Hear Two Legends, Lead Belly & Woody Guthrie, Performing on the Same Radio Show (1940)

Let’s go back in time to Decem­ber 12, 1940 and turn our radio dial to 830 AM WNYC. It’s 6 p.m. in New York and blues singer Lead Bel­ly has his week­ly half-hour show (Folk Songs of Amer­i­ca) where he sings songs and invites on a guest each week. On this episode he wel­comes folk singer “The Dusti­est Dust­bowler of them all”——as the announc­er calls him——Woody Guthrie, who, like the host, deliv­ers three songs with some in between song pat­ter.

This record­ing sat in the WNYC archives until being dust­ed off for a rebroad­cast in 2007 as part of the Down Home Radio Show. The first year of the Down Home Radio Show coin­cid­ed with the last year in the life of Pro­fes­sor Hen­ri­et­ta Yurchen­co (1916–2007), who was a well known folk and world music radio per­son­al­i­ty, as well as an eth­no­mu­si­col­o­gist. One of her ear­li­est radio jobs was pro­duc­ing this very episode for Lead Bel­ly’s Folk Songs of Amer­i­ca, when she was only 24. She lat­er went on to work with oth­er stars in the busi­ness such as Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan.

The 1940 episode was unearthed for a show on out­law songs, both blues and folk songs that glam­or­ize peo­ple that the law saw as com­mon crim­i­nals, but the peo­ple loved regard­less. Lead Bel­ly sings “Frankie and Albert” and Guthrie sings “John Hardy” and “Jesse James.”

Also on the show, Guthrie intro­duces his own “Bal­lad of Tom Joad” with a sto­ry about watch­ing The Grapes of Wrath movie (1940) three times and then writ­ing his own ver­sion. Lead Bel­ly ends the show with “Boll Wee­vil,” which, being about a much hat­ed insect, is kind of an out­law bal­lad of sorts.

The only shame is not hear­ing the two togeth­er, and it’s not known whether they were in the same stu­dio at the time.

Final­ly the announc­er adds that if you like the show, drop a line to Lead Bel­ly cour­tesy of WNYC and they’ll send you all the lyrics. I won­der if any­body still has a copy of that?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch the Only Known Footage of the Leg­endary Blues­man Lead Bel­ly (1935 and 1945)

Woody Guthrie’s Doo­dle-Filled List of 33 New Year’s Res­o­lu­tions From 1943

Woody Guthrie’s Fan Let­ter To John Cage and Alan Hov­haness (1947)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

The Day When Chivalry Officially Came to an End in 1363 AD: A Short Comedy Film

When did chival­ry come to an end? Some would say it’s a mat­ter of his­tor­i­cal debate. But not for Jake Mahaffy. His short, fun­ny film lets you see the embar­rass­ing cir­cum­stances under which chival­ry died, some­where in a marsh in 1363. Enjoy.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

via Vimeo Staff Picks

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What’s It Like to Fight in 15th Cen­tu­ry Armor?: A Sur­pris­ing Demon­stra­tion

Yoda’s Long Lost Twin Found in a 14th Cen­tu­ry Illu­mi­nat­ed Man­u­script

Won­der­ful­ly Weird & Inge­nious Medieval Books

See The Guidon­ian Hand, the Medieval Sys­tem for Read­ing Music, Get Brought Back to Life

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Hear What the Language Spoken by Our Ancestors 6,000 Years Ago Might Have Sounded Like: A Reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European Language

As schol­ars of ancient texts well know, the recon­struc­tion of lost sources can be a mat­ter of some con­tro­ver­sy. In the ancient Hebrew and less ancient Chris­t­ian Bib­li­cal texts, for exam­ple, crit­ics find the rem­nants of many pre­vi­ous texts, seem­ing­ly stitched togeth­er by occa­sion­al­ly care­less edi­tors. Those source texts exist nowhere in any phys­i­cal form, com­plete or oth­er­wise. They must be inferred from the traces they have left behind—signatures of dic­tion and syn­tax, styl­is­tic and the­mat­ic pre­oc­cu­pa­tions….

