Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

Friday, July 1, 2022

Happy Birthday, Debbie Harry




Today is the birthday of Debbie Harry, Queen of Pop Punk.  

I'm a Blondie fan and a Debbie Harry fan.  That's all I have to say about that lest I start to wax rhapsodic.  

She's the absolute best.










Saturday, June 25, 2022

Watch Party Watch: His Kind of Woman (1951)



Watched:  06/24/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Third?
Director:  John Farrow

In celebration of Jane Russel's 101st birthday and enduring foxiness, we watched His Kind of Woman (1951) for our Friday watch party.  

I was aware this movie was weird and goofy, coming out of the Howard Hughes-era RKO studio where things seemed more dictated by Hughes' whims and libido than proven formula,  But until you watch a movie with a bunch of other people and you're responsible for what you're all watching - that's when you go from "yeah, this is kind of wacky" to "wow, this movie is bonkers".  

I'm aware that classic film folks turn their nose up at this movie, but they are wrong.  This is a movie that has everything, and it makes me laugh consistently throughout.  If you want serious, dark film noir, keep walking, because this thing has songs, Mitchum just swinging his dick everywhere, Vincent Price showing the moxie he'd bring to his horror career, and Jane Russell just being as Jane Russell-y as all get out (that's decidedly a feature).  

I had forgotten Raymond Burr was our big bad, and that Charles McGraw had shown up as a heavy.  Anyway, I can't think of a lot against the movie except that the last ten minutes goes on for 25.  Like - there's just way too much climax in this movie and it doesn't include Russell, and that is math I can't get behind.

Anyway, here's to the birthday girl.  Here's hoping she's having a great time wherever she is out there.



Saturday, June 18, 2022

Vegas Watch: Viva Las Vegas (1964)




Watched:  06/17/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Director:  George Sidney

Confession:  I thought I had seen an Elvis movie all the way through, but looking at The King's IMDB profile, I hadn't. I've seen others in part (Blue Hawaii, Roustabout, etc..), but am not overly keen on jukebox musicals with a book thinner than a pamphlet.  However, Viva Las Vegas (1964) is kind of the high water mark for these kinds of films, and it co-stars perennial favorite, Ann-Margret.  

Part tourist boosterism for America's playland, part romantic comedy, and all boppin' musical, the film is about 85 minutes of rocket-sled plotting paired with Go-Go dancing, while absolutely nothing happens, and we basically watch plot points used a million times over by '64 to tell the story of Elvis and Ann-Margret falling in love.  And in the last ten minutes of the film, we suddenly have a massive bodycount.  Did not see that coming.

Did I like the film?  Yes.  It's charming, dumb and cute.  Ann-Margret is something else.  Was the film good?  By conventional standards, its a mess.  But it was intended to get teens out to cinemas, promote Ann-Margret and Elvis and sell some records, and by that standard it's Citizen Kane.  

Picture stolen from Jenifer's blog, but you can see Garr in white and Basil's backside in red



Sidenote - Teri Garr is briefly in the movie as a background dancer, and you can see how she got pulled out of the chorus for a leading position.  Also: I heard Toni Basil is in the movie, and you cannot miss her when she's on screen for maybe 4 seconds.




But, yeah, basically Elvis plays a would-be race car driver who is in Vegas to drop off his car for a big road rally before heading off to LA to pick up the new motor.  He meets, immediately, an Italian Count who is the definition of Frenemy, and Ann-Margret, who is a pool manager/ swimming teacher.  Trying to find Ann-Margret, Elvis and the Count go on an ogling expedition of the showgirl shows across Vegas, so, you too, can fill your spank bank and have an idea of what you can objectify for a few bucks if you come to Vegas.  Eventually Elvis finds Ann-Margret, they begin to date (having enormous fun with money we're told Elvis doesn't have), but she doesn't want him to race lest he crash.  So they kind of break up.  But then he goes to race, and she helps.   It makes no sense, as nothing in the movie makes any sense.   And then they show the race, and it's a reminder of how terrifyingly dangerous racing was in mid-Century America and how far we've come in not thinking motor sports should end in death.  

Anyway, it is exactly what I was expecting, except for the scene where Elvis hangs out with a bunch of drunk Texans and it suddenly feels like a documentary or how-to video about how to deal with drunk Texans that is accurate to this day.




Sunday, June 12, 2022

Watch Party Watch: Streets of Fire (1984)




Watched:  06/10/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Walter Hill

Sooner or later I was going to make the Friday Watch Party Gang watch this movie, and indeed, I did.  

