Friday, April 23, 2010

"Chelsea Dagger" by The Fratellis

Birthday wishes go out today to bassist Barry Fratelli (aka Barry Wallace) of Scottish alt-rockers The Fratellis...

The band's second single - Chelsea Dagger, off their 2006 debut album Costello Music - is an infectiously sing-alongable instant anthem; released in August of that year, it quickly rose through the charts, peaking at #5 in the UK. It now features in the repertoire of most football fans - especially those of Nottingham Forest, Ipswich Town, MK Dons, Rotherham United, Preston, Bristol City, Plymouth Argyle, Mansfield Town, Northampton Town, Coventry City, Brechin City and Middlesbrough - as well as (predictably enough) Chelsea*. However, the name in the title refers to neither the football club nor the posh, Kensington-adjacent area of West London where it is located, but rather is the professional name of the wife of Jon Fratelli, the band's lead singer**.

*It was played when that team won the Football League Cup Final in February 2007.
**She's an exotic dancer, and Chelsea Dagger sounds much hotter than Heather Lawler.
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"Running Scared" by Roy Orbison

On what would have been the 74th birthday of Roy Orbison - who died in December 1988 at the tragically early age of 52 - the Pop Culture Institute is proud to feature Running Scared, which is something of an oddity in pop music* - the song features no chorus, giving it a dramatic heft which is unique. Co-written by Orbison and his frequent collaborator Joe Melson, it is shown here on Orbison's 1988 HBO special Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night; an album of music rendered from this program, A Black & White Night Live, was released in November 1989 and featured a rare live performance of Orbison's last single, Crying - a duet with k.d. lang which they initially recorded in 1987 for the soundtrack of the otherwise forgettable Jon Cryer film Hiding Out.

Originally released as a 45rpm single by Monument Records in March 1961, Running Scared ran straight to Number One on the US chart; it would later be covered most notably by Jack Scott, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and Brokeback.

*Not unlike Orbison himself...
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Pop History Moment: The Coronation of Charles II

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Certain purists date the reign of Charles II from that chill day in January 1649 when his father, Charles I, was executed at Whitehall. Be that as it may, a law passed by the new Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell made the proclamation of it illegal, in England at least; Charles II was duly proclaimed King of Scots in Edinburgh one week after his father's beheading, and crowned in Scone on the first day of January 1651. Following a military loss to the New Model Army at the Battle of Worcester (considered the final battle of the English Civil War) the following September, Charles fled to a penniless exile on the Continent, spent mainly in France and the Low Countries, cadging off his own considerable charms and dining out on anti-Cromwell propaganda.

The death of Oliver Cromwell in September 1658 also hastened the death of the Interregnum; his heir Richard Cromwell was no leader - and certainly no tyrant, as his father had been. With no support from the army his rule collapsed, and for awhile England was threatened with a descent into chaos, as no one quite knew who was in charge. Into this morass marched General George Monck, whose entry into London was unopposed. Having arrived, he forcibly dissolved the Rump Parliament and set about restoring some semblance of order.

The Declaration of Breda decreed the terms under which Charles agreed to return to England as King, and its verbiage owes as much to Monck's voice as it does to the King's; the document contained, among other things, a laundry list of traitorous nobility to pardon, to which Charles assented. He returned to England the following month; four days later the handsome, unmarried King triumphantly entered London (on his thirtieth birthday) in May 1660, a day celebrated for years afterwards as Oak Apple Day. On that day the dour Protectorate joyously gave way to the altogether decadent Restoration.

His coronation took a while to plan partly because the majority of the coronation regalia had been sold off or melted down, and it took awhile for a goldsmith named Viner to create a new set of Crown Jewels; the price they'd fetched was £2647 18s 4d - a princely sum to be sure - but the stones they'd been set with had been priceless heirlooms, gifts from successive Kings to their people, and their theft by Cromwell was by far the worse offense. Also, it was thought symbolic to hold the coronation on St. George's Day, as both a reiteration of everything England was as well as a repudiation of what it had become under Puritan rule.