So it is with the study of ancient lan­guages, but since oral cul­tures far pre­date writ­ten ones, the search for lin­guis­tic ances­tors can take us back to the very ori­gins of human cul­ture, to times unre­mem­bered and unrecord­ed by any­one, and only dim­ly glimpsed through scant archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence and observ­able aur­al sim­i­lar­i­ties between vast­ly dif­fer­ent lan­guages. So it was with the the­o­ret­i­cal devel­op­ment of Indo-Euro­pean as a lan­guage fam­i­ly, a slow process that took sev­er­al cen­turies to coa­lesce into the mod­ern lin­guis­tic tree we now know.

The obser­va­tion that San­skrit and ancient Euro­pean lan­guages like Greek and Latin have sig­nif­i­cant sim­i­lar­i­ties was first record­ed by a Jesuit mis­sion­ary to Goa, Thomas Stephens, in the six­teenth cen­tu­ry, but lit­tle was made of it until around 100 years lat­er. A great leap for­ward came in the mid-nine­teenth cen­tu­ry when Ger­man lin­guist August Schle­ich­er, under the influ­ence of Hegel, pub­lished his Com­pendi­um of the Com­par­a­tive Gram­mar of the Indo-Euro­pean Lan­guages. There, Schle­ich­er made an exten­sive attempt at recon­struct­ing the com­mon ances­tor of all Indo-Euro­pean lan­guages, “Pro­to-Indo-Euro­pean,” or PIE, for short, thought to have orig­i­nat­ed some­where in East­ern Europe, though this sup­po­si­tion is spec­u­la­tive.

To pro­vide an exam­ple of what the lan­guage might have been like Schle­ich­er made up a fable called “The Sheep and the Hors­es” as a “son­ic exper­i­ment.” The sto­ry has been used ever since, “peri­od­i­cal­ly updat­ed,” writes Eric Pow­ell at Archae­ol­o­gy, “to reflect the most cur­rent under­stand­ing of how this extinct lan­guage would have sound­ed when it was spo­ken some 6,000 years ago.” Hav­ing no access to any texts writ­ten in Pro­to-Indo-Euro­pean (which may or may not have exist­ed) nor, of course, to any speak­ers of the lan­guage, lin­guists dis­agree a good deal on what it should sound like; “no sin­gle ver­sion can be con­sid­ered defin­i­tive.”

And yet, since Schleicher’s time, the the­o­ry has been con­sid­er­ably refined. At the top of the post, you can hear one such refine­ment based on work by UCLA pro­fes­sor H. Craig Melchert and read by lin­guist Andrew Byrd. See a trans­la­tion of Schle­icher’s sto­ry, “The Sheep and the Hors­es” below:

A sheep that had no wool saw hors­es, one of them pulling a heavy wag­on, one car­ry­ing a big load, and one car­ry­ing a man quick­ly. The sheep said to the hors­es: “My heart pains me, see­ing a man dri­ving hors­es.” The hors­es said: “Lis­ten, sheep, our hearts pain us when we see this: a man, the mas­ter, makes the wool of the sheep into a warm gar­ment for him­self. And the sheep has no wool.” Hav­ing heard this, the sheep fled into the plain.

Byrd also reads anoth­er sto­ry in hypo­thet­i­cal Pro­to-Indo-Euro­pean, “The King and the God,” using “pro­nun­ci­a­tion informed by the lat­est insights into PIE.”

See Powell’s arti­cle at Archae­ol­o­gy for the writ­ten tran­scrip­tions of both Schleicher’s and Melchert/Byrd’s ver­sions of PIE, and see his arti­cle here to learn about the arche­o­log­i­cal evi­dence for the Bronze Age speak­ers of this the­o­ret­i­cal lin­guis­tic com­mon ances­tor.

