Saturday, December 04, 2010

"My Young Man" by Kate Rusby

The first time I heard Kate Rusby's distinctive, unforgettable voice she was performing The Kinks' classic Village Green Preservation Society under the opening titles of the cult classic Jennifer Saunders sitcom Jam and Jerusalem in 2006; until recently, though, it hasn't been available for purchase... All that's changed with the release of Rusby's 2007 album, Awkward Annie; now if only she can convince Rufus Wainwright to release that version of What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? he did for that Gap ad I'll be a happy blogger.

The Pop Culture Institute sends its fondest birthday wishes today to the Barnsley Nightingale in the hopes that she remains on the high perch she's attained, singing her heart out for many years to come...
share on: facebook

Remembering... Frank Zappa

I can safely say that, while I've long been a fan of Frank Zappa's, I was never a fan of his music until this day in 1993, the day he died; death has a funny way of doing that, bringing a person new fans as a kind of legacy...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThat was the day a friend of mine, who was already a fan and had been for years, sat me down and, by way of explanation of his fandom, played me his favourite Zappa songs - among them Help I'm A Rock, Don't Eat The Yellow Snow, Catholic Girls, and Muffin Man, plus the entire 1979 album Sheik Yerbouti.

Just like that I was hooked. Not only did I like Zappa's voice (an essential component of musical enjoyment for me) but I can safely say I'd never heard anything like his music, either. Suddenly all the print and TV interviews of his that I'd read and watched made sense; Zappa had always been an advocate for free speech, which led me to begin following his career in the 1980s, but to hear even some of the work he and his band The Mothers of Invention did in the 1970s made me eager to hear every last note.

In all, Frank Zappa wrote 75 albums of music (18 of them released posthumously); even given a certain amount of overlap between studio and live performances, this is a massive body of work for one person to produce. It'll probably take me to the end of my life to hear it all, but then again, it's a good thing I like a challenge.
share on: facebook

A Requiem for Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten's particular contribution to the arts is the English-language opera; his weren't the first nor were they the last, but their appearance at the middle of the 20th Century helped to revitalize classical music in the UK nonetheless.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMost of Britten's works were written to suit the voice of his lover, Peter Pears, whom he'd met in 1936 and with whom Britten lived and worked for the last 40 years of his life. Their collaboration is considered unique in the history of music, both for its singer/composer dynamic as well as its all-male ramifications.

Paul Bunyan, an operetta with libretto by W. H. Auden*, appeared in 1941 during their wartime exile in America; Peter Grimes followed in June 1945. In 1948 Britten (along with Pears, and librettist Eric Crozier) founded the Aldeburgh Festival, due in part to the frosty reception his work received in London, but also to give the English Opera Group, which he also founded, a home.

Britten's most famous work, Billy Budd, premiered in 1951, followed by the coronation-inspired Gloriana in 1953, and the well-received The Turn of the Screw in 1954. Throughout this time he continued to compose popular works other than operas, including piano pieces for chamber orchestra and his famous War Requiem among many others.

Britten's last two works were Owen Wingrave in 1971, and Death in Venice in 1973. Suffering from ill-health for most of the past decade, Britten died on this day in 1976, and as befitting Lord Britten of Aldeburgh (as he'd become just months before his death) he is buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul's Church in Aldeburgh, where in April 1986 he was joined by his life's companion.

*Who was something of a notable whoopsie himself...
share on: facebook

POPnews - December 4th

[It was Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle who pioneered the field of the celebrity mugshot with this particularly sombre example; his acquittal - on this day in 1921, for the murder of Virginia Rappe - was the third of three.]

771 CE - Austrasian King Carloman died, leaving his brother Charlemagne sole ruler of the now complete Frankish Kingdom.

1783 - At New York City's Fraunces Tavern US General George Washington formally bid his officers farewell at the end of the American Revolution - an event commemorated there since 1976 by a plaque.

1791 - The world's first Sunday newspaper, The Observer, was first published in London by W. S. Bourne.

1872 - The American brigantine Mary Celeste was found - crewless and adrift in the Strait of Gibraltar - by the British crew of the Dei Gratia; the vessel had been abandoned for nine days when it was discovered, but the fate and whereabouts of the crew remains unknown.

1875 - Notorious New York City politician and Tammany Hall sachem Boss Tweed escaped from prison and fled the US, first to Cuba, then later to Spain.

1881 - The first issue of the Los Angeles Times rolled off the presses.

1918 - Woodrow Wilson sailed for Europe, the first serving US President to do so: his first stop was London, then it was on to Paris for the Peace Conference at Versailles - the events of which are thrillingly described in Margaret Macmillan's landmark book Paris 1919.

1921 - Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle's third and final trial for causing the September death of starlet Virginia Rappe ended in a hung jury; despite an unconditional acquittal, Arbuckle's once-envied career was in ruins. He died of a heart attack in June 1933 on the eve of his comeback.

1943 - FDR shut down the WPA... OMG, WTF!

1954 - The first Burger King opened in Miami.

1956 - The Million Dollar Quartet made their legendary recordings.

1969 - Fred Hampton and Mark Clark of the Black Panther Party were killed in their sleep during a raid by 14 members of the Chicago Police Department.

1971 - A fan who brought a flare gun to a Frank Zappa concert at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland somehow managed to burn the place down; it has since been rebuilt. The event is immortalized in the Deep Purple song Smoke on the Water.

1977 - President Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Republic proclaimed himself Emperor Bokassa I of the Central African Empire.

1978 - Dianne Feinstein was sworn in as Mayor of San Francisco to replace the assassinated George Moscone; she was the first woman to become mayor of that city, a post which she held for a decade before her election to the US Senate.

1979 - The Hastie Fire in Hull, set by serial arsonist Bruce George Peter Lee, killed 3 schoolboys.

1980 - Led Zeppelin formally announced its breakup following the September death of founding member and drummer John Bonham.

1991 - Journalist Terry Anderson was released from captivity in Beirut; he'd been held there for seven years by members of Hezbollah.

1998 - The Unity Module - 2nd phase of the International Space Station - was launched.
share on: facebook