Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

The longer run – Eagles concert 2010

Friday, October 29th, 2010

The last time I saw the Eagles in concert was back in 1975 when they were the opening act for Linda Ronstadt. Thirty-five years later, their hair is shorter (at least Frey and Henley) and their jeans are cleaner and don’t have any holes, but they still don’t break a sweat playing the soft country rock that immortalized them.

But then Joe Walsh wasn’t a part of the band back in 1975, and didn’t come aboard until the Hotel California album in 1976. And now … he’s the life of the party. The greatest response to an introduction of a band member or to any song from the 18,000 strong at the spanking new Amway Center in Orlando this October evening was for Joe. Except for the one deluded fan who kept screaming for Joe to play, “Misty Mountain Hop,” they all seemed to know his early James Gang catalog pretty well, to the point of dancing or singing along with “Funk #49” and “Walk Away.” And perhaps the summit the misguided Joe enthusiast was thinking of arrived in the form of “Rocky Mountain Way” from Walsh’s solo career. He also played “In the City,” from The Long Run, “Guilty of the Crime” from the new album and, of course, “Life’s Been Good,” which brought the house down. And life HAS been good to Joe. How is it that the hardest partying maniac of the group, most notorious for substance and hotel abuses, is the one who looks the healthiest and can still shake it down as the best rock and roll showman all these years later? I dunno. Maybe I’ll find the answer in Keith Richard’s new autobiography.

Henley wore his usual troubled, unsmiling gaze most of the evening, so you can never tell if he’s really having a good time. But he sounded in fine voice on “Witchy Woman,” “Hotel California,” “One of These Nights,” “Best of My Love,” “Boys of Summer,” “Life in the Fast Lane,” and the third encore closer, “Desperado.” The first encore included “Dirty Laundry,” which originally was written about local 80s L.A. “bubble-headed bleach blonde” anchor women such Christine Lund and Kelly Lange, but has now appropriately been expanded to include the likes (via video playing behind the stage) of Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. Henley perhaps should have recognized that if this crowd drinking $9.25 Budweisers goes most apeshit over the early redneck songs of Joe Walsh, then a haunting epic about the decline of the American empire that is the great song, “Long Road Out of Eden” wasn’t going to stir any standing ovation – just a lot of mostly blank looks, like they weren’t exactly sure what it was about. But the video of the tanks leaving Iraq and empty boots in the sand couldn’t have been too mistaken for gung ho Americana.

You get a great snapshot of the personalities (and priorities) at play during the video clips or tabloids, when Frey appears on the cover of Golf Digest winning the Masters Tournament, and Henley appears on the cover of Time magazine solving global warming.

Glenn Frey plays the M.C. and stand up comic in requisite white T with open hanging flannel shirt and some nice Detroit pimp shoes. The joke about their former girlfriends’ or wives assuming “Take it To the Limit” was a song about credit cards gets a good response. And the song is a real highlight of the evening as the crowd sings along. Frey also finally gets some moves in dancing by himself toward the back of the stage in between the keyboard players while Henley belts out “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” for the second encore. Relations between the notoriously competitive egos seems cordial, but I couldn’t help noticing how Henley introduced his biggest Eagles hit, “Best of My Love” as the first number one single the Eagles ever had, and Frey introduces his biggest hit, “Take it To the Limit” as the first number one MILLION-SELLING single the Eagles ever had. Touche.

I like that Timothy B. Scmidt still wears his hair to his ass and doesn’t dye it. There has to be one true hippie representative left in this $230-per-ticket money machine. Even Joe Walsh, who still keeps his hair long and blonde, looks like he’s hooked up with Kelly Lange’s and Christine Lund’s former hair colorist/stylists.

I enjoyed the show, which ran nearly three hours, very much. And they played pitch perfect versions of every hit, with a fourth guitarist, Steuart Smith, matching Don Felder’s and Bernie Leadon’s original licks note for note, point for point, even on the double-necked guitar for “Hotel California.” But there was one thing missing from this epic evening of memory lane good vibes in this brand new pristine palace of clean jeans and clean licks — some dirty air … The same kind of smoke-filled air that goes with ripped jeans, unwashed long hair and peaceful easy feelings.

— A. Wayne Carter

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11 things that saved summer

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Summer … That desolate stretch of networks dumping cheaply-produced, mind-numbing reality shows to substitute for any worthwhile programming.  That action less void of sports TV, except for golf (yawn) and baseball (double play yawn). That miserable oven of heat and humidity (hey, this is Florida) that saps the very will to budge from your mind or body.

But here were 10 signs of relief:

11) Capping the goddamned oil well leak. Oh my god. Was there anything else for the news to cover non-stop for more than three months than this tar ball cluster fuck? And the only real story was, “It’s still leaking.” Okay, we got it; just let us all know when it’s done. THAT will be news again. But there was one ironic and funny side story. Small business fisherman who despise the government and avoid paying taxes by operating on a cash-only and no-records business were suddenly whining for a bailout and full compensation on lost wages … but got caught with their pants down by having NO RECORDS to prove what their wages actually were. “I swear I pulled a 100k last year, BP and mister government man, just write me a full check, okay?”

10) Crowded House at the Hard Rock Live. The band Crowded House played their farewell concert in Sydney, Australia fourteen years ago to a crowd of about 250,000 fans singing along to every song. My son and I enjoyed this ‘comeback’ tour from 7th row dead center at a venue holding less than 2,500. America, unlike the rest of the world,  never fully ‘got’ Crowded House, which is perplexing, because front man/singer/songwriter Neil Finn is as close as you’ll ever get to John Lennon’s biting lyrics and hard rocking and Paul McCartney’s great voice and soothing melodies wrapped together in one performer. “Don’t Dream It’s Over (Hey Now)” may have been their only big stateside hit, but going by the enthusiasm of this show and the audience love sing along, this ‘dream’ band is very much alive.

9) “The Ghost Writer” on Pay per View. What a nifty, old-fashioned spy thriller. Hitchcock would approve. The story involves a hack writer (Ewan McGregor) hired to rewrite the memoir of a controversial former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan), whose previous ghost writer died mysteriously. Needless to say, our hero soon finds what a scary, deep shitstorm he’s gotten himself into. Roman Polanski is a master director who just knows how to shoot a well-told story with a compelling, non-stop sense of unease. I shudder to think what the Hollywood studio version of this would be (loud and noisy and jerky and short of attention span – in other words; Vantage Point). And please folks, separate the art from the artist. If you removed all the music, movies, paintings and books created by assholes, jerks, criminals, misanthropes, misogynists, perverts, addicts, or just damaged egomaniacs, there’d be very little left of any worth. Sometimes it’s what they’re escaping from (the ugliness of who they really are or how they feel) that drives them so relentlessly toward crafting something beautiful, pure and masterful.

8 ) Blue Rodeo “The Things We Left Behind” on CD. Canadian folk rock band Blue Rodeo have been around for a long time, but unlike many bands who produce a few great albums early on and then coast on mediocrity, this double CD finds them still reaching for musical nirvana, and achieving it. If you like early acoustic Pink Floyd or the Eagles when they were still hungry, here’s your perfect soundtrack. It’s the only thing I’ve heard all summer that keeps finding its way back to my car CD player. There are lilting 10-minute suites, and perfect 3-minute pop chestnuts. And just try to escape the haunting mantra of “Don’t Let the Darkness in Your Head” from, well, haunting your head. It’s a chant we all need embrace to escape the bleak moods (or news) we either get stuck in, or find the strength to overcome. This beautiful double album summons that strength.

7) Mad Men on AMC. Nothing pops through the bleakness of summer television like the return of this gourmet feast for lovers of sophisticated and engrossing television. And where else (besides The Sopranos) can you find a more sympathetic heel than Don Draper, who disgusts you at the same time he compels you to root for him? That takes writing AND great acting, which this show has in spades.

6) Louie on FX. Speaking of miserable heels; Louis C.K. is to a New York comedian’s life what Larry David was to Los Angeles on Curb Your Enthusiasm. You squirm watching his embarrassing social gaffes and inevitable self-loathing, but the difference is that Louis is aware of his loser status, is trying to overcome it through fatherhood, and actually struggles to find a way to connect to other humans, whereas David is forever stuck being the inconsiderate lout who basically doesn’t seem to care beyond his own needs in the end. Louie got soul. And some awesome New York supporting actors.

5) The Virginian, Season One on DVD. Nothing provides a better escape from the reality of the present than a good, old fashioned classic television show from the past.  I always liked the 90-minute NBC show The Virginian (which ran from 1962-1969) featuring my early childhood hero Trampas (and later Hollywood ‘pal’ Doug McClure), but watching this show now I’m surprised at the good stories and great actors. Each episode is literally a mini-Western movie. Some with A-listers like Bette Davis, Robert Duvall, and Lee Marvin, and some by feature directors, such as Sam Fuller. Plus, this show was largely shot on location and not some fake outdoor set like Bonanza. If you like Westerns, hitch a ride and be transported to a time and place where old-school values and first class stories roamed and ruled.

4) Red Dead Redemption on Xbox 360. Speaking of Westerns, I bought this game for my 13 year-old son (or actually myself – it’s “M” rated) in May, and here we are three months later still not finished the main single player campaign. The graphics are realistically awesome to the point where you literally ARE transported into the old West (with some modern day gore and language) becoming part of the story. You can play the game honorably; completing the missions, saving people in distress, and only killing the bad guys. Or you can play the game as a roaming ruthless outlaw, with each version having its own consequences (it’s made by the same company that did Grand Theft Auto). I was immensely relieved to discover my son (having played hours and hours on his own) taking the ‘good’ path and achieving the highest honor rating possible. His dad, on the other hand, was not so honorable. There were a couple of scumbag unarmed villains I had to shoot even though they were already captured and hogtied.

3) Schlotsky’s Deli at the Austin Airport. We used to have five Schlotsky’s franchises locally, but they vanished years ago and the closest one is 90 miles away. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from driving there for lunch. A great vacation visiting my sister at her house south of Austin was bookended by scoring my family’s favorite round sourdough bread and minced meat sandwiches on the way in and on the way out. Schlotsky’s Deli is headquartered in Austin and part of the normal fast food landscape there, but like all treats in life, you appreciate them only more so when they’re gone.

2) “Inception.” Thank God there was one movie this summer not based on a comic book, a previous movie, television show, Disney ride, or candy wrapper. You actually had to invest some functioning brain activity to follow the plot and keep up with four simultaneous finales going on at the same time within different dream levels. And the ending was open to your own feelings or interpretation. Was he still in a dream or not? If you were still on board and paying attention, you may have noticed Leonardo’s character didn’t really care at that point, so why should we? It was a fun ride.

1) “Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed” by Robert Sellers. A writer better damn well include a book on this list, so why not one that lets us vicariously enjoy the most outrageous and salacious adventures of the best party animal actors that ever lived? Personally, I don’t think my own constitution could have matched or survived any one of these incidents or activities of mass alcohol consumption, barroom destruction, or insatiable sexual conquest. But if you read my previous blog (“Two Weeks at War”), you know I tried … God knows I tried.

— A. Wayne Carter

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Dead poets calliope

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

What writer worth their Whitman doesn’t have a vast store of quotable knowledge or appreciation of the great poets of literature? Well, this lazy bard, for one. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I loves me some E. A. Poe, a little E. Dickinson, and the wacky dude who never had a shift key on his typewriter (e. e. cummings).  But I am woefully ignorant in all our richest rhymes, and without good reason or worthy excuse. I have the collected works of Yeats, Walt Whitman and the Oxford Book of Poetry on my shelves, but the only living things nibbling on them recently (or peeing on them) are cockroaches which must somehow be addicted to the old glue they used in the book bindings.

