"We're not spirit bunnies anymore"
I was swept up in the film-award season wave of Forest Whitaker mania, so last night I put Amy Heckerling's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" into the DVD player, sat back, and enjoyed a film that simply gets better with age.Whitaker is good as Charles Jefferson, a school jock so far removed from mainstream students that one kid asks: "Does he really live here? I thought he just flew in for games!"
This film is full of those moments, moments that seem true but are also funny as hell, including the cheerleaders who publicly complain about their "spirit bunnies" moniker.
Credit two things for the realism and humor:
1) Screenwriter Cameron Crowe, who based the film on his book of the same name.
2) Casting director Don Phillips, who uncovered so many soon-to-be-famous unknown actors (Anthony Edwards, Nicholas Cage and of course Sean Penn, to name just three). (Phillips would perform another casting miracle a decade later, with Richard Linklater's "Dazed and Confused.")
Last night I found it ironic, given this astoundingly good cast, that established actor Ray Walston shines so brightly as Mr. Hand.
"I like that. 'I don't know.' That's nice. 'Mr. Hand, will I pass this class?' Gee, Mr. Spicoli, I don't know! You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to leave your words right up here for all my classes to enjoy, giving you full credit of course, Mr. Spicoli."
The Hollywood advantage
I am reading James Gavin's insightful biography of a 1950s' icon, "Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker."
Baker began his career during the burgeoning days of the so-called "West Coast jazz" scene. It differed from the East Coast scene in sound -- a "cool," melodic approach versus the excitingly dissonant and experimental tunes of the New York Bebop crowd -- and it differed in color -- the hip cats making music in L.A. were about 80 percent white.
I knew there was a lot of animosity in the early 1950s toward West Coast jazz from the music's New York purveyors -- musicians and critics.
I had often thought the schism was mostly along racial lines.
Gavin, however, suggests the animosity found its source in the economic advantages of the Los Angeles-based musicians:
"In one day, a musician could go from playing in an orchestra on a Peggy Lee or Frank Sinatra album to recording a movie soundtrack to working in the house band on a TV show. This routine spared them from having to eke out a living by playing dives on the road, shacking up in bad motels, surviving hand-to-mouth -- toils that gave East Coast jazz a lot of its grit and urgency."
It sounds like it would have fueled a lot of animosity, too.
The peak of cool?
Last night before bed I crafted a 68-song playlist of Chet Baker songs for the iPod.
I want to start reading a Baker biography, and thought his music would make the best accompaniment.
The playlist begins with the first five songs from the CD "This Time The Dream's On Me," and were recorded in August 1953 at the Carlton Theatre in Los Angeles. I concluded the playlist with the eight songs on "The Italian Sessions" CD, originally recorded in March 1962.
These songs and the tunes in between -- including the vocal versions of songs from "The Best of Chet Baker Sings" -- probably mark the peak of Baker's musical output. They come before drug abuse and health problems began to steadily sap his talents.
Many jazz critics dismiss Baker as a light talent who gained fame through looks rather than sound, aided immensely by William Claxton's iconic photos of the late 1950s.
I guess I don't know enough about jazz. I enjoy listening to Chet, especially as he attempts to croon his way through songs.
Ornette Coleman summed up Baker's singing:
"Have you ever heard someone who couldn't sing, but did something to you emotionally?"
Baker probably wouldn't win American Idol, but I'll start listening to my playlist religiously today, walking on the treadmill and driving to work.
Chord instruments?! We don't need no stinkin' CHORD INSTRUMENTS!!!
I don't know about the rest of you, but here's how I spent Sunday afternoon:
1) Sautéed onions and garlic while preparing a *KILLER* spaghetti sauce for tonight.
2) Sipped Drambuie, the greatest liquor ever invented.
3) (see No. 2)
4) Listened to "Gerry Mulligan Quartet Live at Storyville."
Mulligan doesn't get his due, and I blame the pianists of the world.
During the heady, jazzy times of the 1950s, musical genius Mulligan (yes, he really is a genius) hit upon the idea of creating a jazz quartet without a chord instrument. No more piano, no more guitar -- just blokes with horns, a bass player and a drummer.
The end result of this decision, as evidence by most of the tracks on "... at Storyville," sounds like a couple of marching band dudes suddenly deciding to SWING as if their lives depended on it, and a bewildered drummer following along because he had no other clue as to how to respond.
In short, it's the COOOOOOLEST freakin' music ever created. Or, is that the Drambuie talkin'?
Gerry Mulligan's chordless quartet on the album I heard today featured Bob Brookmeyer on VALVE TROMBONE. That's like a really weird cross between a trombone and a trumpet, but it works in this setting. It sounds sublime.
Or, is that the Drambuie talkin'?
