Wednesday, December 31, 2008

That's All

That's all for 2008. And that makes me think of the title of a favorite song, a classic ballad that, no doubt, Lester Young played with deep soulfulness.

Here's Bobby Darin's take on "That's All". He does a very "guy" thing, not interpreting it as a ballad, but as a fast, rhythmic number, in a style I associate more with Tony Bennett. Darin, no fool, was in my view playing to his strength as a singer of mid and up-tempo swingers.

But my favorite rendition of "That's All" (even better than the beautiful rendition on Sinatra And Strings) is this stellar performance by Edie Adams in "Lucy Meets The Mustache", the final episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. "That's All" also described the relationship between Lucy and Desi, who filed for divorce the next day.

So sit back and listen to this great song. Edie hits it out of the park.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Edie Adams and Stan Getz Sell Muriel Cigars

The ever-sultry Edie sings
praises for the Panatela Extras, and, even though the Muriel Cigars voice-over pitchman talks over most of Stan Getz' tenor sax playing, I'm ready to buy some Panatela Extras right now - disregarding the fact that the commercial aired 43 years ago and I don't smoke.

The only way Muriel Cigars could have been luckier is if Ernie Kovacs had still been living when this commercial aired.

The tendency is to remember Edie Adams, who passed away earlier this year, as Mrs. Kovacs and the conscientious archivist of the comedian's innovative legacy, rather than for her lengthy career as a Tony award winning entertainer.

Too bad there are no Edie Adams Scopitones!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ernie Kovacs DVD Box Set

Forget investing in the shaky world economy! Sink what's left of that do-re-me into a
DVD box set of Ernie Kovacs shows! A collaboration of The Archive of American Television and Koch Vision, this includes 15 hours of Kovacs programs and is slated for release next year.

I wish it was available right now. Until then, here's a clip of Ernie and Edie (who is very funny in this bit) from the early 1950's.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vintage Christmas Commercials

What would Christmas be without. . . The Norelco Santa?

And after that, I have an uncontrollable urge to shave myself.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Classic Scopitone Starring The Kessler Sisters

"Kinda has a Hello Dali feel."
"They are Bloody Stepford beautiful."

And, indeed, they are: the fabulous Kessler Sisters, starring in one of my all-time favorite Scopitones, Quando Quando.

If you see another amazing, stylish, campy, sexy high-fashion 1960's time capsule that surpasses this Scopitone, let me know.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Burt Bacharach Day

Thanks a million to frequent cohort and Psychotronic Paul Fan Club member Lazy-Eye Raspberry Kennedy for bringing this classic clip (from what show? Ed Sullivan?) of Teutonic tunesters The Kessler Sisters to my ever-wandering attention. If Dionne Warwick can record "Walk On By" in German (and she did, beautifully - I've heard it), these fetching twins can sing "I Say A Little Prayer!" What I like most is how totally disconnected the performance is from the actual meaning of the lyrics and song. That's Entertainment!

When sung by a guy - or a darker type of female vocalist: think Amy Winehouse today - these lyrics by Hal David take on a sinister quality, and sound more like the obsessive words of a stalker than the emotions of a person "in love" (whatever
that means).
Makes me wonder - did Elvis Costello cover
"I Say A Little Prayer!" during his tour with Burt?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This Blog's Obsession With Scopitones Continues

This one has more derriere references than a decade of Walt Disney cartoons.

Funny, the PGA never latched onto this Scopitone, Tweedle-Dee starring Freddie Bell and Roberta Linn, as a potential promotional film. . .

Monday, December 15, 2008

And This Blog Loves Scopitones

Anybody who has attended events I collaborate on or produce knows, I'm a sucker for musicals, especially Scopitones and Soundies. I had never seen this Scopitone before last weekend's KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival. It's a beaut and starts with a turban-wearing dude spinning around. Surrounded by wonderfully strange imagery throughout, powerful vocalist Timi Yuro (1940-2004) gives her all to such 1960's-era WTF lyrics as "if I had everything, I'd still be a slave to you".

Of the strikingly odd moments, those showgirls bearing globes (literally, not figuratively or metaphorically) are my favorites.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's Official: This Blog Loves Frank Tashlin

Nobody could get gags past those Hays Office censors quite as cleverly as Frank Tashlin!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Jerry Lewis Rocks!