Which in no way segues me to Natalie Merchant’s new musical opus, Leave Your Sleep, featuring the whimsical or wizening works of a couple dozen formerly breathing poets now set to her voice and music. Just hearing about this project made me depressed and longing for the days when Merchant’s overly somber lyrics were magically lifted by the chirpy guitar playing she was straddled to in her former band 10,000 Maniacs. Left to her own production choices, it seems like she’s been on a downer ever since. Imagine my surprise when I listened to this lovely journey through dusty tomes from the crypt only to be charmed every note of the way. That’s right; the melancholy woman who once improbably rhymed ‘four poster’ with ‘dull torpor’ has been vividly inspired and revived by the dead and the decayed.

Every style of music noodles its way up from these poems and through your ears; from Chinese strings to Celtic pipes, reggae rhythms to orchestral swells, Irish jigs to New Orleans jazz, barroom blues to minute waltzes, and everything in between. And yet it all sounds so cohesively … apt and entertaining. The voice, so familiar, clear and committed, doesn’t hurt, either.  Read through the extensive liner notes and you discover she not only immersed herself in these poems, but into the very lives of the poets; including a mini-biography with every selection. This is what she felt she needed to do as an artist to choose or channel the right mood or melody for each poem. And throughout, she succeeds.

Charles Clausey. Rachel Field. Edward Lear. Mervyn Peak. Laurence Alma Tadema. Charles Edward Carryl. Arthur Macy. John Godfrey Saxe. William Brighty Rands. Eleanor Farjeon.  At some point in my lit-heavy Maryland education, I was probably exposed to some of these poets. Now, I’m ashamed to say, those could be the names of my city council members, for all I’m aware. Robert Louis Stevenson, Ogden Nash, e.e. cummings and Gerald Manley Hopkins still ring a bell, but don’t ask me to quote anything.

Merchant corrects any ignorance and makes us sit back and listen to voices long since silenced, but still eerily relevant. Here’s Gerald Manley Hopkins, who died of typhoid fever at age 45, writing a poem (to a youth named Margaret) to explain the unexplainable to a child.

And yet you will weep and know why.

Now no matter, child the name:

Sorrow’s springs are the same

Nor mouth had, no nor mind expressed

What heart heard of, ghost guessed;

It is the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.

Try to get through Merchant’s achingly beautiful mediation on this ode to loss with a dry eye. I dare you.

— A. Wayne Carter

***

For no specific reason, here is Bill Murray reading Emily Dickinson to a group of construction workers.

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My top 10 for the next 25

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Columnist Michael Ventura, who writes the excellent Letters at 3 a.m. column for The Austin Chronicle (and used to write for the L.A. Weekly), suggested this ‘exercise in know thyself’ for the New Year:  “List the Top 10 cultural artifacts that shaped you most. Be honest and unembarrassed. That’s the dare.”

Here’s mine for the second 25 years of my life (in no special order):


I-Ching-Workbook110) The I Ching Workbook by R.L. Wing
I can’t count the number of times this brilliant and brief meditative journal has delivered me from anxiety regarding a life situation and preserved my sanity in the process (actually, I can count – I’ve consulted it more than 391 times in the past 25 years).  The “I Ching” is an ancient Chinese philosophy on coping with change that remains spot-on today, but is greatly misunderstood by Western standards: You toss three coins, combine a couple Trigrams and come up with a number and situation corresponding to where you’re at, and where you’re headed (e.g.;  Nourishing – Advancement). How could something so seemingly random produce such profoundly personal insights? The answer is simply … it doesn’t: You do. The process gets you to actually sit down and focus your own mental energy and inner wisdom toward accepting change or resolving conflict. These inner resources are always present, but we seldom take the time or trust ourselves to look for them and listen. Someone brilliantly pointed out that prayer is like asking God for something, but mediation is about actually listening to God. The I Ching puts you in a place to listen to God resonating within yourself to provide your own best counsel. It directs you to an answer, and you provide the meaning relevant to your situation. Writing that meaning down in the workbook is powerful therapy toward acceptance or resolution, and inner peace.

9) “GROUNDHOG DAY” I doubt director Harold Ramis ever set out to deliberately make the perfect Zen movie, but he did.  Bill Murray plays a cynical weatherman doomed to live out the same mundane day over and over again. Anyone who’s ever held a regular monotonous job or been stuck in any kind of life rut can identify with that, right? Plus, it’s Bill Murrary, for crying out loud. He IS the Everyman. But what finally snaps him out of this ‘doomed’ existence? One day, perhaps day 1,002, he finally tries a different attitude and decides to embrace every single moment of the day no matter how banal or excruciating (an insurance salesman!), and that shift – to embrace each moment – is what ultimately delivers him from his ‘hell’ on Earth. It doesn’t get more Zen than that. But the fact that enlightenment arrives in the form of this goofy comedy instead of some inscrutable Buddhist koan is what makes it … perfect.

8. “SIX FEET UNDER” on HBO Death (and dealing with death) comes out of the closet. A funeral director dies prematurely (he’s hit by a bus), and for five seasons (2001-2006) we explore the emotional fallout of his surviving widow and three adult children (six feet under, get it?). Perhaps because my father died the same year this premiered, and my mother the year after it ended, the themes of loss, coping and healing speak volumes to me. But this show is so finely tuned to the human condition, the writing so pure, the presentation so jolting, and the acting so phenomenal, anyone can find some intensely felt connection with the events or emotions of these characters during their life journeys. You laugh, you weep, you marvel, you cringe, and you bear witness to 60 unbelievably awesome hours of television, and the best finale every aired.

7) “IN MY TRIBE” by 10,000 MANIACS I haven’t heard an album this immediately interesting and catchy since, well, since this first came out in 1987. And I’ve been listening carefully ever since, believe me. Hanging out with Jack Kerouac and the beat poets. Warning your brother not to become a gun nut now that he’s joined the Army. Listening to a haunting Verdi opera playing in the guestroom next door at your family’s beach vacation. Wondering about the madness behind a child-abusing neighbor. Trying to talk sense to an alcoholic. Lamenting what a circus the city of Los Angeles has become.  It all sounds so depressing on the lyric sheet, but is positively infectious with melody, great hooks and some of the most sparkling electric guitar shadings you’ll ever hear on CD. Delivered with Natalie Merchant’s passionate and unique vocals, you have a classic that will survive any time capsule as a knowing glimpse of “our tribe” toward the end of the twentieth century.

