Automotive Anniversaries

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  • French automotive executive Louis Renault was born 15 February 1877. In 1899 he became one of the founders of French multinational vehicle manufacturer Renault S.A and was a pioneer of the automobile industry producing a range of cars and vans, as well as, trucks, tractors, tanks, buses/coaches and autorail vehicles.Renault built one of France’s largest automobile manufacturing concerns, which bears his name to this day. During World War I his factories contributed massively to the war effort notably so by the creation and manufacture of the first effective tank: the Renault FT tank. Accused of collaborating with the Germans during World War II, he died while awaiting trial in liberated France in October 24, 1944 under uncertain circumstances.  His company was seized and nationalized by the provisional government of France although he was never tried or convicted. His factories were the only ones permanently expropriated by the French government.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In 1956, Time Magazine described Renault as “rich, powerful and famous, cantankerous, brilliant, often brutal, the little Napoleon of an automaking empire”; “vulgar, loud, domineering, impatient, he was a terror to associates, a friend to practically none,” adding that to the French working man, Renault became known as “the ogre of Billancourt. headquartered in Boulogne-Billancourt, Renault owns the Romanian manufacturer Automobile Dacia and the Korean Renault Samsung Motors. Renault also owns subsidiaries RCI Banque (providing automotive financing), Renault Retail Group (automotive distribution) and Motrio (automotive parts). Renault Trucks, previously Renault Vehicules Industriels, has been part of Volvo Trucks since 2001. Renault Agriculture became 100% owned by German agricultural equipment manufacturer CLAAS in 2008. Carlos Ghosn is the current chairman and CEO and the French government owns a 15 percent share of Renault.As part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the company is the fourth-largest automotive group. Together Renault and Nissan are undertaking significant electric car development, investing 4 billion euros ($5.16 billion) in eight electric vehicles over the next 3–4 years.The company’s most successful cars to date are the Renault Clio and the Renault Mégane, and its core market is Europe. The company is known for its role in motor sport, and its success over the years in rallying and Formula 1, and while I’m on the subject of Rallying and Formula One…
  • Former English race car driver and Formula One Champion Graham Hill OBE was born 15th February 1929. He  was twiceFormula One World Champion. He is the only driver to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport — the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Indianapolis 500 andFormula One World Championship. Graham Hill and his son Damon are the only father and son pair both to have won the Formula One World Championship. Tragically Graham Hill sadly was killed on  29 November 1975  when the aeroplane he was piloting crashed in foggy conditions near Arkley golf course in North London. Hill and five members of his racing team were returning from car testing at Circuit Paul Ricard in France and due to land at Elstree Airfield. All six were killed. Although Graham’s legacy lives on, and both his son Damon and grandson Josh, are racing drivers.
  •  Finnish World Rally driver  Markku Alén,  born 15th February 1951
  • Austrian race car driver Alexander Wurz was born 15th February 1974
  • Scottish Touring car driver Gordon Shedden,  born 15th February 1979

Tribute to Iain M. Banks

imageHaving read a few of his novels I thought I would write about Scottish author Iain Banks , who was born 16 February 1954. He wrote mainstream fiction under the name Iain Banks, and science fiction as Iain M. Banks. his first successful novel was The Wasp Factory and following the publication and success of The Wasp Factory (1984), Banks began to write on a full-time basis. His first science fiction book, Consider Phlebas, was released in 1987, marking the start of the popular The Culture series. His books have been adapted for theatre, radio and television. In 2008, The Times named Banks in their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”.in April 2013, Banks announced that he had inoperable cancer and was unlikely to live beyond a year.He died on 9 June 2013.

Banks was born in Dunfermline, Fife, to a mother who was a professional ice skater and a father who was an officer in the Admiralty. An only child, Banks lived in North Queensferry until the age of nine, near the naval dockyards in Rosyth where his father was based. his family then moved to Gourock due to the requirements of his father’s work.After attending Gourock and Greenock High Schools, Banks studied English, philosophy and psychology at the University of Stirling (1972–1975). he wrote his second novel TTR during his first year at university.Following graduation Banks chose a succession of jobs that left him free to write in the evenings. These posts supported his writing throughout his twenties and allowed him to take long breaks between contracts, during which time he travelled through Europe, Scandinavia and North America. He was an expediter analyser for IBM, a technician (for British Steel) and a costing clerk for a Chancery Lane, London law firm during this period of his life.

