Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Monkees WERE Legit - Davy Jones Dies on Leap Day

Sorry to see the passing of Davy Jones. He wasn't my favorite Monkee. I always liked Peter. He had the best clothes and hair and just seemed like a nice guy. And I always thought Micky was the best singer (and a talented comedian). I'd place Micky Dolenz in the top ten of great rock singers of the 60's. Nesmith always seemed kind of crabby and I didn't like his country stuff.

Davy was cool cuz he was British and 'Daydream Believer' is one of the best performances they ever did. But I never liked his soft shoe, straw hat music hall routine. But he was okay in my book and word is that he apparently loved his fans and treated them well. No small feat considering how big The Monkees were.

I've been a Monkees fan since their first record, 'Last Train To Clarksville', which came out about a month before their TV show premiered.

I have a two or three of their albums (I know I have their first LP and Headaquarters) and a huge CD compilation that came out about ten years ago that covers everything from their theme song to tunes from Head to 'That Was Then, This Is Now'. I listen to Monkees tracks a lot and never get tired of them.

It bugs me when people dismiss The Monkees as being manufactured because they were created as a TV show and didn't play on their early albums.

A lot of great bands were not created organically. The Sex Pistols were the creation of Malcolm McLaren. It's actually very common. John Lennon said in a 1965 interview, when asked if the Beatles were friends and hung out together: "Well, yes and no. Groups like this are normally not friends, you know. They're just four people out there thrown together to make an act. There may be two of them who sort of go off and are friends, you know, but..."

And as far as The Monkees not playing on the albums, they did fight for the right to do just that. They did sing, which is harder and a rarer talent than playing guitar or drums. There are thousands of great musicians out there who never made a dime. But Micky and Davy were top-notch singers. You can't take that away from them.

If we judged bands on whether they had other people play on their records, we would have to dismiss The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Yeah, the Monkees were more extreme in their use of session players, but that wasn't their choice.

In the long run, nobody cares really. The Monkees are what they are and they had a lot of great songs and brought us a lot of fun and laughs. I still love 'em.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Told ya. A month ago I predicted that The Artist was a lock to win Best Picture. Sure enough, it won along with Best Actor, Best Director and some other stuff.

The show itself this year was 'average', but I must say, it was one of the best years as far as quality of films nominated. Best of all, no big dumb Lord of The Rings or Avatar type of movies. That category went to Hugo, which I was not crazy about, but found it mildly entertaining. But afterall, it was clearly a kids' film.

But here is a list of some of the nominees that I thought were above average and really enjoyed. Check 'em out if you haven't already:

The Artist
Midnight in Paris
The Descendants
Tree of Life
A New Life
Margin Call
My Week With Marilyn
The Ides of March

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Julie Adams - Mainy

One of my favorite actresses of from back in the day, a 'mainy', is the gorgeous Julie Adams.

Julie is best remembered to sci-fi and horror geeks (like me) from Creature From The Black Lagoon. Who can forget the endless scenes of her swimming with the Creature lurking just behind and under her? They sure spent a lot of screen time on her and that white bathing suit. Time well spent, I say.

She also stands out in my mind as the gambling addict in a 'Bonanza' episode. Hoss fell for her and thought her gambling was no big deal. When Adam tried to explain, well, all hell broke loose.

She was also in an Elvis movie, Tickle Me, as the matriarch of a girls dude ranch. One of the more interesting Elvis flicks music-wise as Elvis refused to record any new stuff and the tunes were plucked from his catalog.

Julie's still around...apparently in an episode of 'Lost' which I didn't watch (I'd given up by then). But she was in a ton of shows. 'Streets of San Francisco', 'Mod Squad', 'Alfred Hitchcock'...the list goes on and on. She even played Jimmy Stewart's wife in a bad show from the 70's, 'The Jimmy Stewart Show'. She was the only reason I watched it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Beatles Golden Age

The Beatles have lots of eras: Mop Top Beatlemania, Psychedelic and The Apple/Hippie eras are the categories I think of. And each era has its own sub-categories. One of those being what I call 'The Golden Age'.

The Golden Age is a part of the Mop Top Beatlemania era, but the later bit. It started in November 1964 with the release of the single 'I Feel Fine/She's a Woman' and ends in August 1966 with Revolver.

'I Feel Fine' ushered in a new sound, and the track opens with feedback (arguably the first time anyone had used it on a record). Gone was the cheeky 'Mersey' sound. The B-Side, 'She's a Woman' was new, too. Paul McCartney provided a bluesy vocal unlike anything we'd heard him do before.

For the next 20 months, The Beatles not only released top-notch songs that proved they were not just a fad or flash in the pan, but they had an image that was both cool and friendly enough that kids, teenagers and adults could all agree to love them at the same time.

Prior to this Golden Age, some considered them outrageous with their long hair and screaming fans. Serious music folks thought of them as being too simplistic and without any depth.

After the Golden Age, they were too 'far out' and controversial. Drugs, the Marharihsi and Yoko Ono. For some, it was a bit much.

1965 was probably their 'perfect' year, with the film Help!, the singles 'We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper', 'Eight Days a Week' and 'Yesterday' and LPs Beatles VI, Help! and Rubber Soul. And their ABC Saturday morning cartoon show debuted, too.

1966 was also a knockout year. It started out with the singles 'Nowhere Man' and 'Paperback Writer'. But they hit a snag with the famous butcher cover on Yesterday and Today and when John Lennon said they were 'more popular than Jesus'.

