I will post the answer next year. (Tomorrow.)
Friday, December 31, 2010
I will post the answer next year. (Tomorrow.)
Thursday, December 30, 2010
I've been thinking about the concept behind the "greatest hits" album as a consequence of my previous post on the reissue. As I indicated yesterday, while Milt Gabler pioneered the reissue in 1934 by licensing from the American Record Company the masters of early jazz records for his independent (as opposed to "major") Commodore label, it was George Avakian at Columbia Records--incidentally, it was he who apparently signed Johnny Mathis to Columbia in the mid-50s--who with a series of reissues beginning in 1940 provided the first outline of a primary jazz canon that influenced the writing and thinking on jazz for the next several decades. Having thought about the idea of the reissue for the past couple of days, I have concluded that the "greatest hits" album is merely another name for a reissue: like the reissue, it is both a retrospective and also promises nothing but the canonical recordings--the proverbial wheat separated from the chaff. In the case of Johnny's Greatest Hits, it cost Columbia Records nothing to (re)issue and had the additional benefit of making the company pots of money. Obviously the music industry is a complex, profit-oriented institution. Executives at Columbia Records learned from the earlier Hot Jazz Classics series of reissues that rather than to ignore its back catalog and lease those masters to indie labels, it should transform its back catalog into yet another revenue stream--but call it "greatest hits" rather than a reissue. True, "greatest hits" suggests a form of endorsement by the tasteless mob ("popular") rather than the "critical" form of endorsement coming from an informed "specialist," but the latter form of approbation suggests the elitist judgment of the snob, to be avoided at all costs. A "greatest hits" album thus has populist appeal. Moreover, a "greatest hits" album has the added advantage of thinking for, and then fulfilling, the desire of the masses for a definitive collection: in a "greatest hits" package, prescience is combined with efficiency. Rather than a disorganized mess of scattered and noisy 45s or a bunch of LPs, the "greatest hits" album collects the canonical songs--all the songs "that matter"--into one slick, convenient, inexpensive bundle.
Ruminating on the "greatest hits" album allows us to conclude the following about the music industry:
1. The past and present catalogs of all of the major music labels are one vast (but hugely intimidating) database. Apple's iTunes recognizes this to be true, and has exploited it for profit. The iTunes database holds the promise of someday being like the mind of God, holding all possible musical tracks within it, the sum total of all music ever recorded, and hence the potential of fulfilling every potential desire. Scarcity (rarity), a sad indicator of corporate inefficiency, shall someday be a thing of the past.
2. We must acknowledge that music, like bricks, is the result of sophisticated technology subjected to human will, an industrial product, and hence is a commodity that is manufactured and sold. Apple's iTunes also recognizes this to be true and holds the promise of (someday) holding the largest possible selection of bricks made, offering all optional colors and textural variations, a veritable cornucopia, the superest of all superstores.
3. All human technologies seek to perfect ("improve on") nature. Bricks, made to be sold, are stone perfected. "Greatest hits" packages improve on the imperfect state of nature, offering the typical (the non-specialized) consumer a basic set of solid, widely-endorsed, time-proven bricks at a reasonable price. Even "Greatest Hits" albums are available on iTunes.
Addendum 12/30/10 5:07 p.m. -- According to Adam White, The Billboard Book of Gold & Platinum Records (1990), Johnny's Greatest Hits was certified " Gold" on 6/1/59, and certified "Platinum" on 11/21/86.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Bruce Boyd Raeburn (New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History, University of Michigan Press 2009), indicates that the practice of reissuing started during the Great Depression, when in 1934 Milt Gabler negotiated a leasing arrangement with the American Record Company (ARC) — which controlled the masters of the moribund OKeh, Brunswick, and Vocalion labels — and reissued some early jazz recordings on his Commodore label. The next year he formed the United Hot Clubs of America (UHCA) and reissued 57 jazz classics on the label over the next five years.
Then, according to this interesting article, in early 1940, Columbia Records followed Milt Gabler's lead and authorized a 20-year-old Yale student (the Yale campus was a mere 20 miles from Columbia’s Bridgeport factory) from Russia named George Avakian to choose from among hundreds of early jazz records--in effect a database--those that would be rescued from obscurity and reissued. Hence George Avakian, consciously or unconsciously believing in the democratization of art, made many hard-to-find recordings available to a broader listening audience. “In this way,” the author of the aforementioned article astutely observes, “the first outlines of a primary canon emerged that would influence the writing and thinking on jazz history for decades to come.” Thus also began the so-called “New Orleans revival” and the quest for genuine jazz. Not only did the practice of reissuing canonize certain jazz records, it historicized jazz and established standards of proper taste, for these records were reissued in albums consisting of four red label Columbia 10” 78 rpm records under the banner Hot Jazz Classics, “hot jazz” now a distinct, meaningful kind of genuine jazz music. Put in another way, jazz not labeled “hot” was no longer considered authentic jazz. Such is an effect of canonization, but also one of the consequences of the reissue. As Walter Benjamin observed,
One might generalize by saying the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition. . . . Instead of being based on ritual, it [art] begins to be based on another practice--politics.
Or, to use Derridean language, a reissue is a “citation” grafted into a new context and, as an inevitable consequence, refunctioned.
