Way back in 1983, a little known all female band made their first national debut on American Bandstand. That show, which ran from 1956-1989, highlighted new musical acts along with current well-known artists. Over its long run, you saw all kinds of music, fashions that came and went, but often the same musicians would come back over and over again to perform on this show hosted by Dick Clark for its entire run. Rock and Roll was introduced nationally through this show and legions of fans who watched weekly. It was a show worth watching.
The Bangles had formed in 1981 (originally The Bangs but another group had that name) and were like many small bands struggling. From interviews of the band members, they played at many places early on having to pay people to dance (they bought them beer). Their first recording with the label Faulty Products end up disappointed as they folded. Another label bought it and released it. Somewhere along the line as they tried to get noticed locally Dick Clark heard of them. There first performance on American Bandstand can be seen here on YouTube.
Columbia Records issued their first album in 1984 titled All Over The Place. The album had hit songs such as “Hero Takes The Fall” and “Going Down to Liverpool.” The video for Liverpool had Leonard Nimoy (band member Susanna Hoffs knew his son) which garnered a lot of attention. Prince heard their music and was impressed by them. He offered them two songs and they decided on Manic Monday. When they first performed it for him, they apologized they didn’t have a harpsichord (heard on the recorded versions and sometimes in live concerts), he said it didn’t need it. And he was right.
When they recorded and released the song it became a hit rocketing them up to number 2 in the U.S. and other countries (a Prince song was number 1, which shows how powerful both artists were). No longer were The Bangles doing small clubs and events after that. Now they were major band with millions of fans and they were off touring the world performing just about everywhere. From the interviews, they were completely surprised at how liked they had become. As Dick Clark would say later when they returned to his show in 1986, The Bangles had gotten really positive reviews from fellow musicians and critics alike.
One of the hallmarks of really talented musicians are passion and enthusiasm. Growing up during the 1960’s, I was exposed to a lot of rock and roll (and I listened to a station that also played 1950’s music). My own family loved music (though not rock and roll) and listened to the many records of classical, opera, and soundtracks of Rodgers & Hammerstein performances. In school I learned how to play the clarinet, saxophone, bass clarinet, and guitar. I learned that those who really loved music and let it flow were the ones that really had the best outcomes. Playing just so that you would pass was okay, but those who really had the passion to play their instrument made all the difference in the world. It was not just a guitar or violin, but something much, much more.
And so it is with The Bangles. They loved to play their music. This was not some band created in the sound lab, fine-tuned, and carefully rolled out by the record label. The women who made up The Bangles-Vicki Peterson, Debbi Peterson, Susanna Hoffs, and Michael Steele- loved what they were doing, And their enthusiasm shows in every performance they did. And every member had their voices in songs (despite what the media back then said, Susanna Hoffs was not the lead singer, each singer had songs they were lead on). Susanna Hoffs was often in the center simply because of her height and nothing more (you do not put shortest person off to the side, it just looks weird).
The Bangles did break up for a short time but reunited. However, touring had to slow since many of them married and had families. Susanna also started a solo career which has done well. She plays her own songs and sometimes does a Bangles favorite with just a guitar. And it is amazing how wonderful her voice is at age 64. She has not lost one beat and not slowed down at all. She has been married since 1993 to Jay Roach (who directed the Austin Powers movies) and has two grown boys now in the entertainment industry. She will, if the date I saw is correct, be soon celebrating 30 years of marriage. Which is remarkable in that marriages come and go in that world as one changes tissues. She noted recently on Twitter that every day she listens to a Prince song to thank him for Manic Monday. She also has a book coming out titled This Bird Has Flown coming out on 4 April 2023 and already has had positive feedback from early reviews.
And now Manic Monday from American Bandstand (May 10, 1986).
Today is the March/Spring Equinox. This equinox marks the moment where the Sun crosses the equator and usually occurs between March 19-21 every year. Both the March and September equinoxes are when the Sun shines directly on the equator making night and day nearly equal.
The March equinox is the transition from winter to spring in the Northern Hemisphere but the reverse in the Southern Hemisphere (summer into fall). Various cultures celebrate March equinox as a time of rebirth. Many spring festivals are timed to coincide with the equinox and some religious events (Passover and Easter) use specific calculations based on the equinox to help determine the exact day of the event.
Though the equinox marks the changing of the seasons, it is quite common for winter effects to continue in many places far until May or even June.
And if you live in an agricultural area where sheep abound, a sure sign of Spring is that lambs are born. Lots of them. To this day no scientist has ever figured how the mother can instantly know her offspring in a field where so many lambs abound.
Laetare Sunday is the fourth Sunday in the Lenten season. Since it is half way through Lent, it is a time to rejoice (Laetare means rejoice) and a time to understand about baptismal rebirth. Priests can elect to wear rose colored vestments on this Sunday. And the Gospel of John account of the blind man being healed is read. The Solemnity of St. Joseph, which is observed on March 19, will be moved to the following day should it be on Laetare Sunday.
Spring is almost here but winter still has a kick in it.
And in case you forgot-Daylight Savings Time began at 2 am by adding one hour to 3 am on March 12. So if you did not do so, you need to move your clock one hour ahead or you will be late for work on Monday!
January has been sent to the exit and we welcome February. February is the second month on the current Gregorian and the old Julian calendar. The month is the shortest on the calendar: 28 days in regular years and 29 during a leap year. Meteorologically speaking, it is the last month of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. However, winter can and often does continue after February no matter what a certain groundhog indicates. February comes from Februa, a Roman ritual of cleansing.
Why the leap year?
