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Friday the 13th: “a day so infamous”

Friday the 13th

Fun Facts/Legends About Friday the 13th

Superstition surrounds Friday the 13thThere are several theories about why Friday the 13th has its reputation:

  • The number 13 suffers from its position after 12, according to numerologists who consider the latter to be a complete number — 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus, 12 days of Christmas and 12 eggs in a dozen.
  • It may date back to Biblical times. Some say Friday’s bad reputation goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It was on a Friday, supposedly, that Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit. Adam bit of the fruit and they were both ejected from Paradise.
  • Tradition also holds that the Great Flood began on a Friday; God tongue-tied the builders of the Tower of Babel on a Friday; the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday; the 13th guest at the Last Supper betrayed Jesus
  • To the ancient Egyptians, life was a quest for spiritual ascension which unfolded in stages — twelve in this life and a thirteenth beyond, thought to be the eternal afterlife. The number 13 therefore symbolized death, not in terms of dust and decay but as a glorious and desirable transformation. Though Egyptian civilization perished, the symbolism conferred on the number 13 by its priesthood survived, we may speculate, only to be corrupted by subsequent cultures who came to associate 13 with a fear of death instead of a reverence for the afterlife.
  • Pythagoras

    Pythagoras

    “You can trace it all the way from the followers of Pythagoras, whose maxim to describe the universe was ‘all is number,'” says Mario Livio, an astrophysicist and author of “The Equation That Couldn’t Be Solved” (Simon & Schuster, 2005). Thinkers who studied under the famous Greek mathematician combined numbers in different ways to explain everything around them, Livio said.

  • The Crucifixion of Jesus is said to have place on a Friday
  • The number 13 may have been purposely vilified by the founders of patriarchal religions in the early days of western civilization because it represented femininity. Thirteen had been revered in prehistoric  goddess-worshiping cultures, we are told, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days). The “Earth Mother of Laussel,” for example — a 27,000-year-old carving found near the Lascaux caves in France often cited as an icon of matriarchal spirituality — depicts a female figure holding a crescent-shaped horn bearing 13 notches. As the solar calendar triumphed over the lunar with the rise of male-dominated civilization, it is surmised, so did the “perfect” number 12 over the “imperfect” number 13, thereafter considered anathema.
  • In pagan Rome, Friday was execution day (later Hangman’s Day in Britain), but in other pre-Christian cultures it was the sabbath, a day of worship, so those who indulged in secular or self-interested activities on that day could not expect to receive blessings from the gods — which may explain the lingering taboo on embarking on journeys or starting important projects on Fridays.
  • Loki, Norse god of evil and trickery

    Loki, Norse god of evil and trickery

    An old Norse tale tells of twelve gods invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, god of mischief, had been left off the guest list but crashed the party, bringing the total number of attendees to 13. True to character, Loki raised hell by inciting Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods. Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly. All Valhalla grieved. And although one might take the moral of this story to be “Beware of uninvited guests bearing mistletoe,” the Norse themselves apparently concluded that 13 people at a dinner party is just plain bad luck.

  • By the Middle Ages, both Friday and 13 were considered bearers of bad fortune.
  • Katharine Kurtz in Tales of the Knights Templar (Warner Books, 1995) wrote:
Knights Templar

Knights Templar

On October 13, 1307, a day so infamous that Friday the 13th would become a synonym for ill fortune, officers of King Philip IV of France carried out mass arrests in a well-coordinated dawn raid that left several thousand Templars — knights, sergeants, priests, and serving brethren — in chains, charged with heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. None of these charges was ever proven, even in France — and the Order was found innocent elsewhere — but in the seven years following the arrests, hundreds of Templars suffered excruciating tortures intended to force “confessions,” and more than a hundred died under torture or were executed by burning at the stake.

  • In 13: The Story of the World’s Most Popular Superstition (Avalon, 2004), author Nathaniel Lachenmeyer argues that the commingling of “unlucky Friday” and “unlucky 13” took place in the pages of a specific literary work, a novel published in 1907 titled — what else? — Friday, the Thirteenth. The book, all but forgotten now, concerned dirty dealings in the stock market and sold quite well in its day. Both the titular phrase and the phobic premise behind it — namely that superstitious people regard Friday the 13th as a supremely unlucky day — were instantly adopted and popularized by the press.

Some other items to ponder…

  • ThirteenA study conducted in the UK regarding Friday the 13th and health yielded some interesting results. Incredibly, they found that in the region sampled, while consistently fewer people chose to drive their cars on Friday the 13th, the number of hospital admissions due to vehicular accidents was significantly higher than on “normal” Fridays. Their conclusion:

“Friday 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent. Staying at home is recommended.”

  • The British Navy is said to have built a ship named Friday the 13th, or the HMS Friday, which on its maiden voyage left dock on a Friday the 13th, and was never heard from again.
  • The HMS Friday story seems to be a legend, however. The Royal Navy Museum states on its web site that this story, which has been told before, is a hoax. “There has never been a Royal Navy ship named HMS Friday – or after any other day of the week for that matter,” the museum states.
  • Apollo 13 crew

    Apollo 13 crew

    The ill-fated Apollo 13 launched at 13:13 CST on Apr. 11, 1970. The sum of the date’s digits (4-11-70) is 13 (as in 4+1+1+7+0 = 13). And the explosion that crippled the spacecraft occurred on April 13 (not a Friday). The crew did make it back to Earth safely, however.

