RIP Natalie Cole

RIP singer Natalie Cole, daughter of Nat King Cole, on Dec 31, 2015. Natalie won nine Grammys, including six for 1991 album Unforgettable … With Love. It

paid tribute to her father with reworked versions of some of his best-known songs, including “That Sunday That Summer,” “Too Young” and “Mona Lisa.” Her voice was spliced with her dad’s in the title cut, offering a delicate duet a quarter-century after his death. – ABC News

December 31 – Pirates of Penzance, Cockettes


Gilbert and Sullivan‘s fifth collaboration, the comic opera The Pirates of Penzance, premieres at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in NYC.

The superlative comic opera, full of witty prickles & catching tunage, is loosed on the Victorian world it sends up. By opening it in America, the boys clinch a considerably superior remunerance … compared to Pinafore, which had been widely pirated in the US.

Hail, Poetry, thou heaven-born maid!
Thou gildest e’en the pirate’s trade:
Hail, flowing fount of sentiment!
All hail, Divine Emollient!

Modernized productions include a musical version which opens on Broadway Jan. 10, 1981 for 787 performances (& a Tony Award), its film version, The Pirates of Penzance (Feb. 18, 1983) (*), and Australia’s The Pirate Movie (Aug. 6, 1982)(*), ‘a clever romp in its own right.’ (Kristy MicNichol, Christopher Atkins)

The 1968 recording by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company is highly regarded.
▷@ GaS discography ▹ ▷GaS archive ▹
1929 D’Oyly Carte recording


First performance of the Cockettes at the Palace Theatre (*) (*) (*) in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood.

The group is the subject of a 2002 documentary film.

A disagreement in 1971 spawns The Angels of Light, ‘a “family” of dedicated artists who sang, danced, painted and sewed for the Free Theater’. (*)

The Angels in turn spawn experimental, punk never-disbanded Tuxedomoon in 1977. Their 1979 single No Tears ‘remains a post-punk cult classic’. Their first album Half-Mute appears in 1980 on Residents label Ralph Records. (*) In 2004 they resume recording, creating Cabin in the Sky (released on the Crammed label); a 2014 album is titled Pink Narcissus.

( Cockettes site ) ( Tuxedomoon site )

December 30 – Prokofiev and Porter


Mahen Theatre, built in 1882, lit by Edison

Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev‘s ballet Romeo and Juliet gets a censored premiere in the Provincial Theater in Brno, Czechoslovakia.


Prokofiev does not attend; by then designated a ‘degenerate modernist’ (too darn hot), he’s not allowed to travel outside the Soviet Union. Six more performances follow. Another version censored over Prokofiev’s objections is presented at the Kirov Theatre in Leningrad on January 11, 1940.
The first full production is staged in London in 1955 … two years after Prokofiev’s death. (*) His many great works are heard around the world today — who remembers the petty bureaucrats who tortured him?
 ( Fansite No. 13 Dance (LSO, Gergiev)  Fight (Tbilisi) 


With music and lyrics by Cole Porter(*), musical Kiss Me, Kate opens on Broadway in the New Century Theatre for 1,077 performances.


Based in Shakespeare’s comedy play The Taming of the Shrew, Porter’s biggest hit is the first to win the Tony Award — full name, Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre, founded in 1947 — for Best Musical.
A 3D1953 film version stars Kathryn Grayson and ever-present film musical stalwart Howard Keel.
In four years Senator McCarthy will begin proving that the US has always been tough on degenerate modernists.
 ( Porter fansite
So In Love (Ella)  Too Darn Hot  This Moment On (Judy) 

December 29 – LaVerne Baker, WMCA, Weavers, Trans


LaVern Baker (*) breaks onto the US charts with Jim Dandy to the Rescue, headed for US#17, R&B#1.

‘Little Miss Sharecropper’ got her start in Detroit. In 1953 she signed with Atlantic Records (started in 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson). Her first release, ‘Soul On Fire’, appeared in August.

In August 1954 she’s part of Alan Freed‘s five-week Biggest R&B Show midwest-to-Brooklyn Paramount tour (*) along with

Faye Adams

The Drifters  ( Website, The Spaniels  ( Website, Faye Adams, and Roy Hamilton  ( Website.

