Saturday, September 29, 2007

Singing To The Siren

A couple of weeks ago I was fooling around in Netflix and adding a Bert Jansch concert video to my queue. The "recommendations" screen popped up and I immediately noticed one title: "Tim Buckley - My Fleeting House". I not only added that one. I immediately put it at the top of my queue. Tim Buckley is one of my all time musical heroes. I got into him with the song "Pleasant Street" and the Happy/Sad album and followed his work all the way through from baroque folk to out there improvisation and finally macho rock and roll. This DVD collects all his rare filmed performances from TV and films and it is marvelous. You see him performing the then-newly written "Song To The Siren" at the close of the last episode of "The Monkees", see him on various TV shows doing stream-of-conciousness improv with his band from the Starsailor period and rocking out on "Sally Go Round The Roses" and "The Dolphins" from his last years.
There's also running commentary from two very important collaborators, his long-time lead guitarist, Lee Underwood and his songwriting partner, Larry Beckett. They also have different opinions about some of Buckley's work. Underwood loves the entire canon but Beckett outright calls Lorca a failure and finds nothing good to say about the first real "rock" album, Greetings From L.A. which I find odd. How can you not dig "Sweet Surrender"? Anyway this DVD was a real treat to watch.

Gonks Give Offense

I have this great curiousity about things off the beaten path, either modern and abstract or forgotten bits from the past. Therefore I get really excited about DVD and CD releases of old obscure work, such as the forthcoming 3-DVD release of the landmark first talkie feature, "The Jazz Singer" that is going to include over three hours of early sound shorts.
In looking through an upcoming DVD list yesterday I ran across an old British 60's rock musical called "Gonks Go Beat". That name was familiar for some reason so I looked it up and saw why. This movie featured an appearance by the Graham Bond Organisation. Bond was a powerhouse organ player and singer who came up in the British blues boom of the 60's. I came to dig him in a backwards way. I first got into the British jazz-rock group Colosseum. The I ran across a Graham Bond album, Solid Bond, which featured that group's Dick Heckstall-Smith and Jon Hiseman. I bought it, listened to it and loved it. This man sang his sandpapered lungs out and played nasty jazz-blues. I later heard him with Ginger Baker's Airforce and followed his career until he died in mysterious circumstances from a subway accident. Through CDs, I've been able to get the albums he did with his classic group of Heckstall-Smith along with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker a couple of years before they ended up together in Cream. I had heard they appeared in "Gonks Go Beat" and I think I even saw a clip from it once during a Colosseum documentary, but I definitely want this. If Netflix gets this one, it goes straight to the top of my queue.
As for CDs, I just heard about something called "Actionable Offenses" which sounds great. It's a collection of recordings of filthy stories that were made at the dawn of the recording era and for the most part, seized and destroyed by the authorities. Reviews of this have marvelled that explicit raunch existed way back when, which tells me that, hard as is it to believe, some people haven't been exposed to the many collections of dirty songs, movies and comics from the early 20th century that have come out in the last thirty years. Still this CD sounds unique and definitely seems to be worth a buy from Amazon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Primordial Ooze, Suspense Style

Over the weekend I watched "Suspended Animation", about a man held captive by cannibal sisters, which was pretty disjointed and unconvincing and much more interesting, one disc of "Suspense", a TV version of the classic old radio show that dated back to 1949. One of the advantages of digitizing everything, I guess, is that ancient stuff like this can be cleaned up and presented to the public again. It was an interesting bunch of stories, some classic ghost tales, some tawdry stuff about crazed murderers and adulterous married people. The fascinating part was watching all the touches you've never even dream of seeing in modern television like one commercial break and that a three minute commercial for Auto-Lite spark plugs or batteries.
Then there is the fun as always of seeing so many familiar actors, some starts at the time, some just starting out. The shows I saw starred the likes of Boris Karloff, Otto Kreuger, Lilli Palmer and Hume Cronyn but they also had Anne Francis, Eva Marie Saint and Ray Walston in small parts. The disc I saw had eight shows and it was the first of a four-disc set. Plus a second four-disc set is about to be released. It's amazing that so much old material is suddenly out there.

This is one of those weeks when I really miss Tower Records. A ridiculous supply of new CDs by interesting people is being released today. This includes stuff by Devendra Banhart, Herbie Hancock, Iron & Wine, Steve Earle, Joni Mitchell, Meshell Ndegeocello, Billy Joe Shaver, Damon & Naomi and The Red Krayola...oh yeah, and a little thing by Miles Davis, The Complete On The Corner Sessions. I'm definitely going to try to buy one thing at least if I can get to a store.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Catching Up...

