Peter Banks (Yes)

Yes_Wonderous+StoriesPeter Banks, British guitarist with Progressive Rock Bands Yes was born 15th July 1947. The band achieved worldwide success with their progressive music, mystical lyrics, elaborate album art, live stage sets and symphonic style of rock music and are regarded as one of the pioneers of the progressive genre. They were Formed in 1968 and released two albums together but began to enjoy success after the release of The Yes Album and Fragile, which featured new arrivals Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. They achieved further success with the albums Close to the Edge and Tales from Topographic Oceans and, Fragile. Formed in 1968 by Squire and singer Jon Anderson, the first line-up also included guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye and drummer Bill Bruford, who released two albums together to lukewarm reception and sales. Yes began to enjoy success after the release of The Yes Album(1971) and Fragile (1971), which featured new arrivals Howe and Rick Wakeman. They achieved further success with Close to the Edge (1972) and Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973), the latter of which featured White on drums.

Wakeman was replaced by Patrick Moraz, who played on Relayer (1974). Wakeman returned on Going for the One (1977) and Tormato (1978). Anderson and Wakeman left the group due to musical differences amongst the band in 1980. Their replacements, Trevor Horn and Downes, featured on Drama (1980) and its supporting tour. Yes reformed in 1982 after Squire and White were joined by the returning Anderson and Kaye, with the addition of guitarist Trevor Rabin. They adopted a pop rock sound and released the number one single “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and 90125 (1983), their best-selling album to date, followed by Big Generator (1987). Anderson left and co-formed the side project Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe with the named members in 1989. Following a legal battle amongst both Yes groups, they formed an eight-man band to perform on Union (1991) and its supporting tour.

Rabin and Kaye featured on Talk (1994) before leaving, while Wakeman and Howe returned with Keys to Ascension (1996) and Keys to Ascension 2(1997). Wakeman was replaced by Igor Khoroshev, who featured on Open Your Eyes (1997) and The Ladder (1999) along with guitarist Billy Sherwood. The release of Magnification (2001) marked the first album since 1970 to feature an orchestra. In 2002, Wakeman returned for the band’s 35th anniversary tour. The band ceased to tour in 2004, partly due to health concerns regarding Anderson and Wakeman. Following a hiatus, Yes re-started in 2008 with keyboardist Oliver Wakeman and singer After of the release of Fly from Here (2011) the band recruited Jon Davison, lead singer of Glass Hammer, a progressive rock band from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to replace David. Yes continue to perform to this day, more than 40 years since their formation.

Ian Curtis (Joy Division)

English musician, singer and songwriter Ian Ian Curtis was. Born 15 July 1956. He is best known as the lead singer and lyricist of the post-punk band Joy Division. Joy Division released their debut album, Unknown Pleasures, in 1979 and recorded their follow-up, Closer, in 1980. Sadly Curtis, who suffered from epilepsy and depression, committed suicide on 18 May 1980, on the eve of Joy Division’s first North American tour, resulting in the band’s dissolution and the subsequent formation of New Order. Curtis was known for his baritone voice, dance style, and songwriting filled with imagery of desolation, emptiness and alienation.In 1995, Curtis’ widow Deborah published Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division, a biography of the singer. His life and death have been dramatised in the films 24 Hour Party People (2002) and Control In 1976 , Curtis met Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook at a Sex Pistols gig. They were trying to form a band, and Curtis immediately proposed himself as vocalist and lyricist.

The trio then unsuccessfully recruited a number of drummers before selecting Stephen Morris as their final member.Initially the band was called Warsaw, but as their name conflicted with that of another group,Warsaw Pakt, the name was changed to Joy Division. The moniker was derived from a 1955 novel The House of Dolls, which featured a Nazi concentration camp with a sexual slavery wing called the “Joy Division”. After starting Factory Records with Alan Erasmus, Tony Wilson signed the band to his label following the band’s appearance on Wilson’s Something Else television programme, itself prompted by an abusive letter sent to Wilson by Curtis.

