Wednesday, May 05, 2010

"Knock Knock Who's There" by Mary Hopkin

One of the first artists - if not the first - signed to The Beatles' Apple label*, Mary Hopkin's first single, 1968's Those Were the Days, not only bumped her employers' classic Hey Jude out of the Number One spot after just two weeks it also out-performed another version of itself, by Sandie Shaw, in the same year. Her second single, Lennon and McCartney's Goodbye, was then itself held to the Number 2 spot on the UK chart in 1969 by The Beatles' Get Back.

Hopkin later represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1970 with the spritely little ditty you see here; Knock Knock, Who's There? was selected from a field of six by a postal vote, and won by a wide margin with 120,000. She'd sung all six songs during the UK National Final, which that year was called A Song for Europe, and which aired on the television variety series It's Cliff Richard! This one - number six, in fact - proved the most popular; despite her flawless performance, though, Hopkin came second to All Kinds of Everything, performed by Irish singer Dana.

Born in Wales on this day in 1950, Mary Hopkin married Tony Visconti in 1971 (they would divorce in 1981) and thereafter withdrew from the 'scene' as such, although she continued to record and occasionally even perform despite her aversion to the limelight and reputed distaste for the music industry. She released an album, entitled Valentine, on her own label as recently as 2007.

*Paul McCartney signed her on the advice of Twiggy, who saw Hopkin perform on the televised talent show Opportunity Knocks - which was the Britain's Got Talent of its day.
share on: facebook

Pop History Moment: The World Caught Its First Whiff of Chanel No. 5

Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel was an innovator in many different aspects of the fashion industry; as a couturiere, for instance, she was the first to do away with corseting, and she is also credited with the creation of women's sportswear*. As a businesswoman, though, she realized the importance of ancillary lines such as jewellery and cosmetics in the creation of a brand's ethos, and arguably her most enduring innovation was in one such enterprise, namely that of luxe perfumery.

PhotobucketNowadays, it seems, no fashion house can do without its range of scents; these proliferate**, and don't just emanate from the ateliers of Paris either but from the egos of celebrities and pseudo-celebrities alike too numerous to mention. Yet for all the work and money that goes into them, the vast majority come and go like (and smell little better than) something one might blame on the dog. All of which makes the longevity of Chanel No.5 the more amazing...

It was on this day in 1921 that Chanel unveiled her first perfume for a select group of friends. The legend has it she had perfumer Ernest Beaux create six scents for her, and out of them she chose her favourite, which happened to be the fifth one. Chanel's lucky number was also 5, which accounts for the day of its debut as well; it also demonstrates that for all her savvy, there was superstition in her method too.

The scent itself was innovative in many ways: it was the first to utilize synthetic aldehydes as opposed to entirely natural floral and plant ingredients, and it was also the first to use civet musk as a fixative, which made it last longer than its competitors. In both instances Chanel was being consistent in her adherence to modernism as it applied to the kind of woman to whom she was marketing; the perfume she offered was 'artificial' - which, in an age when plastic was still a novelty, was considered a good thing - and by lasting longer it was meant to appeal to women who were working, and therefore too busy to re-apply scent every half hour. Even its packaging - as elegant as it was utilitarian, and reminiscent of a medicine bottle - was a reaction against the fussiness and fripperies commonly associated with traditional femininity.

Although she initially gave bottles of the scent away free with purchase, it soon became so popular that it was offered for sale; in 1924 Chanel partnered with Pierre Wertheimer, keeping just 10% of the proceeds in exchange for total control over the product - an entirely lucrative arrangement with the Wertheimer family which persists until this day. Today it is estimated that a bottle of Chanel No. 5 is sold every 55 seconds, making it one of the most enduring (and profitable, which is why it's enduring) brands in what is an almost entirely ephemeral and transitory industry.

*A logical progression... Women who exercise don't need whalebone, they have muscle tone.
**Especially at Christmastime - and not by accident either!
share on: facebook

Viva Cinco de Mayo!

The victory of Benito Juarez (and General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín) over the forces of France's Napoleon III under Charles de Lorencez at the Battle of Puebla on this day in 1862 set the stage for the modern Republic of Mexico; Cinco de Mayo is as much a celebration of the man and his vision of a sovereign Mexico as it is of this victory.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAlthough the French army persisted - in June 1863 they captured Mexico City and installed Maximilian I as Emperor of Mexico in April 1864 - by June 1867 he'd been executed, at which time Juarez was once again returned to power.

Within Mexico itself Cinco de Mayo is principally a regional holiday, celebrated mainly in the state of Puebla, where the famous battle took place; in California (and therefore the rest of the United States), however, the festivities are more widespread - akin to Chinese New Year, St. Patrick's Day, or Oktoberfest.

Viva Cinco de Mayo!

share on: facebook

"Chasing Pavements" by Adele

Birthday wishes go out today to Adele, the Londoner whose blue-eyed soul has earned her a legion of fans both in the UK and around the world, thanks to singles like this one, Chasing Pavements, which originally appeared on her 2008 debut album 19. She has since performed the song on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and Saturday Night Live; as well, it's has been used numerous times on Hollyoaks.

The song was inspired by a spat with a boyfriend, after which she went chasing after him in an empty street; nonetheless, the Urban Dictionary has a considerably more grotesque definition of a similarly fruitless activity that got the song banned from many American radio stations.
share on: facebook

POPnews - May 5th

[Originally known as the Music Hall, Carnegie Hall is today one of the most famous concert venues in the world; it was once said that the best way to get there was to 'practice, man, practice' but in reality the N, Q, R, and W trains stop at the 57th Street Station right outside the door. Practicing really only works for talented people...]

1260 - Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, became ruler of the Mongol Empire.

1494 - Christopher Columbus 'discovered' Jamaica (which he claimed for Spain) during his Second Voyage.

1640 - England's King Charles I dissolved the Short Parliament.

1762 - Russia and Prussia signed the Treaty of St. Petersburg, ending the Seven Years War.

1789 - France's Estates-General convened for the first time since 1614.

1809 - Mary Kies became the first woman awarded a US patent, for a technique of weaving straw with silk and thread.

1821 - Emperor Napoleon I died in exile on the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena; his last words were 'France, armée, tête d'armée, Joséphine.'

1862 - At an event commemorated today in Mexico as Cinco de Mayo, troops led by Ignacio Zaragoza halted a French invasion of their country at the Battle of Puebla.

1877 - Chief Crazy Horse of the Oglala Sioux surrendered to US troops in Nebraska.

1886 - The Bay View Tragedy occurred when militia fired upon a crowd of protesters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, killing seven.

1890 - At the opening night of Carnegie Hall, Walter Damrosch and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky conducted a concert.

1920 - Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested, accused of robbery and murder.

1941 - Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia returned to Addis Ababa following an exile occasioned by Italy's 1936 invasion; the event is remembered as Liberation Day.

1944 - Mahatma Gandhi was released from prison, where he (along with the leaders of the Congress Party) had been serving time for his part in the Quit India movement.

1945 - Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria was liberated by the 11th Armored Division of the US Army.

1950 - Bhumibol Adulyadej was crowned King Rama IX of Thailand, having ascended to the throne in June 1946 following the mysterious death of his brother Ananda Mahidol.

- Alfredo Stroessner seized power in Paraguay at the head of a junta.

1981 - Bobby Sands died in HM Prison Maze as a result of a 66-day hunger strike.

2005 - Tony Blair became the first Labour leader in British history to secure a third consecutive term for his government.
share on: facebook