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 Review, 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 Review…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…

 

 

 

The Peanuts

The Peanuts lived in a world where adults didn’t matter as much. The world was for kids only and anytime an adult came around and talked… all you heard was a wah, wah, wah wah… no words. All the kids owned their day to day activities. The Peanuts didn’t talk down to us…no they talked to and with us. They were also clever enough for adults to like.

Nobody ever wins every time in this life. Everyone loses sometimes…therefore everyone is Charlie Brown to an extent. Every person has failed at a big moments or at small moments. We felt for Charlie Brown because we felt for ourselves.

When my son was born…I thought oh no…Now I’m a grown up and I’m a wah, wah, wah, wah adult…My son will live his life and sometimes I will be just noise in the background.

Growing up, there was no other cartoon I looked forward to more than the Peanuts. Every holiday and any time one of the networks decided to show one… I was there. I would also read the occasional Sunday paper to see the Peanuts strip.

Everything from Linus telling us the true meaning of Christmas, Sally and Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, Lucy pulling that football from Charlie Brown, Snoopy being cool and taking care of Woodstock, Lucy being a Psychiatrist and Charlie Brown getting that sad looking Christmas tree…we got to peek into that world and listen to the wisdom that was going on while propped up on that brick wall.

Charlie Brown, one day if you get to grow up… I hope you get to marry the little redhead girl that you like so much and win for once.

The Boys of Summer

Baseball is back and I’m thrilled. I’ve always been a baseball fan first. No other sport matches up against it. It’s a game that takes a tremendous amount of skill to play. Most players who get drafted never get to play in the majors . Hitting a major league curve ball is probably the hardest thing to do in all sports.

Anyway, there is nothing like spring training and the hope for a new season. Every team is tied at 0 in the standings. I really wish an MLB team was in the city I live in…we have an NFL team that I would trade in a heartbeat to get an MLB team. Baseball is not an action packed game like basketball, soccer or hockey but there is a game within a game. When you get up to bat…no one is going to block for you…no it’s you against that pitcher … What I love is the different sized fields, no clock, no salary cap, players with quirks, fastballs that are 95 and above and the people who have the skills to play it right…it is a beautiful thing to see.

Baseball really hasn’t changed too much over the years except for instant replay and some small changes. What you see now is pretty much what you saw in 1920s. It’s one of the few things in America that stays consistent.

It’s a game of numbers and history…From Honus Wagner to Babe Ruth to Ted Williams to Jackie Robinson to Willie Mays to Hank Aaron to Sandy Koufax to Clayton Kershaw to Mike Trout… No game has the history that baseball does that is as important.

I love to listen to broadcasts on the radio and to catch a game in mid summer after I get done with what I am doing. In an instant I’m back on the little league and then high school field…in what Bruce Springsteen says…my…”Glory Days”

The cold weather is leaving soon and it is time for me to follow my Dodgers all the way to a World Series again.

 

Beatles Movies

Beatle Movies: A Hard Days Night, Help, Magical Mystery Tour and Let It Be.

A Hard Day’s Night – The plot was the Beatles on their way to a television appearance and the chaos that happens on the way there. Fans are chasing them everywhere and this part was in real life identical. Throw in Paul’s movie grandfather and you have the movie. The film is rated in the top 100 of some movie lists. The sound track is great and the Beatles were natural comedians and they had a witty script. A Hard Day’s Night was very close to real life because it was partly written by someone who went on tour with the Beatles and wrote some first hand information.

The Beatles were compared to the Marx Brothers when the movie came out. This movie is where their image was set in the public’s eye…John the intellectual, Paul the cute one, George the quiet one and Ringo the funny one (all of them were funny) of course it wasn’t that simple in real life.

This is the best movie they made and it fit them perfectly. I was fortunate enough to see this at a movie theater when it was re-released in 2000. Seeing the movie they way it was shown in 1964 was a great experience.

