Apollo 13 and the age of Aquarius

Today is the anniversary of Apollo 13’s return to earth on April 17, 1970. You may have seen the 1995 movie, but if you have forgotten the details you can refresh your memory here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_13

The gist of the story is that an explosion crippled the power supply on the “Command and Service Module” named Odyssey. To survive and return to Earth an elaborate patch was done to use the fuel supplies on the lunar module named “Aquarius”.

At that time there was a popular musical called “Hair”-popular partly because it featured brief scenes of nudity-which was a big thing in 1969. One of the popular songs was “The Age of Aquarius”, which you can listen to here:

When the astronauts were picked up and safely landed on an US Navy carrier, it was but appropriate that the band played “The Age of Aquarius”.

Like other popular songs, it gets due coverage in Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquarius/Let_the_Sunshine_In

The lyrics given in the video above are slightly wrong, but you can see the correct lyrics here:  https://www.lyricsondemand.com/soundtracks/h/hairlyrics/aquariuslyrics.html

The bit about “astrological gibberish” is particularly amusing:

“Astrologer Neil Spencer denounced the lyrics as “astrological gibberish”, noting that Jupiter forms an astrological aspect with Mars several times a year and the moon is in the 7th House for two hours every day. These lines are considered by many to be merely poetic license, though some people take them literally.”

In fact, the opening lines of the song feature in an episode of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” where he is debunking astrology.

And in recent times, it has given rise to memes like this:

https://me.me/i/you-know-son-this-is-the-dawning-of-the-age-21401378

and this: http://www.bunchacunce.org/2016/08/the-awning-of-the-cage-of-asparagus/

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More cricket calypsos

Many of you would be familiar with “Cricket, lovely cricket” first heard at Lord’s in 1950 and probably the one about Gavaskar after the 1971 series. There are, in fact, a number of other cricket-related calypsos which are summarised in the link below. Lord Kitchener was living in Britain through the 1950s and sang tributes to Alec Bedser (during the 1953 Ashes) and Frank Tyson (after the 1954-55 Ashes). All of these (besides the long version of “Rally Round the West Indies”) can be seen here:

https://silvertorch.com/cricketsongs.html

Background reading here:

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2002/jun/28/nottinghillcarnival2002.nottinghillcarnival

Personal note: My father came to Britain from India through the Tilbury Docks a few months before the SS “Empire Windrush” docked. On the evening of January 30, 1948 he heard the newspaper seller yelling “Extra! Read all about it! Gandy killed by Hindu gunman!”. Coincidentally his first grandchild was born exactly 39 years later.

Colonel Bogey and his successors

Most adults in Commonwealth countries have heard this tune, possibly through military bands which still play it. It dates back to 1914, but the words came later during World War 2. It became famous worldwide with the film “Bridge on the River Kwai” which was released in 1957, but was still making the rounds of cinemas in India in the 1970s.

Here is the “official version” by a British army band: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxguy0BYNzE

You are more likely to have seen this version from the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4k4NEAIk3PU

Although most of the film was shot in Sri Lanka, the actual bridge still stands in Thailand and is a popular tourist destination: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nYT79oxzBI

It is not very close to Bangkok, but many conducted tours will take you there and back in a day.

The tune became so ingrained in popular culture that: “Since the film portrayed prisoners of war held under inhumane conditions by the Japanese, there was a diplomatic row in May 1980, when a military band played “Colonel Bogey” during a visit to Canada by Japanese prime minister Masayoshi Ōhira”

As to the lyrics, Wikipedia goes into them in great detail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler_Has_Only_Got_One_Ball   Most versions had only the first four lines, though longer versions exist. Variations in the second line mention local prominent buildings such as the Albert Hall in London and the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. Also, as General Rommel was one of the few German military leaders who was respected by soldiers on the other side, the second line sometimes became “Rommel has three but small”. The more obscure variations (particularly on the second verse) are here:

http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Hitler_Has_Only_Got_One_Ball

Indian schoolboys made up other variations such as:

Hitler, he had but one big ball,

Rommel, he had three but small,

Nehru, he went to Peru,

And poor Gandhi, he had none at all.

Billy Joel meets the dotcom bust and the oncoming Wall Street meltdown

First remember the original:

Now see it adapted to the dotcom bust of the early 2000s:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6IQ_FOCE6I

And then to the coming unease on Wall Street in 2007:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE-LDfroa1w

And that’s not all. Terence Kawaja (the same guy behind Mad Avenue Blues) brought out a sequel in 2008. And Billy Joel later surfaced in the oddest place in India more recently.

Mad Avenue Blues and the mysteries of American Pie

This video is being used as supporting material in MBA courses in digital marketing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CqRcCHk_Pc

Even if it didn’t make much sense to you, you would remember the original:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGJqo_bkAuM

This is well known as one of the most incomprehensible pieces of pop music. The Wikipedia article has something on this and (in Further Reading) some links to scholarly articles trying to explain the nuances:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Pie_%28song%29

though it oddly gives a lot of importance to Madonna’s version:

Anyway, if you found this worthwhile you might like to hear a similar song by the same person about Wall Street-this time using Billy Joel. And the same song cropped up unexpectedly in Indian politics. More tomorrow.

The Walrus and the incomprehensible song

The walrus, remarkable as it may be, does not live anywhere near India. Why, then, should we be concerned about it?
See what it looks like:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ce/Noaa-walrus22.jpg

Interesting-looking fellow, who bears a strong resemblance to an important person from Nagpur who was last heard demanding that India should be declared a Hindu nation.

The walrus does appear in aspects of various cultures-such as the ultimate insult in Russian:

walrus

(From “Native Tongues” by Charles Berlitz; perhaps a more useful work than his numerous books about the Bermuda Triangle)

Many of you would remember this poem from your childhood:

http://www.jabberwocky.com/carroll/walrus.html

and this Beatles song: (with lyrics):

Not one of their best-known songs, but probably the most incomprehensible. Like many of their songs of that period, it must have been composed under the influence of some banned substance (such as the one immortalized in “Lucy in the Sky……) which even gets a mention in this song.

If you want to make any sense of it at all, try reading this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_the_Walrus

and a more detailed analysis:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/30523/who-was-walrus-analyzing-strangest-beatles-song

Well, there are a few more of their songs which are almost as obscure although they have been analyzed to death. Even a traditional song like “Greensleeves” has been searched for hidden meanings. American pop music has a few songs which are supposed to have many hidden meanings, such as “The Boxer”, “Hotel California” and of course “American Pie”. More about them later.

Meanwhile, we await the banning of Lewis Carroll and the Beatles in India for bringing the Walrus into disrepute.