Whilst performing for Joy Division, Curtis became known for his quiet and awkward demeanour, as well as a unique dancing style reminiscent of the epileptic seizures he experienced, sometimes even on stage.There were several incidents when he collapsed and had to be helped off stage. In an interview for Northern Lights cassette magazine in November 1979, Ian Curtis made his only public comment on his dancing and performance. He explained the dance as a type of sign language with which to further express a song’s emotional and lyrical content: “Instead of just singing about something you could show it as well, put it over in the way that it is, if you were totally involved in what you were doing”.Curtis’ writing was filled with imagery of emotional isolation, death, alienation, and urban decay. He sang in a baritonevoice, in contrast to his speaking voice, which fell in the tenor range.

Earlier in their career, Curtis would sing in a loud snarling voice similar to shouting; as on the band’s debut EP, An Ideal for Living (1978). producer Martin Hannett developed Joy Division’s sparse recording style, and some of their most innovative work was created in Strawberry Studios in Stockport ( 10cc) and Cargo Recording Studios Rochdale in 1979), which was developed from John Peel’s investing money into the music business in Rochdale. Although predominantly a vocalist, Curtis also played guitar on a handful of tracks (usually when Sumner was playing synthesizer; “Incubation” and a Peel Session version of “Transmission” were rare instances when both played guitar). At first Curtis played Sumner’s Shergold Masquerader, but in September 1979 he acquired his own guitar, a Vox Phantom Special VI which had many built-in effects used both live and in studio.

Ian Curtis sadly committed Suicide on 18th May 1980. After Curtis’ death, Sumner inherited the guitar and used it in several early New Order songs, such as “Everything’s Gone Green”. Curtis also played keyboard on some live versions of “She’s Lost Control”. He also played the melodica on “Decades” and “In a Lonely Place”; the latter was written and rehearsed for the cancelled American tour and later salvaged as a New Order B-side. Curtis’ last live performance was on 2 May 1980, at High Hall of Birmingham University, a show that included Joy Division’s first and only performance of “Ceremony”, later recorded by New Order and released as their first single. The last song Curtis performed on stage was “Digital”. The recording of this performance is on the Still album. Curtis was cremated at Macclesfield Crematorium and his ashes were buried. His memorial stone, inscribed with “Ian Curtis 18 – 5 – 80″ and “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, was stolen in July 2008 from the grounds of Macclesfield Cemetery. The missing memorial stone was later replaced by a new stone.

Clive Cussler

imageAmerican adventure novelist and marine archaeologist Clive Eric Cussler, was born July 15, 1931 in Aurora, Illinois. His exciting thriller novels, many featuring the character Dirk Pitt, have reached The New York Times fiction best-seller list more than seventeen times. Cussler is also the founder and chairman of the real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), which has discovered more than sixty shipwreck sites and numerous other notable sunken underwater wreckages. He is the sole author or lead author of more than 50 books. Born in Aurora, Illinois, Cussler grew up in Alhambra, California and was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout when he was 14. He attended Pasadena City College for two years and then enlisted in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. During his service in the Air Force, he was promoted to Sergeant and worked as an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer for the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) After his discharge from the military, Cussler went to work in the advertising industry, first as a copywriter and later as a creative director for two of the nation’s most successful advertising agencies. As part of his duties Cussler produced radio and television commercials, many of which won international awards including an award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival

Clive Cussler began writing in 1965 when his wife took a job working nights for the local police department where they lived in California. After making dinner for the kids and putting them to bed he had no one to talk to and nothing to do so he decided to start writing. His most famous creation is marine engineer, government agent and adventurer Dirk Pitt. The Dirk Pitt novels frequently take on an alternative history perspective, such as“what if Atlantis was real?” or “what if Abraham Lincoln wasn’t assassinated, but was kidnapped?”The first two Pitt novels, The Mediterranean Caper and Iceberg, were relatively conventional maritime thrillers. The third, Raise the Titanic!, made Cussler’s reputation and established the pattern that subsequent Pitt novels would follow: a blend of high adventure and high technology, generally involving megalomaniacal villains, lost ships, beautiful women, and sunken treasure. Cussler’s novels, like those of Michael Crichton, are examples of techno-thrillers that do not use military plots and settings. Where Crichton strove for scrupulous realism, however, Cussler prefers fantastic spectacles and outlandish plot devices. The Pitt novels, in particular, have the anything-goes quality of the James Bond or Indiana Jones movies, while also sometimes borrowing from Alistair MacLean’s novels. Pitt himself is a larger-than-life hero reminiscent of Doc Savage and other characters from pulp magazines.

