Friday, May 11, 2007

Strange Cover Songs

By now I would say that if someone has not heard of Alanis Morissette's cover of The Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" that they have either been living under a rock for the past month and a half or they simply don't have internet access. For those of you have neither seen the video (now one of the all time most popular videos on YouTube) nor heard the song, Morissette has given "My Humps" the full Morissette treatment. Her version of the song is downbeat and moody, complete with Morissette's usual, angst filled, soulful vocals. The video, in which Morissette dresses up like Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas and beats up men trying to touch, well, her humps, is a work of low budget genius. No one quite knows why Morissette covered "My Humps." Some think that it was meant as an ironic attack on modern popular music and the inanity of some of the lyrics (and, quite frankly, "My Humps" is about as inane as one can get). Others believe that it was a parody of her own tendency to perform covers of songs. Yet others believe that it was simply an April Fool's joke--given that it was released on April 1, this is a possibility. Regardless, Morissette's version does point out the inherent weaknesses of a song that repeats the words "my humps" 55 times and which is essentially a song about a woman's breasts...

Regardless, Alanis Morissette's version of "My Humps" is not the first strange remake of a song. And it probably won't be the last. In fact, rock music has a long history of artists taking songs and turning them into something else entirely. The first off kilter cover version of a song of which I became aware was "The Locomotion" by Grand Funk. Originally a dance hit released by Little Eva, Grand Funk turned it into, well, a hard rock dance hit.

A far stranger cover was "Love Hurts" by Nazareth, from their album Hair of the Dog. The song was originally recorded by the Everly Brothers and later by Roy Orbison (it was the B-side of "Running Scared"). The original Everly Brothers version is gentle and soft, a bit slower paced than some of their better known songs (such as "Wake Up, Little Suzy"). Roy Orbison performed "Love Hurts" as more of a novelty, an unusual choice for a man known for his ballads. But Nazareth turned "Love Hurts" into one of the earliest power ballads, packing it with a sense of tragedy not present in any of the earlier versions. Ironically, it would be Nazareth's version that would become the best known.

Aerosmith worked a similar transformation, in some ways more drastic, on "Remember (Walking in the Sand)." The original was the debut hit of the girl group The Shangri-Las, released in 1964. The song relates how a girl is parted from her beloved, only to receive a letter from him two years later telling her he has found someone new. The song, already tragic, was performed as a heavy metal ballad by Aerosmith on their album Night in the Ruts and was somehow made even more tragic. Quite simply, they changed the line from The Shangri-Las version, "Oh, what will happen to/The life I gave to you..." to "Oh, whatever happened to/that night I gave it to you..." I always interpreted this to mean that he gave her a ring, as in an engagement ring. In other words, he not only lost the woman he loved, but his betrothed as well.

I must admit that it seems to me that songs by female vocalists have always been ripe for strange cover versions. In 1980 Dave Stewart (not to be confused with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame) and Barbara Gaskin recorded a synth pop version of "It's My Party." The original song was released in 1963 and performed by Lesley Gore. For their version, Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin slowed down the tempo and relied heavily on keyboards. The result would be a song that is somehow even more depressing than the original. Of course, that other Dave Stewart (the one of Eurythmics fame) would also be involved in a cover originally performed by a female artist. The Tourists, the group Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox were with before Eurythmics, remade "I Only Want to Be With You." The Tourists' version isn't really too far off from the Dusty Springfiend original (released in 1963 as her debut, solo single, and a pre-Beatles British song that broke the American top forty). That having been said, they did make the song harder and added synthesisers (for which Eurythmics would later become famous).

At least Barbara Gaskin and Annie Lennox are female. As in the case of Aerosmith's remake of "Remember (Walking in the Sand)," when a song originally performed by a woman is remade by men, it is going to be drastically different. A case in point is The Crystals hit, "Then He Kissed Me," remade by KISS as "Then She Kissed Me" for their album Love Gun. They took a song that was typical of girl groups of the early to mid Sixties and turned it into a heavy metal song. For their 1989 album The Adventures of Women & Men Without Hate in the 21st Century, Canadian band Men Without Hats covered the ABBA song "S.O.S.," turning it into a post apocalyptic love song. Of course, even that wasn't as drastic as the changes that have been wrought on "Hit Me Baby One More Time," the debut hit of Britney Spears. The song was remade in 2000 by Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa, the sons of the late Frank Zappa, for the movie Ready to Rumble. The Zappa brothers took what was essentially a teenybopper dance song and turned it into a guitar driven, Electronic ballad. Powerpop band Fountains of Wayne would also remake "Hit Me Baby One More Time," releasing it on their album Out of State Plates. Like the Zappas, Fountains of Wayne makes the song guitar driven, essentially a powerpop ballad with sense of tragedy that the original lacked. Denton, Texas band Bowling for Soup also remade "Hit Me Baby One More Time," turning into a guitar driven hard rock tune (almost heavy metal). At any rate, all of these versions are superior to the original. Indeed, before these two cover versions, I didn't even know that the song had stanzas!

