Showing posts with label 60s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 60s. Show all posts

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Who is your favorite Beatle?: The results to an informal survey

The Beatles battle it out for your affections

For months I've been asking you all: "who is your favorite Beatle?" (Sorry if it's been annoying!)

In honor of Ringo Starr’s 70th birthday and Paul McCartney’s live performance return to San Francisco at AT&T Park this Saturday, July 10th, I’ve finally posted these articles on Examiner.com (one for every Beatle).

Thank you to all of you who responded. Your responses were fascinating and I had so much fun writing about this topic!

In my findings, the order of most popular to least popular went like this: John, George, Ringo, Paul. A scientific national poll of Americans had a very different opinion (Paul is "America's favorite Beatle").

So who is your favorite Beatle? Are you a fan of the rock’n’roller who got political? How about the quiet spiritual one? Maybe your favorite was the cute one who wrote silly love songs? Or perhaps you go for the underdog? Please feel free to disagree.


And just because: please read this fabulous essay on mightygodking.com (if you haven't already) entitled "Scenes From An Alternate Universe Where The Beatles Accepted Lorne Michaels' Generous Offer." If you are a Beatles fan, you will be moved. Please read at least until the battle of the bands between The Beatles and the Electric Mayhem. It's brilliant.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

'Cadillac Records': a review


I am a huge fan of biopics. It's very exciting to see the lives of real people illuminated in front of you. Knowing too much about the historical reality of their lives can get in the way however. Hollywood, as we all know, likes to "Hollywoodize" biopics: twisting and tweeking the details of lives to make them more interesting to the viewer.

I figure, you have to get over that. But sometimes it's hard.

Take the movie Cadillac Records: a biopic about the legendary rhythm & blues record label Chess Records. The movie stars Adrian Brody as Leonard Chess, Beyonce as Etta James, Cedric the Entertainer as Big Willie Dixon and Mos Def as Chuck Berry. I enjoyed seeing these notorious musicians come to life, but it was really hard for me to get past some of the added Hollywood aspect.

I cannot help but compare this movie to Dream Girls, but the big difference is that Dream Girls was an intact musical before it was ever a movie. And, even though everyone knows that the movie is based on the record label Motown, it's highly fictionalized.

In the film Etta James and Leonard Chess have an adulterous relationship that challenges racial stereotypes and employer/employee boundaries. As far as I know this is a fabrication, and it bothers me. I wonder what Etta herself had to say about it? I DO know that Etta was pissed that Beyonce got to sing "At Last" at Barack Obama's inauguration and not her...

I was also bothered by the character of Leonard Chess and the ABSENCE of his brother, Phil. It was the Chess Brothers that started and ran the label, it wasn't a one-man operation. But alas, Leonard was the more colorful character. He was a crude-mouthed, smart-ass and the role only brought that out in a very minor way.


Rich Cohen's The Record Men is a fabulous recount of the Chess story. Leonard Chess is quoted all over the book and his words are something right out of a Mel Brooks comedy routine.

"How to you celebrate a hit? You go to the bank, schmuck!"

or

"Who knew you could strike it rich with a few schvartzas and a reel-to-reel?

I imagine the producers consciously toned down... scratch that... DELETED the ugly money-grubbing Jewish Stereotype that was Leonard Chess. I guess as a Jewish person I appreciate that, but I still miss the personality.

What I did love about the film was much of what I simply love about the story in general:
  • Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf's frenemies relationship
  • Etta James' dramatic and traumatic life (her autobiography Rage to Survive stresses the fact that she owes Leonard Chess for keeping her alive and keeping her house)
  • Howlin Wolf's devotion to his band (he always made sure they got paid fairly)
  • Leonard Chess' devotion to his musicians (he took care of many of them, heightening his "White Daddy" status)
  • Muddy Water's womanizing
  • How the Rolling Stones loved and respected Muddy Waters like a god.

Chess Records has a fascinating story, and while I don't agree with some of the "Hollywood" type additions, I do feel that the essence of the label is treated fairly and with great respect in the movie Cadillac Records.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hair and Rock of Ages: broadway musicals bound by youth, integrity, and hair

Rock of Ages guitarist Joel Hoekstra is on fire


Hey ya'll, I'm back from my trip to New York City where the weather was hot, humid and nasty. I spent a lot of time in air-conditioned museums and theaters and the Daily Show (I got to ask Jon Stewart a question)!!

