It’s been requested that I give an update on what was going on outside Rishikesh, and so here are a few items of note:

In the U.S., on Monday March 11, President Lyndon Johnson officially adapted ASCII as the government standard for character encoding, declaring that

All computers and related equipment configurations brought into the Federal Government inventory on and after July 1, 1969, must have the capability to use the Standard Code for Information Interchange and the formats prescribed by the magnetic tape and paper tape standards when these media are used.

This decision must have been very unpopular, because one day later Johnson struggled mightily in the New Hampshire primary, nearly being beaten outright by insurgent candidate Eugene McCarthy. At the time, most people attributed McCarthy’s strong showing to his opposition to the Vietnam War, with the recent Tet Offensive having convinced many Americans that the war was unwinnable. Among those sharing that opinion was Senator Robert Kennedy, who was inspired by Johnson’s apparent weakness to jump into the race. And unfortunately we all know how that turned out.

At this time the #1 song in the U.S. was Otis Redding’s posthumously released “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (autocorrect just tried to change that to “Sit-In on the Dock of the Bay,” which is a whole other song). It had taken the spot the week before from an instrumental (!) called “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat, which had dethroned “Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers, which in turn had supplanted “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)” by John Fred and His Playboy Band. I’m sort of amazed that those were all U.S. number ones and I’ve never heard of any of them; I guess most pop music really is disposable.

In the UK, meanwhile, the #1 single was “Cinderella Rockefella” by the Israeli duo Esther and Abi Ofarim. Never heard of that one either, which is less surprising as this is exactly the kind of song that would be a big hit in Britain and sink like a stone stateside. Here they are singing it in the streets of London:

It would shortly be toppled by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich’s “Legend of Xanadu,” which would itself give way to “Lady Madonna” — about which more tomorrow.

The other questions posed were “What was David Bowie doing?” and “Was Brian Jones still alive?” The answer to the latter is yes — at this juncture Brian still had 16 months to live, though he was increasingly marginalized in the Rolling Stones, who had begun work on Beggars Banquet.

Bowie was devoting himself mostly to mime at this point, touring with the revue Pierrot in Turquoise, but did take time this week to record a new single, “London Bye Ta-Ta” b/w “In the Heat of the Morning.” Despite containing two very strong songs (though “In the Heat” should probably have been the A-side), the single continued David’s career-long pattern of doing absolutely no business whatsoever. It would take a moon landing and an era-defining masterpiece by Stanley Kubrick to finally give him a hit, which would occur around the time Brian Jones departed this Earth.

So was “Space Oddity” about Brian Jones? Nah, it was written months before his death. But it kind of fits, doesn’t it? He just sort of drifted off and eventually lost contact.

Speaking of drifting off…I can’t think of any clever way to circle back and end this strong. Instead, here’s a picture of David Bowie wearing a Brian Jones T-shirt; by the time you’re finished looking at it, I’ll be gone.

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