I was a big fan of Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross’s two-volume Star Trek oral history The Fifty-Year Mission, so I fairly leapt at the chance to review Nobody Does It Better, their new oral history of the James Bond movies, for the Paper of Record. It’s not as illuminating or contradictory as their Trek books, though I was delighted to find some comments from my pal Matt Gourley within its (seven! hundred!) pages.
I’ve admired music critic Steven Hyden’s writing in Grantland since I first took notice of it a couple of years ago, so I was grateful for the opportunity to review his new book, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life, for the Washington Post. If you’d like to read an excerpt from one of my favorite chapters, about the mid-80s clash of egos between Michael Jackson and Prince, Slate ran a piece of that chapter the day that Prince died.
I haven’t written about Prince (save for a few hundred Tweets) because I’ve been busy and I’ve found the prospect of it too overwhelming. His sudden death hit me much harder than Bowie’s did. I’m not sure why. I had enormous admiration for both of them, but I listen to Prince a lot more.
My review of Rich Kienzle’s new biography The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones, is in Sunday’s Washington Post. There’s probably some other stuff in there that would be good to read, too, I bet.
Here’s a paragraph I had to cut for space.
Amid his dutiful, carefully sourced recounting of booze-lubricated recording sessions and singles, Kienzle highlights some amusingly unexpected sides of Jones, like when he told his ex-wife Tammy Wynette in a 1980 interview in Country Music (a magazine Kienzle contributed to for 24 of its 31 years) that if he had to find a second career he would enjoy being an interior decorator. He might fare better than he did as the proprietor of three outdoor country music parks, which he opened at three different points in his life and quickly abandoned. He was also wanton enough with his brand to lend it to random products: George Jones Country Sausage and, also, troublingly, George Jones Country Gold Dog Food and Cat Food. Kienzle notes that a TV spot for the latter was called “George Jones Talks About His Greatest Lines.” If a TV commercial has to have a title, that’s either an unfortunate one or a brilliant one for a pitch from a man whose life and career were so damaged by an eight-year dalliance with cocaine.
I wouldn’t ordinarily be so flip discussing something as serious as an addiction problem, but that ad beggars belief.
I reviewed Audrey and Bill: A Romantic Biography of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, a crummy book about the two stars’ affair during the making of Sabrina in the early 50s, for The Washington Post. If decades-old Hollywood gossip is your bag, I recommend Karina Longworth’s podcast You Must Remember This. The author of Audrey and Bill, Edward Z. Epstein, is a former publicist; Longworth is film critic and historian. It’s a crucial difference.
UPDATE: Whoops, You Must Remember This already covered Hepburn and Sabrina.
My review of Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams, & Rumours, a new biography by British rock journalist Zoë Howe, is in today’s Washington Post.
Almost all of the music that shaped my taste at an impressionable age is contemporaneous with Fleetwood Mac‘s heyday – 1975 to 1989 or so – but I never got into that band though they’ve obviously written some sublime songs. I won’t pretend to have more than a passing familiarity with their catalog, but the ones I’ve always liked are Nicks’, especially “Landslide” and “Dreams,” their only No. 1 hit. Continue reading
In tomorrow’s Washington Post – the part of it that’s already out today, in fact– I review Peter Bebergal’s Season of the Witch, a book that actually manages to make the intersection of rock and roll and the Occult seem boring. The Bowie photo is from Nic Roeg’s creepy movie The Man Who Fell to Earth, wherein the Thin White Duke plays an alien visiting Earth from a drought-stricken planet.
But other than the skull cap and the contact lenses, that’s what he really looked like in 1975 when a 19-year-old Cameron Crowe interviewed him. His raging abuse of cocaine during this period had made him paranoid, and specifically convinced that witches were trying to steal his semen to create a homunculus. According to Bebergal. I regret that I couldn’t find space to mention this in my 500-word review. (I don’t remember anything about that in the Bowie biography I wrote about in the Dallas Morning News a few years back, but my memory is worse than useless.) Continue reading
“Passion without pressure” is how Roger Moore describes the kissing technique he says in his (second) memoir that Lana Turner taught him in 1956, a century or so before he replaced Sean Connery as 007. Gross. This poor girl. Gross.
Roger Moore was 45 when he made his first debut as James Bond — older than Sean Connery, who’d played the role in five films before he got fed up and abdicated, then was coaxed back and quit a second time – and approximately 110 by the last the last of his seven appearances as 007 12 years later. On the DVD extras for Live and Let Die, his 1973 debut as the superspy he and no one else refers to as “Jimmy” Bond, Moore tellingly bemoans the “30 minutes of daily swimming” he endured to develop the not-particularly-athletic physique he displays in the movie. In the three Bonds he made in the 80s, he rarely looked hale enough to survive a tryst with one of his decades-younger leading ladies, much less a dustup with punch-pulling henchpersons like Tee Hee or Jaws or May Day.
Such was the strength of the Bond brand: Audiences would buy that this guy, who looked and acted like the world’s most condescending game show host, was an elite assassin, as long as he looked good in a tuxedo. Which just happened to be Moore’s primary, not to say only, skill.
My review of Ron Perlman‘s autobiography Easy Street (The Hard Way) is in the Arts/Style section of this Sunday’s Washington Post. But you can read it now.
Perlman’s frequent deployment of the phrase, “Any muthafucka but this muthafucka!” really endeared him to me. I’ve always liked him as an actor, though. I watched Beauty and the Beast when I was a kid because I had a crush on Linda Hamilton stemming from The Terminator.