We had amazing seats at the musical Rock of Ages starring Lauren Molina (also a University of Michigan Music School alum, read more about her here). She got us backstage! Check out the backstage mockumentaries she's been producing and directing. They are hysterical. Here's the first one:



The length and style of one's hair is a symbol of fashion. But in recent decades it has also been a symbol of ones politics and lifestyle.

In the 60s, having long hair (usually for men) meant that you were one of those hippie freaks that protested the war in Vietnam and smoked the marijuana. But in the 80s, the “sexier Regan era,” it meant that you wore leather, drank a lot and listened to loud guitar music. And according to the musicals Hair and Rock of Ages (ROA) you also had a lot of sex. Or at least you wanted other people to think you had a lot of sex. When I saw both shows last week during my visit to the Big Apple, there was a lot of hip motion on stage. A LOT.

Click here to read the rest of my article on examiner.com

Constantine Maroulis as Drew in Rock of Ages with guitarist Joel Hoekstra

Lauren Molina (Michigan classmate and star of Rock of Ages) and I backstage


Tamar and I outside of Hair

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

R.I.P. Ellie Greenwich: a pioneer of women in the music industry

It seems like famous people are dropping like flies lately. But there is one person's life that I'd like particularly like to celebrate: that of Ellie Greenwich, songwriter of such hits as "Chapel of Love," "Da Do Ron Ron," "Be My Baby" "Leader of the Pack," "River Deep - Mountain High" and dozens more. Greenwich was part of the songwriting hit machine in the Brill Building in New York City.

At a very young age, Greenwich and Carole King blazed a path for women in the music industry at that time dominated by men. Women hadn't really been on the creative production side of the music industry at that point, with few exceptions they had been mostly singers or administrative types. Greenwich found great success as a songwriter and partnered with her husband Jeff Barry. Greenwich and Barry wrote songs for the popular girl groups of the early '60s like the The Ronettes, The Crystals and The Shangri-Las.

In an interview with NPR, Greenwich reflected on being a woman and working in the production side of the music industry,
It wasn't that accepted back then, a female being in that end of the business.
She even had a little bit of difficulty working with other female artists;
At first it was like, 'Well, who does she think she is, giving us orders here or telling us what to do?' But on the other end, if you were very open to them, they saw you could be their friend, and then it became an asset to be a woman dealing with girl groups.
Ellie Greenwich gave us dozens of hit songs, like silly bubble gum pop with nonsensical choruses, and some with heart felt meaning. Let's remember her as she held her own against the British Invasion and paved the way for women who wanted to have a creative role in the music industry.

Ellie Greenwich died Wednesday August 24th of a heart attack in New York City at the age of 68.

This is my favorite Ellie Greenwich not-so-famous tune: "Maybe I Know" performed by Lesley Gore (I fell in love with this tune when my junior high performed the musical "Leader of the Pack" based on the music of Ellie Greenwich):



And just for fun, this is the same tune performed by They Might be Giants.



Read more about Ellie Greenwich and watch more videos here at Pitchfork.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 "Look Around" LP cover collage



Check it out: this Sergio Mendes record didn't have a proper cover (it was living in a Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture jacket) so I decided to collage my own. 

It's pretty groovy, don't you think? And very much in spirit with the original (shown at the top).

This LP includes covers of "The Look of Love," "With a Little Help from my Friends," "Like a Lover" and originals.  It's straight up smooth 1960s Brazilian bossa nova; good for a Sunday morning.

I just read on wikipedia that this version of "Look of Love" was more popular than Dusty Springfield's.  Also, Mendes performed the same song at the 1968 Oscars, which skyrocketed his popularity in the United States. He's still making records today with American artists like will.i.am, Erykah Badu, Chali 2na, India.Arie, John Legend, Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder.  Not bad for a guy that's been around for 40 years.

I've added some Mendes, old and new, to the playlist.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cause it's my birthday: "Jamie" by Edward Holland Jr.