Song about a wooden Indian, interview with a fishing celebrity
I had to work today and my assignment was to interview professional bass fisherman Roland Martin.
A member of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, Martin was in town for an appearance at event geared towards outdoors enthusiasts.
Martin seemed like a nice guy, and I could tell fishing was a true love of his life.
I suppose that is to be expected of a 19-time fishing tournament champion and a guy who has hosted a fishing program on television for the past 31 years.
One of my favorite songs played on my iPod as I drove back to the office from the interview: "Kaw-Liga" by Hank Williams Sr.
"Kaw-Liga was a wooden Indian, standing by the door/
He fell in love with an Indian maid, over in the antique store/
It's both a funny and sad song, and Williams' singing in it is actually superb.
I sang along as I tried to organize my thoughts after the interview.
Off and running, thanks to ______
ROUTE 1 needed help getting going some days this week, prompting the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What music got you going this week?"
Kerstin H. -- Hip hop.
Rick T. -- Country music, of course!
Annika H. -- Trace Adkins' "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk."
Brian C. -- "Bear Down Chicago Bears."
Mike M. -- "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits" and "Excelsior Classic Gold Violin Encores." Earlier this month, "The Old Durham Road" by Jez Lowe.
Lisa Y. -- Bebo Norman. His newest CD.
Mike D. -- Last weekend, when my kids were singing and dancing to "Push it to the Limit" from "Jump In" (Disney's follow-up to "High School Musical"), I said, "Oh yeah, watch this!" and tried to bust a move with a 1980s' break-dancing routine. I was just thankful I didn't break a hip.
Erik H. -- It's got a lot of the trappings of a 1970s' funk workout -- including synthesizers -- but Herbie Hancock's "Head Hunters" still sounds as fresh to me today as it did all those years ago.
I think the secret to this great album's success is in the drumming. Harvey Mason created his own funky drum patterns for this album, and if they sound vaguely familiar, it is only because every funky drummer to come along since Mason has swiped them wholesale. These funky beats got me going this week.
Only 400 more posts to 1,000!
Route 1 celebrates our 600th post to the blog with a hoedown!
After several days spent listening to Herbie Hancock and the Chi-Lites, I decided to shift musical gears by cuing up my HONKY TONK playlist.
It opens with one of my all-time favorite songs: Johnny Horton's classic "Honky Tonk" man from 1956.
Born in Los Angeles, raised in Texas and fishing in Alaska, Horton is one of those singers in my "What might have been" category.
After establishing himself with songs such as "Honky Tonk Man," which I adore, he turned to historical epic songs that I cannot stand.
Some people love "The Battle of New Orleans." I'm not one of them. Although it won a 1960 Grammy for Best Country & Western Song, "The Battle of New Orleans" always seems to me to show a watering down of Horton's talents to gain mass appeal. It almost seems to be straining for popularity, with its foot-stomping, sing-along approach.
It's also so damned catchy, it never fails to lodge itself in my brain.
So, who was the "real" Johnny Horton? Was it the honky tonkin' swinger of the mid-1950s or the "North to Alaska" novelty singer of the late 1950s?
We will never really know.
Horton was killed in November 1960, struck by a drunk driver in a head-on collision with a drunk driver on Highway 79 near Milano, Texas.
Of course, it sounds like a cliché, but Horton lives on for me in a single song -- and it sure ain't "The Battle of New Orleans!"
"I'm a honky tonk man, and I can't seem to stop/
I love to give the girls a whirl to the music of an old jukebox/
But when my money's all gone I'm on the telephone/
Hollerin' hey hey mama can your daddy come home."
"Maryland's News, Talk and Sports Station"
I am munching a salad while listening to WBAL-AM live online at lunch, shaking my head at what I am hearing.Authorities are cleaning up after an accident in Baltimore County -- on Yellow Brick Road?!?!
It is cloudy in Baltimore, with the high temperatures expected to rise to about normal for this time of year: 40?!?!
My wife Jill heads to Baltimore in a couple months, for business, and I know next to nothing about the place.
Orioles? I have heard of them. Ravens? Isn't that the team that replaced the Colts?
I have seen Barry Levinson's "Diner" and some of that old TV series, "Homicide: Life on the Street," and that is about the extent of my knowledge of "Bawl-a-mer."
That's why I am taking time out today to listen to one of the top radio stations. I feel like I should curb my ignorance a bit.
Oh yeah.... Yellow Brick Road is apparently located in the Baltimore's northeast suburbs, near Rossville, Md.
I got your "boy" hangin,' you no-business, born insecure, jock-jawed, mutha f**kas!
Here's today's recipe for a fine lunch:
1) Bowl of homemade chili
2) Cold can of Diet Sprite
3) Rudy Ray Moore as "Dolemite" on the DVD player.
"Dolemite," as you might recall, is the 1975 "Blaxploitation" flick generally considered to be one of the worst movies of all time.