Britney wasn't alone in having her hits changed into something else entirely. Madonna has seen her songs remade as well. "Like a Prayer" has been covered no less than three times. Tori Amos performed it live, transforming it into a ballad (it was released on her Live Bootlegs). Amos' version was nothing compared to a punk version released by H20, which sped up the tempo and added lots of guitar. Of course, even H20's version pales beside that of the German electro-industrial band Bigod 20. They somehow made the old Madonna song sound menacing and absolutely creepy. Their version has become something of a cult hit.

Of course, as strange as songs originally made by female artists being twisted into something else by male artists may be, stranger things can happen when there is a complete change of genre. To wit, odd things happen when disco becomes heavy metal or hard rock. "I Will Survive" was originally a disco hit for Gloria Gaynor in 1979. Even then, it was unusual for a disco song in dealing with the more serious subject of surviving a bad relationship. In 1996 on their album Fashion Nugget, Cake turned the song into something else entirely. They took a relatively upbeat disco song, and turned it into a slower, hard rock song complete with the "F" word. That change was mild compared to what White Zombie did to "I'm Your Boogieman" on The Crow City of Angels soundtrack (later released on their EP Supersexy Swingin' Sounds). The original version was released by KC and the Sunshine Band. And like every other KC and the Sunshine Band, I hated it. Somehow White Zombie took this song and turned it into a very good heavy metal song. It actually received a Grammy nomination for Best Heavy Metal Performance.

Heavy metal bands just don't change disco songs when they remake them. Early in their career Judas Priest took two songs and heavy metalised them. One was "Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)." The original had been written by Peter Green and released by Fleetwood Mac back in 1970. It was released in the UK as a single, reaching #10 on the charts. Surprisingly, the Judas Priest cover version wasn't really that far from the original. Oh, it was harder, but the original had been fairly hard to begin with. Regardless, many believe that Judas Priest originally made the song, being unaware of the Fleetwood Mac original. On the other hand, Judas Priest wrought some big changes on Joan Baez's "Diamonds and Rust." The original was a folk-styled song (as might be expected), inspired by Bob Dylan. Judas Priest took the song and turned it into sheer heavy metal, speeding up and making it entirely guitar driven. It was on their 1977 album Sin After Sin.

There have been other unusual remakes over the years. Goth band Type O Negative made Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" even harder and turned the Seals and Crofts folk rock song "Summer Breeze" into a something that sounds, well, menacing. Industrial band Godhead made an industrial version of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby." Soundgaden remade, of all things, Devo's "Girl U Want." Hair metal band Kik Tracee (which has been totally forgotten these days) made a hair band version of Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson." The Dickies sped up "She" by The Monkees and punked it out (quite frankly, I prefer the original). The Who turned "Summertime Blues" into proto-metal.

If there is one group, however, that is most famous for their bizarre cover versions than their original, it is probably Slovenian industrial band Laibach. They took "Life is Life," a happy, upbeat, reggae type song by Austrian arena band Opus, and turned it into a Wagnerian anthem. They took Queen's "One Vision," a song that is already bigger than life, and made it even bigger than life as "Geburt einer Nation." They turned Eighties, Swedish, hair metal band Europe's song "The Final Countdown" into a Wagnerian opus with a disco beat. They remade all of The Beatles' album Let It Be, save for the title track and "Maggie Mae," complete with marching rhythms and choirs. I am convinced that Laibach is not content to let any song remain the same. I'd hate to see what they would do with "It's My Party..."

I doubt that cover versions that depart dramatically from the original songs will ever go away soon. In fact, given that so many times (as in the case of White Zombie's "I'm Your Boogieman" and the three rock remakes of "Hit Me Baby One More Time") the remakes are far superior to the originals, I don't think I would want them to. I rather suspect that in the next several years, we will see more strange cover songs, and some of them will be even stranger than Alanis Morissette's version of "My Humps."

