Brian Wilson rolls tape on “Good Vibrations,” take one

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/brian-wilson-rolls-tape-on-good-vibrations-take-one

From the very beginning, the Beach Boys had a sound that was unmistakably their own, but without resident genius Brian Wilson pushing them into deeper waters with his songwriting and production talents, songs like “Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” might have been their greatest legacy. While the rest of the band toured during their mid-60s heyday, Wilson lost himself in the recording studio, creating the music for an album—Pet Sounds—that is widely regarded as one of the all-time best, and a single—”Good Vibrations”—on which he lavished more time, attention and money than had ever been spent previously on a single recording. Brian Wilson rolled tape on take one of “Good Vibrations” on February 17, 1966. Six months, four studios and $50,000 later, he finally completed his three-minute-and-thirty-nine-second symphony, pieced together from more than 90 hours of tape recorded during literally hundreds of sessions.

Brian Wilson began “Good Vibrations” that February night in 1966 with the intention of including it on Pet Sounds. Harmonica player Tommy Morgan recalled how those sessions would work: “You’d sit with a music stand with a blank piece of paper, waiting for Brian to give you your notes. He knew exactly what he wanted. He had every note in his head.” The problem was that Wilson had an awful lot of those notes in his head—notes for different keyboards, different strings, different percussion instruments and, most famously, notes for the most “different” instrument ever to appear on a pop record: the otherworldly electric theremin, an early electronic instrument previously heard only in movies like It Came From Outer Space. Emulating and ultimately outdoing his idol Phil Spector, Brian was building “Good Vibrations” into a massive wall of sound, and the further he went with it, the more it became clear that his vision for the record was too great to rush. Pet Sounds was released without “Good Vibrations,” which Wilson returned to in earnest several months after his initial sessions.

When the rest of his fellow Beach Boys finally heard the track that Brian Wilson had been working on in seclusion for more than half a year, they were extremely enthusiastic, and “Good Vibrations” went on to become their third #1 hit single. It also turned out to be the last Beach Boys recording that Brian Wilson would fully participate in for years to come, as drugs, depression and mental illness derailed his career in the late-1960s.

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Dave Eggers’ Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius debuts

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/dave-eggersae-heartbreaking-work-of-staggering-genius-debuts

On this day in 2000, “A Heartbreaking World of Staggering Genius,” 29-year-old Dave Eggers’ best-selling memoir about his experiences raising his younger brother following the cancer-related deaths of their parents, makes its debut. The critically acclaimed book became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and turned Eggers into a literary star.

Eggers, who was born in Boston in 1970 and raised in Lake Forest, Illinois, studied journalism at the University of Illinois. However, at age 21 he dropped out of school in order to care for his 8-year-old brother Toph, after their parents died of cancer within five weeks of each other. The brothers moved to Berkeley, California, where Dave took care of Toph and worked as a graphic designer and writer and co-founded the satirical magazine Might. Egger’s chronicle of this time, “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” was labeled a hip, original and funny tearjerker, filled with clever anecdotes, charts and footnotes. In 2001, the book was the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction (Ted Conover’s “Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing” won the award).

Following the success of “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” Eggers wrote the 2002 novel “You Shall Know Our Velocity,” about two friends who travel around the world trying to give away a large sum of money, and the 2004 story collection “How We Are Hungry.” Eggers’ 2006 book “What Is the What” blended fact and fiction to tell the story of Sudanese “Lost Boy” refugee Valentino Achak Deng. In 2009, Eggers published the well-received “Zeitoun,” about real-life Syrian immigrant Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a New Orleans resident who remained there during Hurricane Katrina then paddled around the flooded city in a canoe rescuing people.

Eggers is also the founder of McSweeney’s, a publishing company that produces books, a literary journal and a magazine called The Believer. Additionally, he has penned screenplays, including 2009’s “Away We Go,” co-written with his novelist wife, Vendela Vida, and “Where the Wild Things Are,” a 2009 big-screen adaptation of the classic children’s story of the same name. Eggers is known for his philanthropy and has helped establish a number of nonprofits, including 826 Valencia, a San Francisco-based writing and tutoring program for young people, which has opened chapters around the United States.

Archaeologist opens tomb of King Tut

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/archaeologist-opens-tomb-of-king-tut

On this day in 1923, in Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter enters the sealed burial chamber of the ancient Egyptian ruler King Tutankhamen.

Because the ancient Egyptians saw their pharaohs as gods, they carefully preserved their bodies after death, burying them in elaborate tombs containing rich treasures to accompany the rulers into the afterlife. In the 19th century, archeologists from all over the world flocked to Egypt, where they uncovered a number of these tombs. Many had long ago been broken into by robbers and stripped of their riches.