I love this song: "Jamie" from the early career of Edward Holland Jr., before he was part of the songwriting Motown powerhouse Holland-Dozier-Holland.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Be My Husband": Nina Simone & My Brightest Diamond


I've been a Nina Simone fan for a long time now.  I'm not ashamed to say that I first noticed her in this Six Feet Under promo (the best tv show there ever was) and thought "WHO ON EARTH WAS THAT???"  That cadence (the bit at the end) is the most amazing few seconds of deep feeling vocal virtuosity I have ever heard. I still rewind it to hear it again and again.

Nina Simone was an African-American woman who was way before her time and never got the recognition that she should have.  I think this just makes her music more attractive to audiences and artists today.  She was more edgy than Carole King, Judy Collins and Carly Simon put together.  She was also socially relevant in her thematic material and as a classically trained pianist, she brought an elegance not really ever heard in blues or soul. 

Please watch her performance of "Be My Husband" at the Harlem Festival in 1969. Check out here amazing head-dress hairdo and her "percussion section."  Please also take note of the last couple verses, you know, the ones that mentions "cooking and sewing", "meanest man I've ever seen" and "sudden death" (you can even her the audience show surprise).

This is typical Nina: the deepest passion and pain all rolled up into one.



Now, this is Shara Worden, a.k.a. My Brightest Diamond. I've heard about here (she's performed at South by Southwest for the last few years), but not taken the time to really listen until friend played her for me last weekend while packing books for a move. I think I was seeing Ozomatli at the Fillmore the same night she performed in San Francisco.  Too bad for me.

New York based Shara is a classically trained vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. She has studied string quartet arranging and has just an adorable presence (She's tiny!) and funky look.

Watch HER cover of "Be My Husband."  Shara, as you might notice, has changed up the last couple verses making it a little less of a downer. (Check out HER hairdo!)



Now let me throw an original at you.  This is a live performance of "My Brightest Star." Just Shara and her guitar. (The open tuning gives the guitar that moody feel.)



If you're intrigued by her voice, check a clip of her singing Whitney Houston's/Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" at Karaoke (the dude is her husband, and no, he's not a giant, she's just tiny). And a funky little interview clip

I've also added Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good" and some other of Shara's tunes to my playlist.

Happy Wednesday!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Civil Rights Folk Singer Odetta Dies at 77


Odetta is an artist I've really never fully appreciated, simply because I haven't taken the time to check her out.  Unfortunately, she's never gotten the overwhelming popular support as Mahalia Jackson, Pete Seeger, or even Nina Simone (although Simone is more popular in death than she ever was in life).  But after hearing some clips of her performances on NPR last night reporting on her death, it is her powerful voice and exquisite lyrical phrasing that has drawn me in to learn more about her.

I knew of Odetta through my time spent interning for Smithsonian Folkways, and I knew she was very influential in the folk world and I knew she must have been instrumental in the civil rights movement simply due to being a black female in the 50s and 60s. This is probably also what kept her from being as well known as she should be.  She had continued to perform up until last summer when she developed kidney trouble.

In 1963, Odetta sang at "I'm on My Way" at the historic March on Washington, D.C. where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.  She is known to have wanted to perform again in Washington in January at Barack Obama inauguration.  I think it is a blessing that she at least lived to see his election; a direct result of the Cause she had been fighting for for most of her life.

Unfortunately the video and audio clips available to link to here aren't as awesome as what I'd like, but hopefully you'll get an idea of the power of the voice of Odetta.  You might be able to hear what a great influence on folk singers ranging from Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary to more contemporary singers like Tracy Chapman.

Read about her life here.

Watch this performance of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" with Tennessee Ernie Ford.



And this neat Led Belly inspired (specifically the percussive "Pah!" vocal sound) performance of "Water Boy".


I've also added some songs to my playlist that I hope reflect her power and dignity as a performer and singer. Unfortunately there wasn't much to choose from on the playlist site that I use.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Single Ladies": Beyonce and Gwen Verdon choreography

I'm sorry but I just cannot help myself.

I took a gander at Beyonce's new video "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" and, wow: the song is nothing special, but check out her dance moves. This woman is wildly talented, we knew that; but she just keeps upping herself.

(I know I've included three videos here, but if you're not going to watch all of them, at least watch some of each, you have to see the progression.)



And then I found this: someone on youtube referred to Gwen Verdon, a dancer and actress named who made herself known in the 1950s and 60s on Broadway. She starred in Bob Fosse's Damn Yankees and Sweet Charity.