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Underdog the Movie? No, Not Really....

Growing up, my favourite cartoon was Underdog. I watched it loyally when it was on Saturday morning and later when it was in syndication. And I was apparently not alone in my love of the cartoon. The show ran nine years on the networks (NBC and CBS) and then went on to a highly successful syndication run. Arguably, it was one of the most successful Saturday morning cartoons of all time, and remains a fond memory of many a late Baby Boomer and early Gen Xer.

For those of you who are too young to remember Underdog or simply have never heard of it, the show was essentially a funny animal parody of Superman. In reality Underdog was humble, lovable Shoeshine Boy (his name was the same as his occupation). When trouble arose, he would rush to the nearest phone booth and change into Underdog. Like Superman, Underdog could fly, had enormous strength, and was invulnerable to most weapons. Unlike Superman, his powers depended entirely on a "super energy vitamin pills," which he stored in a ring on his finger. And also quite unlike Superman, Underdog was extremely clumsy. It was not unusual for him to fly into buildings, flagpoles, and so on. The closest thing Underdog had to a girlfriend was Sweet Polly Purebread, an anthropomorphic dog like himself who was also a TV reporter. She was always falling into the clutches of some villain, from whom Underdog would have to save her. Underdog's archnemesis was Simon Barsinister, a balding mad scientist based on Lionel Barrymore. His second deadliest enemy was Riff Raff, an anthropomorphic wolf who was also a gangster. Created by Joe Harris (the same man who gave us the Trix Rabbit), Underdog was written in such way that adults could appreciate it as well as children.

It should be obvious that I love Underdog. It is for that reason that I am very unhappy that there is a live action movie based (and I used that term very loosely here) on the classic cartoon. The live action movie is being produced by Spyglass Entertainment and Classic Media and being distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. It is set for an August 3, 2007 release date. Sadly, it bears about as much resemblance to the cartoon as the Scooby-Doo cartoons resemble Underdog. To wit, the movie's plot centres on a dog named Shoeshine who gains superpowers through an experiment gone wrong conducted by Simon Barsinister. Shoeshine is in love with a cocker spaniel named Polly Purebread and befriended (initial reports I saw said "adopted") by a boy. Both Underdog and Polly are being played by real dogs with CGI enhancements.

To say I am not pleased would be an understatement. First, it is clear that the movie will bear very little resemblance to the cartoon. The real Underdog was an anthropomorphic dog who existed in a world where anthropomorphic animals were on an equal standing to human beings. He gained his powers through a super energy vitamin pill, not a lab accident. Polly was not only an anthropomorphic dog, but a TV news reporter. The movie then bears very little resemblance to the TV show, so little that I have to question that it can truly be said to be "based" on it at all. Indeed, the dog playing Shoeshine (and hence Underdog) doesn't even look like the Underdog of the cartoon in the least. And though he is stated to be a beagle, he doesn't look like a beagle to me (he's too big, for one thing). For that matter, "Underdog" doesn't sound like, well, Underdog (in the cartoon Wally Cox would drop his voice a full octave for the hero...). About the only thing Underdog the Movie has in common with the original TV show is a villain called Simon Barsinister (played by Peter Dinklage, who I think probably looks like Simon, provided he is bald in the part).

I rather suspect that Underdog the Movie will be one of the big flops of the summer season. I would actually be surprised if it breaks the top five on its first weekend. Indeed, I wonder for whom they are even making the movie. The film bears so little resemblance to the TV show that adults who remember it fondly will probably not go see it. Indeed, a lot of us are actually incensed at the whole idea behind this movie. As to children, I don't think Underdog carries enough name recognition with kids today for them to be the least bit eager to see the movie. It would seem to me that the movie then effectively has no target audience. It makes me wonder, why they decided to use a concept so far from the original? Why didn't they simply call it "Fido the Wonder Dog?" It sure isn't Underdog.

At any rate, I think a better choice would have been a big budget animated feature based on the TV series, maybe even a computer generated cartoon (as in Pixar). If they had done that they could have developed a concept that is much more loyal to the show and would not alienate every single Underdog fan in the process. Regardless, I am hoping that one good thing might come out of all this. Perhaps they will finally release Underdog uncut, season by season, on DVD, as as they have with Rocky and Bullwinkle. Now that could be worth even a movie that is going to be as bad as this one....