To continue that Frank Tashlin thread from earlier this week, here's my favorite excerpt from a Jerry Lewis flick, from Tashlin's Rock-A-Bye-Baby (1959). How many rockin' guitarists would kill to do the dance moves Jerry executes here?

Here are the rockin' Treniers with Martin & Lewis on The Colgate Comedy Hour. They knew how to have fun on TV in 1954.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Burlesque By The Bay

News flash from NBC-TV: there's superlative burlesque-vaudeville-circus talent right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. As if you didn't know that!

And yes, Virginia Mayo, there is a tie-in with this blog. The fabulous and hilarious Kitten On The Keys will tickle the ivories as the hostess with the mostest at my Pre-Code Follies movie night on January 30, 2009 at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum's Edison Theatre. The wonderful Devil-ettes performed between our cornucopia of cheesy Christmas kitsch movies at the Thrill-O-Tronic show at the Cerrito Theatre on November 15.

Friday, November 28, 2008

This Blog Pays Tribute To Frank Tashlin

While still enjoying Warner Bros. cartoons (one is hardly enough), I have no choice but to bring up an all-time favorite visionary comedy creator and satiric author of wonderfully subversive children's books (The Bear That Wasn't): Frank Tashlin (1913-1972), a.k.a. Tish Tash, Frank Tash, just Tash, etc.

There is an undeniable kinesthetic urgency and sexual energy - which a fair amountof the time get censored and repressed in his live-action features - that breaks through in Tashlin's cartoons. And, like Bob Clampett, Tashlin is never, ever afraid to be outrageous.

Here are two excellent and innovative examples, from Tash's peak as one of the looniest purveyors of Looney Tunes:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving With Daffy Duck

I'm thankful for a lot of things, not the least of them Warner Bros. cartoons like this one, directed by the great Art Davis.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another Favorite Risqué Scopitone

Enjoy Kay Starr and the usual bevy of bopping bikinied beehived babes otherwise known as The Scopitone Dancers in "The Wheel Of Fortune".

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Scopitone Starring Jeanne Moreau?

Jeanne Moreau, a multi-talented creative juggernaut - director, actress, frequent collaborator of Francois Truffaut (check out The Bride Wore Black for a stellar Moreau performance) and the dreamy movie icon who ever-horny young Parisian men gleefully killed themselves over in ultra-cool French New Wave flicks - stars in Scopitone A-307. This early music video promotes her 1966 LP "Chansons" (a.k.a. "Douze nouvelles chansons de Bassiak"). Nice tune - and I really dig the hip jazz guitar intro.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One Of My Favorite Risqué Soundies

In this hilariously racy Soundie from 1940, Joy Hodges sings this ditty from the 1912 Ziegfeld Follies.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This Saturday: Cheesy Christmas Films And The Devil-ettes

Great poster by Miles Goodrich. It will be fun to share showtime with Will The Thrill and Monica The Tiki Goddess again.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

More 3-Strip Technicolor Vitaphone Musicals

I posted an excerpt from this classic two-reel musical comedy on July 24 and e-mailed links to it to a slew of my friends. So here's the very enjoyable Good Morning Eve, starring June MacCloy as Eve and Leon Errol as Adam (can't identify who did the voice of the serpent), in its entirety:

Part One

Part Two

Don't know just why I love this film, other than the inevitable cute showgirls in cuter costumes, but I do.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Vitaphone Technicolor Musical Shorts

I'm pleased, the election having at long last passed, to return to more benign posts about arcane pop culture minutia.

Movies in gorgeous 3-strip Technicolor started to make the rounds in 1932-1935. Walt Disney, ever on the cutting edge, got there first with his Silly Symphonies, the series that sparked tremendous growth in the sophistication, technique and artistry of animated cartoons while bringing the wondrous "anything goes" surrealism in Pre-Code animation to a screeching halt. A couple of years later, Vitaphone started a series of 2-reel musical comedy shorts. Three (that I know of) are Service With A Smile and Good Morning Eve starring Leon Errol, and one that sounds fascinating, What No Men, co-starring songstress Wini Shaw with the delightfully bizarre Swedish dialect comic El Brendel.

Enjoy these two excerpts, courtesy of the indispensible Turner Classic Movies, from Service With A Smile. And yes indeed, this features the same Leon Errol from the Ziegfeld Follies, the RKO "Mexican Spitfire" features and literally dozens of two-reelers, including the legendary 1938 short, The Jitters.