And while most people thought the Lennon comment was taken out of context (or that he was probably right or at least had a point), The Beatles were no longer viewed as wholesome. At the same time, and only a few months after the butcher cover scandal, their psychedelic era began with the last track on Revolver. Lennon sang 'of the beginning' as the song and LP faded out. But it was really the end of that Golden Age. In early 1967 with 'Strawberry Fields' and a new look (facial hair for all and National Health glasses for John) we knew things would never be the same. They didn't want to just hold our hands anymore.

It was inevitable and don't get me wrong. 'The White Album' is my favorite Beatles' LP. But I do get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I think back on when the movie Help! and songs like 'Every Little Thing' were what The Beatles were.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

'Wouldn't It Be Nice' and Foster The People

Foster The People did a fantastic job with their Beach Boys tribute Sunday night on The Grammys. They performed 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' and their singer/guitarist, Mark Foster, well, this kid just popped out of my TV screen. The band has that star quality, energy and sense of fun that I'm a sucker for.

As a musician myself, I know how tricky Beach Boys songs are. They seem simple enough until you actually sit down with a guitar or bass and attempt to play one of them.

Another band, the well known Maroon 5, also did a Beach Boys number, 'Surfer Girl', and while it was pretty darn good, I have to give the nod to Forster The People as not only pulling off a better performance (especially the vocals), but for doing a song that is more complex.

I don't know anything about this Foster The People group, but I just ordered their CD and am hoping it's half as good as what I saw on The Grammys.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Sunday, February 9th, 1964

It was in Portland, Oregon. A modest two bedroom apartment in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood. A single mom and two boys, one six (me) and one nine (my big brother, Mike).

Mom propped us up in front of the TV and said, 'This is important'. I'd heard about The Beatles. Probably even a song or two on the radio. But I was fuzzy on who these guys were. Mom said that this was 'Like the first time Elvis was on television.' Even I knew Elvis. He was on all the magazine covers and was part of the culture, even for a six year old. We had a few of his albums. For some reason, G.I. Blues was the one that sticks out in my mind.

Then on that grainy black-and-white TV, they came. Opening the show with 'All My Loving'. Little did I know it would lead to a life long love affair with those four shaggy haired boys. To me, they weren't really boys. They were men. But not like the men I knew in real life. Those men were stern and mean and had short hair and no time for the kind of fun and silliness these 'Beatles' seemed to be having.

Over the next 48 years, I followed their triumphs and tragedies while I had my own ups and downs. In the 60's, thanks to a generous Mom and having an older brother, we had all their records and loads of fan magazines and saw their movies and TV appearances. When I was on my own, I kept up the obsession, buying all of the solo albums and books. No matter how down-and-out or broke I was, I could always scrape up enough dough to buy that new George Harrison album or latest 'insider' book.

Now my musical tastes are pretty eclectic. Punk, Classical, R&B, Country, Jazz...pretty much anything. I was playing a movie soundtrack the other day and it had that cornball number, 'Believe it or Not (Theme from Greatest American Hero') on it and I said to a friend, 'I love this song' and they were surprised that something so square would appeal to me. Me, the guy who loves the Dead Kennedys.

And I have The Beatles to thank. Because if they taught me anything, it was to 'do your own thing', no matter what anybody says or thinks. And they taught that to me not just with their music but with how they lived what they said.

I like what I like. Whether it's 'The Waltons' or Dawn of the Dead. Glen Campbell or The Sex Pistols. Thanks, Beatles. It's hard to imagine a world without you..

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Lana Del Ray and the SNL Debacle

Poor Lana Del Ray. Or maybe not. Her so-called 'debacle' on SNL in January may be the greatest unplanned publicity stunt since the Sex Pistols called Bill Grundy 'a dirty effer' live on a British morning TV show.

I saw the SNL episode before it became a controversy and I actually said to meself, out loud, 'That was pretty cool'. She has a weird voice and persona, which I dig (I like weird) and the band and the song and arrangement were interesting.

Millions of people who never heard of her have watched the YouTube clip and I understand her CD is selling like hotcakes.

I watched the performance again thinking, 'Did I miss something?', and no, I didn't. I suppose she's just not everybody's cup of tea.

When bands like Florence and The Machine are getting all kinds of hype and being embraced by the masses who think they are edgy and alternative, I watch her/them and I feel nothing.

Lana Del Ray, on the other hand, is truly different. There's something fascinating about her and that strange voice. And while I don't plan on running out to buy her album, I just might.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Lee Meriwether - Mainy

Lee Meriwether was always one of my main baby boomer era heart throbs. That is, a 'mainy'.

I don't know if it was just kismet or her personal choices, but whatta resume! She was in two of best TV shows of the 60's (a guest star on 'Star Trek' and a semi-regular on 'Mission: Impossible'). She's the Catwoman in the Batman TV based movie. And in my opinion she rates as the second best Catwoman ever (Julie Newmar is #1 and sorry Michele Pfeiffier, but you're #3 in my book),.

She was a regular on 'Time Tunnel', and yeah, the show doesn't hold up so good, but back in 1966 it was a huge deal for a nine year old like me. And even though she wore a lab coat in virtually every scene, she was still hot.

She was also Miss America in 1955 representing California. And on a personal note, Lee grew up in San Francisco the city I've called home for the past 25 years.

Lee starred and guest starred in a ton of shows and is among those groovy actors, who are now often forgotten or overlooked, that kept popping up everywhere back in those glorious days!