Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Albert King - 1980

I dig Albert King soooo much! I love Freddie and BB, to, but Albert is my fave. Once I saw Albert in concert. It was in 1980 and amazingly here in Topeka. It was at the older exposition hall at the fairgrounds. There was room for over 500 but there were only about 200 people there. The acoustics were terrible. Worst of all, there were a dozen Shawnee County deputies fully armed and with billy clubs and teargas there and I think they must have been selected for duty based on their size! The audience was mostly middle aged and older black folks. The only white people there were me and Cindy and Carl "Crazy Legs" Palmer and Janice. This was back when Carl could really dance like James Brown which the crowd loved. Problem is, every time anybody tried to get up and dance these deputies would form a line in front of the stage and glare at the audience. It was intimidating. Albert even commented from the stage but in muted language. It was a shame that the only time I ever saw Albert King in person was under conditions that were far from conducive to celebration. This was probably the last time I ever saw those old-fashioned "telephone pole" gig posters. I still have one.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

BABYMETAL = "Three Dog Night Minus One" or "Peter, Paul But Not Mary"

I've never attended a concert that was immediately followed by widespread disappointment expressed online.  We saw Babymetal at the Uptown Theater last night, May 8, 2018, in Kansas City, Missouri.  The place was packed full and the anticipation was jubilant.

1.)  For me:
     A.) It was the first "metal" concert I've ever attended.
     B.) It was the first time I've ever seen a band from Japan.
     C.) It was the first time I've even seen a rock concert where choreography was a key element. 
     D.) I wore ear plugs plus my headphone ear cover, the one I use while mowing grass. I'm sure it reduced the volume by 50 decibels and was very necessary.  Still, the throbbing of the bass sounds bounced off my chest and cause my teeth to vibrate, so I'm certain it was an unhealthy environment for me.  No effect on my permanent vertigo so far.  No increase in lifelong tinnitus. (I have Meniere's Disease and going to loud concerts is something I have not done for over a decade.)

2.) Points of explanation:
     A.)  Babymetal is a trio of young ladies. 
          1.) The lead singer is Suzuka Nakamoto (Su-metal). She is 20 years old (as of this writing) and taller than the other two.  She was the center of the show last night.  At previous concerts she would occasionally leave the stage while the other girls would sing as a duo.  At other times all three would take a break as the band, the Kami (spirit or ghost) Band would come forward and play instrumentals.  Not so last night.  She carried the whole show.    
          2.)  Yui Mizuno (Yui-Metal) is one of the two younger and shorter girls who perform backing vocals for Su-metal and do synchronized dancing with partner Moametal.  She is 18 years old.    
          3.) Moa Kikuchi (Moametal) is 18 years old. She performs as a duo with Yui-Metal.
      B.) The Kami band is their hugely loved and respected band.  One its two guitar players, Mikio Fujioka, died from injuries in Japan in January 2018 after falling over a railing on the roof of building. The personnel on the current tour is not fully known at this time.  The band members wear face paint and white floor length robes to make them look like ghosts, which can make them somewhat unrecognizable facially. The bass player was definitely the same.
     C.) The performance in Kansas City on May 8 was the first of an eight city tour of the Southeastern United States where the band has never toured before.  Previously, Babymetal has headlined their own shows in New York and Los Angeles and has performed at a few outdoor metal rock festivals in the U. S. and Canada.  Babymetal has also played as the warm-up act for Lady Gaga and Korn.  Almost all of these shows were in the Western states.
     D.) In the days leading up to this tour there has been a number of press releases from the band's management.    
           1.) There had been reports that Babymetal would be the subject of a comic book.  The latest news is that this will be a 144 page graphic novel and will be published in October, including an edition published in the United States.    
          2.) Babymetal has started a line of fashion wear for young ladies, beyond the t-shirts sold at concerts.    
          3.) Babymetal is starting a record label in the U.S.
          4.) Babymetal released a new song and video the day before the tour.  None of the members of Babymetal appear in the video.
          5.) Now here is where everything gets confusing.  Babymetal has always operated with a fictional back story about how they are three spirits chosen by the Fox God (which is an ancient character from Japanese folklore and is interesting to read about).  And as these spirits sing and dance their way through the cosmos, each new concert tour and album represent a new chapter in their saga, very much like the chapters of the Star Wars saga. The new chapters are even introduced with a narration complete with tilted type scrolling upward on screens just like Star Wars, telling their symbolic stories (which I think are rather corny).  The latest chapter has included this row of human figures draped from head to toe in shrouds, sometimes seven of them, sometimes eight, sometimes ten, almost like they were undecided how many there ought to be.  Who these characters are and what they are supposed to be was never explained and it made the fans nervous, fearing it was a hint of personnel changes.
     E.) So, with all that has been announced about Babymetal in the last week, absolutely nothing was said that Yui-metal was apparently no longer in the group.  She missed two performances in Hiroshima in December and that raised yellow flags among fans.  At these shows in Hiroshima it was announced in advance that she was ill. An open and honest explanation like this from Babymetal is rare, instead of crafting a chapter in the back story. Finally, the group's management released a short statement that Yui-metal is still a member of the group...and nothing else.