While these production numbers aren't on the scale, level or inspiration of Busby Berkeley's grand hallucinations, they're great fun just the same.

My next post will include a Vitaphone 2-reel Technicolor musical comedy in its entirety.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Great Op-Ed Piece

"Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long." President-elect Barack Obama

Still way too damn lazy to blog, I'm compelled to link to a superb post-election article by Bob Ray Sanders in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It is a reminder of what the election of Senator Barack Obama to be the 44th President of the United States means, especially to those old enough to remember or directly experienced the American version of apartheid. Let's never forget those brave individuals who sacrificed their lives, yes, in recent memory, during our lifetimes, for the cause of civil rights.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Today's Elections

"It is not the failure or success of any candidate or party that most matters but the exercise of voting rights, and, through them, our self-government. If either team prevails despite the disenfranchisement of some Americans, that victory will mean all that much less; and if your favorite wins, and then the U.S. doesn't do anything to fix its voting system (and otherwise restore this faltering democracy), that victory of his won't matter much at all, since We the People will have lost control for good."

New York University professor Mark Crispin Miller, author of Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The "Top Ten" Worst Political Campaign Ads

Today, I'm emphatically way too damn lazy to write a blog, so here's an excellent article by Melinda Henneberger listing the 10 Worst Political Ads (or, at least, they are the worst, most appalling ads I know of) from Think the 2008 presidential race holds the patent on big-ass whoppers and even sleazier baldfaced lies? Think again.

To refresh our Short Attention Span Theatre challenged memories, here's one of the disgusting hit ads, pathetic loser #5, this one from the 2004 presidential slamfest. I would call it a "greatest shit" - but it's not that good.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mosaic Records

Mosaic Records, purveyor of fantastic CD box sets and collector vinyl, has a YouTube channel, loaded with interviews and clips for ever-obsessed music geeks. Great stuff!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More Saxxy Stuff With Ben Webster

Ben digs into the ballad Old Folks, with the impeccable Teddy Wilson on piano, in a 1970 Copenhagen performance that took place the day after the passing of the incredible Ellington orchestra saxophonist Johnny Hodges. It was no doubt an emotional and sad time for all involved, yet they transformed sadness into music that is moving, heartfelt and beautiful.

Hey, if any jazz fans read this blog, tell me where I can buy a DVD of this!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Coleman Hawkins Swings

I've thinking a lot about jazz today. If I could find a clip of iconic saxophonist Coleman Hawkins playing with The Bud Powell Trio, that would be my pick for today. Alas, I can't find such a clip, so here's something almost as good: the bluesy and ever-innovative Hawk performing Ellington's Caravan with the Jo Jones Band. Jones demonstrates his amazing abilities as a percussionist yet again here: he exudes taste, flair, originality, creativity and panache - while clearly having fun with his work.

Since one Coleman Hawkins clip simply isn't enough, here's the swingin' saxophonist's rendition of a great ballad, Indian Summer.

And now I must find that recording with Hawkins, Coltrane and Thelonious Monk playing together. Otherwise known as healing music, baby.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Indecision '08 Drinking Games

In the countdown to the election, there needs to be a new drinking game among national TV media. It would be a variant on 'Hi Bob', the game where you down a belt every time that phrase is spoken in the first Bob Newhart sitcom. Any moderator or on-air talking head who utters the words 'Bill Ayers' or 'Rev. Jeremiah Wright' must immediately down a shot. Charlie Keating? Not as high a score, but definitely worth a beer, chugged. If a pundit mentions any of these words again, then it's two shots. Any mention of ACORN not accompanied by a reference to purges of voters from Colorado and other swing states merits a boilermaker, with three shots going down fast.

If a TV pundit says, as David Wright of ABC-Nightline did, "but the real question now is what white voters think", make 'em guzzle a whole goddamn pint of the 100 proof stuff, right then and there!

Friday, October 17, 2008

More Marty Feldman Covers Of Tom Lehrer Tunes

Marty and Derek Griffiths perform Tom Lehrer's hilarious National Brotherhood Week on the 1974 BBC series Marty Back Together Again. While the quality of this clip isn't great (appears to have been mastered from a VHS tape that's going-going-going and soon to be gone), I can't complain, having never seen any excerpts from this series before a few days ago.

flashbackcaruso, for posting this on YouTube!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Poisoning Pigeons In The Park

From "An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer", taped in 1967.