In attendance both on that day and at the sovereign's triumphal ride through London (by tradition set for the day before the coronation) was famed diarist Samuel Pepys who, in a chilling bit of foreshadowing for the Great Fire to come, wrote later that even hours after the ceremony was over 'the City had a light like a glory round about it with bonfires.' Little more than five years later, London would have an altogether deadlier glow about it...

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What's The Occasion? St. George's Day


Although St George's Day is England's National Day, it's observed elsewhere in the world as well; Palestinians celebrate today as the Feast of St. George (since the saint was originally known as St. George the Palestinian) at the Monastery of St. George in al-Khader, near Bethlehem. The Catholic Church, of course, call it Georgemas, and owing to its close colonial ties with the UK, St. George's Day is also a statutory holiday in Newfoundland. Additionally, St. George is the patron saint of dozens of countries, cities, regions, and organizations around the world which all to varying degrees commemorate his life on this, the anniversary of his death.

Although best known for slaying the dragon with a lance called Ascalon, the fact that he was a legionnaire in the guard of Roman Emperor Diocletian - that well-known persecutor of Christians - who refused to recant his Christianity and in doing so defied the Emperor may have something to do with his enduring fame; while Christians may draw the simplistic conclusion that the dragon in question represents the Devil, a more historical perspective on the dragon is that he (and more specifically his hoard) serve as a metaphor, representing the greed of the nobility or even of the church, whose own hoards of gold and silver severely hampered the economy of the Middle Ages in order to adorn their palaces and cathedrals.

Stories of St. George (as with all of the earlier saints) are a combination of historical fact and fanciful legend; many of those in circulation today owe their fame to the Golden Legend, a collection of hagiographies by Jacopo da Varagine that was the closest thing to a medieval bestseller we have. These were first printed in England in 1483, by William Caxton. The legend also has parallels with the Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda, and in the grandest tradition of the Holy Mother Church may have been wholly appropriated from pre-Christian cultures.

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Now Showing - Shirley Temple and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson

At a time when the hysteria over blacks and whites mingling - even socially - was at its most feverish pitch, the notion of America's Sweetheart enjoying the familiarity of friendship with a black man must have frightened and enraged many people in equal measure.

Yet here we see Shirley Temple (who was born on this day in 1928) doing just that with legendary song-and-dance man Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson in the 1935 film The Little Colonel. Admittedly, the setting is a southern plantation in the years immediately following the American Civil War, and Robinson is playing a servant character*, but director David Butler's intention is loud and clear. It turns out any pill, no matter how bitter, will always go down easier with a coating of saccharine... Reports at the time said that many screenings of the film received standing ovations.

*Albeit a fairly docile, elderly 'house-n-word'...
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Gratuitous Brunette: Dorian Leigh

Before the likes of Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington ruled both the catwalks of the 1980s, before Janice Dickinson and Lauren Hutton discoed their nights away at Studio 54 in the 1970s, even before Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton defined the Carnaby Street look in the 1960s, models like Lisa Fonssagrives and Dorian Leigh created that monster of glamour we now take for granted as a part of our culture - the supermodel...

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1917, Dorian Leigh began modelling in 1945 and was active in the industry well into the 1960s, when the aesthetic began to shift away from womanly to boyish models; along the way she's thought to have inspired the character played by Audrey Hepburn in the 1957 movie Funny Face and Truman Capote's anti-heroine Holly Golightly - the star of his novella Breakfast at Tiffany's - as well.

Modelling was something of a family business; her sister Cecilia gained even greater acclaim than Leigh as Suzy Parker, who most famously served as the Muse to a young Richard Avedon.

