Detective Fiction Novelist Raymond Chandler

Having read the Big Sleep and Long Goodbye, I thought I would blog about American crime Novelist and screenwriter Raymond Thornton Chandler, who sadly passed away March 26, 1959  in La Jolla, California. Born July 23, 1888 in Chicago Illinois, He became a detective fiction writer in 1932 at the age of 44 after losing his job as an oil company executive during the Depression. His first short story, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot”, was published in 1933 in Black Mask, a popular pulp magazine. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939. In addition to his short stories, Chandler published just seven full novels during his lifetime (though an eighth in progress at his death was completed by Robert B. Parker). All but Playback have been made into motion pictures, some several times. In the year before he died, he was elected president of the Mystery Writers of America.

Chandler had an immense stylistic influence on American popular literature, and is considered by many to be a founder, along with Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain and other Black Mask writers, of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction. His protagonist, Philip Marlowe, along with Hammett’s Sam Spade, is considered by some to be synonymous with “private detective,” both having been played on screen by Humphrey Bogart, whom many considered to be the quintessential Marlowe.

Some of Chandler’s novels are considered to be important literary works, and three are often considered to be masterpieces: Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The Little Sister (1949), and The Long Goodbye (1953). The Long Goodbye is praised within an anthology of American crime stories as “arguably the first book since Hammett’s The Glass Key, published more than twenty years earlier, to qualify as a serious and significant mainstream novel that just happened to possess elements of mystery

Happy Birthday Diana Ross

American vocalist, music artist and actress Diana Ernestine Earle Ross was born March 26, 1944. Ross first rose to fame as a founding member and lead singer of the Motown group The Supremes during the 1960s. when at the age of fifteen, Ross was brought to the attention of music impresario Milton Jenkins, manager of the local doo-wop group the Primes, by Mary Wilson. Paul Williams, then member of The Primes, convinced Jenkins to include Ross in the Primettes, considered a “sister group” of the Primes. Ross was part of a lineup that included Wilson, Florence Ballard and Betty McGlown, who completed the lineup. In 1960, following their win at a singing contest in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, the group auditioned for a spot on Motown Records after Smokey Robinson introduced the young group to Berry Gordy. Upon learning of their ages, Gordy advised them to come back after graduation. Undeterred, the quartet stayed around Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. headquarters, offering to provide extra help for Motown’s recordings, often including hand-claps and background vocals. That same year, the Primettes made their first recordings for Lu Pine Records, with Ross singing lead on her and Ballard’s composition, “Tears of Sorrow”. During the group’s early years, Ross served as the group’s main hair stylist, make-up artist, seamstress and costume designer.

In January 1961, after having replaced McGlown with Barbara Martin, Berry Gordy agreed to sign the young act under the condition they change their name. Each member picked out various names from friends. Eventually they settled on The Supremes, though Ross initially had apprehensions toward the name – she felt the name would mistake them for a male vocal group. But Gordy agreed with the new name and signed them on January 15 of that year. Following Martin’s exit in 1962, the group remained a trio. During the group’s early years, there was no designated lead vocalist for the group as they had agreed to split lead vocals between their choice of song material; Ross favoring the uptempo pop songs. That changed in 1963 when Gordy assigned Ross, who had already sung lead on the majority of their early singles, as the main lead vocalist, considering that her vocals had potential to reach Gordy’s dreams of crossover success. Following this, they recorded their first hit single, “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes”, later that year, where it peaked at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100. Before this song, the Supremes were unfavorably pinned as the “no-hit Supremes”. Following this, the group reached number-one with “Where Did Our Love Go” and reached unprecedented success: between August 1964 and May 1967, Ross, Wilson and Ballard sang on ten number-one hit singles, all of which also made the UK top forty. The group had also become a hit with audiences both domestically and abroad, going on to become Motown’s most successful vocal act throughout the sixties.

