Friday, July 30, 2010

"Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush

Today's birthday gal is Kate Bush, the darling of fan and critic and pundit alike, whose artistic music even today gets played on the radio, in amongst the caterwauling of twinks and premeditated pap the music industry insists on pushing so it can blame poor sales figures on illegal file-sharing.

Running Up That Hill was the first single from her 1985 album Hounds of Love; oddly enough* this video was rarely shown in the United States at the time of its release, with channels such as MTV preferring to show a live clip from British chat show Wogan instead. Theories about why range from the simple 'it's too arty' to 'there's no lip-synch' to 'it's too sexy', so the Pop Culture Institute invites you to watch it now, maybe for the first time.

Bush's fellow dancer in the video is Michael Hervieu; the piece they're dancing was choreographed by Dyanne Gray.

*Or not, depending on your level of cynicism.
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Now Showing: Disney's "Flowers and Trees"

On this day in 1932 Walt Disney's Flowers and Trees - remembered by history as both the first cartoon short to use Technicolor and the first winner of the Academy Award in the cartoon short category - made its debut on movie screens across the United States. This memorable addition to Disney's Silly Symphonies franchise was directed by Burt Gillett and released by United Artists.

The cartoon short had already been in production in black and white when Disney saw tests of three-strip Technicolor being conducted by Herbert Kalmus; not only was Flowers and Trees converted into colour but so were subsequent Silly Symphonies, although those cartoons featuring Mickey Mouse would remain black and white until 1935's The Band Concert.

Savvy businessman that he was, Disney held a monopoly on three-strip Technicolor until September 1935, forcing his chief competitiors Ub Iwerks* and Max Fleischer to use the inferior two-strip Cinecolor process.

*The rivalry between Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney is a long and storied one... Iwerks was one of the first Disney animators, but Disney's perfectionism led to his resignation; Iwerks went on to found his own company, which failed, and then found great success with Warner Bros. and Leon Schlesinger Productions before returning to Disney in the 1940s - where he perfected the process whereby animation and live-action could co-exist on the screen.
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"If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next" by Manic Street Preachers

Birthday wishes go out today to Sean Moore - drummer, songwriter, and occasional trumpeter for the Welsh band Manic Street Preachers. Although described by his mates as 'the quiet one' he is nevertheless the driving force behind the oft-charted hit-makers; the band's biography goes even further, stating unequivocally that Moore is 'quite possibly the only person in rock who doesn't take the Manics seriously'.

If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next first appeared as the first single from Manic Street Preachers' 1998 fifth album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours; in keeping with an unwritten tradition, I'd been intending to post the actual video, but when it wasn't available I was driven to find an acoustic version because I love it so much, and amazingly I found this one, which is awfully good as well.

The song is one of two chart toppers for the Preachers, and like many modern rock songs* drew its inspiration from the Spanish Civil War - in particular by George Orwell's first-hand account of that conflict, Homage to Catalonia; the title of the song, in fact, comes from a Republican poster of the time. The song also holds the Guinness Book's record for the longest Number One song title without brackets; it's been covered by David Usher on his 2003 album, Hallucinations, and is said to be a favourite of Radiohead's laugh-a-decade front man Thom Yorke.

*Pretty much just The Clash's Spanish Bombs, but who can resist the chance at a bit of sarky? Not I!
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Pop History Moment: Jimmy Hoffa Went Missing

On this day in 1975 disgraced Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa went missing from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox restaurant in suburban Detroit, where he'd been due to meet fellow labour leaders Anthony 'Tony Jack' Giacalone from Detroit and Anthony 'Tony Pro' Provenzano of Union City, New Jersey; from this simple event has come one of the greatest mysteries of modern times...

PhotobucketThe question of who killed the once-powerful labour leader - as much as where his body might be - has electrified the popular media practically from the moment it occurred.

Since theories are like assholes*, Hoffa's disappearance practically became a cottage industry over the ensuing thirty years. Naturally enough, the FBI had its own theory - the infamous Hoffex Memo - which led the pack of wanton speculation and outright lies; the first break in the case - leading many to consider the mystery solved - came with the deathbed confession of Frank Sheeran, which appeared in Charles Brandt's 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses. The simple answer derived from the book is that Hoffa was abducted from the parking lot, shot at a home in a suburb northeast of Detroit, then cremated within an hour and scattered the same day at the nearby Grand Lawn Cemetery.

Hoffa was the subject of the 1992 movie, aptly entitled Hoffa, in which the man himself was played by the man himself, Jack Nicholson.

