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Archive for June, 2014

“Paris Sunrise #7/Lifeline”

Posted by purplemary54 on June 30, 2014

I don’t think Ben Harper gets enough credit for being as talented and versatile as he is.  I’m pretty sure this guy never met a genre he didn’t like.  Music just seems to flow from him like a river flows to the sea.  His latest album is a collaboration with his mom, which is unbelievably awesome.

This amazing piece of music is from the album Lifeline, an eclectic collection of love songs he recorded with his backing band the Innocent Criminals.  I first heard “Paris Sunrise #7” on NPR one morning (still a great place to discover music), and I was stunned speechless.  It’s paired on the album with the title track, which lends weight to both songs.  The light, airy feeling of a Paris sunrise combined with the quite desperation of a man trying to save . . . something.  It’s not clear what happened, but the relationship sounds like it’s in trouble.  (Harper was married to actress Laura Dern at the time, but they divorced a few years later.) The emotion and mood of both songs informs the other.  There’s joy and peace, sorrow and confusion, love and fear in equal measure.  It’s pure, and it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music I could ever share.


Posted in Music, Singer-Songwriters | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Bobby Womack

Posted by purplemary54 on June 27, 2014

One of the best voices in music, and one of my favorites, has been silenced.  Soul legend Bobby Womack has died at 70.

My first exposure to Womack’s singing was through this amazing Todd Rundgren song, but he had a long and storied career that I’ve only just recently begun to explore.  He infused so much emotion into his voice, leaving his listeners afloat in a sea of wonder and feeling.  I know I’ll miss hearing more music from him.

Posted in Music, Obituaries, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

“No Myth”

Posted by purplemary54 on June 27, 2014

This immensely wonderful song just popped into my head today.  I think I heard something similar to the opening chords, and my brain immediately latched onto it.  But reasons don’t matter.  All that matters is the song.

Inevitably, I listen to this song at least three times every time it comes up on my itunes/iPod.  It’s impossible to turn this one off.  Romantic and yearning, literate and smart, “No Myth” is one of those awesome musical moments that stays magic decades after it was released (1989, in case anyone was curious).

Michael Penn is the brother of actor Sean Penn (and their less famous actor brother Chris), and he’s married to the extraordinary Aimee Mann.  And although he really hasn’t had a chart hit since “No Myth,” he continues to write and record music.  Most recently, Penn has been composing music for HBO’s Girls and Showtime’s Masters of Sex.  While I’m not familiar with that work, I’m sure it’s just as skilled and fluid as this song.

This is one of my favorite one-hit wonders.  What’s not to love about a song that contains the line “What if I were Romeo in black jeans?  What if I was Heathcliff, it’s no myth?”

Posted in Music, Singer-Songwriters | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

As Seen on TV: “Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla”

Posted by purplemary54 on June 25, 2014

I guess I’m just feeling a little bit like a kid lately.  Or maybe this is an antidote to the episode of Penny Dreadful I just watched (dreadful things happened, which means the show is living up to its title).  But I feel the need to turn off real life and slip back into my five-year-old self in front of the TV on Saturday mornings.  In between episodes of Scooby Doo and Captain Caveman, I just might be lucky enough to see this particular song from Schoolhouse Rocks.

This lesson on pronouns was one of my favorites, but they didn’t play it that often (stupid conjunctions!).  I don’t know what made it so much fun–maybe I just really liked aardvarks.  It’s fun to sing along with, too; trying to get those crazy names right makes the song just the right amount of challenging.

Really, I was led back to Schoolhouse Rocks by this post on Dangerous Minds.  Watching the stylized 70s animation of John David Wilson in these bumper cartoons/videos from Sonny and Cher’s variety show reminded me of the style of the classic children’s interstitial cartoons/videos that taught my generation basic multiplication, grammar, science, and history.  There was something eye-catching about the primary colors and stock repetition of movement and scenery.

When you think about, these all these cartoons from the 70s helped make my generation the ideal audience for music videos and MTV.  Because of our childhood viewing habits, we were primed to accept songs and visuals as a unit, storytelling as another outlet for the music.  (Was I the only one who watched various variety shows as a child?  There were others out there, right?  I mean, you almost couldn’t turn on one of the half a dozen channels that were available back then without running into a variety show.)  In spite of all that talk about groups like the Beatles helping to create music videos, the truth was that cartoons had as much if not more to do with creating a generation of couch potatoes who expected everything to come in three and a half minute spurts.

