Friday, March 22, 2019

Buddy Holly Hall will open in 2020

The fact that so many books still name the Beatles as "the greatest or most significant or most influential" rock band ever only tells you how far rock music still is from being considered as a serious art. Jazz critics have long recognized that the greatest jazz musicians of all times are Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, who were not the most famous or richest or best sellers of their times, let alone of all times. Classical critics rank the highly controversial Beethoven over classical musicians who were highly popular in courts around Europe. Rock critics are still blinded by commercial success. The Beatles sold more hits than anyone else, beside Elvis, and therefore they must have been the greatest? Jazz critics grow up listening to a lot of jazz music of the past, classical critics grow up listening to a lot of classical music of the past. Rock critics are often totally ignorant of the rock music of the past.

And that past is Buddy Holly. Hollywood has yet to produce an authentic portrait of the rock ’n’ roll experience, though it is one of the most emblematic of the twentieth century. The moviemakers’ flirtation with Buddy Holly’s life is a classic example of distortion, simplifying the uneven edges that made a life in rock ’n’ roll so giddy and tragic, and in Holly's case archetypically modern—torn between a yearning for acceptance and a compulsion to destroy all that is false in society. The real Buddy Holly is to be found nowhere in the scarce efforts to represent him on film. Society will begin to apply pressure on the individuals and their partners, from all angles. But some people are bigger than society. Most of us are not. And only a few artists have explored, in clear-sighted or delusional ways, the possibility of an alternative societal model. When some of Buddy Holly's pals from Lubbock teased him about not playing God's approved music, Holly retorted: "If people can't hear God in my music, it's their problem."

If you drive by Downtown Lubbock’s Buddy Holly Hall often, you can see the progress being made. A construction team of nearly 300 workers are responsible for that progress, and hope to present the hall to Lubbock in less than a year and a half. “We’re going to be on the cover of every architectural magazine in the country, for how really cool this staircase is," explains Tim Collins, Chairman of the board for the Lubbock Entertainment and Preforming Arts Association.

That staircase is one that has been designed in the shape of an ellipse, which means, “It’s larger at the second floor and the third floor then it is at the bottom. It’s a great architectural feature that we’re really excited about," says Collins. The larger theater will hold 2,200 people. “Because of the construction of our big theater, this small theater will also be an NC-15, so our school district children will have the opportunity to perform in a hall that is of the same quality as The Lincoln Center or The Kennedy Center.” The Hall is currently being paid for by fundraising, explains Collins. Source:

Delusional thinking is associated with slower alterations in personal belief, a new study reports. People who suffer more delusions also tend to seek out more information prior to making a guess. Delusions are one of the most common symptoms of psychosis, but little is known about what causes them. A new study from researchers at Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute offers insight into the development of delusions. An estimated 80-90 percent of individuals with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders experience delusions—false beliefs that can be distressing and debilitating. “We found that patients who experienced more severe delusions tended to seek more information before making a guess than their less-delusional counterparts. This is a truly novel finding, and it helps confirm the fact that rigidity is an important part of delusional beliefs,” says Horga. This may explain why delusional patients seek more information than non-delusional individuals. Source: Columbia University Irving Medical Center Source:

"There hasn't been anyone that famous in a single moment as he was during 'Thriller' time," Randall Sullivan (author of "Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson") said. "He eventually gave himself the nose of the boy, the young actor Bobby Driscoll, who was the model for Peter Pan in Walt Disney's movie."  There is something about the way Jackson morphed from pretty to disfigured, closer to Joseph Merrick, the medical case study whose “elephant man” bones Jackson swore he never tried to buy. The morphing could have been a result of the pigmentation ailment, vitiligo, that he told Winfrey he suffered from. But what if all of that change he so notoriously underwent, all the damage he seemed to wear on his body, all the creatures his videos turned him into (werewolves, zombies, a panther, a skeleton), what if his outward self became some semiconscious manifestation of a monster that lurked within? Source:

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Ana de Armas to play Marilyn Monroe in "Blonde"

For the last several years, Andrew Dominik has been developing an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates‘ acclaimed novel Blonde at Netflix, and at long last, he has settled on his Marilyn Monroe. Multiple sources tell Collider that Blade Runner 2049 star Ana de Armas is Dominik’s choice to play the Hollywood icon best known for films such as Some Like It Hot, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Seven Year Itch. Dominik previously told Collider that he believes Blonde “will be one of the ten best movies ever made,” explaining that “it’s a film about the human condition. It tells the story of how a childhood trauma shapes an adult who’s split between a public and a private self. It’s basically the story of every human being, but it’s using a certain sense of association that we have with something very familiar, just through media exposure. It takes all of those things and turns the meanings of them inside out, according to how she feels, which is basically how we live. It’s how we all operate in the world. It just seems to me to be very resonant. I think the project has got a lot of really exciting possibilities, in terms of what can be done, cinematically.”

Sources caution that while Ana de Armas is in early talks, she does not have a closed deal yet, nor has the project been greenlit yet by the streaming company, though others say production could start as soon as this summer. Dominik wrote the script and will produce along with Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner‘s Plan B banner. Blonde follows the talented Norma Jeane Mortenson as she blossoms into movie star Marilyn Monroe. But after a series of failed relationships and heartbreaking tragedy, she spirals into drug addiction and mental instability. The project has had a long development history, with Naomi Watts and Jessica Chastain slated to play Marilyn in past incarnations. De Armas may not have the same wealth of experience as a lead, but she has been making a name for herself as a rising star over the past four years. The Cuban actress broke out in Todd Phillips‘ arms dealer dramedy War Dogs and, perhaps most memorably, as Ryan Gosling‘s holographic love interest Joi in Denis Villenueve‘s Blade Runner 2049. De Armas has already wrapped several high-profile features including Rian Johnson‘s murder mystery Knives Out and Danny Boyle‘s romantic musical YesterdaySource:

