Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Ball 'n' Chain" by Big Mama Thornton

While legendary blues performer Big Mama Thornton died on this day in 1984, the music she recorded and popularized will live on...

For instance, Thornton was the first to record Hound Dog, which she did in 1952, four years before Elvis Presley; she was also the first to record Ball 'n' Chain, which was later a huge hit for Janis Joplin.

As to the video - recorded in the year she died - I think it shows Thornton's commanding presence backed up by an extremely tight band, which is always entertaining.
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POPnews (UK) - July 25th

[Despite an outbreak of the plague in London on this day in 1603 there was still much rejoicing at the coronation of James I - including elaborate allegorical plays specially written by the likes of Thomas Dekker and Ben Jonson for the banquet that followed it. The Nation's collective relief was of the sort which often occurs when that period of stagnation inevitably accompanying the slow decline of a long reign ends - even if (or especially if) the monarch in question is a well-loved one as, in this case, Elizabeth I was; nevertheless, any euphoria brought on in whole or in part by the so-called Union of the Crowns wasn't to last... Before long the King's seemingly God-given arrogance, profligate spending, and blatant favouritism (generally aimed at the handsomest men in his court), would begin to rankle his new English subjects.]

1603 - James VI of Scotland was crowned first king of Great Britain, extending his personal reign over Scotland to include England, Ireland, and Wales as well.

1797 - Horatio Nelson lost more than 300 men and his right arm during an attempted conquest of the Spanish island of Tenerife at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

1837 - The first commercial application of an electric telegraph was successfully demonstrated by William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone on a wire 2.4 km (1.5 miles) long, which had been strung between London's Euston Station and Camden Town station of the London and North Western Railway.

1909 - Louis Blériot made the first flight across the English Channel in a heavier-than-air machine, traversing from Calais to Dover in 37 minutes.

1959 - The SR-N1 hovercraft - built by Saunders-Roe on the Isle of Wight - crossed the English Channel from Calais to Dover in just over 2 hours on the anniversary of Louis Blériot's historic flight.

1969 - Gerald Brooke - a British national and teacher of Russian who, along with his wife Barbara, had been arrested in April 1965 for anti-Soviet activities - was released by Soviet authorities in exchange for Morris and Lona Cohen (aka Peter and Helen Kroger) of the Portland Spy Ring.

1978 - Louise Brown, the world's first test tube baby, was born.

1987 - Former MP for Louth and deputy chair of the Conservative Party, author of cheesy potboilers, and pathological liar Jeffrey Archer was awarded £500,000 in damages and up to £700,000 in legal costs by Mr Justice Caulfield from the tabloid newspaper The Daily Star for its allegation that Archer had paid to have sex with a prostitute named Monica Coghlan. At the time it was the richest libel payout in the country's history. The jury's deliberation lasted just four hours, following a three-week trial; turns out they should have deliberated a little longer... It was proved in court in 2001 that Archer had perjured himself - indeed, had 'perverted the course of justice' - during the trial, for which he was subsequently jailed for four years by Mr Justice Potts in July 2001.

1989 - Diana, Princess of Wales, opened the Landmark AIDS Centre in south-east London; Her Royal Highness precipitated a media maelstrom at the event by holding hands with and embracing AIDS patients during her visit - at a time when even healthcare workers who dealt with people affected by the disease still wore gloves.
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"Blow The Wind Southerly" by Maureen Forrester

In an effort* to raise the tone of the proceedings around here, I have decided to include a bit of classical music just now; here Canadian contralto Maureen Forrester** performs the old English folk song Blow the wind southerly on CBC-TV in June 1965. She is accompanied on piano by John Newmark but, alas, the clip doesn't credit his comely page turner.

Maybe that's her name... Paige Turner!

(So much for trying to class up the joint...)

*Basically tokenism, given the gargantuan effort necessary, but it's well-intentioned tokenism nonetheless.
**Who would have needed those leather lungs to blow eighty candles southerly on this day in 2010, had she not died the previous June 16th.

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Pop History Moment: The Birth of Louise Brown

On this day in 1978 the world's first test tube baby, Louise Brown, was born at Oldham and District Hospital near Manchester. Needless to say, those responsible have continued to monitor the notoriously press-shy girl as she grew into womanhood for possible side-effects related to the unusual manner of her conception, and none have as yet been detected...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSomething about this story so riveted my eight-year-old brain that I still, to this day, don't fully understand my fascination. Certainly, little me would have enjoyed the triumph of science over Nature, as I was quite the little Tory back then.

Mainly, though, I can remember thinking that with this girl's birth, something greater than one little life was achieved. There have been many days since then that have felt like a clear line had been drawn between the past and the present, but that, I guess, was the first.

Of course, it's possible many of you out there agree with me... Or not. Either way - and whatever your take on reproductive technology is - since I first published this post two years ago it has been consistently among the Pop Culture Institute's top ten hit-getters.
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POPnews (US) - July 25th

[Operation Crossroads was actually a pair of nuclear explosions, the first of which had been detonated on July 1st... While both explosions carried a yield of 23 kilotons the blast on this day, codenamed Baker, differed from its predecessor, Able, mainly because it was set off 27m (90 ft) underwater, rather than at an altitude of 158m (520 ft). A third operation, called Charlie, was cancelled.]