Note: The won­der­ful image that accom­pa­nies this post on Face­book and Twit­ter comes from this post in our archive: The Tree of Lan­guages Illus­trat­ed in a Big, Beau­ti­ful Info­graph­ic. It was cre­at­ed by Min­na Sund­berg and can be pur­chased as a poster here.

via io9

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Was There a First Human Lan­guage?: The­o­ries from the Enlight­en­ment Through Noam Chom­sky

Hear The Epic of Gil­gamesh Read in its Orig­i­nal Ancient Lan­guage, Akka­di­an

Learn Latin, Old Eng­lish, San­skrit, Clas­si­cal Greek & Oth­er Ancient Lan­guages in 10 Lessons

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Watch The Bicycle Trip: An Animation of The World’s First LSD Trip Which Took Place on April 19, 1943

In 1943, Swiss chemist Albert Hof­mann was syn­the­siz­ing a new com­pound called lyser­gic acid diethy­lamide-25 when he got a cou­ple of drops on his fin­ger.  The chem­i­cal, lat­er known world­wide as LSD, absorbed into his sys­tem and soon after he expe­ri­enced an intense state of altered con­scious­ness. In oth­er words, he tripped.

Intrigued by the expe­ri­ence, Hof­mann dosed him­self with 250 micro­grams of LSD and then biked his way home through the streets of Basel on April 19, 1943, mak­ing him the first per­son ever to inten­tion­al­ly drop acid. Nowa­days, psy­cho­nauts and LSD enthu­si­asts com­mem­o­rate the event every April 19th, on what’s called “Bicy­cle Day.”

Ital­ian ani­ma­tors Loren­zo Veraci­ni, Nan­di­ni Nam­biar and Mar­co Avo­let­ta imag­ine what Hof­mann might have seen dur­ing his his­toric jour­ney in their 2008 short A Bicy­cle Trip.

The film shows Hof­mann rid­ing through the Swiss medieval town as he sees visions like a trail of flow­ers com­ing off a woman in red, cob­ble stones com­ing alive and scur­ry­ing away, and a whole for­est becom­ing trans­par­ent before the mar­veling scientist’s eyes. The film also shows Hof­mann slam­ming into a fence, illus­trat­ing why it’s nev­er a good idea to dri­ve under the influ­ence of hal­lu­cino­gens.

After his ear­ly exper­i­ments, Albert Hof­mann became con­vinced that LSD is not only a pow­er­ful poten­tial treat­ment for the men­tal­ly ill but also a valu­able bridge between the spir­i­tu­al and the sci­en­tif­ic. He called the sub­stance “med­i­cine for the soul.”

If you’re inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about the tur­bu­lent his­to­ry of the drug, check out below the 2002 doc­u­men­tary Hofmann’s Potion, by Cana­di­an film­mak­er Con­nie Lit­tle­field, which traces Hofmann’s inven­tion from being a promis­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal treat­ment to coun­ter­cul­ture sym­bol to banned sub­stance. The 56-minute doc fea­tures footage and inter­views with such psy­che­del­ic lumi­nar­ies as Aldous Hux­ley, Stanislav Grof, Richard Alpert (AKA Ram Dass) along with Hof­mann him­self.

Hof­mann was always uncom­fort­able with the casu­al way the ‘60s coun­ter­cul­ture used his inven­tion. “[LSD] is not just fun,” he says in Littlefield’s movie.  “It is a very seri­ous exper­i­ment.” Hofmann’s Potion appears in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

via @stevesilberman and @sheerly

Note: This post orig­i­nal­ly appeared on our site in 2013. Since today is Bicy­cle Day, we’re bring­ing it back to the top.

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her at @jonccrow.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Ani­mat­ed

Artist Draws Nine Por­traits on LSD Dur­ing 1950s Research Exper­i­ment

Aldous Huxley’s LSD Death Trip

Watch the First Chinese Animated Feature Film, Princess Iron Fan, Made Under the Strains of WWII (1941)

Note: To watch this film with sub­ti­tles, please click “cc” at the bot­tom of the video play­er.

