This may be Friday Fun, if you can call it that, for us, but not so much for Brian Wilson.  A colleague asked me about some of the stuff she saw in the Brian Wilson movie, Love & Mercy.  During the course of the discussion I mentioned that she should listen to the Help Me Rhonda sessions, or more specifically, the approximately 40 minutes where Beach Boy dad and then-producer Murry Wilson spent psychologically torturing Brian during the recording session.  It’s available at the WMFU blog in two versions.  There are excerpts and then there is the full tape.  Go with the link to the full tape to appreciate the anguish Brian was feeling as the interplay moved over time.  There is nothing like it.  While your at the WFMU page, check out the four Peter Bagge cartoons, The Murry Wilson Show.  It’s a hilarious parody of the recording session.  There are links in the fourth paragraph of the text.

I’ve been involved in music for years, both from a performance and production standpoint.  As a collector, I probably have a good chunk of the unreleased history of rock music sitting in my basement.  I’ve also produced various bands and artists in the Chicago area for around the last 20 years in my own studio.  I’ll also offer an example of my production work with this song from Fank, a band I both performed with and recorded.  The song is called Need To Belong.  The track was recorded in 2005 from the last time the band ever played.  My colleague from the DePaul Law Library, Dan Ursini, is on bass.  Good times.

Mark

 

I recognize that some, especially those in Florida, may not consider this week’s Friday Fun to be fun at all.  It is for me.  As someone who has probably been to more Chicago Blackhawks games than any other form of public entertainment, I give you the 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks singing We Are The Champions shortly after winning the Cup last Monday night at the United Center.  No one will confuse the team with a quality choral group.  It doesn’t matter though.  We won the Cup.  Enjoy.

Mark

It’s not much of a secret that I like animation.  I doubt that I could live without the Cartoon Network as part of my TV package.  One of the shows that’s been on for a few years is Teen Titans Go!  It’s a comedic take off of an earlier, more serious version of the Titans.  The main characters are Robin, from Batman and Robin fame; Beast Boy, who can transform into different animals; Starfire, an alien princess from the planet Tamaran; Raven, an inter-dimensional entity fathered by the evil demon Trigon; and Cyborg, half human and half robot.  More on the show and the characters is available from the Teen Titans Wiki.  The clip below is taken from the episode Serious Business.  It’s a musical representation of what happens when one urgently needs a bathroom and it is not available.  I’ve been there.  Now I find myself quietly singing the “pee pee dance” when that happens.  Knock knock.

Mark

It’s been quite a week here for me.  It’s warm here in Chicago, for a change.  We’re in the middle of exams here at the College of Law.  The professional librarians takes turns as proctors with my turn yesterday.  The Blackhawks are working their way through the Stanley Cup playoffs (go Hawks!).  And I was off Wednesday as I spent part of the day with a friend, culminating in seeing Crosby Stills Nash at the Chicago Theatre.  It was a great venue to see them.  The seating was comfortable and the acoustics were superb.  I’d seen other shows there, most notable Van Morrison several years ago.  The  first set started with a breezy version of Carry On.  I’ll say up front that for a band (the principles, at least) having been together for 45 years that they still have it vocally and as guitarists.

Stills’ voice was a bit rough at the beginning.  He explained later in the show that he made a mistake with the room thermostat and the resulting cold affected his voice.  No matter.  The harmonies were terrific with his voice getting stronger as the show progressed.  The song selection was a combination of older “hits” and a few new songs yet to be released as recordings.  Graham Nash said it best, that they play old songs but it’s the new songs that keep them from being the Eagles.  They did perform the song Chicago as the second number.  The crowd really got into it, singing along at various times. Some of the highlight songs included Almost Cut My Hair, Wooden Ships, Déjà vu, Our House, and rousing versions of For What It’s Worth and Love The One You’re With.

