Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pop History Moment: The Beatles' Rooftop Concert

On this day in 1969 The Beatles held their final concert, on the roof of Apple Records at 3 Savile Row in central London; the event was filmed for their documentary Let It Be, which would record their eventual break-up. Opening with Get Back, the first part of the film also includes Don't Let Me Down, which were played three and two times respectively.

Despite having drifted apart emotionally and artistically, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr managed to 'come together' one last time (with Billy Preston on electric piano) to perform the impromptu gig, the second part of which features I've Got a Feeling and One After 909.

Their final stadium gig - in August 1966 at San Francisco's Candlestick Park - had come at a time when John Lennon had mistakenly told the truth to the American press, bemoaning the fact that the Beatles had become 'more popular than Jesus now', at which point the good Christians of that country reacted by going into a frenzy of forgiveness, burning albums and memorabilia in bonfires coast to coast.

By the third part of this video Metropolitan Police have begun gathering, as have an equal number of fans and tutters in Savile Row below. There was just enough time for Dig a Pony, followed by a reprise of Get Back, before the cops pulled the plug. (They also played a brief version of the British national anthem, God Save the Queen and a brief rehearsal of I Want You (She's So Heavy) while second engineer Alan Parsons was changing tapes. These performances were omitted from the film.) Lennon's closing salvo was: 'I'd like to say 'thank you' on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition!' By the time the album Let It Be was released in May 1970, the band was no more...

Homage was paid to the Fab Four's Rooftop Concert by another fab four, namely U2, who recorded the video to Where the Streets Have No Name on the rooftop of the Republic Liquor Store at East 7th Street and South Main Street in Los Angeles in March 1987.
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Gratuitous Brunette: Christian Bale


At this time in 2009 the blogosphere was buzzing about a certain expletive-laden rant delivered by Christian Bale to Shane Hurlbut on the set of Terminator Salvation...

The matter - according to Bale, at least - was thoroughly resolved, and in the spirit of magnanimity which has recently defined my outlook on life I've decided to make Bale our Gratuitous Brunette again on this, the occasion of his 37th birthday.
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Happy Birthday Your Royal Highness

Only his royal status kept me from making Felipe, Prince of Asturias, a Gratuitous Brunette today; despite his fitness for the Pop Culture Institute's single most dubious honour, I simply couldn't objectify the the third child and first son of King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía of Spain in that way... Still, all the elements are there, and who in their right mind could deny the charms of a statuesque Spaniard - especially one who will one day be King over all of them? Not a smarmy ass-kisser like me, that's for sure...

PhotobucketIn addition to Prince of Asturias, a title borne by every Spanish heir apparent, Prince Felipe is Prince of Viana, Prince of Girona, Duke of Montblanc, Count of Cervera, and Lord of Balaguer; the tradition of over-titling royal babies is consistent with the tradition of over-naming them, as his full name is Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de la Santísima Trinidad y de Todos los Santos de Borbón y de Grecia.

Yet in spite of such a complex entitlement, His Royal Highness seems to have escaped the worst ravages of the entitlement complex. He even went so far as to marry a commoner - and not one of those snooty commoners either, like the daughter of a nobleman, but an honest-to-goodness, went to state-funded schools, lived paycheque to paycheque kind of commoner. More or less...

For all that, though, Letizia, Princess of Asturias is far from common, possessing beauty and brains in equal measure. Married in May 2004, together they have two children: the Infantas Leonor (born in October 2005) and Sofía. Despite having himself bumped his own sisters, Infantas Elena and Cristina, out of the line of succession, the Spanish Constitution of 1978 may be altered to allow his own daughters to inherit even if a new Prince should subsequently appear. In which case, Infanta Leonor would become the first Queen Regnant of Spain since Isabella II abdicated in September 1868.
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"Looking For A New Love" by Jody Watley

I tried - oh, how I tried - to find another video by birthday gal Jody Watley that I liked better than this one; on the off chance that some of my readers might think I'm sending subliminal choices via the videos I post*, I was reluctant to even type in the words of the title here, choosing instead to cut and paste them.

Originally appearing on her 1987 debut album Jody Watley, it's Looking for a New Love; despite being a monster hit, with massive radio and club play, the song was to be kept out of the top spot on the charts first by Cutting Crew's (I Just) Died in Your Arms, and then by U2's With or Without You.

