Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Dancing Queen" by ABBA

It's been a big couple of days around here for ABBA; I swear, though, it's a coincidence and not a plot...

Yesterday's history lesson from the Swedish pop legends concerned the comeuppance of a certain ambitious Corsican; today's lesson is in current events - or at least was when it was first performed. Pop music legend has it that Dancing Queen was written for Silvia Sommerlath, then the fiance of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

The song first appeared on their fourth album, 1976's Arrival; here we see it being performed on the eve of that year's royal wedding, and on behalf of the Pop Culture Institute I'd like to wish Their Majesties a heartfelt Har denäran pa bröllopsdagen today!
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Happy Anniversary Your Majesties

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketNot surprisingly, there aren't that many pictures of the notoriously shy Carl XVI Gustaf and his consort Silvia - also known as the King and Queen of Sweden - on the web; yet it's entirely apt that the best of those should be one of them dancing.

In 1976 ABBA released their monster hit Dancing Queen (which was purportedly about Her Majesty) and which the band played live (in 18th Century costumes!) for the King himself on national television the night before the royal wedding, which was held on this day in 1976 at Stockholm's Storkyrkan Cathedral. Anni-Frid, one of the founding members of ABBA and now a German princess, has also performed the song for the royal couple on the occasion of the Queen's 50th birthday in December 1993.

Imagine getting an original ABBA song for a wedding present... Kinda makes that IKEA gift card I sent them look a little chintzy. I guess I should have spent more than 150 kroner*.

*Uh... Yeah? That's like 25 bucks, you cheapo!
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Happy Birthday Sir Salman Rushdie

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When I first wrote this piece - three years ago today - Salman Rushdie's 1981 novel Midnight's Children was at the top my Books-To-Buy list; his second novel, it stirred up considerable controversy with its unflattering portrait of Indira Gandhi during the Emergency, yet somehow managed to earn him the Booker Prize anyway*. I have since read the book - purchased shortly thereafter for a mere $2** on a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in the Seattle neighbourhood of Fremont - and its characters and events haunt me still, as do the sights and sounds of that entirely pleasant afternoon.

As pissed off as some people were by Midnight's Children though, it wasn't until 1988 that he really pissed people off, with his novel The Satanic Verses, for which Iran's Nutjob-in-Chief Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced him to death in February 1989. Seeing as nearly twenty years have passed, I feel compelled to remind everyone that Khomeini's dead and Rushdie's still with us...  What better reason to celebrate Sir Salman's birthday than a failed fatwā by a fallen fathead?

*Truth In Blogging guidelines require me to label this comment as sarcasm.

**$2 US even, which at the time was worth less than a good old twoonie!
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In Memoriam: Nick Drake

Singer-songwriter Nick Drake was born on this day in 1948; he died of a drugs overdose* in November 1974 at the age of 26 having recorded only three records: Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970), and Pink Moon (1972). Oh, but what records they are! That Nick Drake died so young is a shame; that his sweet voice and sensitive thoughts live on is a testament to the power of art.

This is the first part of a 2004 documentary called A Skin Too Few, about his life and work; it was not the first tribute he received, though. In 1985 The Dream Academy dedicated their smash hit song Life in a Northern Town to Drake and his memory.

*Amitriptyline, prescribed as an anti-depressant.
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Pop History Moment: The Executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

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On this day in 1953 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for espionage in the electric chair at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in upstate New York. They were to have been executed the previous day, but were granted a stay of execution by US Supreme Court Associate Justice William O. Douglas thanks to the efforts of their lawyer, Emanuel Hirsch Bloch. While the Rosenbergs were generally considered to be guilty by all and sundry - including the left-wing press - in the weeks and months leading up to their trial, between the time of their conviction and their death grave doubts began to appear, mainly as a reaction to the fanatical anti-Semitism the case had engendered.

Information has recently came to light that Julius Rosenberg may have been guilty of something, just not of selling secrets of the Atomic Bomb to the Soviet Union, the crime for which he was convicted; it is generally accepted that his wife was entirely guiltless, and merely indicted alongside him in order to coerce him into a confession - a strategy which backfired, since it was a confession he could never make because he hadn't done it.