"Man, move over and let me pass, 'fore they have to be pullin' these Hush Puppies out your mothaf**ckin' ass!"
Of course, it could be argued that "Dolemite" is one of those "so-bad-it-is-good" films,
based on some of the awesome, over-the-top lines:
"I'm gonna let 'em know that Dolemite is back on the scene! I'm gonna let 'em know that Dolemite is my name, and f**kin' up motha f**kas is my game!"
Bad or good, "Dolemite" was a fun way to spend my lunch break!
The two geniuses of "Cat People"
It is one of my favorite ironies in film history:
After suffering through the controversial backlash associated with Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane," RKO pictures vowed to henceforth promote showmanship over genius.
Then, what do they do? They unleashed two more film geniuses from the most unlikely of sources, their "B movie" division.
Val Lewton, a Russian-born producer, and Jacques Tourneur, a French-born director, combined to stunning effect in the 1942 psychological horror classic "Cat People."
The film stars Simone Simon as a woman who fears passion will unveil a deadly cat persona hidden within her.
I have watched "Cat People" twice in the past two days. It is easily one of my favorite films.Lewton's genius was his imagination, spinning a truly chilling yarn through subtle means that heighten the horror to almost unbearable levels. We fear most what we cannot see, Lewton reasoned, quite correctly.
Lewton's genius was also his ability to corral the best-possible collaborators for such films as "I Walked With a Zombie" and "The Seventh Victim." Lewton nurtured such emerging directors as Robert Wise ("West Side Story," "The Sound of Music"), Mark Robson ("Peyton Place," "Valley of the Dolls") and Tourneur.
Tourneur's genius was the use of light and shadow.
His craft is striking in "Cat People" and reaches its apex in "Out of the Past."
In both films, Tourneur's cinematographer was Italian-born Nicholas Musuraca. Musuraca's work, notably in the celebrated swimming pool scene from "Cat People" (pictured) is remarkable.
RKO meant to dispense with genius. They failed magnificently with "Cat People," thanks to Lewton and Tourneur.
A pair of dramatic sporting-event finishes served as bookends for my day.
Joseph Addai's 3-yard scoring run capped a comeback as the Colts defeated the Patriots, 38-34, in the AFC championship game. Indianapolis will face Chicago in an all-Midwestern Super Bowl.
Earlier, I watched live on Fox Soccer Channel as Thierry Henry scored a stoppage-time, headed goal (pictured) to lift Arsenal over Manchester United, 2-1, in a pulsating Premiership match at the Emirates Stadium in London.
Wayne Rooney had scored to give Manchester United a lead. Substitute Robin van Persie equalized with a goal that resulted in a broken bone in his foot.
Henry hadn't really played well throughout the first 92 minutes of the match. Then came his dramatic winner, setting the tone for the day.
Film festival featured the Old West made new
Route 1 hosted its first film festival today.
We viewed a trio of films that shook the Western genre out of its doldrums:
* Sergio Corbucci's "Django."
* Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch."
* Sergio Leone's "Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly)."
By the 1960s, the Western seemed in danger of extinction. Television was partly to blame, but so were moviegoers who wanted more than the black-and-white characterizations of the traditional Western. With assassinations and unpopular foreign wars the staple of the day, guys in white hats just didn't seem to matter anymore.
That's when the three films we saw today come into the frame.
Italians shooting Westerns in Spain were untethered to the traditional requirements of Hollywood. If they wanted to exchange unnaturally majestic scenery for the grit and grime of the Old West they imagined was closer to the truth, all they had to do was muddy the ground of their Spanish locations.
They bent or broke cinematic rules, and in doing so, breathed life into a stagnant genre.
Directors such as Peckinpah took cues from the Sergios.
The new vanguard of Hollywood Western directors enjoyed new-found freedom to create -- no longer bound by the old ways -- thanks to the efforts of their overseas peers.
As a result, American Westerns began to emulate their European cousins, with sometimes violent and almost always exciting visions replacing the mannered, clichéd approach of the past.
Those in attendance today learned about the emergence of a new sensibility in Westerns. We also dined on some MIGHTY FINE HOMEMADE PIZZA, thanks to local film enthusiast and Route 1 reader Rob K.
"Friday Question... It's the phrase that pays in so many ways!"
The emergence of all-music satellite radio and iPod playlists has ROUTE 1 readers longing for the days when disc jockeys with personality ruled the airwaves.
ROUTE 1 reader Brian C. submitted this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What radio disc jockey left a lasting impression on you, and why?"
Roseanne H. -- My all-time favorite was Frank Dill on KNBR. He was the AM DJ along with side kick Mike Cleary. I listened to them every morning on my commute from Concord to Vallejo and then from Sebastopol to Corte Madera. I once met Mike at a party in Concord. They were both very funny men. Bob not only met Frank and his wife, but enjoyed their company at his bed and breakfast once weekend in Bodega Bay. And Bob says that the Frank and Mike show was his favorite as well.