When Carter arrived in Egypt in 1891, he became convinced there was at least one undiscovered tomb–that of the little known Tutankhamen, or King Tut, who lived around 1400 B.C. and died when he was still a teenager. Backed by a rich Brit, Lord Carnarvon, Carter searched for five years without success. In early 1922, Lord Carnarvon wanted to call off the search, but Carter convinced him to hold on one more year.

In November 1922, the wait paid off, when Carter’s team found steps hidden in the debris near the entrance of another tomb. The steps led to an ancient sealed doorway bearing the name Tutankhamen. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the tomb’s interior chambers on November 26, they were thrilled to find it virtually intact, with its treasures untouched after more than 3,000 years. The men began exploring the four rooms of the tomb, and on February 16, 1923, under the watchful eyes of a number of important officials, Carter opened the door to the last chamber.

Inside lay a sarcophagus with three coffins nested inside one another. The last coffin, made of solid gold, contained the mummified body of King Tut. Among the riches found in the tomb–golden shrines, jewelry, statues, a chariot, weapons, clothing–the perfectly preserved mummy was the most valuable, as it was the first one ever to be discovered. Despite rumors that a curse would befall anyone who disturbed the tomb, its treasures were carefully catalogued, removed and included in a famous traveling exhibition called the “Treasures of Tutankhamen.” The exhibition’s permanent home is the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Conservation work being conducted on the wall paintings of King Tut’s burial chamber in spring 2016.

View the 8 images of this gallery on the original article

See Stunning Photos of King Tut’s Tomb After a Major Restoration

Castro sworn in

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/castro-sworn-in

On February 16, 1959, Fidel Castro is sworn in as prime minister of Cuba after leading a guerrilla campaign that forced right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista into exile. Castro, who became commander in chief of Cuba’s armed forces after Batista was ousted on January 1, replaced the more moderate Miro Cardona as head of the country’s new provisional government.

Castro was born in the Oriente province in eastern Cuba, the son of a Spanish immigrant who had made a fortune building rail systems to transport sugar cane. He became involved in revolutionary politics while a student and in 1947 took part in an abortive attempt by Dominican exiles and Cubans to overthrow Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. In the next year, he took part in urban riots in Bogota, Colombia. The most outstanding feature of his politics during the period was his anti-American beliefs; he was not yet an overt Marxist.

In 1951, he ran for a seat in the Cuban House of Representatives as a member of the reformist Ortodoxo Party, but General Batista seized power in a bloodless coup d’etat before the election could be held.

Various groups formed to oppose Batista’s dictatorship, and on July 26, 1953, Castro led some 160 rebels in an attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba–Cuba’s second largest military base. Castro hoped to seize weapons and announce his revolution from the base radio station, but the barracks were heavily defended, and more than half his men were captured or killed.

Castro was himself arrested and put on trial for conspiring to overthrow the Cuban government. During his trial, he argued that he and his rebels were fighting to restore democracy to Cuba, but he was nonetheless found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Two years later, Batista felt confident enough in his power that he granted a general amnesty for all political prisoners, including Castro. Castro then went with his brother Raul to Mexico, and they organized the revolutionary 26th of July Movement, enlisting recruits and joining up with Ernesto “Che” Guevara, an idealist Marxist from Argentina.

On December 2, 1956, Castro and 81 armed men landed on the Cuban coast. All of them were killed or captured except for Castro, Raul, Che, and nine others, who retreated into the Sierra Maestra mountain range to wage a guerrilla war against the Batista government. They were joined by revolutionary volunteers from all over Cuba and won a series of victories over Batista’s demoralized army. Castro was supported by the peasantry, to whom he promised land reform, while Batista received aid from the United States, which bombed suspected revolutionary positions.

By mid-1958, a number of other Cuban groups were also opposing Batista, and the United States ended military aid to his regime. In December, the 26th of July forces under Che Guevara attacked the city of Santa Clara, and Batista’s forces crumbled. Batista fled for the Dominican Republic on January 1, 1959. Castro, who had fewer than 1,000 men left at the time, took control of the Cuban government’s 30,000-man army. The other rebel leaders lacked the popular support the young and charismatic Castro enjoyed, and on February 16 he was sworn in as prime minister.

The United States initially recognized the new Cuban dictator but withdrew its support after Castro launched a program of agrarian reform, nationalized U.S. assets on the island, and declared a Marxist government. Many of Cuba’s wealthier citizens fled to the United States, where they joined the CIA in its efforts to overthrow Castro’s regime.

In April 1961, with training and support by the CIA, the Cuban exiles launched an ill-fated and unsuccessful invasion of Cuba known as the “Bay of Pigs.” The Soviet Union reacted to the attack by escalating its support to Castro’s communist government and in 1962 placed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba. The discovery of the missiles by U.S. intelligence led to the tense “Cuban Missile Crisis,” which ended after the Soviets agreed to remove the weapons in exchange for a U.S. pledge not to invade Cuba.