6) “THE POWER OF NOW by ECKHART TOLLE There’s nothing new about the concept of “be here now.” We’ve all heard a hundred variations of this theme from self-help books to religious texts, and from mystics to little league coaches. But for those of us either blessed or cursed with a rational mind, this book speaks clearly, profoundly, and easy to grasp. Hell, even Oprah ‘got it.’ Once you understand that all fear is your mind’s projection of an outcome, event or piece of information that isn’t even real yet, you start to get a sense of the forces within ourselves that trap or hold us back from truly enjoying any given moment. I read this book again and again whenever I feel stuck. Or I listen to the CD to get a good laugh, because Tolle reads his own words, and he must not have been happy with the sound of his own voice because he had the tape slowed down to give him a lower, more ominous pitch. It’s a little bit creepy, but surprisingly effective, and it never fails to crack me up.

5) YOGA Okay, this is beginning to sound like a list of every New Age fad you are required to believe or buy into once you start living in California; which is fair dig, since the second 25 years of my life were mostly spent there. But two decades on from my first exposure to a Kundalini Yoga class, and it’s still an essential part of my health and exercise regimen. Oh, sure, I don’t touch my toes to the floor behind my ears while lying on my back anymore or make my head come out of my ass like the guy in this picture, but that was never really what it’s about anyway. It’s moving or stretching in ways that bring (and burn) energy to those inner places (and organs) that other exercises often ignore. Yoga translates as “yoke” or union with God, or Atman.  The poses can be a form of meditation. But you don’t have to betray Jesus or buy Buddhism to benefit. I just say, “If it feels good, do it.” Namaste.

4) “AFTER ECSTASY, THE LAUNDRY” by JACK KORNFIELD Okay, so you’ve had your great moment of enlightenment, your life-shaking epiphany, your cosmic orgasm of understanding, or maybe just the LSD has worn off; what do you do for an encore? Once you’ve peeked behind the veil of mere physical existence, how can you ignore the experience long enough to function with the daily, mundane tasks and concerns this Earthly existence requires? And how do you imbue those tasks with any meaning beyond the now drearily ordinary? Why even bother? Well, I make no claims to having meditated long enough beneath a Bodhi tree to discover everlasting nirvana, but Kornfield took the fearless leap, walked the walk, and includes a bonanza of inspiring and reassuring wisdom from some masters and teachers out there who talk the talk. And who provide enormous comfort to those of us who thirst enough for insight to listen, and who are willing to let go of the ego that separates us from God and one another. This book will never leave the shelf closest to my reach.

3) ROY ORBISON Speaking of epiphanies, I’ve never seen an audience instantly levitate from their seats and respond more ecstatically than they did to k. d. lang when she channeled the spirit of Roy Orbison singing “Crying” at a tribute concert to him at the Santa Monica Civic Auditoreum in 1989 shortly after his death. Bob Dylan was there, the Byrds reunited; all the musical icons in the constellation came to pay tribute. Because Roy Oribison’s voice came from a place not of this lowly Earth; and his songs about loneliness and yearning and the sheer jubilation of when the “pretty woman” turned and walked his way can stir your heart and rip your soul. Orbison’s first success arrived during 50s, when he shared rock n’ roll’s infant airwaves on the radio with Elvis Presley. But many of us didn’t come to discover or appreciate his ethereal gift until he was re-introduced in the 1980’s through David Lynch’s use of “In Dreams” in Blue Velvet; Or Chris Isaak’s entire repertoire of Orbison-influenced songs; Or George Harrison , Dylan and Tom Petty forming the Traveling Wilburys with him; Or lang making the hairs on the goosebumps on the back of my neck stand up that magical night of ghostly-inspired music.

2) CDs, DVDs and BLU-RAY I was an early adopter for all of these superior sound and video compact media storage systems, having one of the first Sony CD player models back in 1985. I immediately began trading in my scratched and popping vinyl LP collection and never looked back (though I saved a few choice LPs for the over-sized cover art ,or for sentimental reasons). I never collected movies on VHS because it always seemed a bulky, primitive system, with tape that would tangle and a format you had to fast forward or rewind to get anywhere. I love DVDs, and now Blu-ray for the experience of convenient, relatively cheap (remember laser disks?) and superior image on the movies I treasure and watch over and over again. Younger consumers claim to be less interested in actually owning stuff like we were, and have no qualms about downloading individual songs in compressed audio quality MP3 formats, or waiting for the inevitable streaming HD movies they can play on their computer-merged television. I still relish the feel of a newspaper in my hand at a café, or a handy hardback book on my library shelf, and love to browse the titles and art on my DVD/Blu-ray collection to find exactly what suits the mood.

1) “DEADWOOD” on HBO In the immortal words of saloon/brothel owner Al Swearengen, “Any of you cocksucking motherfuckers have a problem with this?”

— A. Wayne Carter

(Not the same performance as the tribute concert, but around the same time)

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My Top 10 for the First 25

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Columnist Michael Ventura, who writes the excellent Letters at 3AM column for The Austin Chronicle (and used to write for the L.A. Weekly), suggested this ‘exercise in know thyself’ for the New Year:  “List the Top 10 cultural artifacts that shaped you most. Be honest and unembarrassed. That’s the dare.”

Here’s mine for the first 25 years of my life:

mad magazine10) MAD MAGAZINE “The usual gang of idiots” introduced me to the wonderful world of parody at an impressionable age (9-14), and showed me how to laugh out loud at the absurdities of the world and the way people behave. This was the earliest influence on my satirical brand of humor, and I have done my part to ‘pay it forward’ ever since, with no sacred cow un-tipped.

9) PERU Okay, not technically a cultural ‘artifact,’ but definitely a cultural experience that changed my life. At 17, I left a very coddled home life to spend several months as a foreign exchange student in Peru living with a family that spoke no English and lived in conditions Americans (but not Peruvians) would call poor.  Not only did it open my eyes to the wide world out there, and how other people live, but it proved to me that I could live away from home, adapt, survive and seek adventure (I spent two weeks hitchhiking through the Andes with my Peruvian mother just to go 500 miles from Lima to Cuzco and Machu Picchu). When I got back, I knew I would leave my hometown and ultimately seek my fortunes and adventures … out there.

