Thursday, March 27, 2008

Kinks Reunion?

There's been a lot of murmuring lately about a possible Kinks reunion. Much of this murmuring has come directly from the head Kink himself, Ray Davies. There's a very nice article about Ray on CNN's website, here's the link to it:

So, will the reunion actually happen or not? I've been hearing rumors ever since I became a dedicated follower of the Kinks in 2006. And in reading a book about the Kinks, (called "The Kinks") I discovered that Ray has been essentially saying the same thing about a possible reunion since at least 2001-2002. Which begs the question, is this just a ploy of Ray's for more publicity? Since Ray must know in his heart of hearts that he alone will never be able to generate the publicity that "The Kinks" name generates, (he must be the least famous frontman in all of rock and roll) he keeps bringing up the subject, while he knows full well it will never happen. That's the cynical viewpoint, anyway. I'm all for Ray getting all the publicity he can get, since I don't think it's possible for the Kinks to ever become overrated, since they're about the most underrated band in the history of the world. But I do wonder if a Kinks reunion is actually feasible. Dave Davies hasn't performed live since his 2004 stroke, and I've read that original bassist Pete Quaife is on dialysis. That doesn't seem to bode well.

I would love to see the Kinks reunite, because I've never seen them live, (I've only seen Ray solo) and it would sell more of their records, and make them some more money. And in my opinion, if you're Ray and Dave, you deserve all the money you can get. I'm sure they're both doing okay financially, but my point is, the Kinks have been so underrated and undervalued for so long, if they want to take a victory lap, they deserve it. God save the Kinks!

Nick Lowe-Jesus, He's Cool!

Okay, so I finally listened to all of Nick Lowe's album Jesus of Cool, aka Pure Pop For Now People, and it's amazing! It's everything I hoped it would be. Nick is also picking up tons of good reviews, as well he should be, because this is a great album. There's a nice little piece on CNN's "Marquee Blog," here's the link to it:

Interestingly enough, Todd Leopold at CNN also references the fact that the Jesus of Cool reissue came out the same week as the 25th anniversary version of Thriller, something that Holly Hughes at "The Song In My Head Today" also mentioned. (Here's the link to Holly's blog, she's a huge Nick Lowe fan and a very astute commentator on lots of cool artists like The Kinks, Alan Price, Robyn Hitchcock, and numerous other underrated British people that I also really like.)

Now, Jesus of Cool is a very important record, even though I believe it may have sold slightly fewer copies than Thriller. (I'll have to check the exact figures.) Lowe was out to prove something to the world on his first solo album, and he does, mixing up a variety of styles to create a cocktail of powerful pop at it's finest.

From the opening song, "Music for Money," a recurring theme of the album is the music business itself. In "Shake and Pop," Nick traces the rise and fall of a band, as "the record hit the chart, and someone in the newspaper said it was art," labels court the band, but then "they cut another record, it never was a hit, and someone it the newspaper said it was shit." It's the story of many singers and bands, condensed into a three-minute single. (Harry Nilsson has a great song dealing with the same subject, "Mr. Richland's Favorite Song," from his album Aerial Ballet.) One of the bonus tracks, "Rollers Show" deals with a peculiar mid-70's phenomenon, the Scottish pop band The Bay City Rollers. It's one of the "tributes" to the Rollers that Nick recorded in a deliberate attempt to get dumped by his label just before he started cutting the songs found on Jesus of Cool. If you don't get that it's ironic, you'll wonder why Nick, of all people, would be singing the praises of a teen pop band. It's pretty funny in it's banality.