*Just for the record, I am not looking for a new love, an old love, a green love, or a blue love, although I am looking to listen to One Love - only that's another story altogether.

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Pop History Moment: The Mayerling Incident


One possible explanation for the durability of conspiracy theories is that they are usually more interesting than the truth; raised as we are on made up plots, it seems only natural the human mind would want to embroider the facts a little, especially if it helps to make events suit our own agenda or prejudices, and truth be damned...

PhotobucketOne of the first events in modern times* to invite a rash of conspiracy theories is known as the Mayerling Incident, which occurred on this day in 1889. Involved were Crown Prince Rudolf (shown at left) - heir to Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria and King of both Hungary and Bohemia - and Rudolf's mistress**, Baroness Mary Vetsera (shown below right). As the most accepted version of the story goes, when forbidden by the Emperor to see each other again - owing to the fact of Rudolf's marriage to Stephanie, mother of his daughter Elisabeth - Rudolf and his mistress stole away to Rudolf's hunting lodge in the village of Mayerling (shown, at top) where he shot her in the head before taking his own life.

The other reason for the preponderance of conspiracy theories seems to be the willingness of officialdom to lie, especially in difficult circumstances, which only seems to add fuel to the fire; in circulating the story that during a hunting trip Rudolf suffered a heart attack and died while the Baroness, a notable figure at court and the daughter of a well-known diplomat besides, merely disappeared without a trace, must have set that pack of gossips all a-twitter***. Had they simply told the truth the story might have gone away, but in lying (and in telling such a bad lie at that) officials set off every finely-tuned bullshit detector in the palace.

PhotobucketAnyway, the story went fallow for awhile, as such things will; it wasn't until the end of World War II, when the monastery where Mary Vetsera was buried in Heiligenkreuz was shelled by the Soviets, that her remains were able to be examined. No bullet hole was found in her skull...

Alas, the Mayerling Incident is among the coldest of all the cold cases, and so we may never know what really happened on that night. Certainly, their relationship had been not only an open secret but practically de rigeur for the times, and would have borne no stigma for either of them. The possibility that Rudolf might have contracted venereal disease seems quite likely, and so he may have killed himself to spare the torment of going slowly mad; he may have even killed her - by strangulation, say - and then turned his gun on himself in a fit of madness brought on by syphilis. Then again, it may have been the Austrian secret police who topped him for his pro-Hungarian sympathies. The point of the story is, we will likely never know now, although I guess the ultimate point of this post is that it's still fun to speculate.

What we do know of the incident we know from the media it subsequently inspired; the 1936 film Mayerling - directed by Anatole Litvak, starring Charles Boyer as Rudolf and Danielle Darrieux as Mary - is probably the most famous of these, although a TV version from 1957 also called Mayerling - again directed by Anatole Litvak but this time starring Audrey Hepburn as Mary and Mel Ferrer as Rudolf - has its own charms. A lavish 1968 version, once again called Mayerling - directed by Terence Young, starring Omar Sharif, Catherine Deneuve, James Mason, and Ava Gardner - is likewise noted for its design and production elements, if not its accuracy.

*Post-Industrial Revolution.
**Or was she?
**And this in those halcyon days before Twitter!

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Happy Birthday Brett Butler

Birthday wishes go out today to Brett Butler, still one of my favourite comedians and at one time the star of the very funny sitcom, Grace Under Fire. I also greatly enjoyed her autobiography, Knee Deep in Paradise, mainly because it didn't seem to be covered in some ghost-writer's grubby fingerprints. Then the show went off the air and she seemed to vanish... Rumours began swirling of her unprofessional behaviour on the set, but I always wondered if that means she was really being that way or merely insufficiently female and therefore deferential to be considered professional.

In fact, I was just about to report her to the Department of Where Are They Now* when my research yielded up just the news I'd been looking for - namely that she's been back on TV again, playing Joy's mother on My Name Is Earl... And then there's always this clip of her from Late Show with David Letterman circa 2003!

*Not that it would have stopped me posting this, since I do love me some obscure celebrities!