"A lush-bodied girl in the prime of her physical beauty. In an ivory georgette crepe sundress with a halter top that gathers her breasts up in soft undulating folds of the fabric. She's standing with bare legs apart on a New York subway grating. Her blond head is thrown rapturously back as an updraft lifts her full, flaring skirt, exposing white cotton panties. The ivory-crepe sundress is floating and filmy as magic." Happiness so acute it was like broken glass in Norma Jeane's mouth. Her waxy-pale skin gave off waves of heat like pavement in summer sun and her eyes!-flirty, slip-sliding and dilated. Norma Jeane stared memorizing what she saw; she was a camera taking snapshots; one day she might be lost and have to find her way back to this place she'd never seen before until this moment, but with Gladys such moments were urgent, highly charged and mysterious, to make your pulse beat hard as with a drug. Familiar, too, was the airless heat of the apartment, for Gladys didn't believe in leaving windows open even a crack while she was away, the pungent odor of coffee grounds, cigarette ashes, scorch, perfume, and that mysterious acrid chemical odor Gladys could never entirely wash away even if she scrubbed at her hands with medicinal soap. Yet these smells were comforting to Norma Jeane for they meant home. Coughing, Gladys seemed to give off a stronger scent of perfume, mingled with that faint sour-lemon chemical odor that seemed absorbed in her skin. 

There were fields of fire, canyons of fire, fireballs like comets within a few miles of Santa Monica. Sparks, borne by the wind like malicious seeds, erupted into flame in the residential communities of Thousand Oaks, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, and Topanga. There were tales of birds bursting into flame in midair. Gladys' face was a waxy-pale cosmetic mask like a mannequin's face, the features highlighted, her perfume sharply sweet, like the decaying oranges in their mostly iceless icebox. Gladys snorted: "Sometimes, Norma Jeane, you sound like such a fool. Like the rest of them." Gladys was committed to the California State Psychiatric Hospital, where her official diagnosis was: "Acute chronic paranoid schizophrenia with alcoholic and drug-induced neurological impairment." Norma Jeane's rage stoked a madness of ambition to revenge herself upon the world by conquering it-however any "world" is "conquered" by an individual who was female, parentless, isolated, and seemingly a solitary insect amid a teeming mass of insects. 

'Yet I will make you all love me,' was then Norma Jeane's threat. Norma Jeane's laugh was odd, unmusical: high-pitched and squeaky as a mouse being stepped on. Marilyn would let pasta boil to a mush if you didn't watch her and she was always dropping things in the kitchen. She couldn't do a risotto, her mind was always drifting off. She tasted something, she didn't know what she was tasting. 'Is it too salty? Does it need salt?' She thought onions and garlic were the same thing! She thought olive oil was the same as melted margarine! She leaved tissues caked with makeup in the bathroom, there were ugly splotches of makeup in the sink, blond hairs in combs and hairbrushes; and scum in the bathtub, unless he cleaned it himself. God damn. Sometimes she forgot to flush the toilet. Almost, it seemed it was ordinary life baffled her. And, that wistful little-girl look in her face, "Daddy, how hard it is to figure what people mean when probably they don't mean anything?" Joe would shake his head, not knowing what the hell to say. He'd dated actresses, models and party girls, and he'd have sworn he knew the personality type, but Marilyn was something else. Like his buddies said, suggestively, giving him a poke in the ribs, 'Marilyn's something else, eh?' Those assholes didn't know the half of it. Sometimes she scared him. Like if an actual doll opened its blue glass eyes and you're expecting baby talk but she says something so weird, and possibly so deep, you can't grasp it.  —"Blonde" (2000) by Joyce Carol Oates.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Dramatic Acting, Rock & Roll, and Heroin: Lou Reed, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain

Examining the neural basis of dramatic acting. While all people play multiple roles in daily life—for example, ‘spouse' or ‘employee'—these roles are all facets of the ‘self' and thus of the first-person perspective. Compared to such everyday role playing, actors are required to portray other people and to adopt their gestures, emotions and behaviours. Consequently, actors must think and behave not as themselves but as the characters they are pretending to be, by assuming a ‘fictional first-person' perspective. Through a series of functional MRI studies, we sought to identify brain regions preferentially activated when actors adopt a Fic1P perspective during dramatic role playing. Compared to responding as oneself, responding in character produced visible reductions in brain activity and deactivations in the cortical midline network of the frontal lobe. Thus, portraying a character through acting seems to be a deactivation-driven process, perhaps representing a ‘loss of self'. Dramatic acting is the process of portraying a character in the context of a theatrical performance. However, theatre is not the only context in which role playing occurs in human life. Acting can be thought of as a form of pretence, in particular the act of pretending to be someone who the actor is not. This idea is central to the acting method derived from the writings of Stanislavski that dominates the teaching and practice of acting in North America. Despite the central importance of role playing to social interaction, the topic of role playing has scarcely been examined in experimental psychology or cognitive neuroscience. Instead, there is a large literature devoted to the perceptual phenomenon of theory-of-mind, which is the process of inferring the intentions, thoughts and emotions of other people. It is about decoding the intentions of others, and displaying those intentions to people in the context of a theatrical performance.

In a general sense, acting methods can be polarized along the lines of being either ‘outside-in' or ‘inside-out', although these approaches are thought of by most acting theorists as complementary methods for getting into character. Outside-in approaches are gestural methods that emphasize the physical and expressive techniques of the actor. In contrast to this, inside-out approaches are psychological methods that rely on perspective-taking and identification with the character. The Stanislavski's approach is strongly oriented towards interpreting the motivations and emotions of the character and in using this information as a means for identifying with the character. Actors appear to be living through the performance as if the events were happening to them. Achieving this can involve a large degree of 3P perspective-taking with the character. However, it is important to keep in mind that, while the process of assuming a 3P perspective on a character may be a central part of the preparatory phrase of learning a role, it should not, according to Stanislavski's method, be an active process during a performance itself. The commonly understood goal of method acting is for the actor to ‘become' the character in performance. The principal objective of the current study was to examine dramatic acting for the first time using functional neuroimaging methods. The imaging results showed that acting led to deactivations in brain areas involved in self processing. This might suggest that acting, as neurocognitive phenomenon, is a suppression of self processing. The major increase in activation associated with role change was seen in the posterior part of the precuneus. If so, then the deactivations seen in the prefrontal cortex for acting would represent a loss of self processing related to a trait-based conception of the self.

The more that someone portrays another person, the fewer the resources there are to devote to him/herself. Certain entertainers, such as ventriloquists, rapidly switch between the self and a character within the time frame of a dialogue. Regardless of whether the relative increase in activation for the precuneus for acting was due to a decrease in deactivation the question we have to address is what processes activate the precuneus. The precuneus is a component of the dorsal attentional network of the brain, a network that is involved in functions such as attentional orienting, episodic retrieval and mental imagery. It is telling to point out that acting theorists for over a century have talked about the ‘split consciousness' involved in the process of acting. The actor has to be himself and someone else at the same time, and this could lead to a splitting of attentional resources devoted to the focalization of attention and consciousness. This is not simply the ‘divided attention' of multi-tasking procedures, but a fundamental split of resources devoted to a maintenance of one's identity as a conscious self. According to this interpretation, activation of the precuneus would represent a dispersion of self-related attentional resources, whereas deactivation would represent a focalization or internalization of such resources. Neither gestural modification in the form of a foreign accent nor other-orientation in the form of 3P mentalizing had an influence on this neural mechanism, whereas the explicit psychological process of role change through character portrayal did, perhaps resulting in the double consciousness that acting theorists talk about. Again, acting was the only condition in which self-identity was explicitly split during the task. We argued that the loss of deactivation in the precuneus for acting might represent a departure from a unified and focalized sense of consciousness, towards the dual consciousness that typically characterizes dramatic acting. The most surprising finding of the study was that gestural changes while still maintaining the self-identity led to a pattern of deactivations similar to that for acting. This study was approved by the Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board, St Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton (protocol no. 10-3457). Source:

Although we have slowly come to recognize the opioid epidemic as the Western world’s most perilous health crisis, things are getting worse. The National Safety Council recently reported that opioid addiction has become so pervasive that Americans are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than an automobile accident. As history has demonstrated resoundingly, The Beatles were no strangers to drug experimentation. They had become veteran pill-poppers during their days in Hamburg’s seedy postwar clubs, seeking out amphetamines to increase their stamina during those long nights on the Reeperbahn. Later, marijuana would come into their lives by way of Bob Dylan in August 1964. In the coming years, they would make international headlines for tripping out on LSD, and in the summer of 1968, as the Beatles had toiled in the studio to record The White Album, they would engage in an extended dalliance with cocaine.

However, Lennon’s addiction left his bandmates in a state of alarm. By the advent of the "Get Back" sessions, Yoko Ono openly joked about taking heroin being the couple’s form of exercise. “The two of them were on heroin,” said McCartney, “and this was a fairly big shocker for us because we all thought we were far-out boys, but we kind of understood that we’d never get quite that far out.” Lennon later claimed that the couple’s addiction developed in the wake of a hashish raid on his Montagu Square flat by Detective-Sergeant Norman Pilcher’s notorious drugs squad. Lennon attributed Ono’s mid-November 1968 miscarriage to the raid’s aftermath, later remarking that “we were in real pain” after the loss of their baby. Yet at other times, he would attribute his flirtation with heroin to his bandmates’ refusal to accept Ono as their equal. But in truth, Lennon’s experimentation with the drug had begun much earlier—“I never injected,” he liked to say. “Just sniffing, you know.” But as journalist Ray Connolly observed, Lennon “rarely did anything he liked by halves. Before long, heroin would become a problem for him.”

When the Beatles finally got to the business of recording "Abbey Road," Lennon’s participation was delayed by a harrowing automobile accident in Scotland that left him and Ono briefly hospitalized and riddled with stitches. When he finally joined the other Beatles towards mid-July, he had a bed from Harrods installed in the studio to allow Ono to convalesce within easy reach. Lennon’s mood swings and absenteeism—the ups and downs of his erratic behavior—were likely the result of their protracted heroin use. As music historian Barry Miles later wrote, “The other Beatles had to walk on eggshells just to avoid one of his explosive rages. Whereas in the old days they could have tackled him about the strain that Yoko’s presence put on recording, now it was impossible because John was in such an unpredictable state and so obviously in pain.” Years later, American actor Dan Richter, a friend of Ono’s, recalled making his way inside EMI Studios to provide Ono with the Lennons’ latest fix. “It felt weird to be sitting on the bed talking to Yoko while the Beatles were working across the studio,” said Richter. “We wouldn’t kick it in a hospital because we wouldn’t let anybody know,” said Ono. “We just went straight cold turkey.” Lennon reportedly ordered Ono to tie him up to a chair. For some 36 hours, he roiled in pain as he attempted to rid the drug from his system.

