Baby Driver

Just saw it tonight. The premise and previews seemed so dumb, but the reviews have been so fantastic, I could stay away no longer.

The flick is dominated by music and my favorite scenes are driven by Neat Neat Neat and this, interestingly enough, two of the few songs that play in their entirety.

I wanted very badly not to like Baby Driver, but stopped fighting and started enjoying probably a half-hour in (perhaps Neat Neat Neat is when I threw in the towel).

I never had this Focus album. Did any of you? I’m guessing it’s one of those that completely sucked besides the title track. Go Scandinavians! Go Thijs Van Leer!

Booker T and the MG’s “Green Onions”

Green Onions holds a particular place in my life.

Certainly, prior to Booker and the MGs releasing the hit in 1962, I had many brushes with the radio and records.

I loved Little Star, Peggy Sue, Sorry, I Ran All the Way Home, the Happy Organ, and Red River Rock among great tunes released prior to Green Onions, but that was before I had a radio in my room, or our family had a phonograph player let alone a stereo.

Meaning I had no regular or consistent means of channeling the hits of the day aside from Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan.

The summer of ’62, however, we went to Lake Tahoe for a week, staying at a University of California family camp. I was nine then, and  The Locomotion, Runaway, and Sherry were all huge hits that lived on the juke box in the dining room at camp where the collegiate staff ruled the roost at night.

That made it great for my brother and I to hang with the kids we had met, and listen to those great songs as the entry to regular exposure of pop music, something that then never left.

That fall I entered 6th grade, and also began Hebrew School, being just a little ahead of three years before my suspected Bar Mitzvah date. Hebrew class was held at our Temple, and usually one of my mates in school who also attended car-pooled me with them while either my mother, or Cantor Cohn, whose son Ron was a great friend, would ferry me back home.

But, on one particular day, Miriam Costa, a neighbor from across the street whose family’s life has criss-crossed with mine in strange ways over the past 55 years, was there to take me back to our house.

I was quiet riding in the car, and Mrs. Costa had the radio on, and truth was I wasn’t paying that much attention save suddenly Green Onions came on and that is the first time I clearly recognized a song on the radio I had heard, and identified it by name and performer in what became my ridiculous mental data base of music trivia.

So, the song has always held a special spot in my heart.

Well, last week I was watching the wonderful Barry Sonnenfield film Get Shorty, a movie I also dig a lot and during an airport sequence, Green Onions came on the soundtrack.

Knowing that I had heard the song in both American Graffiti and The Big Lebowski, I began to wonder just how many films had included the great instrumental as part of their production.

So, I went to the Independent Movie Data Base (IMDB) and discovered 34 movies and TV shows had borrowed the song, which I think is kind of a lot.

It is a great tune, and, it both reminds me of Miriam Costa, and also of my love of song really kicking into full gear just after that fall, when my brother and I got a little Packard Bell radio for our room, while our parents purchased a Philco phonograph player and there was no looking back.

Rolling Stones, Connection

They were showing Shine A Light in the park tonight on one of those big blow up screens, and, it turned out to be a fantastic sound system. Nothing better in the middle of a heatwave to see the Stones outside in somewhat cooler air.

I thought I’d seen the movie before but I was wrong. The nexus of Stones and Scorcese had someone how slipped past me.

Here’s the review. If you like the Stones, you will like this show. The songs are arranged a little differently, but the rearrangements are astute and advantage all the supporting players, so the front guys can play their rote parts, hit their marks with passion, and even if the ravages of age a little apparent, make us forget that this is 50 years later. It’s a great performance.

In the middle of the show Mick hands off to Keith for You’ve Got The Silver, which is a terrific tune that advantages Keith’s game but less than full voice. And then, surprisingly, the show move on to Connection, one of the oldest songs they played, one of my favorites from Between the Buttons. This is a pop hit that has a more insidious pop hook than the overt grabbers of Satisfaction or Get Off My Cloud or Paint It Black, and was never released as a single, so was never a hit.