Things feel slightly more settled right now. I just got the CD system I was looking for last night, a small one that fits on top of a storgae box. I can finally listen to music again without having to hold my head in a certain position or fiddle with wires to hear out of one speaker. I've got the Mahavihnu Project's Return To The Emerald Beyond playing right now.

That is one of a few CDs I've bought lately. One of the things I look forward to every year is participating in Cadence Magazine's Writers Poll where I get to list my favorite ten CDs of the past year. The only catch is they have to be things that were reviewed in Cadence over that period which I can work with. I always have the things I've written about to deal with plus any other music that fits the criteria that I've bought on my own. About this time I usually buy a couple of extra CDs just to slip them into the mix. This time I've purchased Emerald Beyond, Sylvie Courvoisier's Lonelyville, Brad Dutz's When Manatees Attack, Ann Hampton Callaway's Blues In The Night and Joe Zawinul's Brown Street, though that last was as much propelled by his passing. Buying some of these over the internet took a while but I finally have them all.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Music Is...

It so annoys me when I read someone tyring to show how hip they are by writing that they have John Legend and Kayne West on their iPod or talking about the evils of the "music industry" like that's all there is. There are worlds of music out there and a lot more than that limited pallette. I just look at the stuff I listen to. Lately that has meant Supersilent, Grace Slick, Califone, the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, Kenny Wheeler and I write this, Candye Kane. There's just so much out there why limit yourself?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Big Jobs No. 2

I'm now embarrassed by all the stuff I wrote yesterday. It's all true but moping about my state isn't going to help anything. I've done that for years and it hasn't gotten me anywhere. I've got to go forward and do stuff even though I cannot know where it will lead. For now my next task will be to go to Best Buy Friday and hopefully pick up a decent shelf CD player. Since I moved I've had to rely on a little portable player with headphones that only work in intermittently in one ear, and this is a ridiculous arrangement for someone who constantly writes about music. I'm going to try to keep thuis blog up and keep it about actual opinions and observations which brigns me to Uschi Digard.

Uschi Digard was a Swedish actress who worked in Hollywood in a lot of adult and exploitation films in the Seventies and was largely known for her huge bust. I remember seeing her in a couple of Russ Meyer movies many years ago and not paying much attention to her but I saw something else of hers a year or two ago and it struck me that she wasn't attractive at all. She had a big nose and uneven teeth and honestly didn't look like much above the neck.
Over the weekend I took another look at her work in the form of a DVD from Alpha Blue, one the chief disributors of old adult stuff, of three old softcore films she made back in the day. Wow! What an ordeal. They were all various degrees of dumb and cheap. Digard starred in the first one, "Getting Into Heaven", and again her looks were a distraction but the movie itself seemed both interminable and stupid. The two other women in it with her were better looking and made it barely worth watching. She looked better in the other two, wearing makeup and maybe sporting a slight nose job, but again could these things get any cheaper? "Affair In The Air" was basically people screwing in a hotel room and on a bad facsimile of an airplane cabin interspersed with the mutterings of two half-stoned goofs who pretended to be the pilot and co-pilot.
Old adult stuff interests me in seeing just how weird and cheap the films could get. After all the rule seems to have been as long as you had the sex scenes, you could fill up the rest of the running time with anything you wanted, and that's just what some people seemed to have done.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Letting 'I Dare Not' Wait Upon 'I Will'

I am starting to feel the burden of the predicament I've slowly put myself in. I have isolated myself from the world, at least the parts of it I should care about. I am stuck in a dead end, nowhere life without friends or realistic hope of things getting any better. Partially from feelings of fear, partially from feelings of inadequacy I've never really connected with people who share my interests or sensitivity. I've tried but I always intimidate myself out of being around anyone for any length of time. Then again I'm always too self-conscious to make friends. I'm totally lost as to what to do. I feel like I'm too old to get a job that meshes with my real talents and interests and try as I might, I just don't where to turn now. Maybe I just need to get out, like to a John McLaughlin concert coming up a week from Friday but there's no passion or purpose in my life and I need it badly.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Touching Sound

I just saw a film that was a lot more inspirational and profound than a lot of the stuff I've been spending time with lately, "Touch The Sound", a film about the world-renowned percussionist Evelyn Glennie, a woman who is profundly deaf yet has become an acclaimed musician who uses her entire body to "hear" music from the vibrations it produces. The notion of feeling with your body and all your senses is one I can relate to and I really need to pay attention the idea that she has never let the world define who she was or what she was capable of. She was shown playing on rooftops, in museums and in Grand Central Station and largely improvising with guitarist-composer Fred Frith at a recording session. Defining who you are and what your goals are in life is a very important thing and something I need to get back to.

