26 May 2010

"Instant Karma!": John Lennon and Yoko Ono with The Plastic Ono Band

When I bought this single back in the early 70s, I had no idea what karma was. To define it in its simplest terms, "what goes around, comes around." Now "instant karma" is part of my vocabulary. As in, "instant karma's going to get those fools responsible for the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the death of 11 working men on that rig."

So for those deceased working men, our precious Gulf of Mexico and coast lines all along the Gulf Stream in peril, here's John & Co. with a little prayer from me.

21 May 2010

Classic Film This Summer at the Tampa Theatre

Beginning on June 6th with Topper, The Tampa Theatre (pictured above) Summer Classics Series will air a number of films of the "golden age" of Hollywood and one German expressionist silent classic. More information is available at the Tampa Theatre's website.

I'm planning on seeing three or four films in the series, including His Girl Friday, Casablanca, and the newly restored Metropolis (1927) with live musical accompaniment on the theatre's mighty Wurlitzer organ.

16 May 2010

From the Bruce Springsteen with Seeger Sessions Band Tour, "When The Saints Go Marching In"

There is one reason New Orleans can never die, no matter how much oil BP spills around it or Army Corp. of Engineers mistakes flood the region: the spirit of its music.

The concert footage above leaves out a verse Bruce wrote for the end of the song when they played it at Jazzfest in New Orleans four years ago -- when the city was still in the early stages of recovery from the post-Katrina disaster:

13 May 2010

Equal Justice in the American South: "Intruder in the Dust" (1949)

Recently I watched TCM's airing of a film I knew absolutely nothing about, an adaptation of William Faulkner's novel Intruder in the Dust. I gave the film a chance because my cable provider has a relatively reliable rating system for films and gave it 4 of 4 stars. As soon as I saw in the opening credits the film was based on a Faulkner novel I was persuaded.

I made a good decision. This 1949 film documents the real life racial conditions in rural Mississippi in the 1940's. I'll make just two minor additions to TCM's own summary of the film: "Only a young [white] boy and an [elderly white] woman stand between an innocent black man and a lynch mob." The film, with a few small flaws, is excellent.

The film was made on location in Faulkner's home town of Oxford, Mississippi, using the local residents as extras. This adds a raw, authentic quality to the townspeople and the sequences shot in the surrounding woodlands. The film weaves an thrilling crime story with a tale of, to paraphrase one of Faulkner's letters, the responsibilities whites owed blacks in the south -- one part of the United States where equal protection of the law for blacks was no where to be found.

While this film does not have the star power or depth of To Kill a Mockingbird, Juano Hernandez turns in a timeless performance as proud black farmer Lucas Beauchamp.

One side note in closing: I spent the entire film and a good bit of time afterward trying to understand the meaning of the film and the novel's title: Intruder in the Dust. For those of you who might have seen or will see the film, I've got a theory: lumber mill sawdust.

08 May 2010

Early Influences: The Temptations' "Psychedelic Shack" (1969)

The time was December 1969, Christmas; Santa brought me the first stereo I ever had. I didn't have an older sibling to help me sort out the good music from what I would outgrow -- specifically, almost all of what was considered cool at school. I started with were a few albums, my growing singles collection, top 40 radio and Rolling Stone magazine.

Lucky for me concerts were cheap back them and I could follow up on bands that I heard on the radio. The films Woodstook and The Concert for Bangladesh were also early influences, but that's another story for another time. My main resources were the radio and the 45s I was buying.

It was a glorious time to be learning. There were a lot of great bands making their mark in those years. Psychedelia was a big part of that scene, something I had no way of fully understanding. I had the right music, but acid just wasn't part of my world.

What was expanding my young mind in those days were singles and albums I bought after hearing them on the radio. One of those singles was by The Temptations, minus David Ruffin, backed by the glorious Funk Brothers, performing Psychedelic Shack. Unlike a lot of what I was listening to back in 1970, this song has stood the test of time.

This is the record that opened the window to Motown for me. And I'll never forget the thrill I got from singing along with Otis, "Music so low, you can't get under it, uh-huh!" I've learned a lot since then and my tastes have evolved. But I'll never forget one of the places I started, the Temps single Psychedelic Shack, ".... That's where it's at. ...." Uh, huh!

01 May 2010

Emmylou Harris w/ Willie Nelson - "One Paper Kid"

About eight years ago, I got my first chance to see one of my favorite artists, Emmylou Harris. I was prowling around the soundboard before the show and asked her sound man if One Paper Kid, from her album Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town (1990, reissued 2004), was on the set list. Her sound man told me she hadn't done that song live in quite a while.

The concert that night was superb -- all my highest expectations were met. As I was leaving the theater, I saw a short line of fans gather around her tour bus. As it turned out, everyone in that shout line would get a chance to meet Emmylou after she got back to the bus.

Ms. Harris turned out to be gracious and compassionate person in our brief meeting. For no reason I can remember, I'd stuck the CD liner notes to Quarter Moon in my pocket. And that was what she signed for me, now my prized souvenir of the concert. After our short discussion she told me she was going to write a little phrase on my liner notes she hadn't used in a long time. So my post today contains two things close to my heart: the song One Paper Kid above and, from Emmylou to me to you, "Happy trails."