Florence Ballard left the Supremes by Gordy in July 1967 and was replaced by Cindy Birdsong. In mid-1969, Gordy decided to have Ross leave the group by the end of the year and Ross began sessions for her own solo work that July. One of the first plans for Ross to establish her own solo career was to bring in a new Motown recording act. Though she herself didn’t claim discovery, Motown pinned Ross as having discovered The Jackson 5. Ross would introduce the group to several public events including The Hollywood Palace though she added in “Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5”, which didn’t sit well with the Jacksons’ father, Joseph Jackson and Gordy. In November, Ross confirmed a split from the Supremes on Billboard. Ross’ presumed first solo recording, “Someday We’ll Be Together”, was eventually released as a Supremes recording and became the group’s final number-one hit on the Hot 100. Ross made her final appearance with the Supremes at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas on January 14, 1970.

In 1968, Ross started performing as a solo artist mainly on television specials, including The Supremes’ own specials such as TCB and G.I.T. on Broadway and After leaving the group in 1970, Ross began a solo career that has included successful ventures into film and Broadway. She received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her role as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues (1972), for which she won a Golden Globe award for most promising female newcomer. She has won seven American Music Awards, and won a Special Tony Award for her one-woman show, An Evening with Diana Ross, in 1977

In 1976, Billboard magazine named her the “Female Entertainer of the Century.” In 1993, the Guinness Book of World Records declared Diana Ross the most successful female music artist in history due to her success in the United States and United Kingdom for having more hits than any female artist in the charts with a career total of 70 hit singles.Diana Ross has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. In 1988, Ross was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as member of the Supremes alongside Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson.Ross is also one of the few recording artists to have two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—one as a solo artist and the other as a member of The Supremes. In December 2007, she received the Kennedy Center Honors. In 2012, Diana was finally honored by NARAS with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in her 50th year in the music business.

Greatest British Invention of the 20th Century

Mathematician Alan Turing’s theoretical basis for all modern computers known as the ‘universal machine’ has been voted the greatest British innovation of the past century in a new poll. The famous computer scientist came up with the theory, on which all modern computing is based, in a paper ‘on computable numbers’ in 1936. He described a device that would read symbols on a tape and proposed that the tape could be used to program the machine. However it was not until later that Turing’s ideas were realised as practical machines.The ‘universal machine’ came top of a poll to find the greatest British innovation of the past 100 years. More than 50,000 votes were entered with Turing’s theory securing 18 per cent – just one per cent ahead of the BMC Mini.

Turing’s Universal Machine idea laid the logical and mathematical foundations of the technology you’re using to read this.’Turing studied mathematics at King’s College, University of Cambridge. With the outbreak of the Second World War, he became head of a code-breaking unit at Bletchley Park, home to the Government Code and Cypher School. He used his profound mathematical skill to design, with colleague Gordon Welchman, a series of huge electromechanical code-breaking machines known as ‘bombes’.Following the war, Turing moved to the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. There he revisited the ideas proposed in 1936 and devised one of the first practical designs for a stored-program computer, called the Automatic Computing Engine or ACE.Groundbreaking: Alan Turing also invented the code breaking naval Enigma machine, which cracked the Nazis’ coding machine and stripped U-boats blockading Britain of their cover. Turing’s invention was one of 100 to be shortlisted for the national vote. X-ray crystallography – which revealed the hidden atomic structure of compounds and celebrates its centenary this year – took third place.

Leading figures, including Prime Minister David Cameron, Professor Jim Al-Khalili and presenter Evan Davis, championed their favourite innovation. The vote was between the tangible products of British ingenuity, such as Mallard and the Mini, and innovative ideas, such as Turing’s Universal Machine,’ Ionic liquid chemistry was voted as the innovation most likely to shape the 21st century, and will shine a very public spotlight on how a team of chemists can dramatically improve the quality of the environment for everyone. (I think Google’s doodle celebrating Alan Turing can still be found if you fancy a challenge).

Tribute to Sir Noël Coward

English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, Sir Noël Coward sadly passed away 26 March 1973 at his home, Firefly Estate, in Jamaica on of heart failure. Born in Teddington, on 16th December 1899. He attended a dance academy in London as a child, making his professional stage début at the age of eleven. As a teenager he was introduced into the high society in which most of his plays would be set. Coward became known for his wit, flamboyance and achieved enduring success as a playwright, publishing more than 50 plays from his teens onwards. Many of his works, such as Hay Fever, Private Lives, Design for Living, Present Laughter and Blithe Spirit, have remained in the regular theatre repertoire. He composed hundreds of songs, in addition to well over a dozen musical theatre works (including the operetta Bitter Sweet and comic revues), poetry, several volumes of short stories, the novel Pomp and Circumstance, and a three-volume autobiography. Coward’s stage and film acting and directing career spanned six decades, during which he starred in many of his own works.