Jazz audiophiles say that many of the reissued records in the Hot Jazz Classics albums were pressed from original stampers, noticeable because there is no lead-in groove but just barely room enough at the edge to drop the stylus (the original records were actually 10 1/4” as opposed to the 10” size of the reissues). As I understand it, there were around 20 albums issued by Columbia Records in the Hot Jazz Classics series, the first four being the following:
Louis Armstrong, King Louis, C-28, #1 (pictured above)
Bix Beiderbecke, Jazz As It Should Be Played, C-29, #2
Fletcher Henderson, Fletcher Henderson, C-30, #3
Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues, C-31, #4
When Columbia reissued these four albums beginning the spring of 1940, the cornerstone of the jazz canon was laid. Following the reissues of Bix Beiderbecke, Bessie Smith and Fletcher Henderson were albums on Duke Ellington (#5) Earl Hines, and Frank Teschemacher (#7). Other reissues followed, and so the past became present. The reissue, a consequence of mechanical reproduction and all that it implies, thus gave birth to the audiophile, one who philosophically adheres to the hierarchy of original and copy and who therefore denounces the copy in the name of the original, and the collector, one who exhibits the will to omniscience and has taken up the aural equivalent of the hobby of trainspotting.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
As has been the case since the Fifties, jazz is once again portrayed as the kind of music that seems to hold a special appeal to snobs and elitists (“intellectuals”), especially so to those preoccupied by “its artistic and cultural origins.” I’m not actually disputing this characterization of the film since the argument of the film relies upon the foundational myth of popular music, the distinction between the authentic and the commercial (or inauthentic) and the various guises this distinction takes: innovation vs. popularization, black vs. white, jazz vs. rock, and so on. The way this opposition works itself out, as Michael Jarrett has written, “Hot jazz turns to swing, bop turns cool, eroticism turns to lassitude, black bleaches to white, the dirty gets laundered, and the uneven is worn smooth: the structure of this apocalyptic sequence reproduces itself any number of times in accounts of American popular music since World War II” (Sound Tracks 191). As Jarrett also observes, this authentic vs. commercial model seems ontologically stable to us “because it explains what Andrew Ross calls ‘the everyday, plagiaristic, commerce between white [“commercial”] and black [“authentic”] musics’; it conceptualizes the history of American popular music as a series of unilateral, commercially driven energy exchanges that everywhere bespeak ‘a racist history of exploitation exclusively weighted to dominant white interests’…” (191).
This argument is attractive, of course, but it also has limitations. For one thing, as Simon Frith has pointed out, the argument is based on a confusion that presumes “music is the starting point of the industrial process—the raw material over which everyone fights—when it is, in fact, the final product” (the contrast between music-as-expression and music-as-commodity). What’s more, the film employs an essentializing strategy avoided by today's cultural critics, and therefore is unable to avoid the limitations of an essentialist understanding of the “African-American experience.” Essentialism, Trina Grillo writes,
is the notion that there is a single woman’s, or Black person’s, or any other group’s experience that can be described independently from other aspects of the person—that there is an “essence” to that experience. An essentialist outlook assumes that the experience of being a member of the group under discussion is a stable one, one with a clear meaning, a meaning constant through time, space, and different historical, social, political, and personal contexts. (qtd. in Sherene H. Razack, Looking White People in the Eye, p. 157)
Perhaps the film’s greatest failing, however, is that its provocative declaration “jazz is dead” is actually an admission by the filmmakers that they cannot account for future jazz innovation. Shot largely in 1958, released in 1959, the irony is that about the time the film was released (rather limited, so I understand), Ornette Coleman and his associates began to pioneer harmolodics—a move beyond the lead/rhythm opposition which had structured all jazz improvisation up to that time—with albums such as The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959), the title of which uncannily seems like a rejoinder to the "jazz is dead" argument in The Cry of Jazz.
I should note that the Library of Congress admits that the goal of the registry is not to identify the best movies ever made but to preserve films with artistic, cultural or historical significance. Historically considered as a pre-Civil Rights Era documentary, The Cry of Jazz would seem to be an appropriate choice for inclusion in the Registry.
