It was 1971 when musician Don McLean posed the above question in one of my all time favourite songs, American Pie. Now, while I don’t believe in all of that mortal soul stuff, I do think that music can really help a person through some tough times.
I met a young woman today named Sydney (I hope I spelled that correctly) who reminded me a lot of myself when I was her age (I am assuming she was in her mid-teens) She told me about several bands that she was into. She mentioned one, specifically called Escape the Fate that really helped her through a difficult bullying experience when she was in middle school.
Escape the Fate
I too, was horribly bullied through junior high and high school and I too, turned to music for solace. This beautiful girl came alive when she spoke about her favourite bands, and her plan to start her own band in the coming year. It seems Sydney is into what she calls the new metal. As a child of the 70’s, I was into the old metal bands like Judas Priest, ACDC and Led Zeppelin.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin
I listened with excitement as she told me about this ‘new metal’ and how the lyrics really inspired her. It was encouraging to hear that she had found something to help her out of a dark place, something that touched her deeply and allowed her to channel her anger and teenage angst. Just when I was thinking that the music world had been entirely taken over by the boy bands and the Disney brigade, along comes this gorgeous, intelligent and sensitive young woman to tell me that all is not lost. That the youth of today is creating actual music with lyrics that explore real emotions as opposed to the insipid Baby, baby, baby crap that has deluged the radio for far too long. It is my sincere hope that there is new musical revolution on the horizon, one that will dilute the posers of the world (I’m looking at you Justin Bieber) and start a new and meaningful conversation… and hopefully these new bands will actually play their own instruments as opposed to the computer generated beats and melodies that has been passing for music for far too long.
Thanks for the great conversation and Rock On Sydney!
Oh, and Sydney, if you’re reading this, I gave you the wrong email addy… it’s firstname.lastname@example.org (forgot the number 1)
Last night I watched the Academy Awards for the first time in years. My usual routine for Oscar night is to watch a good movie or two) in the time that it takes Hollywood to pat itself on the back, front and anywhere else their hands will reach, then check out who won online saving myself 3 to 4 hours of complete and utter boredom.
This year was different, however because, this year it was to be hosted by Seth MacFarlane with his dazzling smile, mellifluous voice and irreverent sense of humour… not to mention he is an out and proud atheist. Yes, I am a Seth MacFarlane fan. The opening monologue started off as a bit of a disappointment, with jokes that were marginally funny at best, that is until William Shatner (or should I say, Captain James Tiberius Kirk) showed up. It was at that point that the show really got going and MacFarlane got to do what he does best… sing. As a true lover of old Hollywood musicals MacFarlane was the perfect choice for host on a night where the theme was music in the movies. Seth sang silly songs like “We saw your boobs” and old standards like The Way You Look Tonight and High Hopes
Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum dancing to The Way You Look Tonight
MacFarlane with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Daniel Radcliff singing High Hopes
*I am sure you’ve noticed by now that I am not posting video of the night. There are video clips out there, but they are being taken down as fast as they are being put up, so I decided not to risk it.*
All in all, MacFarlane as host was a throwback to the days when Bob Hope hosted the show. The jokes were tame (for the most part), but he was an affable, dapper and welcoming host. If the Academy brought him in to wrangle a younger demographic, however, they failed miserably. Seth MacFarlane is an old soul in a young body and a real fan of old Hollywood that, I’m sure us over 45 viewers appreciated, but the under 30 crowd must have been left scratching their collective heads, wondering why he didn’t do Stewie’s voice or tell any poop jokes.
