Saturday, April 08, 2006

Puppet Show

April 8, 1998: The last embers of George Michael's dying career get stamped out when he's arrested (later convicted) for performing a sex act in a public restroom in Beverly Hills.

April 8, 1994: The body of Kurt Cobain is discovered by an electrician working on his house. A shotgun found next to the body indicates suicide. The premature end to Cobain's career is considered by some music critics as equivalent to the premature loss of John Lennon. On the same date in 1976, folksinger Phil Ochs, best known for "I Ain't Marching Anymore," commits suicide.

April 8, 1967: "Puppet on a String," recorded by Sandie Shaw, wins the Eurovision Song Contest. The contest was (and is) American Idol meets the Olympics--each European country contributes a song, TV viewers across the continent vote on which is their favorite. The event celebrates its 50th anniversary this year--but I'm mentioning it only because it gives me an excuse to plug a web series called Popular, in which British music writer Tom Ewing is reviewing every song to make Number One on the British charts since they began in 1952. His most recent entry is about "Puppet on a String"--but you should go and read the whole series, which has been going on for nearly three years.

April 8, 1961:
The BBC bans the song "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" by Gene McDaniels, claiming that its cheery tale of the creation of the world, and especially the creation of women from building materials, is blasphemous. Seriously.

Birthdays Today:

Julian Lennon is 43. His 1984 hit, "Valotte," was flat spooky, in the way it seemed to bring Julian's father back from the beyond.

Steve Howe is 59. As guitarist for Yes and Asia, Howe wouldn't win the title of World's Greatest Guitarist, but he'd be in the tournament.

Number-One Songs on This Date:
1990: "Black Velvet"/Alannah Myles.
Big star in Canada, one-hit wonder in the States--and last year, she sang in Sweden's national competition to pick its representative to the Eurovision Song Contest. Hey, you want trivia, we got it. And we're desperate for a theme wherever we can find one.

1989: "Girl You Know It's True"/Milli Vanilli. Puppets on a string, indeed.

1976: "Disco Lady"/Johnnie Taylor.
Also banned by some radio stations for supposedly suggestive lyrics--which are kinda dumb, but not really obscene. This record gains many, many extra points for the instrumental track, which is gorgeous--and the introduction, which is one of the all-time great DJ-talkover intros.

1974: "Hooked on a Feeling"/Blue Swede.
And speaking of all-time great intros, this record features the quintessentially demented hook "ooga-chucka, ooga ooga, ooga-chucka, ooga ooga," which makes me feel stupid just typing it. But you can't deny that when it came on the radio, it got your attention every damn time.

1971: "Just My Imagination"/Temptations.
From the time I first heard it and for many years thereafter, this was my favorite song of all time. It's still in the top two or three.


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