8. STANLEY KUBRICK’S “A CLOCKWORK ORANGE” I saw this (also at 17) just before going to college at the University of Miami and it cemented my direction toward a career in film. As cinema art, this film was the perfect combination of bold story, stunning cinematography and awesome music.  The fact that it was about a 15 year-old gang member who terrorized future London with acts of rape, murder and ‘ultra-violence’ shocked audiences so much that it was banned in England for 20 years, and I remember people angrily storming out of the theatre at my first viewing. But that only inspired me more to believe in the power of film to go beyond mere entertainment and provoke a visceral response, even if it was disturbing. Now, if I had only had the good sense at the time to realize it was an extremely poor choice for a ‘date’ movie, I might have gotten luckier earlier.

7) TRAMPAS ON ‘THE VIRGINIAN’ Trampas, as played by Doug McClure on the mid-Sixties television series The Virginian, became one of my earliest role models. He was a hard-working cowhand on the Medicine Bow ranch in Wyoming in the late 1800s, but as hard as he worked, he played even harder. His joy for life was infectious, and the fact that he maintained an innocent spirit in the face of every obstacle or adversary was somehow even more appealing. I wanted to BE Trampas. Imagine my thrill when a mutual friend introduced me to Doug McClure (and his fifth wife) 18 years later at his Beverly Hills Four Seasons suite and I discovered … he WAS Trampas. We hung out and he wanted to party non-stop, and he had the attention span of a kid desperately seeking the next distraction. It was exhilarating at the time, but at a burn-out pace, like a ride best enjoyed in short bursts – but that was how he was 24/7, and no doubt what contributed to his early death. So, in life, the experience that was Doug McClure totally matched Trampas. But it also taught me the potential costs of just living to do as you please from moment to moment without ever thinking about ‘the big picture.’

6) MARVEL COMICS ‘SILVER AGE’ These were the great titles from the Sixties, where Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, the Avengers, and Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos were first introduced and became the heroes of my childhood reading. These superheroes differed from their DC counterparts like Superman or Batman because Marvel heroes had hang-ups and were emotionally vulnerable to their situations. They were more like the angst-ridden teenagers we were all becoming. My mom would stop at the local Drug Fair every week on my way to get an allergy shot so I could pick up the latest issues at 12 cents each. I collected almost every title from number 1 to number 50. This was before collecting comics in preservative bags went mainstream and rendered comic collections ever since not worth much (because they just aren’t as rare). I had X-Men No. 1, which eventually reached auction prices up to a staggering $18,000. I sometimes wonder what my entire Marvel collection would have been worth today and where I could have retired comfortably to for having sold them now. But I sold the entire collection for about $400 during my freshman year in college to buy an awesome pair of speakers … which I still listen to today. So, at least in some way, though I’ve grown past my comics age, they are still entertaining me.

5) PLAYBOY MAGAZINE At the same time comics began losing some of their steam, my libido was quickly swelling with it.  I can still remember buying my first Playboy at the Aspen Hill 7/11 at age 15. To accomplish this extremely intimidating feat at the time for an underage kid, I also purchased a comic book for me … and a “To Dad” birthday card. It was a brilliant strategy. And Playboy offered the ultimate male fantasy of life that every James Bond-loving teenager could imagine; filled with high tech gadgets, sexy cars and naked women. And since this was before video, you had the advantage of never having to listen to these bimbos actually speak to ruin the fantasy. The very first writing job I was ever paid for in Los Angeles was creating potential cable television specials for Playboy Enterprises. What a fantastic gig! I even ran out and bought a great silk bathrobe just like Hef would wear. But then I found out I was not to be invited to the Playboy Mansion because the 50 year-old has-been actors who hung out there didn’t want any competition for the 22 year-old playmates from guys the same age as the girls who could relate better and keep their ‘attention’ up longer. Now that I’m in my 50’s, the invention of Viagra doesn’t make that predatory scenario any more appealing or less creepy. But Playboy and I were both born the same year, and it still holds a nostalgic value for what I yearned for as a horny young kid, and what I’ve evolved to be as a horny old man. But if Playboy ever wants to get its former readers back, it should stop featuring playmates shaved bare, which makes anyone lusting after them feel like a pedophile.

4) EDGAR ALLAN POE Long before there was Playboy (around age 7), there was the melancholy of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories and poems. Maybe it was the women of Playboy that later cured this melancholy. But I believe every young kid is either born with, or experiences a period or tinge of melancholy. Perhaps when we first discover that people – and people we know or love (such as ourselves) can actually die. Or maybe it’s just genetic. But Poe speaks to that dread in all of us in a language dripping with melancholy in all of its manifestations – and perhaps helping us to purge some of it at the same time. I can’t say I was obsessed with Poe as a young reader, but I read everything he wrote many times, and I knew that he died and was buried in the very city (Baltimore) that I was born. So I rode that tenuous connection through a lonely period of my youth where everything unspeakable and unfathomable to what my normal Leave it to Beaver home life was really like, spoke to me from the other side.

3) “ROCKET MAN” BY ELTON JOHN/BERNIE TAUPIN If there is a song that best describes that melancholy born of the ultimate aloneness we all … share, it has to be Rocket Man; which, to me, in 1972, was an instant revelation of what a fantastical mood, melody and lyric could produce. What budding creative artist would not feel an affinity to the metaphorical lyric of being a space explorer as your regular gig, nine to five? Of sometimes feeling like you’re ‘burning out my fuse up here alone?’ I heard Elton sing that one phrase over and over again as he improvised his way through a stunning, extended version of the song live at the L.A. Amphitheatre in 1979, and the autobiographical depth of the song hit like a ton of bricks. Elton may be gayer than Richard Simmons with a pink curling iron at a hair salon, but never forget that hetero cowboy Bernie Taupin writes the lyrics. Elton is merely the melody, and he always does melancholy better than anyone (just start with Candle in the Wind, Funeral for Friend, Daniel, and Sacrifice for beginners). Taupin articulates the mood by writing the lyrics first, and Elton later interprets it to a melody. My mom’s generation had Rodgers and Hammerstein for this perfect synergy of talents. We have Reg Dwight and Bernie Taupin.

