The End?

November 28, 2012

As a kid in the ’70s and a teenager in the ’80s, I lived in that world of limited entertainment options unfathomable now.

Our small town in the hinterlands had an old movie theater and the movies of the day usually made it to the screen, but it might take a month or two.

Most of the movies that I watched were ones that I’d catch on one of our half-dozen television channels late at night or on Saturday afternoons. These were often flicks from the ’50s and ’60s and, at the conclusion of the movie, “The End” appeared on the screen.

The message might be in a block-like font or perhaps some more sweeping script.

If it was science-fiction or horror flick the notification might be accompanied by a question mark.

(of course, depending on the hour, I might have missed that exit sign, waking to a television full of snow)

At some point over the recent holiday, I watched some old movie – it might have been something on Mystery Science Theater 3000- and, at its conclusion, “The End” appeared on the screen.

Movies no longer end with “The End.” It’s straight to the credits.

(and, if you’re watching a flick on ‘TBS, the credits scroll by in a dizzying, time-compressed fashion in a fraction of the screen as the announcer is queuing up the next film – it’s like they’re rushing an unwanted house guest out the door )

At some point, during my lifetime, filmmakers no longer felt the need to inform the audience that the movie was over.

But was such a message ever necessary? Did people simply sit in the theater, confused by the credits and unsure of what to do, not knowing whether or not the characters which they’d been watching would return?

So some innovative mind invented “The End” and, from that point on, there was no confusion.

And somewhere in the last few decades, we as a species have advanced enough that, when a movie ends, we no longer need to be told.

And that’s a small step forward on the evolutionary trail that we all should feel good about.

Here are four movie songs…

Elton John – I’ve Seen That Movie Too
from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

Elton John produced a staggering amount of amazing music in the ’70s and his classic album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has a little bit of everything that made him a superstar for the ages.

It’s not difficult to picture Elton playing the resigned I’ve Seen That Movie Too in some piano bar at an hour when the crowd has dwindled. Personally, I connect the song to Guns N’ Roses’ as Axl Rose has claimed Elton as an influence and “I’ve seen that movie, too” popped up as a line in the band’s You Could Be Mine.

The Auteurs – Underground Movies
from Now I’m A Cowboy (1994)

The Auteurs received kudos and even moderate success in their UK homeland but little notice in the States. It’s unfortunate as the quartet garnered comparisons to The Kinks and The Smiths for their literate pop.

Underground Movies is a lovely song with a light, baroque pop feel accented by cello.

The 6ths – Movies In My Head
from Wasps’ Nests (1995)

I snagged a copy of The 6ths’ debut as a promo when it came out in ’95. The album was a collection of songs written and performed by Stephen Merritt of The Magnetic Fields with an array of guests handling the vocals.

Movies In My Head is a perky bit of twee pop featuring Yo La Tengo founding member and percussionist Georgia Hubley who finds the visual vignettes showing widescreen in her head to be more interesting than a would-be suitors’ efforts to gain her attention.

Stan Ridgway – Beloved Movie Star
from Holiday in Dirt (2002)

You might not know the name, but, if you’re familiar with ’80s music, the adenoidal vocals of Stan Ridgway might be recognizable. A founding member of the band Wall Of Voodoo, he sang lead on a trio of albums including Call Of The West, which spawned the iconic Mexican Radio.

(and I still think Wall Of Voodoo is one of the coolest band names ever)

Following Call Of The West, Ridgway opted for a solo career. He’s never equaled the success of Mexican Radio, but he’s produced some engaging, offbeat music often with a strongly cinematic vibe such as the noirish Beloved Movie Star, a song about a faded film star which evokes both sympathy and amusement.

The Monkey Time

August 7, 2011

Friday morning I woke and, like Red at the end of The Shawshank Redemption, was so excited, I could barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.

Not only did I have a rare weekday off work – and one that wasn’t about to be carved up by errands – but the day coincided with the opening of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. As a child of the ’70s, I’ve noted the hold that the films based on Pierre Boulle’s novel Planet Of The Apes had on my imagination.

Though I’d vowed not to be lured in to this latest take on the monkey tale, four months of tantalizing trailers and clips proved to be too much to resist.

That resistence was further eroded earlier in the week as photos began to arrive from Paloma’s brother, on a junket in central Africa, trekking through a remote region that is home to the few hundred remaining mountain gorillas in the world.

This confluence of events prompted me to do a little research.

The first thing I discovered was that the mountain gorillas reside in what is known as the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and live up on the slopes in “cloud forests.”

I find our planet that much more wonderous simply knowing that somewhere, simians or not, is a place known as an impenetrable forest and there is such a thing as a cloud forest. Add apes and I’m wondering if the gorillas would mind a couple of humans and a few cats putting up a treehouse in the neighborhood.

(though, as Bwindi is the only forest where mountain gorillas and chimpanzees live, the latter group should also be consulted)

I also learned that mountain gorillas will run, bipedally, for distances up to six miles.