Castro’s Cuba was the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere, and he would retain control of it into the 21st century, outlasting 10 U.S. presidents who opposed him with economic embargoes and political rhetoric. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Castro lost a valuable source of aid, but he made up for it by courting European and Canadian investment and tourism. In July 2006, Castro temporarily ceded power to his brother Raul after undergoing intestinal surgery. His struggles with illness continued, and he officially stepped down in February 2008. Castro died on November 25, 2016, at 90.

The most daring act of the age

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-most-daring-act-of-the-age

During the First Barbary War, U.S. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur leads a military mission that famed British Admiral Horatio Nelson calls the “most daring act of the age.”

In June 1801, President Thomas Jefferson ordered U.S. Navy vessels to the Mediterranean Sea in protest of continuing raids against U.S. ships by pirates from the Barbary states–Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripolitania. American sailors were often abducted along with the captured booty and ransomed back to the United States at an exorbitant price. After two years of minor confrontations, sustained action began in June 1803 when a small U.S. expeditionary force attacked Tripoli harbor in present-day Libya.

In October 1803, the U.S. frigate Philadelphia ran aground near Tripoli and was captured by Tripolitan gunboats. The Americans feared that the well-constructed warship would be both a formidable addition to the Tripolitan navy and an innovative model for building future Tripolitan frigates. Hoping to prevent the Barbary pirates from gaining this military advantage, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a daring expedition into Tripoli harbor to destroy the captured American vessel on February 16, 1804.

After disguising himself and his men as Maltese sailors, Decatur’s force of 74 men, which included nine U.S. Marines, sailed into Tripoli harbor on a small two-mast ship. The Americans approached the USS Philadelphia without drawing fire from the Tripoli shore guns, boarded the ship, and attacked its Tripolitan crew, capturing or killing all but two. After setting fire to the frigate, Decatur and his men escaped without the loss of a single American. The Philadelphia subsequently exploded when its gunpowder reserve was lit by the spreading fire.

Six months later, Decatur returned to Tripoli Harbor as part of a larger American offensive and emerged as a hero again during the so-called “Battle of the Gunboats,” a naval battle that saw hand-to-hand combat between the Americans and the Tripolitans.

DeGaulle offers to help end Vietnam War

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/degaulle-offers-to-help-end-vietnam-war

In response to a letter from Ho Chi Minh asking that French President Charles De Gaulle use his influence to “prevent perfidious new maneuvers” by the United States in Southeast Asia, De Gaulle states that France is willing to do all that it could to end the war. As outlined by De Gaulle, the French believed that the Geneva agreements should be enforced, that Vietnam’s independence should be “guaranteed by the nonintervention of any outside powers,” and that the Vietnamese government should pursue a “policy of strict neutrality.” President Lyndon Johnson saw De Gaulle’s proposal as part of a continuing effort by the French leader to challenge U.S. leadership in Southeast Asia as well as in Europe. Seeing the American commitment in Vietnam as part of a larger global issue of American credibility, Johnson believed that the United States could not afford to abandon its South Vietnamese ally and rejected De Gaulle’s proposal without consideration.

Mutiny breaks out among Indian soldiers in Singapore

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/mutiny-breaks-out-among-indian-soldiers-in-singapore

In Singapore on this day in 1915, Indian soldiers launch the first large-scale mutiny of World War I.

Some 800 soldiers in the Indian army’s 5th Light Infantry Brigade broke out of their barracks on the afternoon of February 15 and killed several British officers before moving on to other areas of the city. By the time the revolt was quashed, several days later, by British, French and Russian troops, the mutineers had killed 39 Europeans—both soldiers and civilians. British soldiers executed 37 of the mutiny’s ringleaders by gunfire.

The Singapore Mutiny was intended by its organizers to be part of a general uprising being engineered by Sikh militants in neighboring India against British colonial rule. The Sikhs—whose religion combined elements of Hinduism and Islam—had earned favorable treatment from the British after their refusal to take part in an earlier mutiny in India in 1857, but some still chafed against the constraints of the empire. The Indian rebellion in 1915 enjoyed encouragement from the Germans, whose ship, the Bayern, had recently been intercepted by the Italians with a cargo of 500,000 revolvers, 100,000 rifles and 200,000 cases of ammunition intended to aid the militants. The rebels in India were betrayed in March 1915 by a police spy, and the leaders were arrested before they could signal the start of the revolt. Eighteen were hanged.