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In Memoriam: Franklin Delano Roosevelt

During the most recent Inauguration many commentators drew comparisons between the new president and some of his predecessors, noting parallels between Obama, Lincoln, and Kennedy especially; one obvious parallel I did not hear drawn on that day is probably the most apt one, and that is between the 44th and 32nd Presidents...

PhotobucketIn both cases, those presidents came to power forced to deal with an unprecedented economic crisis brought about by failed conservative policies; they weren't so much elected as swept to power on a populist surge that demanded an end to the corruption of 'business as usual' in Washington. In both cases once in the capital they faced the entrenched remainder of a decimated Republican Party, which proceeded to act spitefully and out of partisan politics to oppose progress rather than act for the good of the nation. In almost every other way, of course, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his illustrious successor differ greatly...

Roosevelt was born, on this day in 1882, into the highest caste of Americans. His was destined to be a life of idle pleasures, occasionally interrupted by a spot of easy work which would insulate him from any possibility of hardship, save perhaps the occasional paper cut. He had access to the best schools - Groton, Harvard - and had he so chosen he need never have met anyone who got dirt on their hands when they worked. Unlike many of his fellow pupils at Groton, though, Roosevelt took the words of his headmaster Endicott Peabody to heart; Peabody preached a strict Christian doctrine of service to the less fortunate, and unlike his fellow classmates young Franklin didn't just grow up to sign cheques but to actually help millions of his fellow Americans when times were their hardest. Similarly his First Lady, the redoubtable Eleanor Roosevelt (whom he'd married in March 1905), would give her yeoman service to public life throughout her husband's public life and beyond.

Elected Governor of New York during the 1928 Election, when the country was enjoying unprecedented prosperity, within Roosevelt's first year in office the Wall Street Crash had turned millions of the middle class poor and done much worse to many more millions of the poor. Although he had come to power with no set agenda, that first year he busied himself nonetheless - reforming the state's penal system and reining in the worst excesses of Tammany Hall, whose corruption went all the way up to New York City mayor Jimmy Walker. From the beginning, though, the Crash promised to be a catastrophe of epic proportions, and in that regard it did not disappoint... Through his skillful handling of relief efforts, Roosevelt was re-elected governor in November 1930 by a margin of 700,000 votes, making a run for the White House inevitable.

President Herbert Hoover was one of those self-made types, and so felt that everyone should be able to do what he'd done to survive the economic downturn, which was to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and work harder. He was also a firm believer in unregulated capitalism and its ability to sort out such problems, despite the fact that even from where he sat, unregulated capitalism had just stunningly failed to do anything of the sort. Yet Hoover ambled through the campaign during the 1932 Election with a kind of smug self-assurance, and was in turn handed one of the worst defeats in electoral history, carrying just 6 states to Roosevelt's 42*. Despite a sombre mood in the land, Roosevelt's inauguration was a cause for celebration - yet another apt comparison to 2009.

On the back of his stunning mandate Roosevelt not only established an unprecedented four-term presidency but profoundly reshaped American government and attitudes... Prior to his Administration, many Americans seemed to feel that the less fortunate obviously brought their poverty on themselves, and that through hard work alone they could improve their station in life. This perspective was the result of a willful ignorance of the many inequities inherent in the system - from an unfair tax burden to wages purposely kept low so as to keep working people in their place to what must have seemed like insurmountable bigotry encountered by anyone who wasn't white and Christian and not only born on American soil but several generations removed from Ellis Island.

Roosevelt's handling of the Depression by means of the New Deal has been debated over and over again in the nearly eight decades since it was first introduced; whether or not the debaters feel it was successful or not will tell you which way they vote to this day. That the very notion of helping the less fortunate was - and to a certain extent still is - seen as 'socialism' in an ostensibly Christian nation will tell you just how far from Christ the ruling class** had (and indeed has) become; yet what Roosevelt did was nothing short of preventing a revolution, sparing the fat cats the ignominy of being dragged from their beds and slaughtered by the 25% of their fellow citizens who were unemployed and starving while they snapped up properties at bargain prices like they were playing some big game of Monopoly rather than ruining lives.

