September 11, 2001 — The World Trade Centre is destroyed in a terrorist attack

It is the defining moment of the modern era. If you were old enough to remember it at the time, then you remember how you heard it, remember the image of the plane hitting the second building, remember it all.

Four separate planes were hijacked by terrorists belonging to Al Qaeda. One was brought down by the passengers when they realised what it was supposed to do. The other three were rammed into buildings – one into the Pentagon, one into each of the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City. Nearly 3000 people were killed in the attacks, and more died in the aftermath, killed trying to rescue others.

The reaction was one of shock, grief and anger. Within weeks, the world was plunged into war, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq – and the brief utopian season of the early 21st century came to an end.

December 31, 1999 — The Twentieth Century ends

Technically, the Twentieth Century did not end for another year, at the end of the year 2000. But in the popular imagination, the last day of 1999 was the last day of the millennium. A day when many a religious – and one big secular – apocalypse was counted down to, to hit at the stroke of midnight. But the Second Coming failed to materialise, and the risks of the Y2K bug were largely averted by a lot of hard work, and midnight came and went no more eventfully than any other year.

The Twentieth Century was over with, and now, the 21st Century – the future – could begin. Only it turned out that if apocalypse wasn’t just around the corner, neither was utopia. And only 21 months into the new century, we’d all be dragged into a brand new endless Cold War when we’d just finally shaken off the last one.

August 1997 — “Red Rocket 7” begins publication

The first issue of what would be seven in total was published by Dark Horse Comics in August of 1997. Creator Mike Allred, unable to get the rights to do a Ziggy Stardust story, modified his ideas slightly into these stories of Bowie-inspired lunacy, science fiction and the secret history of pop music.

It was republished in a collected form on several occasions thereafter, and Bowie eventually read and enjoyed it.

October 21, 1992 — Madonna releases her book “Sex”

Sex is a coffee table book written by Madonna, with copious photographs taken by Siung Fat Tjia and Fabien Baron, and edited by Glenn O’Brien. The book was released by Madonna simultaneously with her fifth studio album ‘Erotica’, with each work being a companion piece to the other.

The book was extremely controversial – which was no doubt what Madonna intended. It featured softcore pornographic photographs which included sadomasochism and analingus. Madonna wrote the book without outside assistance, although if you’ve ever read the damned thing, you’ll know that this was probably not the best choice she ever made.

April 29, 1992 — The Rodney King trial verdict results in widespread rioting in LA

It’s hard not to think that something may have gone wrong with the American justice system at times. For example, when several police officers (Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano) are caught on video beating a suspect, when those same police officers are later heard boasting about the injuries they dealt out, well, you’d expect that convicting them of the crimes that they very clearly committed would be a straightforward matter.

Unless, of course, all the cops were white while the suspect was black. Unless the jury consists of ten whites, an Asian and a Hispanic. Unless the trial is held in a jurisdiction notably more conservative than the one where these events took place. Then the complete acquittal of all four officers should be expected as a matter of course, because as we all know, justice is less important than the good name of the Los Angeles Police Department, and anyway, Rodney King must have had it coming, right?

So later that day, after the verdict is announced, these same police officers and jurors claiming to be stunned that anyone could possibly disagree with the verdict is completely believable. If you’re an idiot, that is.

The riots in Los Angeles (which lasted a week and caused 53 deaths, a thousand injuries, somewhere in the region of a billion dollars worth of property damages and kicked off sympathetic riots in other cities), while not in any way justifiable, were certainly both an understandable and a predictable response.

Los Angeles Riots, 1992 (17094267471)

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Riot — 2 Chainz
Race War — Ice-T
Anger — Downset
I Wanna Riot — Rancid
Rioting — The Rugburns
Disorder — Slayer & Ice-T
Polaroid Baby — Bratmobile
Objection Overruled — Accept
Shock to the System — Billy Idol
Livin’ on the Edge — Aerosmith
Say Goodbye — Black Eyed Peas
Don’t Pray on Me — Bad Religion
April 29, 1992 (Miami) — Sublime
Black Girlfriend — Porno for Pyros
Porno for Pyros — Porno for Pyros
Never can say Goodbye — The Game
Black Tie White Noise — David Bowie
Simi Valley Blues — Branford Marsalis
Forgotten (Lost Angels) — Lamb of God
The Day tha Niggaz Took Over — Dr. Dre
We Didn’t Start The Fire — Fall Out Boy
Township Rebellion — Rage Against the Machine
We Had to Tear This Motherfucka Up — Ice Cube
Peace in L.A. — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Stuck Between a Rock and a White Face — One Minute Silence

November 26, 1987 — Madonna serves Sean Penn with divorce papers at Thanksgiving

Some relationships have an expiry date from the very start – the marriage of Sean Penn and Madonna was one of these. Both were infamously volatile and egotistical, and the failure of the film they made together, “Shanghai Surprise”, didn’t help. By the start of 1987, it was pretty obvious that the couple wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas together that year.

The two weren’t speaking for a while – and it appears that Penn may have be trying to delay the inevitable. Madonna choosing the occasion of their family Thanksgiving to serve Penn with divorce papers might seem cold, but it also may have been her only chance to actually see him.

June 30, 1987 — “Children in Darkness” is published

While it had been rumoured in certain circles for years that child prostitution was alive in well in South East Asia, it was an article titled “Children in Darkness”, published in The Christian Science Monitor‘s June 30, 1987 edition that first began to bring it to the attention of mainstream article. Sara Terry, the journalist who produced the piece (along with with fellow reporter Kristin Helmore and photographer Melanie Stetson Freeman), wrote a series of painstakingly researched articles on the subject across the late Eighties.

But for all the outrage it generated, and the efforts of well-meaning activists and missionaries, child prostitution still thrives in Bangkok and other cities throughout the Third World, catering mostly to the jaded and perverted tastes of Western tourists. Because ending this atrocity just isn’t as important as winning the next election.

May 30, 1971 — Zowie Bowie is born

The child of one of the most famous and creative rock stars of all time, Zowie Bowie was also saddled with one of the world’s most embarrassing names. Later on in his childhood, he would known as Joey, but this wasn’t really much of an improvement, and he eventually settled on Duncan as a first name, and Jones (his father’s actual surname – Bowie is a stage name only) as his last name.

Since then, Jones has gone on to direct the films “Moon” and “Source Code” – and is apparently in talks to direct the next Wolverine film. He’s not yet wholly emerged from his father’s shadow, but to be fair, his father’s shadow is a very, very large one.

Duncan Jones and David Bowie at the premiere of Moon

As mentioned in:

Kooks — David Bowie

January 17, 1971 — Marvin Gaye releases “What’s Going On?”

A number two US chart hit for Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On?” was a departure from his previous Motown sound into a more personal and introspective direction. Inspired by the rising tide of racial and social unrest in the United States in the late Sixties, and more personally by events like the death of Gaye’s cousin (a soldier in Vietnam), “What’s Going On?” was a plea to everyone to just stop and take a look around at the world, and to ask themselves why it was like that.

The song was nominated for two Grammy awards, and ranked by Rolling Stone Magazine as number 4 on the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004, and again when the list was revised in 2010. They may actually have been under-rating it.

August 16, 1969 — The Beckenham Free Festival is held

The Beckenham Free Festival was held at the Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham in August 1969, in parallel with the Woodstock Festival. It was organised by a group of British musicians and artists, the most prominent of whom was David Bowie (quite early in his career).

The festival was a success, with some 3,000 people attending. The atmosphere was generally peaceful, for which Bowie was complimented by Bromley’s mayor and chief of police (who were among the attendees).