At least that’s how I see it.

Posted in As Seen on TV, Music | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

“Like a Rolling Stone”

Posted by purplemary54 on June 24, 2014

Someone just paid $2 million for the handwritten lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Must be nice to be both that guy and Bob Dylan.

Is it just me, or isn’t that song sort of excoriating the kind of person that would spend that much money on some paper with some admittedly pretty brilliant words written on them?

Posted in Music, Rock | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Scooby Dooby Doo!

Posted by purplemary54 on June 23, 2014

I have a confession to make.  I’ve been watching way too much Scooby Doo lately.  Boomerang, the channel where old Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network shows go to be endlessly rerun, has been playing the most recent weekly incarnation of the Mystery, Inc. gang, and I’ve gotten hooked.

The next thing I have to acknowledge is that Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated is actually pretty good.  The show ran on Cartoon Network from 2010 to 2013, and it managed to update the characters to current times without diminishing the innocent charm of the original.  There’s more realistic problems plaguing the gang in addition to the usual monsters and mysteries–things like romance and friendship and parents.  People who were kids when Scooby and company first burst onto the scene could watch with their kids, and everyone would have something to identify with (which I suspect was kind of the point).

One of the things that got me interested (besides the multi-faceted story arc that seems to run through the entire show) was the way they pay homage not just to the Scooby gang’s past, but to other kids-and-a-nonhuman sidekick mystery shows that sprung up in the wake of the success of Scooby Doo, Where Are You?  Classics like JabberjawSpeed Buggy, and Captain Caveman were worked into one episode.  The gang’s past mysteries were part of a Spook Museum that Velma’s mother ran.  But the shows writers also cleverly worked other pop culture phenomenon into the show (the Twin Peaks references were my personal favorites.  For a Scooby Doo cartoon, this was pretty highbrow stuff.

The only thing this version lacks is a catchy, top-notch theme song.  They got Pop maestro Matthew Sweet to compose the opening music, but it just didn’t have the same pop as other Scooby songs have had.  The show really did have a long history of incorporating music that wasn’t half bad.  Well, at least we still have the original theme (and it was even performed by Matthew Sweet for Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits).

The mystery will finally finish tomorrow afternoon, when the latest string of airings shows the last episode of Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated, and I’m looking forward to it.  If you’ve got cable (or if Netflix/Hulu/streaming service of your choice), I suggest you try this version out.  It’s a lot more fun than you might think.

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Gerry Goffin

Posted by purplemary54 on June 19, 2014

Gerry Goffin, one of the great songwriters of Pop, has passed away at 75.

He’s probably best known as Carole King’s first husband, but before Tapestry became a staple of virtually every record collection of the 70s, Goffin and King were songwriting partners in the Brill Building.  They wrote a number of hits for other acts, including “Pleasant Valley Sunday” for the Monkees.  Their first hit together was this breathless ode to teenage love.  “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” was originally recorded by the Shirelles, but I’ll always love Carole King’s slowed-down version.  It brings the innocence and desperation of the girl’s plea to her boyfriend to the forefront.  Tell me I’m not making a mistake, tell me there’s a future for us.  Tell me you’re not just another jerk.  “Tell me now, and I won’t ask again.  Will you still love me tomorrow?”

Goffin’s work will always be among the great classics of teen romance and Pop music.

Posted in Music, Pop | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“Coal Miner’s Daughter”

Posted by purplemary54 on June 19, 2014

Sorry about yesterday.  I’ve been trying to reset my sleep rhythms by spending less time at the computer and taking melatonin.  (BTW, melatonin is the bomb.  Totally works if you’re having trouble sleeping, and totally natural.)

Spending less time at the computer has, for better or worse, led to me watching a little more TV.  And the other day, I ran into one of my favorite movies, Coal Miner’s Daughter.  It’s the story of how Loretta Lynn went from obscurity to superstardom.  I first saw it on TV when I was eleven or twelve, and even though I barely knew who Loretta Lynn was (and a lot of the content of the movie sort of went over my head), I was enchanted.  She was just an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent, trying to cope with life.  It’s the kind of story anyone can enjoy.