  • Many hospitals have no room 13, while some tall buildings skip the 13th floor.
  • Fear of Friday the 13th — one of the most popular myths in science — is called paraskavedekatriaphobia as well as friggatriskaidekaphobia. Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13.
  • Quarterback Dan Marino wore No. 13 throughout his career with the Miami Dolphins. Despite being a superb quarterback (some call him one of the best ever), he got to the Super Bowl just once, in 1985, and was trounced 38-16 by the San Francisco 49ers and Joe Montana (who wore No. 16 and won all four Super Bowls he played in).
  • Butch Cassidy

    Butch Cassidy

    Butch Cassidy, notorious American train and bank robber, was born on Friday, April 13, 1866.

  • Fidel Castro was born on Friday, Aug. 13, 1926.
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt would not travel on the 13th day of any month and would never host 13 guests at a meal. Napoleon and Herbert Hoover were also triskaidekaphobic, with an abnormal fear of the number 13.
  • Superstitious diners in Paris can hire a quatorzieme, or professional 14th guest.
  • Mark Twain once was the 13th guest at a dinner party. A friend warned him not to go. “It was bad luck,” Twain later told the friend. “They only had food for 12.”
  • Woodrow Wilson considered 13 his lucky number, though his experience didn’t support such faith. He arrived in Normandy, France on Friday, Dec. 13, 1918, for peace talks, only to return with a treaty he couldn’t get Congress to sign. (The ship’s crew wanted to dock the next day due to superstitions.) He toured the United States to rally support for the treaty, and while traveling, suffered a near-fatal stroke.
  • Eagle seal on the back of a dollar bill

    Eagle seal on the back of a dollar bill

    The seals on the back of a dollar bill include 13 steps on the pyramid, 13 stars above the eagle’s head, 13 war arrows in the eagle’s claw and 13 leaves on the olive branch. So far there’s been no evidence tying these long-ago design decisions to the present economic situation.

 

Special thanks to livescience.com and urbanlegends.about.com

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The Pony Express: First Mail Delivery Across the Untamed West

Pony Express Advertisement

Pony Express Advertisement

Fun Facts About the Pony Express

Purpose:

To provide the fastest mail delivery between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. To draw public attention to the central route in hope of gaining the million dollar government mail contract for the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company.

Date:

April 3, 1860 to late October 1861.

Mechanics:

Relay of mail by horses and riders. The Pony Express ran day and night, summer and winter.

Riders:

183 men are known to have ridden for the Pony Express during its operation of just over 18 months.

Rider Qualifications:

Ad in California newspaper read: “Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” Most riders were around 20. Youngest was 11. Oldest was mid-40s. Not many were orphans. Usually weighed around 120 pounds.

Riders Pay

$100 per month.

First Riders:

Johnny Fry was first westbound rider from St. Joseph. Billy Hamilton was first eastbound driver from Sacramento.

Rider Relay:

New riders took over every 75 to 100 miles.

Horse Relay:

Riders got a fresh horse every 10 to 15 miles.

Speed:

Horses traveled an average of 10 miles per hour.

Horses:

400 horses purchased to stock the Pony Express route. Thoroughbreds, mustangs, pintos, and Morgans were often used.

Stations:

Approximately 165 stations.

Trail Length:

Almost 2,000 miles.

Route:

St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Through the present day states of Kansas, Nebraska, northeast corner of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.

Departure:

Once a week from April 3 to mid-June 1860. Twice a week from mid-June to late October 1861. Departures were from both the east and the west.

Schedule:

10 days in summer. 12 to 16 days in winter.

Fastest Delivery:

7 days and 17 hours between telegraph lines. Lincoln’s Inaugural Address.

Longest Drive:

Pony Bob Haslam rode 370 miles (Friday’s station to Smith Creek and back. This is in present-day Nevada.)

Cost of Mail:

$5.00 per 1/2 ounce at the beginning. By the end of the Pony Express, the price had dropped to $1.00 per 1/2 ounce.

Founders:

William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell. The company was the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company. The Pony Express was a subsidiary of the famous freight and stage company.

Other Mail Routes:

Water route from New York to San Francisco and across Panama by pack mule. Southern or Butterfield route from St. Louis and Memphis to El Paso to Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Telegraph Completed:

October 24, 1861. Official end of the Pony Express.

Failures:

Financially, the owners spent $700,000 on the Pony Express and had a $200,000 deficit. The company failed to get the million dollar government contract because of political pressures and the outbreak of the Civil War.

Successes:

Improved communication between east and west. Proved the central route could be traveled all winter. Supported the central route for the transcontinental railroad. Kept communication open to California at the beginning of the Civil War. Provided the fastest communication between east and west until the telegraph. Captured the hearts and the imagination of people all over the world.

Folklore:

One mochila lost and one rider killed. Location, date and names have not been verified. [Mochila is Spanish for the leather saddlebag with four locked pouches.]