Dame Shirley Bassey singing Goldfinger
Seeing that the theme was music in the movies, the night (as one would expect) was littered with some really wonderful musical performances. From Catherine Zeta Jones’s recreation of her Oscar-winning role in Chicago (I can’t believe that was 10 years ago already) and Jennifer Hudson singing her Oscar-winning song And I Am Telling You (Nice standing ovation. Even Jack Nicholson was impressed), to Adele and Norah Jones singing their nominated songs from Skyfall and Ted respectively, there was no shortage of talent on the stage. There were two spectacular surprises, however, that took my breath away. The first came at the end of the tribute to the 50th Anniversary of James Bond films, when Dame Shirley Bassey belted out Goldfinger, her voice just as strong as it was 49 years ago when she first sang the song. Then it was time for the in memoriam segment of the show. The last slide was a black and white photo of Marvin Hamlish, there was a pause and then… Barbra Streisand (looking younger more “well rested” than she has in decades. It’s sad to me that she was not vain enough to get her nose ‘fixed’ yet her forehead is as frozen as a glacier. Why Babs, why?) took the stage and honoured her friend and collaborator with a beautiful rendition of The Way We Were that actually brought tears to my eyes.
Barbra Streisand singing The Way We Were
The awards themselves were predictable, as usual. They gave the Best Actress award to the pretty young starlet with the lovely dress and not the most deserving nominee… as usual. Though if they absolutely had to get a pretty young starlet in a pretty dress on stage, they should have given the award to this young beauty who actually deserved the award.
Quvenzahne Wallis and her puppy purse
Even the Best Supporting Actress award, which is traditionally given to the actress who actually deserves it, went to the pretty young star in the dress that showed side boob, instead of Sally Field. On that note, I don’t understand why Field was nominated as Best Supporting Actress for a role that was clearly a lead, but I digress.
Even Hollywood royalty, Sally Field was reduced to a desperate sex object
Over all the show was entertaining. My one complaint (cause it wouldn’t be a windupmyskirt blog with out one) was all of the sexist ‘jokes’. There was the aforementioned musical number “We saw your boobs” which comes across as a teenaged boy giggling that he saw boobies (even the Gay Men’s Chorus couldn’t class that up) and the comedy sketch wherein Seth MacFarlane, dressed as the Flying Nun, successfully hits on and goes home with Sally Field because apparently, she has nothing better to do than go home with someone just because they are a fan who makes her feel bad about herself by telling her that she won’t win her category anyway. Even though the women seemed like they were “in on” the joke they also seemed like they did so rather grudgingly. Now if either of those examples were actually funny, I wouldn’t take such issue with them, because I believe that nowhere is off-limits for a joke that is truly funny. Unfortunately for Seth MacFarlane (and his team of hackneyed writers), while he was harkening back to the Bob Hope days of hosting, he forgot to update the jokes to reflect a little thing that happened in the interim called the women’s movement. Then there was Dustin Hoffman creepily coming on to Charlize Theron as they presented an award together. You could feel her discomfort. The whole show seemed hell bent on making sure that women were praised for how good they look rather than the fact that they are accomplished actors in their own right. But maybe that’s just me, as I mentioned earlier, I haven’t watched the show in years. Is this something that happens every year or was it more glaring this year?
**Edited to add-
My DVR stopped recording before the show was over, so I didn’t get to see the final musical number or Michelle Obama present the award for Best Picture. (WTF??? Doesn’t she have better things to do with her time?)
The songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller is responsible for launching the careers of some of the most iconic acts in Rock & Roll history. They wrote songs for the Coasters, the Drifters, Ben E. King, the Shangri-La’s and perhaps most famously, Elvis Presley.
Elvis with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
With songs like Is That All There Is?, There Goes My Baby, Yakity Yak, Charlie Brown, Stand By Me, Love Potion Number 9, Poison Ivy, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Jailhouse Rock and Hound Dog, Leiber and Stoller cemented their place in the Song Writers Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and in music history.
In 1958, Leiber and Stoller took a chance on a young session guitarist and former member of the Teddy Bears (of, To Know Him is to Love Him, fame) by the name of Phil Spector.
a very young Phil Spector
It was while working as an apprentice with Leiber and Stoller, that Phil Spector learned the art of producing music. Spector was already a song writer and performer, but it wasn’t until his time with Leiber and Stoller, taught him the production end of the business that Spector really began to shine.
