1962 — “Green Onions” by Booker T and the MGs reaches #1 on the charts

“Green Onions” is probably the single best known instrumental of the rock era, and routinely appears on lists of the “the greatest songs of all time”. It was originally released as the B-side of “Behave Yourself” in May of 1962, but when its popularity became apparent, the single was re-released with its A and B sides flipped. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, but its influence goes way beyond that.

“Green Onions” was composed by the members of Booker T. and MGs (Booker T. Jones, Steve “The Colonel” Cropper, Lewie Steinberg and Al Jackson, jnr. Originally a group of session musicians at Stax Records, they metamorphosed into a successful recording act in their own right, but never had another single as successful as “Green Onions”.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers

1962 – Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin become the only men to escape from Alcatraz

It remains unclear whether Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin actually escaped, or whether they drowned in the attempt. Even the FBI couldn’t figure it out for sure. What they do know is this:

Morris and the Anglin brothers had planned to escape with a fourth man, Allen West, but when West was unable to leave his cell, they decided to go without him. They had constructed an inflatable raft from prison rain coats and glue, but it turned out to be less safe than they had hoped. If the raft ever made landfall, it was never found, and neither were the escapees. But one way or another, the trio died free men.

Referenced in:
Frank Morris — Capital Lights

1962 – The first batch of Rainbow Herbicides arrives in Vietnam

Give the US Army some credit: their solution to the fact that they were ill-trained for fighting in jungles was a simple one. They’d simply get rid of the jungle. While there was some earlier testing of herbicides in 1961, it wasn’t until 1962 that large scale deployment of the Rainbow Herbicides – Agents Pink, White, Purple, Green, Blue and (most infamously) Orange – began. Over the course of ten years, until 1971, nearly 20 million gallons of assorted herbicides would be used.

The policy was largely a failure at its stated goal, but it did do wonders for the bottom lines of various military contractors and led to a boom in birth defects among the children of soldiers and civilians exposed to it on both sides in the years to follow the war.

Referenced in:
Orange Crush — R.E.M.

1962 — Ray Bradbury publishes “Something Wicked This Way Comes”

Like the related Dandelion Wine, Bradbury’s novel Something Wicked This Way Comes (a title taken from Macbeth) is largely inspired by his childhood fascination with travelling carnivals. In particular, when Bradbury was 12, a carnival magician named Mr Electrico exhorted him to “Live forever” – Bradbury began writing the next day.

The novel was a great success for Bradbury, both critically and commercially. It has been adapted for film, stage and radio – the first film adaptation was even written by Bradbury himself – and has greatly influenced the writers who followed Bradbury, especially those who, like him, blend horror and fantasy elements in their works. In particular, Neil Gaiman and Stephen King have both cited this novel as a major influence on their own writing.

Referenced in:

Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury — Rachel Bloom

1962 – Graham Young is arrested for murder

Graham Young was only 14 years old when he was arrested for murder – and the murder in question was that of his stepmother, Molly. He had also been trying to poison his father, sister and a friend of his from school.

Young was convicted on three counts of attempted murder (the murder of his stepmother could not be verified, as she had been cremated) and served nine years in a prison for the mentally unstable. After his release, he poisoned at least another seventy-two people, two of them fatally. He was once again arrested, and this time sentenced to life in prison. He eventually died in prison at the age of 42.

Referenced in:

Poison — Macabre
Taste the Pain (Graham Young) — Church Of Misery

1962 – Bobby Fuller releases “You’re in Love”

Bobby Fuller was one of a generation of Texas-born rockers inspired by Buddy Holly. Fuller was a singer, songwriter and guitar player, who formed his own band, the Bobby Fuller Four. His first single was the double a-side of “You’re In love” and “Guess We’ll Fall In Love” in 1962.

The song that he is best known for, “I Fought The Law”, was a cover of a Sonny Curtis song – Fuller recorded two different versions of it, one in 1964 and one in 1965. The latter version was his single biggest hit, which reached the Top Ten on the charts shortly before his death in somewhat mysterious circumstances on July 16, 1966.

Referenced in:

R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. — John Cougar Mellencamp

1962 — César Chávez founds the United Farm Workers

César Chávez is perhaps the most famous Latino or Mexican-American civil rights activist in history. He was a very astute user of the media, and made the union cause very sympathetic to the American public.

One of the major steps in this process was the formation of the he National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) in 1962. Later called the United Farm Workers, which was created by the merger Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) led by Filipino organizer Larry Itliong, and the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) led by Chávez.

Referenced in:

Black Man — Stevie Wonder

1962 – Sonny Liston defeats Floyd Patterson

Charles L. ‘Sonny’ Liston pushed hard to get his shot at the title. He was a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who occasionally went a little too far – as in 1956, when he was charged with assault and served six months before being paroled. He was a strong fighter who won a large number of his fights by knockout. When Floyd Patterson finally let him in, after months of refusing on the grounds of Liston’s supposed Mob ties, he didn’t waste the opportunity.

Liston knocked Patterson out in the first round, winning the title of World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. On July 22 of the following year, he did it again in the rematch.

But his triumph was short-lived. Cassius Clay beat him in their first bout in 1964, and again in 1965 (although by that time, Clay had renamed himself Muhammed Ali). Liston continued to fight, and won most of his bouts. He retired from professoinal boxing in 1970, and later died in early 1971, in suspicious circumstances.

Referenced in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel

1962 – Marilyn Monroe dies in suspicious circumstances

Was it suicide? Was she killed? Or was it an accidental overdose, like the death certificate claimed?

Marilyn Monroe was found dead by her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson, at some point between midnight and four thirty or so on the morning of August 5, 1962. He called another doctor, Hyman Engelberg, and Monroe is certified dead. Only then are the police called.

The proximate cause of her death was poisoning – an acute barbituate overdose, as the coroner put it. But there were a number of inconsistencies in the nature of the dose and the apparent method of its consumption. Furthermore, in the course of the investigation, witnesses made a number of contradictory statements (in some cases contradicting not just each other, but also reality), and the evidence – what little there is – is ambiguous.

It is widely believed, even today, that she was murdered, but no charges have ever been brought for that crime.

Referenced in:
Candle in the Wind — Elton John
Tabloid Junkie — Michael Jackson