Despite such insurrections, many Indians from across the country continued to volunteer to serve the British empire in World War I. The first Indian Victoria Cross for bravery had been awarded on the Western Front in January 1915. Mahatma Gandhi, champion of passive resistance and leader of the struggle for Indian home rule, played an active role in the recruitment of Indian soldiers during World War I, writing later that If we would improve our status through the help and cooperation of the British, it was our duty to win their help by standing by them in their hour of need.

The USS Maine explodes in Cuba's Havana Harbor

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-maine-explodes

A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana harbor, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard.

One of the first American battleships, the Maine weighed more than 6,000 tons and was built at a cost of more than $2 million. Ostensibly on a friendly visit, the Maine had been sent to Cuba to protect the interests of Americans there after a rebellion against Spanish rule broke out in Havana in January.

An official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry ruled in March that the ship was blown up by a mine, without directly placing the blame on Spain. Much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible and called for a declaration of war.

Subsequent diplomatic failures to resolve the Maine matter, coupled with United States indignation over Spain’s brutal suppression of the Cuban rebellion and continued losses to American investment, led to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in April 1898.

Within three months, the United States had decisively defeated Spanish forces on land and sea, and in August an armistice halted the fighting. On December 12, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the United States and Spain, officially ending the Spanish-American War and granting the United States its first overseas empire with the ceding of such former Spanish possessions as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.

In 1976, a team of American naval investigators concluded that the Maine explosion was likely caused by a fire that ignited its ammunition stocks, not by a Spanish mine or act of sabotage.

Victory at last for Earnhardt at Daytona

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/victory-at-last-for-earnhardt-at-daytona

On February 15, 1998, after 20 years of trying, racing great Dale Earnhardt Sr. finally wins his first Daytona 500, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) season opener and an event dubbed the “Super Bowl of stock car racing.” Driving his black No. 3 Chevrolet, Earnhardt recorded an average speed of 172.712 mph and took home a then-record more than $1 million in prize money. Following his victory, crews from competing teams lined the pit road at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, to congratulate Earnhardt, who drove his car onto the grass and did several celebratory doughnuts, or circles.

Earnhardt, whose tough, aggressive driving style earned him the nickname “The Intimidator,” was born on April 29, 1951, in Kannapolis, North Carolina. The son of a racecar driver, the younger Earnhardt dropped out of high school to follow in his father’s footsteps. He went on to become one of NASCAR’s most successful and respected drivers, with 76 career victories, including seven Winston Cup (now known as the Sprint Cup) Series championships, a record he shares with Richard Petty. Despite his success as a driver, victory at the Daytona 500–a 200-lap, 500-mile event first held in 1959–eluded Earnhardt for years. At the 1997 Daytona 500, Earnhardt’s car flipped upside down on the backstretch; however, he managed to escape serious injury.

His win in February 1998 represented Earnhardt’s sole Daytona victory. Tragically, on February 18, 2001, Earnhardt died at the age of 49 during a crash at that year’s 43rd Daytona 500. After being cut from his car, he was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead of head injuries. As it happened, the race which cost Earnhardt his life was won by Michael Waltrip, who was driving for the Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) racing team. Earnhardt’s son, Dale Jr., also a DEI driver at the time, took second place. Three years later, on February 15, 2004, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first Daytona 500, with an average speed of 156.341 mph.

Canada adopts maple leaf flag

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/canada-adopts-maple-leaf-flag

In accordance with a formal proclamation by Queen Elizabeth II of England, a new Canadian national flag is raised above Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

Beginning in 1610, Lower Canada, a new British colony, flew Great Britain’s Union Jack, or Royal Union Flag. In 1763, as a result of the French and Indian Wars, France lost its sizable colonial possessions in Canada, and the Union Jack flew all across the wide territory of Canada. In 1867, the Dominion of Canada was established as a self-governing federation within the British Empire, and three years later a new flag, the Canadian Red Ensign, was adopted. The Red Ensign was a solid red flag with the Union Jack occupying the upper-left corner and a crest situated in the right portion of the flag.

The search for a new national flag that would better represent an independent Canada began in earnest in 1925 when a committee of the Privy Council began to investigate possible designs. Later, in 1946, a select parliamentary committee was appointed with a similar mandate and examined more than 2,600 submissions. Agreement on a new design was not reached, and it was not until the 1960s, with the centennial of Canadian self-rule approaching, that the Canadian Parliament intensified its efforts to choose a new flag.

In December 1964, Parliament voted to adopt a new design. Canada’s national flag was to be red and white, the official colors of Canada as decided by King George V of Britain in 1921, with a stylized 11-point red maple leaf in its center. Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed February 15, 1965, as the day on which the new flag would be raised over Parliament Hill and adopted by all Canadians.

Today, Canada’s red maple leaf flag is one of the most recognizable national flags in the world.