Fawlty Towers

A great BBC sitcom…some have rated it as the best BBC sitcom ever.

The series is quick, well written and acted. The show was made in the mid and late seventies after John Cleese left the Monty Python TV series.

The show centered around Basil (John Cleese)..a rude, class-conscious hotel owner with a domineering wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) a common sense  maid Polly (Connie Booth) a Spanish waiter Manuel  (Andrew Sachs) who could not understand English and took Basil’s abuse…and a retired senile military officer Major Gowen (Ballard Berkeley).

There is not a bad episode of Fawlty Towers. John Cleese and his wife Connie Booth wrote all of the episodes. The scripts are solid and there is some physical comedy blended in with Sachs and Cleese.

There were only 12 episodes made…two seasons with six episodes each. Instead of milking it dry they stopped at 12 because Cleese and Booth didn’t think they could write anymore up to the standards they set.

My favorite episode is the 6th episode of the 1st season called The Germans. The episode is a classic.

Google Fawlty Towers and check out the series.

 

The Dick Cavett Show

 

The Dick Cavett Show on ABC  was a smart alternative to the Tonight Show with  Johnny Carson and Cavett frequently booked intellectuals for extended and in-depth conversations

You actually got to really know the guests. He took more than 10 minutes, unlike today…there were no distractions, no busy sets just great conversations.

The knock on Cavett was….snob, name-dropper and controversial guests. All three were correct and I loved it. Yes, he attended Yale and yes he was/is a name dropper…If I got to hang out with people like Groucho Marx I would be a name dropper also… you better believe it. He would book John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, and many more. He welcomed the counterculture and Nixon hated him…that is a seal of approval for me.

He would mix and match guests….Janis Joplin, Raquel Welch and Gloria Swanson on the same show…together!

His ABC show in the early 70s was the best out of all of his different shows (PBS, CBS, USA Network). If he had a special rare guest he would only have that one guest for the entire show or sometimes two…

He had Norman Mailer and. Gore Vidal going at it… One show featured Salvador Dalí, Lillian Gish, and Satchel Paige. He took chances and it paid off… Johnny Carson once said that Dick Cavett was the only one that could have given him a serious challenge…but ABC then was a distant 3rd in the network race. 

This is not knocking Johnny whatsoever. Johnny’s show is the blueprint of today’s talk shows…Cavett just gave you a smarter show.

Watching the shows now it’s like watching a time capsule. Not everything is topical though. To hear Marlon Brando and Katherine Hepburn who hardly ever did talk shows is very interesting.

It was NOT… hey my name is Miss fill in the blank and my favorite color is blue…bye until next time I need to plug something… You really got to know the person and Dick could usually bring out something interesting. My favorite interview of George Harrison is by Dick. It didn’t look promising at first but George finally warmed up to a very relieved Cavett… this one was right after John and Yoko were guests.

Cavett and the 72 Rolling Stones Tour

Cavett and Woody Allen

Have Gun Will Travel

I never got into TV westerns very much but this one was different. It was on for 6 seasons from 1957 – 1963 that featured very different leading man type…Richard Boone.

24 episodes were written by Gene Roddenberry before he tackled Star Trek. The writing and the stories set this show apart from Bonanza and many other westerns from this time period. That is not a knock on the other westerns but this one was unique.

A rich sophisticated gunslinger (that goes by the name Paladin)…with morals…. lives in a 1880s hotel in San Francisco. Anyone in trouble can hire him at his normal fee of 1000 dollars (if the cause is good….he sometimes doesn’t charge)… He is a problem solver and only kills if he has to.  Paladin never reveals his real name but during each episode, he will flash his business card to a prospective client and then Paladin changes from socialite clothing to an all-black outfit. He is a man’s man who is a fast draw and quotes Shakespeare, Homer, Oscar Wilde and many more… Not your average western gunslinger…

Guest stars included Charles Bronson, Jack Lord, Buddy Ebsen, Harry Morgan, Dan Blocker, DeForest Kelley, Ken Curtis, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine and many more.