Help – A religious cult lost a ring that they had to have for a sacrifice ritual… Guess who had the ring? Ringo of course… the ring would not come off of his hand so they made trips to various places to help Ringo including Scotland Yard and mad scientists. The film looks great restored with vivid color. The filming locations included England, Austria and the Bahamas. The cinematography of the movie was great.

This was my introduction to Beatles movies and although not critically acclaimed it still is a good movie. John didn’t think much of the movie…his quote was “it was like being a frog in a movie about clams.”…it is enjoyable all the same. I’ve probably watched it more than any of their movies.

Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles making a colorful home movie is the best way to describe it. The music makes the movie. It was a psychedelic trip that most Beatles fans enjoy. Where else can you see a video of I Am the Walrus, Blue Jay Way and The Fool on the Hill? They play 4 wizards that…well…. they play 4 wizards. I have seen this movie multiple times and every time I think maybe I missed something previously and its better than I remember…no… except you get to see them in their psychedelic phase and above all else the music. I can’t say I don’t enjoy it but only a little at a time.

It has been restored with a “making of” included with it. I enjoyed the documentary more than the movie, It’s not for non Beatles fans but for Beatles fans its a fascinating look an interesting time for them. I have to admit I like scenes from this movie more than the whole movie like Lennon’s spaghetti scene I Am the Walrus scene… The ending with the tuxedos is pretty cool also.

Yellow Submarine – A beautiful animated movie with the Beatles looking for Pepperland. I saw this as a kid and was mesmerized by the colors and these strange talking characters. Most of the soundtrack are older songs and orchestrated music by George Martin. The Beatles didn’t even do the voices because they were not really interested but ended up loving the movie. They did appear at the end of the movie in person.

This movie is very enjoyable for kids and adults. I pull it out every year and watch it.  My favorite character is Jeremy who helps and hinders and is a unique character in the movie to say the least. The animation is terrific and ahead of it’s time. To some people this is their favorite Beatles movie. Watch this movie if you can… it is enjoyable.

Let It Be – A record of the Beatles breaking up. They stayed together for another year but this is a glimpse of the tensions that were happening. I’m a huge Beatles fan but it is hard watching this movie at times but I do like it. The first half is somewhat depressing but the second half lightens up when Billy Preston starts playing keyboards and they move the recording to the Apple headquarters. The rooftop scene is great and it is the last live performance of them and I would like to see the complete performance. Every time I watch I hope they will work it out… of course it won’t happen. You see George and Paul have a small fight and you see Yoko sticking to John like glue.

The music is great of course… from Let It Be to I Dig a Pony. You get the rawest Beatles performance since they played in Hamburg warts and all. I have a bootleg copy of this and it was actually released on laser disc but a blue ray release will not happen anytime soon because from what I’ve read the Harrison and Lennon (Yoko) estate does not want it released. I’ve also read where Paul and Ringo don’t like it and I’ve read where they don’t care. They have released so much…why not finish the story and release this…

It’s been so many years ago and it’s not like it hasn’t been documented that they were not getting along. This is for Beatles fans only.

 

 

A Clockwork Orange

This movie changed me when I was a teenager. It made me realize the power that a movie can have…There are just a few movies that have moved me and this was one of them…Platoon was another. I had seen violence before on the screen but this was realistic and brutal…especially when you are a 15 year old viewing it for the first time.

I love the soundtrack especially the music that was performed on a Moog synthesizer and it set the tone for the film. I’m not giving a synopsis of the movie…there are plenty of books and internet sites that do that… but a movie that will change you does its job and more.

The scenes that stick with me are the record shop scene, the Billyboy gang fight, Singing in the Rain and of course the eye scene… The record shop scene was filmed in the Chelsea Drugstore… I would love to have a room like that place. Very 60’s-70s futuristic…immortalized in the Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”…The building is now sadly a McDonalds…modern progress?