When we talk about tra­di­tion­al­ly ani­mat­ed fea­ture films, we most often talk about Dis­ney in the West and Japan­ese ani­me in the East. But both Dis­ney ani­ma­tion and Japan­ese ani­ma­tion (from the stu­dio of the acclaimed Hayao Miyaza­ki or oth­ers) have their inspi­ra­tions as well as their fol­low­ers, and in between Dis­ney and Japan we find the ambi­tious 1941 Chi­nese pro­duc­tion Princess Iron Fan. Made under Japan­ese occu­pa­tion in the thick of the Sec­ond World War, the film took three years, 237 artists, and 350,000 yuan to make, pre­mier­ing as the very first ani­mat­ed fea­ture made in Chi­na. Now you can watch it free (with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles avail­able at the click of the “CC” icon) on Youtube.

Princess Iron Fan adapts one of the many sto­ries in Jour­ney to the West, the Ming-dynasty nov­el rec­og­nized as one of the Four Great Clas­si­cal Nov­els of Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture. In it, the tit­u­lar princess — or rather, a demon with the title of a princess whose “iron” fan, though mag­i­cal nev­er­the­less, is actu­al­ly made of banana leaves — duels the leg­endary Mon­key King.

Artis­ti­cal­ly fired up by a screen­ing of Dis­ney’s Snow White and the Sev­en Dwarfs in 1939, the film’s cre­ators Wan Guchan and Wan Laim­ing, known as the Wan Broth­ers, used a suite of tech­niques then sel­dom or nev­er seen in their home­land to bring the old tale to ani­mat­ed life, such as roto­scop­ing (trac­ing over live-action footage), bounc­ing-ball lyric sequences dur­ing musi­cal num­bers, and even col­or effects hand-drawn on top of the black-and-white ani­ma­tion.

Call­ing the pic­ture “an enor­mous achieve­ment in wartime film­mak­ing,” Ani­me: A His­to­ry author Jonathan Clements writes of its release the fol­low­ing year in Japan­ese cin­e­mas: “This is par­tic­u­lar­ly iron­ic, since the Wan broth­ers orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed it as a protest against the Japan­ese, seed­ing the film with images of ‘the bru­tal real­i­ty of the dai­ly vio­lence in a coun­try crip­pled by war.’ ” And just as Snow White moti­vat­ed the Wan Broth­ers to take ani­ma­tion to a high­er lev­el, so Princess Iron Fan moti­vat­ed a gen­er­a­tion of Japan­ese ani­ma­tors to do the same. Clements quotes Osamu Tezu­ka, cre­ator of Astro Boy and much else besides, on his own first view­ing of the film as a teenag­er, when he clear­ly under­stood it as  “a work of resis­tance.” But like all the most ded­i­cat­ed cre­ators, Tezu­ka could look beyond the Wan Broth­ers’ polit­i­cal chal­lenge to take on their much more impor­tant artis­tic one.

Princess Iron Fan will be added to our list of Ani­mat­ed Films, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The God­dess: A Clas­sic from the Gold­en Age of Chi­nese Cin­e­ma, Star­ring the Silent Film Icon Ruan Lingyu (1934)

An Epic Retelling of the Great Chi­nese Nov­el Romance of the Three King­doms: 110 Free Episodes and Count­ing

Illus­tra­tions for a Chi­nese Lord of the Rings in a Stun­ning “Glass Paint­ing Style”

The Ori­gins of Ani­me: Watch Free Online 64 Ani­ma­tions That Launched the Japan­ese Ani­me Tra­di­tion

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or

New, Interactive Web Site Puts Online Thousands of International Folk Songs Recorded by the Great Folklorist Alan Lomax

These days everyone’s hung up on iden­ti­ty. But I don’t mean to talk pol­i­tics, though my point is maybe inescapably polit­i­cal: the iden­ti­ties our jobs and incomes give us—the sta­tus or lack thereof—become so cen­tral to who we are in the world that they eclipse oth­er essen­tial aspects, eclipse the things we do strict­ly because it gives us plea­sure to do them.