Dragnet Extra

I finihsed watching my Dragnet set yesterday and there were a couple of other surprises. Going along with the early actors' work theme. In the first episode I saw a crime lab tech was played by none other than Dennis Weaver, two years before he would break out of the pack by playing Chester on Gunsmoke. Then the last two episodes in the set suddenly jumped from 1953 to 1956-57 and there were some notable changes in the show. Jack Webb's wardrobe suddenly looked better, the episode's writer was listed in the credits and most surprisingly Joe Friday had suddenly gotten promoted to Lieutenant, something I had never heard about before. I don't know how permanent this ever was though because in the show's logo, Friday's badge still sometimes read "Sergeant" and sometimes "Lieutenant".

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I've been watching a lot of early TV shows lately, ones that date back to before I was even born like Sgt. Bilko and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but the biggest surprise has been Dragnet. I knew the show far better from all its parodies and the campy 60's version with Harry Morgan as Jack Webb's sidekick but watching the original from 1953 is a bit of a surprise. The ping-ponging dialogue, deadpan Webb narration and comedy relief patter is still there but some of these shows were really grim, like one about a man who molested two little girls and confessed at the end that he would have killed them if he hadn't left his pocket knife behind. Then there was a another show about dirty pictures being distributed among teenagers (the same stuff celebrated in books and on websites today). It turned out that the man peddling the porm was an old slient film producer fallen on hard times and that led to a very strange extended sequence where the producer led Friday and Smith on a tour of an old abandoned movie studio ending up on a Western town set where the producer reenacted directing a climatic shootout. It was powerful but odd, as though Webb or his people had stumbled on this old movie set, come up with the idea of the old-timer doing the shootout and worked backwards to the porn peddler plot to give it an excuse for being.
Then there are the hindsight pleasures of seeing later famous actors in small roles. Leonard Nimoy showed up as one of a gang of young hoods and Martin "Adam-12" Milner was one of the schoolkids peddling porn. The big surprise for me though has been seeing Carolyn Jones turn up in three straight episodes. She is billed as "Caroline" Jones but there is no mistaking that voice or those big, luminous eyes. It was amusing to see her play a robbery suspect and a barroom floozie in consecutive episodes, then without so much as a change of makeup, have her being an innocent teenager. Jack Webb was supposed to have an eye for the ladies, I understand, so it's no surprise he'd use her so much.

Now As I Was Saying Before I Was So Rudely Interrupted...

I used to have a blog here but I can't seem to get to it anymore, so I'm starting over again which is just as well since I hadn't written anything over there in months.

Starting over is something I seem to do a lot but I never get anywhere. This time I'm going to try to make things different. I started an expensive but rewarding type of physical therapy yesterday and that's got me feeling good for once and I'm going to try to sustain it this time. It's been been easier to withdraw and slip into depression lately because I recently moved to an area that's only a 15 minute drive from where I used to live but is relatively inaccessible by public transportation. There is a bus route nearby so I can get to work but it only runs between 6:30 and 8:00 in the morning and mostly once an hour between 3:00 and 9:00 in the evening on weekdays. It doesn't run at all on weekends. That severely cramps my style as far as going anywhere outside of work and makes it very hard to get to the two video stores I used to frequent, Video Americain in Takoma Park and Potomac Video in College Park. Plus this house only has basic cable TV with no On Demand so my movie watching is really limited. I did go out to a theatre a few weeks back and saw "This Is England", a nice film about British kids during the Falklands War, but outside of that, thank the Lord for Netflix.
And I've been running into a patch of bad movies there lately. "The Deerslayer" was based on James Fenimore Cooper's stories and had Bela Lugosi playing the Native American Chingachook but that turned out to be an old German silent film chopped up beyond coherency. "The Yesterday Machine" started out like a fun grade-Z science fiction movie about an old Nazi scientist experimenting with time travel but the picture stopped cold in the middle while the scientist gave the clueless hero a "Watch Mr. Wizard" like lecture about the space-time continuum for ten minutes! The 80's TV miniseries "The Wild Palms" turned out to be dated cyperpunk paranoia (Oliver Stone was an executive producer.) that wasn't that interesting. "Hurlyburly" was an "Inside Hollywood" picture with fine actors like Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey and Meg Ryan playing completely unlikable scumbags.
And speaking of scumbags the nadir of it all was "A Hole In My Heart", a Swedish film about a man making porno in his tiny apartment with two screwed up friends while his moody teen Goth son mopes in his bedroom. There can be value in this kind of setup but this particular movie was full of interminable self-hate and ugliness coming to a fitting climax when a man threw up into a woman's mouth...with an angelic choir on the soundtrack. Hopefully I can start making better movie choices in the future.