Rick T. -- 650 WSM Nashville, Tenn.'s Ralph Emery. A real Country radio legend. Everyone wishes they could be that good!
Mike M. -- Dr. Demento radically transformed my world view in the summer of 1986 when he played "My Fruit Loops" by ROCKIN' RAISIN & 40% MORE. The lyrics went something like this: "Don't mess with my Fruit Loops; I eat breakfast in my birthday suit; My family thinks that I am mighty cute; Don't mess with my Fruit Loops."
I also listened to Wolfman Jack in the early 80s in West Germany on the Armed Forces Radio & Television Network, commonly referred to by us kids as A-FARTS. Wolfman Jack always sounded as if he was broadcasting from just around the corner, and that anyone, especially young ladies, were welcome to drop by his studio while he was on air.
Mike D. -- This long-distance dedication goes out to... Casey Kasem!
I spent many Sunday afternoons during my youth following the countdown on American Top 40.
Locally, I remember listening to Paul Hemmer while getting ready for school, and tuning in to his old-time radio broadcasts on Sunday nights, back when he was on AM.
I just wish I had heard Nick Lagosi during his prime.
Erik H. -- As a kid growing up in the Bay Area in the mid-70s, you just had to love Dr. Don Rose.
Oh, don't get me wrong, Dr. Don -- born Donald Rosenberg -- could be so corny it made you cringe. But he also lightened up every single day while he introduced TOP 40 MUSIC on KFRC AM 610 in San Francisco from 1973 to 1986.
With Dr. Don as its anchor, KFRC was voted "Station of the Year" four times by
Want to know a more lasting legacy?
I still can't see the city name "Sacramento" without thinking "Sacra-TOMATO," which is what Dr. Don always called our state capital.
Brian C. -- Growing up in the Chicago suburbs in the 1960s and early 1970s, I, like several gazillion tees, tuned in to WLS (890 AM). Occasionally, we'd drift over to the challenger, WCFL, but eventually we'd be back at the Big 89. WLS has a formidable lineup, including Dick Biondi, Larry Lujack, John "Records" Landecker and one of the first female (African-American female) "jocks" in Yvonne Daniels.
A great site, where you can hear an audio clip of DJs from days gone by, is located here.
"American Idol" antidote
The girls have become addicted to "American Idol" -- much like the rest of the United States, I am afraid.
After last night's episode ended and the girls went to bed, I cleansed my ears of all of that BAD SINGING by watching Richard Linklater's excellent "Dazed and Confused." Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins) is pictured above.
KISS, Black Oak Arkansas, Foghat and others provide songs for the excellent soundtrack. Linklater reportedly spent one-sixth of the film's budget on acquiring the music rights for the film. It was money well spent. I was humming those songs -- not the "American Idol" butchered songs -- as I went to bed.
I learned this morning that James "Pookie" Hudson has passed away, age 72. Hudson led The Spaniels, one of the pioneering R&B groups. Their 1954 classic "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight" reached No. 24 on Billboard's Top 40 and No. 5 on the R&B chart. It's become a timeless classic. Hudson was a true original.
"I guess Mother Nature wants it to snow everywhere this year"
I think 8-year-old Annika's weather assessment is spot on this morning.
The scene pictured is downtown Portland, Ore., where yesterday snow and ice combined for countless traffic accidents.
This morning, we are listening to KGO-AM live online to reports of SNOWFLAKES spotted in San Francisco.
San Francisco? Snow?
The snow isn't sticking in The City, but white-covered hillsides have been reported in numerous Bay Area locations, including the Peninsula. Black ice is causing problems in my old stomping ground, Sonoma County.
"Snow-noma?" Kerstin, 11, just said. Yeah! SNOW-noma!
At least 2 inches of snow fell in neighboring Lake County.
A winter storm watch remains in effect in the Bay Area until later this morning.
Winter only arrived in Dubuque during the past week, after a lengthy spell of unseasonably mild weather.
Obviously, the opposite has been happening elsewhere: Unseasonably cold weather grips much of the country, including places we NEVER associate with S-N-O-W.
A saxophone great passes, but few notice
Had he lived 50 years ago, the death of Michael Brecker at age 57 of a leukemia-related illness might have made big headlines.
Instead, his passing Saturday went largely unnoticed.
I think that's because jazz goes largely unnoticed.
Five decades ago, Brecker would have commanded much more public notice, simply because more people would have followed the exploits of a top, contemporary tenor saxophone player.
Brecker once had to play in the Saturday Night Live band and did session work to augment his jazz earnings.
