Arts: This was the week that was

Click to follow

On this day in 1814 Francis Scott Key wrote a ditty entitled "Defence of Fort McHenry" which proved a sleeper; set to the tune of an English drinking song and given the snappy title of "The Star-Spangled Banner", it was adopted as the US national anthem - in 1931.


"The Ying Tong Song" by the Goons hit the Hit Parade in 1956. Eventually, Milligan, Secombe and Sellers saw their surreal song climb to No 3, streets ahead of their previous chart success, "I'm Walking Backwards to Christmas". The Goons' musical director later changed sex.


In 1847 the United Shakespeare Committee paid pounds 3,000 for the Bard's birthplace, the first building in Britain to be acquired for preservation. In 1890 it was a case of "The Gentleman Vanishes", a real-life Hitchcock-style mystery in which film pioneer Louis Le Prince boarded a Paris bound-train with his prototype projector - and was never seen again.


The first wide-screen feature film, entitled The Fox Movietone Follies of 1929, was premiered on Broadway in, naturally, 1929. Unfortunately it needed a 28ft-wide screen and in most cinemas the edges of the picture would have ended up on the exit to the toilets.


Jimi Hendrix, who played better guitar with his teeth than most people with their fingers, died in 1970. At 7am he crawled into bed (he was having an early night) with nine sleeping tablets, vomited and suffocated.


In 1973 Paul Theroux caught the 3.30pm train from Victoria to the lands that lie beyond Platform 7, such as Tokyo. His journal, The Great Railway Bazaar, was even wittier than a Stagecoach timetable.


Composer Jean Sibelius died in 1957, 17 years after he had became an ex-composer and recluse. The creator of Finlandia, he was proud to be Finnish but possibly ashamed of his eighth symphony, which he destroyed.

Jonathan Sale