And click here for more Tom Lehrer.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Marty Feldman Covers Tom Lehrer

Marty covers "The Vatican Rag" as a high-stepping production number and sings "Pollution" with guitarist Derek Griffiths.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Palin For President - Michael, That Is

This Palin is all right by me: has been for a long time.

The other Palin? The recent incident involving
bigots in the Alaska governor's rally audiences yelling "TERRORIST!", "OFF WITH HIS HEAD" and "KILL HIM!" about Senator Obama was an ugly and appalling blast from the past, a most unwelcome throwback to the bad old days of 1965 George Wallace and 1948 Strom Thurmond.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Moron Indecision '08

Must make a concerted effort to avoid clips from the presidential campaign trail from here on. The latest drivel infuriated me; wrote a blog entry so scathing that I subsequently yanked it. I am no less pissed-off today, but more venom isn't going to help matters. There's plenty of venom, as well as negligible substance, in the stump speeches.

I don't care if this kind of campaign works. It's a fetid, putrid and disgusting stench, as well as an insult to every American.

Here's hoping that what I wrote yesterday, "news flash: the presidential campaign has gotten so negative that sleaze, slime, pond scum, douchebags, fecal matter, miscellaneous rot and the stinking corpse of Lee Atwater are loudly demanding official apologies" will not characterize the next four weeks. I'm not holding my breath, but I'll probably end up holding my nose.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Your Best Investment For 2007-2008

Jonathan Clemens of Hawaii provided this great informative tidbit for today's "we can't stuff money under the mattress - we sold the mattress" times:

  • If you had purchased $1,000 of Delta Air Lines stock one year ago you would have $49 left.

  • With Fannie Mae, you would have $2.50 left of the original $1,000.

  • With AIG, you would have less than $15 left.

  • If you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, guzzled all of the suds, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling REFUND, you would have $214 cash!

Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle. Forget those 401-Ks, my friends, and go for the 401-KEG!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Who Let Banks Incur Mountains Of New Debt? The Freakin' S.E.C.

"If anything goes wrong it's gonna be an awfully big mess." Harvey J. Goldschmid, Securities And Exchange Commission, April 28, 2004

"Beware of geeks bearing formulas", Warren Buffett, October 1, 2008

In the reams of copy written about the financial crisis of 2008, one piece that stands out is Stephen Labaton's
article from the New York Times business section about a major change in economic policy, instituted at an SEC meeting on
April 28, 2004, that eliminated The Net Capital Rule, thus enabling banks to assume much more debt than they could previously.

Silly me, I had no idea that the Securities And Exchange Commission actually had the power to institute such major de-regulations of investment banks. Well, they did - and how!

Secretary Paulson was then head of Goldman Sachs, one of the investment banks that pushed hard for the change in policy, so many of us would be very interested to hear his comments regarding the events of April 28, 2004.

While hindsight is invariably 20/20, the
Securities And Exchange Commission's decision to remove the Net Capital Rule, giving banks the green light to delve farther into highly leveraged investments, ranks among the top 20 "smoking guns" in the panic of '08.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Quotes Relating To The Financial Panic Of '08

"You can't ask Congress for $700 billion without more modesty and a better explanation for how it would be used." Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2008

"Every financial company that's now in trouble got there because it took too much risk and acted foolishly. These companies were so busy trying to "make the number" that they pulled any levers they felt like. And, oh, by the way, isn't it interesting how so many financial companies that always meet or "beat the number" are the ones that are not just collapsing but vaporizing." Bill Fleckenstein, Contrarian Chronicles, September 22, 2008

"No system can be smart enough to survive this level of incompetence and recklessness by the people charged to run it." Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, September 30, 2008

"If I could borrow 700 billion on the government's terms and buy these assets I'd be doing it myself," Warren Buffett, CNBC Interview, September 24, 2008

"The Treasury plan is a disgrace: a bailout of reckless bankers, lenders and investors that provides little direct debt relief to borrowers and financially stressed households and that will come at a very high cost to the US taxpayer. And the plan does nothing to resolve the severe stress in money markets and interbank markets that are now close to a systemic meltdown." Nouriel Roubini, RGE Monitor, September 24, 2008

"What has occurred is not just an old-fashioned banking crisis but also a banking scandal. Most of the big banks were shot through with short-termism, deceptive practices and self-dealing. We must institute basic changes in corporate governance and in management practice to restore responsibility and honesty for the sake of the economy and for the self-respect of the country." Edmund Phelps,, October 1, 2008

