Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
"There's this guy I met recently whose musical impulses otherwise seem pretty good, Sinatra, Ella et al, but his favorite singer is. . .Eyewwww---Liza Minnelli! He just saw her perform four nights in a row at the Palace and---get this!---he's STRAIGHT." "Not anymore," said David. "Not after seeing Liza four nights in a row, he‘s not." (rimshot) I guess David is right. The last time I saw (let‘s call him) “Jasper,” he was divorced (separated?) and keeping company with the nelliest brain surgeon you ever laid eyes on. Not that there's anything wrong with nelly, but I just hope the guy can at least control his grand gestures in the operating room.
One time, ummmm, Jasper was booked on a segment of Phil Donohue, "The Heartbreak of Straight Men Who Love Liza," but he was bumped at the last minute when the producer caught him making out in the Green Room with another guy. (That's a joke, son.)
But I digress (as is my wont). Not that Michael Bublé needs my support. and he's not getting all that much either, considering the grotesquely high ticket prices they're charging to see him live. I'm convinced that his handlers know that he's more or less a flash in the pan. Grabbing all the gelt while they can. Maybe when he's someday reduced to doing the entre acte at the dogfights in Tijuana, Jasper and his ilk will come around.
Michael Bublé is not trying to channel Frank Sinatra. Not at all. Much closer to Bobby Darin . . .if anyone. And sooooo, whenever I hear someone compare him directly to F.S., my feeling is that they simply have no grounding for saying anything negative OR positive about Bublé. ("School of Sinatra," okay). Take another listen, pal.
I can understand how the Bublé killer lounge act can get on some purists' nerves, but quite frankly, that is what has finally allowed him to become literally the largest selling record act in the world. A small price to pay.
I also like Bublé the quasi rocker. Check out his “Stuck in the Middle With You” on the recent maxi-single, “A Taste of Buble.” So pulsatingly HOT that you'll need revival with smelling salts after listening to it. I do believe that there is a quantifiable quality that has come to be called swing. It can be proven by hooking singers up to a (not yet patented) device of my invention. I've not had a chance to do this yet with Bublé (he's always "too busy"), but I'm more than certain he possesses it in spades. Just listen!
On “Taste of Bublé,” there's also a breathtakingly beautiful “I’ve Got a Crush on You," backed by quartet, with a “Moonlight Serenade” sax counter melody. Breathes new life into the old warhouse.
I'm convinced that the fact that Bublé was raised strictly on standards is a major contributing factor to his musical credibility. Not that there's anything wrong with rock---yeah, sure---but if that's the first musical sounds you ever heard, that pretty much cancels out your ever being able credibly interpret the music of---if you will---an earlier era. Too much pre-adolescent, rhythmically monotonous damage to one's musical DNA. But not necessarily vice versa. To wit, I'm also somewhat fond of Bublé's faux Motown-ish stuff as well.
Bublé has this rattle in his lower register that I've never heard in any other singer. I just KNOW he's a secret smoker.
Friday, July 18, 2008
He now lives in Vegas and about ten years ago received a phone call from Luciano Pavarotti's office requesting him to be the sole entertainer at L.P.'s birthday party in New York City.
"Why me?," Mr. X asked. "I've never even met the man."
"Oh, but he knows you. He's a big fan of yours. He used to come by. sit in the back, and see you perform often when you appeared at [such and such a club] in New York."
"Well, I don't live in New York anymore."
"That's alright. We'll fly you in."
And that is EXACTLY what happened. He was flown to New York and performed an hour-long show for Pavarotti, who afterward grabbed him by the shoulders and exclaimed, "MAESTRO!" I feel fully as enthusiastic toward this entertainer as did Luciano Pavarotti. Just listen to this guy play and sing! "Maestro," indeed.
I remember my friend Nat Shapiro (apochryphally??) telling me one time that the sound of Stafford's recorded voice in song possessed the seemingly MIRACULOUS ability to ofttimes bring brain-damaged GIs back to consciousness in military hospitals during WWII. The routine became standard operating recovery procedure, he said. (St. Jo?)
I ran into Stafford's musician son, Tim Weston, at a party a few years back. I quoted something that his mother had said to me in an interview about the innocuousness and disposability of most rock music. To wit:
"When the Presleys and other first, popular, legend-in-their-own-time performers started to come along it was the first time in the U.S. where a ten-year-old had enough money to influence something to the extent that they did. So when you've got a ten-year-old picking the music it's going to be pretty simple. Just above the level of a nursery rhyme. The other music is too sophisticated for young ears. I'm not being judgmental at all; it's a simple statement of fact that that's the first time kids had enough money to influence a market and they did."
I couldn't have agreed more, and I told Weston so. He, at once, became engagingly argumentative with me. He couldn't have disagreed with "Mom" and me more. Before the back-and-forth between us was over I felt the two of us were replaying a scene that might have taken place between a teenaged Tim and his mother (with me taking the role of Stafford) back in the Sixties. But all very civil and amiable.
