Tag Archives: The Velvet Underground

Almanac – June 02

1692 – Bridget Bishop was the first person to go to trial in the Salem witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts.

She wasaccused of bewitching five young women, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard, but  she may also have been accused because she owned one or more taverns, played shuffleboard, dressed in provocative clothing, and was outspoken.

She was hanged on June 10 1692.

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1740 – Marquis de Sade born. French aristocrat, revolutionary politician, philosopher and writer, famous for his libertine sexuality.

His works include novels, short stories, plays, dialogues and political tracts; in his lifetime some were published under his own name, while others appeared anonymously and Sade denied being their author.

 He is best known for his erotic works, which combined philosophical discourse with pornography, depicting sexual fantasies with an emphasis on violence, criminality and blasphemy against the Catholic Church.

He was a proponent of extreme freedom, unrestrained by morality, religion or law. The words “sadism” and “sadist” are derived from his name.

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2008 – Bo Diddley died. American R&B vocalist, guitarist, songwriter (usually as Ellas McDaniel), and rock and roll pioneer.

He was  known as The Originator because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock, influencing a host of acts, including Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Velvet Underground, The Who, The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles, among others.

 He introduced more insistent, driving rhythms and a hard-edged electric guitar sound on a wide-ranging catalog of songs, along with African rhythms and a signature beat (a simple five-accent clave rhythm) that remains a cornerstone of rock and pop.

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Almanac – March 21

1656 – James Ussher died.  Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland between 1625 and 1656.

He was a prolific scholar, who most famously published a chronology that purported to establish the time and date of the creation as the night preceding Sunday, 23 October 4004 BC, according to the proleptic Julian calendar.

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1902 – Son House born.  American blues singer and guitarist, noted for his highly emotional style of singing and slide guitar playing.

After years of hostility to secular music, as a preacher, and for a few years also as a church pastor, he turned to blues performance at the age of 25.

He quickly developed a unique style by applying the rhythmic drive, vocal power and emotional intensity of his preaching to the newly learned idiom. He was a formative influence on Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.

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1922 – Russ Meyer born.  U.S. motion picture director, producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, actor and photographer,  known primarily for writing and directing a series of successful low-budget sexploitation films that featured campy humor, sly satire and large-breasted women – Faster Pussycat ! Kill ! Kill !, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, Supervixens, etc.

Film historian Jimmy McDonough posits that  Meyer’s usage of physically and sexually overwhelming female characters places him in his own separate genre.

He argues that despite portraying women as sex objects, Meyer nonetheless depicts them as more powerful than men and is therefore an inadvertent feminist filmmaker. I dont think anyone who’s seen the amazing  Tura Satana in Faster Pussycat ! Kill ! Kill !  would argue with that.

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1925 – The Butler Act prohibited  Tennessee  public school teachers from denying the Biblical account of man’s origin. It also prevented the teaching of the evolution of man from what it referred to as lower orders of animals in place of the Biblical account.

Any teacher straying from the Creationist line would be guilty of a misdemeanor and be fined between $100 and $500 for each offense.

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1943 – Vivian Stanshall born.  English singer-songwriter, painter, musician, author, poet and wit, best known for his work with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, for his surreal exploration of the British upper classes in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, and for narrating Mike Oldfield‘s Tubular Bells.

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1952 – Alan Freed presented the Moondog Coronation Ball, generally accepted as the first major rock and roll concert, in Cleveland, Ohio.

At the time, its most remarkable feature was its mix of black and white musical performers, in a revue intended for a racially mixed audience, at a time when almost all performances, radio stations and record labels were de facto segregated by race.

 More tickets were printed than the arena’s actual capacity, in part due to counterfeiting, and a printing error (tickets for a follow-up ball were sold with the same date printed after the first had sold out).

With an estimated 20,000 individuals trying to crowd into an arena that held slightly more than half that — and worries that a riot might break out as people tried to crowd in — the fire authorities shut down the concert after the first song by opening act Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams ended.

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1974 – Candy Darling died. American actress, best known as a Warhol Superstar.

A male-to-female transsexual, she starred in Andy Warhol‘s films Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971), and was a muse of  The Velvet Underground – the subject of their song Candy Says, and is  one of several Warhol associates memorialized in Lou Reed‘s  solo Walk on the Wild Side.

Darling died of lymphoma  aged 29,

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Almanac – March 09

1763 – William Cobbett born.  English pamphleteer, farmer and journalist, who was born in Farnham, Surrey. He believed that reforming Parliament and abolishing the rotten boroughs would help to end the poverty of farm labourers, and he attacked the borough-mongers, sinecurists and “tax-eaters” relentlessly. He was also against the Corn Laws, a tax on imported grain.

Early in his career, he was a loyalist supporter of King and Country: but later he joined and successfully publicised the radical movement, which led to the Reform Bill of 1832, and to his winning the parliamentary seat of Oldham. Although he was not a Catholic, he became a fiery advocate of Catholic Emancipation in Britain.