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The 70th Anniversary of the Hindenburg Disaster

It was 70 years go that the zeppelin Hindenburg burst into flames upon its arrival at the U.S. Navy mooring mast at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Ultimately the fire would result in the deaths of 35 people on board and one of the ground crew. There were 62 crew members and passengers who survived. The disaster would effectively bring an end to the era of airships.

Before the Hindenburg ever took flight, airships had gone through a long period of development, from the point at which Jean-Pierre Blanchard fitted a hand cranked propeller to a balloon in 1784 to Henri Giffard who piloted a steam powered airship in 1852. It would be Croatian engineer David Schwarz who would develop the first rigid airship (airships in which the envelope's shape is retained through an internal framework). After Schwarz's death his widow sold information about Schwarz's airship to Graf Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Zeppelin made his first flight in 1900 over the Bodenese. Although the flight only lasted 18 minutes, it laid the groundwork for future success. Indeed, Zeppelin's flights were so successful that in 1914 the first airline, DELAG, was founded. Initially, they would use seven rigid airships or zeppelins (as they came to be called, after Graf Zeppelin himself). In World War I both the German Army and Navy would use zeppelins as bombers and scouts. In 1917 Graf Zeppelin died and the Zeppelin Company would then be headed by engineer Dr. Hugo Eckener. Eckener was a visionary who pictured a world in which zeppelins would be used for peace rather than war, in which they would provide transportation around the world. To this end, starting in 1919 the Zeppelin Company began establishing regular routes for flights.

Eventually, the Zeppelin Company would design zeppelins for the U.S. Navy (including the most successful, the U.S.S. Los Angeles). It was in 1935 that the Zeppelin Company decided to build their largest zeppelin ever and the largest single aircraft ever built. The new ship, designated LZ 129, would be christened the Hindenburg, after Paul Von Hindenburg who had been president of the German republic from 1925 to 1934. Needless to say, this decision did not sit well with the Nazi regime (whom Eckener did not care for anyhow). The Hindenburg flew from Germany to the United States and even Brazil. It flew successfully in its first year of service. Unfortunately, the ship (arguably the most beautiful airship ever built) was doomed from the beginning. The Zeppelin Company had wanted to fill it with helium, but the United States military embargo against the Nazis prevented them from buying the precious gas from the U. S. It was then filled with the much more combustible hydrogen. As a result, when it erupted into flames on May 6, 1937, it pretty much went all at once. The disaster was widely covered in the news and would effectively end the era of airships. For decades afterwards, only Goodyear and, during World War II, the U. S. Navy, would make any use of airships at all.

Sadly, the Hindenburg disaster was not the worst zeppelin disaster of all time. That would be the the crash of an American zeppelin, the U.S.S. Akron, on April 3, 1933, which left 73 passengers and crew dead (only three survived). I should mention that the American zeppelins Macon and Shenandoah also met with bad ends (in 1935 the Macon hit a storm which sank it, killing 76 of the crew; in 1925 the Shenandoah was torn apart by a thuderstorm--miraculously 29 of its crew survived). And no zeppelin disaster matched the worst aeroplane disaster. That would be the Tenerife Disaster, which happened on March 27, 1977 when a KLM Boeing 747 tried to take off and crashed with a taxing Pan Am 747 at Los Rodeos airport. The disaster took the lives of 583 people. Indeed, when it came to air safety, zeppelins had a remarkable track record. Until the Hindenburg disaster, the Zeppelin Company's safety record under Dr. Eckener's leadership was perfect. Not one passenger was lost. In America the U.S.S. Los Angeles operated from 1924 to 1932. It lost none of its crew in that whole time. In fact, in 1927 high winds even caused the airship while on the mooring mast at Lakehurst to be lifted almost vertically before the crew could level her out. Amazingly, none of the crew was lost and what is more, it suffered minimal damage! Sadly, it was decommissioned after the Akron disaster and dismantled in 1939. It had the longest career of any airship in history. Despite many of the disasters, over all zeppelins had a better track record than heavier than air craft have. Sadly, between the Akron, Macon, Shenandoah, and Hindenburg disasters, it would seem zeppelins have gotten a bad rap.

