Friday, February 14, 2014

Video find: Mary Hopkin performs "Those Were the Days," 1968

Produced by Paul McCartney.

Today's best picture ever: The Outer Limits

Pop culture roundup: Brian Wilson! Beatles! Julies Feiffer! Batman!

Read about a lost stash of Brian Wilson recordings.
....there remains a post-Smile body of Wilson recordings that is almost unknown to critics, historians and fans alike. L.A. Weekly recently was granted access to many of these never-before-heard tapes from 1968 to 1974 — almost 60 titles in all — currently stored at the Beach Boys' archive on Vanowen Street, near Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.


Here's a video of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr rehearsing for their Grammys appearance a few weeks back.


Acclaimed cartoonist (and former assistant to Will Eisner) Jules Feiffer will publish his first fictional graphic novel this summer. Here's a preview.
“Working in the noir form for the first time, I began fooling with a story line, not really knowing where I was going, leaving behind the sketchy line drawings I had become known for and the satiric political and social ideas that made up my subject matter for over forty years. Instead, I began to experiment with the sort of work I loved and read as a teen-ager: not only Eisner and Caniff but the private-eye guys Hammett and Chandler, along with such noir movies as ‘The Maltese Falcon,’ ‘The Big Sleep,’ ‘Double Indemnity,’ and ‘Mildred Pierce.’ I tried to write and draw in celebration of the works that meant so much to me as a young man, areas that I had steadfastly avoided up till now because I didn’t think I was the right artist to draw the story I wanted to tell."


We've featured some of these in the past, but here's a nice assortment of bonkers 1960s Batman Valentines.

Fab Friday: John and Ringo

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Video find: Love performs "My Little Red Book" on American Bandstand, 1966

New trailers: Amazing Spider-Man 2!

Today's best picture ever: Jack Nicholson

Pop stuff: Beatles - The Night that Changed America; The Lego Movie!

What's I'm watching, hearing, reading, etc.

The Beatles: The Night that Changed America, CBS, Feb. 9. As likely every American within earsthot of a TV or radio knows, last weekend marked the 50th anniversary the Beatles' first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

That original broadcast was seen by a then-record 73 million people. It revitalized rock'n'roll, created a beachhead for the British Invasion and influenced thousands of teenagers to pick up guitars and start their own bands. The whole pop revolution, of course, also influenced a generation's fashion, politics and even spiritual outlook. And, there's a good case to be made that it all started on "Sullivan." At least in America.

So, it's a historical event well worth noting, and one that was a lot more fun and pleasant than most. This special, premiered Feb. 9 and rebroadcast last night, was arranged by the folks who bring us the Grammy Awards and looks to be the American media's primary nod to the anniversary, which is odd. You'd think the network news programs or PBS might have done a more serious study of the Beatles' early impact on America and where it led, but the opportunity seems to have passed them by.

Instead, all we're left with is essentially a cheesy awards show with no awards: junky/glitzy sets, lots of audience shots, seemingly random selection and pairing of performers. The payoff for viewers were the performances by Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, solo and together, placed at the end of the broadcast.

Why L.L. Cool J as host? Because he's hosted the Grammys, I guess. But that's on the tip of the baffling iceberg. Most of the musical acts were seemingly selected based on current popularity and availability -- not for having anything to do with the Beatles. The results included a tepid rendition "All My Loving" by Maroon 5, the head-scratching (and big-hatted) duo of Brad Paisley and Pharrell Williams doing no justice to "Here Comes the Sun," a flimsy "Yesterday" by Katy Perry featuring a spare arrangement that laid bare the thinness of her vocal abilities, and a predictably over-the-top "Let it Be" by Alicia Keys and John Legend, substituting strained vocals for soul.

Somewhat better were ELO's Jeff Lynne (really, the only Beatlesque guest on the bill) and Ringo's brother-in-law Joe Wash performing "Something" and Walsh and new blues guy Gary Clark on "While My Guitar Gentely Weeps." Best of all was Stevie Wonder reprising his 1970 cover of "We Can Work it Out," still sounding fabulous. Lynne and Dave Grohl deserve a nod, too, for at least taking on a deep track and making it rock: "Hey, Bulldog," off the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album.

More fun than all this were the brief interview segments featuring Paul and Ringo interviewed by David Letterman as they toured the former Ed Sullivan Show theater, now host to Letterman's show. The crowd shots of Paul, Ringo and, especially, a nimble Yoko Ono, grooving along to the musical performances were entertaining, too.

After all this, the appearance of first Ringo, and then Paul, on stage was much welcome. More spry than ever at age 73, Ringo bounded on stage to perform a lively "Matchbox," followed by "Boys" and a nice, sing-along rendition of "Yellow Submarine." He was in modest voice, as ever, but really seemed into it. His warmth and sense of fun rubbed off on the audience, both in the theater and at home.

Macca's performance was more perfunctory. These days, he plays old Beatles tunes nearly as often as a Fabs tribute band. But he was in better voice than during his recent Grammys appearance. The tune selection was very routine: "Birthday" and "I Saw Her Standing There, " followed by "Sgt. Pepper" and "With a Little Help Friend My Friends" (which marked Ringo's reappearance on the stage, of course) followed by the obligatory "Hey Jude." It would've been nice if the duo had performed a John or George tune in recognition of their absent comrades, but no go. Still, it's fun to see even two Beatles on stage together, and Paul and Ringo seem to hold one another in genuine affection.

