Friday, July 29, 2011

I was an Amy Winehouse fan

I was watching back to back episodes of Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin on the Biography Channel and had a few thoughts.

First of all, I think that it's ludicrous for someone to think that Winehouse's legacy isn't comparable to Joplin's. To say I was "saddened" by the news of Winehouse's death would be an overstatement because it doesn't affect my life in the least bit. However, I was a little "bummed out" after hearing the news. Simply put, I thought Winehouse had the coolest sounding female voice I've ever heard. It was powerful, eerie, and completely was Joplin's.

Second, for those who feel that it's blasphemous to compare the two and feel that Winehouse's career was vastly inferior, I pose this question to you: Can you name 5 Janis songs? I can't. I can name 3 great ones but that's it.

Besides, You Know I'm No Good and Rehab, I strongly urge you to take a listen to Winehouse's version of It's My Party (Leslie Gore cover) and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (Shirelles cover). My favorite song of her's is a little known gem off the Back to Black album entitled Love is a Losing Game. It's a great song that makes you want to Bogart-it up, alone with only your thoughts and a bottle of bourbon.

While watching Joplin's Life Story on Bio channel, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. She was quoted as saying, "I make love to 25,000 fans at a show and then go home alone." Janis wasn't physically attractive and from all accounts, was very unpopular in school.
In 1970, the year she died, Janis decided to get some Sweet Revenge by attending her 10-year High School reunion in Port Arthur, Texas. She wanted to show everyone that this "Ugly Duckling" had made it big and that she had risen above all the bullying and teasing that she encountered in high school. She made a spectacle of it; dressing like a gypsy with an entourage in tow, flamboyantly parading around town while embarrassing her family in the process. Her big charade was halted after the news crew that followed along seized an opportunity to sit down with Janis and ask her a few questions. Their questions about her old high school classmates and how she was treated, struck a nerve with Joplin. She stopped smiling and began being evasive and uncomfortable. With a few stutters, she finally whispered, "No comment." Janis couldn't hide the sadness in her eyes...even behind those purple, circular sunglasses. The look of meloncholy on her face was proof that she was still carrying around the weight of being chastised in school. The reporters then asked about her High School Prom. Joplin's shoulders dropped and she quietly told them that she wasn't ever invited. She was visibly destroyed and her plan's of Sweet Revenge had pretty much back-fired as her act deflated on live t.v. The next day, from all accounts, Joplin's mother told her that she wishes she had never been born. It was the saddest damn thing I've seen in a while. I don't suppose I condone her rabid drug use...but after watching the show, I undersand it.

Anyway, I found the Bio's of these two tragic Rockstars pretty interesting. Do you agree with my opinion that Winehouse deserves the Joplin comparison? She was a brilliant singer.

Top5 Female Artists (not a lead singer of a band ex Debbie Harry of Blondie and in Brent's case, no Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders and in Frank's case, no Zooey Daschnell from She and Him)

5. Loretta Lynn
4. Joan Baez
3. Amy Winehouse
2. Lucinda Williams
1. Alanis Morrissette

I'll try to "livin'" it up in my next Jive. Pun!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Learning to Listen...

by contributing author Dana Caudle

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent” --Victor Hugo

I’ve always loved music. I’ve just not always appreciated it to the level that I do today. Today, I like to think of music as an extension of the senses: there is seeing, tasting, touching, feeling, hearing…and then there is music. Music can take me back to a time or place in my life as swiftly and specifically as the scent of coffee and bacon frying intermingled can take me back to my grandparents’ home on the mornings after I, as a child, spent the night. Today, there are songs that I match to my various moods; happy songs, funny songs, angry songs, sad songs. And, today--because of my love of music--the variety of artists I am willing to listen to is immense and continually growing. I was not always this way.

I grew up around music lovers. My dad was himself a musician; his tastes ran mostly to Elvis and 70’s alt-country ala the Eagles, James Taylor, and B.J. Thomas. Oldies were a staple on the car radio when we took our family vacations. At the time, I enjoyed this music; however, my understanding of it was more along the lines of me hearing it rather than actually listening to it. It didn’t necessarily provoke any kind of emotion within me.