Music, dance, art, poet­ry.… These fall under what Alan Lomax called an expe­ri­ence of “the very core” of exis­tence, “the adap­tive style” of cul­ture, “which enables its mem­bers to cohere and sur­vive.” Cul­ture, for Lomax, was nei­ther an eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty nor a racial cat­e­go­ry, nei­ther an exclu­sive rank­ing of hier­ar­chies nor a redoubt for nation­al­ist inse­cu­ri­ties. Cul­tures, plur­al, were pecu­liar­ly region­al expres­sions of shared human­i­ty across one inter­re­lat­ed world.

Lomax did have some pater­nal­is­tic atti­tudes toward what he called “weak­er peo­ples,” not­ing that “the role of the folk­lorist is that of the advo­cate of the folk.” But his advo­ca­cy was not based in the­o­ries of suprema­cy but of his­to­ry. We could mend the rup­tures of the past by adding “cul­tur­al equi­ty… to the humane con­di­tion of lib­er­ty, free­dom of speech and reli­gion, and social jus­tice,” wrote the ide­al­is­tic Lomax. “The stuff of folk­lore,” he wrote else­where, “the oral­ly trans­mit­ted wis­dom, art and music of the peo­ple, can pro­vide ten thou­sand bridges across which men of all nations may stride to say, ‘You are my broth­er.’”

Lomax’s ide­al­ism may seem to us quaint at best, but I dare you to con­demn its results, which include con­nect­ing Lead Bel­ly and Woody Guthrie to their glob­al audi­ences and pre­serv­ing a good deal of the folk music her­itage of the world through tire­less field and stu­dio record­ing, doc­u­men­ta­tion and mem­oir, and insti­tu­tions like the Asso­ci­a­tion for Cul­tur­al Equi­ty (ACE), found­ed by Lomax in 1986 to cen­tral­ize and make avail­able the vast amount of mate­r­i­al he had col­lect­ed over the decades.

In anoth­er archival project, Lomax’s Glob­al Juke­box, we get to see rig­or­ous schol­ar­ly meth­ods applied to exam­ples from his vast library of human expres­sions. The online project cat­a­logues the work in musi­col­o­gy of Lomax and his father John, who both took on a “life long mis­sion to doc­u­ment not only America’s cul­tur­al roots, but the world’s as well,” notes an online brochure for the Glob­al Juke­box. Lomax believed that “music, dance and folk­lore of all tra­di­tions have equal val­ue” and are equal­ly wor­thy of study. The Glob­al Juke­box car­ries that belief into the 21st cen­tu­ry.

Since 1990, the Glob­al Juke­box has func­tioned as a dig­i­tal repos­i­to­ry of music from Lomax’s glob­al archive, as you can see in the very dat­ed 1998 video above, fea­tur­ing ACE direc­tor Gideon D’Arcangelo. Now, updat­ed and put online, the new­ly-launched Glob­al Juke­box web site pro­vides an inter­ac­tive inter­face, giv­ing you access to detailed analy­ses of folk music from all over the world, and high­ly tech­ni­cal “descrip­tive data” for each song. You can learn the sys­tems of “Chore­o­met­rics and Cantometrics”—specialized ana­lyt­i­cal tools for scientists—or you can casu­al­ly browse the incred­i­ble diver­si­ty of music as a layper­son, through a beau­ti­ful­ly ren­dered map view or the col­or­ful­ly attrac­tive graph­ic “tree view,” below.

Stop by the Glob­al Jukebox’s “About” page to learn much more about its tech­ni­cal speci­fici­ties and his­to­ry, which dates to 1960 when Lomax began work­ing with anthro­pol­o­gist Con­rad Arens­berg at Colum­bia and Hunter Uni­ver­si­ties to study “the expres­sive arts” with sci­en­tif­ic tools and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies. The Glob­al Juke­box rep­re­sents a high­ly schemat­ic way of look­ing at Lomax’s body of work, and its ease of use and lev­el of detail make it easy to leap around the world, sam­pling the thrilling vari­ety of folk music he col­lect­ed.