The jazz audience has shrunk, and the spotlight likewise diminished.
I listened to Brecker's 1998 album "Two Blocks from the Edge" as I drove around today. I kept wondering what would have happened had Brecker lived in the mid-1950s -- a time when the stature of jazz loomed so much larger.
Take THAT, Lute Olson!
I am going to work a couple hours later than usual, so I have the time this morning to sip coffee and reflect.
I am reflecting on Aaron Brooks (pictured, No. 0) hitting the game-winning shot with two seconds left for my BELOVED OREGON DUCKS last night. The visiting, 15th-ranked Ducks beat No. 10 Arizona, 79-77, to complete Oregon's first road sweep of the Wildcats and the Sun Devils in 29 tries.
The Ducks' win was somewhat overshadowed by the NFL playoffs, but its significance cannot be overstated.
The victory gave Oregon a 6-0 road record and a share of first place with UCLA in the Pacific-10 Conference.
A few more wins, and the hoops team MIGHT be able to overcome the disappointment caused by the underachieving Oregon football team.
The problem with Led Zeppelin is that the bands they spawned were such poor copyists.
The followers appropriated all of the sonic blast, with so little of the subtlety.
As a result of all those second-rate Led Zeps, one of the most prevailing images of the *REAL* Led Zeppelin -- all loud guitars and wailing vocals -- does a profound disservice to one of the most adventuresome bands of all time.
I thought about this as I watched the Bears edge the Seahawks in the NFL playoffs, 27-24 in overtime.
I watched on TV with the sound MUTED and a 35-song, Led Zeppelin playlist BLASTING out of the iPod docking station.
The riffs were all present and accounted for, but so were the moments of beauty that Plant-Page-Jones-Bonham could so easily create.
Songs such as the exquisite "Tangerine:"
"Measuring a summer's day, I only find it slips away to grey."
The genius of Led Zep, I think, is that they so fearlessly used the musical forms they liked -- blues, folk, country, early rock, soul, funk and even jazz -- while making a music so resolutely their own.
Oh yeah... That opening to "Immigrant Song?"
Still the most exhilarating think I have ever heard.
Watch out for women who spear you, strip you and throw you in a pit
I watched Kaneto Shindo's psychological horror classic "Onibaba" last night, while waiting for my wife Jill to return from a week in New Orleans.
Set in feudal Japan, the film follows the struggle for survival by two impoverished women -- a young war widow, played by Jitsuko Yoshimura, and her former mother-in-law, played by Nobuko Otowa.
The pair's survival technique blurs the lines between good and evil: In a swampy, reed-filled farm territory devoid of crops because of seemingly ceaseless wars, the women ambush traveling samurai, kill them, dispose of the bodies in a deep pit and sell the stolen armor to an unsavory man for food.
This approach aids their survival in two ways, by securing food and by eliminating roving samurai, whose raping and pillaging, combined with bad weather, helped destroy the crops the women so desperately need.
The women's relationship endures throughout their almost feral ambush attacks, but cannot endure when lusty neighbor Hachi, played by Kei Sato (one of my favorite actors) arrives back on the scene.
The above description simply scratches the surface of this wonderful film, released in 1964. There are supernatural elements, plot twists and beautiful cinematography to satisfy most film fans.
The acting is also superb. Last night, I concentrated my attention on the performance of Jitsuko Yoshimura (pictured inset), quite possibly my favorite Japanese actress of the 1960s.
I know Yoshimura for her range. In Masahiro Shinoda's "Ibun Sarutobi Sasuke (Samurai Spy)," Yoshimura plays Omiya, an orphaned girl who gradually falls in love with the protagonist as both try to decipher the complicated weave of deceit surrounding them. Yoshimura embodies refreshing innocence and seems refined to the point of delicacy in "Ibun Sarutobi Sasuke."
In "Onibaba," she hammers wet laundry dry with a ferocious rage and eats with her hands like a ravenous animal.
When she and Hachi consummate their lust, it is done sweating and screeching -- like the basest of animals.
"Onibaba" is a film to watch repeatedly -- like all great films -- and Yoshimura is an actress whose career I will continue to investigate. I promise to mind the pit, though.
FQ and the ULTIMATE "wish you were here!"
Have you ever said: "I wish I coulda been there!" After hearing about a great moment in history?
ROUTE 1 readers have, judging from the answers to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What one of history's great pop-culture moments do you wish you could have experienced, and why?"
Jim S. -- Sitting in the crowd during The Beatles' first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" would have been fantastic. Trying to hear the music over the girls' screams ... observing the bewildered looks of the older viewers ... wondering what I was really a part of ... it was surely a magical mystery in its infancy.
Rick T. -- The Elvis concert at Madison Square Garden.
Brian C. -- 1) The introduction of John Lennon to Paul McCartney, thus beginning a historical songwriting partnership.
