Monday, January 28, 2008

Ringo on "Larry King Live"

Ringo was on "Larry King Live" last Friday. Sadly, he was only given about 10 minutes at the end of the show. He did perform his latest with Dave Stewart and his band, "Liverpool 8" from the same titled album.

What struck me was that I'm actually more interested in Ringo's latest than Paul's. And although this is probably Ringo's best effort in ages, my feelings say more about Paul. The last album I liked was Flowers in the Dirt (1990). Since then, his melodies are dull and uninspired. His voice is weak. And his bass playing is pedestrian. He seems more interested in working than the work. Every time I turn around, he's on TV or releasing something. I'm thinking it's time he hung it up or concentrated on his alternative/experimental musical forays.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Beatles and Oscar

With the new Oscars around the corner, I'm reminded of the Beatles' Oscar history.

They won one in 1970 for "Best Original Score" for Let it be. The award actually went to all four of the Lads (I guess Ringo snuck in cuz they play a bit "Octopus's Garden" and "Dig It" is credited to the entire band).

I seem to recall hearing something about the location of the actual trophy...I wonder who has it? Now THAT would be a super collector's item.

A Hard Day's Night got two nominations. One for best original screenplay, but lost to Father Goose (!?). And George Martin was nominated for Best Score. Lost to My Fair Lady. I guess that's "fair".

Our Paul has been nominated twice for Best Song. In '73 (along with the lovely Linda) for "Live and Let Die". Lost to "The Way We Were" (tough competition there). Oh, and regarding Linda. To the naysayers, she did write the middle reggae bit ("What does it matter to ya, When ya got a job to do"). So it's a legit credit.

"Vanilla Sky" was nominated in 2002, and lost to "If I Didn't Have You", another of the endless Randy Newman/Pixar numbers. I guess he was due. He'd been nominated about 12 times and never won one. Newman should've won in 2000 for "When She Loved Me", a truly wonderful song that lost to some forgettable Phil Collins piece of crap from Tarzan.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

MY Top Ten Rock and Roll Performers

I generally hate it when I see a list of "The Best" of something, because they are either done by committee (which tells me nothing) or the creator of the list feels an obligation to include things that they feel "should" be in there to satisfy their audience, to come off as "hip" and not appear foolish.

And I question whether or not they have thought much about "qualifiers". So when thinking of a list of the Top Rock and Roll Performers, I first had to consider the criteria.

First, what is Rock and Roll? Check my previous blog, but in a nutshell, it's music that includes some or all of the following instruments: guitar, bass and drums and have a strong beat. And second, it has to be music that has touched the "cool" youth audience. Now I'm not going to define "cool", but let's just say it doesn't mean The Osmonds or Hanna Montana.

I've also come up with the following criteria:

1) Considered "tops" in their genre (or sub-genre).
2) An important influence to other artists of various genres
3) Have a large body of work
4) Experienced some success beyond their hardcore fans
5) I like them a lot

The criteria I've laid out would disqualify some of my favorite acts. The Sex Pistols don't make it, cuz they didn't release enough product. I wouldn't include The Rolling Stones because The Beatles are the "best" of that genre. Maybe it's unfair, but hey, I had to come up with some kind of rules. Otherwise the list would be redundant or so long it would be meaningless. Hell, my taste ranges from the The Cowsills to The Mentors. If I do a list of "My Personal Favorite" Rock and Roll acts, they would make it along with about 100 others.

So here it is. My list of the most important (IMHO) Rock and Roll Performers (who I also like a lot).

1. Elvis Presley
2. The Beatles
3. The Beach Boys
4. The Supremes
5. Bob Dylan
6. The Ramones
7. Elton John
8. Pink Floyd
9. Stevie Wonder
10. Black Sabbath

Not much "new" stuff in there, huh? Well, I'm still waiting for the next band or singer who'll knock my socks off. And waiting...and waiting...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What Is "Rock and Roll" Exactly?

If you look at the list of inductees for the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, you see a bunch of performers that you don't exactly think of as Rockers. They also include soul, blues, R&B and rap. You don't see folk singers in there (no Joan Baez or Peter, Paul and Mary) or country. But you do see Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, because even though they are folk and country performers respectively, they bridged the genres with rock.

