This Week In Awesome History: January 2nd – January 8th

From holiday classics to classic grunge, it's a musical week in awesome history.

Nash Herringtonby Nash Herrington

January 1st, 1989: Nirvana Signs Record Deal

After releasing first single “Love Buzz” under the infamous label Sub Pop, Nirvana recorded their debut album “Bleach” in a Seattle recording studio for $600. With hype surrounding the band, Cobain began researching the record industry (he borrowed a book about it from the local library) and demanded that Sub Pop sign his band to a three-album deal. This deal lifted the label up from their financial woes whilst simultaneously allowing the band the creative freedom to release songs with titles such as “Rape Me”.


January 2nd, 1981: “The Yorkshire Ripper” is Finally Arrested

On this day in ’81 the five year hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper was finally brought to an end, as Sergeant Robert Ring arrested Peter Sutcliffe after spotting him in a stolen car with a prostitute. Sutcliffe requested that he take a piss behind some nearby bushes and, when Ring returned to the scene of the crime later in the day, he inspected the bushes to find a knife and hammer – the Rippers’ weapons of choice – hid in them.

The manhunt for the Ripper had seen an unprecedented police campaign that included raising billboards across the city featuring the handwriting of the killer and a number to dial to listen to his voice. As Sutcliffe changed his choice of targets from prostitutes to female college student’s paranoia began to spread throughout the city, with his final amount of victims far surpassing the number killed by even the notorious Jack The Ripper.

Amazingly, Sutcliffe had been interviewed by police nine times prior to being arrested, having convinced them each time that he was innocent. Sutcliffe was charged with the murder of 13 women and sentenced to life in prison.


January 2nd, 1969: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Naked Cover Causes Controversy

In 1968 John & Yoko released a selection of hazy, mostly incoherent tracks under the album title “Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins”. The title was intended to symbolise their new union and the photograph on the front cover featuring the couple completely nude was an extension of this. Unfortunately, the cover was deemed “pornographic” by New Jersey authorities and 30,000 copies were seized by the police.

The album was later put back on sale with a brown sleeve covering everything in the cover image other than the couples’ faces and the title. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t sell well.


January 7th, 1947: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Tops the Chart

By now you’re probably sick of Christmas (literally sick, as you have spent the past month gorging on miniature chocolates and your Nan’s lethal mince pies), but back in 1947 the Christmas spirit was still going strong enough to propel songwriter Johnny Marks’ “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to the top of the US charts.

Marks, already famous for penning classics such as “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, adapted the story of the bullied reindeer from his brother-in-law Robert L. May’s short story. May had created the tale as part of a promotional deal with retailer Montgomery Ward, who were giving away more than 2 million Rudolph storybooks to children around the festive period.

This led to confusion as to who owned the rights to the song but, as May was an employee of Montgomery Ward, it was found that he had no right to the royalties of the tracks profits. Years later May found himself swamped by debts following the terminal illness of his deceased wife, but in a heart-warming move Ward president Sewell Avery gave May 100% of the tracks copyright, which allowed May to live on the songs royalties for over 30 years.


Photo Credit: ShutterStock/upthebanner – Design by Nash Herrington