(most of the humans I know would struggle to do the same…I suspect even fewer know what “bipedal” means)

The intelligence of these creatures is profound and, though early risers, mountain gorillas have the good sense to stay in their nests if they awake and it’s raining or overcast.

(I’ve been trained to leave the nest and go to work in such conditions)

In addition to intelligence, primatologists believe that the gorillas are able to consider the past, ponder the future, and – as some researchers theorize – are capable of spiritual reflection.

(an idea that would, no doubt, chap the asses of the uber-pious among the humans and cause them to fling poop)

I also read that the most common form of intragroup communication between gorillas is “deep, rumbling belches” suggesting contentment.

As for Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes…hail Caesar!

Here are four songs from Gorillaz…

Gorillaz (featuring Del Tha Funkee Homosapien) – Clint Eastwood
from Gorillaz

Gorillaz – Dirty Harry
from Demon Days

Gorillaz (featuring De La Soul) – Feel Good Inc.
from Demon Days

Gorillaz (featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def) – Stylo
from Plastic Beach

Shuffling Slowly Toward Sound Fidelity

May 15, 2011

It was during this week in 1982, that I graduated from grade school.

I’m not sure if it was because of our small town’s agrairian past – when not everyone went on to high school – or if it was the chance to inject excitement into the sleepy hum of daily life, but the event was treated with considerable pomp and circumstance.

As a kid that, like a lot of kids, had no use for formalities, I thought most of it was an inconvenient hullabaloo.

But there was an upside to losing a Saturday to ceremony, pictures, uncomfortable clothes, and time spent with adults – cash.

With some of that cash, I made a major purchase, a table top clock radio with a cassette player manufactured by Lloyd’s.

It had only been a year or so since my new interest in music had spurred me to relocate a radio from the basement to my bedroom. It had been on my old man’s workbench or the garage for as long as I could rremember.

It was a battered, oblong box – one corner of the grill covering the 45-sized speaker had separated from the unit and the cord was a scoliotic snake.

It served my purposes well during those early months as I explored the world of radio. And, in the time it took for me to open a cardboard box, it had become a childhood artifact.

This new purchase – what my buddy Beej dubbed “the Lloyds beast” – also made obsolete a portable cassette player from the ’70s that I used to listen to the handful of albums I owned.

(it was also used it to make primitive mix tapes of songs recorded by positioning the built-in microphone of the device as close as possible to the speaker of the radio)

This new acquisition – what my buddy Beej dubbed “the Lloyd’s beast” – was, though merely a small step toward fidelity, a great technological leap forward for me.

Beej had an older brother. He was already reading Stereo Review, yammering about specs and Hirsch-Houk Laboratories, and putting together a stereo system.

I would soon begin to eye the magnificent components he was acquiring and go in the that direction, too.

(as soon as I was able to scrape together the funding, a slow process that neccesitated my buying one component at a time over the course of an entire summer)

But, twenty-nine years ago, the “Lloyd’s beast” was possibly my most prized possession.

Here are four songs that I vividly recall from that time…

Human League – Don’t You Want Me
from Dare

Had I had interest in music a few years earlier, either disco or punk might have been the “new” sound that my friends and I would have adopted as our own. I’m grateful that, instead, New Wave and synthesizer bands from the UK turned out to be our find.

Human League’s Don’t You Want Me had to have been one of the first songs by a synth band I heard and I it hooked me. My buddy Streuss was obsessive about the band, spending the next year or so focused on collecting every single, 12″ inch single, EP, remix, and whatever else he could acquire by the Sheffield band.

Toto – Rosanna
from Toto IV

I have no qualms in acknowledging that I own most of Toto’s albums up through the mid-’80s and I rarely hit skip when one of their songs pops up on shuffle.

Rosanna was a constant on the radio during the summer of ’82 – all summer long – and I don’t think I ever tired of it. It’s still as joyously infectious all of these years later.

Kim Wilde – Kids In America
from Kim Wilde

We didn’t know much about Kim Wilde when she arrived with the New Wave bubblegum of her song Kids In America. She was a comely blonde and I imagine that’s all we needed to know.

But we did love the song. It bounded along. It had a chanted chorus. It was about kids in America and we happened to be kids in America.

It had it all.

J. Geils Band – Angel In Blue
from Freeze Frame

Although I was fairly lukewarm about the song Centerfold, I’d gotten a copy of J. Geils Band’s Freeze Frame as a gift and most of the rest of the album I loved. I don’t think any of us knew that the band had actually been around for more than a decade and was known to music fans as America’s answer to The Rolling Stones (I, at that time, certainly didn’t).

Although it wasn’t nearly as big as Centerfold or Freeze Frame‘s title track, Angel In Blue – a wistful ode to a girl from the wrong side of the tracks with the obligatory heart of gold – was a favorite then and, like that waitress, it hasn’t aged a bit.