Of course, in the past few years zeppelins have made a bit of a comeback. Cargolifter AG pictured an airship, larger than the Hindenburg, which could lift heavy loads. Sadly, the company went bankrupt in 2002. Airship Industries built airships in the Eighties with some success. While the company folded in 1990, they were taken over by Westinghouse, who later sold their airship and surveillance systems arms to Aviation Support Group Ltd., forming Global Skyship Industries. It is still in operation. Zeppelin Company started building airships once more in the 1990s. They created an experimental craft in 1997, designated the Zeppelin NT. Smaller than the zeppelins of old and only semi-rigid, the Zeppelin NT and its sister blimps were not true zeppelins. In 2005 De Beers, the diamond mining company, started using airships to explore Kalahari desert for diamonds.

And while the Hindenburg disaster would end was I hope what was only the First Era of Airships, it would not end the public's fascination with them. In literature airships have been a favourite for over a century. In literature both Jules Verne and H. G. Wells explored the possibilities of airships (Verne's Clipper of the Clouds and Wells' The War in the Air). Mark Twain featured a small airship in the short story "Tom Sawyer, Aeronaut" and a manoeuvrable balloon in the novel Tom Sawyer, Abroad. Ruyard Kipling's ABC series took place in a world where airships were used for both passenger and cargo service. Edgar Rice Burroughs featured airships as one of the means of travel on Barsoom in his John Carter of Mars series. In the Doc Savage novels from the pulp magazine of the same name, among Doc's many vehicles stored at his warehouse labelled "The Hidalgo Trading Company" was a super-advanced, silver airship. A lost airship also figured in the Doc Savage novel The Lost Oasis in Doc Savage Magazine Volume 2 issue 1, September 1933. Lester Dent, the creator of Doc Savage, also wrote a series called "Zeppelin Tales (recently collected and published in an anthology of that name by Heliograph)." Dent wrote the stories from 1930 to 1932, prior to his long career with Doc Savage, and the stories not only feature zeppelins, but such things as pirates (in the air, nonetheless...), cannibals, and even a private detective! Of course, Dent wasn't the only pulp writer who wrote about airships. Airships figured in many early pulp adventures ("The Airship Boys" series dates to 1909). As might be expected, zeppelins figured in pulp stories about the Great War.

Airships even appear in recent literature. Quite naturally, they feature in historical fiction. Len Deighton's novel about Berlin from 1920 to the rise of Hitler, Winter, quite naturally features zeppelins. Max Alan Collins' The Hindenburg Murders is a mystery based on the Hindenburg disaster. Cameron Dokey's Hindenburg 1937 is a romance set on the famous zeppelin. Of course, airships have figured in science fiction, particularly the steampunk subgenre. Poul Anderson's dystopic short shory "The Sky People" featured a post apocalyptic world in which raiders preyed on people on the ground in scientifically advanced blimps. Michael Moorcock's alternate history The Warlord of the Air posits a world where World War I never occurred and even in 1973 airships are still used. In the Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, airships are the most common method of travel. Airships figure prominently in Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld series, Fitzpatrick's War by Theodore Judson, Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. In the Wild Cards series, the potentially deadly Wild Card virus (which can mutate people into superheros, mutate them into twisted creations called Jokers, or simply kill them) is delivered over Broadway by the insidious Dr. Tod in an airship. Only Jetboy prevents the disaster from being worse. In the novel The Never War, one of many by D.J. MacHale featuring teen hero Bobby Pendragon, the Hindenburg figures prominently in the plot. It also figures in the novel Chronospace by Allen Steele. Over the years, airships in general and the Hindenburg in specific has appeared in several documentaries and on series about history and technology.

Airshps have also figured in movies. In 1931 the classic Hell's Angels featured scenes of zeppelin bombers (it's a wonder Howard Hughes didn't try to build one for the movie or at least try to rent one from the U. S. Navy...). The Assassination Bureau, released in 1969, included a zeppelin in its climax. The 1971 movie Zeppelin featured a British pilot (played by Michael York) infiltrating a German zeppelin bombing mission. In 1975 The Hindenburg was a highly fictionalised account of the Hindenburg disaster. In the Bond movie A View to the Kill, villain Max Zorin featured one of Airship Industries' Skyship 500 series. The film made an error in claiming inflation only took two minutes (in reality, even blimps can take a day to fill). The third Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, included a zeppelin (which Indy and his father board). In The Rockeeteer (one of the great underrated superhero movies), the climax takes place aboard the fictional zeppelin Luxembourg (apparently the Hindenburg disaster either never took place or did not impede the progress of airships). An airship is used to travel through Egypt in The Mummy Returns. In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (another regrettably underrated movie), Dr. Jorge Vargas disappears aboard the fictional zeppelin Hindenburg III (again, it seems that airships continued to be used extensively in the world of this film after 1937--the film is set in 1939). The recent film Flyboys mines much the same territory as Hell's Angels, but goes it one better--it features an aerial battle with a zeppelin! As might be expected, airships appear in anime. Hayao Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky features huge zeppelins complete with cannon. In his movie Howl's Moving Castle airships are used as a means of travel. In Kiki's Delivery Service, a blimp catches on a building.

