1967 – Jayne Mansfield dies in an automobile accident

Jayne Mansfield was one of the great blonde bombshells so beloved of American cinema in the Fifties and Sixties. Along with Mamie van Doren and Marilyn Monroe, Mansfield defined beauty for a generation of American men. By 1967, Mansfield’s star was in decline. Fashions had changed, and left her somewhat behind. She was still a celebrity, but her days of headlining films were coming to an end.

At approximately two thirty in the morning, the car Mansfield was traveling in rear-ended a truck that braked abruptly. Mansfield, her driver Ronnie Harrison and her lover Sam Brophy, all of whom were sitting in the front seat, were killed almost instantly in the impact as the car went under the rear of the truck. Mansfield’s three children, sitting in the backseat, survived with minor injuries.

Referenced in:
Kiss Them For Me — Siouxsie and the Banshees

1599 — Pompeii is rediscovered

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, it did so with considerable force. The very shape of the mountain was changed, and the course of the nearby Sarno river was altered. For these reasons, Pompeii – and the neighbouring town of Herculaneum – were lost for centuries.

But in 1599, a attempt to dig an underground channel to modify the river’s course stumbled upon the buried ruins of Pompeii. Over the next few centuries, it would become one of the most well-known archaeological sites in the world, and provide an incredible window back into a time when the Roman Empire was in its heyday.

Referenced in:

Cities in Dust — Siouxsie and the Banshees

79 — Mount Vesuvius erupts, destroying Pompeii and Herculaneum

You probably know this one: Mt Vesuvius erupted, not entirely without warning, but far more violently than anticipated, in the year 79 CE (in the reign of Emperor Titus). It is unknown how many people died – the remains of more than a thousand have thus far been discovered, but the population of Pompeii is variously estimated between 10 and 25 thousand people, with another 5000 at Herculaneum.

The eruption buried both towns in ash and mud, altered the course of the river Samo (which had flowed past Pompeii) and pushed the coastline out to sea (so that Pompeii was now inland instead of coastal). It remains the largest and deadliest of over 40 recorded eruptions of Vesuvius, although it appears that there may have been even earlier eruptions on an even greater scale.

Mt Vesuvius remains the only active volcano on the European mainland, most recently erupting on 18 March, 1944. Although the volcano has been quiet since then, it remains active, and future eruptions are regarded as inevitable.

Referenced in:

Cocoon — The Decemberists
Pompeii — Gatsbys American Dream
Cities in Dust — Siouxsie and the Banshees

1989 – China declares martial law in response to the Tiananmen Square protests

Inspired by, among other things, the fall of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, approximately 100,000 Chinese protestors, many of them students, occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing for several weeks beginning on April 14, 1989.

In what can only be described as a massive over-reaction, the government of the People’s Republic of China declared martial law and sent in tanks and infantry to disperse the protestors. The army was delayed by other protestors, but on June 3, they reached the Square.

What followed has often, and not inaccurately, been labelled a massacre. Due to the government’s highly efficient censorship, an accurate death toll has never been released, and even today the incident officially did not occur. Unofficially, a number that has been variously estimated as between 140 and 7000 people died in the protests, and hundreds more were injured, all in an attempt to win rights that the majority of people reading this blog take for granted.

Referenced in:

China – Joan Baez
Blood Red – Slayer
Tin Omen – Skinny Puppy
Watching TV – Roger Waters
Hypnotize – System of a Down
Seven Days in May – Testament
The Tiananmen Man – Nevermore
We Didn’t Start the Fire – Billy Joel
The King of Sunset Town – Marillion
Tiananmen Square – Chumbawumba
Black Boys on Mopeds – Sinéad O’Connor
The Ghost in You – Siouxsie and the Banshees