 

Special thanks to AmericanWest.com

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Attila the Hun: “Scourge of God”

Attila the Hun, ?-453 AD

Attila the Hun, ?-453 AD

Fun Facts About Attila the Hun

Attila’s Rise to Power

Called the Scourge of God by the Romans, Attila the Hun was king and general of the Hun empire from A.D. 433 to 453. Succeeding his uncle, King Roas, in 433, Attila shared his throne with his brother Bleda. He inherited the Scythian hordes who were disorganized and weakened by internal strife. Attila’s first order of affairs was to unite his subjects for the purpose of creating one of the most formidable and feared armies Asia had ever seen.

Peace Treaty Between Rome and Attila the Hun

In 434 East Roman Emperor Theodosius II offered Attila and Bleda 660 pounds of gold annually with hopes of securing an everlasting peace with the Huns. This peace, however, was not long lived. In 441 Attila’s Huns attacked the Eastern Roman Empire. The success of this invasion emboldened Attila to continue his westward expansion. Passing unhindered through Austria and Germany, Attila plundered and devastated all in his path.

Attila Attacks Italy

In 451, having suffered a setback on the Plains of Chalons, by the allied Romans and Visigoths, Attila turned his attention to Italy. After having laid waste to Aquileia and many Lombard cities in 452, the Scourge of God met Pope Leo I who dissuaded him from sacking Rome.

Attila’s Ignominious Death

Attila’s death in 453 wasn’t quite what one would have expected from such a fierce barbarian warrior. He died not on the battlefield, but on the night of his marriage. On that night Attila, who, despite common misconceptions, was not a heavy drinker, drank heavily in celebration of his new bride. In his wedding chambers at the end of the event, Attila passed out flat on his back. It was then and there that Attila had a massive nosebleed which caused him to choke on his own blood.

 

Special thanks to www.about.com

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Allan Sherman: Writer, producer, singer and brilliant comic parodist

Allan Sherman, Nov 30, 1924 - Nov 20, 1973

Allan Sherman, Nov 30, 1924 - Nov 20, 1973

 

Fun Facts About Allan Sherman

Birth and Death: November 30, 1924 – November 20, 1973

Most known for: An American comedy writer who became famous as a song parodist in the early 1960s.

First album: My Son, the Folk Singer (1962). It became the fastest-selling record album up to that time.

Biggest hit: Sherman’s biggest hit single was “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”, a comic novelty in which a boy describes his summer camp experiences to the tune of Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours.

Allan Copelon?: Sherman took his mother’s maiden name after being abandoned in childhood by his father, Percy Copelon, a stock car racer, mechanic, and inventor. Much later, Copelon offered to pay for Sherman’s education if he would re-take the family name, but when no support was forthcoming, the young man became Allan Sherman once again.

TV Show Writer and Producer: Sherman created a game show, which he called “I Know a Secret.” TV producer Mark Goodson used Sherman’s idea and turned it into I’ve Got a Secret, which ran on CBS from 1952 to 1967. Rather than paying him for the concept, Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions made Sherman the show’s producer. Sherman was reported to be warm and kindhearted to all who worked for him. But sparks often flew between Sherman and anyone who was in a position to try to restrain his creativity.

As producer of I’ve Got a Secret, which was broadcast live, he showed a fondness for large scale stunts that had the potential to teeter on the brink of disaster. He once released 100 bunny rabbits onstage as an Easter surprise for the Madison Square Boys Club, whose members were seated in the studio. The boys were invited to come up onstage to collect their prize. Although the resultant melee made a good story, it did not necessarily make for good TV. The relationship between Mark Goodson-Bill Todman and Sherman became strained to the breaking point when he finally fought to execute an idea that was destined to fall flat. His plan was to have Tony Curtis teach the panel how to play some of the games he had played as a child growing up in New York City. The problems manifested themselves when it became obvious that Tony Curtis had never actually played any of the games that Sherman had brought the props for. The situation might have been salvaged had the props worked as planned, but they did not. The handkerchief parachute failed to open and land gracefully and the pool “tank” which was propelled by rubber band moved painfully slowly. The spot, which aired June 11, 1958, was a disaster and Sherman was fired as producer. His dismissal did not, however, prevent Mark Goodson-Bill Todman from bringing Sherman back many times as a guest on their shows in subsequent years after he achieved celebrity status following the release of his albums.

Sherman also produced a short-lived 1954 game show, What’s Going On? which was technologically ambitious, with studio guests interacting with multiple live cameras in remote locations. In 1961 he produced a daytime game show for Al Singer Productions called Your Surprise Package which aired on CBS with host George Fenneman.

My Son, The Folk Singer: Sherman lived in the Brentwood section of West Los Angeles next door to Harpo Marx, who invited him to perform his song parodies at parties attended by Marx’s show-biz friends. After one party, George Burns phoned a record executive and persuaded him to sign Sherman to a contract. The result was a long playing album of these parodies, entitled My Son, the Folk Singer, which was released in 1962. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

My Son, The Celebrity: My Son, the Folk Singer was so successful that it was quickly followed by My Son, the Celebrity, which ended with “Shticks of One and Half a Dozen of the Other,” fragments of song parodies including Robert Burns’: “Dinna make a stingy sandwich, pile the cold cuts high;/Customers should see salami comin’ thru the rye.”