2) Elvis' first recording session at Sun Records.
Mike M. -- I'd love to be a part of a film crew during the shooting of a classic American film, maybe "The Last Picture Show" or "Paper Moon," to experience the "magic" of movie making, the creative energy, excitement, fascinating people and locations, sense of accomplishment, etc. Or maybe to travel across country with Jack Kerouac, maybe to Mexico.
Kerstin H. -- Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" broadcast. I would want to see all of those people freakin' out.
Mike D. -- The Beatles playing at Shea Stadium on Aug. 15, 1965, put the exclamation point on The British Invasion! There was an electricity in the air and the memorable images of young, crazed female fans illustrate the mania.
Erik H. -- Sept. 20-21, 1976... About 600 kids pack themselves into London's tiny 100 Club for "The 100 Club Punk Festival." The first night's lineup included Subway Sect, Siouxsie & The Banshees (with then-unknown Sid Vicious on drums!), The Clash and the Sex Pistols. The second night's lineup included The Damned, Buzzcocks and The Vibrators. Then relatively unknown, these are the bands that would kick off a generation of new music all converge on one place for two special nights.
Feed a cold, ROCK a fever
A head cold has plagued me the past two days.
Today, I filled my stomach with chicken noodle soup and filled my ears with "The Slider" album by T.Rex.
I guess you could call it "comfort music."
Yes, I felt rather miserable, but at least some of the catchiest music ever made was helping me cope.
I was returning to the office from covering an outdoor event when the CHUGGING classic "Chariot Choogle" came over the car speakers:
"Girl you are a groove/You're like the planets when you move."
I'll never understand what Marc Bolan really meant in his songs, but he sure sounded convincing.
"I'm riding in the rain/Got my blue suede shoes/Gonna give up all my pain and go oooo yeah!"
Right on! And please pass the Kleenex.
Girl meets boy... genius
We're experiencing a wave of Orson Welles mania these days.
I have been watching the two-disc DVD of "Citizen Kane," and the feature-length documentary on Welles that accompanies it.
I have been enthralled with the story of the "voodoo" staging of "Macbeth" that Welles created when he was 20. Welles wanted to give the all-black cast of Harlem's Negro Theatre Unit a classic to perform, so he relocated "Macbeth" in Haiti. The play's success greatly enhanced Welles' growing reputation.
Two years later, Welles stunned America with the chilling "War of the Worlds" broadcast on CBS Radio.
I introduced my 11-year-old daughter Kerstin to the Oct. 30, 1938 broadcast last night (we found it online here) and she has listened to it twice since.
She loves it!
As you probably recall, Welles retold the H.G. Wells classic novel in contemporary times and in near-documentary style. Welles interrupted a seemingly ordinary music show with increasingly ominous, simulated news flashes of a Martian invasion of Grover's Mill, N.J.
Many people tuned in to the broadcast after an introductory statement reaffirming its fictional nature, so a great many people believed the news reports and panicked.
Studies suggest 1.2 million listeners were "genuinely frightened" by the broadcast.
Kerstin said listening to the Welles broadcast makes her want to read the Wells original book. So, "War of the Worlds" continues to entertain and inspire, even nearly 70 years after it first aired.
Birthday boys sing for the birthday girl
Annika turned 8 today and we marked the occasion with a Hogstrom tradition: The Beatles' "Birthday" blaring out of speakers.
Then, after breakfast, we turned to YouTube for some additional birthday fun related to Jan. 8. As Annika knows, it is a day that helped shape popular music for generations.
Me: "You share your birthday with a couple of famous rock stars."
Annika: "Yeah, David Bowie and Elvis Presley."We celebrated Annika's rare birthday coincidence by watching the great 1956 clip of Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show, famously introducing "Hound Dog" with:
"Friends, like the great philosopher once said..."
Then we watched a pair of clips of David Bowie during two career highlights -- the "Let's Dance" video from 1982, set in dusty Australia and the performance of "Changes" from the "Ziggy Stardust" film of the final Spiders from Mars gig in July 1973. The latter clip, in particular, shows that Bowie was one of rock's ultimate showmen, a trait he shares with Elvis.
It was a rockin' start to Annika's birthday, a day that will include Hello Kitty treats for her classmates and presents tonight.
"High School Musical," with swords
With Jill in New Orleans for the week, it was up to me to take the girls to the Western Dubuque High School performance of "High School Musical" this afternoon.
Brianna Hoffmann and Adam Sullivan starred in the school's staging of the play, an adaptation of a made-for-television Disney movie.
The girls were mesmerized by the singing, the dancing and the story they knew well from repeated viewings of the movie.
As the cast performed, I kept thinking about "Ibun Sarutobi Sasuke (Samurai Spy)," the Masahiro Shinoda chanbara (samurai film) that I watched on DVD until it was time to leave for the play.
