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When David Bowie Released His First Album and Jeff Buckley Passed Away

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May 31, 1977: The BBC announces a ban on the new Sex Pistols single, "God Save the Queen"

The six-month-long festivities surrounding Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee – the 25th anniversary of her coronation – proved to be the Sex Pistols' ideal time to release their vitriolic anti-monarchy song "God Save the Queen." An attack on the British government and the hopeless standard of living of its citizens, the song was the punk band’s second single off their lone album, 1977’s vastly influential Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. During the Jubilee, it reached Number Two on the U.K. singles charts, though rumors abounded that the numbers had been fixed to prevent the song from hitting Number One.

The Sex Pistols gained international notoriety when the BBC announced a ban on the "God Save the Queen," insisting it was "in gross bad taste." Radio stations were ordered not to play the song, though BBC Radio 1’s John Peel still spun the track.

The refrain in the song, "No future," became the de facto motto of the late Seventies punk explosion – and ironically paved the way for the enduring legend of the Sex Pistols.

May 29, 1997: Jeff Buckley disappears after taking a swim in the Mississippi River; his body is discovered six days later.

Singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley was a gentle soul unlike anyone else in Nineties folk-rock. A vocalist of expansive, arid range and guitarist with dexterous flair, he cut his teeth in New York’s East Village nightclub circuit before joining the hip experimental rock troupe Gods & Monsters. He found his truest fame upon the release of his debut album, 1994’s Grace, a mix of sensitive original works and a few covers – including his heartbreaking reimagining of Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah," which featured a brilliant falsetto vocal turn and stark, baleful guitar.

Thirty-year-old Buckley was living in Memphis, deep into production of his follow-up album (tentatively titled My Sweetheart, the Drunk) when he decided to go swimming at night in the Wolf River Harbor, a side channel of the Mississippi River. It was a favorite activity of his, and according to onlookers, he happily sang the chorus of "Whole Lotta Love" as he splashed around in the river. Then he disappeared under the water and, despite a large-scale rescue effort that night, did not reappear. On June 4th, his body was discovered downstream. The cause of death was ruled an accidental drowning, to the devastated response of the music community and his many fans.

LAST WEEK: When Jerry Lee Lewis Married His Cousin and the Spice Girls Hit Number One

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »
 
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