Of course, The Hall of Fame does not own the phrase "Rock and Roll", but it is a good indicator.

And if you look up definitions, they talk about guitar, bass, drums and a strong beat. Which is why folk music doesn't make the cut (it's wimpy). I think those are good ingredients when attempting to settle on what exactly is considered "Rock and Roll".

But the best qualifier of all, which doesn't seem to get mentioned as much, is: "Do the cool kids like it?". I think that's really what it's all about. Rock and Roll is about what the youthful fans are into. And I'm not talking Hanna Montana. I said the "cool kids". That's why rap and hip-hop qualify.

And if it was all about beat and types of instruments, then Tom Jones would qualify. Hey, I love Tom. I like Dean Martin and Bing Crosby, too. And George Jones. But that ain't Rock and Roll, baby.

This rant all started when I said Elvis was the #1 Rock and Roll performer, with The Beatles at #2. Then I thought, well who's numbers three, four and five? Or maybe a top ten? Check my next blog and I'll give you my list. Aloha.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Happy Birthday, Elvis

Today he would've been 72. Hard to picture the King as an old man, but if you watch Bubba Ho-tep, you can see Bruce Campbell as a present day (2002) Elvis. And check the extras, cuz Campbell does a commentary track as "The King" and it's one of the funniest things you've ever heard. Better than the movie itself, in fact.

While the movie (and commentary) poke fun at Elvis, you can tell the filmmakers love him. And from the obscure references they make, you can tell they are major fans.

The Beatles loved him, too. At least they loved the pre-Army stuff. He's got to be the #1 Rock and Roll star if you had to pick one. Which would make our Lads #2, obviously.

Which brings up the question, what qualifies as Rock and Roll? More on that later.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

John's Hair and "Show and Tell"

One of the greatest things about The Beatles was their ability to change. Not just musically, but physically. Seems like most performers keep the same look over decades. But not our Lads.

I remember when John Lennon had his hair cut for a role in How I Won the War in late 1966. Big news that was. It even made the newspapers. A Beatle cutting the famous hair!
A kid at school (must've been 5th Grade) brought the news photo for "Show and Tell". He ended his presentation by saying he didn't believe it. It was a hoax, he said. There's NO WAY John Lennon would cut his hair off!
That's how much of a symbol those haircuts were. I didn't want to believe it either, but I figured it was true. And I did feel a bit betrayed. Afterall, the few kids (like me) who grew their hair long back then took a lot of heat for it.
It's funny in retrospect, that if you look at the length of his hair in the film, it's still kind of long. Not by Beatle standards, but certainly not a crew-cut or anything radical.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Falling Off a Log

As I mentioned in my previous post, the screenplay for Help! is included in the groovy deluxe version of the new DVD.

Talking about it with friends over the past few days, I've had three or four relatively intelligent people say to me, "I didn't think there was a screenplay. I thought they just made it up as they filmed it."

I suppose they may be getting Help! confused with "Magical Mystery Tour", but after pondering it, and the fact that more than one person made the comment, I think it has more to do with a general ignorance the public has regarding the Beatles and popular culture.

It reminds me of the many times I've heard people say Beatle albums were made in a marijuana haze. It's the same bunch who think Stephen King is just a sick nutter and his horror stories just write themselves or that Jackson Pollock just dripped paint on a canvas and tricked people into thinking his art was good.

Why is this kind of ignorance and disregard for the hard work and talent that goes into creating popular art so prevalent? That it's like falling off a log? Isn't it in fact actually difficult to do anything well?

And while the ill-informed public would never assume that their favorite car mechanic or family dentist just "make it up" as they go along, and don't work hard at what they do, popular artists are fair-game to be dismissed and disrespected. It may have to do with the fact that the work is "trivial" (songs, ghost stories, etc.) But I think it's something more sinister. The squares love the bland and safe, but have a strange contradictory combination of emotions (jealousy, resentment, fear) of the truly talented who at times steer their art in an edgy direction.