1985 – “Material Girl” by Madonna enters the US charts

Material Girl was the second single from Madonna’s second album, and her seventh overall. It was a hit for her at the time, although unlike Like A Virgin or Crazy For You, the songs either side of it that reached #1, it wouldn’t top the charts. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #43, and eventually peaked at #2. The clip was a homage (or ripoff, if you prefer) to Marilyn Monroe’s iconic Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend performance, right down to Madonna wearing a dress of the same style and colour.

To this day, Madonna is often referred to as ‘the Material Girl’ in the media, a phenomenon she is convinced will still be happening when she’s ninety. She’s probably right, too.

Referenced in:
Lucy Can’t Dance — David Bowie

“Zoolander” in Earth-Prime

Who’s in it?
During the dispute between Derek Zoolander and Hansel, the two models agree to a walk off: they will competitively model for the gathered audience. But things are briefly delayed when the pair realise that they need a judge for the contest. Fortunately, David Bowie volunteers his services:

Also appearing as themselves in “Zoolander” are the following celebrities: Melania Trump, Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Christian Slater, Tom Ford, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Steve Kmetko, Tommy Hilfiger, Natalie Portman, Anne Meara, Fabio Lanzoni, Lenny Kravitz, Maggie Rizer, Gwen Stefani, Gavin Rossdale, Heidi Klum, Mark Ronson, Paris Hilton, Tyson Beckford, Fred Durst, Lance Bass, Lil’ Kim, Garry Shandling, Stephen Dorff, Sandra Bernhard, Claudia Schiffer, Veronica Webb, Lukas Haas, Carmen Kass, Frankie Rayder, Karl Lagerfeld, Winona Ryder, Billy Zane, Irina Pantaeva, Donatella Versace, and Donald Trump.

What it tells us about Earth-Prime:
For at least two centuries, the fashion industry was led by a secretive conspiracy of leading designers. Their identities are not known, other than Jacobin Mugatu (although Giorgio Armani is implied to be a member of the conspiracy’s ruling council). The conspiracy was responsible for any number of major assassinations, including those of Us Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, using brainwashed male models as their assassins. After they were exposed, and several members of the conspiracy faced criminal charges, it appears that the organisation may have dissolved – or perhaps it is simply lying low, until such time as it needs to act again…

Earth-Prime Expanded: an introduction

Some of you may not be aware of this, but we – you, and I, and all the other entities reading this – exist in a particular timeline designated Earth-Prime. (This designation was first devised by the creators at DC Comics back in 1968.) Earth-Prime is the real world, although not quite as we know it. Several DC characters have traveled here from time to time (first the Flash, in 1968, and most famously, Animal Man in 1990). Marvel has a similar thing called Earth-1218, and the basic concept is reflected in numerous other works (although not “Sliders”, which confusingly used the name but not the concept).

What this implies, of course, is that any time in a movie or television show that a real person appears as themself, is that this means that the show or movie in question takes place on Earth-Prime. Now, obviously this cannot apply to all appearances, only those that could reasonably be assumed to take place on our own world. The rules that guide this are as follows:

  • Earth cannot be depicted to be significantly different from our own in terms of history. Small events may be different, and the reasons behind things may vary, but overall history is intact.
  • There cannot be openly supernatural entities or powers whose existence is known to the general populace. Not that these things cannot exist, but they are closely held secrets if they do.
  • Similarly, there cannot be aliens, alien technologies or super-advanced human technologies widely known to the general populace.
  • Persons must appear as themselves – they cannot be playing a character or being played by someone else.
  • In film and television only, animated depictions do not qualify.
  • In written works, only appearances of the author or authors (including artists, for comics) qualify for inclusion.

For example, Jim Cramer’s appearance in the first Iron Man film clearly does not take on Earth-Prime, because the Marvel Cinematic Universe is clearly a different timeline from our own – but his appearances on Arrested Development probably do.

Starting with the very next post today, I’ll be creating a list of these here, with as much detail as I can provide. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

1955 — Ginsberg’s “Howl” is first performed

The greatest poem of the Beat Generation writers, and one of the finest of the 20th century, Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is a lengthy, stream of consciousness rant with strikingly hallucinatory imagery of drug use, New York City, the back roads of America, and sex of both homosexual and heterosexual varieties. Ginsberg performed it for the first time at the Six Gallery in San Francisco at the behest of Wally Hedrick.

Later, the poem would be published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books (a small press and book shop also located in San Francisco), and become the centre of one the depressingly frequent obscenity trials that dot American judicial history – in this case, the court ruled that the court contained redeeming social value. The greatest minds of a generation rejoiced.

Referenced in:

Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

1978 — Pope John Paul I dies after only 33 days in office

One of the briefest reigning popes, Pope John Paul I (his papal named honoured his two immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI) died at the age of 65, apparently of a heart attack. Inevitably, conspiracy theories regarding his death were widespread later that same day – institutions as powerful and secretive as the Vatican tend to breed them like flies.

Still, it is interesting that John Paul I was one of the most liberal Popes in many years (possibly even moreso than the current Pope Francis), and that his expressed positions on many issues dismayed the more conservative Catholics. His two immediate successors to the Papal throne were both very much hardline conservatives, who were quick to throw cold water on some of John Paul’s planned reforms. The former Cardinal Albino Luciani’s greatest legacy would be his papal name – his successor called himself John Paul II. (Disappointingly, no subsequent pope has named himself George Ringo.)

Referenced in:
Hey Luciani! — The Fall

1856 — John Brown and his sons flee Kansas

One of the best known Abolitionists in American history, John Brown was a staunch exponent of armed insurrection for the purpose of overflowing the institution of slavery. He commanded other abolitionists in struggles throughout Kansas in 1856 – his forces killed five supporters of slavery in one of these encounters. Naturally, this caused some pushback, and one of Brown’s sons was killed in the skirmishing on August 30.