Subsequent posts on the Internet Movie Database Web site ask:
"Why is this movie good?"
"Why are IMDBers so stupid?"
Apparently there is some debate as to the merits of Shinoda's 1965 film, which adds thick layers of complex political intrigue to a ninja flick with dark, film-noir tendencies.
I would place myself in the "Why are they stupid" camp, as "Ibun Sarutobi Sasuke" never fails to entertain me.
I have had to watch it multiple times to figure out the plot, mind you, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It is a film that makes the viewer work, but the work pays off for me.
As a side note, the film offers a pair of supporting roles to a couple of my cinematic heroes:
* Kei Sato is one of the classic Japanese character actors of the 1960s. He played Serizawa in "Daibosatsu Toge (The Sword of Doom)" and Takanosuke Nojiri, a rather ruthless killer, in "Ibun Sarutobi Sasuke."
* Shintaro Ishihara plays a bit role as Saizo Kirigakure, a friend of protagonist Sarutobi Sasuke.
Ishihara wrote "Kurutta Kajitsu (Crazed Fruit)," one of my Top 5 favorite films and was the brother of Yoshiro Ishihara, the "Kurutta Kajitsu" star known as the "James Dean" of Japan.
Ultimately, Shintaro Ishihara became mayor of Tokyo.
As far as I know, however, he never sang "Get'cha Head in the Game."
Forest: Something to shout about at last!
Forget about dominating English football.
When I was a kid, Nottingham Forest dominated European football.
Under their masterful manager, the late Brian Clough, Forest won successive European titles in 1978-79 and 1979-80.
Forest were glamorous and glorious, but that was back then.
One of the oldest football clubs in the world (founded 1865), Forest have fallen on hard times lately. They haven't been a top-flight club since 1999 and currently find themselves in League One -- confusingly, the third tier of English football.
Those recent struggles made it all the more gratifying, then, for me to watch Forest upset Premiership strugglers Charlton Athletic, 2-0, in the third round of the FA Cup live on FOX SOCCER CHANNEL this morning.
The excellently named Junior Agogo (pictured) opened the scoring for Forest. Agogo is a bit of a journeyman, beginning his multiple-club career with my BELOVED SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY and even playing with San Jose Earthquakes here in America before ultimately arriving at Forest. Grant Holt scored Forest's second goal, and the club will learn Monday who they will face in the competition's fourth round.
We know they won't be facing the DREADED SHEFFIELD UNITED. The hapless Blades fell to another League One side, visiting Swansea City, 3-0. Ah... The magic of the FA Cup. Hahahaha!
The past year's most memorable moments
We are five days into the new year and ROUTE 1 readers are answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What was your favorite musical moment of 2006?"
Mike M. -- My favorite musical moment of 2006 was when The Hogtown Stompers jammed under the rotunda at Carnegie-Stout Public Library on April 6. According to the Stompers, a jug band from southwest Wisconsin: "We play the funnest music ever invented. If you aren't dancing when the Stompers play, your knee's broke or you're passed out in the corner." Listen online here.
Kerstin H. -- We were at Lake Tahoe and singing bits of all of these different songs.
Mike D. -- My favorite musical moment of the year was watching my 7-year-old son overcome his anxiety to perform (at least in my mind) a flawless rendition of "Prelude on the C Major Chord" at his piano recital at Kennedy Mall in December. I was so proud as he stood up to take his bow.
Dave B. -- Green Day in concert. It freakin' rocked.
Inger H. -- In January, I think it was, Mark and I went to see Matt Pond PA, both of us sick, sick, sick with awful head colds. We spent most of the night leaning against one of the few poles on the floor of Slim's 'cause we were so exhausted, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. They were great.
Brian C. -- Attending my second Doobie Brothers concert in 29 years, in June, at Wolf Trap National Park near Washington, D.C. Most likely, I'll see the Doobies again in June 2007, when they come to Dubuque.
Rick T. -- Meeting Charlie Daniels and having him sign my guitar. I now have 10 autographs on this guitar and photos to prove it.
Erik H. -- June 14, Reno, Nev. I dropped Jill and the girls off at a Super Target and I drove over to the Tower Records (R.I.P.) to purchase the wonderful, two-disc compilation "Studio 1 Ska Bonanza." As I am driving, I am repeatedly playing Freddy McKay's "Love is a Treasure," on the "Story of Treasure Isle" compilation. Sunny skies, 71 degrees, and I am singing along at the top of my lungs to one of the all-time classic songs -- a song that reminds me why I love music.
"Oh Manchester, so much to answer for"
A recent number of elongated holiday weekends and truncated -- yet mind-achingly busy -- work weeks meant that when I woke up today, I had absolutely no clue as to the day.
Surely not Saturday!