A scant three years later, Spector formed a new record company along with his partner Lester Sill called Phillies Records and it was during that time that his infamous Wall Of Sound technique was born. It was also during that time that Spector employed Sonny Bono as part of his production team. Spector, himself launched more careers than those of his mentors. He gave the world, Sonny and Cher, The Righteous Brothers, The Ronettes, The Crystals and Ike and Tina Turner. Spector also wrote and/or produced music for Dion, Leonard Cohen, The Beatles (Let It Be), John Lennon (Imagine) and The Ramones. Phil Spector earned himself a place in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.
Spector’s personal life was not as successful. Married three times, he fathered five children (three of whom he adopted with his then wife Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes). Spector was getting increasingly reclusive over the years and began to exhibit some dangerous behavior, like brandishing a gun and stealing unreleased tapes while working with John Lennon in 1973 and threatening Leonard Cohen with a crossbow in 1977, to pulling a gun on the Ramones in 1980, during a meeting at his home when they wanted to leave.
Spector’s mug shot
Phil Spector has been the inspiration for several movie characters including Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell in the 1970 Russ Meyer movie Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. This year, Al Pacino wrapped filming on a HBO movie, where he played Phil Spector. The movie is centered on the relationship between Phil Spector and defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden while the music business legend was on trial for the murder of Lana Clarkson.
Ironically, Al Pacino worked with Lana Clarkson, the actress that Phil Spector was convicted of murdering in 2003. They appeared together in the Brian De Palma/Oliver Stone classic Scarface. Clarkson also appeared in a few Roger Corman films, as well as the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
So, if songwriting legends, Leiber and Stoller hadn’t taken a young Phil Spector under their wing, the world would never have heard songs like, Be My Baby, Chapel Of Love, River Deep-Mountain High, Spanish Harlem, Take Me Home Tonight, Then He Kissed me and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. But then, Lana Clarkson would likely still be alive.
Canada week continues today with a tribute to my favourite Canadian singer/songwriter, Leonard Cohen.
With his deep, gritty voice and dark songs, Leonard Cohen has carved out his own niche in the landscape of Canadian music. He has accolades upon accolades, being inducted into multiple Halls of Fame (American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Canadian Music Hall of Fame and Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame) as well as being a recipient of Canada’s highest civilian honour, the Order of Canada.
A native of Montreal, Cohen’s unique style is unmistakable. While listening to his songs, I find myself transported to a dark, smoky club filled with a distinctly French, world weariness and an underlying sexual tension.
His songs are often topical. Everybody Knows, for example, is about sexual relationships during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s in which “the naked man and woman are just a shining artifact of the past.”
Cohen’s songs have been covered by many other artists over the years, most efforts falling far short of Cohen’s original, both in style and artistic impact. His song, Hallelujah has been covered by almost 200 different artists in various languages. For me there is only one that can hold a candle to his original. Ironically that cover is by another iconic Canadian artist, k.d. lang, because she is able to make the song entirely her own. Below are versions by both singers.
Leonard Cohen is a gifted artist if he can get an atheistic heathen like me to share not one, but two versions of a song entitled Hallelujah.
All kidding aside, Leonard Cohen truly is a living legend and a national treasure.
The other night, I was really looking forward to watching a movie I remembered very fondly as being one of my favourites from my teen years, Little Darlings. I remember watching this movie multiple times in the theatre and just loving it. So I settled in and started watching. What was I thinking? Were the hormones that coursed through my veins making me insane? This movie was one of the worst pieces of schlock. I couldn’t even sit through the first 30 minutes before turning it off. Then I remembered a truism I had conveniently forgotten. Just because you remember it, doesn’t mean it was good.
People have this annoying habit of looking back in time and only remembering what they liked about an era. For instance, Americans are always hearkening back to the 1950’s as the time when America was perfect. From the fashion, to the music and the cars, the 1950’s were the good old days. I’ll give you the fashion, clothes were beautiful and flattering then, but undergarments, weren’t so cute… or comfortable. Men had to wear suspenders to hold up their black dress socks.
And women were wearing foundation garments like this.