"If Secretary Paulson constructed a package that was centered around buying direct equity stakes in the banks, he could quickly garner large majority support in both houses. Better yet, Congress could just construct its own package centered on buying equity stakes and send it to President Bush." Dean Baker, The Huffington Post, September 29, 2008

"We're addicted to easy money and easy credit and excessive spending and deficits" Rep. Ron Paul, September 19, 2008

"The financial bloodbath will continue, but unless the deal on the table changes significantly, Henry Paulson gets to decide who lives and who dies. The former investment banker from Goldman Sachs would be empowered as treasury secretary to play savior or grim reaper, the liquidator who essentially pulls the plug on some banks and financial firms or the man who rescues them from ruin." William Greider, The Nation, September 29, 2008

"The Democrats could start over, with a bailout plan that is, say, centered on purchases of preferred stock and takeovers of failing firms — basically, a plan clearly focused on recapitalizing the financial sector, with nationalization where necessary." Paul Krugman, New York Times,
September 29, 2008

"I could easily be wrong, but I suspect that at the end of the day, you and I will be bailing out the hundred-million-a-year finance titans who messed this up in the first place. . . There are still people, and I know many of them well, who believe that old myth that you can trust the markets to fix everything — that old magical thinking that some thieves will stop other thieves from robbing the sheep like us. That’s the really sad part. Some babies never learn." Ben Stein, New York Times, October 21, 2007

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Upcoming Movie Nights

While reading about, pondering and getting utterly confused by yet more staggering news on the economic front, I realize that. . . oh yeah, I'm involved in two classic movie nights very soon. The first is for Stephen Parr's Oddball Film. Stephen, director of the San Francisco Media Archive, is another of the brethren who creates fun, delightfully bizarre, original and historically fascinating shows from a wide array of film footage.

My cinematic crazy quilt this time is 'Wine, Womanizing And Song', an evening of partying-nightclubbing-carousing-hallucinating and philandering mayhem from 1930s and 40s classic Hollywood cartoons, double entendre-packed comedies and musical “jukebox” Soundies.

Date: Friday, September 26th , 2008 Time: 8:30PM
Venue: Oddball Film, 275 Capp Street, San Francisco
Admission: $10.00 RSVP Only to: 415-558-8117 or

I will also be with most of the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival crew on Friday, October 3. Cinema Insomnia's Mr. Lobo and The Queen Of Trash will host the Lobo-tronic Film Fest that is the Friday evening entertainment for the SiliCon at San Jose's Doubletree Hotel.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Gilberto Family Band

Relish this clip of Joao Gilberto and Bebel Gilberto, sweetly, deeply, profoundly personifying the bossa nova groove. . . I like them a lot better than I liked The King Family.

Since that isn't enough for me, here's Bebel, singing "All Around" from her 2004 album.

Is there a cooler, sexier vocalist on the planet? If you know of one, tell me about her!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sinatra and Jobim, 1967

To celebrate post #200: Frank, in his Brazilian blue bossa nova period, joined by the superb songwriting and lush guitar of Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Burt Bacharach Day

Enjoy Diana Krall's take on The Look Of Love, Burt n' Hal's sultry pop-bossa. This tune is so sensuous, it would survive a cover by Pee-Wee Herman and Pinky Lee with most of its sexiness intact.

Personally, I hope the ageless Burt teams up with Diana's husband, Elvis Costello, to write her next album.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bill Hicks, Standup Philosopher

"I believe that there’s this agenda in mainstream media - and I think it’s fairly easy to back this up - to keep people stupid, docile and apathetic. – Bill Hicks (1961-1994)

The risk-taking, fearless, restless, unpredictable, sometimes devastatingly inspired social satirist Bill Hicks lets 'er rip in this 1989 “Late Night With David Letterman” appearance. While his act was definitely toned down for the appearances on Letterman's show, Bill still managed to get in a few amazing, funny, bizarre and satiric moments.

Unfortunately, Bill Hicks passed away at 32, so it wasn’t possible to have the pleasure of seeing him expand, grow and continue to riff thoughtfully and madly through his 50's and 60’s, as George Carlin did.

I hope Mr. Hicks ultimately found a measure of peace and some respite from the stresses of this earthly ride.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sorry, More Political Crap

Alas, I assiduously scoured youtube and daily motion for some intelligent and hard-hitting political satire about economics to post today, but found nothing that fit the bill. Is there a fearlessly political Tom Lehrer with a brilliant intellect, Mark Twain's ire and Bill Hicks' fire?