Around the 6th grade, I decided to become a fan of country music. Because I’ve always been one to throw myself into things full-force, I decided that I should look the part, too. My hair began to take on the immense proportions and heights popular in country music at the time, blowing up to the point of resembling Mt. St. Helens circa May, 1980. (Yeah, it was pretty bad. In fact--and this is off-topic--my husband has seen basketball pictures of me from this era, and proclaimed that I must have been a great defensive player. Not only did the other team have to shoot over me, they had to make it over my hair as well.) I also acquired the ubiquitous “Garth Brooks” shirt; a red and purple color-patched atrocity with pearl snaps, worn with,--of course--red Rocky Mountain jeans and lace-up boots.

Though I played country music extensively on my Walkman, in the car, and on my stereo, I really don’t believe that I was really listening to music yet. I mean, how can one get really excited or emotional over the lyrics, Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots…? I’m not being snobbish, the song is enjoyable, yes, and great to dance and sing along to (and I will sing it, loudly, any time it gets played in my vicinity), but nothing that grabbed me by the heart and squeezed. Plus, I’d always liked to think of myself as an individual, a square peg in a round hole, and the fact that nine out of ten girls in my small-town Texas school wore Rocky Mountains and lace up boots didn’t sit well with my sense of eccentricity. It was time to move on. To what, I just didn’t know.

Now, I had not lived in a complete hole, just one partially buried by ten-gallon Stetsons and Justin boots. I did, at this time, know who the Beatles were. My cousins were already huge fans, my brother--who was always more willing to try something new than I--was indoctrinated, and I had been forced to watch a documentary on the band, albeit half-heartedly. My vision of the Beatles was four guys in suits and a bowl-headed haircuts singing antiquated songs from long ago. And, I’m embarrassed to say, I ridiculed them…loudly…to anyone who would listen. But looking back I think maybe, just maybe, I was more intrigued than I let on. Sort of like the kid who picks on a girl because he secretly has a crush on her--I don’t know, I can’t really say for sure. But I do know that I began to gradually change my mind.

I remember my interest first being piqued when I heard one of my cousins enthusiastically describing all the “Paul is Dead” clues on the Sgt. Peppers album. It probably appealed to my inherent sense of the macabre; I listened…and began to wonder. I wanted to hear these clues! But, I would not swallow my pride enough to ask my brother if I could borrow the copy of Sgt. Pepper’s he had attained from my cousins, knowing fully the unmerciful teasing I would endure. I had talked enough smack to eat my words unto gluttony if I even hinted at liking the Beatles. So I waited and wondered some more.

My chance finally came one day when I woke up with a stomach virus and couldn’t go to school. I was home alone! I was well enough to sneak into my brother’s room and find his Sgt. Pepper tape. The copy was in poor condition, having been made by the speed-dubbing recorder on his stereo (fancy stuff at the time, before cd’s made copying albums an almost instantaneous process.) The songs were in fragments, quite a few were incomplete. But then, “A Day in the Life” came on in its entirety. My life was changed forever.

This was a song that was so simple, yet so complex. The lyrics were so inconsequential, mostly about some guy reading the morning paper. But the morbidity of the words--someone blew his mind out in a car--combined with the nonsensical--someone actually counted how many holes filled Blackburn Lancashire--combined with the various complex movements of music--including the Beatles’ frequent use of the “middle eight” convention--escalating to the final cacophony of instruments…!!!

It might have been that I finally saw the light (or, most probably, my 102 degree fever), but I actually began listening to the music. Until then, I thought popular music was simple, about loving or losing a lover, drinking and doing people wrong, or someone doing the singer wrong. After hearing this song, I began to realize for the first time that music is an art form, and that a perfect blend of lyrics and musical arrangements could move me in ways I’d never imagine. And from then on, the Beatles--who were no longer just four bowl-cutted guys, but in my opinion, visionaries--became my favorite band! I wanted to hear more.