I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did because they did not dumb it down like so many shows did then and especially now.

If you decide to give this series a try…watch the 1st episode of the 6th season (Genesis) first… because it explains where Paladin got his name…but still never gives his real name.

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Van Morrison

Van the man is supposedly a difficult man to know but man can he sing and write… He started out with a group called Them in Belfast Ireland. They were very underrated and made some great music in the mid 60s. Gloria, Mystic Eyes, Baby Please Don’t Go, Here Comes The Night, Don’t Look Back and my favorite that is hard to find…”Mighty Like A Rose”…

He quit Them and signed with Bert Bern’s Bang records and wrote Brown Eyed Girl which sounds fresh no matter how many times i hear it. After the death of Berns he started on his great albums. Astral Weeks, Moondance, His Band and The Street Choir, Tupelo Honey, Saint Dominic’s Preview, Hard Nose the Highway and the list continues on.

My favorites are Moondance and Tupelo Honey. These albums are consistently great. I also love the title track to Saint Dominic’s Preview…it’s an epic song that I can listen to over and over with the imagery never getting old. I would suggest to anyone to get the early to mid seventies albums (but his other albums are great also) and listen to all the songs….not just the radio friendly ones. The radio songs are great… Moondance, Crazy Love, Tupelo Honey, Blue Money, Domino, Blue Money, Caravan, Wild Night but there is so much more.

Van’s voice and phrasing is like no other. I saw him live finally in 2006 and his voice was even better than I thought. If I could sing like anyone…I would pick Van.

For a person who wants to listen to Van for the first time… I would recommend the Tupelo Honey and Moondance albums to start off with…. Rock, country, folk, pop and some jazz for good measure…all mixed together in terrific songs… for his early work with Them get The Story of Them Featuring Van Morrison

 

 

The Grateful Dead

I’ve never been a Deadhead but I am envious of them. Unlike any other band…their music and fans belong in a special class. The fans are joined to an elusive club and a lot of them are really close. The band at one time was so accessible… more than any other band I’ve heard of… They have so much music to pick from…years and years of touring and recording. The band not only didn’t mind fans recording their concerts but set up a special place to record for a time. Led Zeppelin’s manager would have his goons smash fan’s recording equipment for doing that…other bands also.

They did not compromise…they did what they wanted to do and forget the rest. Top ten records? Nah…didn’t need them…didn’t have one until the 80s and still outdrew almost everyone. I’m happy they did have the one in the 80s…Touch of Grey…they really didn’t need it but it made the general public take notice. It was great in the 80s to see a cool anti-rock star Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead chugging away on MTV sounding better than the spandex idiots on the other videos at the time.

For me, I like their early seventies period a lot. Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty (which are two classic albums) From The Mars Hotel and a little later the adventurous Terrapin Station. I mostly like songs that are condensed down…hence why I was never really big on the long jams but I really respect the musicianship that went into them live. They could be playing folk, bluegrass, jazz and then switch on a dime to rock…and make it fit. To me, it was like a huge bus rolling down the road about to go off the cliff at any moment and then suddenly being jerked back on the road before the crash….sometimes it wasn’t but for the most part, it was pulled back just in time.

When Jerry died in 1995 I was sad. I didn’t know a whole a lot about him or the band…though I had their greatest hits in the early 80s…I knew enough to know someone and something special had gone too soon…I also regretted not being on that bus for a small ride anyway.

Songs I like:

Ripple, A Friend of the Devil, Mr. Charlie, Truckin, Uncle Johns Band (which I could listen on a tape loop for eons and eons), U.S. Blues, New Speedway Boogie, Casey Jones, Attics of My Life, Brokedown Palace, Box of Rain, Sugar Magnolia, Touch of Grey, Hell in a Bucket and a Garcia solo Sugaree…

There are many more I’m not remembering…