*E'rybody gots one.
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POPnews - July 30th

[England captain Bobby Moore accepted the coveted (and only recently recovered) Jules Rimet Trophy from his Queen on this day in 1966 and fortunately neither from World Cup Willie nor a dog called Pickles.]

762 CE - The city of Baghdad was founded by Abu Ja'far Al-Mansur.

1419 - The First Defenestration of Prague occurred when seven members of that city's council were thrown from a window at Charles Square's Novoměstská radnice (Town Hall) by a crowd of radical Hussites under the command of Jan Želivský; those who didn't die from the fall were handily dispatched by the angry mob waiting in the street below. Upon hearing the news, King Václav IV reportedly suffered such a shock that he died shortly after.

1619 - The first representative assembly in the Americas, the House of Burgesses, convened for the first time, in Jamestown; it was presided over by the Governor, George Yeardley, who appointed the journalist John Pory as speaker - although Pory was, in fact, little more than a recording secretary.

1729 - The city of Baltimore was founded, named after Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore; it then took the city more than 200 years to spawn John Waters, who would go on to immortalize it so memorably on film. Well worth the wait, I'd say...

1756 - Bartolomeo Rastrelli presented the newly-built Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo to Russia's Empress Elizabeth and her courtiers.

1811 - For having uttered the Grito de Dolores in September 1810 - thereby setting off the Mexican War of Independence - Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, leader of the insurgency, was executed by the Spanish outside the Government Palace of Chihuahua.

1825 - Malden Island was discovered by Captain George Anson, Lord Byron, of the HMS Blonde, who'd been charged with the solemn duty of repatriating the remains of the King and Queen of Hawai'i - Kamehameha II and Kamāmalu - after they died of measles during a state visit to Britain; the island was named for Lieutenant Charles Robert Malden, the ship's navigator, who first sighted it.

1859 - The first ascent of Grand Combin, one of the highest summits in the Alps, was made by Charles Sainte-Claire Deville with Basile Dorsaz and brothers Daniel, Emmanuel and Gaspard Balleys.

1871 - The Staten Island Ferry Westfield's boiler exploded, killing more than 85 people.

Photobucket1916 - A series of small deliberately-set fires triggered an explosion at a munitions depot on New Jersey's Black Tom Island, in New York Harbor near Jersey City, killing 7 and injuring hundreds... Despite the low death count (which can be attributed to the fact that it occurred just after 2 AM) the explosion caused massive damage (valued at some $20 million*) lodging shrapnel in the Statue of Liberty** and the clock tower of the Jersey Journal building in Journal Square a mile away, as well as breaking windows all over Lower Manhattan (as far north as Times Square) and elsewhere in a radius estimated at 40 kilometres (25 miles). The initial blast - equivalent to an earthquake of between 5 and 5.5 on the Richter Scale - could be felt as far away as Philadelphia and Maryland, and as the fire continued to rage throughout the day there were dozens of smaller explosions at the site. While the crime remains officially unsolved, German saboteurs (such as Lothar Witzke and Franz von Papen) have been blamed for what is still one of the worst acts of terrorism to have ever been committed on US soil. The story has been thrillingly retold in The Detonators: The Secret Plot to Destroy America and an Epic Hunt for Justice by Chad Millman.

*Akin to $390 million in today's money! Imperial Germany was later sued for damages; a $50 million settlement (like, $976 million today) was ordered paid to the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company in 1953, and the last payment was finally made in 1979.
**The arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty closed as a result of the explosion, and have yet to reopen!

1932 - The Games of the X Olympiad (or the 10th Olympic Summer Games) opened in Los Angeles; plagued by the worsening Great Depression, the games had just half as many participants as the 1928 Games held in Amsterdam, and weren't even attended by US President Herbert Hoover.

1945 - The Japanese submarine I-58 sank the USS Indianapolis (CA-35), killing 883 seamen.

1954 - Elvis Presley made his first public performance at the Overton Park Shell in Memphis, Tennessee, performing as part of the Blue Moon Boys, who opened for Slim Whitman.

1956 - In God We Trust was made the official motto of the United States, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a Joint Resolution passed by Congress.

1966 - At Wembley Stadium, host England won the World Cup, defeating what was then West Germany 4-2.

1971 - David Scott and James Irwin - on board the Apollo Lunar Module module Falcon - landed on the moon with first Lunar Rover as part of the Apollo Program's Apollo 15 mission.

1980 - Vanuatu gained its independence from France and the UK.

2002 - The accounting law referred to as 'The Sarbanes Oxley Act' was signed into law by US President George W. Bush.

2006 - BBC Two aired the final broadcast of Top of the Pops after 42 years, during which time every notable (as well as many not) act in the music business appeared.
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