Clive Cussler has had more than seventeen consecutive titles reach The New York Times fiction best-seller list.Following the publication in 1996 of Cussler’s first nonfiction work, The Sea Hunters, he was awarded a Doctor of Letters degree in 1997 by the Board of Governors of the State University of New York Maritime College who accepted the work in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis. This was the first time in the college’s 123-year history that such a degree had been awarded. In 2002 Cussler was awarded the Naval Heritage Award from the U S Navy Memorial Foundation for his efforts in the area of marine exploration. Cussler is a fellow of the Explorers Club of New York, the Royal Geographic Society in London, and the American Society of Oceanographers. As an underwater explorer, Cussler has discovered more than sixty shipwreck sites and has written non-fiction books about his findings.

Rembrandt

 

Dutch painter and etcher Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn , was born 15 July 1606. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age when Dutch Golden Age painting, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, he was extremely prolific and innovative. As a boy he attended Latin school and was enrolled at the University of Leiden, although according to a contemporary he had a greater inclination towards painting and was soon apprenticed to a Leiden history painter, Jacob van Swanenburgh, with whom he spent three years. After a brief but important apprenticeship of six months with the famous painter Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, Rembrandt opened a studio in Leiden in 1624 or 1625, which he shared with friend and colleague Jan Lievens. In 1627, Rembrandt began to accept students, among them Gerrit Dou.

In 1629, Rembrandt was discovered by the statesman Constantijn Huygens, the father of Christiaan Huygens (a famous Dutch mathematician and physicist), who procured for Rembrandt important commissions from the court of The Hague. As a result of this connection, Prince Frederik Hendrik continued to purchase paintings from Rembrandt until 1646. At the end of 1631 Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, then rapidly expanding as the new business capital of the Netherlands, and began to practice as a professional portraitist for the first time, with great success.Throughout his career the themes of portraiture, landscape and narrative painting were his primary subjects and he produced over 600 paintings, nearly 400 etchings and 2,000 drawings including a number of biblical works, including The Raising of the Cross, Joseph Telling His Dreams and The Stoning of Saint Stephen, he was especially praised by his contemporaries, who extolled him as a masterly interpreter of biblical stories for his skill in representing emotions and attention to detail.During Rembrandt’s Leiden period (1625–1631) his Paintings were rather small, but rich in details (for example, in costumes and jewelry). Religious and allegorical themes were favored. In 1626 Rembrandt produced his first etchings, the wide dissemination of which would largely account for his international fame In 1629 he completed Judas Repentant, Returning the Pieces of Silver and The Artist in His Studio, works that evidence his interest in the handling of light and variety of paint application, and constitute the first major progress in his development as a painter.

During his early years in Amsterdam (1632–1636), Rembrandt began to paint dramatic biblical and mythological scenes in high contrast and of large format (The Blinding of Samson, 1636, Belshazzar’s Feast, c. 1635 Danaë, 1636), seeking to emulate the baroque style of Rubens. With the occasional help of assistants in his workshop, he painted numerous portrait commissions both small (Jacob de Gheyn III) and large (Portrait of the Shipbuilder Jan Rijcksen and his Wife, 1633, Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, By the late 1630s Rembrandt had produced a few paintings and many etchings of landscapes. Often these landscapes highlighted natural drama, featuring uprooted trees and ominous skies (Cottages before a Stormy Sky, and The Three Trees. From 1640 his work became less exuberant and more sober in tone, possibly reflecting personal tragedy. Biblical scenes were now derived more often from the New Testament than the Old Testament, as had been the case before. In 1642 he painted The Night Watch and in the decade following the Night Watch, Rembrandt’s paintings varied greatly in size, subject, and style. The previous tendency to create dramatic effects primarily by strong contrasts of light and shadow gave way to the use of frontal lighting and larger and more saturated areas of color.