The old Roman calendar was ten months, which began in March and ended in December. When January and February were added it meant February became the last month of the year. That meant the month had to have 28 days to fit into the calendar. A leap month was introduced every few years after February to make room for the thirteenth month. This meant February had to be shortened. As you might guess, this made things a bit confusing. Julius Caesar introduced the new calendar in 46 BC (named for him of course). He abolished the 13th month and introduced the leap year so that every fourth year, February would have 29 instead of 28 days. Thus, the leap year was born and became part of the Gregorian calendar as well.
February has some important events in it. There is Groundhog Day (Feb 2) where a groundhog comes out of its burrow in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania, and its behavior determines–if he goes back in or stays out–whether winter will last six weeks more, or spring will start early. German immigrants used to see hedgehogs coming out of hibernation as a sign of winter ending back in Germany. Unfortunately, hedgehogs are not found in the wild in Pennsylvania (or most of North America except as domesticated pets where allowed) so the groundhog became the substitute.
For many Americans, Superbowl Sunday is the big event where two top teams in the NFL duke it out. It is one the biggest sports events of the year and millions tune in to watch. Fast food places get lots of orders for delivery on that day and bars showing the game are often overflowing. And the ads for the game itself are specially tailored for the event. For everyone else (like some friends of mine), watching the original Star Wars IV, V, and VI or The Godfather I & II are that Sunday afternoon.
Of course, the other big day is Valentine’s Day on February 14 which is celebrated in the U.S. and around the world as well. Restaurants, florists, and chocolate makers all are major beneficiaries of this day set aside to show our affection to our wives, girlfriends, and others close to us.
The symbols for February are:
The birthstone is amethyst. It symbolizes piety, humility, spiritual wisdom, and sincerity.
The Winter Solstice occurs usually between December 20-23 with the sun directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn. This results in the North Pile being tilted the furthest away making it the shortest day of the year followed by the longest night. The further north you live during winter means less daylight during the winter. Some areas in Alaska or Scandinavia can be nearly dark or near dark during this period. By contrast, those in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate the Summer Solstice, as it marks the beginning of summer. Which is why while people shiver in Philadelphia and New York for Christmas but down in Australia, Christmas is celebrated outdoors with a barbeque.
Many cultures observed the Winter Solstice as it marked an important time in the agricultural cycle. By this time all crops and livestock had been prepared for winter. Important foodstuffs were stored for the months when virtually nothing grew. Wine and beer, which had been fermenting during the year, was ready. Cattle and pigs would often be killed at the start of winter so they would not have to be fed during this time. The early months of winter were tough in many places and often called the “famine months” since little food was to be found. Many cultures observed the Winter Solstice as a renewal or that the year was reborn. For out of the seeming withdrawal of the sun, it would come back just as strong and powerful as before. Thus, the Winter Solstice was seen by many as the start of a new year such as the old Roman Feast of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) which happened around the 25th of December.
December is the 12th month on the Gregorian calendar. The name derives from the Latin word decem, which means ten. Originally December was the tenth month in an older calendar as it started in March. Apparently the winter days that followed December were not included in a month until much later when January and February were added. December retained its name though. Anglo-Saxons used the term Yule for December-January, but that now that has largely come to mean December and the Christmas season.
December has the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the summer solstice in the Southern. Winter traditionally begins on the astronomical calendar around 21 December or the date of the actual solstice. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and depending on how far north you live, sunlight may only be for a few hours on that day. The symbols for December are the narcissus flower and turquoise, zircon and tanzanite as the birthstones.
Most Christians celebrate Advent in preparation for the celebration of Christmas on 25 December. Jews celebrate Chanukah/Hanukkah, the 8-day Festival of Lights in December as well. Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26-January 1.
For many in the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving is a time to go for some long walks or exercise to work off all the food eaten the day before. Many put up holiday lights while others head to do some shopping. Friday after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday where stores open to the masses to sell products at deeply discounted prices. Alas with the inflation running high this year, most will keep to necessities. Only those with disposable income will be spending lots of money. Kim Kardashian will probably drop lots of money and then tweet out what she has bought to those who actually follow her.
Or you could sit back for a bit and have a bit of fun after all the heck you went through to get the materials for the feast, cook and serve to friends and family. Or that family member that grumbled they did not like the cranberry sauce since it did not come out of a can, or that the mashed potatoes were too mashed for their taste. So take step back and enjoy some humor. Here is the now infamous turkey drop scene from an old tv show called WKRP. The infamous turkey drop will never be forgotten. And of course all the poor fools who thought they knew how to deep fry turkey and instead ended up cooking something else entirely different.
Deep fried turkey tastes delicious but requires careful preparation. Far too many people put a turkey into the pot but fail in putting too much oil. The hot oil bubbles over the top, hits the ground and fires erupt. If your turkey fryer is too close to home, well it can be quite unfortunate. The most inane thing to do is put a frozen bird into hot oil. I am dumbfounded that people did not get this in their high school science class. Putting something cold, especially frozen, into a hot liquid will have explosive consequences. The safest way is simply to use a large deep fryer that sits on your counter top. You simply lower the meat into the oil, close the lid, and set the timer. There are indicator lines that show exactly how much oil to use. If you are going to use the open deep fryer, you have to follow those instructions carefully and make sure to use less oil than actually needed. And make sure to have lots of baking soda or the right fire extinguisher rated to put out oil based fires. Never use it indoors and always away from any structures. Keep children and pets away. A splash of hot oil on your skin will be very painful, so wear protective gear on your hands and even your face.
For those following the liturgical calendar, this is the last day of ordinary time in most Christian churches. Next Sunday is the start of a new liturgical year and is the first Sunday of Advent for those that follow that calendar (Eastern Orthodox uses the old Julian calendar, so they are 13 days behind. For 2023, Christmas Eve will be on January 6 and Christmas Day on January 7.)
Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. is this coming Thursday, November 24.