It is not, and is not meant as, a sub­sti­tute for the liv­ing tra­di­tions Lomax helped safe­guard, and the incred­i­ble music they have inspired pro­fes­sion­al and ama­teur musi­cians to make over the years. But the Glob­al Juke­box gives us sev­er­al unique ways of orga­niz­ing and dis­cov­er­ing those traditions—ways that are still evolv­ing, such as a com­ing func­tion for build­ing your own cul­tur­al fam­i­ly tree with a playlist of songs from your musi­cal ances­try.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear 17,000+ Tra­di­tion­al Folk & Blues Songs Curat­ed by the Great Musi­col­o­gist Alan Lomax

The British Library’s “Sounds” Archive Presents 80,000 Free Audio Record­ings: World & Clas­si­cal Music, Inter­views, Nature Sounds & More

Leg­endary Folk­lorist Alan Lomax: ‘The Land Where the Blues Began’

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Hear the Only Instrumental Ever Banned from the Radio: Link Wray’s Seductive, Raunchy Song, “Rumble” (1958)

Link Wray’s 1958 song “Rum­ble” remains the most dan­ger­ous-sound­ing instru­men­tal blues vamp ever record­ed, unmatched in its raw, slinky cool until, per­haps, John Lee Hooker’s End­less Boo­gie or the Vel­vet Underground’s White Light/White Heat. But unlike Lou Reed, Wray didn’t need lyrics about hero­in addic­tion and sado­masochism to freak out the par­ents and turn on the kids. All he need­ed was his fuzzed-out gui­tar, soak­ing in reverb and tremo­lo, and a rhythm sec­tion with the min­i­mal­ist instincts of Bo Diddley’s band, who were mak­ing a sim­i­lar kind of sound at the same time “Rum­ble” hit the air­waves. But where Diddley’s songs invit­ed lis­ten­ers to dance, Wray’s “ragged, omi­nous chords, over­driv­en and dragged to a crawl,” wrote Rolling Stone, “sound­ed like an invi­ta­tion to a knife fight.”

The song’s title cap­i­tal­ized on fifties pan­ic over juve­nile delin­quen­cy and gang vio­lence, anx­i­eties respon­si­ble for the pop­u­lar­i­ty of enter­tain­ments like The Wild One, West Side Sto­ry, and Black­board Jun­gle. Wray’s men­ac­ing, seduc­tive song made the kids “go ape,” he said, the very first time he played it, impro­vis­ing on the spot at a 1957 dance in Fred­er­icks­burg, Vir­ginia, after the band received a request for a hit song they didn’t know how to play. Instead “Rum­ble” was born. In order to recre­ate the rau­cous, dis­tort­ed sound of that first night in the stu­dio, Wray famous­ly punched holes in the speak­er of his gui­tar amp and turned it into a fuzzbox, the first of its kind.

The grit­ty tune is said to be, writes crit­ic and cura­tor at the Library of Con­gress Cary O’Dell, “the con­nect­ing force between ear­ly blues gui­tarists and the lat­er gui­tar gods of the 1960s (Hen­drix, Clap­ton, Page.)” Wray was “the father of dis­tor­tion and fuzz, the orig­i­na­tor of the pow­er chord and the god­fa­ther of met­al. He seems to be as well the rea­son the world ‘thrash’ was invent­ed, or at least applied to music.” These are large claims indeed, but Wray’s raunchy, shim­mer­ing gui­tar sounds like noth­ing that had come before it, and a har­bin­ger of so much to come. Jim­my Page has described hear­ing “Rum­ble” as a piv­otal moment. Iggy Pop cred­its it as the rea­son he became a musi­cian.