The band, which Stills called the best band they had ever worked with, was great.  It featured Shane Fontayne (guitar), Steve DiStanislao (drums), Kevin McCormick (bass), James Raymond (keyboards), and Todd Caldwell (organ).  The arrangements were all much updated from what appeared on the recordings and at the same time very familiar.  Stills in particular played blistering lead guitar on most all the songs.  I don’t know how many dates are left on the U.S. tour.  I think they are headed east at this point and ultimately for shows in Europe.  If anyone is a fan and has a chance to see them on the rest of the tour, do it.  You won’t be disappointed.

I hope to be back with more regular content on Monday.

Mark

The news hit the feeds on Sunday:  Lou Reed was dead.  The news was surprising but not necessarily shocking.  Recent pictures showed Reed a bit frail at best.  He had a liver transplant not too long ago and apparently died from liver complications.  He was a unique talent who wrote unique songs.  His career began before the Velvet Underground with a band called The Primitives.  They had a minor hit in 1964 called The Ostrich featuring Reed on guitar and vocals.  He also co-wrote the song.  It’s available on YouTube.

Lou Reed’s music fit into little pockets of my life.  I had DeeJay’d at a punk bar in Chicago called LaMere Vipere in 1977.  The bar had gone punk from a gay disco.  The first song ever played in the new format was the live version of Sweet Jane from the Rock And Roll Animal album.  The second was Television’s Marquee Moon.  I arrived in New York City for the first time a few years before that.  I had taken the Broadway Express and walked out of Pennsylvania Station to a hot summer day in August.  It was 95 degrees as I headed south to the Village.  The smell of the city rose upward with the steam from the broken sidewalks.  My first thought was that I understood the music of Lou Reed much better all of a sudden.

I met Jackie Curtis at one point and we hung out for a while.  I have a 90 minute tape of one of our conversations somewhere in a box in my basement.  I asked Jackie about the reference to her in Walk On The Wild Side (“Jackie is just speeding away….).  She said she first heard the song when passing a record store that was playing it over street speakers.  She said she stopped, listened, and then she cried.  Jackie signed a matchbook from Max’s Kansas City for me.

I’ve seen Reed perform live four times, probably more than any artist.  The show that comes immediately to mind was on Thanksgiving night in 1975 at the Academy of Music.  It was billed as an evening with Lou Reed.  Was it ever!  I think it was probably the longest show in history, or at least it seemed that way to me.  I was still excited at the end of the first hour. By the time the third hour ended I wondered if the show would ever end.  My memory, hazy as it is, is that the show went on for another hour or more after that.  A review of one of his shows in the Chicago Reader said that Lou Reed had taken laid back and turned it into face down on the floor.  I knew just what they meant.

I have a lot of Reed’s music in my collection.  I think my favorite album is probably Berlin.  Rolling Stone reviewed it twice in two successive issues, calling it the best album since Sgt. Pepper and then the biggest piece of trash to ever been released.  One of my bands covered the title track in several live performances.  Others in my favorites category are Rock and Roll Heart, The Bells, Sally Can’t Dance, and Coney Island Baby.  His later stuff is good as well though I did not care much for The Raven or his collaboration with Metallica (Lulu).  My friends and I have argued about that.  But that was the music of Lou Reed.  It either grabbed you or it didn’t, and when it did, well, it really did.

Other little tidbits I remember include the first Velvet Underground “reunion” in 1972 when Reed, John Cale, and Nico performed in Paris.  The CD was released in 2004.  I have a tape of the performance from before the official release that included a hotel room rehearsal.  I don’t if Reed and Cale knew they were being taped but they said some very mean things about Nico along the way.  Speaking of mean things, John Cale would recount in one of his biographies that Reed would shoot a little too much heroin while riding around in limousines in New York.  I get the impression that Reed was lucky to be alive after some of his “experiences.”  There is also Victor Bockris’s unauthorized biography, Transformer.  The irony was that even though Reed cooperated with Bockris even though he portrayed Reed as a relatively unsympathetic character.  Such is Lou Reed.