At the outbreak of World War II, Coward volunteered for war work, running the British propaganda office in Paris. He also worked with the Secret Service, seeking to use his influence to persuade the American public and government to help Britain. Coward won an Academy Honorary Award in 1943 for his naval film drama, In Which We Serve, and was knighted in 1969. In the 1950s he achieved fresh success as a cabaret performer, performing his own songs, such as “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”, “London Pride” and “I Went to a Marvellous Party”. His plays and songs achieved new popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, and his work and style continue to influence popular culture. Coward did not publicly acknowledge his homosexuality, but it was discussed candidly after his death by biographers including Graham Payn, his long-time partner, and in Coward’s diaries and letters, published posthumously. By the end of the 1960s, Coward suffered from arteriosclerosis and, during the run of Suite in Three Keys, he struggled with bouts of memory loss. This also affected his work in The Italian Job, and he retired from acting immediately afterwards. Coward was knighted in 1969 and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He received a Tony Award for lifetime achievement.

He is buried Jamaica, overlooking the north coast of the island. A memorial service was held in St Martin-in-the-Fields in London on 29 May 1973,and the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, wrote and delivered a poem in Coward’s honour, John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier read verse and Yehudi Menuhin played Bach. On 28 March 1984 a memorial stone was unveiled by the Queen Mother in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. Thanked by Coward’s partner, Graham Payn, for attending, the Queen Mother replied, “I came because he was my friend.”The Noël Coward Theatre in St Martin’s Lane, originally opened in 1903 as the New Theatre and later called the Albery, was renamed in his honour after extensive refurbishment, re-opening on 1 June 2006. A statue of Coward by Angela Conner was unveiled by the Queen Mother in the foyer of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1998.There are also sculptures of Coward displayed in New York and Jamaica. In 2008 an exhibition devoted to Coward was mounted at the National Theatre in London.[102] The exhibition was later hosted by the Museum of Performance & Design in San Francisco and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California.

James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins)

SP-mc-isJames Iha, the Former rythm Guitarist with alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins was born 26th March 1968. The Smashing Pumpkins were formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1988 with Billy Corgan on lead vocals, lead guitar and James Iha playing rhythm guitar, the band has also included Jimmy Chamberlin (drums), D’arcy Wretzky (bass), and currently includes Jeff Schroeder (rhythm guitar, backing vocals) Mike Byrne (drums), and Nicole Fiorentino (bass guitar, backing vocals) amongst its membership.

Frontman Billy Corgan is the group’s primary songwriter—his grand musical ambitions and cathartic lyrics have shaped the band’s albums and songs, which all have a diverse, densely layered and guitar-heavy sound, containing elements of gothic rock, grunge, heavy metal, dream pop, psychedelic rock, progressive rock and shoegazer-style production, as well as full string arrangements and radiant orchestral chimes.

The Smashing Pumpkins broke into the musical mainstream with their second album, Siamese Dream in 1993, which is Considered by many to be the best album in the Smashing Pumpkins catalogue of Alternative Rock, and was Produced by Butch Vig (who also produced Garbage, Sonic Youth and Nirvana’s Nevermind). It is full of Billy Corgan’s angsty lyrics , which have been variously described as “anguished, bruised reports from Billy Corgan’s nightmare-land” which are delivered in his signature breathy whine. while James Iha’s & Darcy Wretsky’s provide a suitably awesome guitar sound, which was reinforced by Jimmy Chamberlin’s power drumming.(Until he left), although current drummer Mike Byrne is pretty cool too.

Unfortunately in 2000, internal fighting, drug use, and diminishing record sales led to a break-up of the band. However In 2006, Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin reconvened to record a new Smashing Pumpkins album, the splendidly noisy “Zeitgeist” (One of the songs “Doomsday Clock” is also used in the first Transformers Movie).The band toured with a rotating lineup of between five and nine musicians through much of 2007 and 2008 before Chamberlin left the band in early 2009. New drummer Mike Byrne and bassist/vocalist Nicole Fiorentino solidified a new lineup with Corgan and Schroeder, toured through much of 2010, I also think The latest albums Teargarden by Kaleidyscope and Oceania are both rather good too.

