“. . . a rolly polly 60’s film. . .”

30 04 2009

I’m just settling in to watch Magical Mystery Tour for about the dozenth time.  It just occurred to me that I had written a review of this oft-criticized film elsewhere.  This may seem cheap to re-hash my own work, but I like the review so I’m putting it here, on my music blog, where it belongs.

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In the Anthology series, Paul McCartney used this phrase to describe what the Beatles (Paul, mostly) were trying to create with Magical Mystery Tour. The resulting product, shown in black and white on TV in Britain, was widely panned. Some critics went so far as to say that the film was proof that the Fab Four had lost their shine.

Magical Mystery Tour was certainly no great cinematic work. In fact, it’s of virtually no consequence to anyone other than hard-core Beatles fans or stoners that like its psychadelic bent.

Whatever it lacks, it has a surreal, quirky charm that makes it worthwhile. Some scenes are just plain bizaare, like the dream sequence in which John Lennon, a mustachioed waiter in a posh restaurant, shovels a table full of spaghetti onto a fat lady’s plate. Not surprisingly, Neil Innes of Rutles fame (or infamy, if you prefer) is in the The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, who performs the song “Death Cab for Cutie” — recognize the name, kids? — while a dancer does a striptease. Only in trippy movies like Magical Mystery Tour, or its cousin, the Monkees’ Head, can you see stuff like that.

Most of the movie is nonsense but some scenes are quite funny. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect if you asked a pot smoking pop group to put together a Monty Python episode.

If nothing else, the movie is, more or less, like an hour show of Beatles videos. Nowhere else can you see videos of “Fool on the Hill,” “Your Mother Should Know,” and “I am the Walrus.” You know that can’t be bad!

magical-mystery-tou_435340n





The concert I’d like to see

28 04 2009

As much as I love music, there are very few concerts these days that come to town that I really would like to see.  If I could put together this show, I would.

One of my favorites is Paul McCartney.  In the last ten years or so, he’s kind of falling out of favor with me.  I’ve not wanted to go see any of his shows and I don’t think I’ve actually paid for one of his albums in that stretch (although Chaos and Creation in the Backyard and Memory Almost Full are quite good.)  I didn’t care to see him play the Super Bowl a few years back and I didn’t have much interest in his recent gig with Ringo in NYC.

After watching some clips of his performances at Coachella, the Concert for George a few years back, and the “Change Begins Within” show, I’ve had something of a change of heart.  I’d love see Paul perform live.  Here’s what I would change, though.

The shows have all been heavily dependent on backing bands and heavy production.  The concert for George, for instance, had sets with multiple guitarists, bassists and drummers.  Get rid of all that stuff.  It’s too much clutter, too much noise, too slick.

Hand Paul a bass and plug him into a stack.  Get Ringo behind the drums.  Maybe get somebody like Eric Clapton or David Gilmour to play guitar.   Perhaps that’s too ambitious.  Find great lead and rhythm guitar players, some young gunslingers if necessary.  Put them in a 1,000 to 2,000 seat place, charge a grand per ticket and let ’em rip.  They could play old rock tunes, maybe stuff like the Fabs used to play in Hamburg.  Of course it should be recorded in hi-def audio and video and packaged for sale.

No overdubs.  No synthesizers or keyboards to recreate strings and horns and such.  Bare bones production.  Just rock out!

I know this will never happen.  But “it’s all part of my rock and roll fantasy.”





Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)

22 04 2009

This song’s a Marvin Gaye classic.  It’s the best Marvin Gaye song I’ve heard (I admit I haven’t heard every song in his catalog.)  The vocals get right to the agony and pain of the subject matter.  It’s very spiritual.  I’m not big on songs with a social message or with social commentary but “Inner City Blues” actually moves me.  It seems very timely in these hard economic times.

What can you say about the Funk Brothers?  [EDIT] Bob Babbitt’s simple but powerful bass line would carry the song if Marvin hadn’t.

I can’t seem to get this song out of my head.  I’m not sure why this song doesn’t get more recognition as one of the greatest songs of the last 40 years.  It’s that good.