Reactions were, at best, mixed.  

The last time I watched this movie, I was ill and Jamie and I recorded a very iffy podcast that required some follow up when I was feeling better.



Friday, June 10, 2022

31 Years Ago: Superstition




I've been informed that Siouxsie & the Banshees' "Superstition" dropped 31 years ago today.  

Here's a pair of favorite tracks

 


Julee Cruise Merges With The Infinite




Vocalist and musician Julee Cruise has passed.  

Cruise is well known to fans of Twin Peaks, and is one of the signature sounds of the aural landscape of the show.  She released solo work as well as standing in for Cindy with the B-52's during tours.

She was s unique and rich talent, and she'll be missed.


Monday, April 18, 2022

Holiday Watch: Easter Parade (1948)




Watched:  04/17/2022
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Second?
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Charles Waters

I put this on at the start as we were cooking, and then realized I was watching the end.

This movie isn't my favorite.  But it does have Ann Miller in some parts of it.  And that's not all bad.








Tuesday, April 12, 2022

47

 "Needle"
Middle Kids



Dream wives pushing up their prices
Even though it's a dying trade
Cool hands sticking to their guns
Hoping it'll keep them safe

They're eyeing off each other
Hoping to discover the only needle in the hay
But the sun's gone down and they're feeling around
With palms stretched open skimming the ground
I was hoping that things were better since we're all so clever

Quick cash filling up the pockets
Of the most boring men in the room
Red lips, the promise of kisses
Whisper sweet nothingness

They're eyeing off each other
Hoping to discover the only needle in the hay
But the sun's gone down and they're feeling around
With palms stretched open skimming the ground
And you're sitting high above it
Modern comfort is always having something to say
And a million artists have come to this in the past years
Tired and hungry, laughing through tears
I was hoping that we'd feel better since we're all so clever

You look better in the spring
(The violins play the rite of it)
I see you ever considering
Packing up your things and driving into the sea

We're eyeing off each other
Hoping to discover the only needle in the hay
But the sun's gone down and we're feeling around
With arms stretched open skimming the ground
I was hoping that things were better
I was hoping that things were better
I was hoping that things were better since we're all so clever

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Musical Watch: West Side Story (2021)




Watched:  03/05/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Steven Spielberg

We won't belabor you with the facts of the 1957 stage play or much about the original film.  There's an endless stream of media on the topic, and even last year we were treated to a lengthy special on the 1961 film reuniting Rita Moreno, George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn.

I know I was aware of West Side Story when my mom took me to see it as a play in a small, downtown theater in Austin's former warehouse district around 5th or 6th grade.  I don't remember much in the way of my impressions other than being shocked that our heroes didn't walk away into the sunset - unhappy endings were still a novelty at that point.

It's likely I saw at least part of the 1961 version when I was 14 and my English class covered Romeo and Juliet.  But I didn't see it in full til summer of 1992 when I was at a drama camp for 7 weeks.*  I very much remember crowding around the TV and the silence from a room full of 17-year-olds at the film's end.  And, of course, being told "no, the girl in purple is Rita Moreno."

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Musical Watch: The Man of La Mancha (1972)

artwork by the remarkable Ted CoConis



Watched:  02/26/2022
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Arthur Hiller

In high school I saw a college production of Man of La Mancha, and loved the show.  But somehow I never got around to watching the film.  By end of high school, I was familiar with O'Toole and Loren, so that wasn't a deterrent, and even back then, I didn't blink at watching movies from decades past.  I did plan to read Don Quixote on the heels of seeing the play, but never got to it.*  What has shocked me over the years is that the music from the show and the general spirit of a show I saw once at age 17 have stuck with me.

Even if you've never read Cervantes (and I have not) The Man of La Mancha (1972) is absolutely a worthwhile watch.  It's a strange movie, following the show's format, it's a play within a play.  Layer of illusion upon layer of illusion.  Cervantes is an actor performing the play he's written of Man of La Mancha in a town square when the Spanish Inquisition appears and, charging him with heresy, hauls him off to stand trial.  While waiting for his show trial, he cools his heels in a large, open dungeon with a multitude of fellow prisoners who decide to hold their own kangaroo court for him - and in order to explain himself, he sets about using the prisoners to portray a version of his play.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Rock Watch: The Nowhere Inn (2021)




Watched:  01/29/2022
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Director:  Bill Benz

Rock stardom in the modern era is not what I think it was 30 years ago.  Sure, there are acts that can fill a stadium these days, but in the age of splintered genres, channels, modes of consuming music, etc...  when is someone "famous" as a musician or band?