Electric Light Orchestra

Elo_logoRichard Tandy, the keyboard player with Electric Light Orchestra was born 26th March 1948. The Electric Light Orchestra  were formed in Birmingham, England, In the late 1960s, after Roy Wood — guitarist, vocalist and songwriter of The Move — had an idea to form a new band that would use violins, cellos, string basses, horns and woodwinds to give their music a classical sound, taking rock music in the direction “that The Beatles had left off”. Jeff Lynne, frontman of fellow Birmingham group The Idle Race, was excited by the concept. In January 1970, when Carl Wayne left The Move, Lynne accepted Wood’s second invitation to join the band on the condition that they focus their energy on the new project & when Wood added multiple cellos to a Lynne-penned song  and “10538 Overture” became the first Electric Light Orchestra song. The debut album The Electric Light Orchestra was released in 1971.” and10538 Overture” was a hit.

ELO’s debut concert took place on 16 April 1972 at The Greyhound Pub in Croydon, U.K with a line-up of Wood, Lynne, Bevan, Bill Hunt (horns, keyboards), Wilfred Gibson (violin), Hugh McDowell (cello), Mike Edwards (cello), Andy Craig (cello) and Richard Tandy (bass). During the recordings for the band’s second LP, Wood left the band taking cellist McDowell and horn/keyboard player Hunt with him to form Wizzard. Despite predictions from the music press that the band would fold without Wood,  Lynne stepped up to lead the band, with Bev Bevan remaining on drums, joined by Gibson on violin, Richard Tandy now playing the Moog synthesiser in place of Hunt, Mike de Albuquerque on bass and vocals, and Mike Edwards and Colin Walker on cellos. The new line-up performed at the 1972 Reading Festival. The band released their second album, ELO 2 in 1973, which produced their first US chart single,”Roll Over Beethoven”. The third album On the Third Day, was released 1973, featuring the single “Showdown. “For the band’s fourth album, Eldorado, Lynne  hired an orchestra and choir & Louis Clark joined the band as string arranger. The first single of the album, “Can’t Get It Out of My Head”, became a hit, and it became ELO’s first gold album. The next album Face the Music was released in 1975, producing the hit singles “Evil Woman” and “Strange Magic” and the opening instrumental “Fire On High.

Their sixth album, A New World Record was released in 1976. It contained the hit singles “Livin’ Thing”, “Telephone Line”, “Rockaria!” and “Do Ya”. It was followed by the double-LP Out of the Blue, which featured the singles “Turn to Stone”, “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”, “Mr. Blue Sky”, and “Wild West Hero”. In 1979, the album Discovery was released containing the songs “Don’t Bring Me Down”,”Shine a Little Love”, “Last Train to London”, “Confusion” and “The Diary of Horace Wimp”.  In 1980 Jeff Lynne co-wrote the soundtrack for the film Xanadu, with John Farrar which featured Olivia Newton-John and In 1981 ELO’s sound changed again with the science fiction concept album Time, a throwback to earlier, more progressive rock albums like Eldorado this yielded the singles “Hold on Tight”, “Twilight”, “The Way Life’s Meant to Be”, “Here Is the News” and “Ticket to the Moon”. ELO’s next album Secret Messages was released in 1983 & contained the hit “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King”.ELO’s final album of the 20th century, Balance of Power, was released early in 1986 containing the song “Calling America”.Lynne also played a small number of live ELO performances in 1986, in England, Germany & the US appearing on American Bandstand, Solid Gold, then at Disneyland. In 1986 They played a charity concert called the The Birmingham Heart Beat Charity Concert 1986 which was organised by Bevan in ELO’s hometown of Birmingham. George Harrison appeared onstage during the encore at Heartbeat, joining in the all-star jam of “Johnny B. Goode”. ELO’s last performance of the century occurred on 13 July 1986 in Stuttgart, Germany playing as support band to Rod Stewart & they effectively disbanded after that final show in Stuttgart. Although there is a Greatest Hits compilation