I finally had to study the front page of the newspaper to find the answer. It's Thursday.
Faced with such confusion, I decided to turn to the comfortably familiar while walking on the treadmill this morning.
I listened to The Smiths.
The first song I heard on the playlist, "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle," is a tune I have heard over and over again for more than two decades:
"And I'll love you 'til the day I die/There never need by longing in your eyes/As long as the hand that rocks the cradle is mine."
The music that we love can do wonders for us, including provide an anchor of stability during times of senselessness. Even if the senselessness only extends to a lack of calendar awareness.
The code of "Le Petit Prince"
I began reading a relatively new English translation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince)" to the girls for "bedtime story" last night.
It's the first time I have read the book as an adult, and each page carries the force of revelation for me.
Like the best films or songs, "Le Petit Prince" becomes deeper the move you delve into it.
The story sounds like a relatively simple tale of a small extraterrestrial on the surface, but us grown-ups who can read between the lines find something far more meaningful.
When we consider the book's meaning, "Le Petit Prince" becomes a compact guide to life. Memorable instructions seem to leap off every page:
"It is much harder to judge yourself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself, it's because you're truly a wise man."
I pause every so often to consider Saint-Exupéry's wise words. I hope the girls don't mind.
Actually, I will probably borrow "Le Petit Prince" from the girls after we have concluded our initial, bedtime reading. I think this little book could teach me some important lessons.
All you really need is a girl and gun
Jean-Luc Godard made it all sound so easy.
All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun, the Nouvelle Vague revolutionary famously said.
Godard could have said the same thing about iconic pop songs and pioneering music videos.
I woke up today with a hankering for Brigitte Bardot (who doesn't?), so I clicked on YouTube and watched the 1967 clip for "Bonnie and Clyde," Bardot's ultra C-O-O-L collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg. You can see it here.
Bardot couldn't really sing, but she really didn't need to sing, what with that beret she wears and the tommy gun she holds.
I love this clip: It looks like an outtake from one of Godard's deconstructions of a gangster genre film -- something like "Bande a Part" with even more singing and dancing than usual.
I'm going to continue to feed my appetite for French pop by listening to the Serge Gainsbourg compilation "Comic Strip" while walking on the treadmill.
Right after I watch the "Bonnie and Clyde" clip just one more time.
"Go back the other way, we'll stop and eat at Dick's"
Before he became obsessed with the female posterior, Sir Mix-a-lot crafted one of the best-ever songs about a place.
"Posse on Broadway" was THE FIRST SONG I HEARD IN 2007.
From Rainier Way to "23rd and Jackson" and to Broadway, Sir Mix-a-lot provides a virtual tour of the cruisin' strip in Seattle's Central District. You can practically trace the posse's route on a map of Seattle, which is a fun thing to do while listening to the song.
"On Martin Luther King, the set looks kinda dead/We need a new street, so posse move ahead."
Instead of gangsta exploits, Sir Mix-a-lot celebrates hanging out with friends, which is one of the reasons why I have adored this song since I purchased the 12-inch single upon its release in 1988 (now 19 years ago?!). Sir Mix-a-lot explains that he has got a "def posse:"
"My homeboy Kid Sensation is a teenage lady killer/Maharaji's on the def side, dancin' like a freak/The girlies see his booty and their knees get weak/Larry is the white guy, people think he's funny/A real estate investor who makes a lot of money."
Of course, the highlight of this song for many people involves the efforts Sir Mix-a-lot makes to feed his hungry posse:
"Now, the freaks are gettin' hungry and Mix-a-lot's treatin'/We stopped at Taco Bell for some Mexican eatin'/But Taco Bell was closed, the girls was on my tip/They said 'go back the other way we'll stop and eat at Dick's'/Dick's is the place where the cool hang out/the swass like to play and the rich flaunt clout."
He's right about Dick's. Founded in 1954, this local fast-food outlet (with about five Puget Sound locations) is a Seattle icon, famed for the massive "Dick's Deluxe."
After the posse's triumphant appearance at Dick's -- "posse to the burger stand so big we walk in two's/we're getting dirty looks from those other sucker crews" -- the song concludes with Mix-a-lot's posse rescuing a girl from the clutches of an abusive boyfriend:
"Her boyfriend's illin', he went to slap her face/My homeboy PLD cold sprayed the boy with mace/Cuz I never liked a punk, who beat up on his girl/If you don't have 'game' then let her leave your world/We took the girl with us/With him she rode the bus/She gave the boy the finger and the sucker starts to cuss."
It's such an admirable approach to male-female relations, it's hard to believe that this is the same rapper who gave the world "Baby Got Back."
I love "Posse on Broadway." It might be the best-ever song about Seattle, and I made sure it's the FIRST SONG I HEARD IN 2007.
Happy New Year!