2) THE OUTER LIMITS While we’re on the subject of melancholy and outer space, how about the most original and never equaled version of gothic horror science fiction to ever air on television? This show has influenced more creators in the field of science fiction media than anyone (except perhaps number 1 below). James Cameron copped the episode “Soldier” to create The Terminator. Alan Moore’s Watchmen stole the whole premise from”The Architects of Fear” (but at least acknowledged it). This show terrified me for the two meager seasons it aired from 1962-63 (and my son 47 years later), and I adored every minute. So much so that I later wrote the writer Joseph Stefano to thank him for his fantastic work and influence, and I even called the composer Dominic Frontiere in his Beverly Hills home from my college apartment in Miami to rave to him about his beautiful, haunting themes. Skip the revived version of the show that could never capture the perfect B&W film noir of the original, which added to the mood. But remember the ‘control voice,’ which reminded us over and over that our very next experience would be beyond our control. Shit, was he ever right.

1) ROD SERLING AND “THE TWILIGHT ZONE” Okay, so I watched a lot of television as a kid, and still do. But here was the single greatest inspiration for me to pursue a career in writing for television or film. Rod Serling wrote about soulful, important, moral issues with an unbridled imagination that often disguised their target or impact but, ultimately, never their human message. These 156 timeless episodes of The Twilight Zone are nothing more than the Aesop’s Fables for our generation; the moral nuggets covered with a chocolate mystery surprise that delight our taste buds, but also nourish our souls. Who else in 1962, before the Civil Rights Act was ever passed, could get away with a story on national television where a black man unjustly convicted is to be hung at dawn … and the sun never comes up? Or my favorite episode, Walking Distance, where a super-stressed man from now somehow takes a train ride back through time to the idyllic town of his youth, confronts the trouble-free kid version of himself, tries desperately to reconnect to him on a carousel and stumbles, is warned by his own father back then that there’s “only one summer to a customer,” and returns to the present newly crippled from the experience. Nostalgia CAN cripple our ability to live in the now and to look forward in our lives no matter how hard we want to avoid the stresses we face every day. But every once and a while, like this list or yours, we just need to go there.

Later … Top 10 for the Next 25 (the grown up years)

— A. Wayne Carter

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Record reviews: Second place winners

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Susan Boyle and Adam Lambert have nothing in common other than the fact they both came in second place in national talent contests and they both vaguely resemble a female.

Here’s something else they now have in common: they both released albums on the same day and, though worlds apart in mood (but not theatricality), they both demand a good listen and deliver.

Susan Boyle is the 47 year-old Englishwoman who stunned audiences (and Simon Cowell) on Britain’s Got Talent when she opened her mouth and sang beautifully. The audience was stunned because they have been trained by a discriminating and shallow MTV culture to only expect beautiful people to be allowed on their TV screens and or in their faces.

The song she sang was “I Dreamed a Dream” from the play Les Miserables, and though on the surface you might assume it to be some harmless uplifting pap, listen closer and you’ll discover a much darker song about how that ‘dream’ was shattered by “this hell I’m living;” which, in the eerie coincidence of her life imitating art, occurred when Boyle was stunned herself to only get the runner-up award and promptly had a nervous breakdown.

So, in an ironic touch, that song is also the name of her debut album … which sold 410,000 copies in Britain alone the first week. So, maybe there is karma in the world. Or a hell of a lot of people who are sick of mediocre-talented former cheerleaders (Paula) or Mousekteers (Britney) getting recording contracts based on how they look instead of how they sing.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote a great song when they composed and recorded the original “Wild Horses” some 40 years ago. But the true test of a classic song is how it can be twisted and re-interpreted, and Boyle’s producer, Steve Mac, delivers a haunting and original arrangement here. Even Mick was blown away.

Boyle probably had some songs she has sung her whole life that she wanted to include, so you get the spirituals, “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” and the Christmas Carol, “Silent Night.” But, somehow it all works with the ethereal mood of the album.

The producer also brings slow, haunting, and original arrangements to such sixties chestnuts as “Daydream Believer,” and “The End of the World.” I think Madonna’s flamenco-edged version of “You’ll See” fared better than the one here, even though Boyle has an infinitely better voice. You also can’t top Patty Griffin for interpreting her own songs, so “Up to the Mountain” doesn’t quite reach the summit on Boyle’s version.

Still, overall, this is a really satisfying album of creatively arranged and tastefully produced covers sung by a voice that can provide the necessary goose bumps.

Adam Lambert’s debut album “For Your Entertainment,” on the other end of the spectrum, is designed to give you a hard-on. The solid, pumping, dance floor action never stops (well, for at least 11 out of 14 tracks). It also plays like a history of all the gay-influenced dance music of that last quarter century (which was always a positive thing for dance music), from Freddie Mercury in Queen, to David Bowie, to Animotion, to Abba, to Jimmy Sommerville, Erasure, and the Scissor Sisters. You don’t have to be gay to spot the influences or enjoy the outcome.

Everything is way way over the top, but it gets your blood going, your feet moving, and  it has more hooks than a cold storage meat warehouse.

“Soaked” offers this great Mid-eastern flourish up front, before dropping into a very eerie almost a capella vocal that Freddie Mercury would have shaved his moustache for.

The most obvious hit track is “Whataya Want from Me,” which pretty much sums up the whole attitude of expectations foisted upon Lambert after his American Idol notoriety. Getting simulated blown by a male dancer on the American Music Awards was apparently not the response most prime time viewers were looking for as an answer to that question.

I don’t follow all the contemporary writers and producers who jumped on board to showcase ‘Glambert’ on this album, but I appreciate the sheer energy and enthusiasm (and hooks) they brought to the project.  I haven’t done the disco scene in many years, but this disco-rock-infused extravaganza will keep the clubs pumping for weeks to come.  And isn’t that what was really really wanted from him?