It wasn’t easy, I was still ashamed of my close-mindedness. The next time I went shopping with my mom I snuck Abbey Road into the cart, much like someone trying to smuggle hemorrhoid cream without anyone else noticing. My mom noticed. She glanced at the cover and said nonchalantly,

“I thought you didn’t like them.”

Nothing more was said. I wasn’t teased by my family for my new appreciation, either (though close-minded kids at school didn’t hesitate to do so. However, that appealed to my square-peg thingy, and I didn’t really care.) And years later, Mom and I went together to see Paul McCartney in concert, celebrating simultaneously my birthday and graduating from college. It was a momentous occasion for me. I was beginning a new chapter in my life and celebrating one that I will always fall back on--the beginning of my love for music--while listening to a member of the band that had opened my eyes to this affection. The Beatles ended up being just a stepping stone of my music appreciation, and now this appreciation is vast and includes many genres. But the Beatles will always be the first, and “A Day in the Life” will always be the song that “turned me on” and made me actually listen…to music (and also the song that, literally, deflated my hair.)

Now, since this Jive is usually a catalyst for expression, I would like to know the songs that inspired others to start listening to music. I know that tastes vary, and that there’s no real prescription for what makes a person actually like a song, the differences in preference are as vast and complex as music itself. But if you are a music lover, you can usually remember the song that inspired you and lead you in pursuit of more and more musical inspiration.

“Music is what feelings sound like.”--Author Unknown

At a movie you can feel it touching your heart
And on every day of the summertime
You'll hear children chasing ice cream carts
They'll play it on your wedding day
There must be 'bout a million ways
To add some music
To your day--The Beach Boys “Add Some Music to your Day”

Monday, February 14, 2011

Been Thinkin' About Jivin'....

It was Early November when I scrapped my first Jive. I remember I was going to begin by adapting an Ol’ Johnny Carson routine to paper. It was gonna go something like this right here….

1. Spend 2 hours strapped to a gurney like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange and forced to watch Revolutionary Road for the 2nd time….

2. Attend a 2 hour “VH1 Storytellers” event where Darryl Worley gives in-depth analysis of the meanings and inspirations behind his lyrics…..

3. Spend 2 hours listening to a girlfriend try and explain to me why she’s leaving me for Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino….

......Name 3 things I’d rather experience than 2 hours of gridlock traffic in any city…at any time.

Last fall, as I was frequently traveling long distances by plane and by automobile to the southern tip of the state, I had weekends that were almost completely sabotaged by flight delays and gridlock traffic. One Friday, it was my turn to pick my friend up from the airport. I was looking forward to experiencing the satisfaction that comes with the successful implementation of “the perfect airport-pickup”. I left earlier than anyone would ever have even considered leaving. I was way ahead of schedule…that was until I merged on to North Stemmons Fwy. My friend flew from Houston to Dallas before my car moved an inch. “Now, Christopher, surely you moved a mile, a block, or at least a car-length”, you might suggest. Nope…I didn’t move one damn inch. Literally. Instead of being cool, calm and collected, I arrived at the airport as an out of breath, sweaty mess. When I was asked why I wasn’t there waiting, I almost lost it. It set the tone for what would be another aggravating weekend. Written with the same gusto as the unforgettable spoken phrase about what water will do to mattresses or what mustard will do to shirts, I planned to comment on how “Gridlock Ruins Plans”...and it really does. And that’s a fact, Jack.

I was gonna write it…but scrapped it.

Then I was going to write a Jive that would showcase the entire 1st Act of a screenplay that I’ve been writing. Feeling as though my intellectual property would be wasted, I wanted to post it so that someone might read it, film it, and make a fortune. Then, I would attempt to sue them for “stealing” my idea. It was a stupid idea that I dismissed fairly quickly. However, the idea did spark a question about what would be the Top5 titles of a screenplay written about my life. Get Rich or Quit Tryin’ would have to top that list.

I was gonna write it…but didn’t.