Success with Top 40 Hit: In 1963’s My Son, The Nut, Sherman’s pointed parodies of classical and popular tunes dealt with automation in the workforce (“Automation,” to the tune of “Fascination”), space travel (“Eight Foot Two, Solid Blue,” to “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue”), the exodus from the city to the suburbs (“Here’s to the Crabgrass,” to the tune of “English Country Garden”), and his own bloated figure (“Hail to Thee, Fat Person,” which perhaps only half-jokingly blames his obesity on the Marshall Plan).

One track from My Son, The Nut, a spoof of summer camp entitled “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh,” became a surprise novelty hit, reaching #2 on the national Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks in late 1963. The lyrics were sung to the tune of one segment of Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours”, familiar to the public because of its use in the Walt Disney film Fantasia. That December, Sherman’s “The Twelve Gifts of Christmas” single appeared on Billboard’s separate Christmas chart. Sherman had one other Top 40 hit, a 1965 take-off on the Petula Clark hit “Downtown” called “Crazy Downtown”, which spent one week at #40. Two other Sherman singles charted in the lower regions of the Billboard 100: an updated “Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh” (#59 in 1964), and “The Drinking Man’s Diet” (#98 in 1965). He “Bubbled Under” with “The End Of A Symphony”, reaching #113 in 1964, spotlighting Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Pops Orchestra.

Decline in Popularity: Sherman’s career success was short-lived: after peaking in 1963, his popularity declined rather quickly. After the JFK assassination, impersonator Vaughn Meader vowed to never again do a Kennedy impression, and perhaps because of this ominous shadow – Meader was a very popular parody impressionist of the day – and the resulting reluctance to book such acts, the public saw less of Sherman’s type of comedy. By 1965, Sherman had released two albums that did not make the Top 50 and in 1966, Warner Brothers dropped him from the label. His last album for the company, Togetherness, was released in 1967 to poor reviews and poorer sales. All of Sherman’s previous releases had been recorded in front of a live studio audience – or in the case of Live, Hoping You Are The Same, recorded during a Las Vegas performance – but Togetherness was not, and the lack of an audience and their response affected the result, as did the nondescript backup singers and studio orchestra.

On and Off Broadway: In 1969, Sherman wrote the script and lyrics – but not the music, which was written by Albert Hague – for The Fig Leaves Are Falling, a flop Broadway musical that lasted only four performances in 1969, despite direction by George Abbott and a cast that included Barry Nelson, Dorothy Loudon and David Cassidy. Still creative, in 1973 Sherman published the controversial The Rape of the A*P*E*, which detailed his point of view on American Puritanism and the sexual revolution.

With Dr. Suess: In 1971, Sherman was the voice of Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat” for the television special. He also did voice work for Dr. Seuss on the Loose, his last project before his death.

Death: Late in his life, Sherman drank and ate heavily, which resulted in a dangerous weight gain; he later developed diabetes and struggled with lung disease. In 1966, his wife Dee filed for divorce, and received full custody of their son and daughter.

Sherman lived on unemployment for a time and moved into the Motion Picture Home, near Calabasas, California for a short time in order to lose weight. He died of emphysema at home in West Hollywood ten days before his 49th birthday. He is entombed in Culver City, California’s Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery.

Legacy: Sherman was the inspiration for a new generation of developing parodists such as “Weird Al” Yankovic, who pays homage to Sherman on the cover of his first LP. Sherman’s hit song, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” has been translated into other languages. In one notable example, the Dutch-Swedish poet Cornelis Vreeswijk has translated the song into Swedish and adopted it as his own.

 

Video: Hello Muddah Hello Faddah (1963)

Bonus Video: Harvey and Sheila (1963)

 

Special thanks to www.mahalo.com and www.youtube.com

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Brian Jones: The Founder, the Talent, the Eclectic and the Tragedy of The Rolling Stones

Because Clare asked for it…

Brian Jones, February 28, 1942 - July 03, 1969

Brian Jones, February 28, 1942 - July 03, 1969

Facts About Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones

The Early Years

Brian Jones (birthname: Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones) was born on February 28th, 1942 to Lewis and Louisa Jones in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, some 120 miles out of London

Jones was a rebel who embodied the more flamboyant aspects of the Rolling Stones’ lifestyle even before the Rolling Stones formed.

Lewis Jones, Brian’s father said this about Brian growing up: “Up to a certain point, Brian was a perfectly normal, conventional boy who was well behaved and well liked. He did his studies. He was quite a model school boy. Then came this peculiar change in his early teens. He began to have some resentment of authority. He seemed to have first a mild rebellion which unfortunately became stronger as he grew older.”

As a teenager he got into trouble by fathering illegitimate children; Brian was first a first-time father at the age of 16. Though the ‘facts’ regarding the true lineage of other children have come into question, at least five (5) children are known to exist or have existed.

Despite his high IQ, he shunned academic studies in favor of his passions for playing jazz and blues.

Jones himself was a natural musician who could pick up a new instrument and make music with it in no time.  Emulating his hero, Muddy Waters, Jones taught himself how to play bottleneck guitar, dragging a glass or metal slide over open-tuned strings, which produced the essential and unmistakable blues sound.  It wasn’t long before he had a reputation for being the best slide guitar player in London.