However these graphic works of natural drama eventually made way for quiet Dutch rural scenes and by the 1650s, Rembrandt’s style changed again. Colors became richer and brush strokes more pronounced. With these changes, Rembrandt distanced himself from earlier work and current fashion, which increasingly inclined toward fine, detailed works. In later years biblical themes were still depicted often, but emphasis shifted from dramatic group scenes to intimate portrait-like figures (James the Apostle, 1661). In his last years, Rembrandt painted his most deeply reflective self-portraits, and several moving images of both men and women in love, in life, and before God.Although he achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt’s later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught many important Dutch painters. Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. In his paintings and prints he exhibited knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene was informed by Rembrandt’s knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam’s Jewish population. Rembrandt sadly passed away on 4th October 1669) but his legacy lives on in the form of many wonderful paintings and because of his empathy for the human condition, he is also sometimes referred to as “one of the great prophets of civilization.”

Murder House by James Patterson

I would like to read Murder House by James Patterson. It features Detective Jenna Murphy, a former New York City Cop who has moved away from the area to escape her troubled past and rehabilitate a career. She is asked to solve the brutal murder of a Hollywood Movie Mogul and his mistress at No. 7 Ocean Drive, a multimillion-dollar beach front house in the Hamptons, whose beautiful exterior hides a horrific past. This house was the setting for a series of depraved killings that have never been solved. Neglected, empty and rumoured to be cursed, it has since gained the name the Murder House, and locals keep their distance.

Detective Jenna Murphy used to consider herself a local, but she hasn’t been back to the Hamptons since she was a girl and she hardly expects the lush and wealthy surroundings to be a hotbed of grisly depravity. However the gruesome crime scene rivals anything Jenna experienced in Manhattan And what at first seems like an open and shut case turns out to have as many shocking secrets as the Murder House itself, as Jenna quickly realizes that the mansion’s history is much darker than even the town’s most salacious gossips could have imagined. As more bodies surface, and the secret that Jenna has tried desperately to escape closes in on her,  She finds herself drawn deeper into the dark history of No. 7, and must risk her own life in order to expose the truth – before the Murder House claims another victim.

Black Country Day

Black Country day takes place annually on July 14. The Black Country is an area of the West Midlands in England, West of Birmingham, including Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell. During the Industrial Revolution, it became one of the most industrialised parts of Britain with coal mines, coking, iron foundries and steel mills producing a high level of air pollution. The 14-mile (23 km) road between Wolverhampton and Birmingham was described as “one continuous town” in 1785.The first trace of “The Black Country” as an expression dates from the 1840s. The name is believed to come from the soot from the heavy industries that covered the area, although the 30-foot-thick coal seam close to the surface is another possible origin.

The Black Country has no defined borders but to traditionalists is defined as “the area where the coal seam comes to the surface – so Brierley Hill, West Bromwich, Oldbury, Blackheath, Cradley Heath, Old Hill, Bilston, Dudley, Netherton, Tipton, and parts of Wednesbury, Halesowen ,Walsall ,Wolverhampton and Stourbridge but not Smethwick and most definitely not Birmingham. Today it commonly refers to the majority of the four boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. The borders of the Black Country can also be defined by using the special cultural and industrial characteristics of the area. Areas around the canals (the cut) which had mines extracting mineral resources and heavy industry refining these are included in this definition. Cultural parameters include unique foods and dialect.

The Black Country Society defines the Black Country’s borders as the area on the thirty foot coal seam, regardless the depth of the seam. This definition includes West Bromwich and Oldbury, which had many deep pits, and Smethwick, which underlies the thick coal but wasn’t mined under 1870s and has retained more Victorian character than most West Midland areas. Sandwell Park Colliery’s pit was located in Smethwick and had ‘thick coal’ as shown in written accounts from 1878 and coal was also heavily mined in Hamstead further east. Smethwick and Dudley Port were described as “a thousand swarming hives of metallurgical industries” by Samuel Griffiths in 1872. The Black Country Society excludes Wolverhampton and Stourbridge geologically but includes them culturally, linguistically and in terms of heavy industry as both had iron and steel works, manufacturing industries and contributed enormously to the region. Warley is also included, despite lacking industry and canals, as housing for industrial workers in Smethwick and Oldbury was built there. Another geological definition, the seam outcrop definition, only includes areas where the coal seam is shallow. Some coal mining areas to the east and west of the geologically defined Black Country are therefore excluded by this definition because the coal here is too deep down and does not outcrop. The seam outcrop definition excludes areas in North Worcestershire and South Staffordshire.