On a related topic, I was going to write a Jive that would voice my excitement about making movies again. For the past five years, I somehow managed to get paid for making “videos”. It has become my identity and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. However, during this period, I only made music videos; shelving all other ideas I may have had. Well…I did make Frank Goes To The Klan Rally (2007) in which I fought off actual Network News Crews in order to “get the shot”, but it did not require much preparation. I was proud of myself for creating something “off the cuff” like that, though.

I was going to Jive about our “Return to the Streets” and all the webisodes that I hope to showcase in the Top5 Drive-In in the months to come. I was going to discuss my pleasure in realizing how much I’ve improved as a director and the satisfaction I've derived from witnessing Frank’s improved acting ability. I didn’t have to mutter my “go-to line of direction” either. I never once suggested to Frank that he should “try and act more natural”.

Then there was the Jive about American Idol that I started and never completed. Yep…I thought about it. I was going to make a bold statement by suggesting that this has been the most enjoyable season for me since Taylor Hicks won in 2006. Not to sound creepy or suggest that I’m obsessed with her or anything, but of course my new-found enjoyment has to do with the addition of Jennifer Lopez to the show. She’s Just About As Pretty As It Gets. I’m no John Hinckley* or anything…just an admirer of her beauty. I was going to “caboose” the Jive (thanks, Brent) with my Top5 Most Beautiful Actresses. I would have listed:

5. Mila Kunis
4. Rosario Dawson
3. Salma Hayek
2. Eva Mendes
1. Jennifer Lopez
* I originally placed Catherine Keener at #5 until I was called out on it. She's my favorite actress but not in the league of the other Top5.

I remember I was asked on more than one occasion which Beatle I preferred - John or Paul. I thought about writing about that too. I love Paul McCartney's music and consider him to be the most famous entertainer in the world. However, I base my decision about who I prefer on this scenario - I can "Imagine" (Pun!) a situation in which John and Paul are sitting around sharing a smoke in the Dakota Apartments. Obladi Oblada plays on the radio. John says to Paul, "You are a more talented bloke than that, man. Really, Paul"? I can't think of one John Lennon tune where after listening to it, Paul could retort by posing the same question back at his former bandmate. Think about it. If you prefer the optimistic sounds of Paul McCartney's beautiful music, I can't fault you. Just know that John was realistic enough to know better.

Ringo was the "Funny one", George was the "Quiet one", Paul was the "Cute one, and John was the "Talented one". Enough said.

I say that knowing full-well that Oh Darling is one of my favorite songs of all-time...maybe even Top5 Beatle tunes...

....And then there was the Jive I scrapped about my anger at Roberto Alomor being voted in to the MLB Hall Of Fame. A product of the 90's Steroid Era being voted in first round...WHAT? He makes Michael Irvin look like the Rev. Gene Ratliff**. Looking past the fact that Jeff Bagwell did not even get voted in and the fact that Alomar played on a Baltimore Oriole team with such proven "sluggers" as Brady Anderson, Bobby Bonilla and Rafael Palmeiro (tear) , the SOB spit in umpire John Hirschbeck's face. This is such a dasterdly move that I failed to even include it in Video Joe's Moral Code of Ethics (see Jive archives). I would not even spit in Bin Laden's face. I was gonna write about how such an act would rank just below pushing a fully-clothed man in a swimming pool ,while the man in question was in mid-conversation with a Blind Date. I was gonna write about that but instead, wanted to let that soggy cousin of mine know that I'm so happy that it all worked out for him in the end.

Roberto Alamor is lucky that he wasn't good enough to hit 762 homeruns and that his measily-steroid-induced 210 homeruns snuck him into the HOF. He snuck into the Hall of Fame faster than that Nolan Ryan fastball sped by him in The Express' 7th No-hitter.

Anyway, in the spirit of Dwight Yoakum...I've been thinkin' about Jivin', long enough to change my mind.
Feelin' Good ALL the Time
* John Hinckley attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan in an effort to impress Jodie Foster. BTW, I bet he took her "coming out" announcement personally.
** Gene Ratliff was a former Minister of mine at Gordon Methodist Church. He was my favorite.