In total ELO released eleven studio albums between 1971 and 1986 and another album in 2001, collected 19 CRIA, 21 RIAA and 38 BPI awards,and sold over 50 million records worldwide . The group’s name is an intended pun based not only on electric light (as in a light bulb as seen on early album covers) but also using “electric” rock instruments combined with a “light orchestra” (orchestras with only a few cellos and violins that were popular in Britain during the 1960s). The official band logo, was designed in 1976 by artist Kosh, and was first seen on their 1976 album A New World Record and is based on a 1946 Wurlitzer jukebox model 4008 speaker which was itself based upon the upper cabinet of the Wurlitzer model 1015 jukebox.

Happy Birthday Steve Tyler (Aerosmith) and Fran Sheehan (Boston)

Steve Tyler, lead singer with the band Aerosmith was born 26th March 1948. Aerosmith are sometimes referred to as “The Bad Boys from Boston” and “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.” (by the way, while I’m on the subject of Boston, Fran Sheehan from the band Boston was also born 26th March a year later in 1949 – I’ll include some Boston songs later)

Aerosmith were formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1970. Guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton, originally in a band together called the Jam Band, met up with singer Steven Tyler, drummer Joey Kramer, and guitarist Ray Tabano, and formed Aerosmith. In 1971, Tabano was replaced by Brad Whitford, and the band began developing a following in Boston, Their style, which is rooted in blues-based hard rock, has come to also incorporate elements of pop, heavy metal, and rhythm and blues, and has inspired many subsequent rock artists.   They were signed to Columbia Records in 1972, and released a string of multi-platinum albums, beginning with their 1973 eponymous debut album, followed by their 1974 album Get Your Wings. In 1975, the band broke into the mainstream with the album Toys in the Attic, and their 1976 follow-up Rocks cemented their status as hard rock superstars.

The band released two more albums, toured extensively, and charted a string of Hot 100 singles. By the end of the 1970s, they were among the most popular hard rock bands in the world and developed a loyal following of fans, often referred to as the “Blue Army”. However, drug addiction and internal conflict took their toll on the band, which resulted in the departures of Perry and Whitford in 1979 and 19re81, respectively; they were replaced by Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay. The band did not fare well between 1980 and 1984, releasing a lone album, Rock in a Hard Place, which went gold but failed to match their previous successes.   Perry and Whitford returned in 1984 and the band signed a new deal with Geffen Records. After a comeback tour, the band recorded Done with Mirrors, which won some critical praise but failed to come close to commercial expectations. It was not until the band sobered up and released 1987′s Permanent Vacation that they regained the level of popularity they had experienced in the 1970s.

Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, the band scored several hits including Dude, looks like a lady Walk this Way (Featuring RUN DMC) and “love in an elvator“, and won numerous awards for music from the multi-platinum albums Pump, Get a Grip, and Nine Lives. The band also became a pop culture phenomenon with popular music videos and notable appearances in television, film, and video games. Their comeback has been described as one of the most remarkable and spectacular in rock ‘n’ roll history. Additional albums followed in 2001 and 2004 including the songs Crazy  (Featuring Alicia Silverstone & Liv Tyler) and I don’t Wanna Miss a Thing, from the film Armageddon

After 42 years of performing, the band continues to tour and record music. Their latest album,is The Aerosmith reunion album “Music From Another Dimension” which was Released 2 Nov 2012, and is the first collection of new tunes since 2001. The album opens with Luv xxx which is an absolute classic Aerosmith track, Oh Yeah is another awesome bluesy track with huge depth and Out Go The Lights is an epic rock and roll song.’Closer’ also carries a bluesy edge and is a strong, slow-tempo song, while ‘Freedom Fighter’ is a pseudo-political rock number with Joe Perry on vocals.  “Legendary Child.” is another awesome track.

Aerosmith is the best-selling American rock band of all time, having sold more than 150 million albums worldwide,including 66.5 million albums in the United States alone. They also hold the record for the most gold and multi-platinum albums by an American group. The band has scored 21 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, nine number-one Mainstream Rock hits, four Grammy Awards, and ten MTV Video Music Awards. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, and were included among both Rolling Stone’s and VH1′s lists of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time