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…

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Rock Music… Where have you gone?

Rock Music… Why is it not breaking through to the mainstream anymore? Yes there are a lot of good bands out there…just check on Youtube and you will find many that are really good and some great. That is the problem though…you should not have to search them out. Mainstream rock stations will not play them…they play classic rock (which I love for the most part) but artists today have a bleak way of life. The only way they make real money is to tour and tour and tour. Since downloading began they are left with ticket sales. There are college radio stations and less powerful stations that play new rock but they are not prevalent.

The older rock stars really made the money… Album sales, tours, 8 track sales, cassette sales and CD sales and some download sales. Today’s artist has downloads on Itunes and CD’s that sell at concerts Some are releasing vinyl which is on the rise and that is cool. My son is 17 and he likes some new acts like Jake Bugg, Foster the People and The Black Keys. Mostly though it’s the Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Band etc…

I don’t think people take music as seriously as before because there are so many other options to do. When an album came out we would rush to the record store (Cats, Port 0 Call, Tower or Columbia House) and study the album’s artwork and liner notes. Music was a big part of teenager’s life in the 60’s through the 90’s…. With me, I bought a lot of older albums but I would get new ones also. Bands that came to town were announced on the radio and also posters on telephone poles everywhere. It was hard to miss a band or artist coming. We would line up and wait for tickets. I can’t say that I miss that part but I do in a way. I appreciated the concert more because of the effort and the long wait times. We would all talk while waiting in line on how much we liked the artist we were getting tickets for…. Talking face to face and not on a phone or in a chat room…a different feel altogether for all of us kindred souls. It was not a concert…it was an event. An event that you planned for weeks or months to attend and get excited about. After the concert we would wear our concert shirts…bootleg or otherwise like a badge of honor.

We would go to school arguing over rock groups and music in general…. like The Kinks “You Really Got Me” or Van Halen‘s cover of the song….I sided with the Kinks. New Wave vs Rock… Heavy Metal vs just rock n roll.

Yes, some weak music appeared in the 60-90s as in every decade but no one took music from The Partridge Family etc… seriously. Now boy bands or “divas” are embraced with corporate driven muzak. Record companies want a sure thing and will not try anything new….just the proven formula. Why can’t they put muscle behind more talented rock bands? I would like to see a revival of rock bands that you don’t have to search for on the internet.

In high school, there were a lot of bands. The group I was in played more straight rock and roll but we had bands that played heavy metal to punk. Today in that school…no bands exist. We would play in the gym for the entire school and the theater. During the time in high school (sneaking into bars that would let us play being underage on weekends). After we graduated from high school we would play bars and clubs. It was fun, exciting and we made a little money doing something we loved. The customers which included bikers were always great to us because they wanted entertainment. If anyone tried to mess with us they are surrounded by bikers who loved their rock and roll…thank goodness.

Rock music may remain underground but I hope not…

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Clara Bow… The Only IT Girl

My favorite eras in the 20th century have always been the 1960’s, 1970’s and the 1920’s. I was looking through some books in the early 90s inside some a long forgotten book store and a picture of an actress caught my eye. There was something about Clara Bow that grabbed my attention. I had read about her in a terrible slanderous book called Hollywood Babylon by  Kenneth Anger  and I was compelled to get the book just by her stare from the cover. The book was written by David Stenn called Clara Bow”Runnin’ Wild… I finished it in one night. The book impressed me so much that a few years later I tracked down David’s phone number (again pre internet) called Mr. Stenn just to tell him how much I loved the book. After I explained to him that he made me a lifetime fan of Clara he graciously sent me an autographed copy of the book to replace my worn out (loaned out again and again) to my friends.

David Stenn actually had facts about Clara unlike Anger’s book of sensational garbage. Reading that book introduced me to the world of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. From there my interest in silent movies grew. I always thought all silent movies were grainy unwatchable films where all the actors were on speed. I soon was educated that most of those movies where played on the wrong projector at different speeds and that is the reason for the sped up action. The quality of many of those movies from the 20’s are better quality than movies made in the 60s-80s when mastered right. Stunts where not faked and CGI didn’t exist….everything is real.

Clara had a terrible childhood where her mother was mentally ill and tried to kill her. Her father may have sexually abused her on top of everything else. In her movies she sold the tickets. Paramount built movies off of her name and didn’t always give the best scripts but she was electric on film. Your eyes will automatically go to her. She could convey more in one look than actresses today can say in 10 minutes. She was never appreciated like she should have been and that is sad. She was never accepted by her peers and never invited to Hollywood parties because she was straight up and said what was on her mind. She was great with fans but stardom took it’s toll on her. She ended up marrying a western actor named Rex Bell and went into seclusion.

She did some “talkies” and they are enjoyable but nothing beats her silent movies like IT (no Pennywise) and Wings. Call Her Savage was her best talkie film. Check her out when you can… She is worth it.

 

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Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton

Charlie and Buster were two of the best screen comedians ever to walk the earth. They both had similar upbringings. Buster and his family in American vaudeville. Charlie worked in British music halls. Charlie rose to stardom in silent movies in the 1910’s beginning with Keystone, Mutual (where he made his best short comedies)  Essanay and then he confounded United Artist with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and W. D. Griffith. After that Charlie went into full feature films.

Buster started silent shorts in 1917 with Roscoe Arbuckle. After Roscoe broke out on his own so did Buster….he did some more short films which were brilliant. He then went into full features. Buster was just so different than anyone else. He was so still while the world moved in chaos around him. He was a brilliant actor-director and also writer which he often didn’t take credit for doing. If Buster would have just made “The General” his place in film history would be cemented. The same can be said of Charlie Chaplin and his masterpiece “The Gold Rush.”

There was no competition between the two in popularity. Charlie won hands down over Buster and probably everyone else in comedy and drama. His character “The Tramp” was internationally loved. All in all Keaton was a better film maker. They were two different comedians. Chaplin would reach for pathos…sometimes a little too much. Keaton seemed much more real. Keaton’s site gags were incredible and sometimes dangerous to his health…like have a front of a building that weighed a ton (so it wouldn’t twist in the wind) fall on him with the upstairs opening clearing him around 2 inches on each side. He never smiled because it would have ruined his character. Both are worth watching and with Keaton’s films like Sherlock Jr…you wonder how he did some of the things he did with the primitive camera’s they used.

Both were funny men. The other big comedian was Harold Lloyd but he was more of an actor playing a comedian….he was really successful though… second to Chaplin in making money.

 

 

Charlie and Buster older both appear in Charlie’s Limelight.

Great Power Pop Bands that never got their due…

 

Seems like these bands were either too pop for rock radio or to rock for pop radio…The bands that come to mind are…

Badfinger – The most tragic story of any band in Rock History….although out of this list they did have the most hits… No Matter What, Day After Day Come and Get It and Baby Blue …one of my personal favorites out of many Midnight Caller…and Name of the Game…also  I would have loved to see what Pete Ham could have done later on if he would have lived…. This is the one that many people didn’t know that they wrote. Without You

Big Star – Great songs with great melodies that never caught on that influenced many bands to come after. September Gurls , Thirteen , Ballad of El Goodo In The Street these are just a few. This band should have been massive.

The Raspberries– Great hooks and they had a masterpiece that went unnoticed… Overnight Sensation…One of my favorite songs of all time. Their biggest hit was  Go All The Way. All their songs have great hooks with Carmen’s voice.

The Knack – Good Girls Don’t and of course My Sharona. 

The JayhawksI’m Gonna Make You Love Me , Blue

The Replacements

Who else?

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