Yet while it was a long life, it was one awash in sorrow for Dorian Leigh... Married five times and divorced four* - to Marshall Hawkins, Roger W. Mehle Sr, Alfonso de Portago, Serge Bordat, and Iddo Ben-Gurion - she had five children, one due to an adulterous affair and another of whom, Kim de Portago (aka Kim Blas Parker), was a drug addict who committed suicide in 1977 at age 21.

After her son's suicide Leigh became a born-again Christian, finally assented to write her memoirs in an attempt to remove some of the stigma from suicide, and descended into a haze of dementia before her death at the age of 91, from Alzheimer's Disease.

*Her marriage to de Portago was later declared null when it was revealed he was a bigamist; he was already married to American Carroll Portago, later Carroll Petrie, the widow of Milton Petrie the retailer and industrialist.
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POPnews - April 23rd

[Originally opened in May 1779, the Molen De Adriaan had already been damaged by a storm in 1930 when it burnt to the ground on this day in 1932; the cause of the fire remains a mystery, but the reason it took as long as it did to rebuild is an all-too familiar tale. Bureaucratic wrangling and a lack of funds stalled the project until 1999, when reconstruction began; it was reopened in 2002, 70 years to the day after its fiery demise.]

1014 - At the Battle of Clontarf near Dublin the King of Munster Brian Boru and the King of Leinster, Máel Mórda mac Murchada, defeated Viking invaders; both, however, were killed in battle, as was Boru's son Machad.

1343 - During the St. George's Night Uprising Estonian peasants revolted against their German-dominated aristocracy, killing (by some reports) as many as 1,800; although it began on this night, the uprising lasted for two years. Long considered an attack against all Christianity by the still-pagan Estonians, it's now thought that most of their grievances were with the Livonian Order alone.

1348 - The founding of the Order of the Garter by England's King Edward III was announced on St George's Day.

1597 - The first recorded performance of William Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor was given at Windsor Castle, with Queen Elizabeth I in attendance, during that year's Garter Feast.

1635 - Boston Latin School, the first public school in the United States, was founded - predictably enough, in Boston.

1660 - The Treaty of Oliwa settled peace between Sweden and Poland - ending the so-called Deluge, or the Swedish invasion of Poland-Lithuania - when it was signed by Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, Elector Frederick William of Brandenburg-Prussia, King Charles X of Sweden, and King John II Casimir of Poland.

1661 - England's Charles II was crowned amidst even greater pomp than usual at Westminster Abbey.

1815 - The Second Serbian Uprising - the second phase of a revolution by the Serbs against their occupiers - erupted shortly after the annexation of the country to the Ottoman Empire.

1920 - The Grand National Assembly of Turkey was founded in Ankara.

1932 - A 153-year old windmill known as De Adriaan, located in the Dutch town of Haarlem, burnt down.

1935 - The Polish Constitution of 1935 was adopted.

1940 - The Rhythm Night Club fire at a dance hall in Natchez, Mississippi, killed 198 people, including bandleader Walter Barnes.

1941 - The Greek government of Ioannis Metaxas and the family of King George II evacuated Athens shortly before the invading Wehrmacht arrived, occupying the city by April 27th and shortly thereafter all of Greece.

1942 - During the so-called Baedeker Blitz German bombers hit Exeter, Bath and York in retaliation for the British raid on Lübeck; the point of the raid wasn't to interfere with Britain's industrial output but to weaken morale by attacking its loveliest and most historically significant locales.

1955 - The Canadian Labour Congress was formed by the merger of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada and the Canadian Congress of Labour.

1979 - Fighting in London between the Anti-Nazi League and the Metropolitan Police's Special Patrol Group resulted in the death of anti-fascist activist protester Blair Peach.

1982 - The Conch Republic was established when Key West jokingly seceded from the United States.

1985 - Coca-Cola changed its formula and released New Coke; the response was overwhelmingly negative, and the original formula was back on the market in less than 3 months, cleverly marketed as Coke Classic.

1992 - The divorce of The Princess Royal and Capt. Mark Phillips became final, marking the first event in Elizabeth II's famed 'annus horribilis'.

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