27 November 2010

My Search for Patsy Cline: "She's Got You"

Mine has been a long climb out of the "country ain't cool" cave I wallowed in as a teenager. Here's one of paths out I found.

More than a decade after I started on my rock adventure in 1970, a friend gave me a cassette tape containing Elvis Costello's first two albums. I was crazy for his music. Then, in 1981, he began a long run of surprising his fans with each new release. Almost Blue (1981), recorded in Nashville with Nashville musicians and a Nashville producer, was filled with country standards that were all new to me. But I really liked the album.

There was one song in particular that I learned had been a hit by someone named Patsy Cline, the achingly beautiful Sweet Dreams. I told myself, "I'll have to check her out." And when I did, she knocked me off my feet. But I pulled myself up and dusted off my self-respect -- for missing her all those years -- and dove into her small but nearly flawless catalog. To this day, I still haven't heard a voice like hers.

As biographer Ellis Nassour put it when asked to comment on Cline's continuing popularity "Her voice really delivered the full intent of what the songwriters wrote, and [it was enhanced] by the quality and innovation lavished on her sessions by the real genius behind her sessions, Owen Bradley. No one sings a torch song like Patsy. It's like she's living her own story."

It wasn't hard to pick a personal favorite of Patsy's singles to feature here. Sweet Dreams, the song I discovered Patsy by, was an good possibility. Walkin' after Midnight was easily the song I'd poured the most money into jukeboxes for. But the wistful ballad below, Hank Cochran's She's Got You, is easily my favorite. It shows perfectly why a lot of folks, me included, think there is nobody that matches Patsy Cline.

So thanks Mr. MacManus. I would have been stuck a long while in my "country ain't cool" cave without your help way back in '81.

Patsy Cline, She's Got You (1962)

21 November 2010

An Album of (Mostly) Film Images

Here are a few film-related photos and movie posters -- with several music and miscellaneous wild cards included -- in my album at Golden Age of Hollywood. Click on any image for more information.

16 November 2010

The Dixie Chicks: Still "Not Ready To Make Nice"

A friend of mine put on an album the other night, one I hadn't written about since it took home five Grammys and tore up the charts in 2006. The Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way still sounds great these five years later. (Judge for yourself with the video above; as always, my apologies for the ad across the bottom.)

As an aging hippie, the idea that a band would stir up so much controversy by exercising an artist's right to criticize American foreign policy from overseas is more than a little disconcerting. I grew up at the height of the era where protest music and musicians speaking their minds were badges of honor. But judging on the first decade of this century, a band now puts its future on the line by stepping out of line. As I think about it, I guess its always been risky to oppose those in authority.

The Dixie Chicks are still thriving with a smaller fan base, having lost many of their more conservative, mainstream country fans. But they are still going strong, and their cathartic album Taking the Long Way stands as one of the decade's most important protest records.

10 November 2010

"Open the pod bay doors, Hal."

In 1968, when Stanley Kubrick's masterwork 2001: A Space Odyssey was released, I was 11 and my grandfather was 55. The pre-release hype on the film had been so big that he took me to the Tampa premiere of the film. He and I had never been to a film together before, but he thought this would be a culturally significant event and he didn't want me to miss it.

When we emerged from the theater after viewing the film, I distinctly remember the two of us looking at each other with expressions of "What the hell was that?" I'm sure it was the last Kubrick film he ever saw, but for me it was the beginning of a journey of exploration.

I'm 53 now and I'd guess I've seen the film 20 times since its release, each time comprehending a little bit more of what Kubrick was saying. It's been a slow, hard road, but well worth the investment of time and mental energy. Now, as I've, somewhat, come to piece the puzzle of the film together, one of the things I love most about it is that 2001 leaves so many questions unanswered.

It's been a mind blower for 40 years and I see no reason it will stop being a mind blower anytime soon.

So thanks, Granddad. I know you didn't have much fun that summer afternoon back in 1968, but you achieved your primary goal: getting me started early on exploring this historic film.

Readers who recognized the reference in this post's title will know this little taste I'm throwin' in above. But realistically, this is a film you have to study as a whole to get what it has to give. And it has plenty to give.

05 November 2010

Cyndi Lauper: "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" (1983)

Jeez, can't a boy have a little fun too without suffering through an advertisement embedded with wonderful video? And why is Wikipedia -- usually a fine source on popular music -- trying to convince me this song is an important feminist statement?

It's a fun song. It's danceable. It's a great video featuring Cyndi's real mom. At most, it's a girl's statement of how things are. But the point of the song just what Cyndi's plea is for, fun.

With my sincere apologies for the embedded ad, here's a little light pop that fueled a lot fun worldwide back in the eighties. And it still holds up. Enjoy.