In an effort to memorialize his recent experience trying to shake his heroin addiction, Lennon composed “Cold Turkey,” a song that illustrated the excruciating throes of heroin withdrawal in brutal detail: “My feet are so heavy / So is my head / I wish I was a baby / I wish I was dead.” But the composer’s triumph over the drug would be dishearteningly short-lived. By the time he debuted the song for Bob Dylan a few days later, he was snorting heroin yet again. It would take several more attempts for Lennon to beat the drug. In September 1980, he lamented that back in 1969 the BBC banned “Cold Turkey” from the radio airwaves “even though it's antidrug.” Even then—long before our contemporary opioid crisis took flight—Lennon intuited society’s inability to understand, much less combat addiction. “They’re so stupid about drugs,” he exclaimed. “They’re not looking at the cause of the drug problem: Why do people take drugs? To escape from what? Is life so terrible? Are we living in such a terrible situation that we can’t do anything without reinforcement of alcohol, tobacco? Aspirins, sleeping pills, uppers, downers, never mind the heroin and cocaine—they’re just the outer fringes of Librium and speed.” Source:

Kurt Cobain was probably the last rock star when rock music actually mattered as a cultural force. Cobain was the last rock star who (unwittingly) embodied all the profound contradictions of The Rock Star mythology as we know it. He was good-looking, a delicate soul, with an ear for melody and gift for crafting lyrics in a singular way, who both embraced and rejected much of the mythology of rock and roll. He wanted it, and he hated it. He had a great voice and he wasn't afraid to use it to express his inner anguish. Beyond that, he seemed a confused, retiring, angry kid who never got over his parents' divorce and their subsequent (perceived) rejection of him as a teenager. That feeling of rejection uniquely informed his character, and people really latched onto it. Cobain redefined what "rock star" could mean, and all of a sudden a rock star meant someone like him, so a rock star could be an anti-star. This contradiction has stayed with us ever since. Cobain wrote that he first had used heroin in Aberdeen in the late eighties; but former friends contest this, since he had a fear of needles at the time and there was no heroin to be found in his circle. He did occasionally take Percodan in Aberdeen, a prescription narcotic.

In early November 1990, he overcame his fear of needles and first injected heroin with a friend in Olympia, after his break-up with his first official girlfriend Tobi Vail from Bikini Kill. He found that the drug’s euphoric effects helped him temporarily escape both his heartache and his stomach pain. The next day, Kurt phoned Krist Novoselic. “Hey, Krist, I did heroin.” Krist cited his Olympia friends who had died of heroin addiction and warned Kurt that heroin wasn’t like the other drugs he’d done. “I remember literally telling him that he was playing with dynamite.” But the warning fell on deaf ears. Though Kurt promised Krist he wouldn’t try the drug again, he broke this promise. To avoid Krist’s or Grohl’s finding out, Kurt used the drug at friends’ houses. He found a dealer who was selling at Evergreen State College in Olympia. On December 11, 1990, Kurt sought medical help for his stomach condition, seeing a doctor in Tacoma. This time Kurt was prescribed Lidox, a form of clidinium. The drug didn’t seem to help his pain, and he discontinued it two weeks later when he got bronchitis. The year ended with a New Year’s Eve show in Portland at the Satyricon. According to his biographer Christopher Sandford, who painted an unflattering portrait of the grunge superstar: “Cobain was easily led, self-obsessed, and he lacked anything resembling an ethical centre. Cobain was also sick with a bipolar disorder resulting in alternate bouts of depression and mania. In certain circles, pain is thought to equal integrity; in other circles, pain is mistaken for art.”

On the 25th anniversary of his death comes a new perspective on Kurt Cobain. With candor, honesty and empathy, Danny Goldberg, one of Nirvana’s managers from 1990 to 1994, shares his memories of his brief but momentous time with Kurt in Serving the Servant: Remembering Kurt Cobain. When Goldberg agreed to take on Nirvana, he had no idea that Cobain would become a pop-culture icon with a legacy arguably at the level of that of John Lennon or Elvis Presley. Kurt’s public struggles with addiction ended in a devastating suicide that would alter the course of rock history. Drawing on Goldberg’s own memories of Kurt, files that previously have not been made public, and interviews with Kurt’s close family, friends, and former bandmates, Serving the Servant sheds an entirely new light on these critical years. Casting aside the common obsession with the angst and depression that seemingly drove Kurt, Goldberg's account is an exploration of his compassion, his ambition, and the legacy he wrought. “Media depictions of Kurt typically focus on the tragedy of his death. While it is impossible to ignore the inner demons which tormented him, in researching Serving the Servant I have been more often reminded of Kurt’s brilliance, his sense of humour and his kindness to most of those around him. He was so complex, but I hope I am able to add another dimension to Kurt’s legacy.” Source:

Lou Reed was one of the most intelligent Rock musicians, a sardonic, world-weary chronicler of underground culture and the dark side of human nature. Lewis Allan Rudnitsky, the accountant’s son from Long Island, brough to light a fertile schizophrenia fueled by a restless creative energy. Reed was able to intermingle the contradictory aspects of his personality—downtown bohemian and middle class intellectual—into a complex and controversial figure that combined poetry with rock ’n’ roll. One quick story serves as a paradigm of his self-destructive impulses. In the autumn of 1963, when Reed was 21, he drove to St Lawrence University in upstate New York with his college band The Eldorados to perform at a fraternity weekend. His bandmate Richard Mishkin and Reed had a quarrel before the concert. ‘Mishkin, fuck you!’ an exasperated Reed retorted, thrusting his right hand through a glass door. Lou laughed as he looked at the injury he had done to himself, blood streaming down his arm as he held his hand up. ‘Because he didn’t have to play now,’ explains Richard, who took Lou to hospital for stitches, ‘He had won!’ As he would show time and again, Lou would rather harm himself than be coerced into doing anything he didn’t want to. Such integrity is a mark of a true artist. It also helps explain why Lou never achieved as much success as he deserved.