Richard Schiff and Randall Newsome, neither of whom are “Hughie.”
So I saw Hughie — Eugene O’Neill’s odd, sad little two-hander of a one-act — the other night, hoofed the not-quite-three miles back uptown from the Landsburgh Theatre to headquarters, and was still in by 10 p.m. But I don’t think it was a flush of gratitude for a play that takes only an hour that led me to like it so much. Reviewed for the Washington City Paper.
My review of Sufjan Stevens’ “Christmess Sing-a-Long” — or to use its full, formal designation, the Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant on Ice — at the 9:30 Club Saturday night appears in today’s Washington Post. Continue reading
I was asked to provide a sidebar for my Washington Post essay (in today’s Sunday Style insert, with Helen Mirren on the cover, which actually came out Friday) about making my annual yulemix. We didn’t have room for my brief rationales for choosing the Twelve Songs of Christmas that I did, so I’m posting it here. Bow your heads and tremble before Twelve Songs of Christmas!
(Not the twelve songs, as if there could be such a thing. Merely a dozen yule-sides that ring my Christmas bell, presented chronologically.)
My essay about making my Christmas mixtape is in the Style section of today’s Washington Post, the pullout section with Helen Mirren on the cover. I was surprised how difficult I found it to write about this silly little project that’s come to claim so many
tens hundreds of hours of my time and moxie every fall. Continue reading
While you were watching President Obama Uncle Fluffy his way through the first presidential debate Wednesday night, I was watching the Soft Pack play the Black Cat. That’s right: I went to see a band the youngest member of which is probably a decade younger than me. Usually I’m on the venerable old treasure beat, more or less voluntarily.
I reviewed their show for today’s Washington Post.
Wow. It appears that the last time Emmylou Harris played at Wolf Trap, in 2008, I tried to corner the market, penning a a review of her then-most-recent album for the Washington Post as well as a Post review of the concert and a profile for The Examiner that I can’t find a link to now. I used to have it on this site as a PDF, but then Apple discontinued its .Mac service. It’s the circle of life, I suppose. Continue reading
Three out of five original Beach Boys are still kicking.
of Friday’s night’s Beach Boys concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion is in today’s Washington Post. I thought it was odd that the 14-piece band played along to the recorded vocal track of Dennis Wilson (d. 1983) singing “Forever” and then to a recording of Carl Wilson (d. 1998) singing “God Only Knows,” but the fact that “Heroes and Villains” made the setlist inclines me to forgive them anything. Continue reading
Lucinda Williams, badass
I am experienced. I’ve reviewed the great Louisiana songwriter Lucinda Williams for the Washington Post before, in 2007 and 2009.
I’ve also reviewed Drive-By Truckers, one of my favorite bands, for the Post in 2009, and I’ve interviewed Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, the band’s two frontmen, separately for DCist, The Examiner, the Washington City Paper and Washingtonian. I was at DBT’s year-ending shows at the 9:30 Club last December, which were amazing.
Saturday night I covered the bill Williams and DBT shared at Merriweather Post Pavilion for the Post. It was a beautiful night and a good show. Too bad almost nobody saw it.
“I’ll be your substitute teacher for the remainder of the concert,” preened 57-year-old David Lee Roth last night, midway through Van Halen’s wry, spry two-hour gig at a sold-out Verizon Center. He was freestyling a new spoken interlude, as is his wont, to a resistence-is-futile Van Halen classic that already featured plenty of chitchat, “Hot for Teacher.”
Substitute? Puh-shaw! He’s the real guy!
This wasn’t Van Halen’s first tour with their cocksure original singer since they kicked him out of the band in the mid-eighties. Roth and the trio of Van Halens — guitar god Eddie, drummer Alex, and 21-year-old spawn-of-Eddie Wolfgang on the bass — made up and made a killing on the road in ‘07 and ‘08.
This time, Eddie kept his shirt on and instead flogged A Different Kind of Truth, the group’s first new album together since 1984 in 1984, approximately 125 Earth-years ago. Performed at detail-eradicating volume, the handful of new songs sounded enough like the circa 1978-84 warhorses dominating the set that no one seemed to notice. Roth’s attempt to get the mostly age-40-and-up crowd to sing “Tah! Too! Tah! Too!” during a new jam entitled, uh, “Tattoo” flamed out a lot faster than his post-Halen solo career did, though. Continue reading
Sheldon Best & Manny Brown in Studio's SUCKER PUNCH (Scott Suchman)
I did a follow-up to my Washington City Paper feature about the fight choreography in the Studio Theatre’s current U.S. premiere of Roy Williams’s boxing play Sucker Punch after the play had opened, and after the Washington Post had run their subsequent story on the same topic.
Personally — and professionally, come to that — I had more fun with the imported comic illusionism of Elephant Room at Arena (“would look far more comfortable in some ramshackle, claustrophobic space, where its raw aesthetics and ironic sensibility might … Continue reading
Adams: "I got a plan."
I saw Ryan Adams and the Cardinals open for Oasis (!) in 2008 (!!!) but I only caught part of their set from across a basketball arena and anyway it was not an especially memorable experience. But I quite enjoyed the talky, sloppy Adams solo show — and opener Jason Isbell — that I review in today’s Washington Post. Continue reading
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Tagged Aimee Mann, Click Track, Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell, music, Patton Oswalt, pop music, Ryan Adams, Strathmore, The Birchmere, The Washington Post