Friday, November 21, 2014

Mike Nichols 1931 -- 2014

In the pre-Beatles era, these guys were my rock stars.

Seriously -- I memorized every single word of that album. I can still probably do huge chunks of it, if pressed.

A true story (all dialogue guaranteed verbatim):

In December of 1975, I was invited -- along with the rest of the New York rock press -- to a screening at the Ziegfeld Theater of Stanley Kubrick's new film Barry Lyndon (the reason being, of course, that there was a concurrent soundtrack LP featuring music by The Chieftains). For whatever reason, I was in no mood to run into anybody I knew that night, and so I deliberately sat myself as far back in the vastness of the Ziegfeld as possible, i.e. there was nobody within thirty or forty rows of me.

Until just a few minutes before the lights dimmed, when -- you guessed it -- Mike Nichols (and a young blonde woman who I now realize must have been Diane Sawyer) -- sat down in my row a couple of seats to my right.

I was kind of jazzed by this, but more to the point, there was a rumor around in those days (the truth of which I have no idea) that Nichols suffered from some weird illness that rendered him completely hairless, and that any hair on his head, including the eyebrows, was artificial. So, unobtrusively as possible, I kept shooting glances his way, and eventually I guessed he noticed.

The following conversation ensued.

NICHOLS: That hot dog you're eating looks very good.

ME: It is.

NICHOLS: Where did you get it?

ME: At the snack bar.

NICHOLS: Where's that?

ME (pointing): Down those stairs and to your right.

NICHOLS: Thanks.

Okay -- how's THAT for an encounter with greatness?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Silly Love Songs R Us: Part Deux

So as I said on Tuesday, I shnorred a copy of the new McCartney tribute album.

And as I said at the time, like most tribute albums, it's wildly uneven, existing on a scale somewhere between complete crap, meh, what were they thinking?, alright but what's the point?, and okay, that's actually pretty good.

Here are two kind of cool examples -- you can rate them for yourselves.

Dion essaying "Drive My Car" (and brilliantly, in my humble opinion)...

...nd the godlike Toots Hibbert (with Sly and Robbie) doing to Badfinger's "Come and Get It" what always deserved to be done to "Come and Get It"...

Like I said, some of this is actually pretty good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Closed for Monkey Business

Taking a day off to work on my forthcoming true crime book/memoir -- "Unusual Matricides."

Regular, less homicidal, posting resumes tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Silly Love Songs R Us

Just shnorred a copy of the new Paul McCartney tribute album.

Like most tribute albums, it's wildly uneven, existing on a scale somewhere between complete crap, meh, what were they thinking?, alright but what's the point?, and okay, that's actually pretty good.

Haven't had a chance to really digest the whole thing, but at this point here are my two faves.

1. Bob Dylan -- Things We Said Today

2. Jeff Lynne -- Junk

The Dylan cover, obviously, is pro forma except for the fact that Bob sings it in his current raspy death rattle voice; I can understand why some people might have a problem with that, but I find it weirdly compelling.

The Lynne track, however, is just exquisite; "Junk" is one of Macca's most beautiful (and inexplicably underrated tunes) and I think this version does it total justice.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Il Papa's Got a Brand New Bag

From Rolling Stone:

Patti Smith will be among the performers at the Concerto di Natale, the Vatican's annual Christmas concert held in Rome since 1993, next month, according to The Independent. The concert will take place at Auditorium Conciliazione, a venue located about a 15-minute walk from the heart of Vatican City, on December 13th. The Italian-language newspaper Il Corriere della Sera suggests that Pope Francis invited Smith, according to International Business Times. The program – which will also feature DJ Bob Sinclar and the singing nun who won this year's edition of The Voice of Italy, Sister Cristina Scuccia – will be broadcast on Christmas Eve in the country.

Smith...met the Pope last year in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. She described the pontiff as being "very interesting" at the time and said she "liked him a lot," according to Huffington Post (via CathNews USA)...Smith explained her relationship with Christianity in the context of her song "Mercy Is," which appeared in Darren Aronofsky's film Noah earlier this year. "I have a very strong biblical background," she said. "I studied the bible quite a bit when I was young and continue to study it, independent of any religion, but I still study it."

[Note photographic evidence that I am One Degree of Separation from Pope Francis. How fricking cool is that? -- S.S.]
Words fail me. That's Patti Smith, as in the Patti Smith whose first line in the first song on her first album is "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine."

In any case, quite by coincidence, I'm actually gonna see Patti discuss "Mercy Is" at a screening of Noah at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria tonight. I'll probably be too nervous to ask her a question about anything, but I'll keep you posted.