Banks decided to become a writer at the age of 11 and completed his first novel The Hungarian Lift-Jet at 16.Following the publication and success of The Wasp Factory (1984), Banks began to write full-time. His editor at Macmillan, James Hale, advised him to write one book a year and Banks agreed to this schedule. Banks’s first science fiction book Consider Phlebaswas released in 1987. The Crow Road (1992) was adapted as a BBC television series and Espedair Street (1987) was broadcast on BBC Radio 4.Banks cited Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Brian Aldiss, M. John Harrison and Dan Simmons as literary influences.

imageBanks published work under two names. His parents had intended to name him “Iain Menzies Banks”, but his father made a mistake when registering the birth and “Iain Banks” became the officially registered name. Despite this error, Banks continued to use his middle name and submitted The Wasp Factory for publication as “Iain M. Banks”. Banks’ editor enquired about the possibility of omitting the ‘M’ as it appeared “too fussy” and the potential existed for confusion with Rosie M. Banks, a romantic novelist in the Jeeves novels by P.G. Wodehouse; Banks agreed to the omission. Following three mainstream novels, Banks’s publishers agreed to publish his first science fiction (SF) novel Consider Phlebas. To create a distinction between the mainstream and SF novels, Banks suggested the return of the ‘M’ to his name and the author’s second title was consequently confirmed. By his death in June 2013 Banks had published 26 novels. His twenty-seventh novel The Quarry was published posthumously.

Banks was also the subject of The Strange Worlds of Iain Banks South Bank Show (1997), a television documentary that examined his mainstream writing, and was also an in-studio guest for the final episode of Marc Riley’s Rocket Science radio show, broadcast on BBC Radio 6 Music. aradio adaptation of Banks’s The State of the Art was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2009; the adaptation was written by Paul Cornell and the production was directed/produced by Nadia Molinari. in 1998 Espedair Street was dramatised as a serial for Radio 4, presented by Paul Gambaccini in the style of a Radio 1 documentary.

In 2011 Banks was featured on the BBC Radio 4 programme Saturday Live. Banks reaffirmed his atheism during his Saturday Live appearance, whereby he explained that death is an important “part of the totality of life” and should be treated realistically, instead of feared.Banks appeared on the BBC television programme Question Time, a show that features political discussion. In 2006 Banks captained a team of writers to victory in a special series ofBBC Two’s University Challenge. Banks also won a 2006 edition of BBC One’s Celebrity Mastermind; the author selected “Malt whisky and the distilleries of Scotland” as his specialist subject. His final interview with Kirsty Wark was broadcast as Iain Banks: Raw Spirit on BBC2 Scotland on Wednesday 12 June 2013. Banks was involved in the theatre production The Curse of Iain Banks that was written by Maxton Walker and performed at theEdinburgh Fringe festival in 1999. Banks wrote the music for some of the songs that were featured in the production and collaborated with the play’s soundtrack composer Gary Lloyd, who also composed the score for a musical production of the Banks novel The Bridge. lloyd explained his collaboration with Banks in a Guardian article prior to the opening of the The Curse of Iain Banks.

Andy Taylor (Duran Duran & The Power Station)

Probably Best known as a member of Duran Duran and The Power Station, the English Guitarist, singer-songwriter & Record Producer Andy Taylor was born on this day 16 February  in 1961. He began playing guitar at the age of eleven, and was soon playing with local bands, even producing one at the age of sixteen. He dropped out of school early to tour England and Europe with several different bands, playing working men’s clubs and air force bases. Then in April 1980, as Taylor puts it, “I made that fateful train journey down to Birmingham”.