Nick also does a lovely ballad, "Tonight," which is much, much better than David Bowie's song of the same name. Oh, wait, I shouldn't say that, because Iggy Pop did a good version on his Lust for Life album, I'm thinking of Bowie's cover from his 1984 album Tonight. (It's actually a song about the guy's girlfriend dying of a heroin overdose, but Bowie cut out the spoken intro and turned it into a banal ditty.) Anyway, speaking of Bowie, his influence is also felt on Nick's biggest UK single, the Top Ten hit, "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass." Bowie had a song on his 1977 album Low called "Breaking Glass," and I can't help but think that Nick was at least a little influenced, especially because Nick's song is so different from anything else on the album, and it sounds more than a little Bowie-esque. And we know that Nick was paying attention to Bowie's Low album because he released an EP later in 1977 called Bowi. Clever lad, that Nick. (Look for the cover in the fold-out of the CD; the lettering on Nick's EP is in the same font as on David's LP.)

Jesus of Cool is full of great little moments, like Nick's cover of Jim Ford's "36 Inches High." I have no idea what the song means, but I love the feel of it, the organ riff and Nick's close-miked vocal. And the black humor of "Marie Provost," the tale of a fallen movie star who "was a winner, but became the doggie's dinner." The song is actually based on the true story of an actress named Marie Prevost. (Nick changed the spelling.) And then there's his high-octane songs "So It Goes" and "Heart of the City," recorded with Nick on guitars and bass and Steve Goulding on drums. It's all great, all 21 tracks on the Yep Roc reissue, plus 2 more bonus cuts available on their website after you buy the album. Plus, the packaging is fantastic, you get all kinds of bonus pictures from the cover photo session, which cleverly showed Nick in many different guises, and with many different guitars.

So that's my plug for Nick Lowe and his brilliance. Go out and buy Jesus of Cool. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, March 3, 2008

House of the Prisoner 2

I was watching an old episode of House on the USA network this weekend, and there were 2 interesting similarities to the 1960's TV show The Prisoner. (For more connections between the 2 shows, see my earlier post "House of the Prisoner.") In this episode, House was wearing a turtleneck, similar to what Number 6 often wore on The Prisoner, which made Hugh Laurie look even more like Patrick McGoohan. Okay, so that's maybe not that interesting...but the next point is. House is "teaching" some medical students because he's avoiding working in the clinic, and they're asking him all these questions that he finds exasperating. He answers one of their questions with, "That would be telling," familiar to Prisoner fans as one of Number 2's favorite sayings. It's even in the dialogue that precedes every show.

Number 6: "Whose side are you on?"
Number 2: "That would be telling."

So, deliberate homage or just a coincidence? Well, that would be telling, wouldn't it?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

More Burt Lancaster

There's another really fine article about Burt Lancaster from a UK publication, this time it's the Independent newspaper. There's a retrospective of his films in London, here's the link to the article:

This article touches on the contradictions inherent in both Lancaster's on-screen roles and his off-screen life. There's also a wonderful quote from Burt about his desire to not be typecast. "If you look back on my career, you'll see I never got stuck in a mould. Even when I was beginning, I was always trying to find ways to refine my talent and do something different," Lancaster once said. "Once the public decide what you are you might as well give up trying to be anything else." This quote emphasizes the point I made in my last entry about Lancaster. Anyway, it's a fine article about a great actor, read it and then go out and rent Sweet Smell of Success or The Swimmer or Elmer Gantry.

The picture of Burt that the Independent used to go along with this article shows the scars that he had on his left cheek. I assume that they are pockmarks from acne, but I don't know for sure. Anyone out there know? I like that he didn't hide them, it just gives his face more character. Next time you see a Gene Kelly movie, look for his scar on his left cheek. Next time you see a Kevin Spacey movie, look for his scar on his right cheek. Next time you see a Richard Burton movie, look for his acne scars on his right cheek. Next time you see a Gregory Peck movie, look for his different-sized ears. I'm not making this up! I didn't believe it when I read about Gregory's ears, but it's true. One studio even rejected his screen test because of his ears! (Note to the studio, I don't think women cared about his ears.) Last obscure Hollywood tidbit, Laurence Olivier had a scar on his upper lip from an accident on the set of Henry V (1945), he often grew a moustache to hide it.