Friday, June 18, 2010

Pop History Moment: Churchill's "Finest Hour"

On this day in 1940 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his famous speech - known as Their Finest Hour - in the House of Commons at Westminster; the third of three speeches* Churchill delivered in response to the Battle of France following the invasion of that country by the Nazi horde, it was designed to galvanize support for England in the battle to come, a battle aptly named by him herein as the Battle of Britain.

*The first was Blood, toil, tears, and sweat delivered on May 13th shortly after his election as Prime Minister, and the second We shall fight them on the beaches from June 4th following Operation Dynamo - which is now better known as the evacuation of Dunkirk.

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"Don't Go" by Yazoo

Birthday wishes go out today to Alison Moyet, truly the biggest voice in an age of truly big voices!

As the verbal half of pioneering British New Wave duo Yazoo, Moyet's voice received its fair share of play on radio and in clubs around the world; together with Vince Clarke - once with Depeche Mode, thence with Erasure - and then as soloist, Moyet's particular bluesy style has attracted a wide and rabid following over the nearly thirty years of her career.

Don't Go was the second single from Yazoo's 1981 debut album Upstairs at Eric's; the song was everywhere in the summer and fall of 1982, accompanied by one of those old school videos of which I'm so fond - this one set inside a spooky haunted mansion...
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"Waterloo" by ABBA

On this day in 1815 the Battle of Waterloo ended the reign of terror visited upon Europe by Napoleon Bonaparte, brought laurels to the two commanders who'd defeated him - Britain's Duke of Wellington and Prussia's Gebhard von Blücher - and unleashed a torrent of pop culture in its wake.

One of my personal favourites, though, has always been ABBA's song Waterloo - which won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974* - launching the Swedish disco-cheese merchants on their own personal reign of terror of the pop charts. The song appears on the band's greatest hits album ABBA Gold.

*And which award-winning performance has in the past been shown above, when available...
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POPnews - June 18th

[Named for the Aletsch Glacier located at its base, the Aletschhorn is less well-known by climbers than its neighbours to the north, Jungfrau and Eiger; the latter even features in a book, The Eiger Sanction, which became a film.  Alas, there's no such book-cum-movie called The Aletsch Sanction...  And by 'alas' I mean 'not alas'.]

618 CE - Li Yuan became Emperor Gaozu of Tang, initiating three centuries of Tang Dynasty rule over China; so influential was his reign that to this day there are still men who willingly allow themselves to be governed entirely by 'tang...

1178 - As reported by the chronicler Gervase, five monks at the abbey of Canterbury Cathedral saw what was in all likelihood the Giordano Bruno crater being formed, while star-gazing during that year's Taurid meteor shower; the theory was first posited by geologist Jack B. Hartung in 1976.

1264 - The Parliament of Ireland met at Castledermot in County Kildare, which is the first definitively known meeting of this legislative body.

1429 - French forces under the leadership of Joan of Arc defeated the main English army under Sir John Fastolf at the Battle of Patay, which turned the tide of the Hundred Years' War in favour of the French.

1767 - Samuel Wallis - an English sea captain at the helm of HMS Dolphin - sighted Tahiti; he is considered the first European to reach the island.

1812 - The US Congress declared war on Great Britain, a war which became known as the War of 1812.

1815 - At the very end of the Napoleonic Wars a decisive military defeat by Britain's Duke of Wellington and Prussia's Gebhard von Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo led to the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte for the second and final time, as well as his exile on the remote island of Saint Helena.

1859 - The first ascent of Aletschhorn - the second-tallest summit in the Bernese Alps, after the Finsteraarhorn - was made by Francis Fox Tuckett, J. J. Bennen, V. Tairraz and Peter Bohren. While at the summit, Tuckett made a series of scientific measurements.

1887 - Germany and Russia signed the Reinsurance Treaty.

1900 - China's Empress Dowager Longyu ordered all foreigners killed, including foreign diplomats and their families, in support of the Boxer Rebellion.

1908 - The University of the Philippines was established.

1940 - The Appeal of June 18 by Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French Forces, led to the establishment of the French Resistance.

1953 - Following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 the monarchy of King Farouk I was abolished and the Republic of Egypt was declared by the Revolution Command Council; serving as the country's first president was General Muhammad Naguib.

1954 - Pierre Mendès-France became Prime Minister of France.

1972 - 118 people were killed when their plane crashed less than 3 minutes after take off from London Heathrow Airport while en route to Brussels; the Staines air disaster would remain Britain's worst until the loss of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie just days before Christmas 1988.

1979 - The second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty - or SALT II - was signed by US President Jimmy Carter and the Soviet Union's Leonid Brezhnev.

1983 - Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space on board NASA's STS-7 Space Shuttle mission.

1984 - A major clash between about 5,000 police and a similar number of miners took place at Orgreave, South Yorkshire, during the UK miners' strike of 1984-5; the incident later became known as the Battle of Orgreave. Not only was it mentioned in a Dire Straits song, Iron Hand, from the band's 1991 sixth and final album On Every Street, it was given a historical re-enactment in 2001, which was itself filmed by Mike Figgis for inclusion in a documentary on the strike by Britain's Channel 4.

2006 - Kazakhstan's first satellite, KazSat, was launched.
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