So, in the infinitely less entertaining interest of becoming an "informed voter", Google or MetaCrawler the following:
  • causes+ subprime mortgage crisis

  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

  • Commodity Futures Modernization Act

Then, ask how the aforementioned legislation helped contribute to the U.S. financial system meltdown; ask who lobbied for these bills, who were the formulators, cheerleaders and financial backers behind these policies and who signed 'em into law.

And, with the understanding that both megabucks political parties bear responsibility for this, ask which of the two is more the architect of "another fine mess we've gotten ourselves into" (see, I got an old movie reference in).

It's time to set political views and biases aside and just answer the damn questions.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare A Couple Of Billion?

Jim Terr's spoof of "Brother Can You Spare A Dime?" is especially timely these days.

Will the new dance hit be "party like it's 1929?"

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lenny Bruce On The Steve Allen Show

Lenny discusses airplane glue and how he became offensive in this 1959 appearance on The Steve Allen Show.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Indecision '08

I prefer that this blog stay in the sandbox and have no intention of steering this off of music and entertainment more than once in the proverbial blue moon, but find myself compelled to rant today.

To quote one of the rare sensible letters to the editor printed in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Have you noticed how all of the important issues - the crisis in the economy, the war in Iraq, health care and all the rest - have been marginalized? Let's get back to the issues, please."

Issues? If polls and campaign coverage by the ratings-driven TV news media have their slimy fingers on the faint pulse of the country, one would conclude that the issues are of absolutely no interest to a significant swath of the American voting public. It seems that vast throngs across this nation simply don't give a crap about oh. . . things like an out-of-control budget deficit ($407 billion for this fiscal year, and a total national debt exceeding 9 1/2 trillion dollars), the continuing meltdown of the U.S. economy (and its relationship with specific regulatory/oversight policies), the destruction of our strategic alliances and thorough corruption of the political and electoral systems. Only ideology and "personality" matter.

The concept that if a candidate or regime (of either party) gets into office and screws up royally, horribly, unimaginably, an informed public will vote their inept asses out, ideally in a landslide, is gone, sacrificed on the altars of a scandal-and-gotcha obsessed big media, big lies, bigger $$$$$$ and big ass corruption. And if said public is, indeed, completely uninformed about said issues and beholden to rigid ideologies, we are screwed, screwed and screwed.

That's quite enough election year rant for now.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

That Lucky Old Sun

Brian Wilson, in concert, 2007

It's true - I was among the greying but enthusiastic multitudes wearing Hawaiian shirts at last night's Brian Wilson show at Oakland's historic Paramount Theatre, and damn proud of it! I sat in the second row right, jumped up and down, yayed, yelled and whooped loud enough that Brian and his bandmates could definitely hear me.

Yes, it's no accident that I did not become a music critic.

This may have been the best Brian Wilson Band performance, start-to-finish, I've had the pleasure to hear. It was easily the hardest rocking version of a Brian Wilson or Beach Boys band I have heard. There was no filler in the opening set of BB evergreens, performed with a passion and exuberance that breathed vibrant new life into the classic 60's chestnuts. As is his custom, Brian has surrounded himself with talented vocalists, including soprano Taylor Mills, 'CEO of falsetto' Jeffrey Foskett, Scott Bennett and all of the superb L.A. band The Wondermints, who nail those "Four Freshman" harmonies as if they're the proverbial piece o' cake.

My favorite part of the show was the performance of the new album, That Lucky Old Sun (written by Brian, Scott Bennett and Van Dyke Parks) in its entirety.

Part homage to 1950's and 1960's Southern California, part candid autobiography, it's short, sweet and offers that unique blend of happy power pop with poignant, moving interludes. A string section joined the band and, as the cellos and violins do on Pet Sounds and Smile, added yet more gorgeous layers of harmonies to the mix. Here's a short piece about the album, which for me provides a valuable balancing antidote to the snotty cynic within:

Nothing if not brave, Brian directly addresses the personal problems he has survived in sections of That Lucky Old Sun - and relates them to the human experience we all share.
Since I'm a (shudder) 'sensitive guy', this aspect of Brian's music gets me, every time. Alas, the struggle and emergence into the light from a long dark night of the soul is rarely a topic for pop songwriting, especially in the current environment that treats an awful lot of music as a consumer product like french fries or Funyuns, to be marketed primarily to those under 18 years of age.