After watching this video, hip thrusting and all, it is pretty obvious that Beyonce is putting Verdon's moves in a modern hip-hop (and way sexier) context and thrown some Tina Turner into the mix. This juxtaposition of Beyonce's audio track with Verdon's video is actually really fun to watch. Love, LOVE the outfits.

ADDENDUM: "They" deleted this video, very sad. It fit perfectly.



But what made me want, no NEED, to post about this this video of Verdon's choreography with the original music called "Mexican Breakfast" from the Ed Sullivan Show. Um, HILARIOUS!

ADDENDUM: "They" have deleted these videos! So sad, the music was fantastic.

And just to get a feeling for it: if you were able to watch all the way to the end, Sullivan refers to Verdon as the "greatest dancer that show business has ever produced."

Maybe watch this opening clip of the Austin Powers theme and you will be transported back in time. I'm sure Mike Myers based this theme song and opening dance sequence on this genre of dance.

Please comment. I want to know you're laughing with me : )



ADDENDUM: I've been seeing a lot of folks berating Beyonce for "stealing" Verdon's moves: THIS IS NOT THE SAME CHOREOGRAPHY people! Can you imagine if Beyonce did the exact same dance moves in a newly released music video, especially in that hot outfit? It would be absolutely ridiculous. We'd be laughing our go-go boots off!

Beyonce is an innovator. I mean, true originality is sort of a farce in art. Even true geniuses are lucky to do one thing completely original in their lifetimes. It's the innovators that take the established way, change it, and makes it new: Elvis did it with Big Mama Thorton, The Beatles did it with Chuck Berry, Led Zeppelin did it with Muddy Waters and even Michael Jackson did it with breakdancing.

And anyway, we only have so many limbs and they can only move in so many directions, so as someone who knows very little about dance, it makes sense that it's gotta be hard to come up with brand new dance moves.


Gwen Verdon Fosse Original 60

ALEX | MySpace Video

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Early Joni Mitchell: "Favorite Color"

This is a 1965 clip of Joan Anderson (a.k.a. Joni Mitchell) singing "Favorite Color" on the Canadian Oscar Brandt TV show called "Let's Sing Out."

Even though Joni looks squeaky clean without a trace of the California hippie she would soon become, this song already features the finger-picking style, open-tuning, eerie chromaticism and gorgeous poetic lyrics melding child and nature imagery she would use so much in her career.  

Host Oscar Brandt points out the rise of the crazy new movement of singers writing their own songs. Writing their own songs...crazy!

Joni never recorded this song to my knowledge. She was 25.



And ainit she just cute as a button?  My second favorite Saskatoonian.

I've added "Night in the City" and "If I Had a King" to my playlist, a couple tunes off of her first album produced by David Crosby called Joni Mitchell (Song to a Seagull) in 1968.

Here's a modern interpretation of Austin, Texas' Will Taylor and String Attached.



Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's YOUR favorite Beatles song?: Let's get interactive



Hello reader!  I know you're out there, and there are quite a few of you! Thank you so much!  I'm having such a good time with this blog, and I'm so excited that so many of you enjoy reading.

Everyday I think of more and more things to write about, so I won't be going anywhere. As this blog is so aptly named, "there's always more to hear" and I don't see my interest in good music going anywhere.

SO, because I want to hear from you: Here's a question:

What is your favorite Beatles song and why?  Do share.  Please leave your answer as a comment. I know this question is VERY hard to answer, but give it your best go.  Just pick one.

If I had to chose (and this choice might change tomorrow depending on my mood), I would say my favorite is "Tomorrow Never Knows," the last track on Revolver.  Whenever I hear it, I sort of celebrate a little.

Why?  The lyrics are awesome.  They are so indicative of the late 60s and The Beatles' humanitarian pacifism:
Turn off your mind,
Relax and float down stream
and 
That love is all 
And love is everyone
I love the sitar and the use of that seagull like sound which I believe to be a recording of Paul laughing played backwards at various speeds.  I also think Ringo plays one of the phattest drum beats he ever laid down.  I also remember reading somewhere that John told producer George Martin that he wanted to sound like the Dali Lama singing from a mountain top. And George's backwards guitar solo?  How cool!

What's your favorite Beatles song and why?