The Nowhere Inn (2021) is a very small film that can very much feel like Annie Clark (aka: St. Vincent/ aka: Annie Clark) and Carrie Brownstein fucking around with a budget and telling a rock-and-roll fable that falls somewhere between Ziggy Stardust and Lynch and/ or a dozen other "identity" films.  That's not to say it isn't a watchable and interesting film, but it flits between "I feel like I've seen this before", "Oh, this is a very fun bit", and "people are assuming I know a lot more about Carrie Brownstein and Annie Clark's lives than I do".  

I genuinely cannot remember seeing a movie before that seemed so unclear on the idea that movies are a mass medium and need to contain everything the viewer needs to know - making references to information I'd be lost without from interviews I glanced at between 6 months and 4 years ago is... a choice.  

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Watch Party Watch: Who's That Girl? (1987)




Watched:   01/21/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Director:  James Foley

I don't know what the opposite is of "catching lightning in a bottle", but Who's That Girl? (1987) is here to make me wonder what that might be, or if we're in need of a new phrase.  

Look.  If you were a straight dude coming of age in the 1980's, you might not have talked about it, but chances are you spent a lot of time thinking about Madonna.  Not as part of the cultural discourse that somehow always placed Madonna in the middle of the po-discourse Venn Diagram and which was mostly nonsense, but for other reasons.  There's twenty seconds of video here which will help you understand.  

So, yes.  Madonna.  By 1987 she was a marketing and musical force who decided to dabble in acting.  Warner Bros., who was in the Madonna business and made both music and movies, said "sure, whatever".  Madonna somehow landed on a script about a girl getting out of prison who has to prove she's innocent, and decided this would be the movie she'd make.  

If catching lightning in a bottle is an unique combination of factors that come together and create a very special film, this is a mix of predictable hackery paired with an unprepared celebrity who doesn't know the difference between fame and talent needed to pull off a project.

Meat Loaf Merges With the Infinite



I don't remember not knowing who Meat Loaf was, which makes sense as I was 2 years old when Bat Out of Hell was released.  And, of course, I appreciated his performance in Rocky Horror, and reteaming with Jim Steinman for Bat Out of Hell II.  

But I still remember one Christmas when I was in college my brother and I slipping out after the folks and company went to bed and we headed for a bar that had been there forever, with a jukebox that hadn't seen much rotation since it had been put in place.  It was a shitty little bar with a clear brand of clientele which we didn't really match, most of whom seemed to be regulars and knew each other, and just as our beers hit the table, the jukebox started with Bat Out of Hell and someone had put in money to play the entire album in order.  

I don't know why, but that night I became totally sold on that album.

Whatever world Jim Steinman wrote songs for (Steinman passed in April) and Meat Loaf sings about is a world that resonates like hell with me.  And, apparently, the be-mulleted denizens of Molly Maguire's Irish Pub in Spring, Texas circa Christmas 1995.  But, yeah, it's a musical theater version of rock and roll, where the already heightened melodrama of romance, heartbreak and all the usual faire of radio rock is raised to rock opera levels.  And at the center, Meat Loaf's sincerity anchors what sh/could be absurd, putting a broken hero at the middle of it.

Here's to you and one of the best selling albums of all-time, sir.  The record seems like an unlikely candidate to grab that mantle, and I'm so glad it has.

Mr. Loaf also acted.  A LOT.  His occasional health issues and personal demons may have kept him from some choices and maybe off the live stage, but he leaves behind not just his music but plentiful roles and screentime.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Ronnie Spector Merges With The Infinite


 
Singer Ronnie Spector, most famous for her work with the Ronettes, has passed.

Just two weeks ago I was checking to make sure I still had my signed copy of her CD.  



I went through my obligatory Phil Spector phase in college, and came out a bonafide Ronettes fan.  They don't have that many tracks, but what they did put out was all gold, and you hear their stuff all the time, especially at Christmas.


Jamie and I saw Ronnie back in 2017 at the Paramount - where we happened to run into SimonUK.  It was an amazing show, and I'm so glad we could do it.



We'll miss you, Ronnie.


Friday, December 24, 2021

Merry Christmas Eve, Every Buddy


As we do each Christmas Eve, we're giving Darlene Love a spin.  If you've never listened to Ms. Love, give it a shot - see why she's so great live.  

