1819 – The Peterloo Massacre took place in Manchester, when the Militia attacked an orderly group of people gathered to listen to speakers on parlimentary reform, at which the well-known radical politician Henry Hunt was to speak. The crowd, numbering some 60,000 and including many women and children, was unarmed and entirely peaceful. The magistrates, who had brought in special constables from Lancashire and the Cheshire Yeomanry, nevertheless became nervous and ordered Hunt’s arrest.
As the yeomanry attempted to obey them, they were pressed by the mob. The hussars were sent in to “help”, and, in the general panic which followed, 11 people were killed and about 500 injured. The ‘massacre’ aroused great public indignation, but the government stood by the magistrates and passed the Six Acts to control future agitation.
1920 – Charles Bukowski born. German-born American poet, novelist and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles. It is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over sixty books. In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife”.
1938 – Robert Johnson died. American blues singer and musician. His landmark recordings from 1936–37 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians, and, if not exactly a father of rock n roll, at the very least an uncle. His shadowy, poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend, including a Faustian-style myth – music skills obtained from the Devil at a crossroads. His death – possibly murdered by poison – is even more shadowy – three different burial grounds claim to house his remains.
1945 – Kevin Ayers born. English singer-songwriter and a major influential force in the English psychedelic movement. BBC DJ John Peel wrote in his autobiography that “Kevin Ayers’ talent is so acute you could perform major eye surgery with it.” Ayers was a founding member of the pioneering psychedelic band Soft Machine in the late 1960s, and was closely associated with the Canterbury scene.
1956 – Bela Lugosi died. Hungarian actor of stage and screen. He was best known for having played Count Dracula in the Broadway play and subsequent film version, as well as having starred in several of Ed Wood’s low budget films in the last years of his career, including Plan 9 From Outer Space.
1962 – Beatles drummer Pete Best was fired by manager Brian Epstein and replaced with the more image-friendly Ringo Starr. Who said the Beatles weren’t a manufactured boy band ?
1977 – Elvis Presley died.