Monday, December 27, 2010
The tracklisting on the '60-'61 Sessions is as follows:
01. Fame And Fortune (take 3)
02. Fame And Fortune (take 5)
03. Blue Suede Shoes (take 1)
04. Summer Kisses, Winter Tears (take 21, 22, and 23)
05. Surrender (take 3, 4)
06. Sentimental Me (take 3)
07. Swing Down Sweet Chariot (take 4)
08. There's Always Me (take 3, 4)
09. Fame And Fortune (take 9)
10. He Knows Just What I Need (take 9)
11. He Knows Just What I Need (take 10)
12. Summer Kisses, Winter Tears (take 24)
13. Put The Blame On Me (take 3, 4 and 5)
14. Starting Today (take 3)
15. Flaming Star (vocal overdub)
16. Summer Kisses, Winter Tears (take 26)
17, In My Father's House (work part, take 1)
18. Fame And Fortune (take 10)
19. Fame And Fortune (take 11)
20. Fame And Fortune (take 12)
The Complete Sessions:
21. - 27. Britches (take 1, 2 & 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, insert 1, take 1)
28. - 30. Milky White Way (take 1, 2, 3, take 4 & 5, take 6 & 7)
29. Wooden Heart (take 1, 2 & 3, 4)
Obviously the majority of the tracks are from 1960, confined to the first RCA Studio B Nashville session from March 20-21, 1960 ("Fame and Fortune"), soundtrack sessions for Paramount's G. I. Blues (April 27-28, 1960) and 20th Century-Fox's Flaming Star (August 8, 1960), and the His Hand In Mine Studio B Nashville session from October 30-31, 1960. The remaining four tracks are from the March 12-13, 1961 Studio B Nashville session that formed the basis of 1961's Something For Everybody ("Sentimental Me," "There's Always Me," "Put the Blame On Me," and "Starting Today"). Hence the contents of the disc are rather nicely confined to material recorded from March 1960 through March 1961, with the emphasis on material recorded March - October 1960. If one were to combine the outtakes on the '60-'61 Sessions with those on the FTD releases Fame and Fortune (2002) and Long Lonely Highway (2000) and those on the FTDs of Elvis Is Back! (2005) and Something For Everybody (2006) (excluding the singles), as well as most of the tracks on Such A Night: Essential Elvis Volume 6 (2000) and the first few tracks found on disc 2 of Collector's Gold (1991), you'd have an excellent representation of the first calendar year (March '60 - March ' 61) of the post-Army Elvis, a very good musical period indeed. To fill out the recordings for this year, one would also have to add the FTD releases of Wild in the Country and Blue Hawaii as well as the 1997 RCA Europe import CD of G. I. Blues, which includes several alternate takes. The unused "Black Star" as well as other soundtrack recordings from this period can be found on disc 1 of the aforementioned 3-CD box Collector's Gold. While the so-called "smoother" sound of Sixties Elvis starts to emerge with songs such as "Fame and Fortune," the excellence of the Elvis Is Back! (produced by Steve Sholes and Chet Atkins) and Something For Everybody (Steve Sholes) sessions is undeniable. (For a discussion of the Chet Atkins' "smooth" or "Nashville sound" emerging at this time which influenced the production of the music Elvis recorded during this period, I'll refer readers to an earlier post found here.) Obviously the "journey" of the Sixties Elvis begins with these fine 1960-61 recordings, but the excellence of his non-soundtrack recordings diminished in the mid-60s as the movies (and their soundtracks) began to take more and more of his time and energy: notice that he made four movies the first year after he was discharged from the Army. However, the worst of the movies Elvis made in the 1960s--in my opinion, Kissin' Cousins, released in 1964--was yet to be made, but unfortunately it was released the month following the Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the rest, as they say, is history. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the biggest hit record Elvis had from 1964 to 1967 was "Crying in the Chapel," recorded in 1960.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
The mystery of the disposition of John Lennon's white Rolls Royce remains unsolved. Despite the recent 30th commemoration of Lennon’s assassination, we still aren’t sure of the exact whereabouts of John and Yoko’s white, 1965 Phantom V, or who owns it. To the best of our knowledge, there are at least three contenders, all of whom are based in the United States. One is doing time in a Californian prison; one is a legal attorney in Pensacola, Florida; and another is a property developer/car enthusiast in Colorado.
This is supported by a short note in The Beatles Years Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970-2001. December 1977: “On a sad note, Beatles fans in New York are horrified at the sight of John’s famous vintage white Rolls Royce car sitting neglected in an inch-deep pool of oily water in a $100 a month private garage.” (Source: http://www.wingspan.ru/bookseng/diary2/b10_1977.html)
The next “suspect” on the list is equally unverifiable. In a casual discussion between members of the Pensacola Fishing Forum, (http://www.pensacolafishingforum.com/f22/white-rolls-royce-bayfront-61968/) we learn that there is a local urban legend in the city of Pensacola, Florida, that links the vintage white roller that is permanently parked outside the office of attorney, Jim Reeves, to John Lennon. The forum commentary evokes a tangled, impossible to authenticate, “oral history” of a car that someone once claimed belonged to John and Yoko. (No photos available.)
Yet another white Rolls Royce purporting to be Lennon's former limo is featured on Flickr, parked on Main Street, Louisville, Colorado, USA. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/18767293@N00/sets/72157622341089611/detail/).
How bizarre that we know exactly where John Lennon's not-so-famous psychedelic 1956 Bentley is preserved but cannot state with any certainty what happened to the car that John and Yoko are most closely associated with. (See: http://www.sarasotacarmuseum.org/ and http://www.smallplanetbigworld.com/2009/05/john-lennon.html as well as http://www.bentleyspotting.com/2009/03/john-lennons-phantom-v.html)
At this stage, the leading protagonist in the white Roller saga has to be property entrepreneur and philanthropist, Stephen Tebo in Colorado. A recent contributor to this blog supports this hypothesis (see comments on the white Rolls posted on this blog).
Though still inconclusive, little by little, the real “life” of EUC 100C is emerging. Thanks to Rolls Royce historian, Rob Geelen, it is clear that the year and model of John & Yoko’s white Roller are identical to Lennon’s original black Rolls Royce, FJB 111C. And we also note that Performance (1970) was not the first time that EUC 100C had appeared in a motion-picture. (Source: http://imcdb.org/vehicle_317774-Rolls-Royce-Phantom-V-1966.html)
Alas, the saga continues.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
So what, then, happened to John Lennon’s white Rolls Royce (EUC 100C)? Eric Roberts, whose dedicated efforts I have reproduced on this blog, is trying to find the answer. We did get a response from writer Mick Brown, who kindly agreed to do some checking around, specifically asking Tony King what he knew about the disposition of Lennon's vehicle. Although Mr. Brown’s reply was posted in the comments to the original blog (below), I have reproduced them here:
I thank Mick Brown very much for taking the time to ask Tony King about the matter. However, the fact is, Mr. King’s comments have not, unfortunately, determined the fate of the white Rolls Royce.
Eric Roberts responds:
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Over at his highly recommended Total Dick-Head blogspot (link is available on the right), David Gill has written on the festival and also posted a link reporting on the festival that can be found here or through the link on David's blog. Thanks to festival guests and speakers for a great time, and special thanks to David Gill for posting the pictures and his own take on the event.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
I'm happy to report that my post on Lennon’s white Phantom V prompted Eric Roberts of Brisbane, Australia to conduct some original research on Lennon’s second Rolls, which he kindly shared with me. I wrote him asking permission to share his findings on this blog, and he agreed. I wish to thank Eric for both the research and for allowing me to publish the information here. If anyone has additional information, especially regarding the date of John Lennon's purchase of the white Rolls Royce (EUC 100C), please write and I'll share it here. If anyone is willing share archival images of the white Rolls, please send them to me and I'll post them. Mr. Roberts' essay follows.
JOHN LENNON’S OTHER ROLLS ROYCE by Eric Roberts
1. I think I saw (somewhere on the web) original documentation stating that FJB 111C was originally black. I may be wrong.
2. I am no expert when it comes to the subtle differences between various models of Rolls Royce cars. Is EUC 100C a Phantom V or a Silver Cloud III?
Everyone knows that, in 1967, John Lennon’s black, 1965 Phantom V, registration FJB 111C, was repainted yellow and covered in colourful gypsy-inspired designs. While it seems fairly conclusive that the original colour was black, a number of websites insist that it was white when Lennon bought the vehicle in June 1965 and that, subsequently, he decided to respray it black. Clearly, this cannot be true, since the so-called “psychedelic” Rolls Royce has a different number plate to the white Rolls that Lennon used from 1968 until he moved with Yoko to the United States. Further research is needed to verify that sometime ca. 1967-68, Lennon purchased a second Phantom V, identical to his 1965 black Rolls FJB 111C. It is important to recognize that Elvis Presley owned a 1960 Phantom V Roller, which he bought with the proceeds from his five picture deal with Warner Bros. Similarly, Lennon seems to have splurged on a Phantom V around the same time that The Beatles were contracted to make the movie Help!
In the aftermath of the critical failure of Magical Mystery Tour (1967)—in which FJB 111C makes a cameo appearance—Lennon began a new phase of his life with Yoko Ono. Lennon takes to wearing white clothes. The interiors of their new home, Tittenhurst, are predominantly white, and the exterior is (strikingly) white. White seems to take on a symbolic significance for both John and Yoko. Presumably, his psychedelic Rolls Royce was no longer an expression of who he was. It could only associate him with The Beatles in the mind of the media and the fans.
EUC 100C looks identical to FJB 111C, apart from the paint work and the wing-like radio antennae mounted on the roof. In the mid-1960s, the Phantom V was longer and heavier than the Silver Cloud III – a flying fortress, fully equipped with the latest communications technology. It was a status symbol and a mobile office within which one could feel perfectly safe. So taken was he with the new Roller that he took Yoko on an extended driving tour through Europe. Yoko is quoted as saying:
“He [John] had this beautiful white Rolls Royce and he said to me: ‘We should go round Europe in this car.’ I said Great! Let’s do that!”Because of the matching number plates, we know that this was the same vehicle that was used in the film Performance shot in London in 1968. EUC 100C was also used in several Beatles photo shoots. Film and photographs from the late 1960s of John and Yoko contain glimpses of the white Phantom V, whereas FJB 111C would seem to have been put into semi-storage in Lennon’s garage at Tittenhurst.
THE SPECTOR CONNECTION
As the Beatles were in the final stages of disintegration as a band, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s global Peace campaign took them to Montreal and Toronto , where Lennon agreed to take part in a rock festival featuring some of his idols, such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. Having missed Woodstock, Lennon felt the need to honour this post-bed-in commitment, the only snag being that he had no band. By chance, he saw a young drummer playing in a London club and immediately recruited him into the newly formed Plastic Ono Band. Alan White, then 20 years old, only learned that Eric Clapton was also in the band at the airport. White went on to play on the Imagine album, recorded in Tittenhurst Manor and produced by Phil Spector. According to Alan White, at the end of the final session, Lennon was so ecstatic with Spector’s work that he gave him the white Phantom V:
“I’m giving you my white Rolls-Royce outside. That is what he said; he said, you’ve done a great job, I’m giving you my Rolls-Royce. And he gave him his white Rolls-Royce – the huge one that he used, and he gave it to him that day. He said take it, see you’ve done a good job… Amazing.”Strangely enough, housed in Phil Spector’s garage in Los Angeles, is a white Rolls Royce that looks very like EUC 100C. (The original number plates have been changed to PHIL 500). Telegraph journalist, Mick Brown, in his book and various articles on his meeting with Spector a few months prior to Lana Clarkson’s murder, insists that Spector’s white Rolls is a Silver Cloud III, and gives its year of production as 1964 or 1965, depending on which of his articles you read. How certain is Brown that it is not a Phantom V?
To the untrained eye, a white 1965 Silver Cloud III would be very difficult to distinguish from a white 1965 Phantom V. Spector kept everything Lennon gave him—drawings, guitars, etc.—so why wouldn’t he keep Lennon’s classic Roller?