Someday, maybe when he gets all his ya yas out, and his shock rebel streak out, we’ll get that beautiful vocal album that his fantastic cover of “Mad World” hinted at. But you’ll find nothing remotely subtle here. Either get into it, or get over it.

— A. Wayne Carter

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M-m-my generation

Friday, September 4th, 2009

If you were alive during the Vietnam war, or you ever had to register for the draft, or you just had generational conflicts with your old man, please listen to this Bruce Springsteen live track (it’s an audio-only video, go figure). I saw this concert on his 1985 tour at the L.A. Coliseum and I heard him tell this story. And I wept. I never had a conflict with my father as dramatic as this one, but I can relate to the indirect way a father from a less emotionally open generation can reveal his love for his son.

 

Concerts (I can still remember)

10,000 Maniacs – Wiltern Theatre, L.A., 1987 (In My Tribe tour)

Aerosmith – Miami Concert Hall, Miami, 1973 (Walk This Way tour)

Allman Brothers – Hollywood Bowl, L.A., 1990

America – WMMO Festival, Orlando, 1994

Amratrading, Joan – L.A. Amphitheatre, 1986

Beach Boys – Washington Monument Independence Day, D.C., 1969

Beach Boys – Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA, 1982

Beck, Jeff – L.A. Forum, 1983 (A.R.M.S. Concert)

Bee Gees – Miami Jai Lai Fronton, Miami, 1976

Berry, John – Orlando, 1995

Blunt, James – House of Blues, Orlando, 2007

Brooks, Garth – L.A. Amphitheatre, L.A., 1987

Browne, Jackson – Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, L.A., 1984

Buffet, Jimmy – University of Miami Student Union Patio, Miami, 1974

Byrds, The – Roxy Theatre, L.A., 1982 (Reunion Concert)

Carpenter, Mary-Chapin – T.D. Waterhouse, Orlando, 2002

Cecilio & Kapono – Maui Fairgrounds, Hawaii, 1978

Clapton, Eric, Los Angeles Forum, 1983 (A.R.M.S. Concert)

Cocker, Joe – Newport Beach Amphitheatre, California, 1988

Collective Soul – House of Blues, Orlando, 2005

Cooder, Ry (plus David Lindley), Santa Monica Civic, L.A., 1984

Cowboy Junkies – Club Lingerie, L.A., 1987 (Trinity tour)

Cowboy Junkies – House of Blues, Orlando, 1997

Crosby, David – Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, L.A., 1984

Crowded House – The Hollywood Palace, L.A., 1990

Crowded House – Hard Rock Live, Orlando, FL, 2010

Dee, Kiki (with Elton John) – Roxy Theatre, L.A. 1980

Diddley, Bo – Santa Monica Pier, CA, 1988

Eagles – Tampa Stadium, FL, 1976 (Bicentennial Concert)

Eagles – Capital Centre, Washington, D.C., 1975

Eagles – Amway Center, Orlando, FL, 2010

Egan, Walter – Ford Theatre, L.A., 1988

Electric Light Orchestra – U. of Miami Student Union Patio, 1974

Fab Four (Beatles recreation concert) – Plaza Theater, Orlando, 2009

Finn, Neil – House of Blues, Orlando, 2001

Fleetwood Mac – Tampa Stadium, 1976 (Bicentennial Concert)

Fogelberg, Dan – Irvine Meadows, L.A., 1989

Fogerty, John – House of Blues, Orlando, 2005

Foreigner – Ontario Speedway, California, 1980 (Cal Jam II)

Frampton, Peter – U. of Miami Student Union Patio, 1974

Frampton, Peter – Miami Baseball Stadium, 1976 (Comes Alive tour)

Frampton, Peter – L.A. Variety Arts Club, 1990

Frampton, Peter – Church Street Station, Orlando, 2005

Gibb, Andy – Roxy Theatre, L.A., 1983

Grateful Dead – Mountainview Amphitheatre, San Jose, 1988

Gross, Henry – Miami Concert Hall, 1973

Guns N’ Roses – L.A. Coliseum, 1989

Guy, Buddy – Shoreham Amphitheatre, Ft. Myers, Florida, 1994

Haynes, Warren – Hollywood Bowl, L.A., 1988Healy, Jeff – Mountanview Amphitheatre, CA, 1988

Heart – Ontario Speedway, California, 1980 (Cal Jam II)

Hillman, Chris – McCabe’s Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, CA, 1987

Hooker, John Lee – L.A. Forum, 1983 (A.R.M.S. Concert)

Indigo Girls – Roxy Theatre, L.A., 1989 (2x)

Isaak, Chris – Anti-Club, L.A., 1990

James, Etta – Newport Beach Amphitheatre, CA, 1988

Jefferson Starship – Lahaina Civic Center, Maui, Hawaii, 1984

Jethro Tull – Miami Jai Alai Fronton, 1973 (Passion Play tour)

Joel, Billy – U. of Miami Student Union Patio, 1973 (Turnstiles tour)

John, Elton – Universal Amphitheatre, L.A., 1979 (21 at 33 tour) (2x)

John, Elton – Universal Amphitheatre, L.A., 1980 (The Fox tour)

John, Elton – Irvine Meadows, California, 1982 (Jump Up tour)

John, Elton – Los Angeles Forum, L.A., 1984 (Breaking Hearts tour)

John, Elton – Hollywood Bowl, L.A., 1985 (Ice on Fire tour)

John, Elton – Sunrise Theatre, Ft. Lauderdale, 1994 (Acoustic tour)

John, Elton – T. D. Waterhouse, Orlando, 2001 (One Night Only tour)

