Q: What is on the cover of Coldplay’s “X&Y” album? Does it mean anything?
A: The cover of Coldplay’s 2005 album depicts the phrase “X & Y” written in Baudot code. The code was created by French inventor Emile Baudot. In the code, each letter and number is represented by a series of five ones and zeroes. For example, the letter A is 11000 and the letter B is 10011. If you look inside the booklet that came with the CD, you’ll find the entire Baudot code on the center pages. On the last page, you’ll also find the words “Make Trade Fair” written in Baudot code. Even with all this fancy technical code, “X&Y” was the best-selling album in the world in 2005 with over 8 million copies sold.
Q: In the song “Synchronicity I” by the Police, what does the term “spiritus mundi” mean?
A: The words “spiritus mundi” come from the poem “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats. The term supposedly means “spirits of the world.” Written in 1919, the poem is about the decline of civilization after the First World War. Another song on the album, “Synchronicity II” is also inspired by “The Second Coming.” “Synchronicity I” and Synchronicity II” come from the appropriately titled “Synchronicity” album from 2003. Along with Yeats, the works of Carl Jung also inspired a few songs on the album.
Q: How did “Pomp and Circumstance” become the standard music for graduation ceremonies?
A: “Pomp and Circumstance” is a march written by Sir Edward Elgar in 1901. It was originally written for the coronation of King Edward VII. In 1905, Elgar was invited to Yale’s graduation ceremony where he received an Honorary Doctorate of Music. At the end of the service, Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1” was played in honor of him. The audience was so impressed by the music that it spread to other universities in the coming years. It was played at Princeton’s graduation ceremony in 1907. Columbia used it in 1913 and Rutgers in 1918. Now, it is the most common music played at graduation ceremonies.
Q: When Frank Sinatra was buried, his daughter Nancy put a roll of dimes in his pocket. I’ve always wondered why. Do you know?
A: On Dec. 8, 1963, 19-year-old Frank Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped from a casino in Lake Tahoe. The three kidnappers demanded a $240,000 ransom and told Sinatra Sr. to only communicate with them via payphones. For this reason, Sinatra carried a roll of dimes in his pocket. His son was released unharmed two days later after the ransom was paid, but Sinatra continued the habit of carrying the roll of dimes in his pocket for the rest of his life. At his funeral, he was buried with a roll of dimes, courtesy of his daughter Nancy, and a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Q: Can you identify a song for me from the ’80s? The only line I can remember is “Can we meet on common ground.”
A: The song is “Common Ground” by Rhythm Corps. The Detroit-based band formed in 1981 and released their major-label debut, “Common Ground,” in 1988. The title track became a minor hit reaching No. 9 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. In 1991, they released “The Future’s Not What It Used to Be” and then promptly disappeared from the national scene.