The only problem is that, in Longmont Colorado, multi-millionaire named Stephen Tebo, claims to have John Lennon’s white Rolls Royce in his private Tebo Auto Collection. In all probability, then, EUC 100C is owned either by Tebo or Spector. But which is it? How can we find out for sure and put this mystery of Lennon’s white Rolls Royce to bed?
1) Phil Spector: Nobody Would Want His Life Now
14 Apr 2009
Our meeting was, to say the least bizarre. A 1965 Rolls Royce ferried me from my Los Angeles hotel to the Pyrenees Castle, driven by the same chauffeur who would later testify in court that he had seen Spector emerge from the mansion on the night of February 3 holding a revolver in his bloodied hand, and say, “I think I killed somebody.”Link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/celebritynews/phil-spector/5154302/Phil-Spector-nobody-would-want-his-life-now.html
2) Notes From the Edge #247
August 11, 2001
Mike Tiano: So, along with working with John Lennon, you also worked with Phil Spector on a lot of (the Imagine) sessions. Any memories or stories that pop into your mind?Link: http://nfte.org/interviews/AW247.html
Alan White: Just small things like John walking up to him [and] in front of me, saying [to Spector], “I’m giving you my white Rolls-Royce outside.” (laughs). That is what he said; he said, you’ve done a great job, I’m giving you my Rolls-Royce.
MT: He said that to Phil?
AW: Yeah, and he gave him his white Rolls-Royce—the huge one that he used, and he gave it to him that day. He said take it, see you’ve done a good job... amazing.
3) Pop’s Lost Genius
4 Feb 2003
A car was waiting for me downstairs, a white 1964 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, license plate ‘Phil 500’.Link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandjazzmusic/3589445/Pops-lost-genius.html
4) Tearing Down the Wall of Sound by Mick Brown (Knopf, 2007)
A car, I was informed, would be collecting me from my hotel at noon. At the appointed hour, a white 1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, license plate PHIL 500, drew up outside the hotel.
5) With a Bullet
Los Angeles Magazine, April 2007
Phil Spector’s arrest came at the end of a long, traumatic night. It began when his backup chauffeur, Adriano DeSouza, drove his red Ford Crown Victoria up the castle’s steep, winding quarter-mile-long asphalt driveway and parked adjacent to the two-story, six-car garage and motor court. A Brazilian army veteran working illegally in L.A. while on a student visa, DeSouza - who was formally dressed in a chauffeur¹s uniform of black suit and tie and white dress shirt - locked his car, walked past Spector’s 1964 white Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud to a shiny new black Mercedes-Benz S430. He got behind the wheel and waited until Spector stepped out of the rear door at about 7 p.m.Link: http://www.lamag.com/article.aspx?id=14736
6) Mrs. Phil Spector’s Hot Rides
Rachelle shows 20/20 her husband's 1965 white Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.
Video - 00:21 | 07/30/2009
7) Yoko Caused International Incident With Belgium Strip Show
The Quietus, Ben Hewitt, September 10th, 2009
She also revealed that she had been forced to keep a low profile when she returned to Belgium with John Lennon, adding: “He [John] had this beautiful white Rolls Royce and he said to me, ‘We should go round Europe in this car.’ I said ‘Great! Let’s do that!’ So we were driving round Europe until he said: ‘Now we’re going to go to Belgium’. I said, ‘John, er, I have to tell you something!’Link: http://thequietus.com/articles/02706-news-yoko-ono-caused-international-incident-after-stripping-in-belgium
“And he said, ‘Oh, well, let’s just lie low.’ So we were lying down very low in the back of the car. We drove through Belgium on the floor of the car! But they didn’t stop us!”
8) Tebo Auto Collection
Jump on this unique opportunity to attend a private event featuring Stephen Tebo’s extensive collection of antique and classic motor vehicles. Mr. Tebo started his car collection in 1975 when he purchased a sleeve-valve, three-door 1925 Willys Knight for $2,500. Recent additions include a 1929 Duesenberg and a mid-1960s Shelby Mustang. Other highlights are John Lennon’s white Rolls Royce, Steve McQueen’s Indian Chief, Frank Sinatra’s Jeep, the taxi used on the Jerry Seinfeld show, a limited-production 1954 Kaiser Darrin, a room of Corvettes, a room of British cars, vintage fire trucks and much, much more. This rarely-seen private collection will go back under wraps after this event, so don't miss your chance!
Friday, May 21, 2010
Was it your decision to bring Tommy to the screen? How did you select Ken Russell?
What was your and the rest of the cast's relationship with Russell?
People, including Murray Lerner who is hosting the Tommy event, said watching the rock opera live was akin to a religious experience. Do you feel the film captured that feeling?
The original Tommy album was intended by me — from a composer’s standpoint — to provide the Who with a powerful live piece that would extend what I had done for the band with “A Quick One While He’s Away” — my first mini-opera. My interest in the Indian master Avatar Meher Baba and a fair bit of reading by Sufi authors and mystics at the time of the writing inspired me to try to create a musical piece that provided a spiritual travelogue through the so-called “planes” of consciousness. My deaf-dumb-and-blind hero was a cipher for those of us who are unaware of our spiritual life, either by choice or ignorance. . . .
Would you discuss the casting of the film, which includes such Russell veterans as Oliver Reed but such Hollywood types as Ann-Margret and Jack Nicholson?