3.) Reaction to first performance on this U. S. tour:
     A.) There was no appearance or mention of Yui-metal (and it may well be that they choose not to discuss personnel onstage and that's OK)
     B.) There was no tribute the passing of guitarist Mikio Fujioka (ditto).
     C.) There were two additional dancers who appeared onstage throughout.  They did not sing. Whether or not they are considered part of Babymetal or just as dancers appeared unclear.
     D.) Moametal's singing and dancing was minimal and looked awkward like they couldn't figure out where to put her.
     E.) There were so many lights flashing and strobing from the back of the stage toward the audience it obstructed a clear view of the performers.  That was the effect.  I do not know if this was intentional to further detract from the absence of Yui-metal.
     F.)  After one hour a white curtain was quickly lowered and a video was screened on it.  I actually thought it was an intermission, but, no, it was the end of the show.  The audience had no opportunity to applaud the group or request an encore, unlike previous concerts as shown on the groups DVDs. It felt like a quick abrupt ending to prevent the audience from giving a tepid or negative reaction.

Just everything looked and felt awkward and clumsy.  Granted, it was the first public performance of the new Babymetal show, so there is that to consider.  The internet exploded immediately. Reactions were stunned, disappointment, confusion, and some anger. Some fans were determined to cheerfully accept whatever the new Babymetal show had to offer.  I think everyone was taken off guard.

I was disappointed.  I hope I don't experience anything like this again.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

"Saturday Night Live" is similar to team sports, sometimes you win, sometimes you loose. The fun is watching them try.

"Saturday Night Live" is like team sports. Every time a team goes on a playing field, they give it their best, sometimes they win, sometimes they loose, and they do it front of everyone, the spectators at the stadium and the people watching on TV. SNL is unique in that it is the only live comedy sketch program on American television. They have no benefit of repeated takes and post production editing. Again, just like sports, they go on stage, give it their best, in front of a studio audience and a TV audience. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don't. Again just like sports the cast gradually changes over time like teams do. Some years the team members are better than other years and a few members are standouts. Loyal fans of specific sports teams hang in there year after year and share the joys of victory when they happen. I think "Saturday Night Live" deserves similar support from its viewers. I think half the fun is watching talented young people going on stage and giving it a try. That kind of courage (or gall!) is also fun to watch.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Gene Vincent at the Cavern in Liverpool

Mike McCartney took some amazing photographs at the Cavern in Liverpool in the early 1960s, including a few memorable pics of John, Paul, George, Pete, and Gene Vincent.  But I’d never seen this one until a month ago.  Rock ’n’ roll had literally gone underground as this picture shows, incubating until it was ready for a rebirth.  The flame flickered in this sewer turned nightclub.  And there he is, the Screaming End, Mr. Wildcat, the Be-Bop-a-Lula kid, Gene Vincent delicately holding the candle.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sun Records history by Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins

Between 1975 and 1991 there have been three editions published of the history of Sun Records by Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins.  The first edition was published only in the UK.  The 1991 edition might well be the definitive edition as it has remained in print ever since and there has never been word of another revision.  The second edition was like the first book I ever had about Buddy Holly.  Neither left my side upon purchase and I would read a few pages at every opportunity.  These books were really my introduction to rockabilly music beyond the music itself.
I'd seen pictures of the first edition. Since the 1980s it was extremely rare and if I ever saw a copy for sale (maybe twice) it was just too expensive.  Last week I checked Amazon's other sellers and found two copies at very reasonable prices, one for a mere ten bucks.  I suspect these books have become so old that few people know it exists, hence the cheap price possibly due to low demand.  Well, by God it's mine now and I am glad to have it along side the two newer editions.  This is a gem in my music and book collection.

Buddy Holly biography by John Goldrosen

There have been several books written about Buddy Holly since his rescue from obscurity thanks to the 1977 biopic starring Gary Busey.  Fans of Buddy Holly are in pretty solid agreement that John Goldrosen's biography is the best.  It was the second biography of Buddy published.  My entrance to rockabilly fandom was in the late 1970s shortly before the publication of the second edition of Goldrosen's book, entitled "The Buddy Holly Story".  This second edition has a lot more in it than the first.  Nikki Sullivan, rhythm guitarist in the Crickets, had not yet been interviewed when the first edition was published.  He is quoted throughout much of the second edition.  His recollection of those years was very sharp and he was an articulate man.  I've met him personally and found this to be true.  Bill Griggs and the Buddy Holly Memorial Society make up a new chapter.  The aforementioned biopic was out by then and also warranted a chapter.  Since then the book was revised further with the addition of very helpful appendices. And it has been translated into German.

But my interest here is the first edition, entitled "Buddy Holly, His Life and Music" published in 1975 by the Bowling Green (Ohio) University Popular Press.  I never had a copy until a few days before writing this.  An autographed copy came up cheap on Amazon and I now finally have added it to my collection. When we attended the Buddy Holly Memorial Society convention in Lubbock, TX, in 1982, one of the other fans there had a copy of this first edition in hardback.  They said the hard cover edition had a very small print run.  But I am happy to have the paper cover edition.

Pictured here are, left to right, top:
"Buddy Holly, His Life and Music", 1975
same title, British edition, 1975
"The Buddy Holly Story", 1979
"Remembering Buddy, the Definitive Biography of Buddy Holly", 1987, which has remained in print.  This is the one to get if you have none.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

An Appreciation of the Yellow Submarine movie

This Simpsons staffer totally gets Yellow Submarine.  He pours his heart out about it.  Even many Beatle fans, who really ought to have known better, dismissed the Yellow Submarine motion picture as “just a cartoon”, a phrase I’ve always heard and loathed.

New visually brilliant animated cartoons started slipping out of sight as early as the 1950s.  The first (of two) closures of the Warner Brothers cartoon studios in the 1960s marked the end of an era, although Chuck Jones kept his crew together and moved to MGM where they continued to make great cartoons for a decade.  Disney became unexceptional and even more irrelevant.  UPA, Paramount, and Hanna-Barbera had seen their best days come and gone.  Local TV stations were abandoning their after school cartoon shows which limited airtime for syndicated single-episode cartoon series.  Jay Ward–Bill Scott Productions gave up making television series in the late 1960s, although they continued to make cereal commercials for another fifteen years.  It just seems so weird that with their largest potential audience ever, the baby boomers, at its peak in size the animated cartoon industry just seemed to give up.  It’s not that there was no new talent willing to come into the business.  It is because studios chose not to spend money on cartoons anymore.  For the next two decades you had two studios grinding out hours of dull, uninspired cartoons that continued to fill-up five hours on three networks on Saturday morning.  Those were Hanna-Barbera and Filmation. These two studios produced so many series they would have two of their own series on at the same time on competing networks.  They looked liked moving coloring books.

This is why I always felt that Yellow Submarine was a wonderful example of a then-dying art.  It was the death throe of a once vigorous living creature.  It was an inspiration for future generations beyond the coming Dark Age. It was a way to say goodbye.