Founding The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones (from left):  Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards

The Rolling Stones (from left): Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards

In May 1962, 20-year-old Brian Jones placed an ad in England’s Jazz News, seeking musicians for a new blues band he was putting together.  The blues were Jones’ passion, and he envisioned a Chicago-style blues band modeled on American blues master Muddy Waters’s classic combo, consisting of rhythm and lead guitars, bass guitar, drums, harmonica, keyboards, and a vocalist.

The first person to respond to his ad was a square-jawed Scotsman named Ian Stewart who played boogie-woogie piano.  Other musicians responded to the ad, but Jones was picky.  Anyone who didn’t see eye-to-eye with his vision for the band was soon ejected.

Jones pursued a young singer named Mick Jagger who was getting a lot of attention for his idiosyncratic vocal style and his gyrating stage moves.  Jagger also played harmonica, which made him all the more appealing to Jones, who recognized Jagger’s sex appeal with teenage girls.  Jones instinctively knew that his band, like Elvis Presley before them, would have to tap into the teenage female market if they were going to make it.  Jones met Jagger in a pub one night and invited him to come to a rehearsal.

That same night Jones also invited a skinny 18-year-old guitarist who happened to be tipping a pint at the pub.  Keith Richards was known for being able to imitate the unique guitar playing of American rock’n’roll legend Chuck Berry.  Jones wasn’t sure Richards would fit it—he was leery of hardcore rock’n’rollers in a blues band, but he was willing to give Richards a try.  To his surprise, Jones found that Richards’ rhythm playing complimented his lead, and eventually they developed a style that has become the hallmark of the band—two interweaving guitars that switch parts freely, each one seamlessly going from rhythm to lead and back again.

Jones found a solid rhythm section in drummer Charlie Watts and bass guitarist Bill Wyman.

When it came to naming the group, Jones looked to his idol and adapted the title of the Muddy Waters song, “Rollin’ Stone.”

In early May 1963, the band’s manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, said Stewart should no longer be onstage, that six members were too many for a popular group and that the burly, square-jawed Stewart didn’t fit the image. He said Stewart could stay as road manager and play piano on recordings. Stewart accepted this demotion, left the formal lineup but stayed close to the band and would record and tour with them up through his death in 1985.

Though jobs of the other Stones were generally centralized to one or two roles, Brian’s role was not so simply defined. He was the band’s utility player on piano, guitar, harmonica (harp), drums, or whatever else was needed. At times, though more so in the earliest period, he had a strong hand in influencing the musical direction of the group.

Brian Jones was the most creative member of the band.  As a musician, he was the envy of his peers, and his ability to pick up a new instrument and make it his own was truly remarkable.  His work with the marimba on “Under My Thumb” and the sitar on “Paint It Black” from the Aftermath album are just two examples of his brilliance.

Jones was also the driving force of the band, at least initially, taking the leadership role in business and creative matters until his drug use forced a changing of the guard.

Finding an Identity During the British Invasion

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones with Jones standing (or sitting) apart

In the early ’60s, the Rolling Stones were just one of several dozen English bands, such as Herman’s Hermits, Freddie and the Dreamers, the Honeycombs, and Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, who were struggling to make it big.  But by the mid ‘60s one band, the Beatles, had taken the lead position, leaving the others in the dust.

The Rolling Stones chose to distinguish themselves by going the other way, embracing a darker, more rebellious public posture.  They went out of their way to be seen as the bad boys of rock, the band that parents would despise.

The Beatles wore uniforms when they performed; the Stones wore whatever they wanted.  Jagger and Jones dressed like dandies in ruffled shirts and flowing bell-bottom trousers while Richards cultivated a disheveled, dirty blue jeans, proto-punk look.

The Beatles pumped out a steady stream of catchy tunes that became number one hits.  The Stones proudly showed their down-and-dirty blues roots.

When it came to drug use, the Beatles—at least until the psychedelic period in the late ‘60s—kept their personal habits out of the press.  The Rolling Stones by contrast became synonymous with drug use in England.  But it was one aspect of their bad-boy image that they would have preferred to have kept private because it would eventually claim Jones’ life and nearly destroyed them as a band.

While the Beatles were soaring, playing in sold-out stadiums around the world, the Stones’ progress was hampered by persistent drug busts that dragged Jones, Jagger and Richards into court to the delight of the Fleet Street tabloids.  (Bassist Wyman and drummer Watts, the family men of the band, shied away from drugs.)

Bad publicity affected the Stones’ record sales, and drug charges prevented Jones from going on tour in America with the band.  Jagger and Richards smoked hash and marijuana and experimented with harder drugs, but they were generally able to function and flourish as musicians during this period.  Jones, however, was another story.

Bill Wyman in Stephen Davis’s Old Gods Almost Dead summed up the two sides of Jones’ personality: “He could be the sweetest, softest, and most considerate man in the world and the nastiest piece of work you ever met.”

By all accounts Jones suffered from low self-esteem, deep insecurity and paranoia.  He was always desperate for a woman’s company, but he treated his girlfriends horribly, physically abusing some of them.

