Sunday, March 17, 2013

1959: Issa's Sunday Service, #161

1959 by Patti Smith on Grooveshark 
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I really can't go very long without revisiting the Patti Smith: she is known as the high Poetess of Rock for good reason. Today's song, 1959, is a bit of a history lesson from a counterculture point of view. Certainly the year was pivotal in so many ways. Here are some random facts from that year, courtesy of Wikipedia and (a bit of an indulgence, yes, but an informative one):

  • In Cuba, rebel troops led by Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos enter the city of Havana.
  • Motown Records founded by Berry Gordy, Jr.
  • Pope John XXIII announces that the Second Vatican Council will be convened in Rome.
  • Swiss males vote against voting rights for women.
  • A chartered plane transporting musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper and pilot Roger Peterson goes down in foggy conditions near Clear Lake, Iowa, killing all 4 occupants on board.
  • Recording sessions for the album Kind of Blue by Miles Davis take place at Columbia's 30th Street Studio in New York City.
  • Recording sessions for the influential jazz album Kind of Blue by Miles Davis take place at Columbia's 30th Street Studio in New York City.
  • Two monkeys, Able and Miss Baker are the first living beings to successfully return to Earth from space aboard the flight Jupiter AM-18.
  • Groups of Kurdish and communist militias rebelled in Kirkuk, Iraq against the central government.  
  • At the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow, United States Vice President Richard Nixon and USSR Premier Nikita Khrushchev engage ine the "Kitchen Debate".
  • The Xerox 914, the first plain paper copier, is introduced to the public.
  • Typhoon Vera hits central Honshū, Japan, killing an estimated 5,098, injuring another 38,921, and leaving 1,533,000 homeless. Most of the victims and damage are centered in the Nagoya area.
  • The first official large unit action of the Vietnam War took place when two companies of the ARVN 23d Division were ambushed by a well-organized Vietcong force of several hundred identified as the "2d Liberation Battalion".
  • Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev meets Mao Zedong in Beijing.
  • The 10th anniversary of the People's Republic of China is celebrated with pomp across the country.
  • Rod Serling's classic anthology series The Twilight Zone premieres on CBS.
  • The U.S.S.R. probe Luna 3 sends back the first ever photos of the far side of the Moon.
  • Riots break out in the Belgian Congo.
  • The Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas is brutally murdered, inspiring Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.
  • MGM's widescreen, multimillion dollar, Technicolor version of Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston, is released and becomes the studio's greatest hit up to that time
  • The first known human with HIV dies in the Congo.
  • Bollingen Prize for poetry awarded to Theodore Roethke
  • Texas Instruments requests patent of IC (Integrated Circuit)
  • Vince Lombardi signs a 5 year contract to coach Green Bay Packers
  • Boston Celtic Bob Cousy sets NBA record with 28 assists Boston Celtics score 173 points against Minneapolis Lakers
  • Iran & US sign economic & military treaty
  • Iraq & USSR sign economic/technical treaty
  • Uprising against Chinese occupation force in Lhasa Tibet
  • Dalai Lama flees Tibet for India
  • "Raisin in the Sun," 1st Broadway play by a black woman, opens
  • Oklahoma ends prohibition, after 51 years.
  • Vatican edict forbids Roman Catholics for voting for communists
  • Pulitzer prize awarded to Archibald Macleish
  • "Kookie, Kookie Lend Me Your Comb" by Byrnes & Connie Stevens hits #4
  • Japanese-Americans regain their citizenship
  • Presbyterian church accepts women preachers
  • 1st house with built-in bomb shelter exhibited
  • Harvey Haddix pitches 12 perfect innings, loses in 13th
  • Allen Ginsberg writes his poem "Lysergic Acid."
  • Bob Dylan graduates Hibbing HS in Minn.
  • Postmaster General bans D H Lawrence's book, Lady Chatterley's Lover
  • 1st telecast transmitted from England to US
  • "West Side Story" closes at Winter Garden Theater NYC after 734 perfs.
  • Dr Leakey discovers oldest human skull (600,000 years old).
  • William Shea announces he plans to have a baseball team in NYC in 1961.
  • "Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis," debuts on CBS-TV
  • Lee Harvey Oswald announces in Moscow he will never return to US.
  • 12 nations sign treaty for scientific peaceful use of Antarctica
  • 1st color photograph of Earth from outer space
  • Citizens of Deerfield Ill block building of interracial housing
  • Richard Starkey receives his 1st drum set
Here's Patti's take, desolation angels and all, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times:


Listen to my story. Got two tales to tell.
One of fallen glory. One of vanity.
The world's roof was raging, but we were looking fine;
'Cause we built that thing and it grew wings,
in Nineteen-Fifty-Nine.