Of course, Roosevelt not only handled the Depression but was president at the outset of World War II as well as on that terrible day when it came to America in December 1941. Throughout the war he worked tirelessly, all of which took a terrible toll on a man who had already suffered a debilitating battle with paralysis in August 1921, while on vacation at his family's home in Campobello. He was a canny manipulator of the media via his fireside chats - the first of which he delivered in March 1932, and which would over time make him the first celebrity president***. Upon his death, in April 1945, it was obvious he'd also touched the hearts of the many millions whose lives his policies had helped, given the outpouring of their emotion at the time.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is buried at Springwood, his family's home in Upstate New York, and is commemorated by a very moving monument on the National Mall in Washington, DC, as well as on the American dime.

*Remember, between 1912 and 1959 there were only 48 states.
**Not to mention their obliviously self-oppressing supporters.
***Yet another parallel between FDR and Obama.

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POPnews - January 30th

[Anyone who thought they could be well and truly rid of Charles I by executing him was wrong wrong wrong. Not only was His Majesty eventually canonized by the Church of England in 1660 - the same year the monarchy was restored under his son, Charles II - as well as being the only person canonized by the Church of England after the Reformation, he is today honoured by the Society of King Charles the Martyr, and remains one of England's most frequently depicted kings specifically because if the way he died. This famous 'Triple Portrait' of him was painted circa 1636, just one of many made of him by Sir Anthony Van Dyck; not only was he the subject of the 1845 novel Twenty Years After, by Alexandre Dumas, Charles I has been portrayed in the 1970 film Cromwell by Alec Guinness, by Stephen Fry in Blackadder: The Cavalier Years, and by Rupert Everett in 2003's To Kill a King.]

1181 - Emperor Takakura of Japan died, having abdicated the previous year in favour of his successor, an infant son who became Emperor Antoku.

1649 - England's King Charles I was beheaded on a scaffold outside a building he himself had commissioned, the Banqueting House of the Palace of Whitehall.

1661 - The corpse of Oliver Cromwell was executed - two years after he died - for his role as a regicide in the death of England's King Charles I; the date was purposely chosen, as it was the anniversary of the murder of Charles I.

1826 - The Menai Suspension Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford, was opened; dramatically situated over the Menai Strait between Anglesey and 'mainland' Wales, it stands today as a tribute to the engineering prowess of its creator.

1835 - The first attempted assassination of an American president occurred when Richard Lawrence, a mentally ill man (possibly poisoned by lead), tried to shoot Andrew Jackson for preventing him from becoming King of England; Lawrence was in turn beaten by the President's cane until he could be subdued by Davy Crockett.

1847 - The town of Yerba Buena, California, was renamed San Francisco.

1867 - Emperor Kōmei of Japan died; he would be succeeded by his son, who reigned as Emperor Meiji, on February 3rd.

1889 - Austrian Archduke and Crown Prince Rudolf - heir to the dual crown of Austria-Hungary - was found dead with his mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera at his hunting lodge in Mayerling, both victims of an apparent murder-suicide pact.

1925 - The Government of Turkey threw Patriarch Constantine VI out of Istanbul.

1933 - Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany.

1948 - Mohandas K. 'Mahatma' Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse.

1956 - The home of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was bombed in retaliation for his involvement in the Montgomery Bus Boycott; at the time Dr. King was not at home but Mrs. King was, along with their infant daughter Yolanda and a fellow church member Mrs. Roscoe Williams. None were hurt in the blast.

1960 - The African National Party was founded in Chad, through the merger of traditionalist parties.

1964 - Ranger 6 was launched as part of the Ranger Program; its purpose was to photograph the lunar surface prior to impacting the surface of the moon, which it did.

1965 - By special decree of HM The Queen, Sir Winston Churchill was given a State Funeral at St Paul's Cathedral.

Photobucket1971 - Carole King's Tapestry album was released; featuring such classics of Seventies music as I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away, It's Too Late, You've Got a Friend, Where You Lead, Will You Love Me Tomorrow?, and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman it would become the longest charting album by a female solo artist and sell 24 million copies worldwide.

1972 - Pakistan withdrew from the Commonwealth of Nations.

1996 - Gino Gallagher - suspected leader of the Irish National Liberation Army - was killed while waiting in line for his unemployment benefit.

2003 - Belgium recognized same-sex marriages.

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