This movie runs the gamut…cruelty, horror, the absurd, violence, pity, and justice. This movie, in my opinion, shows that evil exists in all of us and what happens if we would let it take over. Also, I think the movie shows you that no one can change someone’s nature no matter what drugs or treatment you may give them outside of a lobotomy. Treatment and drugs may slow them down but their nature is not going to change.

This movie has been analyzed to death and rightly so. It could have only been made in the time period it was made. I can’t imagine this movie coming out now.

It’s very hard to put this movie into words…you just have to see it. If you want something really different…this is the movie but a warning if you don’t like violence…it’s not for you…

The cool car was an Adams Probe 16 AB/4 that was referred to as a Durango 95 in the film has been restored…

The Record Shop (Chelsea Drugstore)

clockwork-orange.jpg

Adams Probe 16 AB/4

Probe.jpg

 

 

Saturday Night Live

It started out as Saturday Night… Saturday Night Live title belonged to ABC for a show hosted by Howard Cosell who was out of his league. ABC let Saturday Night have the Live part after Cosell’s show was over.

Who was the best cast through the years? This is a question that is debated over and over again. The people arguing usually picks the cast they grew up with. I grew up with Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo. Personally, I always thought the original cast was the best and it wasn’t even close. John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Chevy Chase (though I liked his replacement better…Bill Murray), Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris and my favorite overlooked cast member Laraine Newman.

Why do I like the original cast the most? They tried new things and went out on a limb. Some of the skits succeeded some didn’t but they were different from anything on TV at that time…and also at this time. That cast pushed the envelop to use a worn-out phrase but in this instance it is true. Lorne Michaels guided the show and even the musical guests were usually hip bands and artists unknown to the general public and some are legendary now. No way would Michaels ever dream of that now…he usually gets whoever is the most popular to draw in the ratings. He could not do what he did in the 70s anymore because of ratings…and it is sad. Michaels also used the complete ensemble. It was not the Eddie Murphy and the Joe Piscopo show of the early eighties. It was about getting an unknown cast and building them and all of them having a shot…not a star-driven show that gave all the best bits to the stars.

A lot of the skits are now famous… Ackroyd’s Bassomatic, the Samurai, the uncomfortable but funny Word Association with Richard Pryor, The Mr. Bill Show, Weekend Update, Roseanne Rosannadanna, Land Shark, Bag of Glass, The Wild and Crazy Guys, the Coneheads, The Lounge Singer, Mr. Mike, The Blues Brothers and many more.

The writers for the show were not in the Carol Burnett comedy vein..they were not in the current SNL vein either. The style was more aggressive, especially with Michael O’Donoghue. He was a comedy trailblazer with National Lampoon and added dark humor to SNL. Other writers were Franken and Davis, Rosie Shuster, Alan Zweibel, Marilyn Miller, Anne Beatts, Herb Sargent, Tom Schiller and also Ackroyd and Chase.

The two members that didn’t get as much publicity as the others were Newman and Morris and are not as well remembered today. Newman and Ackroyd were the best character actors on the show…they could play anyone.  That cast tried to test all the limits. SNL has turned into just another comedy show through the years. The original group also did some serious skits along with comedy and trips into the bizarre (See Mr. Mike). …It separated the original from any other cast.

There were other great casts but none resonated like the original to me. It was also the timing of when they debuted…and look at the talent in that cast…

The host each week was usually under the radar actors, writers, musicians and sometimes athletes. You usually didn’t see A-list actors but if you did they were carefully chosen. The one big mistake was Milton Berle…how he got to host I don’t know but that is the only show of the first five years I will try to avoid… He was that bad.

I like the feel of underground the first five years had but you can only be that for so long…popularity takes over. Those first 5 great years (the first four were great…the fifth good) set the foundation that holds to this day…just without the daring and danger…in other words, it has become vanilla like the rest of the world.

Cheers to the show that introduced Acapulco Gold to a television audience.

SNL2.jpg

The Bassomatic…something you cannot explain with words.

The best Star Trek parody…