Like all the best rock and roll, Wray’s brief mas­ter­piece had the pow­er to shock and upset the squares. The song was banned from radio sta­tions in New York and Boston for fear it might actu­al­ly incite gang violence—the first and only instru­men­tal song to be banned from the air. “Rum­ble” acquired its name from the step­daugh­ter of Archie Bley­er, who released it on his Cadence Records. It remind­ed her, she said, of West Side Sto­ry’s gang fights, por­trayed in the mem­o­rable Act I dance scene called “Rum­ble.” No oth­er piece of music lived up bet­ter to radio net­work Mutu­al Broad­cast­ing System’s 1958 descrip­tion of the “dis­tort­ed, monot­o­nous, noisy music” they want­ed to get rid of. The net­work meant these as deroga­to­ry terms, but they are high virtues in so much great rock and roll, and few songs have embod­ied them bet­ter than Wray’s biggest hit.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Two Gui­tar Effects That Rev­o­lu­tion­ized Rock: The Inven­tion of the Wah-Wah & Fuzz Ped­als

The Bizarre Time When Frank Zappa’s Entire­ly Instru­men­tal Album Received an “Explic­it Lyrics” Stick­er

A His­to­ry of Rock ‘n’ Roll in 100 Riffs

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

The Coffee Revolt of 1674: When Women Campaigned to Prohibit “That Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor Called COFFEE”

We denizens of the craft-roast­ing, wi-fi-con­nect­ed 21st cen­tu­ry know well how to drink volu­mi­nous quan­ti­ties of cof­fee and argue our opin­ions. In 17th-cen­tu­ry Lon­don, how­ev­er, such pur­suits could look shock­ing and dan­ger­ous, espe­cial­ly since they hap­pened in cof­fee hous­es, the new urban spaces where, accord­ing to Res Obscu­ra’s Ben­jamin Breen, you could “bet on bear fights, warm your legs by the fire, wit­ness pub­lic dis­sec­tions (human and ani­mal), solic­it pros­ti­tutes (male and female), buy and sell stocks, pur­chase tulips or porno­graph­ic pam­phlets, observe the activ­i­ties of spies, dis­si­dents, mer­chants, and swindlers, and then read your mail, deliv­ered direct­ly to your table.”

The patrons, while engag­ing in all that, par­took of “a new drug from the Mus­lim world—black, odif­er­ous, fright­en­ing, bewitch­ing — called ‘cof­fee.’ ” Quick­ly find­ing itself sub­ject to a great deal of sci­en­tif­ic research and every­day argu­ment as to its mer­its and demer­its, the drink set off the satir­i­cal “Cof­fee Revolt of 1674,” which began that year with a pam­phlet called “The Wom­ens Peti­tion Against Cof­fee,” pur­port­ing to offer “The Hum­ble Peti­tions and Address of Sev­er­al Thou­sands of Bux­ome Good-Women, Lan­guish­ing in Extrem­i­ty of Want.”

It seems that Eng­land, once “a Par­adise for Women” thanks to “the brisk Activ­i­ty of our men, who in for­mer Ages were just­ly esteemed the Ablest Per­form­ers in Chris­ten­dome,” had, for the non-cof­fee-drink­ing sex, become a deeply unsat­is­fy­ing place:

The dull Lub­bers want a Spur now, rather than a Bri­dle: being so far from dow­ing any works of Super­erre­ga­tion that we find them not capa­ble of per­form­ing those Devoirs which their Duty, and our Expec­ta­tions Exact. The Occa­sion of which Insuf­fer­able Dis­as­ter, after a furi­ous Enquiry, and Dis­cus­sion of the Point by the Learned of the Fac­ul­ty, we can Attribute to noth­ing more than the Exces­sive use of that New­fan­gled, Abom­inable, Hea­then­ish Liquor called COFFEE, which Rif­fling Nature of her Choic­est Trea­sures, and Dry­ing up the Rad­i­cal Mois­ture, has so Eunucht our Hus­bands, and Crip­ple our more kind Gal­lants, that they are become as Impo­tent as Age, and as unfruit­ful as those Desarts whence that unhap­py Berry is said to be brought.