He claimed to suffer from asthma and never went anywhere without an inhaler, yet none of his friends could recall ever seeing him have an attack.

Band Friction

Brian Jones in Pinstripe SuitFriction between band members in any rock ‘n’ roll group is almost inevitable, but in many cases personal differences don’t stand in the way of making good music.  The three front men of the Stones existed in a churning swirl of jealousies and shifting alliances.

In 1963 Jones had cut a secret deal with their agent at the time, giving him five pounds more a week than the others because he was the leader of the band.  That same agent had insisted on getting rid of Jagger, saying that he couldn’t sing, and Jones was willing to go along with Jagger’s ouster until their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, stepped in and pleaded the singer’s case.

Jagger was the voice of the band, but Jones, with his fair-haired, androgynous looks was Jagger’s rival in sex appeal.  Richards had found a guitar soulmate in Jones, but that bond began to dissolve when Richards and Jagger started writing songs together.

Not only did Jagger and Richards’ original material give them the edge in creative control of the band, song royalties put more money in their pockets.  According to singer Marianne Faithfull, who was Jagger’s companion at the time, the building animosity between Jones and Jagger came to a head at a kiss-and-make-up dinner party at Richards’ country house where “Brian pulled a knife on Mick.” As recounted in A.E. Hotchner’s book Blown Away, Jagger got the knife away from Jones, but their scuffle continued.  Jones jumped into the moat that surrounded the house to escape Jagger’s rage and Jagger followed him in.   They tussled and thrashed in the water until they were too exhausted to continue.

By the late ‘60s Jones was unhappy with the Rolling Stones.  The band he had founded was drifting away from his original concept: to interpret American blues and R&B for a white teenage audience. More and more the Jagger-Richards songs were setting the tone for the band, and it wasn’t always to his liking.

When the band had put together the songs for their psychedelic album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, Jones expressed his distaste for the work and predicted that it would bomb because the public would see it for what it was, a pale imitation of the Beatles’ landmark album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Further Decay on the Road to Morocco

Brian Jones, Anita Pallenberg and Keith Richards in Tangiers, Morocco, 1967

Brian Jones, Anita Pallenberg and Keith Richards in Tangiers, Morocco, 1967

Feeling isolated from the band that he had created, Jones turned to drugs for solace. Jones’ drug use soon became a major liability for the Stones.  Not only was he bringing them bad press, he was useless in the studio, frequently lying down on the floor and passing out with his guitar still strapped to him.

They all agreed that they needed a break to reassess their situation.  Jones and Richards decided to take a vacation in Morocco.   Jones asked his girlfriend at the time, Anita Pallenberg, to go with them.  But what they’d hoped would be a much-needed period of rest and relaxation turned into a holiday in hell.

On the advice of their handlers, the Stones decided to disappear for a while in the hopes of getting off the front pages.  In late February, Mick Jagger flew to Tangier.  Richards, Jones and Jones’ girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, decided to drive to Morocco in Richards’ Bentley, which was nicknamed the Blue Lena.

Jones, who was reputed to be monumentally self-centered even when sober, was apparently oblivious to the sexual tension building in the Blue Lena between Pallenberg and Keith Richards.

On the second day of the trip, Jones became ill with a respiratory infection and had to be hospitalized in Toulouse, France.  The French doctors insisted that he stay for a few days, so he told his friends to go on and that he would meet them in Tangier as soon as he was well enough to travel.  He spent his birthday alone in the hospital as the Blue Lena continued on.  With Jones gone, Richards and Pallenberg couldn’t contain their feelings for one another.

A few days later a demanding telegram from Jones found its way to Pallenberg.  He wanted her to return to Toulouse and help him get back to London where he could complete his recovery.  Torn between Richards and Jones, Pallenberg sadly boarded a plane in Mirabella, Spain, to attend to her boyfriend.

Less than a week later, Pallenberg, Jones and Marianne Faithfull flew from London to Madrid, intent on meeting up with Jagger and Richards in Tangier.  But Jones’ good mood had vanished, and his paranoia had kicked into high gear, having picked up on Pallenberg’s feelings for Richards.

As the trio made their way toward Gilbraltar, Pallenberg took Faithfull aside whenever Jones was out of earshot to ask what she thought of Jones in comparison to Richards.

They stopped at the Rock of Gibraltar to see the famous monkey colony.  Jones, who was on LSD at the time, played his tape recorder for the monkeys who shrieked and fled in fear.  Jones was so upset by their reaction he started to cry.  Faithfull had a bad feeling about what would happen next.

Back in Morocco at the Hotel Marrakech, in the shadow of the city’s fabled red walls, Jones suffered a meltdown.  In his hotel room, he confronted Pallenberg with her infidelity, shouting that he could see that something was going on between her and Richards.  Fed up with Jones and his turbulent mood swings, Pallenberg admitted to her affair with Richards, throwing it in Jones’ face.  Blinded by hurt and rage, Jones beat her more severely than he had ever beaten her.  She fled from their room outside to the pool where she did nothing to hide her bruised face.