In short, great show! It rocked the house and, in those reflective passages, achieved something virtually no one other than George Gershwin, Louis Armstrong, Lester Young and Duke Ellington can for me - elicited the good tears.

Thanks, Brian and band - hope to see ya on your next swing through these parts.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Miles Davis At John Lennon Tribute Concert, 1990

My favorite Beatles cover ever: Miles and saxophonist Kenny Garrett toss an original, imaginative, polyrhythmic and sweet spin on a tune that's in my top ten created by John n' Paul (with a brilliant and invaluable assist from producer/arranger la magnifique George Martin), Strawberry Fields Forever.

Since Miles sounded great in his last tour, his untimely passing in 1991 is still something of a shock.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

More Electric Miles, 1973

I'm still absorbing this pungent explosion of churning burning rocking maniacal wah wah funk sludge frenzy from the 1973 Miles Davis Group. It's difficult to say what I like the most: Miles' sardonic trumpet blasts, driving wackajuckawackajuckawakcajucka rhythm guitar by Reggie Lucas, Dave Liebman's soprano sax that sounds like rhino clarinet, the unrelenting, pounding percussion by Mtume (congas) and Al Foster (drums), or lead guitarist Pete Cosey playing like some evil spawn of Sonny Sharrock, Albert King and Jimi Hendrix.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Call It Anything: Miles Davis At Isle Of Wight

On August 29, 1970, Miles Davis rocked the Isle Of Wight Festival with one of the earliest of his psychedelic soundscape bands. Since I'm not patient enough to wait two years and post this for the 30th anniversary of this performance, here's the mindboggling set Miles' pioneering fusion ensemble played that day.

This Miles ensemble, not long after key saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter's departure to form Weather Report, inhabits that intriguing space between the Bitches Brew, Big Fun and Live-Evil recordings. Yep, this is definitely 'out there', but not yet the gurgling rock-funk-electronics-jazz-India-psychedelic-wah wah-sludge-raging raga cauldron that culminated in the live albums Dark Magus, Agharta and Pangeea. All offer an invaluable antidote to market-researched, focus-grouped corporate pop stylings.

The band features . . . Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett on keyboards; Gary Bartz - saxophones; Dave Holland - bass; Airto Moreira - percussion; Jack DeJohnette - trap drums and percussion.

The Isle Of Wight Festival was a troubled yet epochal event in the history of 20th century rock music; Jimi Hendrix, The Who and The Doors were among the headliners. Hendrix would say sayonara to this earthly form soon after the concert, with Jim Morrison not far behind.

Urban legends claim that Hendrix and Miles jammed informally and were slated to get together in the studio for some further recording in winter 1970-1971. . .

Hey, we can dream, can't we.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tex Avery at Warners, Exhibit B

Who made a much better, funnier, more adeptly timed showbiz caricatures cartoon than Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938) by the venerated Disney studio? Tex Avery, in 1941, with Hollywood Steps Out, which features multiple caricatures
and jokes in every shot.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tex Avery at Warners, Exhibit A

While aware that the animation on Tex' later pictures is more sophisticated than what you get in his 1930's Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, this cartoon, Thugs With Dirty Mugs, still totally cracks me up, no matter how many times I see it. Is Mel Blanc responsible for the hilarious Edward G. Robinson impression? He does a similar and uproarious "nyaaa, sheee, nyaaaaa nyaaaaa" voice for Racketeer Rabbit, a howlingly funny Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Burt Bacharach Day

This month, we celebrate the late, great Isaac Hayes. Here's the singer-songwriter-arranger-actor-recording producer, etc. performing his original spin on Bacharach and David's Walk On By.

And now, in full Hot Buttered Soul/Black Moses glory, nine and a half minutes from an epic rock-soul version of The Look Of Love:

This 9:41 includes an intro chock full of Hayes' signature orchestrations, his inimitable deep sea diver vocals embracing Burt's beguiling bossa melody, a transition to an instrumental break that sounds like the chord changes from Spooky (by 1960's MOR popsters The Classics IV), then a Far East flute motif that just starts as the clip ends. Cool.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pete Roleum And His Cousins

In an election year and time of global energy crisis, it's weirdly appropriate to post a stop-motion animation film about oil. Produced for the 1939 World's Fair by Joseph Losey, Pete Roleum And His Cousins features the pixilated puppets and delightfully warped imagination of stop-motion innovator Charley Bowers.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Lullaby Of Old Broadway

Here's another mind-numbing Busby Berkeley masterpiece, more reminiscent of Fritz Lang and G.W. Pabst netherworlds than the jaunty world of musicals. Berkeley's magnum opus, The Lullaby Of Broadway, requires two YouTube segments and starts with the longest transition from long shot to close-up in the history of movies.