Brown, not being entirely stupid, left the state with three of his sons after hostilities were narrowly avoided on September 14. Officially, he was fund raising for the cause, and he did indeed do some of that. But realistically, he was trying to save the lives of his remaining sons. It would be almost two entire years before he returned to Kansas.

Referenced in:

David Rose — Clutch

1960 — The Beatles arrive in Hamburg

At the time of their arrival in Hamburg, the Beatles were a five piece ensemble, with a line up consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best. When the Beatles left, two years later, Stuart Sutcliffe stayed behind to be with the girl he had met there, Astrid Kircherr. (It was Astrid who helped to popularise the distinctive Beatles mop-top.)

The Beatles’ time in Hamburg saw them gigging extensively in clubs around the city, indulging in copious amounts of Preludin (a prescription amphetemine) and learning a lot about sex (almost all the women they met in Hamburg were strippers or prostitutes). It also lead, eventually, to their first recording. This single, “My Bonnie”, was what eventually attracted the attention of Brian Epstein to the boys, leading to him becoming the manager of the band for many years.

The Beatles would leave Hamburg in 1962, returning briefly in 1966, after they had become superstars.

Referenced in:
No More Fun — Roger Taylor

1969 — The Beckenham Free Festival is held

The Beckenham Free Festival was held at the Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham in August 1969, in parallel with the Woodstock Festival. It was organised by a group of British musicians and artists, the most prominent of whom was David Bowie (quite early in his career).

The festival was a success, with some 3,000 people attending. The atmosphere was generally peaceful, for which Bowie was complimented by Bromley’s mayor and chief of police (who were among the attendees).

Referenced in:
Memory of a Free Festival — David Bowie

1964 — Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys born

Adam Yauch was born and bred in Brooklyn. His Catholic father and Jewish mother raised him without religion – although he later found Buddhism without their help. He is best known as a founding member of the Beastie Boys, and along with Mike D, one of only two members to have stayed with the band for its entire career.

Yauch was a political activist, especially concerned with the issue of Tibetan freedom, but also a film-maker and a music producer. He died in 2014 from a cancer affecting his parotid gland and lymph nodes. He was 47 years old.

Referenced in:
The Chanukah Song (Part II) — Adam Sandler

1967 — David Bowie records “The Laughing Gnome”

Bowie himself regards it as one of his worst songs.

He’s not wrong. The Alvin and the Chipmunks high-voices, the tortured puns… it’s just horrible. Except for the music. Musically, it’s one of the strongest pieces of his work to that time. It’s the lyrics that let it down.

However, on the plus side, Bowie performed it for an audition in 1968 and failed to get the part – which meant that he continued to record pop music instead of pursuing a career in cabaret.

Referenced in:
No More Fun — Roger Taylor

1984 — First publication of “The Ballad of Halo Jones”

Originally published in five page installments in “2000AD”, beginning with the July 7, 1984 issue, “The Ballad of Halo Jones” was a serialised story written by Alan Moore and drawn by Ian Gibson. It detailed the life and times of Halo Jones, introduced as an 18 year old living in the 50th century. Across three major arcs (“books”), Jones matured and took on various careers, including stewardess on a space-liner and guerrilla fighter.

But disputes over the ownership of the series saw it discontinued, although Moore and Gibson had planned six more books of the story (telling the complete history of Halo). And because they have been unable to reach an agreement with the owners of the copyrights, Gibson and Moore have been unable to complete the Ballad of Halo Jones, and are likely to remain so.

Referenced in:
Hanging Out With Halo Jones — Transvision Vamp

1965 — Alan Freed dies

Alan Freed was one of the first really famous DJs, and his efforts were instrumental in promoting early rock’n’roll music – indeed, he is widely held to have been the one to coin the phrase “rock’n’roll”.

Freed had become interested in radio while attending college, and spent his military service working as a DJ on Armed Forces Radio. He later worked as a DJ at WKST (New Castle, PA); WKBN (Youngstown, OH); and WAKR (Akron, OH). But his great fame began in 1951, when he began working for WJW (Cleveland, OH), playing rhythm and blues, hot jazz and this strange new dance music that would be called rock’n’roll. Freed nicknamed himself “Moondog” after a jazz instrumental he played as the show’s intro. He later moved to WINS (New York), where his fame grew. Freed appeared in many of the early rock’n’roll films, co-wrote songs (such as “Maybelline” by Chuck Berry)…

…and was eventually ruined when it was revealed that he had taken payola (playing certain songs in exchange for money from record companies).

Freed worked a little after that, but his prestige and status as a tastemaker were destroyed in the scandal. He died of uremia and cirrhosis brought on by alcoholism. Freed was only 43 years old when he died.

Referenced in:
Done Too Soon — Neil Diamond

1035 BCE — King David first sees Bathsheba

One of the great beauties of the Old Testament (and of antiquity in general), Bathsheba was a woman from the same tribe as King David, whose husband was Uriah the Hittite. Uriah was a mighty warrior, one of David’s 37 Mighty Men, an elite group within his armies. But when David first saw Bathsheba bathing, and lusted after her, the king quickly seduced the beauty. So far, so good – but then Bathsheba got pregnant.

Unable to compel Uriah to sleep with his wife (even a King’s power only goes so far) and thus obscure the date of the conception, David instead contrived to place Uriah in the thick of battle as many times as it took to kill him. The Hittite’s death accomplished, David married Bathsheba, and their child would become David’s heir, Solomon. But not before God sent the prophet Nathan to upbraid David for his deeds.

As mentioned in:
Hallelujah — Leonard Cohen