Did the Beatles need such a tribute? I don't think so. Their legacy stands. And the legacy of the first Sullivan appearance is better served by just watching the show again - all the Beatles "Sullivan" appearances are available, complete with period TV ads, on DVD. Also recommended is "The Beatles: First U.S. Visit" documentary, which includes the band's performances on the "Sullivan Show" and lengthy looks at all the surrounding mania.


The Lego Movie. Michael Chabon wrote an essay a few years back about playing Legos with his kids (we always said "playing Legos," not "playing with Legos"), in which he despaired over how much  today's Lego sets, and today's children, rely on directions in their building.

Why, when we were kids (both Chabon and I, apparently), we used to just build crap out of Legos. They came in a box without set instructions on what to do with them.  The fun thing about the toy was that you didn't need directions - you just played. It wasn't  like an Aurora model kit where, if you applied the wrong piece in the wrong spot, it would be Testored there forever. If you didn't like what you made, or were tired of it, you'd simply take the Legos apart. And you could build stuff that Aurora never dreamed of.

The brilliant minds behind "The Lego Movie" get this, and have made a film that wisely tells kids to ignore the directions and just play. It's a tribute to experimentation and creativity free of self-consciousness. It's only once we start growing up that we start worrying if we're doing the right thing, and what others might think.

The film's plot hinges on Emmett, a generic construction worker living in a generic Lego world, and his efforts to prevent his all Lego creation from becoming permanently Super-glued in place under the dictatorial rule of Lord Business. Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, Morgan Freeman and many others are on hand to provide the voices, with Will Arnett perfect as the hilariously self-involved Batman.

The film's creators have the world's biggest tub of Legos to play with, not to mention a load of licensed characters to lampoon. I'm not sure how many hours of legal wrangling it all took, but it's a blast to see Batman interacting with Star Wars characters and Gandalf being mistaken for Dumbledore. Shaquille O'Neal provides the voice for his brick-sized doppelganger and Abraham Lincoln rockets around in a Jack Kirby-style "space chair."

It's the type of free-for-all, stream-of-consciousness storytelling kids engage in while playing: "I'm going to build a submarine," "I want to build a spaceship," "Check out this double-decker couch!" Amazing, and silly, things can happen when you get into that zone. And this film is a valuable reminder to both children and adults to relax, let loose, have fun, and see what you can come up with.

The folks at Lego who make the toys should be attention, too. Let's have more sets not based on pop culture characters, and not meant to built just one thing. Leave the creativity up to us. Just give us a tub with lots of pieces.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Video find: The Who - live on French TV, 1966

Yeah, I'm gonna have to get this one: Come Spy With Us compilation on Ace Records

Looks great! Ace always does a nice job.

01 A Man Alone (Theme from The Ipcress File) - John Barry & His Orchestra
02 Deadlier Than The Male - The Walker Brothers
03 Arabesque - The Ventures
04 The Look Of Love (Theme From Casino Royale) - Dusty Springfield
05 Danger Man - Red Price & His Combo
06 The Silencers - Vikki Carr
007 Secret Agent Man - Al Caiola
08 Who Needs Forever (Theme From The Deadly Affair) - Astrud Gilberto
09 Theme From The Man From U.N.C.L.E - The Challengers
10 The Last Of The Secret Agents - Nancy Sinatra
11 Mission: Impossible - Lalo Schifrin & His Orchestra
12 Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine - The Supremes
13 Our Man Flint - Billy Strange
14 Wednesday's Child (Theme From The Quiller Memorandum) - Matt Monro
15 Theme From Get Smart - Don Adams
16 We Should've (Theme From Modesty Blaise) - Cleo Laine & Ray Ellington
17 The James Bond Theme (Dr No) - Johnny & The Hurricanes
18 Burke's Law Theme - Wynton Kelly
19 Where The Bullets Fly - Susan Maughan
20 High Wire (Theme From Danger Man) - Brian Fahey & His Orchestra
21 Bye Bye (Theme From Peter Gunn) - Sarah Vaughan
22 Theme From Where The Spies Are - Jimmy Smith
23 The Liquidator - Shirley Bassey
24 I Spy - Roland Shaw & His Orchestra
25 Come Spy With Me - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

Today's best picture ever: Nat King Cole

New and upcoming pop culture books: Muppets; Disney; Paul McCartney; Game of Thrones; Lost Bond Film; Beatles; Sherlock! Breaking Bad; Doctor Who!

Click the links to order titles from Amazon.

Muppets Character Encyclopedia

American Legends: The Life of Walt Disney

LIFE Paul McCartney

The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend

Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros

Rogue Royale: The Lost Bond Film by the 'Shakespeare of Hollywood'

Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters: Defending the Earth with Ultraman, Godzilla, and Friends in the Golden Age of Japanese Science Fiction Film

The Beatles: Six Days that Changed the World. February 1964

Marc Davis: Walt Disney's Renaissance Man (Disney Editions Deluxe)

How the Beatles Changed the World

Inside the Whimsy Works: My Life with Walt Disney Productions

Sherlock Lives! 100+ Facts on Sherlock and the Smash Hit BBC TV Series

The Gospel According to Breaking Bad

TARDIS Eruditorum - An Unofficial Critical History of Doctor Who Volume 1: William Hartnell