The first recorded use of the term “the Black Country” may be from a toast given by a Mr Simpson, town clerk to Lichfield, addressing a Reformer’s meeting He describes going into the “black country” of Staffordshire – Wolverhampton, Bilston and Tipton. In published literature, the first reference dates from 1846 and occurs in the novel Colton Green: A Tale of the Black Country by the Reverend William Gresley, who was then a prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral. He introduces the area as “that dismal region of mines and forges, commonly called ‘the Black Country'”, implying that the term was already in use. The phrase was used again, though as a description rather than a proper noun, by the Illustrated London News in an 1849 article on the opening of the South Staffordshire Railway. An 1851 guidebook to the London and North Western Railway included an entire chapter entitled “The Black Country”, including an early description.

In this Black Country, including West Bromwich, Dudley, Darlaston, Bilston, Wolverhampton and several minor villages, a perpetual twilight reigns during the day, and during the night fires on all sides light up the dark landscape with a fiery glow. The pleasant green of pastures is almost unknown, the streams, in which no fishes swim, are black and unwholesome; the natural dead flat is often broken by high hills of cinders and spoil from the mines; the few trees are stunted and blasted; no birds are to be seen, except a few smoky sparrows; and for miles on miles a black waste spreads around, where furnaces continually smoke, steam engines thud and hiss, and long chains clank, while blind gin horses walk their doleful round. From time to time you pass a cluster of deserted roofless cottages of dingiest brick, half swallowed up in sinking pits or inclining to every point of the compass, while the timbers point up like the ribs of a half decayed corpse. The majority of the natives of this Tartarian region are in full keeping with the scenery – savages, without the grace of savages, coarsely clad in filthy garments, with no change on weekends or Sundays, they converse in a language belarded with fearful and discusting oaths, which can scarcely be recognised as the same as that of civilized England. The geologist Joseph Jukes stated the area is commonly known in the neighbourhood as the ‘Black Country’, an epithet the appropriateness of which must be acknowledged by anyone who even passes through it on a railway. A travelogue published in 1860 calling the name “eminently descriptive, for blackness everywhere prevails; the ground is black, the atmosphere is black, and the underground is honeycombed by mining galleries stretching in utter blackness for many a league

The American diplomat and travel writer Elihu Burritt brought the term “the Black Country” into widespread common usage with the third travel book Walks in The Black Country and its Green Borderland. Burritt had been appointed United States consul in Birmingham by Abraham Lincoln in 1864, a role that required him to report regularly on “facts bearing upon the productive capacities, industrial character and natural resources of communities embraced in their Consulate Districts” and as a result travelled widely from his home in Harborne, largely on foot, to explore the local area. Burritt’s association with Birmingham dated back 20 years and he was highly sympathetic to the industrial and political culture of the town as well as being a friend many of its leading citizens, so his portrait of the surrounding area was largely positive. He was the author of the famous early description of the Black Country as “black by day and red by night”, adding appreciatively that it “cannot be matched, for vast and varied production, by any other space of equal radius on the surface of the globe”. Burritt used the term to refer to a wider area than its common modern usage, however, devoting the first third of the book to Birmingham, which he described as “the capital, manufacturing centre, and growth of the Black Country”.

Metalworking was important in the Black Country area as early as the 16th century, due to the presence of iron ore and coal in a seam 30 feet (9 m) thick, the thickest seam in Great Britain, which outcropped in various places. Many people had an agricultural smallholding and supplemented their income by working as nailers or smiths, an example of a phenomenon known to economic historians as proto-industrialisation and by the 1620s “Within ten miles [16 km] of Dudley Castle there were 20,000 smiths of all sorts”.

