Saturday, July 23, 2011

Jukebox Friday: Billy Joel - We Didn't Start The Fire

William Martin Joel (b. 1949 in New York City) AKA Billy Joel is an American musician and pianist, singer-songwriter, and classical composer. He is the third best-selling solo artist in the United States and a six-time Grammy Award winner. You know him.

"We Didn't Start The Fire" was released on the album Storm Front in 1989. The lyrics are a string of cultural and political references, starting with the inauguration of American president Harry S. Truman in 1949 (Billy Joel's year of birth) and ending with the cola wars between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, which began in the late 1980s.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jukebox Friday: dEUS - The Architect

Deus (styled as dEUS) is an alternative rock band formed in 1991 in Antwerp. Their musical influences include folk, punk rock, jazz and progressive rock. The band's current line-up features two of the original members, Tom Barman (vocals, guitar) and Klaas Janszoons (keyboards, violin).

When dEUS got a contract with Island Records in 1992, they became the very first Belgian group to sign with a major international label. They have since become one of the most internationally successful Belgian groups, and their 2005 album Pocket Revolution was supported by a 130-date world tour.

"The Architect", one of the bossiest tracks I've ever heard, was the lead single from dEUS' 2008 album Vantage Point. The song was inspired by and contains samples of the voice of the American architect, engineer and futurist Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983). One of the samples used can be heard here. The song mentions the geodesic dome, Fuller's most famous design.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Feestdag van Vlaanderen

The Day of the Flemish Community of Belgium (Dutch: Feestdag van Vlaanderen) is celebrated every year on 11 July in remembrance of the Battle of the Golden Spurs (more on that in this post) and is observed only by the Flemish Community in Belgium.

Approximately €1,5 million was spent by the Flemish government on this year's celebration. All I saw was a few flags, but I suspect that there was much merriment and gaiety.

Following the establishment of the three cultural and linguistic communities of Belgium in 1970, a law was enacted prescribing the flag, the anthem and the national holiday day of the Dutch Cultural Community, as it was known then. Here's the flag...

...and here's the anthem, a battle hymn written in 1847 by Hippoliet Van Peene to music by Karel Miry. Happy (belated) Flemish Community Day!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Battle of the Golden Spurs (1302)

A short week after the Americans celebrate Independence Day, the Flemish community have their own official holiday. Let's find out what happened before, during and after the 11th of July, 1302.

Illustration of the Battle of the Golden Spurs
in the Grandes Chroniques de France.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Jukebox Friday: Vader Abraham - 't Smurfenlied (The Smurf Song)

Pierre Kartner performing as
Vader Abraham in 2007.
Photo: Remco Klein/Wikimedia
Pierre Kartner was born in Elst in the Netherlands in 1935. He has produced and recorded music since the late 1960s. As a producer, he was instrumental in the success of the levenslied ("life song") genre, a sub-genre of pop music distinguished by sentimental songs about familiar topics such as love and exotic holidays.

Kartner's alter ego Vader Abraham ("Father Abraham") came to life in the song "Vader Abraham had zeven zonen". The song is a cheerful march telling the story of Father Abraham's seven sons, all of whom are alcoholics. ( Listen to it on YouTube if you dare.)

In 1990, Kartner was tasked with writing the music for the opening and closing credits to the animated series Moomin, based on Tove Jansson's books. Ironically, it was never shown on Dutch or Belgian television.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Swords, guns and planes: a tour of the Royal Military Museum in Brussels

Here's another post revolving around Belgian history. All photos are by me unless otherwise stated.

The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History was founded in 1910 at the Abbey of La Cambre in Ixelles. In 1923, the museum was moved to the northern wing of the majestic historic complex in Cinquantenaire Park (Dutch: Jubelpark) in Brussels.

(Click images to embiggen.)

The north wing of the historic complex in Cinquantenaire Park.
(Photo: Wikimedia)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jukebox Friday: Wallace Collection - Daydream

I renamed the "song of the week" column and wrote a post with nearly as many YouTube videos as words. That's okay, I promise.

Wallace Collection was a Britain-based Belgian pop rock sextet active between 1968 and 1971. They got their name from a museum adjacent to the headquarters of their record label, EMI. In 2005, the group was revived as a quintet with four of the original members.

The group's most famous song is "Daydream", recorded at Abbey Road Studios in 1968 and released in 1969. Its famous melody was borrowed from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake ballet. The track became a hit, but has since become even more well-known through numerous covers and samplings by other artists (see below).