A Short History of Angry HiStory
1400 BCE Joshua leads Israelites to Jericho. "And when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, every man straight before him" (Joshua 6:5.21). 318 BCE Aristoxenus of Taras on the degeneracy of music in Hellenistic Greece: "We also, since the theaters have become completely barbarized and since music has become utterly ruined and vulgar—we, being but a few, will recall to our minds, sitting by ourselves, what music used to be." 1101 William IX, Duke of Aquitane, becomes the first troubadour in recorded history and uses his musical and lyrical gifts to get laid in every village and town he visits. He is excommunicated, confronts the Bishop of Poitiers and demands, "Absolve me or die." The cleric tells William to make his day, but William replies he doesn't like him enough to send him to kingdom come. 1228"Palstina-Lied," Walther von der Vogelweide's German war song, urges his countrymen to turn their pitchforks to more sacred purposes:the killing of Muslims in the Crusades. 1590 Don Carlo Gesualdo—lutenist, composer and prince of Venice—comes home to find his wife, Maria d'Avalos, screwing her lover. He orders his men to make shish-kabob of them, takes a second wife and publishes a set of madrigals that really shocks the public with bizarre, dissonant harmonies. 1687 French conductor Jean-Baptiste Lulli works himself into a passion and, while rehearsing, beats more savagely on the stage with a walking stick he uses to conduct, misses the stage, smashes his own toe—leading to infection, gangrene and, on March 22, death. 1690 Henry Purcell: "Once, twice, thrice, I Julia tried/The scornful puss as oft denied:/And since I can no better thrive/I'll cringe to ne'er a bitch alive/So kiss my arse, disdainful sow/Good claret is my mistress now." 1741 In something that's as close to a call to revolution as the "Marseillaise," Handel's Messiah urges God and his lambs to rise up against the kings of the Earth: "Let us break their bonds asunder and cast away their yokes from us. . . . Though shalt break them with a rod of iron. Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." At this point, the choir sings the Hallelujah Chorus.
1795 The art of musical accompaniment for chase scenes takes a giant stride forward when Ludwig van Beethoven writes his piano piece "Rage Over a Lost Penny." 1804 On hearing that Napoleon has crowned himself emperor of France, Ludwig van Beethoven rips the dedication to Bonaparte off his Third Symphony. Not wanting to let a good symphony go to waste by chucking it in the fire and losing out on the only kind of royalties that really matter, he renames it "Eroica" and rededicates it "to the memory of a great man." 1842 Italian revolutionaries fighting Austrian domination in the north adopt "Va Pensiero," the chorus of Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco,an opera about a Jewish slave revolt. 1862 Richard Wagner—pissed-off at the scorching reviews of the stale, conservative Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick—patterns the tone-deaf villain of the opera Die Meistersinger after the scribe.
1874 Camille Saint-Sans terrifies the living with Danse Macabre.The dead can dance! Corpses jump up out of the graves and dance around. 1886 At a performance of Verdi's Aida in Rio de Janeiro, an angry audience tries to stop the show and boos the conductor off the stage. His 19-year-old assistant, Arturo Toscanini, takes over, but the crowd tries to run him off as well. Toscanini, in a foul mood over the interruptus of his rendezvous with a chorus girl, slams his fat score on the ground and conducts the three-hour opera from memory—thus launching the twin legends of his phenomenal recall and his phenomenally short fuse. 1911 Militant activist and composer Ethel Smyth writes "March of the Women" and agitates for women's right to vote in England, where a woman can reign as queen for 63 years but nobody gets to choose the sovereign. In 1912, she and 100 other suffragists are sentenced to two months in stir for smashing windows around London. One day, during exercise break, Smyth appears at a window overlooking the prison yard and leads them in their battle anthem, beating time with a toothbrush. In 1922, after women get the vote, she's made a Dame of the British Empire. 1913Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printempdebuts to hissing, spitting, slapping and general mayhem. Makes a NIN concert look like a tea party. Ravel was impressed, Debussy begged people to be quiet, and Camille Saint-Sans stomped out of the performance. 1928 German composer Kurt Weill goes on an environmental crusade and writes incidental music for two anti-petroleum (and anti-Royal Dutch Shell) plays: Boom (based on Upton Sinclair's Oil) and Lion Feuchtwanger's The Petroleum Islands. 1956 Johnny Cash records "Folsom Prison Blues"—"I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die." Now that's angry! 1973 Jazz-poet Gil-Scott Heron mops up after Vietnam—the first war broadcast into living rooms—and foreshadows the spoken-word revolt that would become rap with his groundbreakingly disdainful advisory, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." 1974 The Ramones form in New York City. They'll eventually record one of the catchiest, angriest tunes ever, "Beat On the Brat." 1978 The Plasmatics make their debut on the New York punk-club circuit. As part of their act, singer Wendy O. Williams, smashes up TVs with a sledgehammer, blows up Cadillac Coupe de Villes, slices guitars in half with a chain saw, and—oh, yeah!—sings. 1988Public Enemy's second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, becomes hip-hop's first masterpiece. The self-anointed "prophets of rage" take the "pop" out of popular rap, replacing the novelty jingles that dominated the charts with socio-political rants over soundscapes of layered chaos. 1996/1997 Hip-hop's two biggest stars, Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., are blown away by assassins' bullets six months apart, the ultimate sacrifice to the East Coast-West Coast rivalry, a.k.a. the ultimate record-promotion gimmick. (compiled by David Bndler, Rich Kane, Angela Meiss and Dave Wielenga)
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.