Great TV theme songs

20 04 2009

At nights when I can’t sleep, I think about ridiculous themes and topics.   The one that kept me up last night was great TV theme songs.  All these, in my opinion, are songs that are good independent of (or in spite of in some cases) the TV shows to which they were connected.

I’m thinking of these themes more as songs and less as nostalgia bits, but if you enjoy them because they take you down memory lane, that’s cool.

Barney Miller — Gotta love that fat, funky bass line.

Happy Days — No, I’m not talking about the theme song made the show.  That was a trite piece of garbage.  Some of you may not remember but for the first season of the show, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock,” an early rock masterpiece.  The clips in the show intro fit the spirit of the song, almost as if it were a video.

Batman — This song is one of the first songs kids try to learn when they get a guitar.  The show was campy, but cool.  The song has been covered by a number of bands, including respectable outfits like The Jam.

The Dukes of Hazzard — When I was 7, there wasn’t a cooler show on TV than the “Dukes of Hazzard.”  It was brilliant.  At 37 the show seems…well…embarrassing.  But theme song, sung by country legend Waylon Jennings, is still cool.  Had it not had such a strong connection to the show, it would have stood on its own as a solid country hit.

WKRP in Cincinnati (outro or closing theme) — That song rocked!  One of the best parts about it, though, was that the lyrics were completely and utterly uintelligable.  I’m not even sure they were sung in English.  Maybe they weren’t “lyrics” at all but simply grunts and groans.  This youtube video nails that.

Miami Vice — Because we were dorks, my good buddy, Mark, and I got together as many Friday evenings as we could for a year or two to watch “Miami Vice.”  Awesome stuff!  We so badly wanted to be Don Johnson that you could almost taste the mousse if you stood close enough to us.  Jan Hammer’s theme song was unquestionably cool…in our minds.  We drove around blasting it from the boom box on his front seat.  Man, we ate a lot of C batteries listening to that soundtrack.

The Munsters — I couldn’t tell you whether the deep brass instrument is some sort of tuba or a saxophone (maybe a tenor sax) but it make a one-of-a-kind sound.  The guitar was a brilliant bit of surf rock.  Too bad I couldn’t find a good copy of the original theme; this appears to be a remake.

Twilight Zone — Some of my funnest memories as a young kid were of staying up entirely too late to watch “Twilight Zone” re-runs with my Uncle Bob.  That show scared the crap out of me when I was a little guy, but it’s probably my all-time favorite TV series.  Everyone knows the eerie theme song.  It’s the little tune we hum or whistle when someone does or says something completely bizarre. I love it so much, I’m giving you the show intro, with Rod Serling’s voice over, and the theme music (instrumental.)





I’ve had it up to here with…

17 04 2009

I try to stay positive on this blog, but tonight I feel like ranting.  This is a list of things in/around popular music that I can no longer tolerate.  I’d like these things or people to vanish from sight for just awhile.

John & Yoko’s wedding and bed-ins — I’m about as big of a Beatles fan as you’ll meet, but I’m sick to death of all this stuff celebrating the 40th anniversary of John & Yoko’s marriage and their bed-ins for peace.  The bed-ins were a funny idea, but the fact that we’re talking about them 40 years later baffles me.  These weren’t marches like civil rights supporters held in the south in the 50’s and 60’s.  The marches actually changed things.  The bed-ins were a gimmick that attracted a lot of media attention for a positive subject (world peace is a good goal, I agree) but, in the end, accomplished nothing.  I’m frankly sick to death of seeing those old photos of John and Yoko laying in bed together.  I saw Imagine: John Lennon when it came out in theaters 20 years ago.  It had all one would ever need to know about their wedding in Gibraltar and the bed-ins.  Let’s move on, ok?

Phil Spector’s reputation as a genius — I can’t say all about this subject that I would like to, at least not in this post.  Suffice it to say that I think his “wall of sound” sucked on albums like George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass.  Spector ruined that brilliant album.  McCartney was wise to “de-Spectorize” Let it Be a few years back.  He sees (hears) what many others are unwilling to recognize: that Spector could be a hack and he overproduced stuff.  More about this some other time perhaps.

Beatles Rock Band video game — I’m not going to blast Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia for allowing this video game to come out.  It will introduce younger kids to the Beatles just as I was introduced to them the better part of a decade after they split.  That said, I’m sick to death of reading and hearing about it.  Instead of playing video games, kiddies, get a damned bass or guitar and learn to play music yourselves!  Parents can get starter guitars, with amps, cords, the whole bit, for $200.  XBox or wii or whatever systems kids play on these days (I sound old, don’t I?) cost as much or more than that.  Make your own music.  Stop living in the fantasy world of playing someone else’s music on a computer.   Either that or stop telling me that Rock Band comes out in September.  Stop posting ab0ut it.  I’ve read it at least 100 times already.  I get it.

Disney actors cutting albums — I fully support a lot of what Disney does.  But I’m disgusted that they keep pumping out CDs by child actors that can’t sing a lick.  That Emily Osment has her own album is proof positive that the music business these days is just plain awful.  It’s a joke.  I like Disney’s TV shows for kids, but how about we get kids listening to good music instead of garbage like the Jonas Brothers.  To balance out the sonic assault on my daughter’s ears that she gets from Disney channel and Radio Disney, I play the Beatles, Oasis, Marvin Gaye, Hank Williams, Sr., Paul McCartney, Sinead O’Connor, and other artists that actually have (or had) lots of talent.  She knows what a good singer should sound like and she knows that the crap Disney is trying to sell her isn’t good.

Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — I was recently happy to learn that George Harrison was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Besides being a Beatle and a pretty darned good solo artist, George was into film and his company, Handmade Films, put out some pretty cool stuff in the 80’s.  My happiness for one of my favorites being honored was diminished when I learned that guys like John Stamos also have stars on the walk.  John Stamos?  Really?  C’mon.   It seems anyone that’s ever been on a bad sitcom gets a star on the walk.  It’s the equivalent of every kid in little league soccer getting a trophy.  Ugh.

Coldplay — I’m not going to attack them.  They seem to be a pretty decent band.  They’re not my cup of tea but, hey, I think I have an idea why others like them.  My beef, though, is that it has been put ’round that Coldplay are the “Beatles of their generation.”  I hate declarations like that!  Coldplay might be one of the most popular bands around these days, and for the last several years, but this generation has no Beatles.  Since the height of Beatlemania, there has been nothing even close to the Beatles.  Michael Jackson in 1983-85, U2 in the late 80’s and again in the early 90’s, and Oasis (mostly in Britain) in 1994-97 came about as close as anyone ever will, but were still light years behind the overall popularity and madness surrounding the Beatles from 1964-66.  The world will never see a band as popular and influential as the Beatles.  Never!  So the comparison is ludicrous.  Can’t we call Coldplay the “U2 of their generation” or the “Michael Jackson of their generation”? Those labels work better.

I think I have more rants in me, but I’ve run out of steam.





Green Onions

16 04 2009

Here’ s a classic from Booker T & the MGs.

Because of my recent interest (falling in love with) in bass guitar, I’ve re-discovered some old R & B and soul acts, and Booker T & the MGs is one.  Donald Duck Dunn is considered by many to be a very influential bassist.  The band had some great grooves.  It’s hard to beat this song.





Guilty!

14 04 2009

APTOPIX Phil Spector A jury found famed producer, Phil Spector, guilty of murder in the second degree of former actress and model, Lana Clarkson.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/phil_spector

From what little I knew about the facts of the case, the evidence of his guilt seemed pretty solid.  I was surprised by the hung jury in the first trial.

Spector is and has been a nut.  He’s waved loaded weapons in peoples’ faces for years.  He’s been accused of having kept ex-wife Ronnie Spector a “prisoner” in their home.   It was only a matter of time before he hurt someone.

Some people think he was a genius.  I think by the late 60s he was washed up.  Others that know more about his work than me think otherwise.  In my opinion he absolutely ruined George Harrison’s solo masterpiece All Things Must Pass.  A great set, loaded with fantastic songs, was overproduced, noisy and cluttered.  George’s vocals could barely be heard on the songs.  The so-called “wall of sound” was a wall of noise that made a classic nearly unlistenable in parts.  I will never give him credit for supposed genius after the way he butchered that record.

I hope he spends the rest of his life in jail for murdering that girl.  It’s what he deserves.