Wisdom was a teapot; Pouring from above.
Desolation angels
Served it up with Love.
Ignitin' strife like every form of light,
then moved by bold design,
slid in that thing and it grew wings,
in Nineteen-Fifty-Nine.

It was Blood, shining in the Sun;
First: Freedom!
Speeding the american claim:
Freedom; Freedom; Freedom; Freedom!

China was the tempest; And Madness overflowed.
The Lama was a young man,
and he watched his world in flames.
Taking Glory down by the edge of clouds;
It was a cryin' shame.
Another lost horizon. Tibet the fallen star.
Wisdom and compassion Crushed, in the land of Shangri-La.
But in the land of the Impala, honey, well,
we were lookin' Fine,
'cause we built that thing and it grew wings;
In Nineteen-Fifty-Nine.
'Cause we built that thing and it grew wings;
In Nineteen-Fifty-Nine.

It was the best of times, it's was the worst of times;
In 1959; 1959; 1959; 1959; 1959; 1959; 1959.
It was the best of times; It was the worst of times.
In Nineteen-Fifty-Nine. 


And here's a near perfect live take:


Artwork by Ion Theodorescu-Sion

spring's first dawn--
the priest pretending
to sweep
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 160 songs


Ed Baker said...

in all ways
has always had


her Mind-stuff
bows away
just about
everybody else

especially The Rolling Stones !


in your list re: 1959 ?

that was the year that I graduated high-school
got laid in the back seat of my 1955 Buick Special

Constance said...

Hey. That's the year I was born and, I believe it is also the year Hawaii became a state. Might even be the birth of Barbie dolls, which was ever so important to me as a tiny girl. Thanks for all that good info and, of course, for Smith. Happy St. Pat's Day, Constance

Terri L. French said...

Thanks for the memories, Don. I was born that year as well.

Andrea Grillo said...

Wow - great post. All the important info/history here and Patty's poetry distilling it ever so succinctly and perfectly. Plus Ed's wonderful historical note - it all makes me smile despite the seriousness of the times. I was six, in first grade and trying to get away with not doing my homework. I literally gave it up - thought it was my right - but was caught and forced to entrain. To this day I still rebel when anyone mentions "homework"! As they say Don, "thanks for the memories".

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ed ... ah, a 55 Buick Special.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Constance, you are right about Hawaii and, I believe Alaska, too. Spot on with Barbie, also.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Terri ... glad you liked.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Cheers, Andrea. I was 8, remember Cuba looming on the horizon and the hallway drills wherein we "ducked and covered." The Congo and Cuban missile crisis were dawning on the horizon of what we ended up thinking might be the last of dawns.

Ed Baker said...


not to go too public with this
back in the early 70's I knew
more of than fast friends with
a friend of Charlie and Pam Plymell
.... Paul Grillo

you related to him ?

BIG in 1959 ? Fats Domino and
fuzzy sweaters and sock-hops

and the last decade of our (naive) innocences / pretensions

NOW ? we're stuck with only our insipid pretensions and fears of everything

what we need

right now

is a night at a smoke-filled club
with lots of beer and Jack

and a Patti Smith - Rickie Lee Jones

Hoot !


I knew Paul Grillo back in the early 70's via Pam and Charlie Plymell ..

you related to Paul ? and if so,

what became of him, say, between 1975 and now ?

Andrea Grillo said...

Sorry Ed, I did not know that Paul Grillo. Seems like there are quite a few of us Grillos around. Wish I did though.
Don, I remember the drills too. It was a scary time, however for me only a prelude to '67 and '68. I lived in Newark during the riots. Watched the guards drive our streets block by block. And the assinations the next year. All in all, I cannot complain though. Lots of great poets/songwriters/artists grew up in Newark, and it was fun turning on the hydrants and running from the cops.

Anonymous said...

Terrific post. That decade so heavy for little children . . . Thanks, Donna

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks so much, Donna ...