Jim Dandy in a submarine,
Got a message from a mermaid queen.
She was hanging from a fishin’ line.
Jim Dandy didn’t waste no time.
Jim Dandy to the rescue!
Go, Jim Dandy! Go, Jim Dandy!

In 1955 LaVern got her first hit with Tweedlee Dee (US#14, R&B#4) . She’s seen in 1956 Freed film Rock, Rock, Rock. She’s inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.


Scott Muni

5,000-watt WMCA 570 AM — since the late 1950s home of ‘good guys’ DJs like Scott Muni and Murray the K Kaufman — is the

Murray the K

first NYC radio station to play The Beatles soon-to-be megahit I Want to Hold Your Hand.

Beating out the 50,000-watt giants, it’s #1-rated in the NYC area from 1963 to 1966.


Folk group The Weavers — formed in November 1948 by Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman and Pete Seeger — gives a farewell concert at Orchestra Hall in Chicago.

‘The Weavers’ name comes from a militant 1892 play by Gerhart Hauptmann about a middle-ages peasant revolt. Their 1949 Leadbelly cover ‘Goodnight Irene‘ (written in 1936 in Louisiana State Prison) sold two million copies on Decca Records. They were blacklisted by parts of the entertainment industry during the McCarthy era. In 1953 Decca even tore up their contract and deleted their songs from its catalog.

Seeger had founded the Almanac Singers in February, 1941; the group included Hays and eventually Woodie Guthrie.
▷Folk archives article▹ Collection from 1951  Kisses (Carnegie) 


US singer-songwriter and reformed Canadian Neil Young releases experimental album Trans. Sample & Hold, live 

His twelfth studio album incorporates sounds of a vocoder and Synclavier synthesizer. It baffles thousands who are unfamiliar with (or strongly resisted) non-traditional instruments or who hadn’t realized that Neil, like Dylan, dances to a different drummer. Transformer Man 

Critic Robert Christgau, however, gives it an A- … better than the best-selling album of 1972, Harvest. Young is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and 1997.

December 28 – Chipmunks, Suicide


Ross Bagdasarian‘s golden imaginary trio Alvin and the Chipmunks (Alvin, Simon & Theodore with ‘David Seville’) hit US#1 with ‘The Chipmunk Song‘, selling $4 million worth in 7 weeks.
It eventually wins 3 Grammies —  in the process, eroding the sanity of many parents who’ve never listened to a song all week before.
The novel brainstorm of the high-pitched ‘chipmunk’ voices was an effect created by speeding up vocal recordings on the still new-fangled tape recorders.
▷History of the Chipmunks▹

 Cornerstone of the New Wave 

Release of highly influential Brooklyn No Wave band Suicide‘s eponymous debut album, said to be ‘the first synth pop album’.
While they called their work ‘punk music’ in a November 1970 flyer, the punk scene didn’t quite know what to make of Alan Vega and Martin Rev, the Farfisa organ and primitive drum machine.

Suicide sang about the individual and collective apocalypse, depicting lonely aching souls in a gothic landscape overflowing with fear, paranoia and claustrophobia.
Their work is a lament that carry impulses in the icy silence of the great arteries of traffic: the tender, majestic, moving litany of Cherie, a blend of haunting melodic phrases and delicate tinkling, tribalism cosmic Rocket USA, syncopated maciullante Ghost Rider, Johnny’s psychotic rockabilly, lascivious moans Girl, I Remember the nightmare of the industrial, the anguished funeral requiem for Che.
 — Piero Scaruffi (mod’d since this quote)

They tour Europe with Elvis Costello and The Clash. A June 16, 1978 concert in Brussels turns into a riot, documented in 23 Minutes Over Brussels.
Ghost Rider  (live)  Frankie Teardrop 
▷A Humane Union (detailed)▹ ▷Reynolds:Suicide Watch▹
▷Suicide Chronology▹  ( Rev site  ( Vega site

Anniversaries from music history, links to quality articles.


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