Friday, November 01, 2019

Music Friday: Psychic Delivers 'Topaz' Hook for B-52s' Unfinished Song

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring your awesome tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we honor one of November's two official birthstones by sharing the little-known backstory of the B-52s' 1989 release, "Topaz."

Appearing as the ninth track on its blockbuster album, Cosmic Thing, "Topaz" is a breezy song about a fanciful city by the sea, where blue dolphins are singing, skyscrapers are winking and minds swim in ecstasy.

What most people don't know is that the group had been struggling with the song. They couldn't come up with a title or a hook.

B-52s vocalist and keyboardist Kate Pierson told the Onion AV Club that the song came together after she consulted with a Maine-based psychic.

“You have two more songs that you should write before you record… and one of them is ‘Topaz,’” Pierson remembered the psychic saying. “I just see the word ‘topaz.’”

In that one word, the band had their title and their chorus.

“We were, like, ‘Oh, my God: Topaz is the perfect name for this new city by the sea!’” Pierson said.

Drummer Keith Strickland was sure the group was on the right track when — in a moment of serendipity — he drove by a billboard promoting a Mercury automobile that read: “Topaz: The Right Choice.”

“In retrospect, it seemed so auspicious that that should happen,” Pierson told the Onion AV Club. “So we started jamming with those lyrics, and it just came together beautifully. The lyrics just make me tingle. It’s very meaningful. No matter how many times we sing it, it just feels very heartfelt. And it’s one of those songs that everyone knows, so when we play it, everybody gets up and starts shaking it a little bit.”

Although "Topaz" was never released as a single, it was an important track on an album that charted in eight countries and reached #9 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.

The B-52s were formed in Athens, Ga., in 1976, and scored their first big hit, “Rock Lobster,” in 1978. The band’s name relates to the beehive hairdo Pierson and Cindy Wilson sported during the band’s early years. The shape of their beehives resembled the nosecone of a B-52 bomber.

Rooted in New Wave, the group continues to perform with original band members Pierson, Fred Schneider, Wilson and Keith Strickland. Among the group's most popular songs are "Planet Claire," "Private Idaho," "Whammy Kiss," "Party Out of Bounds," "Wig," "Love Shack" and "Roam."

Please check out the audio track of the B-52s performing "Topaz." The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Topaz”
Written and performed by The B-52s.

New cities by the sea
Skyscrapers are winking
Some hills are never seen
The universe expanding
We’re gazing out to sea
Blue dolphins are singing
Minds swim in ecstasy
Clear planet, ever free

Topaz
Our hearts are traveling faster,
Faster than the speed of love
Straight through a tear in the clouds
Up to the heavens above

Bright ships will sail the seas
Starfishes are spinning
Some hills are never seen
Our universe is expanding
Moonrise upon the sea
Starships are blinking
We’ll walk in ecstasy
Clear planet blue and green

Topaz
Our thoughts are traveling faster
Moving beyond the heavens above

Planets pulsating, constellations creating
Voices are guiding me to the cities by the sea
Yes, I see cities by the sea

Deep forests by the sea
Skyscrapers are winking
Some hills are never seen
The universe is expanding
Topaz

Credit: Collage by KevinPatrickLaw [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Newest Tournament of Roses Queen Wears Crown Adorned With 600 Akoya Pearls

When the newly crowned Rose Queen, Camille Kennedy, leads the 131st edition of the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif., she will be wearing a special headpiece adorned with 600 Japanese Akoya cultured pearls, 10 Australian South Sea cultured pearls and six carats of diamonds.

Designed by Mikimoto, the crown took about a year to fabricate and is valued at $400,000.

The much-anticipated parade features floral floats, marching bands and high-stepping equestrian units along the 5 1/2 mile route. As always, the spectacle will be followed by the Rose Bowl college football game, now in its 106th year.

Kennedy, who is a senior at La Salle College Preparatory and lives in Pasadena, was crowned during a coronation ceremony held last week at the Pasadena Playhouse in Southern California.

Her selection followed a month-long process during which 45 top candidates from Pasadena-area schools competed for the coveted title. The participants were judged on their public speaking ability, academic achievement, youth leadership, community service and school involvement.

Kennedy will be donning the impressive three-pound crown, while her six princesses will be wearing simpler Mikimoto-designed cultured pearl tiaras valued at $90,000 each. Mikimoto KĊkichi is credited with creating the first cultured pearl in the late 1800s and subsequently starting the cultured pearl industry.

Historically, the Rose Queen’s head adornments have not been as lavish as they are today, according to the Associated Press. In the early 1900s, for example, the Rose Queens had no crowns. They simply wore hats or garlands.

The 2020 Rose Queen and her Royal Court will attend numerous community and media functions, serving as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena community and the greater Los Angeles area.

In the photo, above, Kennedy is wearing a white gown and is flanked by the members of her Royal Court: Rukan Saif, Mia Thorsen, Emilie Risha, Reese Rosental Saporito, Michael Wilkins and Cole Fox.

Credits: Queen and her court image via tournamentofroses.com; Crown photo courtesy of Mikimoto.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Smithsonian Adds 55-Carat 'Kimberley Diamond' to the National Gem Collection

The 55.08-carat, champagne-colored "Kimberley Diamond" is the newest member of the National Gem Collection. The emerald-cut gem was donated to the Smithsonian by philanthropist Bruce Stuart and went on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., this past Friday.

The Kimberley Diamond has been a rock star throughout its history. The Smithsonian noted that the Kimberley was one of the most recognizable gems in the world from the 1940s through the 1960s, as it appeared in books, magazines, newspapers and popular TV shows, such as It Takes a Thief and Ironside.

It was also exhibited throughout the U.S., including a highly promoted 2013 engagement at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

The gem was cut from a 490-carat crystal discovered at the Kimberley Mine in South Africa in 1921. Its original weight was 70 carats, but it was recut to its current proportions in 1958 to improve its clarity and brilliance. It had been owned by a private collector since 1971 and then acquired by Stuart in 2002.

The Kimberley Diamond, which dangles from an extraordinary diamond-encrusted necklace, can be seen at the National Museum of Natural History, just a few steps from the Hope Diamond in the Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals.

“We offer our sincere appreciation to Bruce Stuart for his generosity in making this historic gift to the nation," said Dr. Jeff Post, curator of the National Gem Collection. "It will enrich the National Collection for generations to come."

Credits: Images courtesy of the Smithsonian.