Shelley Albin was intrigued by Lou Reed from the start. ‘I knew from the second I met him this wasn’t an ordinary person.’ One of the first things he told her was the story of his Electroshock Therapy. ‘That was like his introductory bit. “This horrible thing happened to me… I’m tortured, and I don’t have any memory, and I’m a little weird, and just a little dangerous.”’ Lou Reed had an active heterosexual life in college and afterwards, so much so that former girlfriends like Shelley struggle to see him as bisexual or gay. ‘I never thought of him as being gay at all, or even bisexual.’ Rather, it seemed to Shelley, and women who came after her, that Lou flirted with homosexuality to create an image and get a reaction. ‘He always walked in a very effeminate way, but that was a very studied thing, like a joke,’ Shelley says. A former Lou's college friend, Richard Sigal, opines: "Lou Reed ended up getting married three times. So he obviously liked women." Lou's parents were evidently pleased that he had brought Shelley home. His father increased his allowance so Lou could take her out, and offered the couple the use of the family car. They dated as a couple on/off at Syracuse and afterwards, but Shelley chose not to take things further. ‘He couldn’t understand why we couldn’t just pick up again. He was really pissed at me for twenty years.’ She had decided that Lou was not the man she wanted to spend her life with, marry, or have children with. Lou never had children, and Shelley thinks that was wise. ‘I think he toyed with the idea of having a child by then, he brought the issue up [in the early 60s]’ Shelley says, but she decided that someone who couldn’t even look after himself was not the fatherly type.

Lou seemed to remain infatuated with Shelley, never wanting to understand why she'd left him. As late as the 1980s, when he was middle-aged and famous, he was still phoning her, maybe trying to win her back again, and asking her advice about his imminent wedding to Sylvia Morales. Despite his evident fascination with gay life, Lou’s relationships had been primarily and possibly exclusive with girls during the 60s. One of his conquests was the future journalist Barbara Hodes. Soon after his break-up with Shelley he started to date Erin Clermont, a likeable, gamine girl with an infectious sense of fun who also attended Delmore Schwartz’s classes. They were going to have an unusually long relationship, lasting until the early 1990s. Sylvia didn't know of their clandestine affair, Erin believes: ‘From the day I met him I accepted him as this complicated, different guy,’ says Erin, who told Shelley as soon as she had slept with Lou. The girls remained friends, often discussing Lou, who fascinated them both. Although Shelley knew him first, Erin maintained the longest relationship. ‘I was eternally interested in him, not in love with him, although we did love each other. There were periods when he gave me the impression of having little or no interest in sex.’ Although no longer an item, Lou and Shelley remained in touch, and she says that he had ‘really got heavy into heroin’ around the spring of 1964. In his final months at Syracuse, Lou wrote ‘Heroin’, describing what it feels like to inject and get high on heroin in language that is convincing, thrilling and scary.

The tension between Lou and Nico had eased briefly after they slept together. ‘I fell in love with him. He was so beautiful, and very tough, tough like a statue,’ was how Nico explained her feelings for Lou. Nico was a fabulist and spoke English ponderously with a heavy German accent. ‘I thought Lou was in love with her,’ says Richard Mishkin. ‘Lou was just completely stunned by her, and could never quite figure what was going on.’ Despite the fact that Nico was sleeping with Lou and had a child by Alain Delon, a rumour swept The Factory that she was a lesbian. Mary Woronov had designs on Lou and disliked Nico. Brigid Berlin from The Factory said: ‘Lou was a very strange person. I had a lot of fun with him, but he had a cranky side. Lou had an act going all the time.’ In his struggle to conquer his bad habits, Lou became depressed and was diagnosed as suffering with bipolar disorder. On 3 June 1980 Lou visited Erin Clermont to tell her about the diagnosis, adding that he was taking Lithium for his problem. Lithium salts have been used since the 19th century as a treatment for depression and manic behaviour, but overuse can result in lethargy and serious side effects. From what Erin could see, lithium ‘completely fucked him up.’

Talking about Like a Possum and its similar structure to Sister Ray, Reed explained: ‘It’s like watching a really good movie. You know it isn’t real. But at a certain point, if it’s really done well, you feel you’re there.’ ‘His paranoia sucks the life out of you,’ groaned a writer for The Times after a typically frustrating encounter with Lou in 2012. Lou Reed had no patience for journalists who asked him questions he had been asked too often. His crustiness was, to some extent, the carapace of an insecure, emotionally fragile man who was seldom at ease with journalists, distrusting their motives. Never a great interviewee like Bob Dylan or John Lennon, Reed once said: ‘I get nervous about interviews.’ Lou admitted: ‘I wanted to be an actor. That was my real goal. But I wasn't any good at it, so I wrote my own material and acted through that. That's my idea of fun. I get to be all these things in my songs.’ As Lou's sister Bunny wrote: ‘In his heart, my brother was a profoundly good, moral person.’ —"The Dangerous Glitter of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed" (2009) by Dave Thompson 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Frank Sinatra: All or Nothing at All

Directed by Alex Gibney, Sinatra: All or Nothing at All is a two-part, four-plus hour documentary film about the life and career of Frank Sinatra through various archival footage and interviews from the man himself as well as those who knew him and biographers that wrote about Sinatra. Inter-cut with footage from Sinatra’s first retirement concert in 1971 in Los Angeles where he sings a selection of his iconic songs which serves as chapters to each part of his life. The film revels into the many highs and lows Sinatra endured as an entertainer and as a man. The result is a fascinating yet elegant film from Alex Gibney. If there was one vocalist who was pretty much the standard bearer of the 20th Century, it was Frank Sinatra whose voice captured a generation, becoming the master crooner who would rule the charts from the 1950s and 1960s. The documentary doesn’t just tell the story of Sinatra’s life but it is told through the songs that made him a legend as he performs them in his first retirement concert in 1971 that is shown through rare footage that hadn’t been seen for many years.

