from Plymouth within days, consisting of HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible (whose crew contained the Queen's second son, Prince Andrew - now the Duke of York). In all, by the cessation of the hostilities 258 British and 649 Argentinians would be dead - mainly in the sinkings of the ARA General Belgrano and HMS Sheffield - by the time the Union Jack was once again raised over Government House in Stanley on June 14th.
share on: facebook

POPnews - April 2nd

[Not that kind of panda crossing, silly!]

1453 - Mehmed II began his siege of Constantinople; the city would finally fall on May 29th.

1513 - Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon became the first European to visit Florida; although it's known that he landed on the east coast of the peninsula, owing to shoddy 16th Century record-keeping there is much dispute over exactly where.

1755 - Commodore William James captured the pirate fortress of Suvarnadurg on India's west coast.

1792 - The Coinage Act was passed, establishing the United States Mint. Mmm... Mint...

1801 - During the Napoleonic Wars, at the Battle of Copenhagen, Britain's Royal Navy under Lord Nelson and Admiral Sir Hyde Parker destroyed the Danish fleet.

1804 - Forty ships in a convoy of 69 led by HMS Apollo were wrecked when they ran aground off Portugal's Cape Mondego.

1863 - During the Richmond Bread Riot food shortages incited hundreds of angry women to riot, demanding the governments of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Virginia governor John Letcher to release emergency supplies.

1917 - Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to take a seat in the US Congress as a member.

1930 - When Empress Zewditu I died suddenly and mysteriously Haile Selassie was proclaimed Emperor of Ethiopia.

1956 - When As the World Turns and The Edge of Night premiered on CBS-TV, they became the first two daytime dramas to debut in the 30-minute format; while The Edge of Night transferred to ABC in December 1975 and went off the air nine years later, As The World Turns is still airing on CBS after more than 13,000 episodes.

1962 - The first official Panda crossing was opened outside London's Waterloo station, causing chaos.

1972 - Charlie Chaplin returned to the United States for the first time since the 1950s Red Scare forced him into exile in Switzerland; while in the US, he accepted an honorary Oscar for his body of work.

1975 - The CN Tower was completed, apparently.

1977 - Red Rum won the Grand National a record third time, having previously won in 1973 and 1974.

1984 - Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma was launched aboard Soyuz T-11, making him India's first astronaut.

1991 - The first female Premier of a Canadian province took office when Rita Johnston succeeded Bill Vander Zalm, who had resigned as Premier of British Columbia in scandal. In the subsequent provincial election that October Johnston's Social Credit Party was reduced from a majority of 74 seats to third-party status with just 7; she even lost her own.*

1998 - Maurice Papon - Cabinet minister in the government of French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing - was found guilty of war crimes.

2002 - Israeli forces surrounded Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity into which armed Palestinians had retreated following a fire-fight with the Israeli Defense Forces, who'd been carrying out Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank; the ensuing siege lasted until May 10th and resulted in the deaths of 8 militants affiliated with Fatah.

2005 - Pope John Paul II died; he was succeeded by Satan.

*The first and to date only woman to be elected premier of a Canadian province remains Liberal Catherine Callbeck of Prince Edward Island, who broke that barrier in 1993; Nellie Cournoyea became Premier of the Northwest Territories under a consensus government in November 1991, a month after Johnston was consigned to political oblivion.
share on: facebook