Sparks

My sixteen year-old, ever curious about music and especially my strange tastes in it, wandered into my lair when “Angst in my Pants” was playing and asked me to describe the 80’s dance band Sparks.

“Cross Cheap Trick with Laurel and Hardy,” I told him, “and drop them into the San Fernando Valley in 1979.”

He grinned.

Lord love the kid, he gets it.

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Grosse Pointe Blank Slate

As I rip the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack CD – which is worth buying for all kinds of reasons – I find myself playing one song over and over: Pete Townsend’s only-available-here version of “Let My Love Open the Door.”

This rendition is a down-tempo, almost coffeehouse version of the ’80s pop standard that played during the most quietly electric moment of the movie. Martin and Debi are at the Grosse Pointe High School reunion, sitting in the balcony alone, leaning on the rail, and looking into each others eyes. At that moment, they stop being the hard-as-nails DJ and the battle-weary assassin, her bitterness and his confusion evaporate, and they’re in love again in a way that you can only be in love at eighteen. She’s his world, and he’s hers.

The song floats and soars, the keyboards giving it an almost supernal quality. Then, about halfway through, Townsend does something subversive – he weaves the iconic chords of “Teenage Wasteland” into the song, giving it an emotional connection with the torment of maturing that the original lacked. We listen, and we, with Martin and Debi, are now doing what we all do – we are hearing those same songs that we heard then, but now they are different because we are different. And yet, fundamentally, the song, and we, are the same.

Townsend, composer Joe Strummer (of The Clash) and Cusack (the clear creative force behind the film) are, in a single song, delivering the message of the movie. You can go home. You can reconnect with your youth without getting sucked into the butterscotch pit of dewy-eyed nostalgia or maudlin regrets. The moment of re-connection brings to an older, more jaded, more wounded heart the essence of what was wonderful and shitty and pure and debased about being young, and in the process becomes a healing that makes us more whole.

Listen to it in a dark room, with a candle burning and your high school yearbooks open.

Dark Swift

“Boys only want love when it’s torture.”

Taylor Swift.

Oh, Taylor. You have so much to learn.

Seriously, though, in one song, America’s reigning queen of pop has given us a teeny-tiny window into her dark side. The question that vexes me is, will she keep hiding it? Or will she just let go in a musical atomic blast of anger and vituperation?

Forgive me. I’m praying for the latter.

 

Note: When I’m not a fan (updated)

For the record, when I say in this forum that “I am not a fan” of an artist, that does not always mean to cast aspersions on the skill or talent of that artist.

Case in point: I am not a fan of the Rolling Stones, and with all respect to Jagger & Co., you couldn’t pay me enough to sit through one of their concerts. I recognize that they are talented. I acknowledge they had an impact on a generation of music. Unfortunately, neither they nor their music ever connected with me.

(My elder sister, twelve years my senior, believes this to be a generational issue. She’s wrong: if my age was the cause of my Stones issue, how to explain my love of The Who, Frank Sinatra, and Benny Goodman?)

Talent does not mean connection. We too often interpret in others a failure to appreciate the work of an artist we like as an aesthetic failing, a fundamental flaw in their world view that prevents them from really seeing the work.

But if I have learned one thing at this early stage of my swim in a deepening sea of art and literature, it is the truism that no creation is objective. We bring our experiences, our fears, our subjective values to a work. And that is where the magic takes place. Art is not what happens on a page. Art is what happens when creation and perception collide.

Is the Lincoln Center too large?

And this may prove in the long run to be Lincoln Center’s legacy: It has had a paralyzing effect on the capacity for innovation of the fine-arts groups that once gathered together so hopefully under its outsized umbrella.

via “Article Lincoln Center’s Dark Legacy
Terry Teachout
Commentary
July 1, 2015

A quiet testimonial, perhaps, to the idea that the New York arts scene – like the Lincoln Center itself – may have grown so large that meaningful innovation and aesthetic breakthroughs are crushed.

Ziggy Socky, Baby

Bill “The Fox” Foster is long gone but still mourned. Those of you who made the trek to his smoky little pub at Wilshire on the Santa Monica city line will remember his weekly performances as a distinctly American version of Octoberfest: beer, raunchy songs, and unrestrained testosterone.

If Fox were working today, he would probably be the subject of an angry documentary made by some earnest UCLA Sociology grad students incensed by his apparent advocacy of alcoholism and misogyny. Fortunately, Fox was spared by fate from such ignominy, yet many of us who remember him (and his wife, who ran the joint with an iron hand) yearn for a place where, for a couple of hours a week, it is okay just to be a guy with other guys.

My fellow flack Sid Robinson has a superb post on his site, a personal eulogy of sorts both to The Fox and his eponymous SaMo landmark, The Fox Inn. Read it and remember.