Leaving bloodshed and violence behind us, we now come to 1912 and the ballet, because on this day the Ballets Russes premiered their latest work, The Afternoon of a Faun, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky who, being no shrinking violet, hogged the lead role for himself. The dress rehearsal of the 28 May ended with stony silence and, when it opened on 29 May, it was booed, though Renoir thought it was rather a hoot and stood up to cheer. Mostly though, it bombed.
Motorhead’s No Voices In The Sky then). By the end of the year it was top of the Hit Parade (that’s what it was called in those days) and would reappear there perennially for the next twenty years until Billboard magazine took the desperate measure of creating a chart especially for Christmas songs. And still failed miserably to kill it off. In fact, what happened instead was that every man and his ostrich then thought it was well worth having a go at, so that we’ve now ended up with a situation whereby, for the last four months of any year, you can’t set foot inside a store without being mercilessly assaulted by an entire back catalogue of whiskery Festive jingles. White Christmas is the biggest selling single of all time, with over fifty million copies having gone across the counter, and Bing would be forever associated with the song, though he always played down his own role in its success, saying, “a jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully.” Clearly, he had heard Rick Astley’s version of it …
This day in 1953 saw one of Britain’s greatest triumphs when a New Zealander and a Nepalese became the first men to set foot on the top of Everest – be fair, it was a British expedition, their (our) ninth attempt at it, the news of the achievement reaching these shores on Coronation Day itself. Nepal only allowed one go annually and, just the year before, the Swiss had come mighty close to scuppering the party, getting within eight hundred feet of the top before having to turn back, which left the field open to the British party, numbering some four hundred people, most of whom were there to carry stuff, seeing there was over ten thousand pounds of kit. Eventually, it was Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (Sherpa being a people, not an occupation) who were victorious, reaching the summit at 11.30 am that day. Incidentally, Norgay’s name was originally Namgyal Wangdi but his head lama advised changing it, as Tenzing Norgay translates as “wealthy-fortunate-follower-of-religion,” which is only partly right, seeing his dad was a yak herder and, while Hillary and Hunt (the leader) got knighthoods, Tenzing had to make do with a medal, supposedly on the say-so of the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, unfamous enough then to resent any competition from jumped-up yak herders.
Sassanian relief showing Shapur II above a defeated Julian: By Philippe Chavin (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Fredrick I submits to Alexander III: Spinello Aretino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Company of Death at Legnano 1176: By Amos Cassioli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Antipope John XXIII: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Pope John XXIII: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Fall of Constantinople: Fausto Zonaro [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Faun Poster: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Stravinsky by Picasso: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Bing Crosby: By Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945 (File:Bing Crosby.jpg (cropped)) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Tenzing Norgay: By SAS Scandinavian Airlines (http://images.flysas.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Edmund Hillary: By Photographer unidentified. Retouched by TimofKingsland. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons