Birthday Wishes

Today, God is 70.  You might think that God was just a tiny bit older than that, or that maybe He/She/It was in fact ageless.  But you’d be wrong.  He was born this day in 1945 in Ripley, England.

I’ve posted before about why Eric Clapton deserves to be called God.  His prowess with the guitar is unquestionable and unassailable.  It’s not the most flashy style, technically speaking (his other nickname is Slowhand, for goodness sakes), but the sheer emotion behind his playing makes up for his lack of fancy licks and riffs.  (It should also be noted here that the riff Clapton is most famous for, the opening of “Layla” was actually created by the late, supernaturally great, Duane Allman.  As a throwaway.  That’s the story I heard, anyway.)  He is just solid.

I love Clapton in all his forms and genres–Rock, Pop, Blues, whatever.  Not only can he play it all, he plays it all better than all but a select few.  Allman & Hendrix were probably better; Page, Beck, and a few others are very nearly his equals.  Everyone else is just an also-ran.  I probably could’ve picked one of his more iconic songs to post for his birthday today, but I decided to go with one of the one’s I love the most.  “She’s Waiting” is from Behind the Sun, what was in effect his divorce album even though I think his official split from Patti Boyd came a few years later.  It’s one of the best all-around albums from his entire career, and this is one of the best tunes from it.  Enjoy!

Repost: The Mission

I’ll be back with new posts next week sometime.  Mom’s doing much better, although still not 100% yet.  I’m just taking a little extra mental vacation.

Time for a little side trip into the wonderful world of film scores.

If you have not seen The Mission, I highly recommend it. It is not a great film, but it is a very good one; there’s a couple of plot points that could’ve been explained better, but it features fierce performances by Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons. (To be honest, it is on my short list of movies that actually could’ve stood to have been a little longer.) The score was done by Ennio Morricone, a marvelous composer and one of the great names in entertainment history.

I’m not entirely sure if I can describe what this music does to me. It is simultaneously heart-wrenching and uplifting. Although I flash on the film whenever I hear it (and knowing what happens in the film does influence my reaction), I am transported to someplace else whenever I hear this. Especially the refrain of “The Falls.” It begins as a series of notes played solo on what sounds like a wooden flute, then swells at the end into full orchestra. I feel some unnameable thing–it is joy and despair, blessing and curse, falling and flying. For the time it is playing, I believe in miracles.

“Vita Nostra” is another track that strongly moves me. “Vita Nostra,” for anyone who doesn’t know their Latin, means “Our Life.” It occurs several times in the score, a reminder that the lives of the priests and natives are at odds with the rest of the world. Their only concern is to protect their home in the rainforest, to live a life that is righteous. It has always seemed to me like an accusation of the world, of the greed and corruption that spells the mission’s doom (oops, that was a bit of a spoiler). I like the way the voices bite off each word, snipping and sniping without quite crossing the invisible line of insurrection.

These are just two of my favorite moments from a sublime musical experience. Please experience the whole thing for yourself. And it’s good even if you don’t see the film.

Mike Porcaro

Toto bassist Mike Porcaro has died from ALS.  He was only 59.

Toto recorded slick (some would say soulless), radio friendly Pop music that went over well during the slick (some would say soulless) 1980s.  I have to say I was never much of a fan of their music; their biggest hits  “Africa” didn’t make any sense to me, and “Rosanna” never connected with me at all.  I did like “Hold the Line,” although it’s really a generic song that could’ve been by almost anyone from that time.  My favorite by them is probably the worst one, artistically speaking.  It was one of the last hits I remember them having before they slipped into relative obscurity and disbanded.  “I’ll Be Over You” is pure schmaltz, all gloss and very little substance.  But it seems sincere, if a little clichéd.  Diabetics should proceed with caution.

Doing a little research for this post, I found out that Toto was something of a brother act.  There were three Porcaro boys playing in the band, including the late session man Jeff Porcaro.  (I’m also a little ashamed to note that I didn’t recall that Jeff had died back in 1992.)  I imagine it must have been fun for these brothers to work together.  Of course, that’s an assumption I’m making since Toto has never turned up on my Quarreling Brothers list of bands; there don’t seem to be any Kinks-style blow ups here.

It’s tragic that Mike Porcaro died so young from such a horrible disease.  ALS research got a huge bump last year when the ice bucket challenge went viral, so I hope the research that comes from that will help prevent anymore people from suffering this way.  Here’s a link to the ALS Association homepage, in case you’re in a position to contribute.

Terry Pratchett

I’ve mentioned my love of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series here before.  His satirical fantasy world helped poke good humor and righteous outrage at human foibles and failings, small and large.  I have fairly limited patience for most science fiction and fantasy, but anyone who makes me laugh as hard as Pratchett did transcends any bias I might have against the genres.

So you can imagine how heavy my heart is right now.  Sir Terry Pratchett died today at 66, far too young.  He was diagnosed in 2007 with a form of early onset Alzheimer’s.  He fought the disease with the same good humor and righteous outrage found in his books.

I suppose I could’ve found something musical to post.  Several of the Discworld novels were adapted for the screen, and I’m sure there was music in them.  But I think I’d rather share with you my first exposure to Pratchett’s weird and wonderful flat world floating on the backs of four elephants, who are in turn floating on the back of a giant turtle.  Reaper Man is centered around the character of Death, which is all I’m going to tell you about it.  Audiobooks are a form of album, after all.  (Although I personally recommend you read the books instead.)