In 1642 at the start of the Civil War, Charles I failed to capture the two arsenals of Portsmouth and Hull, which although in cities loyal to Parliament were located in counties loyal to him. As he had failed to capture the arsenals, Charles did not possess any supply of swords, pikes, guns, or shot; all these the Black Country could and did provide. From Stourbridge came shot, from Dudley cannon. Numerous small forges which then existed on every brook in the north of Worcestershire turned out successive supplies of sword blades and pike heads. It was said that among the many causes of anger Charles had against Birmingham was that one of the best sword makers of the day, Robert Porter, who manufactured swords in Digbeth, Birmingham, refused at any price to supply swords for “that man of blood” (A Puritan nickname for King Charles), or any of his adherents. As an offset to this sword-cutler and men like him in Birmingham, the Royalists had among their adherents Colonel Dud Dudley, who had invented a means of smelting iron by the use of coke, and who claimed he could turn out “all sorts of bar iron fit for making of muskets, carbines, and iron for great bolts”, both more cheaply, more speedily and more excellent than could be done in any other way. His method was employed on the King’s behalf.

By the 19th century or early 20th century, many villages had their characteristic manufacture, such as chain making in Cradley Heath and the Lye holloware industry. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, coal and limestone were worked only on a modest scale for local consumption, but during the Industrial Revolution by the opening of canals, such as the Birmingham Canal Navigations, Stourbridge Canal and the Dudley Canal (the Dudley Canal Line No 1 and the Dudley Tunnel) opened up the mineral wealth of the area to exploitation. Advances in the use of coke for the production in iron enabled iron production (hitherto limited by the supply of charcoal) to expand rapidly. By Victorian times, the Black Country was one of the most heavily industrialised areas in Britain, and it became known for its pollution, particularly from iron and coal industries and their many associated smaller businesses. This led to the expansion of local railways and coal mine lines. The line running from Stourbridge to Walsall via Dudley Port and Wednesbury closed in the 1960s, but the Birmingham to Wolverhampton line via Tipton is still a major transport route. The anchors and chains for the ill-fated liner RMS Titanic were manufactured in the Black Country in the area of Netherton. Three anchors and accompanying chains were manufactured; and the set weighed in at 100 tons. The centre anchor alone weighed 12 tons and was pulled through Netherton on its journey to the ship by 20 Shire horses.(similar gauge chains can be seen at the Black Country Museum)

In 1913, the Black Country was the location of arguably one of the most important strikes in British trade union history when the workers employed in the area’s steel tube trade came out for two months in a successful demand for a 23 shilling minimum weekly wage for unskilled workers, giving them pay parity with their counterparts in nearby Birmingham. This action commenced on 9 May in Wednesbury, at the Old Patent tube works of John Russell & Co. Ltd., and within weeks upwards of 40,000 workers across the Black Country had joined the dispute. Notable figures in the labour movement, including a key proponent of Syndicalism, Tom Mann, visited the area to support the workers and Jack Beard and Julia Varley of the Workers’ Union were active in organising the strike. During this confrontation with employers represented by the Midlands Employers Federation, a body founded by Dudley Docker, the Asquith Government’s armaments programme was jeopardised, especially its procurement of naval equipment and other industrial essentials such as steel tubing, nuts and bolts, destroyer parts, etc. This was of national significance at a time when Britain and Germany were engaged in the Anglo-German naval arms race that preceded the outbreak of the First World War. Following a ballot of the union membership, a settlement of the dispute was reached on 11 July after arbitration by government officials from the Board of Trade led by the Chief Industrial Commissioner Sir George Askwith, 1st Baron Askwith.[23] One of the important consequences of the strike was the growth of organised labour across the Black Country, which was notable because until this point the area’s workforce had effectively eschewed trade unionism.