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
According to a Fox News exclusive published today, Elvis may not have died in 1977 from cardiac arrhythmia, as has been widely reported, but rather, according to Elvis’s attending physician, Dr. George “Nick” Nichopoulos, he possibly died from the effects of chronic constipation. According to the Fox News article,
Astonishingly, according to Dr. Nichopoulous, the autopsy revealed that Elvis’s colon was 5 to 6 inches in diameter (in contrast to the normal width of 2-3 inches) and instead of being the standard 4 to 5 feet long, his colon was 8-9 feet long.
Actually, the issue of Elvis’s dietary and bathroom habits was explored about twenty years by the enormously unpopular (at least to Elvis fans) Albert Goldman, in his book, Elvis: The Last 24 Hours (1990). Goldman discussed in detail how drug intake would have led to chronic constipation. The full Fox News article is available here.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Steve also indicated in his email that his publishing company, Richland Creek, has just issued a new 18-track CD titled Kay Kyser: The Ol’ Professor of Swing! Live Air Checks 1937-44, which he compiled, produced and annotated. Since he is a world authority on Kyser, you can be sure it is historically and factually accurate. You can purchase the CD at the book site, www.kaykyserbook.com. I should add that Steve owns one of the largest collections of Kyser memorabilia in the world (now, thanks to Georgia, grown a bit larger). As I stated in my earlier blog post, Steven’s book is the first (and only) full-length biography about the once popular band leader. In addition to its many fascinating biographical details, it is loaded with rare and unpublished photographs and interviews, sheet music and magazine covers, and the definitive Kyser discography. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in America’s musical past, especially the Swing Era. To reiterate: Kay Kyser and His Orchestra had 11 “Number 1” records and 35 “Top 10” hits. In addition, Kyser had a top-rated radio show for eleven years on NBC, featuring the Ol’ Professor of Swing along with his show, “Kay Kyser’s College of Musical Knowledge.” No band leader of the Swing Era has a more extensive filmography than Kay Kyser, who starred in seven feature films and had appearances in several others. He frequently outdrew the Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman orchestras in live appearances; ballroom attendance records set by the Kyser orchestra during the Swing Era have never been toppled. In short, Kay Kyser was one of the most and popular and beloved entertainers in America from the late 1930s to the late 1940s.
I’d also like to applaud the Chapel Hill Museum for helping support Steven’s tour through North Carolina, as it seems to me such activities are an indication of its commitment to championing regional artists and culture. Incidentally, in addition to Kay Kyser, another of Chapel Hill’s favorite sons is James Taylor, for whom the museum maintains a website, available here.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Perhaps the most famous ghostly apparition in Western literature is in Act I of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, when the titular protagonist confronts the ghost of his father. The moment in the play is an example of what Freud described as unheimlich, translated into English as the uncanny. In German, heimlich refers to that which is as familiar as one’s home, that is, “home-like.” A less common meaning of the word, though, is secretive or deceitful. Thus unheimlich can refer to something unfamiliar or strange, but also to something that was to have remained a secret, but has been unintentionally disclosed. Hence the familiar become alien is linked by Freud to the return of the repressed, and both such experiences are “weird,” odd, and perhaps frightening—i. e., uncanny. When that which is hidden away wishes itself to be disclosed, the person or persons who are chosen to disclose it are said to be “haunted.”
Interestingly, if a popular song about an uncanny experience is done well, it usually becomes a hit. For instance, although Burl Ives apparently first recorded “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” early in 1949, the Vaughn Monroe version was the best-selling one. Monroe’s version, released around the first of April 1949, spent 22 weeks on the chart and reached No. 1. Bing Crosby’s version appeared on the charts soon after, and peaked at No. 14. Meanwhile, Burl Ives’ version spent six weeks on the charts and nearly made the Top 20. The popularity of Marc Cohn’s “Walking In Memphis,” in which the singer sees the ghost of Elvis, helped Cohn win the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1991. David Allan Coe’s “The Ride,” in which the singer is given a ride by the ghost of Hank Williams, reached No. 1 on the Country charts, and Stan Ridgway’s “Camouflage,” the jungle warfare equivalent of Red Sovine’s “Phantom 309,” reached No. 4 in the UK in 1986. In Sovine’s “Phantom 309” (1967), the singer is hitchhiking home after being unable to find work. Stuck at a crossroads on a rainy night, the singer is kindly given a lift by Big Joe, the driver of a rig named Phantom 309. Big Joe eventually deposits the singer at a truck stop, giving him a dime for a cup of coffee. The singer informs everyone at the truck stop of Big Joe’s largesse, only to learn from a waitress that Big Joe is a ghost. At the particular intersection where he, the singer, was picked up, years before Big Joe had avoided certain collision with a school bus by deliberately driving his tractor-trailer off of the road, killing himself but sparing the lives of the children. The song’s final twist is that the ghost of Big Joe has given rides to many hitchhikers. “Phantom 309” thus activates both meanings of unheimlich, a common activity made strange, but also the return of the repressed—the unknown or hidden is revealed, in this case the story of Big Joe. The song was later burlesqued in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) during a sequence in which the hitchhiking Pee-Wee Herman is given a lift by a ghost driver named “Large Marge.”
In songs such as Joni Mitchell’s “Furry Sings the Blues” and Robyn Hitchcock’s “Trams of Old London,” ghosts are meant to invoke a way of life long past, suggesting belatedness, a situation in which one has arrived on the scene too late. The singers cast themselves as epigones, those born after the Golden Age is already over, and all the heroes have vanished. The singer in Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Ghost” is likewise haunted by the past, but especially haunted by the figure of Anne Frank, a young person whose bodily existence was reduced to ashes during the Holocaust.