1814 - During the War of 1812, at the Battle of Lundy's Lane, reinforcements for General Phineas Riall's British and Canadian forces arrived near Niagara Falls and a bloody, all-night battle with Jacob Brown's Americans began shortly after 6 pm, following which the Americans retreated to Fort Erie.

1853 - Joaquin Murietta - the famous Californio bandit known as 'Robin Hood of El Dorado' - was killed.

1861 - Near the outset of the American Civil War the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution was passed by Congress stating that the war was being fought to preserve the Union and not to end slavery.

1866 - The US Congress passed legislation authorizing the rank of General of the Army (commonly called '5-star general'); Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant became the first recipient of this rank.

1868 - Wyoming became a United States territory.

1897 - Writer Jack London sailed to join the Klondike Gold Rush where he wrote his first successful stories; while in the far north, though, his health rapidly deteriorated, leaving him toothless from scurvy and his face permanently scarred.

1898 - The US invasion of Puerto Rico began when troops landed at the harbor of Guánica, led by General Nelson A. Miles; while the land invasion, proper, began that day, sea-based bombardment and shelling of the capital city of San Juan had been occurring since May 1898.

1946 - As part of Operation Crossroads the US military detonated an atomic bomb underwater in the lagoon of Bikini Atoll; owing to radioactive contamination, the site remains uninhabitable to this day.

1956 - 45 miles south of Nantucket Island, the Italian ocean liner SS Andrea Doria collided with the MS Stockholm in heavy fog and sank the next day, killing 51.

1969 - President Richard Nixon declared the Nixon Doctrine, stating that the United States now expected its Asian allies to take care of their own military defense; this began the so-called 'Vietnamization' of the Vietnam War.

1978 - The Cerro Maravilla Incident occurred when Puerto Rican independence activists Carlos Soto Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado were killed in a police ambush; their driver was undercover agent Alejandro Gonzalez Malavé, who was himself killed eight years later by Los Macheteros.
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"Boogie Wonderland" by Earth Wind & Fire

Birthday wishes go out today to Verdine White, the energetic bassist for disco pioneers Earth, Wind & Fire. Boogie Wonderland originally burned up dance floors in 1979 with the able assistance of The Emotions; the song was originally included on their album I Am.

I have no idea where the video came from, except that I asked the YouTube gods for it and this is what they found. I've been dancing around the hallowed halls of the Pop Culture Institute ever since...

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POPnews - July 25th

[The Brunswick Manifesto was not met with the fearful response that had been hoped for when it was issued, on this day in 1792 by Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick... In fact, this contemporary caricature wittily conveys the contempt the document was given - and not just by the French, either! In fact, it's issuance may indeed have worsened the French Revolution by giving the impression that the King, Louis XVI, was collaborating with the Prussian and Austrian allied army. (He wasn't - but try and explain that to an angry mob!)]

306 CE - Constantine I was proclaimed Roman Emperor by his troops.

864 CE - By issuing the Edict of Pistres France's so-called 'First King' Charles the Bald ordered defensive measures to be taken against the Vikings.

1547 - Henri II was crowned King of France following the death of his father Francois I.

1567 - Don Diego de Losada founded the city of Santiago de Leon de Caracas - modern-day Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela - after defeating Mariche chief, Tamanaco.

1593 - France's Huguenot King Henri IV publicly converted to Roman Catholicism at the behest of his mistress, Gabrielle d'Estrées.

1792 - The Brunswick Manifesto - principally written by Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Prince de Condé - was issued to the population of Paris, promising vengeance if the French Royal Family was harmed during the ongoing revolution.

1925 - The Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) was established.

1934 - Eight Austrian Nazis (including Paul Hudl, Franz Holzweber, Otto Planetta) assassinated Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in a failed coup attempt known as the July Putsch.

1940 - General Henri Guisan ordered the Swiss Army to resist German invasion and make surrender illegal.

1943 - Benito Mussolini was forced out of office by his own Italian Grand Council; he was replaced by Pietro Badoglio.

1958 - The African Regroupment Party (PRA) held its first congress in Cotonou.

1984 - Salyut 7 cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to perform a space walk.

1993 - Israel launched a massive attack against Lebanon in what the Israelis called Operation Accountability, and the Lebanese called the Seven-Day War.

1994 - Israel and Jordan signed the Washington Declaration, which formally ended the state of war that'd existed between the nations since 1948.

1995 - A gas bottle exploded in the Saint Michel station of line B of the RER (also known as Paris' regional train network) killing eight and wounding 80.

1997 - When K.R. Narayanan was sworn-in as India's 10th president he became the first Dalit - a class formerly known as 'untouchable' - to hold this office.

2000 - Air France Flight 4590 - a Concorde supersonic passenger jet - crashed just after takeoff from Paris' Charles de Gaulle International Airport, killing all 109 aboard and 4 on the ground besides; the accident successfully grounded all remaining Concorde aircraft.

2007 - Pratibha Patil was sworn in as India's first woman president.

2009 - Harry Patch, the last surviving soldier to have served in the trenches in World War I, died aged 111.
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