With the aid of cinematographers Antonio Rossi and Samuel Painter along with visual effects supervisor Raul Ortega, they would recreate pictures and old stock footage to play into the impact Sinatra had not just in popular culture but also in American society. Even where he would have a reputation where it is flawed as it played into a man full of contradictions and such that makes him far more compelling. Then there’s the music as the songs that are chosen to represent each part of his life play into who he is as a performer and why he’s never caught on into any trends—singing something that is popular doesn’t mean anything to him if he can’t connect with it. It says a lot to the man as there’s clips of him performing with other acts including Elvis Presley where it represents the old guard passing the torch to the new generation where the two definitely show common ground when singing together. There are moments that showcase that he is willing to sing at any place including a prison in Washington D.C. where it proves that man cares for the people and is willing to give them their times worth for a performance. Sinatra: All or Nothing at All is a phenomenal documentary from Alex Gibney. The film is definitely not just a captivating portrait about one of the greatest entertainers that ever lived but also managed to show more of the man as just a man rather than the legend he’s known for. Source:

Outside of politics and megacorporations, we’re a hedonistic culture that has been the way we represent ourselves to the world. That was Vegas in the sixties; It was another world, a dream world, the Sh-Boom Sh-Boom Room where everything is mellow and cool. The soft pink glow from the little lamp on your table, champagne on ice, a torch-song paradise. It’s my version of the American Dream: the gold-plated pink Cadillac, the handmade sharkskin suit, the Italian shoes, the diamond cufflinks. Vegas was the Rat Pack’s Camelot, and Vegas, let’s face it, was a hell of a lot more fun than Camelot. That’s why JFK hung out with Sinatra at the Sands. Then this new revolution started happening—he called it “funny music”—in other words, rock ’n’ roll. But Sinatra was such a legend, he’d been a big star since the ’40s—so it didn’t really affect him the way it did other crooners. In a way, rock ’n’ roll enshrined him. We all looked up to this Sinatra Rat Pack because in the beginning that’s all there was—at least until rock and roll broke out.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
There were the spectacular showgirl acts called production shows at the Stardust, the Lido, and the Copa Room. The showgirls would often open the show at the Copa Sands. Shirley Ornstein—who later came to play a small part in my life—was an eighteen-year-old Copa showgirl until she caught the eye of Burt Bacharach. Barbara Sinatra, Frank’s last wife, started out as a showgirl at the Copa, too. These shows were big-production numbers with lots of elaborate sets and costumes, the showgirls with their big feathers like erotically plumed birds in skimpy outfits and long sequin-studded gloves. Vegas in those days was the kind of place you never wanted to leave. You wanted to live there forever. That’s the way I felt when I first walked into the Copa Room at the Sands Hotel in 1959. Vegas in the old days was very theatrical. Every night was a spectacle. You’d go from the showroom—packed with out-of-towners there to see the big stars, comedians, and showgirls—into the casino. It was not uncommon to see Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra taking over from the dealers and handing out cards to the guests, visiting stars from L.A., high rollers and so on. There weren’t tourists in Vegas in those days the way there are today—it was an exclusive group of people and the gaming areas were small.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
The people were elegant, and there were real movie stars there, and then Kennedy and other personalities would secretly come in. It’s not like today with the generic attractions and rap bands. It was cool, and elegant—very different from what you see today in Vegas, with the mobs of tourists in madras shorts and trainers. You have to remember there were only five hotels there back then—and beyond the strip just desert and sagebrush. The mob-type guys that were running the casinos were everywhere then, but they didn’t look like the gangsters you see in the movies. They were businessmen and behaved like gentlemen—unless you were skimming or pocketing markers. Early in the ’60s, you’d see a classic mob guy like Johnny Roselli in the lounge. I’d sit with him at the bar after my show and he’d say things to me like, “Keep your nose clean, Paul, be a gentleman,” giving me advice you’d expect to hear from an uncle of yours at Thanksgiving. Funny, because “Handsome Johnny” Roselli was a mobster connected with the Chicago clan that would get involved in the CIA plot to assassinate Fidel Castro.

In the beginning, I was essentially a crooner—my idols, after all, had been Frank Sinatra, Frankie Laine, and Johnnie Ray; not Chuck Berry or Little Richard. You couldn’t put hard rockers like Eddie Cochran or Gene Vincent in a nightclub in those days. Bobby Darin was the most talented of the Sinatra wannabes, and he certainly got Frank’s attention. Darin had that kind of chutzpah that kept him going on for a long time. He truly was a force of nature in the 50's music scene, along with Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley—those were the guys who would have great careers, whatever happened. Sinatra couldn’t stand the sound of rock music, he never wanted to sing it, and he hated the sound of Bob Dylan’s voice. He never got any of that stuff. And yet, there was Dylan at Sinatra’s eightieth birthday celebration, singing “Restless Farewell.” Go figure. Apart from the cowboy, another great American type is the boogie-woogie man, the crooner, the entertainer, the rock and roller, the guy you go to hear who’ll take you away from everything, put you in some kind of trance, and let your mind float free. 

Vegas was almost a state of mind in the 1950s and early 1960s. Bob Maheu, who was Howard Hughes’s right-hand guy, changed the atmosphere forever afterward. Hughes lived upstairs in the Desert Inn, but we never saw him. He was the ghost in the penthouse controlling everything, the invisible man pulling all the strings and very soon we started feeling a big change in Vegas. We knew when Hughes was in town because of the nutty TV programming. You’d get back to your room, turn on the TV at two in the morning and Ice Station Zebra would be playing. At 5:00 A.M. it would start showing all over again. There was limited programming on TV anyway, but this was ridiculous. People were asking, “What the hell is going on?” Howard Hughes had bought a local TV station and you’d see Ice Station Zebra showing continuously. What probably appealed to Hughes was the movie plot featuring a frantic search for a traitor who's out to sabotage a mission. Hughes was very paranoid. For instance, the Silver Slipper burlesque theater had placed a woman’s high-heel shoe as part of their sign and Hughes believed there was a photographer hidden inside the toe, taking photographs of him in his bedroom from there. Howard Hughes was so eccentric that things got nutty pretty fast in Vegas. 