But it lives on. Scorcese obviously understands the limits of a non-pop historical song from an audience perspective and uses that to glide into Keith interviews when he was young and when he was old. Good stuff, all, but it diverts our attention away from the performance, which is remarkably winning in spite of its limitations.

I particularly like that dynamic, so I wanted more of the performance, but what I can share is this Italian version of the song and intercuts. I hope it suffices. By that I mean, I think this is fun.

Fats Domino, Ain’t That a Shame

Domino isn’t the immediate precursor of Van Morrison’s sound, even if Van’s song is a tribute. But this clip is choice just because of the sax break and it’s pounding piano and the way the white audience is fenced off from the stage, but clearly doesn’t need to be. Clap hands.

And isn’t that Harpo Marx standing with Mannix watching? The clip is from the movie Shake Rattle and Roll, and Harpo isn’t credited.

 

Hey There, Little Stranger

Gimme Danger is finally out in a medium we can easily watch.

I streamed it for $4.99 last night on Amazon. In the beginning of the movie, it says “Amazon Studios” so this might be the only place it’s currently available.

Was it as good as advertised? Abso. Fucking. Lutely.

If anyone wants to watch it and talk about some rock ‘n’ roll, I’m here.

Lunch Break: Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Mr. Saturday Night Special”

I think I have owned up to the fact that I was never a huge Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, particularly, during the heyday of the band.

I always thought Freebird sort of silly and overindulgent, and the band did pretty much seem like a street fight version of the Allman Brothers, and I remember being in London, at my cousins Jim and Evie’s, when the news of the 1977 plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zandt. That was on the heels of the release of the album Street Survivors which featured the band prophetically with a wall of flames behind them, and the truth is my first thoughts were about the power of karma.

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Well, except that I did indeed find the song What’s Your Name? was a  pretty funny and well executed pop song. And, over the years, as with bands  like Rush, and even the Zep, whom I was cooler on for years than the band  deserved, I have come to appreciate the Skynyrds as a pretty good and fun  band with some good chops and clever words.

But, over the last month, the SONY TV HD Channel–one of several million   it seems on my remote–a lot of documentaries about music and bands have   been showing. There was one on the Allmans, and a pretty fun one on wierd   Christmas songs that featured a lot of time with Dr. Demento, among others.

But, for some reason I taped Gone With the Wind: The Remarkable Rise and Tragic Fall of Lynyrd Skynyrdwhich clocks in at almost three hours, believe it or not.

And, the film was more than engaging, highlighting not just the band, but in particular the driven Ronnie Van Zandt, the brains and driving force behind the group, who it seems was hardly a thug.

In fact, Van Zandt seemed to have been disciplined and focused beyond all belief, as the film reveals. He learned to be a pretty good singer, and truly was a solid enough songwriter, and, well, if nothing else, his band was a lot of fun. They were also a monster triple guitar attack band, although it seems improvising was not within the realm of the group.

I do recommend the film though: interesting, engaging, and well fun watching a lot of stoners reminisce.  For a sample, how out Mr. Saturday Night Special. Tell, me though: is it pro gun, or anti? Van Zandt was fabulous at these vagaries.

Film Review: Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years

Ron Howard is a master cinematic storyteller, for sure, but not someone with much interest in complexity or ambiguity. Which can be good for storytelling, but for me usually comes up wanting. I like the messy, the complicated, the things that make you say oh.

screenshot-2016-10-04-23-04-32I was curious about this picture, but would have let it slide, or ride, but friends invited me and my daughter wanted to go. So we went to Greenwich Village for some fine wood-fired brick oven Neapolitan pizza and Ron Howard’s joint, plus the promise of the whole Beatles at Shea Stadium film, remastered visually and auditorily using all the modern tricks.

The movie is a gas. The camera is up close on the Beatles and their fans through the 28 Days Later rush of Beatlemania, during the charge of concerts around the globe, and headlong up to the show at Shea Stadium. These guys, when they were young, ambitious and full of energy, were terrific cutups. And then it stays up close through the despair that followed the exhaustion that came after, when cutups transformed into turnoffs.