We’ll miss you Lou though your music will live forever.  There is nothing quite like it.  Some of your music is not possible to cover since it’s so uniquely you.  In your own words, oh babe I’m going to miss you know that you’re gone, one sweet day.  I’ll end this with a video clip of one of the most unlikely and unnecessary covers of Perfect Day, one featuring Lou Reed with full orchestra in a duet with Luciano Pavarotti.  It truly is an OMG moment.

Mark

I alluded earlier in the week that I would comment from time to time on media, and that included Scooby-Doo.  Since it’s a Friday, I’m going to take that opportunity.  I’m a big fan of animation.  There are a lot of quirky shows on these days (Regular Show, Adventure Time among others).  One of the more amazing shows is Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated.  The show uses the Scooby-Doo gang and the mystery solving meme that’s existed since the late sixties.

This version of Scooby-Doo, though, goes well beyond the-monster-is-really-a-guy-in-a-rubber-mask.  The 52 episodes contain numerous subtle and not so subtle references to pop culture that makes one do a double-take at times.  Consider the casting.  One recurring character, Mister E (get it?) is voiced by comedic icon Lewis Black.  Science fiction author Harlan Ellison played himself in an episode that focused on the world of H.P. Lovecraft in extreme detail.  Udo Kier voiced the character of Professor Pericles, a super intelligent but evil parrot.  Kier has worked with many important directors and appeared in Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein among other films.  Sheriff Stone is voiced by Patrick Warburton who may be best known for playing Joe on Family Guy.

The pop culture references built into the show are both diverse and amazing.  One episode, The Battle of the Humungonauts, is an homage to the Toho Studios film The War of the Gargantuas.  Toho is the studio that brought us Godzilla and other Japanese monsters.  It even features the song “Stuck In My Throat” from that film.  Devo incorporated the song as a closer to their live act in the late 70s.  Another episode, Art Of Darkness, features artist Randy Warsaw, a parody of Andy Warhol, and a band called Sunday Around Noonish.  The song the band performs is a spot-on parody of the Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties.  It’s played twice, in fact, with Scooby-Doo replacing the Nico character when she is indisposed by a piece of animated artwork.  Sample lyric:  “And what would you do if you met a caribou?”  The Lou Reed character was the villain.  It turns out he only wanted to play Polka music.  One episode takes place in the red room from Twin Peaks.  A significant character is the dancing man who is voiced by the same actor from that show.  I can’t list everything, so I would suggest checking the Wikipedia page that details each of the episodes and references.

The story arc tells the tale of Mystery Incorporated seeking a lost treasure supposedly buried underneath their town of Crystal Cove.  In reality, the treasure is a crystal sarcophagus containing a trapped alien, identified as one of the Anunnaki, and an evil one at that.  He has manipulated mystery solving groups for the last 500 years in order to free himself at the imminent coming of Nibiru.  Velma references Zecharia Sitchin at several points in the series to explain this plot point.  Anyone who is familiar with late-night radio dealing with paranormal subjects (I’m looking at you, George Noory) will be comfortably aware of this story element.

Scooby and the gang collect artifacts throughout the episodes that lead to the ultimate confrontation with the evil alien.  Along the way we are treated to emotional relationships between members of Mystery Incorporated, underwater Nazi bases, violent ends for major characters at times, and even a little bit of parallel universe theory.  And Harlan Ellison makes another appearance at the end that neatly ties up all of the loose ends.  My reaction to this show is that one has to be at least 50 to get all of the references, and at an elevated level within the blogosphere to appreciate them.  This is definitely not your standard Scooby-Doo.

Ok, what does this have to do with libraries?  Library and archival holdings are significant plot points that move the story along.  One episode’s villain turns out to be the town librarian.  So there.  The show is out on several DVDs.  It stands up to repeat viewing.

Mark