1954 — William Burroughs writes his first letter home from Tangier

Burroughs was inspired by the works of Paul Bowles to visit Tangier, and found it much to his liking. He rented a room in the home of a procurer who supplied prostitutes to visiting tourists, and began to write. Burroughs referred to his prodigious output of fiction in this period as “Interzone”, and it would later form the basis of his best known work, “Naked Lunch”.

He also maintained a regular correspondence with friends and relatives, notably Kerouac and Ginsberg, as well as Burroughs’ parents (whom he was financially dependent on at this time). Although Burroughs stayed in Tangier only a few months before returning to America, there was never any question that he would return, and he saw in the new year of 1955 there.

Referenced in:

Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

1954 – “Rock Around The Clock” released

One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock…

Rightly or wrongly, this is the song – and Bill Haley and his Comets are the band – that is remembered as the first rock and roll song. It’s simple, fun and catchy, and if you can listen to it without tapping your foot along in time, you most likely don’t have feet.

Referenced in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel
Do You Remember These — Statler Brothers

1954 – Dien Bien Phu falls

The fall of Dien Bien Phu marked the unofficial end of French Indo-China. The French Far East Expeditionary Corps was comprehensively defeated by the Viet Minh communist-nationalist revolutionaries – the first time that a colonial occupier had been so defeated. The causes of the defeat are many, but the two most prominent are the evolution of the Viet Minh from a loose group of disorganised guerilla bands into a force equivalent to standing national army, and a series of poor decisions made by the French defenders.

The Vietnamese victory came only after 55 days of battle, with large losses on both sides: as many as 2000 French dead and over 4000 Vietnamese. The fighting was close and deadly, often resembling the trench warfare of World War One as the siege progressed. In the final victory, almost 12,000 French prisoners were taken, and many died in captivity from wounds received in the fighting, or as a result of beatings, disease and starvation while imprisoned.

The official end of the first Indo-China War came later that year, although it would cast a long shadow, inspiring other rebellions in the French colonies of Madagascar and Algeria, two separate coups d’état in France itself, and of course, the Second Indo-China War – better known today as the Vietnam War.

Referenced in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel

1954 – Joseph Welch stops Joseph McCarthy in his tracks

Joseph McCarthy had been hunting the Reds under America’s beds for years when he turned his attention to the Army in 1953. But this time, it went badly for him. At the end of the Korean War, the Army was popular. And McCarthy’s own fortunes were fading, which fed his alcoholism and led to displays of arrogance as he tried to recapture the power he had once had.

In 1954, McCarthy was confronted by Joseph Welch, the Army’s head attorney. In a memorable exchange, he was repeatedly rebuked by Welch for trying to tar a young man in Welch’s office with his slurs. The part the Welch is most remembered for is these words:

“Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Referenced in:

Exhuming McCarthy – REM

Listen to the song – the actual sample appears in it.