Marc Cohn – Walking In Memphis
Crash Test Dummies – The Ghosts That Haunt Me
Robyn Hitchcock – Trams of Old London
Dickey Lee – Laurie (Strange Things Happen)
Joni Mitchell – Furry Sings the Blues
Vaughn Monroe – (Ghost) Riders in the Sky
Neutral Milk Hotel – Ghost
Stan Ridgway – Camouflage
Red Sovine – Phantom 309
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
It goes without saying that recording technology has had a huge impact on rock music, primarily in terms of performance. Virtually every rap and hip hop group today performs to taped music and/or lip-synchs to prerecorded vocal tracks, an example of how the “live” has been influenced by the recorded. One often refers to a “vocalist” rather than “singer.” In his book, The Recording Angel: Music, Records and Culture From Aristotle to Zappa (Yale UP, Second Ed., 2005), Evan Eisenberg asserts that “Records and radio were the proximate cause of the Jazz Age. . . . Intellectuals and society matrons who hesitated to seek the music out in its lair played the records. . . . [R]ecords not only disseminated jazz, but inseminated it—. . . . [I]n some ways they created what we call jazz” (118). In the same way, digital storage and recording technology shapes contemporary musical creation, and is, in fact, to use Eisenberg’s term, the “proximate cause” of rap and hip hop. An illustration of this idea can be found in the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine (April 29, 2010), which has a cover story on The Black Eyed Peas. At one point, the article states:
As a songwriter, Will.i.am ascribes to Moore’s Law, the software principle whereby increasingly smaller devices hold increasingly more information. “Right now, every chorus is getting shorter and shorter,” he says. “Soon we’ll be listening to blips. . . .” [A]n apparently simple song, like “Boom Boom Pow,” is actually downright avant-garde. “It has one note,” says Will.i.am. “It says ‘boom’ 168 times. The structure has three beats in one song. It’s not lyrics – it’s audio patterns, structure, architecture.” (56)
More a product of computer software and the recording studio, how are software platforms and recording technologies influencing music itself? For Will.i.am, says the RS article, “songs aren’t discrete works of art but multi-use applications – hit singles, ad jingles, film trailers – all serving a purpose larger than music consumption” (50). In other words, the discrete song is no longer to be contemplated or celebrated as is a work of art, but is instead analogous to Warhol’s serial reproductions of found photographs of famous stars. Remember that Warhol, appropriately, called his studio The Factory.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Why, he’s suddenly so high on life, so fond of humankind, he even kisses a cop. That’s the all-inclusive principle of ecumenicalism at its best, and the magical power of nine.
Nine Instances Of Nine:
Alice Cooper – Public Animal #9
The Clovers – Love Potion No. 9
The Beatles – Revolution 9
Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Karn Evil 9
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – If 6 Was 9
Roger Miller – Engine Engine #9
Nena – 99 Luftballons
Damien Rice – 9 Crimes
Bruce Springsteen – Johnny 99
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The media has dutifully reminded us that today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. It’s understandable why: the media loves anniversaries because they are a form of ready-made news. Additionally, reporting on the event serves to maintain the illusion that the powerful corporations that own the media are both progressive and eco-friendly, that is, “concerned about the environment.” Around here, as usual – rather like the investors on Wall Street – most people went about their daily lives, the difference today being that many thousands of people around the country chose to drive their automobiles to gatherings where they joined others in advocating for action on climate change and energy reform . . . and then drove home again, all the while concerned about the passage of a new federal mandate regulating greenhouse gases. Nothing is got for nothing, Emerson shrewdly observed, meaning that for anything to be gained, something must be given up, that is, sacrificed. It’s easy to talk change when one actually has had to sacrifice nothing, nor has been required to do so. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with such practices, using high-efficiency outdoor lighting or loading up the washing machine hardly constitutes sacrifice.
As a boy, I grew up about five blocks from the J. Sterling Morton (1832-1902) home in Nebraska City, Nebraska. Morton himself, a politician originally from Michigan, had died decades earlier (he had served as President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture). After his death, for many years, his former Nebraska City mansion served as the summer home for his son, Joy Morton, a wealthy man who had founded the Morton Salt Company. By the time I was born, the Morton residence had become part of Arbor Lodge State Park, an ideal place for kids to play. Because it was a rather large, rolling expanse and heavily wooded, the Park offered ample opportunities for adventure. Moreover, you could tour the mansion for a mere ten cents, an activity I remember doing many times. Growing up as I did in Nebraska City, it was impossible to ignore the signs at the edge of town proudly proclaiming that Nebraska City was the home of Arbor Day. As is well known, Arbor Day was the creation of J. Sterling Morton, and political achievements aside, it remains his most enduring legacy. The first Arbor Day celebration took place in Nebraska on 10 April 1872, in other words, about a hundred years before the first Earth Day celebration. I see no reason to be suspicious of the official story behind the creation of Arbor Day: Morton believed strongly in the principle of conservation, perhaps inspired by the story of “Johnny Appleseed” (born John Chapman) and his deep reverence for the earth and the mythology surrounding the apple. Morton thought, no doubt correctly, that Nebraska’s landscape and economy would benefit from the large-scale planting of trees. Following Appleseed’s example, he began planting orchards (Nebraska City is known for its many apple orchards), shade trees, and windbreaks. He urged others to do the same. Eventually, as a consequence of Morton becoming a member of the Nebraska state board of agriculture, he proposed that a special day be set aside dedicated to tree planting and increasing awareness of the importance of trees. According to the arbor-day.net website, Nebraska’s first Arbor Day “was an amazing success. More than one million trees were planted. A second Arbor Day took place in 1884 and the young state made it an annual legal holiday in 1885, using April 22nd to coincide with Morton’s birthday.”