“There’s a saying that all roads lead to Ankh-Morpork. And it’s wrong. All roads lead away from Ankh-Morpork, but sometimes people walk along them the wrong way.”   —Terry Pratchett

On a (Hopefully) Brief Hiatus

Mom injured her back about a week and a half ago, and she’s not taking care of herself.  Which means I am obsessing over everything.  That also makes me unable to concentrate long enough to even think of a song I want to post.  So until I’m more comfortable with her health, I’ll be taking some time off from the Jukebox.  Hopefully, I’m just being paranoid (a distinct possibility), and it will be smooth sailing real soon.



“Shadows of the Night”

My local morning news show used this song as a bumper leading into the commercials today.  It’s been stuck in my head since then.  But that’s okay, because I really like this song.

I was going to post the awesome original video, which features Pat and her band playing WWII soldiers on a secret mission to bring down a Nazi strategic post (Dirty Dozen, anyone?).  But the version available on YouTube had some dude singing over Pat Benatar’s soaring vocals (probably his way of avoiding copyright problems).  And the “best version” of a live clip had horrible sound.  So I went with the boring album cover clip, because that was the best version of the song.

It’s pretty standard Rock/Pop fare, but “Shadows of the Night” has always been one of my favorite Benatar songs.  She just belts it out for all she’s worth.  The early to mid 80s were her best period, creatively and commercially.  Nothing groundbreaking or avant-garde here, just good old-fashioned ear candy.  And sometimes, all you really want is something sweet.

“Hot for Teacher”

So I’ve got some news I’ve been sitting on for a while, partly because I’ve been busy with life and partly because I had some other things to post.  But here it is, faithful Jukebox listeners. . .

I’m going back to school!

I got accepted to an online Master’s program at San Jose State University, which means I probably won’t be having any “hot for teacher” problems.  It also means I don’t have to leave home or put on decent clothes to go to class (which is a shame since I just bought some new shoes).  I’m looking forward to getting back to it, but I’m not looking forward to figuring out how to pay for it.  (If anyone has any suggestions besides filling out the FAFSA form and student loans, I’m open to them.)  Classes don’t begin until Fall, so I have a little time to pull it together.

I plan to keep up the Jukebox, in case anyone was wondering, but there might be times when I go off the grid for a week or two.  This place is kind of a haven for me where I get to opine about life and music and other stuff pretty much at will, so I’m not going anywhere.  I like having my own little soapbox to stand on.

Leonard Nimoy

I don’t really feel like a song today.  My inner Sci-fi geek is too sad.

Now if only we had a Genesis planet to send Leonard Nimoy’s body to so he could be reborn, and we could have more years with his talent and good humor.

Live long and prosper.

“The Main Event”

I know I disappeared for a couple of days after my last post.  I think I felt the need to distance myself from a decidedly disturbing musical experience.  Which would also explain today’s song.  Because the only way you’re going to be disturbed by this inconsequential Barbra Streisand tune is if you have a phobia about cheesy Disco-Pop.  Although since it’s sung by Barbra Streisand, this song does have one thing going for it.

Never let it be said that my taste in music is elitist.

Besides featuring Streisand’s powerhouse voice, “The Main Event/Fight” is also pretty darned catchy.  Too bad the movie the song is the theme for was so freakin’ terrible.  After the success of the screwball comedy What’s Up Doc?, Streisand re-teamed with Ryan O’Neal for the bland, unfunny, clichéd The Main Event.  Successful businesswoman finds herself nearly destitute.  Investment in not-so-great boxer is one of her remaining assets, so she makes herself his manager to ensure his success.  You can figure out what happens from there because it is painfully predictable.  I don’t think I even liked it when I was a kid.

But I did like this song.  It’s pure fluff, but it sticks with you–which would make it more like marshmallow fluff.  (FYI, my aunt makes the best fudge in the world using marshmallow fluff.  I have to get the recipe.)  One of my favorite things is the tempo changes that keep the song bobbing and weaving like a boxer, which not only ties it into the plot/characters of the movie but makes it a great song to dance to.  The best Disco gives the dancers time to catch their breath and get closer to each other on the floor.  There’s even an eleven minute extended version.  I also think the way the song is arranged, from opening to fade out, was also designed to make it easier for DJs to incorporate it into their sets at discos.  (That’s my guess anyway; it’s not like I’m an expert on how DJs do their jobs.)  Whatever the reasons for how it was made, “The Main Event/Fight” works as a song.

“I Can’t Breathe”

I’m not entirely sure I should be starting the week out on such a dark note.  But this song demands attention.

I was going to make this a Freaky Friday post, but I decided to go with my Oscar picks instead.  (I went 0 for 2, but I’m not upset.  The music that won was good music.)  Really, I was just kind of avoiding exposing myself to this video again.

Pussy Riot’s first song in English is a good one.  They were in New York around the same time as the Eric Garner protests were happening, and they were inspired by that to write the song.  It is an oppressive song about oppression.  The electronic music and insistent drum beat give “I Can’t Breathe” a foreboding, ominous feeling–not surprising, given this band’s own experiences with oppression, censorship, and political imprisonment.  And I like the way fear and defiance balance each other out; they’re going to stand up for themselves even though they’re terrified about what might happen if they do.  That’s highlighted at the end by Richard Hell’s reading of Eric Garner’s final words.

But what makes this song indelible, and to me absolutely horrifying, is the video that features Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina being buried alive.  One of my major phobias is the idea of being buried alive.  It wigs me out beyond belief, and I found this video almost impossible to watch.  I started looking away from the screen as soon as I could see their faces.  It is massively disturbing and just as massively effective.  If you want to make a statement about the way people are being treated by law enforcement, you can’t do much better than this.

I recommend this song.  I suggest watching the video only in a well-lit, well ventilated place.  Outdoors works.  Outdoors, but only if you’re surrounded by concrete and other stuff that can’t be dug up and piled on top of you.


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