The area had earlier gained widespread notoriety for its hellish appearance. Charles Dickens’s novel The Old Curiosity Shop, written in 1841, described how the area’s local factory chimneys “Poured out their plague of smoke, obscured the light, and made foul the melancholy air”. In 1862, Elihu Burritt, the American Consul in Birmingham, described the region as “black by day and red by night”, because of the smoke and grime generated by the intense manufacturing activity and the glow from furnaces at night. Early 20th century representations of the region can be found in the Mercian novels of Francis Brett Young, most notably My Brother Jonathan (1928).

Carol Thompson the curator “The Making of Mordor” at Wolverhampton Art Gallery stated that J. R. R. Tolkien’s description of the grim region of Mordor “resonates with accounts of the Black Country”, in his famed novel The Lord of the Rings. Indeed, in the Elvish Sindarin language, Mor-Dor means Dark (or Black) Land. It is also claimed by one Black Country scholar (Peter Higginson) that the character of Bilbo Baggins may have been based on Tolkien’s observation of Mayor Ben Bilboe of Bilston in The Black Country, who was a Communist and Labour Party member from The Lunt in Bilston. The 20th century saw a decline in coal mining in the Black Country, with the last colliery in the region – Baggeridge Colliery near Sedgley – closing on 2 March 1968, marking the end of an era after some 300 years of mass coal mining in the region, though a small number of open cast mines remained in use for a few years afterwards.

Nick McCabe (The Verve, Black Submarine)

English Musician Nicholas “Nick” John McCabe was born 14 July 1971 in Haydock, Lancashire. He is best known as the lead guitarist of The Verve and has two older brothers, Alan and Paul. He attended Haydock High School, and later met Richard Ashcroft at Winstanley College. Ashcroft described McCabe’s guitar playing as sounding like “a whole other universe”; the two briefly played in a band whilst at college. After leaving college, McCabe began a career as a quantity surveyor. He later recalled: “I hated it. I used to sit there all day scribbling in my pad thinking about guitar sounds.” He gave this up to be part of The Verve along with Ashcroft, Simon Jones and Peter Salisbury.

The Verve were formed in Wigan in 1990 by lead vocalist Richard Ashcroft, guitarist Nick McCabe, bass guitarist Simon Jones and drummer Peter Salisbury. The guitarist and keyboard player Simon Tong joined later. Beginning with a psychedelic sound, by the mid-1990s the band had released several EPs and three albums. It also endured name and line-up changes, break-ups, health problems, drug abuse and various lawsuits. The band’s commercial breakthrough was the 1997 album Urban Hymns, one of the best-selling albums in UK Chart history. The album features the hit singles “Bitter Sweet Symphony”, “The Drugs Don’t Work” and “Lucky Man”. In 1998, the band won two Brit Awards—winning Best British Group, appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in March, and in February 1999, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.

Soon after their commercial peak, the Verve broke up in April 1999, citing internal conflicts. Tensions and power struggles between McCabe and Ashcroft would later cause the band’s dissolution. The first break-up happened in 1995 when Ashcroft left after the band’s second album, A Northern Soul. During an eight-year split, Ashcroft dismissed talk of a reunion, saying: “You’re more likely to get all four Beatles on stage.”The band’s original line-up reunited in June 2007, embarking on a tour later that year and releasing the album Forth in August 2008, which spawned the hit single “Love Is Noise”. Ashcroft replaced McCabe, with Simon Tong. McCabe returned home to work on his own music and spend time with his daughter until Ashcroft asked him to return in 1997, for the band’s third album, Urban Hymns. Despite the album’s success, McCabe left in 1998, and although The Verve continued touring without him, the band later split for the second time in early 1999. In early 2007, McCabe made peace with Ashcroft, and the band reunited. A new album, Forth, was released in 2008. However, the band broke up again in 2009.

In 2001, McCabe played on “Walking Home” for John Martyn’s album, On the Cobbles. In 2002, he played on “Lost Broadcast” for Faultline’s album Your Love Means Everything. In 2004, McCabe’s remix of The Music’s song “The People” appeared on their single “Freedom Fighters”. In 2009 McCabe founded a new band called The Black Ships with Jones, drummer Mig Schillace, and electric violinist Davide Rossi. The Black Ships released their first EP, “Kurofune”, 2011, and performed their debut gig at Kings College Student Union before changing their name to Black Submarine in mid-2012.