Cof­fee, so insist the Bux­ome Good-Women, ren­ders the men of Eng­land “as Lean as Famine, as Rivvel’d as Envy, or an old mea­ger Hagg over-rid­den by an Incubus. They come from it with noth­ing moist but their snot­ty Noses, noth­ing stiffe but their Joints, nor stand­ing but their Ears.” These charges drew a response in the form of the “Mens Answer to the Wom­ens Peti­tion Against Cof­fee, Vin­di­cat­ing Their own Per­for­mances, and the Vertues of that Liquor, from the Unde­served Asper­sions late­ly cast upon them by their SCANDALOUS PAMPHLET.” In it, the “men” ask the “women,” among oth­er ques­tions,

Why must inno­cent COFFEE be the object of your Spleen? That harm­less and heal­ing Liquor, which Indul­gent Prov­i­dence first sent amongst us, at a time when Brim­mers of Rebel­lion, and Fanat­ick Zeal had intox­i­cat­ed the Nation, and we want­ed a Drink at once to make us Sober and Mer­ry: ‘Tis not this incom­pa­ra­ble set­tle Brain that short­ens Natures Stan­dard, or makes us less Active in the Sports of Venus, and we won­der you should take these Excep­tions, since so many of the lit­tle Hous­es, with the Turk­ish Woman stradling on their Signs, are but Emblems of what is to be done with­in for your Con­ve­nien­cies, meer Nurs­eries to pro­mote the petu­lant Trade, and breed up a stock of hope­ful Plants for the future ser­vice of the Republique, in the most thriv­ing Mys­ter­ies of Debauch­ery; There being scarce a Cof­fee-Hut but affords a Tawdry Woman, a won­ton Daugh­ter, or a Bux­ome Maide, to accom­mo­date Cus­tomers; and can you think that any which fre­quent such Dis­ci­pline, can be want­i­ng in their Pas­tures, or defec­tive in their Arms?

“The extrav­a­gant claims for cof­fee made by men’s-health hand­bills exposed the com­mod­i­ty to satire,” writes Mark­man Ellis, author of The Cof­fee-House: A Cul­tur­al His­to­ry, but “that cof­fee might have a dele­te­ri­ous effect on male viril­i­ty was a the­o­ry accord­ed con­sid­er­able sci­en­tif­ic respect.” Still, pam­phlets like the “Wom­ens Peti­tion” took as their tar­get less the bio­log­i­cal effects of cof­fee than “the new urban man­ners of mas­cu­line socia­bil­i­ty that cof­fee rep­re­sents. The satirist accus­es cof­fee-house habitués of being ‘effem­i­nate’ because they spend their time talk­ing, read­ing, and pur­su­ing their busi­ness rather than carous­ing, drink­ing, and whor­ing.” If any women of the 21st cen­tu­ry would real­ly pre­fer that men go back to those old ways — well, it would at least make for an inter­est­ing argu­ment.

You can read online “The Wom­ens Peti­tion Against Cof­fee,” and “Mens Answer to the Wom­ens Peti­tion Against Cof­fee.”

For more back­ground on the ear­ly days of cof­fee, see The Pub­lic Domain Review’s arti­cle, “The Lost World of the Lon­don Cof­fee House.”

via Res Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

“The Virtues of Cof­fee” Explained in 1690 Ad: The Cure for Lethar­gy, Scurvy, Drop­sy, Gout & More

If Cof­fee Com­mer­cials Told the Unvar­nished Truth

How Cof­fee Affects Your Brain: A Very Quick Primer

A Rol­lick­ing French Ani­ma­tion on the Per­ils of Drink­ing a Lit­tle Too Much Cof­fee

Black Cof­fee: Doc­u­men­tary Cov­ers the His­to­ry, Pol­i­tics & Eco­nom­ics of the “Most Wide­ly Tak­en Legal Drug”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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