That night, Pallenberg went back to the room and took sleeping pills, hoping to get some rest while Jones was out.  Later that night he burst into the room and woke her from a sound sleep.  He was high on acid and had two Berber prostitutes with him.  He wanted Pallenberg to join them in a foursome.  Pallenberg refused, and Jones had a tantrum, trashing the room.  Pallenberg grabbed her belongings and spent the night with Richards.

For Pallenberg and Richards this was the last straw.  Jones was such a destructive presence they simply had to get away from him.  They decided to go back to London and abandon Jones in Morocco while he was out touring with a friend.

Upon Jones’ arrival back to the hotel that night, he found that everyone had left for London, including Richards and Pallenberg.  Alone and paranoid, Jones got on the phone and tried to get some answers, but no one would tell him where his friends had gone.   But even though he was high, Jones could see the reality of the situation.   Jagger and Richards had taken his band away from him, and now Richards had taken his girlfriend.  Jones broke down into uncontrollable tears and needed a sedative to sleep that night.

On the Outs

Brian JonesWhen Brian Jones had finally made his way back to London, he was an emotional wreck, and it didn’t help to find his apartment half empty.  Anita Pallenberg had moved all her belongings out and taken up residence with Keith Richards.  Jones begged her to come back, but she refused.

The other Rolling Stones were fed up with Jones and wouldn’t speak to him.  They seriously considered firing him, but Mick Jagger objected.  Always the pragmatist, Jagger felt that they still needed Jones, at least for the time being.

The Stones were scheduled to do a European tour, and Jagger felt that their popularity might be jeopardized if Jones, who was still a favorite with the teenage girls, was missing.

Jones didn’t want to go on tour with them.  He was fed up with them as well.  He also claimed to have forgotten how to play the guitar as a result of the psychic damage he’d suffered.  But Pallenberg lured him back, holding out the slight possibility that they could get back together if he took care of himself and got back into shape.  Jones agreed to do the tour and started taking guitar lessons.

He managed to survive the tour, even though none of his bandmates would speak to him.  All along he had hoped for a reconciliation with Pallenberg, but she stayed with Richards.  Caught in a swirl of drugs, alcohol and paranoia, Jones went into a tailspin.  His mood swings became more pronounced, and the band could not count on him to show up for rehearsals or recording sessions.  And when he did show up, he was useless to them, frequently falling asleep on the floor, seldom contributing anything substantial to the music.

By the spring of 1969, the band had to make a decision.  If they were going to survive as a band, they needed to tour, and to tour they needed a reliable lead guitarist.  Mick Jagger took the initiative and offered the position to a young blues virtuoso named Mick Taylor, who would end up staying with the Stones for the next five and a half years.  There was just one little matter to take care of—firing Brian Jones.

On June 9, Jagger and Richards drove to Cotchford Farm, Jones’ home in Sussex (and once owned by A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh), to hand him his pink slip.  Mick and Keith weren’t happy being the hatchet men, but they knew it had to be done.  Jones, for his part, had expected something like this, and he took the news placidly, agreeing to let them handle questions from the press whichever way they thought best.  In recognition of his past contributions to the band, Jagger offered Jones 100,000 pounds upon his departure and 20,000 a year for as long as the band stayed together.  After Jagger and Richards left Cotchford Farm, Jones went out into the garden and stood before a statue of Christopher Robin, weeping.

Death

Last known photo of Brian Jones (taken at Cotchford Farm)

Last known photo of Brian Jones (taken at Cotchford Farm)

After being ousted from the band he created, Jones apparently had ambitions to form a band of his own, but on July 3, he drowned in his own swimming pool.

On the night of his death, Jones had been drinking wine and taking downers.  Some suggested that he might have taken his own life, but those closest to him said he had no reason to commit suicide.  Even though he had been officially ejected from the Stones several months earlier, Jones was reportedly getting over it and was planning new musical projects on his own.

At 2 a.m. word of Jones’ death reached the Rolling Stones at Olympic Studios in London where they were recording a Stevie Wonder song, “I Don’t Know Why.”  The band fell into stunned silence, sitting on the floor, some of them lighting up joints.  Drummer Charlie Watts quietly cried.

The Rolling Stones, with Mick Taylor as Jones’ replacement, went ahead with their planned free concert in London’s Hyde Park on July 5, 1969, staging it as a tribute to Jones.

The cloudy circumstances of his death have been the subjects of various theories over the years; some feel that he was murdered, other evidence indicates that it was an accident that might have been brought on by unwise combinations of substances and medications.

According to the coroner’s report, Jones was the victim of “death by misadventure,” an accidental drowning precipitated by drug and alcohol abuse.

Some time after his funeral, rumors gained momentum that Jones had been murdered.  Inconsistencies in the accounts of that evening were gradually uncovered.  A deathbed confession by the alleged killer was squelched by a loyal Stones’ retainer.  More than 30 years later, suspicions persist.

Legacy

Jimi Hendrix of the Experience and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967

Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967

Brian had a close relationship with his fans and, to this day, many have fond memories of him beyond admiration of his musical talent.

Though he may have tried, he failed to overcome his addictions until after he was forced to leave the Rolling Stones in 1969. His last full tour as a member was in 1966, after which he would only make few sporadic appearances, the final being the Rock and Roll Circus in December of 1968. As described by fellow Stones’ members, he had become a ball and chain by 1967. After two years, it was obvious that the band could not afford to drag him around to shows and recording sessions just so he could be too drunk or high to function. His final musical output with the band was released on the 1969 Let it Bleed album.