I couldn’t find any good clips of Sissy Spacek singing this (although here’s a video of her with Lynn singing “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man.”)  When you listen to the incomparable Loretta Lynn speak and sing, though, you can appreciate how dead on Spacek’s performance is.  She really nailed it.  (Her colleagues thought so, too; Spacek won an Oscar for the role.)  The movie also features Tommy Lee Jones as Lynn’s husband, who everyone called “Doolittle” even though he seemed to work pretty damn hard; and Levon Helm as Lynn’s father, the titular coal miner.  It really is fun to watch and listen to all that great Country music.

Lynn was always something of a trailblazer for female Country singers.  She wrote a lot of her own music, and tackled controversial topics like birth control and domestic violence.  Once she got past her youthful insecurities, it seemed like Lynn never stood for any nonsense in her life.  She did things her way, the rest of the world be damned.  What’s most remarkable is that her toughness never outshone her kindness.  You could always tell that Loretta was a nice woman, just by the way she smiled at the camera.

Lynn has continued to be a vital artist.  In 2004, she released Van Lear Rose, a collaboration with musical wunderkind/renaissance man Jack White.  The album was recorded shortly after Doolittle’s death, with my favorite track being the heartbreaking “Miss Being Mrs.”  She’s one of those wonderful people and artists that stays relevant to generation after generation.

Posted in Country, Music | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“Squeeze Box”

Posted by purplemary54 on June 17, 2014

Let’s see.  Finally caught up on Pop Culture Happy Hour?  Check.  Basketball and hockey finals over after about two months.  Check.  Laundry waiting to be put away?  Check.  Pigeons eating all the bird seed?  Check.  World going to hell in a handbasket?  Check and check!

In other words, things are just about normal around here.  I did find out last week that maybe I shouldn’t be quite so fastidious about paying the mortgage on time; it seems that if I pay the bill too early (read: within a couple of days of receiving it), they count it as an extra principle payment, not the regular monthly payment.  Apparently, the employees of my mortgage company have a little trouble reading the printed payment stub they sent that I always include with the check.  Don’t pay your bills too early, or it’ll confuse people.

It’s just one of the many absurdities of existence that we are confronted with on a daily basis.  I’m beginning to realize that it’s not so much that quality and customer service are extinct, or that there’s no kindness or decency left in the human race.  It’s just that no one has the ability to think past their check list or pre-planned script anymore.  If you move ahead a space or two on the chart–say, try unplugging your device and plugging it back in to reboot it before you call technical support–you confuse people.  They’re not stupid (not really, anyway); they just didn’t plan on you thinking for yourself.  No one plans on someone thinking for themselves anymore.  Follow the steps.  Follow them in the order they’re presented.  Failure to do so will upset the system.

I’m guilty of it myself.  I like things to be fairly linear, with clear instructions and whatnot.  You should’ve seen me struggling with papers in college.  I had to begin at the beginning and end at the end.  I couldn’t write the middle section until I had an introduction.  My brain didn’t work that way.  I get the need for a set of rules to follow; it makes life simpler when you don’t have to think critically or outside the box.  Improvisation is hard work.  We like it when someone gives us the answers ahead of time.

What does any of this have to do with the Who or their awesomely catchy song “Squeeze Box”?  Not a flipping thing.  I just figured we all needed something nice to listen to after realizing that our entire current culture is based almost entirely on not putting too much effort into anything.


Posted in Music, Rock | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Casey Kasem

Posted by purplemary54 on June 15, 2014

Legendary DJ Casey Kasem has passed away after a long illness and much family drama.  Like many people, I grew up listening to Kasem’s iconic countdown program, America’s Top Forty, on the radio.  He adapted his countdown to the video age by playing America’s Top Ten in syndication television.  Kasem’s countdown’s was a great introduction to popular music, and his voice made everything a little easier to listen to.

Of course, Casey Kasem was more than just a DJ to my generation.  He was an accomplished voice actor in a number of cartoons, including voicing Shaggy on the many incarnations of the beloved Scooby Doo cartoons.  (His final performance as Shaggy was in 2009’s Scooby Doo! and the Samurai Sword.)

Kasem seemed to be a man who held good values, although I don’t know much about him personally.  I used to see him and wife Jean Kasem on the entertainment news as “personalities” and “celebrities.”  It was sad to see all the family infighting over his declining health and medical care.  I hope his family can make some peace with each other, and find comfort in knowing that the man they all loved enough to go to court over is at rest.

Posted in Music, Obituaries | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »