Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

While the turkey is cooking, here's some old rock and roll - let's be thankful for the electric guitar!

And Sly:

Or, if you are a cat - what better to be thankful for than a paper bag and a friend to wash your head?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Platinum Blonde

I don't have a lot of time to devote to his today, so keeping it simple, the basic Frank Capra story - man gets what he thinks he wants, finds it a trap, escapes and gets what he thinks he really wants. The film ends, but the next one is likely to pick up where that one left off with the same story. Every shot will be perfect.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Great Googlymoogly!

I am back again without a good theme for this Friday. Maybe a couple scattered thoughts that might have musical illustrations... politics?

That seems appropriate. The fact that it was pulled off their first record after 9/11 - well, I could draw apocalyptic conclusions. We do seem awfully deferent these days to the Forces of the Law. Just remember - when you see a bunch of guys in riot gear beating up a bunch of guys in tee shirts, you can probably guess that the guys in riot gear are the bad guys.

(All that competes with the thought that, somewhat contrary to my endorsement of the general anti-Strokes sentiments on the blogosphere, they kick, once in a while. Maybe they are that much better live - I can't say their records ever really engaged me, but watching them on YouTube, they almost convince. And then there is the fact that having made sure to get the import version of This is It - I was convinced even then that this was one of the better songs on the record. I like the way it morphs from a straight Stooges ripoff to a straight up Feelies cover - the guitar solo from Moscow Nights, ain't it? Etc.)

I have to do this, too - one of my co-workers has had Frank Zappa in his head all week, and won't stop humming the opening riff to this -

What can you do? "Save your money, don't go to the show."

Okay - then - 10 sngs at random:

1. Melvins - the Savage Hippy - hey! iTunes has caught my mood! This might be Mayor Bloomberg's theme song!
2. Dungen - Gor Det Nu
3. Louis Armstrong & The Hot Five - Come Back, Sweet Papa
4. Carter Family - River of Jordan
5. Built to Spill - Made Up Dreams
6. X - Because I do
7. Spiral Stairs - Blood Money
8. Dire Straights - Lions
9. Yoko Ono - Death of Samantha
10. Beck - Gamma Ray

Well? Might as well - the visuals aren't anything special, but here's the Melvins....

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sergeant York

This Sunday, let me add to Friday's remembrance with another WWI film. This one is the rarest of breeds - a film about WWI that is not anti-war. Though it is a strange kind of not-anti-war film: a film about a pacifist who comes to fight - though the film is as much about a violent man who becomes non-violent as about a non-violent man who takes up arms. Which gives it some kick - in a way, then, it becomes really about the limits of absolutes in morality - there is always a case where your values are less useful than some others... Whatever you might say about WWI, in WWII the values are different. There is that. Of course, being a Howard Hawks film, it is largely about the mastery of someone who is very very good at what he does.





Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Random Ten Plus One!

A gimmick! A random eleven (maybe not entirely random) published at 11:11 11/11/11!!!11!11! etc. (I wonder how many other bloggers will think this same thing is just too cute to resist? will we bring the internet to its knees? we'll see!)

1. Grateful Dead - The Eleven Jam
2. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - The Ship Song
3. Warren Zevon - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
4. Thelonius Monk - Suburban Eyes
5. Elvis Costello - Oliver's Army
6. Rush - Witch Hunt
7. Elvis Presley - Lawdy Miss Clawdy
8. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Rifles
9. Boris with Merzbow - A Bao A Qu
10. Smashing Pumpkins - Rhinoceros
11. Benny Goodman - Seven Come Eleven

Charlie Christian and Benny Goodman:

And - Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel and Charlie Byrd, the same:

Armistice Day 2011

Veteran's Day, 2011 - it's notable that 2 years ago, there were still three surviving veterans - possibly combat veterans, at that point. Now, there is only one, Florence Green, 110 years old...

I've said before, especially in regard to this holiday - I think it's important to keep the original point of days like this in mind. And probably - WWI being one of the most decisive moments of history - this one in particular. And so?

Some songs: Here's A Long Way to Tipperary, from a 1914 recording:

And Pack all your Troubles in an Old Kit Bag:

And - Over There... patriotism in full bloom:

But I can't stop without another version of Eric Bogle's transcendent anti-war song - the Band Played Waltzing Matilda...

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Now that Wonders in the Dark has finished counting down their list of musicals, I am moved to comment. First - that's it's been a treat to follow along, as it came out. A bit intimidating, as well... Not so intimidating that I'm not inspired to offer my own list of favorite musicals.

Or best musicals - or whatever they are. The countdown does tend to stir up questions about genre - they seem to have been deliberately vague about the definition of a musical - though they seem to have reached a consensus on some things. Documentaries and concert films seem to be right out - none on the list (that I can see) - I'm assuming that if they were considered eligible, you'd see Don't Look Back or Stop Making Sense or Gimme Shelter in there somewhere. That's a rule that makes sense, though it's odd that everyone seems to have gone by it on their own.

On the other hand - what about Nashville? O Brother Where Art Thou? or for that matter - how did This is Spinal Tap not make it? I won't credit the possibility that they aren't among the 140 best films with music in them - so they must be passed over for other reasons. And - I suppose it's reasonable enough that they are, they don't exactly present themselves as musicals, not in any traditional sense. (Though what else would Spinal Tap be, anyway?) But what is striking about those films, even more than some others that might fall on the edge of being musicals (from - oh - Pierrot le Fou to To Have and Have Not to some on the list - Blue Angel, say) is how conventionally they fit the genre. How is Nashville not, from start to finish, a backstage musical? O Brother Where Art Thou is an even more complete match - it is a backstage musical, featuring multiple performances in the film; plus more than one musical number that is NOT a performance - the Sirens - the KKK rally - the baptism scene. It also has the tone of old movies - light and breezy (with a hint of seriousness) - though I'd say it draws its tone more from old newspaper comic strips than old movies, there's a lot of overlap. It's not just a musical, it's an old fashioned musical - and on top of that, features some outstanding music, played straight. It's interesting that it's not there - not quite surprising - if I hadn't started thinking about definitions, I might not of considered it myself.... But once you think about it - I don't know how you ignore it.

Anyway - that aside - I can't see much to quarrel with on the list. Though - there are a couple films I don't understand missing it. Namely - Fantasia - that might have been definitional, though other Disney cartoons are on there - it is something of a strange beast, though... The other one - and I'm less inclined to forgive this oversight - is Shall We Dance. Fred and Ginger got lots of love - 3 films (that I remember off the top of my head) - #6 and #11 at that - but surely there should be at least one more. I like the early ones the best - you can see that below... but I can see why someone might prefer Swing Time or Shall We Dance - they are sleeker, the formula has been shined to a sparkle - and formula is not a bad thing at all in films... I would take Shall We Dance over Swing Time, but it's not so much the order as the fact that they are both aces... Though I do think this - that over all, Shall We Dance has the best music of any of the Fred and Ginger films. Overall - nothing, ever, beat Night and Day, as a song - but the Gershwin score, the Gershwin songs (You Can't Take That Away From Me; Let's Call the Whole Thing Off) are just marvelous, and add up to more than the music of any of the others....

Okay - enough. What would I vote for? This could bog down into definitions - and so I am going to offer two versions of this list. First - the expansionary one - this is the best films that I can find a reason to call musicals, ranked as movies:

1. Duck Soup
2. Pierrot Le Fou
3. Nashville
4. Blue Angel
5. Love Me Tonight
6. Top Hat
7. Hard Days Night
8. Night at the Opera
9. Gay Divorcee
10. Golddiggers of 1933
11. Wizard of Oz
12. Horsefeathers
13. O Brother Where Art Thou
14. Thirty Two Short Films About Glen Gould
15. Beijing Bastards
16. This is Spinal Tap
17. Merry Widow
18. West Side Story
19. Under the Roofs of Paris
20. Blond Venus
21. Don't Look Back
22. Forty Second Street
23. An American in Paris
24. Singing in the Rain
25. Red Shoes

And then - ranked as Musicals. For - meeting the genre requirements of a musical; and for the music itself - the dancing - the performances, the way the music is used in the film, as an end to itself. I think this is what I would end up with there:

1. Top Hat
2. Love Me Tonight
3. Gay Divorcee
4. Golddiggers of 1933
5. Hard Days Night
6. Duck Soup
7. Wizard of Oz
8. West Side Story
9. Forty Second Street
10. O Brother Where Art Thou
11. Singin' in the Rain
12. Meet Me in St.Louis
13. An American in Paris
14. Shall We Dance
15. Blond Venus
16. This is Spinal Tap
17. Don't Look Back
18. Merry Widow
19. Under the Roofs of Paris
20. The Red Shoes
21. Fantasia
22. Nashville
23. Gimme Shelter
24. Golddiggers of 1935
25. Cabin in the Sky

Today anyway...

Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday Random Ten


1. Radiohead - Scatterbrain (As Dead as Leaves)
2. Soft Machine - We Know What You Mean [the Kevin Ayers years...]
3. Muddy Waters - I Just Want to Make Love to You [electric mudd version - Pete Cosey!]
4. Bing Crosby - I'll be Home for Christmas [starting this already are we?]
5. The Tragically Hip - Eldorado
6. Byrds - Have you Seen Her Face
7. Devo - That's good
8. Van Morrison - Caravan
9. Bob Dylan - It Takes a Lot to Laugh, it Takes a Train to Cry
10. Big Star - Jesus Christ

I'm going to vote that one hell of a random playlist.

For video? Let's start with Soft Machine, on TV back in 1967 or so:

And - here's a tribute to Alex Chilton, featuring the latter day Big Star and some guy named Mike Mills in Chilton's role. I can't say that I am planning to post a Christmas song every week, but if it works out that way...