I should add that I'm liking this pope more and more these days.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits: Special Guided By Voices Edition

[This is one of the very first Weekend Listomanias ever; I originally posted it in early 2007, which as you know is several centuries ago in dog years. As is my wont, I have done some re-writing, substituted some different video clips, and added an extra entry, all mostly to keep you from thinking that I have grown indolent and lazy suckling on the government teat of Medicare and Social Security. -- S.S.]

Okay, kids here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

Best a cappella Pop/Rock Song (either totally a cappella, or with a cool a cappella section of whatever length!!!)

And I don't just mean doo-wop. Group harmony is group harmony, okay?

That said, here's my totally top of my head top eight:

8 Steeleye Span -- Gaudete

I don't know what's more amazing -- the Spans stunning medeival harmonies on this or the fact that at the time it was recorded, the band were actually pop stars in England with hit records on the charts.

7. Petra Haden -- I Can See For Miles

The Who's power pop classic done solely with mouths turned to eleven. Utterly mind-boggling.

6. Fairport Convention -- Percy's Song

The acapella intro for this is one of my all time favorite things; amazingly enough, the performance gets even better as it goes along.

5. The Beatles -- Because

Of all the reasons to hate the Fabs, the fact that they were -- on top of all their other talents -- absolutely astoundingly good harmony singers may be the most plausible. This may or may not be from the Love mashup album, but I'm too lazy to check. Maybe it was on one of the Anthology sets. Whatever

4. Big Daddy -- Eye of the Tiger

The Survivor song recast as street-corner doo-wop, as it probably always deserved. The traffic noises at the top are a particularly droll touch.

3. Crosby Stills and Nash -- Find the Cost of Freedom

The a cappella at the end is pretty spine-tingling, I think. One of their better songs, although the a-side -- "Ohio" -- sent the same message somewhat more forcefully with loud guitars.

2. The Beach Boys -- Their Hearts Were Full of Spring

A straight cover of the Four Freshmen's original, but if it doesn't bring a tear to your eye, I probably don't want to know you. And this despite the immense dickitude of Mike Love.

And the number one all-time top acapella pop/rock madrigal is ----

1. Imogen Heap -- Hide and Seek

I first heard this in late 2006 when it was used in a montage at the end of an episode of the short-lived Ray Liotta TV crime show Smith, although I'm told it had also figured earlier on The O.C. In any case, I remember practically falling off the couch at the time and thinking it's the most bizarrely haunting thing I'd ever encountered. It's almost a whole new genre -- Android Doo-Wop, anybody?

Alrighty now -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Closed for Monkey Business

Too much mishegass going on right now, but regular posting -- including the return of Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits -- resumes tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Your Wednesday Moment of Holy Fricking Shit

The Records -- the promo video for their brilliant cover of Tim Moore's "Rock 'n' Roll Love Letter."

The song, obviously, is on the power pop Mount Rushmore, and often covered. But this particular version is supernaturally good, and the video -- which nobody has seen in over thirty years -- is, in Woody Allen's immortal coinage, transplendent.

Seriously -- words fail me. These guys -- and I was lucky enough to see them in their prime -- were beyond great.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Image of the Day

Courtesy of the eternally cool Jaan Uhelszki (of CREEM fame and much more): Behold, in breathless wonder, one of the most amazing photos I have ever seen.

From December, 1976, this is apparently the very first meeting of the two great Smiths -- Patti and "Sonic" Fred of The MC5.

The picture was taken in the dressing room of some small club after a Patti show at the Masonic Temple in Detroit; the photographer was Jaan's sister JoAnn, who as Jaan notes "always had the knack of being at the right place at the right time." Jaan herself can be glimpsed at the top right of the image, chatting with MC5 bassist Michael Davis.

In any case, words fail me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ineptitude Killed the Radio Star

All four brilliant hours of last Tuesday's edition(s) of my pal Captain Al's intertube radio show -- featuring a guest star whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels, cracking wise and spinning some interesting tunes and stuff -- can now be found at the vault section of Area 24 Radio right over HERE.

Just scroll down to Lost at Sea for 11/04 and 11/05 and click on the links to enjoy big time professional broadcasting two guys goofing around (and one of them was swilling elitist chardonnay). I think you'll particularly enjoy the 1943 Albert Brooks Show that closes hour four; as Brooks says in the intro, it's wonderful that some of his pre-natal work has survived.

I should add, however, that my microphone seems to have been set at a lower volume level than that of my host -- I smell conspiracy!