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.

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Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

1920 — The “Black and Tans” get their name

The Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force – to give them their official name – were a force of Temporary Constables recruited to assist the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) during the Irish War of Independence. They were the idea of Winston Churchill, Secretary of War for the United Kingdom in 1919. In 1920, the government advertised for men willing to “face a rough and dangerous task”. It would turn out that their roughness would only make things more dangerous for everyone.

The Black and Tans got their nickname from the colours of the uniforms that they wore: khaki army uniforms (usually only trousers) and dark green RIC or blue British police surplus tunics, caps and belts. Christopher O’Sullivan wrote in the Limerick Echo on 25 March 1920 that, meeting a group of recruits on a train at Limerick Junction, the attire of one reminded him of the Scarteen Hunt, whose “Black and Tans” nickname derived from the colouration of its Kerry Beagles. Ennis comedian Mike Nono elaborated the joke in Limerick’s Theatre Royal, and the nickname soon took hold, persisting even after the men received full RIC uniforms.

Referenced in:

Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

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

1968 — The Doors release “Waiting For The Sun”

Ironically, the title track of this album does not appear on it. (It was later released on their 1970 album, “Morrison Hotel”.) There were two singles from this album, “The Unknown Soldier” and the #1 hit, “Hello, I Love You” – other tracks included “Spanish Caravan”, “Five To One” and “Love Street”.

The album itself also went to number one on the charts – and it’s not even the Doors’ best-selling album. It is also the shortest of all of the Doors’ albums, with a total running time of only 32 minutes and 59 seconds.

Referenced in:

Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

1988 — “The Serpent and the Rainbow” premieres

A horror movie based on Wade Davis’ non-fiction book about the case of a ‘zombie’ in Haiti, “The Serpent and the Rainbow” was directed by Wes Craven (best known for the “Nightmare on Elm Street” film series). It starred Bill Pullman, leading a cast of mostly unknowns.

It was a very loose adaptation of the book, with considerable liberties taken with both Davis’ account and the facts, but a lot more horror added. It grossed a respectable US $19 million, well over double its budget.

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Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

1983 — “Down Under” reaches #1 on the UK charts

It’s probably a better-beloved ‘national anthem’ than “Advance Australia Fair”, and one of the best-selling Australian songs ever. Too bad that there was that rather unpleasant plagiarism case regarding the great similarity between the flute part in this song and the one in ‘Kookaburra’.

And for that matter, it’s a pity that the best known song of Men At Work, co-written by lead singer Colin Hay and lead guitar Ron Strykert (who were also the founding members of the band), is so widely misunderstood. It’s not actually a patriotic song – it’s more about the selling out of Australia, and if it is a celebration, it’s a celebration of Australian culture rather than of nationalism.

Referenced in:

Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

1972 — “Black Sabbath, vol.4” is released

The fourth studio album by legendary heavy metal outfit Black Sabbath, Volume 4 was the only one of their albums to be numbered in this way. Perhaps the lads just couldn’t be arsed thinking of an actual title, or maybe it was a joke (possibly at Led Zeppelin’s expense). Whatever the case, the album went gold within a month of its release, and despite critical disdain, sold over a million copies in the US alone.

But it was to be a turning point for the band. Although the original lineup of the band would continue for several more years, in retrospect, most them mark this album as the point at which the drugs and booze – especially the cocaine – started to take their toll. Musically, the album was a shift away from the heavy sound of their first three albums towards a lighter, more melodic sound – perhaps too great a shift in the opinion of some.

Referenced in:

Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

1981 — “The Great Space Coaster” is first broadcast

A children’s television show created by Kermit Love (who had previously worked with Jim Henson on The Muppets) and Jim Martin (who would later work with Henson on Sesame Street), The Great Space Coaster ran for five seasons and had a total of 250 episodes. As you might suspect from the creators, it used a lot of puppetry.

The central premise of the show was that three singers – Francine, Danny, and Roy – traveled to an asteroid (on board, of course, the Great Space Coaster) which was inhabited by a wide variety of alien lifeforms, most of them puppets. Being a kid’s show, it features lots of songs and moral lessons, and the occasional celebrity guest star.

Referenced in:

Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

1307 — William Tell shoots an arrow of his son’s head

William Tell – or, in the languages of his native Switzerland: Wilhelm Tell (German); Guillaume Tell (French); Guglielmo Tell (Italian); and Guglielm Tell (Romansh) – is a legendary figure, as much a symbol of Swiss resistance to tyrannical rulers as Robin Hood is a British one. Also, and I don’t know if you’ve heard this, both of them were also seriously badass archers.

Although the reasons why differ, the basics of the story remain the same: Tell shot an arrow right through an apple balanced on his own son’s head. In some versions, he was forced to do this, in others, he wagers his ability to make the shot. In either case, the tyrant on the other side of the story is a Vogt named Albrecht Gessler, who is an enormous dick even by folk tale standards. Which is why the second part of the story about Tell’s archery prowess features him killing the Vogt (again, accounts differ: with an arrow, or with a crossbow bolt), and leading a popular rebellion in Switzerland.

The rebellion, by the way, appears to have been real. The apple-shooting, less so – it’s a fairly common motif in European folk tales. And Tell himself? Did he exist or not? In the end, it doesn’t really matter. He’s more important as a symbol than as a man.