Airships have also appeared on television. In the fifth season episode of the TV show The Waltons, "The Inferno," John Boy wins a contest sponsored by a news service and unfortunately wins a chance to cover the Hindenburg's arrival at Lakehurst on May 6, 1936 (I must admit I never found this episode particularly realistic--it would have been like myself as a teen getting to cover the Iran Hostage Crisis...). The Duff Blimp appears in The Simpsons "Lisa the Beauty Queen," where it goes up in flames like the famed Hindenburg. On Dr. Who, in the 2005 episode "The Empty Child," blimps figure prominently. In the 2006 two part episode of the same series, "Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel," zeppelins appear prominently. The 1995 Adventures of Batman and Robin episode "Showdown" features my favourite appearance of an airship on TV. In the episode the Dynamic Duo discover a cassette tape belonging to Ra's al Ghul in which he relates how he tried to destroy the railroad in the American Old West using a steampunk style airship (it looked like a zeppelin to me). He is stopped only by DC Comics' legendary Western bounty hunter Jonah Hex (in his first appearance on film). The episode reminded me of the old TV show The Wild Wild West. Indeed, the plot of the movie Wild Wild West (which ravaged the TV show, in my opinion) resembles the plot of this episode to a suspicious degree. The Discovery Channel's Mythbusters (easily one of the funnest shows on TV) once tested the many theories about what caused the Hindenburg to explode.

Airships have even figured in music. Calypso artist Attilla the Hun recorded the song "Graf Zeppelin" in commemoration of that zeppelin's visit to Trinidad while travelling from Rio de Janeiro to Chicago. In 1969 Captain Beefheart featured a song called "The Blimp (mousetrapreplica)," based on the newsreel footage of the Hindenburg disaster. And as is well known, the group Led Zeppelin took its name from a quote from The Who drummer Keith Moon about the band going down like "a lead zeppelin (the spelling was changed for fear daft Americans might mispronounce the world "lead")." Their first album featured artwork by George Hardie based on the Hindenburg disaster. A zeppelin also figured in the cover of the their second album. In 1992 Pink Floyd used the the Division Belle blimps in their tour (one travelled across North America, the other Europe). Electronic group VNV Nation featured a song called "Airships" on their album Futureperfect in 2002. Huddie Ledbetter wrote a two part song called "The Hindenburg Disaster."

Despite our continued fascination with airships, the Hindenburg disaster effectively ended their extensive use. While not even the worst zeppelin disaster, it was one in which 35 people lost their lives. The arrival of the Hindenburg at Lakehurst was big news and reporters from the newspapers and newsreels were present. Chicago radio station WLS had assigned Herbert Morrison to cover the airship's arrival at Lakehurst. Instead he found himself covering a disaster taking place before his eyes. His vivid description, in total shock, complete with the famous words "Oh, the humanity," have become famous on their own. Newsreel camera were also covering the zeppelin's arrival, capturing its destruction on film. Morrison's narration would later be added to the newsreel footage. Between the loss of life and the coverage of the disaster, it is little wonder that it would bring the end of airships. Sadly, we still do not know what caused the disaster to this day.

I have always found the Hindenburg disaster to be one of the saddest events in recent history. It is not simply the loss of life, which was indeed a tragedy, but that it brought an end to a mode of transportation on the whole safer than aeroplanes. Obviously, from this article one can tell I love airships. And I obviously hope that airships will make a comeback. I am frightened to death of planes (I am not scared of heights--but anything that can kill up to 300 people at once frightens me a lot--even the Akron had survivors...), but I would gladly board an airship any day. Sadly, I don't know if we'll ever see their return. There has been renewed interest in them since the Eighties. At one time only Goodyear made airships. Today there are several companies building airships. Even Zeppelin has started building them again, although, sadly, Goodyear no longer mass produces blimps. With any luck, perhaps we will see the return of the airships of old.