30 April 2011

Don't Sell My Culture!

One of the things that drives me crazy is important rock songs showing up in TV commercials. I went through the roof in '87 when the classic Beatles song Revolution turned up in a Nike commercial. I have not and will not buy another Nike product, ever. And it's not just me; George Harrison spoke on this issue in October of '87 with more authority than I ever could:

If it's allowed to happen, every Beatles song ever recorded is going to be advertising women's underwear and sausages. We've got to put a stop to it in order to set a precedent. Otherwise it's going to be a free-for-all. It's one thing when you're dead, but we're still around! They don't have any respect for the fact that we wrote and recorded those songs, and it was our lives. (George Harrison, as quoted in J. Doyle, 2009)

And the free-for-all George predicted is upon us. I've been gritting my teeth for years as the practice of using classic popular songs in commercials has somehow become acceptable. Well, it's not acceptable to me. So before you stumble across a new commercial that has me cursing at the TV screen now and again, here's a chance to listen to another classic, from another era, that is being transformed into a lame product endorsement. This is the single that lead me to buy the monumental first Pretenders album. Here's their break-out single (with its old-school video), Brass in Pocket (1979). Revolution survived, but it's a truly timeless song. The jury is still out on whether Brass in Pocket can survive.

24 April 2011

Following Threads: Little Walter, "Mean Old World" (1952)

A short while back I made a big fuss here about a classic blues track covered during the 1970 Layla sessions but left off the original 1970 double album, Mean Old World. Originally recorded by T-Bone Walker in 1942, the version of Mean Old World recorded by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman during the Layla sessions is a based on blues harmonica virtuoso Little Walter's Chicago blues style version recorded in 1952. One of the reasons blues rockers looked to Little Walter for inspiration is that he was arguably "the first musician of any kind to purposely use electronic distortion."

Well, enough out of me -- check out the incomparable Little Walter in the clip above performing Mean Old World.

17 April 2011

My First Record: "Evil Ways" (1969), The Original Santana Band

Evil Ways by was my first single, first favorite song, and Santana my first favorite band back when I got my first stereo for Christmas back when I was 13. And the firsts keep coming. Santana, on their first national tour in support of their above pictured first album was my first concert. They tore the house down that night and I was hooked.

And one side note: I got my first chance to see the Woodstock documentary the following summer of 1970 -- at a drive-in. The film was rated R and with me being 13, that presented a logistical problem. Just picture the front seat of my mother's car, her in the driver's set, my girlfriend in the middle and me riding shotgun simply glued to the screen and the music coming out of that tiny metal speaker hanging on the car window. I am blessed to have a great mom.

10 April 2011

Peter Wolf: "Nothing but the Wheel"

This is one of the best crossover tracks by a great rock singer/songwriter giving us a modern country classic. Peter Wolf of J. Geils Band fame in the studio with an all-star line up cutting the perfect road song for his 2002 solo album Sleepless. (And yes, the highway 41 in this song is the same road Dickie Betts was 'born rollin' down in the backseat of a Greyhound bus.' Or so the song goes.)

04 April 2011

Inside an Artist's Overwrought Soul: "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse" (1991)

Francis Ford Coppola in the Philippine Jungle Shooting
Apocalypse Now (circa 1976)

Francis' wife Eleanor Coppola co-directed and narrated this examination of the literally maddening process of her husband Francis making his modern adaption of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1902), the Viet Nam war epic Apocalypse Now (1979). The result is this excellent complementary documentary to the film, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991).

A unique, gripping look at a film director as artist working under the most extreme conditions imaginable -- conditions that drive him to the edge of insanity. The project: film, in the Philippines, the definitive Viet Nam war film -- using Conrad's classic novella for the structure and certain themes of the story. (Filming Heart of Darkness is a project Orson Welles attempted on a smaller scale but could not get made. Welles then went on to make Citizen Kane instead.)

The documentary also gives us an look behind the scenes at more than one member of the production being pushed beyond their limits. Just one example of the challenges Francis Coppola met to get this film made was directing a troubled Dennis Hopper (see clip below). Such challenges came by the dozens and pushed Coppola to the brink -- and to new heights of creativity.

It's been my belief for a long time that the better we understand our (i.e. the U.S.) role in Viet Nam, the better we understand ourselves. Both the film and also this complimentary documentary help. As a little something extra, Francis and Eleanor add a fine commentary on the documentary.

I can't wait to see Apocalypse Now Redux (2001) again soon.