It was Sinatra who gave Vegas its tone. He was its social atom, and gave the place its zing, its glamour. But Frank went through very bad periods. During one of those bad spots, he was suffering a serious bout of depression and then his break-up with Ava Gardner wrecked him. That was a very turbulent time in his life. He liked beautiful women, but at the end of the day he said he never understood them. And, to be honest, it is very hard understanding women. Frank never got it. But then again why would he? When Sigmund Freud was asked on his deathbed if there was anything in his life of studying human nature he hadn’t solved, he said “Yes, I could never figure out what women want.” Sinatra was sophisticated and educated in a way you wouldn’t expect. And beneath all the swagger, he was vulnerable. A bit like Buddy Holly was. Sinatra was a totally different creature from Elvis, although the ironies and the paradoxes of life prevailed, and Elvis was always fascinated by Frank Sinatra—even by Frank’s rejection of him. Sinatra clung to his tough-guy image, but he was a soft man when you sat down and talked to him because many of his insecurities came out. It’s hard, I know, to believe in such a thing as a soft Sinatra, but that’s the way he was. I was very lucky to get to hang with those guys in that special era.  —"My Way: An Autobiography" (2013) by Paul Anka

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Paul Anka remembers Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly is often underestimated. The sentimental veneer of his music belies his underlying emotional resiliency, his passion for beauty, and his consummate control. The story of rock and roll is the tale of outsiders gaining control of an entertaiment mechanism in order to extract from it personal significance (which is the only way to achieve mass significance). Buddy Holly never talked too much, he listened, and he was a very bright guy. Onstage, he was uninhibited; offstage, he was quiet, shy and withdrawn even with friends. Buddy Holly didn't inspire the ecstatic adoration than Elvis did, nor was he able, like Chuck Berry, to stay above the fray and comment upon it. Holly was always in the struggle himself. Never sure if his success would last, he sought something permanent—something that would indeed last "through times till all times end." Love gave him that sense of permanence. Buddy Holly's life was an enactment of the American Dream, and his music mirrored this spirit. For Buddy Holly, the promises might have failed in the past, but he still hoped for the best, even when it was unrealistic to expect it. —"Remembering Buddy: The Definitive Biography of Buddy Holly" (2001) by John Goldrosen

I’d be sitting around the Sands, hanging out with all those guys or lounging in the steam room with a whole other pocket of people—Frank Sinatra, Gregory Peck, Don Rickles. Today it’s hard for people to get an idea of how incredible Vegas was in those days, the kind of intensity that existed there. The sense of fashion, the sense of klieg-light visibility the casinos stimulated. I don’t think there’s ever been anything quite like Vegas in its golden era. Today, Vegas is this huge Disneyland for grown-ups where you get all these spectacles thrown at you with no real heart and soul, none of the real magic of what Vegas was back then. The type of people that run the casinos today are a different kind of animal altogether. Today it’s all corporate, which means lawyers and contracts and fine print. Eventually, I made it into the innest in crowd there ever was: The Rat Pack. I got to live the high wild life—something I’d only dreamed of back in Ottawa.

All the established songwriters of the day—Cole Porter, Sammy Cahn, and Irving Berlin—were busy writing songs for crooners like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Perry Como. They weren’t about to start writing songs for me, that’s for sure. Anyway, these guys hated rock ’n’ roll, since they thought it was the death knell for most crooners. Overnight it was a brash new world, but they figured it was just a novelty sensation that would go away. Rock ’n’ roll had made serious inroads into the charts by the late fifties, but it wouldn’t be until the British Invasion in the early sixties that the big band singer became obsolete—except in Vegas, but then Vegas is another country. It took almost ten years for rock to take over the charts. Even if you were famous like Elvis, there just weren’t many writers out there writing rock ’n’ roll songs. Those who pioneered the rock ’n’ roll revolution—Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis—had mainly written their own songs. The only guys writing pop and rock ’n’ roll songs for other people in the fifties were the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller duo, and the inimitable Doc Pomus. 

In 1957 I played "Diana" to Chuck Berry and he threw me out of the room. “Listen, kid, let me give you a bit of advice, quit what you’re doing and get a real job.” Undaunted, I went over to see Fats Domino, who was in his dressing room, hoping for some better luck. I said, “Mr. Domino, I’ve got a song for you.” Domino listened to “Diana.” He looked at me quizzically and then beamed in that way Fats did, flashing his big teeth. “Now that’s sincere,” he said: “Not my kinda thing, son, not a song I could sing, understand? I’m old.” He advised to me: “If you want people to hear that song, you best record it yourself.” A year later, “Diana” was number one in the United States. I was hardly a pretty boy. When you’re unsophisticated, your expression is raw, raw but pure. I wasn’t afraid to sing “I’m just a lonely boy.” Clyde McPhatter, the lead singer of The Drifters, was insanely jealous of my success. He was a bitter, angry guy for someone who sang such sweet songs.

I was even different from the Southern guitar-slinging white boys, Buddy Holly (from Lubbock, Texas) and Eddie Cochran (who was born in Minnesota, but his parents came from Oklahoma). I was pretty damn sure of myself—had to be, to survive in that atmosphere. You can see a bit of the Anka alien in the film Lonely Boy, the 1962 documentary directed by Roman Kroitor and Wolf Koenig, especially in that scene in the station wagon where I’m sitting there, totally cool, calm, and affectless with people yapping away all around me. It’s an odd scene for somebody all of twenty-one, even I have to admit—but if I hadn’t had that kind of self-control I’d never have made it. No rock star today would stand for what we put up with on those horrible buses on tour. Those rock ’n’ roll tours would run as long as eighty days, we’d do as many as seventy cities—nobody got any sleep. After you’d sit on the bus for hours on end, looking at cornfields, you’d get to a broken-down theater where you’d line up next to each other in the crummy dressing rooms with your pomade and your hair dryer, hanging your suits in the shower to steam them out. I don’t know how we didn’t blow the electricity with all those hair dryers going at the same time. It was hard work, but we had nothing to compare it to.

