Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention liked to say that they brought the house down when they played. One time, they really did.
Montreux Casino’s entertainment complex caught fire during a concert Zappa and the band played on December 4, 1971, when some idiot fired a flare gun into the ceiling, which was covered with a flammable rattan surface. The entire complex burnt down, taking with it all the instruments and equipment belonging to the band. As the smoke billowed out across Lake Geneva, it was observed by the members of Deep Purple, who had arrived in Montreux that evening to begin recording their next album.
The events they witnessed that night led them to write a song about it. Bassist Roger Glover is credited with the song’s title – “Smoke on the Water” – and although all five members of the band are credited as the writers and composers, and Ritchie Blackmore composed what may well be the most recognizable guitar riff in rock and roll history…
It is one of few truly great unsolved crimes. The facts are as follows:
The man who gave his name as ‘Dan Cooper’ (the ‘DB’ monicker is based on later errors in the media, but has become more widely known) boarded Flight 305 in Portland, Oregon, bound for Seattle. Using the threat of a bomb in his suitcase, Cooper hijacked the plane shortly after take off.
It landed in Seattle, where Cooper released the passengers unharmed in exchange for his ransom demands being met: $200,000 in unmarked bills and 4 parachutes. After taking on these items, Cooper directed the crew to take off once more, and fly to Reno, Nevada.
During this second flight, he sent all the crew to the cockpit, and parachuted from the plane with the money. He was never apprehended, and although approximately $5000 was later found in the area that he parachuted into, nothing else ever was. Cooper has never been identified, and his true name may never be known. The FBI has stated that it believes him to have died upon landing, and decayed to nothing before he could be found. Of course, they also claimed that he was rude and abusive in conversations with them, which is at variance with the recollections of the crew members who heard these conversations, so it’s possible that the Bureau may be engaged in a certain amount of ass-covering.
The facts of the matter are distressingly simple: United States Army troops, under the immediate command of 2nd Lieutenant William Calley, entered the village of Son My in Vietnam on March 16, 1968. They killed an unknown number of people in that village, generally estimated to be between 100 and 400. Some of them were assaulted or raped before their deaths; almost all of them were non-combatants.
The army covered it up. An investigative committe headed by one Colin Powell whitewashed the incident, and so it might have remained, had not some of the men in the unit (and others who knew them), made great efforts to bring it to the attention of the American government and media. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh began investigating the story nearly a year after the events of the massacre, and eventually formed a fairly full picture of it, largely from conversations with Calley. The story was published in 33 newspapers on November 12, 1969. It was immediately controversial, and strongly increased opposition to the war in America. Hersh won a Pullitzer in 1970 for his efforts; Calley was convicted of murder in 1971 for his. He was the only person convicted of any crimes in relation to the massacre.
Despite being one of the best known songs of all time – and one of the most frequently requested on radio – Led Zeppelin’s eight minute opus was not released as a single until years after its legend was well established. It was the fourth track of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, and its length precluded its release in single form in the 45rpm vinyl format.
It at once sums up everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong with seventies rock in one song: it is pretentious and wanky, with lyrics that make little or no sense; but on the other hand, it rocks damned hard, has one of the greatest guitar solos ever, and is completely made of awesome.
Born Winona Laura Horowitz, the actress now known as Winona Ryder is best known for her appearances in such films as “Heathers”, “Alien Resurrection”, “Reality Bites”, “Girl, Interrupted”, and more recently, “Stranger Things”, among many others.
She is also well known for dating Johnny Deep in the early Nineties (he had a tattoo reading “Winona Forever” on his arm; after they broke up, it was modified to read “Wino Forever”), and for getting arrested for shoplifting in 2001.
The Attica Correctional Facility is located in Attica, New York state. Rioting broke out there on September 9, 1971. The proximate cause of the riot was the death of prisoner George Jackson, a black radical prisoner who had been shot to death by corrections officers in California’s San Quentin Prison on August 21 while armed and attempting to escape. However, the conditions inside the prison also contributed to the riot’s outbreak – at that time, inmates were each allowed only one shower per week and one roll of toilet paper per month.
Nearly half of the prison’s approximately 2,200 inmates rioted, seizing control of the prison and taking thirty-three correction officers hostage. The State began negotiating with the prisoners for their release, and during the following four days of negotiations, the authorities agreed to 28 of the prisoners’ demands.
However, the demands for complete amnesty from criminal prosecution for the prison takeover and for the removal of Attica’s superintendent, remained sticking points. On September 13, at the order of then Governor Nelson Rockefeller, state police took back control of the prison. When the uprising was over at least 39 people were dead, including ten correction officers and civilian employees – all but one of whom were killed by friendly fire.
Early in the morning of July 22, 1971, the oil tanker Tamano briefly ran aground in Casco Bay, Maine. No one noticed this, or the twenty foot long gash in the side of the ship that was now leaking oil into the bay. This particular display of oil transport competence was brought to you by Texaco, and followed the same depressing trajectory as any other oil spill.
The months that followed saw massive environmental damage to the local area, a partial cleanup of the spill at taxpayer expense, and a completely typical denial of liability by the oil company – who passed the buck to the shipping company they’d outsourced to and blamed the government for not making the shipping channels safer. Incredibly, the latter point Texaco actually won a court case over.
Morrison died on July 3, 1971, at age 27. In the official account of his death, he was found in a Paris apartment bathtub by Courson. Pursuant to French law, no autopsy was performed because the medical examiner claimed to have found no evidence of foul play. The absence of an official autopsy has left many questions regarding Morrison’s cause of death.
Many believed that Morrison had in fact faked his death, as he had occasionally talked of doing over the preceding few years, but if so, he has yet to reappear. And it’s hard to believe that a man with Morrison’s ego and drug use could have stayed anonymous for nearly 40 years now…
Born Tupac Amaru Shakur in New York City on June 16 of 1971, Tupac was a rap artists. In addition to his own name, he also used the stage names 2Pac, Pac and later Makaveli (although that last name never really caught on).
He grew up in Harlem and many of his songs reflect his background, dealing with topics such as growing up amid the violence and hardship of ghettos, racism and crime. In addition to his career as a rapper, Tupac was also an actor and a social activist known for his advocacy of racial egalitarianism.
In the course of his career, he sold over 75 million albums worldwide and was named the 86th Greatest Artist of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine. He was shot in a drive by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996, and died from his wounds in hospital shortly thereafter. Tupac was mourned by rap fans the world over, and remains one of the best known rappers in history.
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 embarassing 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.