Through the seeming contradictions in Cobbett’s life, his opposition to authority stayed constant. He wrote many polemics, on subjects from political reform to religion, but is best known for his book from 1830, Rural Rides, which is still in print today.

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1895 – Leopold von Sacher-Masoch died.  Austrian writer and journalist, who gained renown for his romantic stories of Galician life. The term masochism is derived from his name.

During his lifetime, Sacher-Masoch was well known as a man of letters, a utopian thinker who espoused socialist and humanist ideals in his fiction and non-fiction.

Most of his works remain untranslated into English. The novel Venus in Furs is his only book commonly available in English… and also (coincidently ?) the name of a song by the Velvet Underground – see John Cale, below.

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1930 – Ornette Coleman born.  American saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer. He was one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement of the 1960s

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1942 – John Cale born.  Welsh musician, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of The Velvet Underground.

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1994 – Charles Bukowski died. 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“.

Regarding Bukowski’s enduring popular appeal, Adam Kirsch of The New Yorker wrote, “the secret of Bukowski’s appeal. . . [is that] he combines the confessional poet’s promise of intimacy with the larger-than-life aplomb of a pulp-fiction hero.”

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Almanac – March 02

1717 – The Loves of Mars and Venus –  the first ballet performed in England – made its premiere at the Drury Lane Theater in London.

The creation of choreographer John Weaver,  the story of the ballet was derived from Greek mythology, although Weaver’s immediate source was P.A. Motteux‘s play, The Loves of Mars and Venus.

The role of Venus was performed by  Hester Santlow, who was highly regarded for her beauty, dancing, and ability as an actress. Although it is not certain, many believe the role of Mars was performed by the French dancer Louis Dupre.

At the time, most classical ballet was nearly devoid of dramatic content, and Weaver sought to change that using  dancing, gestures and movement to convey the plot and emotions of the ballet, without relying on spoken or sung text.

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1825 – Roberto Cofresí,  one of the last successful Caribbean pirates, was defeated in combat and captured by authorities.

Better known as El Pirata Cofresí,  he  was the most renowned pirate in Puerto Rico, and his life story, particularly in its Robin Hoodsteal from the rich, give to the poor” aspect, has become legendary in Puerto Rico and throughout the rest of Latin America. It has inspired countless songs, poems, books and films.

The entire town of Cofresí, near Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, was named after him.

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1900 – Kurt Weill born. German composer, active from the 1920s,  in his later years in the United States. He was a leading composer for the stage who was best known for his fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht, with whom he developed productions such as his most well known work The Threepenny Opera, a Marxist critique of capitalism, which included the ballad “Mack the Knife“.

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1930 – D. H. Lawrence died. English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter . His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation. In them, Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, and instinct.

Lawrence’s opinions earned him many enemies and he endured official persecution, censorship, and misrepresentation of his creative work throughout the second half of his life, much of which he spent in a voluntary exile which he called his “savage pilgrimage”.

At the time of his death – from complications of tuberculosis –  his public reputation was that of a pornographer who had wasted his considerable talents. E. M. Forster, in an obituary notice, challenged this widely held view, describing him as, “The greatest imaginative novelist of our generation.”

Later, the influential Cambridge critic F. R. Leavis championed both his artistic integrity and his moral seriousness, placing much of Lawrence’s fiction within the canonical “great tradition” of the English novel. Lawrence is now valued by many as a visionary thinker and significant representative of modernism in English literature.

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1933 – The film King Kong opened at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

Variety thought the film a powerful adventure. The New York Times gave readers an enthusiastic account of the plot and thought the film a fascinating adventure,  although the   film’s subtextual threat to Aryan womanhood got Kong banned in Nazi Germany.

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1942 – Lou Reed born. American rock musician, songwriter, and photographer. He is best known as guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter of The Velvet Underground, and for his solo career, which has spanned several decades.

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1991 – Serge Gainsbourg died. French singer, songwriter, poet, composer, artist, actor and director.

Regarded as one of the most important figures in French popular music, he was renowned for his often provocative and scandalous releases, as well as his diverse artistic output, which embodied genres ranging from jazz, chanson, pop and yé-yé, to reggae, funk, rock, electronic and disco music – his extremely varied musical style and individuality make him difficult to categorize.

His legacy has been firmly established, and he is often regarded as one of the world’s most influential popular musicians.

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Almanac – December 30

1928 – Bo Diddley born. American rhythm and blues vocalist, guitarist, songwriter (usually as Ellas McDaniel), and rock and roll pioneer. 

He was  known as The Originator because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock, influencing a host of acts, including Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, The Who, The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and George Michael, among others.

He introduced more insistent, driving rhythms and a hard-edged electric guitar sound on a wide-ranging catalog of songs, along with African rhythms and a signature beat (a simple, five-accent rhythm) that remains a cornerstone of rock and pop.

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1946 – Patti Smith born. American singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist, who became a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses.

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