Duran Duran

Duran Duran began their rise to fame at a Birmingham club named the “Rummrunner”. The club was owned by their managers and mentors, brothers Paul & Michael Berrow. It was centred on the music and ostentatious fashion of the era, particularly dance & disco music, which had fused with punk and electronic to create the sound and look adopted by various “New Romantic” acts of the time. The band was heavily influenced by the 12 inch cuts of the day. Taylor says… “Anybody who is familiar with early DD (Duran Duran) will be aware of the Night Versions concept… the underlying influence of the 12″ mix – Edwards & Rodgers – Giorgio Moroder … It was all part of the matrix – we tested our first hits on the dance-floor before going anywhere near the radio – it was the way you defined your style and who you were, through the club you were associated with – where you hung-out … I’m a rock fan, but the girls hung-out at the disco – I recommend a large portion of both.”   The band signed to EMI Records in December 1980 only seven months after completing the line-up. Their debut single “Planet Earth” was released shortly after that, with their self-titled debut album, Duran Duran, released in June 1981. By 1983, the band was a global success story, and went on to have many other hits including  Union of the Snake, Girls on Film, Rio, Wild Boys, The ReflexHungry like a Wolf and New Moon on Monday

Robert Palmer & the Power Station

While Duran Duran were on hiatus in 1985, Andy Taylor and bassist John Taylor joined renowned session drummer and former Chic member Tony Thompson and Robert Palmer to form the band Power Station. Their eponymous album, recorded mostly at the New York studio for which the band was named, reached the Top 20 in the UK and the Top 10 in the US, and spawned two hit singles with “Some Like It Hot”  and a cover of the T. Rex song “Get It On (Bang a Gong)”. Palmer performed live with the band only once that year, on Saturday Night Live. The band toured, and even played Live Aid with singer Michael Des Barres after Palmer bowed out at the last moment to go back into the studio to further his newly revitalized solo career. Taylor also performed with Duran Duran at the Live Aid event.   Palmer recorded the album Riptide in 1985, recruiting Thompson and Andy Taylor to play on some tracks and Power Station producer Bernard Edwards, who worked with Thompson in the group Chic, to helm the production. Robert recruited Wally Badarou, another Compass Point Star who had laid synthesizer tracks on the Power Station album, plus his long-term drummer, Dony Wynn, for this production as well.

Reunions

In 1994 Taylor participated in the reunion of Power Station and They recorded a second album “Living in Fear” for EMI, then In 2001, Taylor reunited with the other original members of Duran Duran to record their first new music together since 1985. The band secured a new recording contract with Sony Records. Their ensuing album, Astronaut, featured a blend of Taylor’s heavy guitar with the synth hooks of the classic Duran Duran sound. Months prior to the album’s release, the band played their largest ever UK tour in the spring of 2004, which was followed by a world tour in 2005, including Asia, Europe, and North America. The band also performed at Live 8. However In 2006, whilst recording a new Duran Duran album, Taylor once again parted ways with the band. In November 2007 Taylor co-founded RockAffairs.com alongside Sarah Eaglesfield, the former Flightside vocalist and webmistress at duranduran.com. RockAffairs was developed to allow unsigned artists to sell MP3s and merchandise, promote their band and keep 100% of the profit. It also pioneered a maverick Profit Share Scheme where 100% of income from listener signups was distributed amongst bands who sign up for the profit share scheme.

Pete Willis (Def Leppard)

defBdayI’m a big fan of Rock Band Def Leppard,  even now Hysteria is still one of my favourite albums, anyway, Pete Willis, English guitarist with Def Leppard was born February 16th 1960  which seems the perfect excuse to post some classic songs

Formed in 1977 in Sheffield as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement.Def Leppard  ’s strongest commercial success came between the early 1980s and the early 1990s. Their 1981 album High ‘n’ Dry was produced byRobert John “Mutt” Lange, who helped them begin to define their style, and the album’s stand out track “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” became one of the first metal videos played on MTV in 1982. The band’s next studio album Pyromania in 1983, with the singles Photograph and Rock of Ages, turned Def Leppard into a household name. In 2004, the album ranked number 384 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Def Leppard’s fourth album Hysteria, released in 1987, topped the U.S a nd UK album charts. As of 2009 it has 12x platinum sales in the United States, and has gone on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide. The album contained loads of great songs, including the U.S. Billboard Hot 100number one “Love Bites”, alongside Pour Some Sugar on Me  , “Hysteria”,Armaggeddon It , “Animal” Rocket“., Gods of War and Women

Their next studio album Adrenalize  reached number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and UK Album Chart in 1992, and contained several hits including, “Let’s Get Rocked” and “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”. Their 1993 album Retro Active contained the acoustic hit song “Two Steps Behind”, while their greatest hits album Vault released in 1995 featured track “When Love & Hate Collide.