It's been an... interesting year here at League HQ, genuinely filled with love and loss and ups and downs.  It's been a year of instability and amazing support.  And even this Christmas Eve is filled with questions. 

But all you can do is put one foot in front of the other and just keep going.  And that's true in the better years, too.  

On this night of  anticipation, I hope you are either spending the holidays as you wish or have plans for a good night in the coming days.  All I know is that we get another year coming up as this rock hasn't flown away from the nuclear ball anchoring our planets here, or been consumed by it yet.  

We've got another chance.  Let's all do better.  Let's all try to remember that we're all we've got.

While Darlene Love is the patron saint of Christmas here at The Signal Watch, there's always room under the tree for more voices.  And where would we have been in 2021 if not for Ms. Hannah Waddingham?  


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Holiday Watch: "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944)




Watched:  12/21/2021
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Vincente Minnelli

My allergies were destroying me, so we agreed to just put on something light and simple.  I didn't realize Jamie had never seen this one, so maybe it was a good choice?  She never said much about what she thought about it.

Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) is only barely a Christmas film.  It follows about a year with a family in St. Louis over 1903-04, in a world just around the corner from that which inspired Walt Disney's Main Street USA in the Disney Parks.  That's not an exaggeration - Disney did base Main Street on the small town of Marceline, Missouri, where he would have lived about 4 years after the events of the film as a young child (Disney born 1901).

The film boasts a name cast, headlined by Judy Garland, and as a product of wartime filmmaking, the cast skews female-centric and features non-draft eligible gentlemen in support roles.  Mary Astor seems cast too-young as the patient matriarch, paired with Leon Ames as the father.  Lucille Bremer appears in her first (of like 10) role, Margaret O'Brien as arguably the #2 lead in the film at 7 years old, Harry Davenport as "Grandpa".  Joan Caroll, who plays Patsy in Bells of St. Mary's is another sister.  

Friday, December 17, 2021

Alone in the Dark at Christmas - 2021




Christmas can be quiet.  It can be lonesome, even as you sit by the light of the tree or walk streets strung with garland and decorations.

So, every year I tweak it a bit, but I do keep a playlist of songs called Alone in the Dark at Christmas.  Here's this year's offering.  Use it wisely.  


Saturday, December 11, 2021

Sorta Holiday Watch: The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)



Watched:  12/11/2021
Format:  VOD from TCM
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Leo McCarey

I don't watch The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) every year - and it's been a while - but when I do, I'm weirdly weepy through the whole thing.  And I do not know why.  Ingrid Bergman smiling in soft lighting in close-up is certainly part of it.  But... I'm not Catholic.  I've only spoken to like one or two nuns in my life.  

The message of the film is not as on the nose as It's a Wonderful Life or a Pixar film where you more or less get why you're having the feels.  But who can argue with the kind of belief in people's better natures, that kindness is its own reward and the value of good cheer that the movie puts forward?  And, for those of you so inclined, it's a look at faith and service that's remarkable.

The Bells of St. Mary's is considered a Christmas movie, and it... is not.  It has exactly one sequence of a movie that takes place over an academic year that takes place anywhere around Christmas.  That scene is a banger, but it barely even advances the plot.  The original release date - Dec. 6th, 1945 - fell in the holiday season (it's on the marquee at the Bedford Falls cinema as George Bailey runs down Main Street), and paired with the song becoming not exactly a staple, but a bit of a standard, of holiday music - it's locked in.  

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Music Doc Watch: The Beatles - Get Back (2021)




Watched:  12/3/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  uhhhh...

I have what I'd describe as a non-relationship with The Beatles.   

I can't remember a time I wasn't aware of the existence of The Beatles, and since middle-school, I could pick out one of their tunes playing on the radio or over Muzak - but at some point when I was getting into music, I think I found the enormity of The Beatles as cultural force daunting, and their discography too big for me to get my head around.  I also think I had a hard time - as a high schooler - reconciling the Ed Sullivan Beatles with the late-years Beatles.  It was just so much.

I do know that in 1984 my parents took me to the movie theater to see Give My Regards to Broad Street. (That was when I first heard Eleanor Rigby and my wee brain was blown).  But they, themselves, weren't huge Beatles fans.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Signal Watch Christmas Music Playlist




Hey! 

Here's just over an hour of carefully selected Christmas tunes for you to rock to all month long. Play 'em in order and have an egg nog or cider and know The Signal Watch is giving you a confident nod and a lifting of the glass to share in your holiday merriment.