Then there was the music. The beginning of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, so much good music. But the 1950’s were also the decade that gave us novelty songs like How Much is that Doggy in the Window? and Purple People Eater and spoken word songs like What is a Wife? and Big Bad John.
The cars of the 1950’s were some of the most stylish and impressive in the history of cars, the Thunderbird, Cadillac and Chevy’s of that era are considered American classics. But then there’s this.
Sure the 1950’s were a good time in American History if you were a white man. The American dream was within your reach. If you were a woman you had this kind of existence.
If you were black, America looked more like this.
And the above image is a kind example. I could have shown a lynching.
So what is the point of all of this, you ask? When looking back, take off the rose-coloured glasses and understand…
JUST BECAUSE YOU REMEMBER IT DOESN’T MEAN IT WAS GOOD.
On New Year’s Eve, in Time Square, Cee Lo Green was asked to sing a song. Sounds innocent enough, right? The song he sang was John Lennon’s Imagine. An iconic song that means a great deal to so many.
Here are the actual lyrics to Imagine, as written by John Lennon.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
Cee Lo Green sang the song in a slightly different way. Watch and see if you can spot the difference.
At the very least Mr. Green is guilty of not learning the correct lyric. Like when you listen to a song and think they lyric is something different than what it really is. For example, when Phoebe, on the sitcom Friends, thought that Elton John’s Hold me closer Tiny Dancer was actually Hold me close Young Tony Danza. Although in her case she wasn’t performing the song in front of an audience of millions. If you are charged with singing someone else’s song, it is your responsibly to learn the lyrics as they were written.
At the very worst, Mr. Green is guilty of willfully changing the lyric to further his own agenda. In this article from the Huffington post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/01/cee-lo-green-changes-imagine-lyrics_n_1178313.html#s583202&title=Austin_McCarty the author shares a slideshow of tweets between irate Lennon fans (and atheists) and Cee Lo Green. In one of those tweets, Mr. Green states that he was a guest (actually he wrote guess) of Yoko Ono. If that is the case, why would you spit on the memory of her husband to her face? His lyric change makes the first verse of the song nonsensical. Why would we imagine that there is no heaven or hell, if all religion is true? After reading the tweet exchange it becomes clear that he DID intend to change the lyric.
Now the question becomes WHY? Why sing the song at all if you disagree with it? Were you contractually obligated to sing it? Why sing this song and change this particular lyric, knowing that it will piss people off the world over? Are you so desperate for publicity that even bad publicity is appealing? Why did you feel the need to insert your own beliefs into a song about lack of belief? Are you really that arrogant? And, perhaps most significantly, why are you hanging out with Yoko Ono? That’s an image I just can’t Imagine.
I’ve been griping a lot, and I did say I’d blog about some things that inspire me. On that note…
I Can’t Get No Satisfaction was the number on song on the day I was born. I guess I was destined to be a fan of the Rolling Stones.
I remember one New Year’s Eve in my teens. I was alone at home, feeling very lonely and unwanted. I laid on my bed, drinking a mickey of Lemon Gin and listening to the 45 of Paint It Black on repeat for hours. It helped me to think that I wasn’t alone in my darkness. To this day, if I’m feeling depressed, Paint it Black will help me through my feelings.
The first time I fell in love, the Stones were there too. Wild Horses was the soundtrack to the exact moment that I realized I was, indeed, in love. I was kissing my boyfriend. We both pulled apart, noticed the tears in each other’s eyes and said, I love you.
The first time I drove a convertible with the top down Mick and the boys were there. Route 66 blared from the speakers of my 1971 Cadillac. I felt freedom and joy.
Beast Of Burden was playing the first time I had sex. Ever since, I get randy as all get out when I hear it.
The Stones have been there for all of my most important firsts and many of the moments in between. I was lucky enough to have seen them live once in my life and hope to do so at least once more. I look forward to sharing the rest of my days with the most poignant, fun loving, controversial, sexy, dark, life affirming and satisfying bands in the history of rock and roll.
Thank you, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brain Jones, Ron Wood, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor and Charlie Watts for the Satisfaction.