The Rosenberg's two sons - Robert and Michael - were orphaned by the executions, the stigma of which made their adoption difficult; the boys were eventually taken in by songwriter Abel Meeropol* and his wife Anne, at which time they took their new parents' surname.

The two later wrote the 1975 memoir We Are Your Sons: The Legacy of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the proceeds of which established the Rosenberg Fund for Children to aid the children of leftist activists involved in similar legal mishegas; E. L. Doctorow also wrote a book about the Rosenberg execution, his 1971 debut novel The Book of Daniel, which was itself made into a film, Daniel (1983) directed by Sidney Lumet and starring the world's least Jewish-looking actor Timothy Hutton.

*Author of the song Strange Fruit under the pseudonym Lewis Allen.

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POPnews - June 19th

[Edouard Manet's rightly famous depiction of the execution of Mexican Emperor Maximilian contains echoes of another work recently posted here, namely The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya, which was completed in 1814; this work - executed the year after His Majesty, in 1868 - suffers not one whit from the comparison, being like its fellow artwork both a compassionate and dispassionate rendering of not only human suffering but of the callous and apathetic way in which it is often meted out.]

1269 - France's King Louis IX ordered all Jews found in public without an identifying yellow badge to be fined ten livres of silver.
1306 - The army of Edward I under the Earl of Pembroke defeated Robert the Bruce's Scottish force at the Battle of Methven during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

1807 - Russian Admiral Dmitry Senyavin engaged the Ottoman Empire at the sea-borne Battle of Athos during the Russo-Turkish War; over the next ten days the Turkish fleet was so badly defeated it would later took ten years to rebuild.

1816 - The Battle of Seven Oaks took place between rival fur-traders the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company near Winnipeg; HBC governor Robert Semple - along with 21 others - was killed in the skirmish, which was precipitated by the theft of a wagonload of pemmican by a band of Métis under Cuthbert Grant.

1850 - Princess Louise of the Netherlands married Crown Prince Karl of Sweden-Norway, who later reigned as Charles XV.

1865 - Over two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Galveston were finally informed of their freedom - the anniversary of which is still officially celebrated in Texas and 13 other contiguous states as Juneteenth.

1867 - The Austrian-born Hapsburg archduke elected Maximilian I - first and only Emperor of the Mexican Empire - was executed by a firing squad in Querétaro.

1875 - The Herzegovinian rebellion against the Ottoman Empire began.

1910 - America's first Father's Day was celebrated on this day in Spokane, Washington, at the behest of Sonora Smart Dodd, or so they say; others claim it was held in July 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia. Dolts, mostly.

1934 - The Communications Act of 1934 established the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

1961 - Kuwait declared its independence from the United Kingdom.

1970 - The Patent Cooperation Treaty was signed.

1975 - An inquest by the British government found mysteriously missing peer Lord Lucan guilty of the killing of Sandra Rivett, his children's nanny.

Photobucket1978 - Jim Davis' Garfield comic strip debuted; over the next few years the franchise would grow to included books, plush toys, and various other ancillary materials - as well as a television series and feature films - to help it yield as much as $1 billion in revenue annually. Currently the strip is distributed to over 110 countries in an estimated 2,560 newspapers.

1982 - In one of the first militant attacks by Hezbollah, David S. Dodge, president of the American University in Beirut, was kidnapped.

1986 - Len Bias, an American college basketball player from the University of Maryland, suffered a fatal cardiac arrhythmia resulting from a cocaine overdose less than 48 hours after being selected by the Boston Celtics in that year's NBA Draft.

1987 - The ETA committed one of its most violent attacks - setting off a bomb in the underground car park of a Hipercor supermarket in Barcelona - which killed 21 and injured 45.

2006 - Prime ministers of several northern European nations participated in a ceremonial 'laying of the first stone' at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Spitsbergen, Norway.

2009 - British troops begin Operation Panther's Claw, one of the largest air operations in modern times, when more than 350 troops made an aerial assault on Taliban positions and subsequently repelled Taliban counter-attacks.
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