John, Elton – UCF Arena, Orlando, 2007

Judds, The – Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, 1989

Ketchum, Hal – Greune Hall, Greune, Texas, 1994

Ketchum, Hal – Lee County Civic Auditorium, Florida, 1995

K.C. & the Sunshine Band – Pete & Lenny’s, Ft. Lauderdale, 1978

King, B.B. – Newport Beach Amphitheatre, CA, 1988

King, B.B. – Shoreham Auditorium, Cape Coral, Florida, 1995

King Sunny Ade – Music Machine, L.A. – 1983

Kinks, The – Irvine Meadows, California, 1987

Krieger, Robby (the Doors), San Pedro, CA, 1988

Level 42 – L.A. Amphitheatre, 1985

Lofgren, Neils – Roxy Theatre, L.A., 1980

Loggins, Kenny – L.A. Amphitheatre, 1986

Loggins & Messina – Tampa Stadium, Florida, 1976

Loveless, Patty – Cape Coral Yacht Club, Florida, 1994

Manchester, Melissa – Miami Concert Hall, 1973

Marley, Ziggy – Hollywood Palladium, L.A., 1990

Mavericks – T.D. Waterhouse, Orlando 2001

Mayall, John – La Zona Rosa, Austin, Texas, 1994

McKee, Maria (Lone Justice) – Club Lingerie, L.A., 1991

Mellencamp, John – L. A. Forum, 1987

Moody Blues – L.A. Forum, 1983

Moody Blues – Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, FL, 2016 (front row with son and namesake Justin)

Nicks, Stevie – Ford Amphitheatre, L.A., 1988

Nugent, Ted – Ontario Speedway, CA (Cal Jam II), 1980

Obey, Commander Ebenezor – Music Machine, L.A., 1984

Orleans – WMMO Festival, Orlando, 1995

Ozomatli – House of Blues, Orlando, 2004

Pablo Cruise – Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA, 1982

Page, Jimmy – L.A. Forum, 1983 (A.R.M.S. Concert)

pink floyd l.a. sports arenaPink Floyd – Columbia Amphitheatre, Maryland, 1973 (Dark Side tour)

Pink Floyd – L.A. Sports Arena, 1980 (The Wall tour)

Prince – L.A. Coliseum, 1989

Raitt, Bonnie – Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, CA, 1984

Rolling Stones – L.A. Coliseum, 1981 (Tattoo You tour)

Rolling Stones – L.A. Coliseum, 1989 (Steel Wheels tour)

Ronstadt, Linda – Capital Centre, Maryland, 1977

Santana – Ontario, California, 1980 (Cal Jam II)

Simon, Paul – Irvine Meadows, 1990 (Graceland tour)

Simply Red – Club Lingerie, L.A., 1990

Springfield, Rick – Club Max, Miami, 1974 (Comic Book Heroes tour)

Springsteen, Bruce – Calabasas, L.A., 1978 (w/Gary Busey/Holly)

Springsteen, Bruce – L.A. Coliseum, 1985 (Born in the U.S.A. tour)

Stills, Stephen – U. of Miami Rathskeller, 1975

Thorogood, George – L.A. Coliseum, 1981

Trammps, The – Pete & Lenny’s, Ft. Lauderdale, 1978

Tritt, Travis – Lee County Auditorium, Florida, 1994

Trower, Robin – Tampa Stadium, Florida, 1976

Uriah Heep – Miami Fairgrounds, 1973

Vaughn, Stevie Ray – Newport Beach, CA, 1988 (2 days before death)

Who, The – Miami Baseball Stadium, Miami, 1973 (Quadrophenia tour)

Who, The – L.A. Forum, 1980 (Who Are You tour)

Who, The – Amway Center, Orlando, FL , 2012 (Quadrophenia tour)

Williams Brothers – Café Largo, L.A., 1988

Winter, Johnny – Newport Beach Amphitheatre, CA, 1988

Winwood, Steve – L.A. Forum, 1983, (A.R.M.S Concert)

Winwood, Steve – L.A. Amphitheatre, 1985

Wynonna – Babara Mann Theatre, Cape Coral, Florida, 2004

X – Club 88, 1982

Yearwood, Trisha – L.A. Amphitheatre, 1990 (with Garth Brooks)

Zappa, Frank – U. of Miami Student Union Patio, Florida, 1974

— A. Wayne Carter

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I blog, therefore I Am

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

theman.jpg

Another blog? Ho hum.

The world needs another blog like the Octomom needs more sperm.

What could I possibly say or write that 50 million other mental masturbators out there haven’t already ejaculated into the blogosphere?

Well, for one thing, I’m a professional … Writer, that is, not jerk-off. I actually get paid for my words, and have since I was about 15. I’m not going to bore you with my resume, but I’ve sold short stories and features to national magazines, humor columns to newspapers, screenplays to major Hollywood studios, teleplays and pilots to television and cable networks, copy to national ad agencies, instructional videos to corporations, and jokes to comedians. I wish I had a good one to explain why I’m doing this for free.

Everyone has their own reason for suddenly deciding their opinion needs to be heard and their blog needs to be read, even if no one is actually listening or reading.

Here’s mine: Commit to the blog or be committed.

That’s right. I’m committing myself to writing this blog to keep from going insane.

And what’s driving me crazy? I mean, besides being blogged to death by all the other bloggin’ buggers out there from Betsy blogging on behalf her adorable little Shih Tzu to Bubba’s angry, incontinent grandpa hating on Obama? Well, to be honest, it’s not really them. It’s me. Not writing … Not writing what I want.

Professional writers need to play, too. They obviously can’t always do it on the day job.

So, welcome to my night brain gig. It can often be a risky place filled with dangerous ideas (but nothing that Homeland Security would want to track me or you about, I promise). It might stir you up, or just piss you off. It might make you laugh out loud, or sigh with a secretive, shared nod or knowing bliss. It might enlighten you. It might even enlighten me. God, I hope so. We could all use some.

The one thing I will promise is that my indelicate blog on our mutual addiction to our media culture will not bore you. Because you are now a part of it; and boredom is in the mind of the beholder, or, at least, the non-Poster.

I have one simple rule: No hate. There’s enough of that on the blogosphere already. We can mock, we can parody, we can scoff, we can ridicule (including this blog), but we must avoid hate and anger. Because hate and anger are also powerful addictions, and ones that will consume and destroy you much faster than any other target you ever direct them toward. So get over them.

What’s your latest addiction? Welcome our group therapy. It starts right here. Now.

— A. Wayne Carter

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