As I had expected, I felt as if I’d seen most of this footage before, but all of it was delightful, looked fantastic, and there are some revelations (for me anyway):

Early footage of some English shows in 1963 are fantastic and transforming. This wasn’t just a group of clever songwriters and melody makers, with winning personalities, but a hard rocking band. Ringo pounds on his kit, and the Beatles deliver with equal and transformative energy. Great songs, but also tight and terrific arrangements and wickedly and aggressively good playing.

McCartney, mostly, and Lennon, too, from old interviews, talk about their songwriting, and the need to hew to a schedule to put out a new single every three months, and an album every six months. The studio footage and tales, plus the clips from all the live shows they’re doing, and movies they’re making, really dial up the grueling nature of it all.

At one point Lennon talks about how silly the lyrics are in those early albums, really just placeholders while they worked on the music. Which seems like a throwaway, since so many are so clever and perfect to the form, until, later, he and McCartney talk about the personal content that John weaves into the lyrics of Help!, a song that to me has always seemed a novelty tied to the movie of the same name. But of course not!

I always forget what a cutup George was, even when I consider the hilarity of his film producing career. I mean, Withnail and I? This movie confirms he’s funny and serious, too.

I assume there will be a follow up, a sequel. Maybe Blue Jay Way: The Studio Years, but more likely Strawberry Fields Forever: The Studio Years, which will go further into the making of the last five elpees. That will no doubt be an equal treat. But the takeaway here is that the Beatles were really great, in a way that has no match, and we would be fools to forget about even a part of that greatness.

Ron Howard’s movie is a crowd pleaser, and lives up to that not modest ambition. Go and enjoy.

Everybody Wants Some!!

Richard Linklater made a movie called Dazed and Confused, after the Led Zeppelin song, about high school kids partying on the last day of school. His new movie is called Everybody Wants Some!!, after the Van Halen song, about college kids partying on the first day of school.

Like most Linklater films there is lots of chatter. In this case the bros in the movie are members of the best collegiate baseball team in Texas, and they talk about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, as well as much else, as they compete in everything they do.

I haven’t seen Dazed and Confused in a long time, so I won’t compare the two movies. What I can say for sure is that Everybody Wants Some!! is warm and funny and exuberant, brilliant and surprisingly deep in an offhanded and precise way (with beer and a bong). Highly recommended.

Plus, it got me to hear My Sharona with fresh ears. Not bad.

Funny: Crazy Keyboards

It is crazy draft season in the Fantasy Baseball world, which I guess my mates and I have been preoccupied with, meaning less rock’n’roll verbiage, I am sorry to say.

I had been thinking about a handful of songs to post about, but this morning I was getting my teeth cleaned and some lovely early 20th Century English classical music–a la Ralph Vaughn-Williams–came on. It was pretty soothing, but was followed by some pretty frantic piano concertos by Chopin.

Julie, who was cleaning my choppers, noted the change was not so gentle, but when I think of classical pianists, my brain goes elsewhere.

I am sure that though my parents did drag me to to the symphony and opera way too early (I was five my first symphony) my first real conscious memory of classical music comes from the great early Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies that often employed great classical pieces when telling a story.

However, the first such images that popped into my aging head were from films, first, out of the great Robert Zemeckis’ film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? which somehow manages to merge animation with action, with film noir and said Looney Tunes.

The great late Bob Hoskins plays the shamus Eddie Valliant, who tries to unravel the mystery of cartoon death and conspiracy, and his work takes the detective to the “Ink and Paint Club,” where this fantastic sequence takes place (it features one of the best one-liners ever with Daffy Duck making a definitive statement about working with the disabled).

But, the other piano craw that sticks is always Chico Marx. Groucho and Harpo were much more screen hogs than Chico, but Chico was a wicked punster and straight man, and like Harpo could play the harp, and Groucho the guitar and ukelele, Chico could tinkle the 88’s.

As in check this out. Brilliant. Funny. Wonderful.