He gained the respect of many fellow musicians throughout his short career, such as the Beatles whom asked that he play a part in the recording sessions for Sgt. Pepper in 1967. Though “You Know My Name (look up the number)” was not included on Sgt. Pepper, it can be found on the Beatles’ Past Masters Volume Two, and more recently (in complete form) on Anthology 2.

Brian Jones never released a solo music album or single. He did however begin a project (completed posthumously in 1971) bearing his name, though it was not of his own work. Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka was little noticed, but the inclusion of his name in the title did help to have the obscure Moroccan musical form recognized at a broader level. He played no part in the recordings, other than as a co-producer. Many incarnations of these recordings can be found on CD. It has been told that Moroccan artists to this day pay tribute to Brian in song.

Special thanks to www.beatzenith.com, www.trutv.com and www.starpulse.com

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Lightning: Mother Nature’s Light Show

Lightning

Lightning

Fun Facts About Lightning

  • Lightning is a form of electrical discharge between clouds or between a cloud and the ground.

    Ball lightning

    Ball lightning

  • The discharge may take place between two parts of the same cloud, between two clouds, or between a cloud and the ground.
  • Lightning may appear as a jagged streak, a flash in the sky, or in the rarer form of a brilliant ball.
  • Thunder is the sound waves produced by the explosive heating of the air in the lightning channel during the return.
  • Most lightning strikes occur either at the beginning or end of a storm.
  • The average lightning strike is six miles long.Lightning is not confined to thunderstorms. It’s been seen in volcanic eruptionsextremely intense forest fires, surface nuclear detonations, heavy snowstorms, and in large hurricanes.

    Volcanic lightning

    Volcanic lightning

  • Lightning reaches 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, fours times as hot as the sun’s surface.
  • A cloud-to-ground lightning channel can be 2 to 10 miles long.
  • Voltage in a cloud-to-ground strike is 100 million to 1 billion volts.
  • Lightning is underrated as a risk because it usually claims only one or two victims at a time and does not cause mass destruction of property.
  • Lightning affects all regions. Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, and Colorado have the most lightning deaths and injuries.
  • Lightning kills more people on an annual basis than tornadoes, hurricanes or winter storms. It is second only to flash floods in the annual number of deaths caused by storm-related hazards.
  • Damage costs from lightning are estimated at $4-5 billion each year in the U.S.
  • Around the earth there are 100 lightning strikes per second, or 8,640,00 times a day.
  • What is commonly referred to as heat lightning, is actually lightning too far away to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction.
  • There are approximately 100,000 thunderstorms in the U.S. each year.
  • Rubber shoes do nothing to protect you from lightning.Americans are twice as likely to die from lightning than from a hurricane, tornado or flood.
  • Talking on the telephone is the leading cause of lightning injuries inside the home.
  • Standing under a tall tree is one of the most dangerous places to take shelter.
  • If your hair stands up in a storm, it could be a bad sign that positive charges are rising through you, reaching toward the negatively charged part of the storm. That’s not a good sign! Your best bet is to get yourself immediately indoors.

    Blue lightning

    Blue lightning

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates there are 200 deaths and 750 severe injuries from lightning each year in the U.S.
  • The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000.The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000.
  • 20% of all lightning victims die from the strike.
  • 70% of survivors will suffer serious long-term effects.
  • Annually, there are more than 10,000 forest fires caused by lightning.
  • 85% of lightning victims are children and young men aged 10-35 engaged in outdoor recreation and work activities outside.
  • 70% of all lightning injuries and fatalities occur in the afternoon.
  • Most lightning deaths involve people working outdoors and outdoor recreationists.
  • Lightning in remote terrain creates dangerous conditions. Hikers, campers, backpackers, skiers, fishermen, and hunters are especially vulnerable when they’re participating in these activities.
  • Many survivors of lightning strikes report that immediately before being struck their hair was standing on end and they had a metallic taste in their mouth.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of a storm—and can be struck by lightning. Seek shelter and avoid situations in which you may be vulnerable.
  • Use the 30-30 rule, when visibility is good and there is nothing obstructing your view of the thunderstorm. When you see lightning, count the time until you hear thunder. If that time is 30 seconds or less, the thunderstorm is within six miles (ten kilometers) of you and is dangerous. Seek shelter immediately.
  • The Fourth of July is historically one of the most deadly times of the year for lightning in the U.S.. In summer, especially on a holiday, more people are outside, on the beach, golf course, mountains, or ball fields. Outdoor jobs such as construction and agriculture, and outdoor chores such as lawn mowing or house painting are at their peak, putting people involved in danger.
  • Long-term injuries from a lightning strike can include memory & attention loss, chronic numbness, muscle spasms & stiffness, depression, hearing loss, and sleep disturbance.
  • Some scientists think that lightning may have played a part in the evolution of living organisms. The immense heat and other energy given off during a stroke has been found to convert elements into compounds that are found in organisms.

Special thanks to  www.strikealert.com and www.nationalgeographic.com

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