I can't emphasis too strongly how brilliant I still feel Stafford's comments on rock to've been. Many other remarks about music made by Stafford and her husband Paul Weston in the interview I conducted with were, in my opinion, of equally strong import. (Though ---LOL---I'm not so certain Tim Weston would agree.) Eventually, however, Stafford must've made some impression on him. Tim Weston started out as a standard issue Beverly Hills boy band rock guitarist before gradually gravitating more and more toward the field of jazz. He produced the terrific "Jazz Portrait of Brian Wilson" CD, among many other fine recordings, including some for the wonderful singer Shelby Flint who has been his partner for the past couple of decades.
One time Paul Weston sent me a recording of his and Stafford's daughter Amy, a professional singer. It struck me as uncanny how similar to her mother she naturally sounded. It would fool some? many? most? all? in a blindfold test?
My condolences to Tim, Amy and their families.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The great singer Jo Stafford died at age ninety at her L.A. home yesterday. In my journalistic tenure at the L.A. Herald-Examiner, the L.A. Reader, the S.F. Examiner, Rolling Stone, etc. I interviewed a lot of biggies (no names puh-leese), but the only two who ever totally knocked me out were husband-and-wife (bandleader) Paul Weston and Jo Stafford!
I spent an afternoon at their Century City (L.A.) condo. The result of my conversation with them appeared in the L.A. Reader back in 19-ought-whatever. Most of that article was eventually recycled into another interview I conducted with Stafford some years later in 1999, after the death of Weston, for the on-line mag Songbirds.
From everything I could determine from the relative distance of my journalist-fan perch, Stafford must've led something approaching a near-perfect existence. A great artistic career from which she walked away in the late sixties at an optimum time (while the getting was still good), a long happy marriage, two loving and accomplished offspring, good health, and an enduring fan base that reminded her on an ongoing basis of just how much she meant to them.
In a less barbarous clime, flags would be flown at half-staff.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Finally, I think I would rather even play Russian Roulette than phone tag; thus, I've decided that I will never again speak into a telephone answering machine. Once upon a time---the before time, that is---three things happened when you dialed a phone number, i.e. it would be busy (signaling that the party to whom you wished to speak was not there and you could try again later), or else it would ring and ring and ring (you do the math), OR someone on the other end would pick up. I am getting just get so friggin tired of starting out my day making at least a half-dozen calls before a real, live human being answers and NOT a machine.
AND, there's the additional problem of unreturned phone calls even after one has left a message. (You know the old saying, "He who ends the day with the most unreturned phone calls wins.")
AND THEN, when you pile on top of that the way people use cell phones as a cudgel against organizing their day. ("I'm running late. . ..") is it any wonder that this nation (the U.S.) has most likely gone into what appears to be---as physicists term it---a "skid," i.e. a state of irreversible out-of-controlness.
There was a time not so long ago when email seemed as if it might be at least a partial solution to some of the communication problems engendered by the answering machine. But what with the chaos caused by spam and the resultant spam filters, email is simply no longer a viable means of communication either.
I am just old enough to recall the initial era of the answering machine. At the time I thought it just about the niftiest thing to come down the pike since sliced bread. In the immortal words of Gomer Pyle: "Golleeee!" One day my rather spoiled and sheltered grandmother rang up the gas company to inquire about her bill. She dialed, waited a beat, then threw the phone across the room. "They answered my call with a record player," she screamed. At the time, all I could think was 'Get with the program old lady.' Now I can see that her instincts were spot on.
And don't get me started on voice mail. Fortunately, one of the wisest women on the planet said it all for me from the stage of NYC's Walter Reade Theater in February 2006. Ladies and Germs, I give you Ms. Elaine May:
". . look how quickly we all get used to eating shit. Really, about seven years ago, if somebody had answered the phone saying,“We really value your call. Please hold on for the next hour and twenty-five minutes,” we’d have hung up. We get used to it very fast. We get used to skim milk very fast. Whole milk tastes like cream. We adapt very quickly to being treated very badly. . . To simply actually stop. I’m just taking this “Your call is important to us” thing as an example because, having visited a large corporation, some executive is getting a $100 million a year and saving money not giving some woman a job for $30,000 a year. And he says we don’t want to take the shareholders’ money. And you say, well, you pay it, deduct it. But there’s no way to enforce that. We all know that that’s true, we all know that that’s bad, and we all know that there’s something about the tiny things in life happening to you that devalues you, that lessens you, that makes you numb. You have to become more and more numb not to get offended. And pretty soon you get pretty sick. . .it seems to me, at some point what you really want to say is I won’t deal with a company that doesn’t have a real operator. For one day, I’ll make them lose that much money. For one day, I won’t go to a bookstore where the guy says, “Huh, I don’t know.” For one day I won’t say, it’s so hard. I won’t run home to a rerun of Cheers, I can’t bother with it. For one day, you’ll take the trouble to make trouble for someone else, because it’s the only thing that keeps you from getting sick, from sort of retreating. I think that’s what dumbing-down kind of is. It’s too much trouble. And there is such a thing as too much trouble."
Elaine May: A bright light shining in a bad old world.
You can't blame everything on 9/11 and George Bush. Surely some of the cause of the advanced state of alienation, disorganization. and de-evolution we find ourselves in these days lies at the feet of Mr. Willy Müller. And just who might he be?, you ask. None other than the evil scientist who invented the first automatic answering machine in 1935. Après Willy le déluge.
If you want to talk to me, you're gonna have to PICK UP.