The striking lead vocalist is Wini Shaw. She's in several mid-1930's Warners musicals, the 1934 Technicolor comedy short, What, No Men! - and later turns up in Soundies.

I'm dumbfounded by the sheer filmmaking brilliance of it all.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Busby Berkeley, American Surrealist

In my book, nothing says dada and surrealism quite like a musical number from the wondrously deranged mind of Busby Berkeley. This is just one of the delirious production numbers from Dames (1934).

And besides, we know that while André Breton and Salvador Dali didn't agree on much, both, no doubt, would have given anything to present, as part and parcel of the artistic statement, a camera track through the spread legs of smiling showgirls.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday's Truly Absurd Musical Number

For that special blend of 1960's-style cheesiness, absurdism, both winsome and subtle-as-a-sledgehammer sexiness, AquaNet-drenched hairdos, bouncy tunes, inexplicable dance moves and one gas-guzzlin' SUV full of WTF, you can't beat Scopitones.

Big thanks to Tré Taylor of Really Weird radio (and numerous other musical/artistic endeavors) for bringing this Scopitone to my attention.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

More Absurd Musical Numbers

In a quest for a musical clip even more absurd than the last one I posted, here's larger-than-life vaudeville comedienne Winnie Lightner, a bunch of goofy-looking guys in drag and silent movie heavy "Bull" Montana (singing): from The Show Of Shows, a revue style early talkie released in December 1929.

We thank Aaron Neathery of The Third Banana blog for posting this.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vernon Dent Sings

Yes, that's comedians' nemesis Vernon Dent singing the lead in this 1934 toga party musical number, which is among many notable extras on the Busby Berkeley 6-DVD box set.

And, please, get me whatever cologne Leon Errol is using in this clip. Maybe it'll work 74 years later!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Burt Bacharach Day

I really like the Burt n' Elvis (Costello) collaborations.

Like The White Stripes, too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Marion, Harold and the 13th San Francisco Silent Film Festival

The 13th Annual San Francisco Film Festival, another amazing weekend of classic movies in archival 35mm prints, accompanied by world-class musicians, closed with a hilarious Marion Davies comedy last night.

I'm still collecting my thoughts, such as they are, after this splendid moviegoing experience - and vowing to, next time, remember to save up for a Festival Pass! Again, I extend big time bravos, kudos, etc. to all those involved in producing and presenting the festival.

A few observations:

  • Marion Davies, based on her performances in The Patsy (last night's piece-de-resistance) and Show People (the "closer" from the 2007 SFSFF) is, hands down, the most underrated comedienne in the history of motion pictures.

  • Harold Lloyd, remembered as the indefatigable go-getter who epitomized the spirit of the 1920's, remains an unparalleled master of comedy construction and strikes me as a tad underrated.

    Perhaps Lloyd is underrated because his style and approach differ than his counterparts and friends from "The Big Three", Keaton and Chaplin. Harold's great silent pictures from 1923-1928 remind me more of Doug Fairbanks, even though he undeniably shares a stunt-filled physicality and ability to seamlessly blend comedy and action/adventure elements with Keaton. Fairbanks, at his best, made rousing adventure flicks spiced with humor, while Lloyd produced comedies packed with thrills and swashbuckling action.

    The Kid Brother, enhanced last Friday night by the superb score by the Mont Alto Picture Orchestra, represents the apex of his approach to screen comedy. He starts with short comic scenes that introduce the characters, follows them with longer, more intense sequences (all the while advancing the storyline) - and skillfully builds the pacing to the crescendo, a breathless finale. The centrifugal force behind everything is Harold's character, who could be summed up thusly: "you may be brawnier and more powerful than me, but I'm smarter, faster and more resourceful than you - and since I'm also a sweet guy who appreciates women, I'll get the girl!"

    You could make a successful comedy film, right now in the 21st century, using the structural principles of Lloyd's silent features.