All 50 American states now have Arbor Day celebrations, although with varying dates in keeping with the local climate. Additionally, in 1970, President Richard Nixon proclaimed the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day. Hence, in contrast to Earth Day, Arbor Day, at least at the state level, encourages individuals to (re)enact the lesson of Johnny Appleseed, reproducing the occupation of the nurseryman. Earth Day requires nothing on the order of plant husbandry, which makes me wonder why it usurped the date originally designated for Arbor Day. In any case, in addition to whatever you did today in recognition of Earth Day, I recommend planting a tree or two. I did; two small Rosebud trees on the bank behind my house. I've always loved those trees, and so visited the local Earl May nursery and purchased a couple. They were small, but so much the better to watch them grow.
Incidentally, the title I gave to this blog comes from Gil Scott-Heron's poem, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” for reasons that by now should be clear: conservation is not something the media can truly encourage or influence. Earth Day, like any other anniversary, is merely a convenient and ready-made story that fills the space between commercials.
A Few Ecologically-Minded Tunes:
Crosby & Nash – Wind on the Water
John Denver – Rocky Mountain High
The Grateful Dead – We Can Run
Guided By Voices – Johnny Appleseed
Tom Lehrer – Pollution
Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
NOFX – Johnny Appleseed
The Pretenders – My City Was Gone
Quicksilver Messenger Service – Fresh Air
The Rascals – A Beautiful Morning
Pete Seeger – God Bless The Grass
Stephen Stills – Ecology Song
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Johnny Appleseed
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The connection of fanaticism and fetishism is conveniently revealed in a video currently available on youtube.com that I consider required viewing for anyone interested in the phenomenon, consisting of an excerpt from Thomas Corboy’s short documentary Rock ‘n’ Roll Disciples (1986). A range of Elvis fans are interviewed, including Artie Mentz (an Elvis impersonator), Jenny and Judy Carroll (identical twins who believe they may be Elvis’s illegitimate offspring), and Frankie “Buttons” Horrocks, who has devoted her life to the witnessing and the celebration of Elvis. There’s a moment in the video during which Horrocks observes that no true female Elvis fan denies her deep desire to have had sex with Elvis. As she speaks, she is shown posing with the Elvis statue now standing in Memphis, her hand firmly gripping its crotch. Greil Marcus observes the image “is reminiscent of nothing so much as the statues of Catholic saints that in present-day Europe good Christian women straddle in pagan ecstasy, telling anyone who asks that their mothers said it was a good way to ensure fertility” (Dead Elvis 119)—that is, the image reveals the nature of the relationship between the fan and the fetish object.
Monday, April 19, 2010
A Few Explicit Fetishes:
Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones – Black Slacks
Tony Bennett – Blue Velvet
Big Bopper – Chantilly Lace
Dee Clark – Hey Little Girl (In the High School Sweater)
David Allan Coe – Angels in Red
Derek and the Dominos – Bell Bottom Blues
Bob Dylan – Boots of Spanish Leather
The Eagles – Those Shoes
Brian Hyland – Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
The Hollies – Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress
Kenny Owen – High School Sweater
Carl Perkins – Blue Suede Shoes
Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels – Devil With A Blue Dress On
Rod Stewart – You Wear It Well
Royal Teens – Short Shorts
Conway Twitty – Tight Fittin’ Jeans
Sunday, April 18, 2010
In art and literature, self-referentiality is sometimes referred to as self-reflexivity, occurring when the artist or writer refers to the work in the context of the work itself – as does “The Song That Never Ends.” There are many children's songs that privilege recursivity and self-reflexivity, but there are also many great examples of self-reflexive pop songs as well. Perhaps the most well known of these songs is Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” in which she sings, “You probably think this song is about you.” Another is Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues,” when Donald Fagen sings, “I cried when I wrote this song/Sue me if I play too long.” My favorite illustration, though, is probably Neil Young’s “Borrowed Tune,” from Tonight’s the Night:
In the 60s self-reflexivity was often employed as a form of culture jamming, the act of defamiliarizing signs and slogans in order to disrupt habitual, or largely uncritical, patterns of perception and consumption. A famous example of culture jamming from the era is Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book, published in 1971 (pictured), which, ironically, sold extremely well, primarily because much of the book offered advice on how to survive with little or no money. There have been entire albums created based on the principle of culture jamming; one of the most singular is The Residents’ The Third Reich 'N' Roll (1976), consisting of defamiliarized versions of Top 40 radio hits of the 1960s. Not all self-reflexive pop songs have such a radical agenda, of course, but all have the effect of disrupting the usual, that is, habitual, patterns of communication.
A Self-Reflexive Play List:
Edward Bear – Last Song
Elton John – Your Song
David Allan Coe – You Never Even Called Me By My Name
Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant
Pink Floyd – Mother
Public Image Ltd. – This Is Not A Love Song
Carly Simon – You’re So Vain
Steely Dan – Deacon Blues
James Taylor – Fire and Rain
The Who – Gettin’ In Tune
“Weird Al” Yankovic – Smells Like Nirvana
Neil Young – Borrowed Tune