The adjective that comes to mind for Gene Kelly is smooth: smooth voice, smooth mover. That’s what I like so much about this; putting Kelly on roller skates is like adding polish to wax. The whole piece glides effortlessly, and its incredible to think that this camera tracking was possible in the mid 50s.
Tony Wilson’s Factory Records defined the Manchester music scene. All the more amazing because he famously passed up signing Manchester’s biggest band, The Smith’s. Wilson claimed not to have regretted it: “Mr Morrissey had a great talent and was a truly horrible human being who treated others very badly and I’m over the moon that I never had to work with him”.
With the benefit of hindsight, the highlight of this interview is the brief chat with, the man who wrote the tunes rather than the words, Johnny Marr, rather than Morrissey (I wonder if Wilson is deliberately trying to wind him up by calling him Steven). Morrissey comes off as pretentious, but perhaps this was before he decided that Smith’s lyrics were deliberately funny.
This is where Morrissey and Wilson are fascinatingly similar. Both had grand ideas that were quite often pretentious but like natural showmen, both were clever enough to adapt to how what they did was perceived. Wilson was cocky enough to name a small record label in an industrial town, after the world’s most famous art studio. Today, Wilson’s Factory is as famous as Warhol’s.
As an example of Morrissey’s showman-like adaptability, I can’t help but think that his lyrics were originally intended to be serious, but when the DJ who launched them to fame (John Peel), assumed that they were witty and ironic, Morrissey played along rather than lose face. Whether this is true or not, almost doesn’t matter, since perhaps creativity is just knowing how to edit accidents. In the end, the wit and irony became real, even if the style had originated as accidental camp.
Popular songs will never be all bland after a line like: I was only joking when I said by rights you should be bludgeoned in your bed.
Punk music did what intellectual, minimalist composers in the public funded basement of IRCAM could only wish for: extract the maximum amount of emotional energy from the minimal amount of notes. Steve Jones here proves that the Sex Pistols riffs could have been produced by someone with little or no musical training – but only if that person was a natural.
In order to persuade anyone that any kind of institutionalized event is a bad idea, all one needs to do is say “imagine x run by the DMV”. The Eurovision song contest is what it would be like if the music industry were run by the DMV.
To commemorate Eurovision’s biggest winners, the Irish, who have just blown the European Union treaty and the last time oil buggered up the global economy, here is the 1973 Eurovision song contest, held in Luxembourg – which is a bit like a country run by the DMV.
Following the terrorist attack against Israel at the Munich Olympics, and Israel’s debut in the competition, the floor manager strongly advised people in the audience to remain seated while clapping, to avoid being shot by security forces.
Belgium’s entry at 8:15 is pretty special, and if you have a history of hallucinogenic flashbacks, I’ve no idea what’s going on at 1:05, but you might not want to watch it. Beyond satire.
The fact that this is in Swedish (a language which I cannot understand) makes this absolutely perfect. Its like having the Muppet chef narrate it, I can make up all sorts of inappropriate things that I can imagine him saying. For the world’s most impossibly white band they were unbelievably good.
What makes this film important is the timing, sitting between the acid and the ecstasy. It was made in 1990, after Acid House, before the Ministry of Sound, and a decade before binge drinking would once more replace illegal narcotics as the opiate of the masses. In England, house music moved from fields in Essex and impromptu nights in old Warehouses to permanent, alcohol free, clubs under Victorian arches in places like Southwark in South London. These damp, dark, or damp and dark surroundings could not have been more different from the sunshine and stucco of a small island in the Mediterranean that was to become the unlikely holiday home for House. Ibiza decreed mighty, 24 hour, thomping nightclubs, measureless to man and became a cultural phenomenon for today’s social anthropologists to look back on. For some of the people in this film it was apparently their ‘first trip outside of England’.
36 mn 53 s 29 oct. 2006
One of Martin Scorsese’s earlier movies was not a gangster pic but a documentary about aging rockstars and the last performance by ‘The Band’. It was released exactly 20 years ago, in April 1978. Scorsese’s latest film, released today is about a performance by the Rolling Stones, who were aging rockstars when the first film was made. Here are the trailers of the two movies, for comparison.
Nobody played Bach like Glenn Gould – literally. He made uncontrollable noises while hunched up over the keyboard, perched on an ancient chair with a broken seat that he carried with him for performances. Now someone has made a replica of the completely knackered Gould chair, for over a $1000. Glenn Gould Chair
Unlike many eccentric ‘artists’ Gould is the real deal, so obviously odd that his manner does not seem affected and his mastery is genuine.
Popcorn was the classic electronic piece from the 60’s used countless times as backing music to represent modernity. Here, its composer, Gershon Kingsley, plays it today, on a concert grand. I love this. Below is the original for comparison.
I have also made a Wist of various versions of Popcorn, here »
I’ll just repeat what I said about MacGowan in the Nick Cave post:
“The Pogues front man, although Irish, is a once preppy schoolboy from one of the most exclusive private schools in England, who created a fake persona of an Irish drunk, in the name of authenticity – to the point where it actually became real. MacGowan is, no doubt, both a genuinely troubled genius and self-indulgent, racist, self-parody of an Irishman.”
On the one hand, I have always liked Nick Cave, as one of the more cerebral pop stars, on the other I can’t help thinking that he fits the mould of self inflicted misery that is ultimately a pose.
In broad strokes, but not in the details, Nick Cave shares something with Shane MacGowan. The Pogues front man, although Irish, is a once preppy schoolboy from one of the most exclusive private schools in England, who created a fake persona of an Irish drunk, in the name of authenticity – to the point where it actually became real. MacGowan is, no doubt, both a genuinely troubled genius and self-indulgent, racist, self-parody of an Irishman. Cave’s heroin raddled persona, epitomized by his cameo as the bohemian Berlin singer in Wings of Desire is similarly caught between gritty realism and pretentious poncery. I’m not sure which is real, but the music is nonetheless decent, proving, ironically, that neither image nor integrity is everything.
A Smashing viewer suggested this great documentary about seminal electronic music composer, Tristram Cary.
Cary was involved in the design of a pre-Moog synth, created the distinctive Hammer House of Horror sound and composed music running the gamut of the UK film and TV industry from Ealing Comedies to Dr Who.
A friend who was familiar with the post apocalyptic urban areas of the US, such as downtown Detroit, could not believe how bad Manchester looked, when he visited (for a NASA conference, of all things). He also could not believe it when I told him that some of the richest areas in Britain surrounded it, that it had some of the best examples of uniquely British architecture and that it did not have the kind of reputation for decay, these days, that Detroit does. Manchester is a complicated and important place.
What he did buy, was the fact that Manchester, like Detroit, is one of the world’s most important cities, musically and therefore artistically. A documentary about Factory Records, in memory of the late, great Tony Wilson is therefore a must see.
Child prodigies, as exemplified by Marc Yu, a seven-year-old concert pianist.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” the child psychologist asks. “A psychiatrist” says Marc, adding “only joking”.
I particularly like the scene where he looks bored and turns away from the psychologist, rocking back and forth on a stool in a very ordinary childlike manner, except that he is playing Mary Had a Little Lamb, backwards, behind his back, on the piano. A song he picked out when he was two.
46 min 57 sec Aug 26, 2007