Eddie Cochran was a typical rock ’n’ roller from California, but had the same aspects as the Southern guys. He was a quasi-cowboy, a cool cat. He had that swagger about him, the James Dean look. Eddie Cochran had his first hit “Sittin’ in the Balcony” and then had been in the movie The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) by Frank Tashlin. Eddie Cochran kind of mumbled like Marlon Brando and James Dean, and was fun to be around, a delight. He was a ladies’ man, and a good-time party guy. Buddy was tight with Eddie Cochran. They had a lot in common, except the drinking and womanizing. But Jerry Lee Lewis was off the charts. I can’t even explain how abusively unpredictable this guy could be. His whole lingo and attitude were redneck obnoxious—it was just nothing like I’d ever seen before. Buddy Holly was the only one who knew how to deal with Jerry Lee. Buddy was utterly unshockable—Jerry Lee’s behavior didn’t faze him one bit. Sometimes Buddy would fish Jerry Lee, totally soused, out of bars, drag him back to the hotel, put him under the shower, and get him to the theater on time.

Bobby Darin’s real name was Walden Robert Cassotto. He wasn’t exactly a pretty boy. He had the rugged good looks of a bulbous-nosed, crooked-mouthed hood, but still attractive—a John Garfield type. Like me, Bobby sprang from obscurity in 1958 and became famous with a recording of one of his own compositions, a rock ’n’ roll ditty called “Splish Splash.” Later on he made a hip transition with “Mack the Knife,” from Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera. Louis Armstrong had made a successful recording of it a few years earlier. Darin used to say, “The only person I loved until I met my wife Sandra Dee was my mother, and she died.” He’d been brought up by his grandmother, a vaudeville singer, and he learned at age thirty-two that Giovannina Cassotto, who he thought was his elder sister, was actually his mother.

Buddy Holly was an entirely different story. He had a soft shyness about him. He was a country boy, very raw, simple, modest, and sensitive. A very straightforward kind of guy. I was impressed with his guitar-driven sound and he respected what I did as a songwriter. In the beginning I was Buddy Holly’s nemesis. Buddy and I were neck-and-neck all the way with our hits “That’ll Be the Day” and “Diana.” He’d look at my picture in record-shop windows and say, “Who is this kid Anka, pushing me off the charts?” Like me, Buddy Holly wrote his own songs so he wasn’t dependent on outside writers like Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, who wrote the Everly Brothers’ songs. Buddy also had his own group, The Crickets; he didn’t play with pickup bands like the Everlys. We were all buddies, but those guys had that country-western, Southern clique thing going, and at the end of the day were in a bag all of their own. The difference between me and the Southern boys was that I wasn’t a guitar player, I had no idea where all of that was going, that guitar-driven rock sound. But in 1957, who could have guessed the next wave of rock and roll would be wailing electric guitars. The incredible sound that Buddy got on his guitar was the secret ingredient he passed on to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones—he was very influential with everybody in the next generation.

The influence of his Fender Stratocaster sound was where his genius lay. In Britain they’d never seen anything like it. They thought it was an outer-space guitar. English kids found his guitar sound sexy, and the glasses only added to his friendly appeal. And then there was that great hiccupy way he sang, “Love like yours will surely come my way, A-hey, A-hey-hey.” His ’55 Stratocaster got stolen on that British tour and he had to finish it with a blond Gibson. In comparison, Elvis was a different animal altogether—blunt, rough, and sex-charged. Their look couldn’t have been more different. There was no overt sexuality with Buddy like there was with Elvis. Buddy was also a singer-songwriter and that was the big difference between Elvis the entertainer and Buddy the confessional storyteller. That was the key change for The Beatles or The Stones, so Buddy’s influence in the end was more far-reaching than Elvis’s. Surely, Elvis was a larger-than-life CinemaScope American image. But Buddy provided the scaled-down guitar-band blueprint for most of the ’60s bands, especially in Great Britain. Buddy Holly loved my song “You Are My Destiny” with its big Don Costa production. He was looking for something different in his career. “I need to change my arrangements and try what you’re doing with your songs.” He wanted to leave The Crickets and move on. He asked me to write a song with him: “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” The whole focus of “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” was to do it with a big band, with violins and horns, a big, plush orchestral sound that would frame his voice, impart a more romantic aura to his songs.

It was crazy how much touring we all did, but who knew if it was going to last? The critics were saying that rock ’n’ roll was a novelty and would quickly fade away. Believe it or not, it could have easily happened that way—there were very few places where rock ’n’ rollers could perform. Jerry Lee Lewis was just a nightmare. I didn’t like him and he hated me. We fought constantly. He was spewing venom at me at 25,000 feet crossing the Pacific Ocean. We were fighting and yelling and throwing things at each other. Admittedly I was this annoying young brat, and it was especially grating to him that I had all these hit records. He loved to pick on me, saying I looked like a squashed-down Danny Thomas. I wasn’t too shy about shoving it in his face that I was higher in the charts than he was. There were pillow fights on the plane to Australia. Pop heartthrob vs. the Killer, round one. Although Buddy and The Crickets had three hits in Australia (“That’ll Be the Day,” “Oh, Boy!,” and “Peggy Sue”), Jerry Lee demanded his name be bigger than anyone else’s on the bill. Buddy said that was okay with him, but in the end my name got top billing, which really rankled Jerry Lee. Buddy started to steal the show in Australia, emerging at the forefront.

Unlike today, these guys were true song-pluggers, who went out and worked their catalog and had a sensitivity to the material. That’s how you got records made then. Now the recording/publishing business is more like the banking business. When we got back from our big Australian tour, Irvin Feld signed us up to do Alan Freed’s Big Beat Show at the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre from March 28 through May 1958. No Jerry Lee, but me, Buddy Holly, and The Everly Brothers joining up again with Chuck Berry, Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters. After we did that show, Alan Freed, the disc jockey, wanted to manage me. In those days, you could be a disc jockey and manage someone. Different set of rules back then. There’s a definite conflict of interest there, but the business was looser. Freed was a kind of forceful, tall, imposing-type guy. He was a true innovator in radio programming, but he ended up a kind of a tragic figure, getting caught up in the payola scandal. In those days, everybody did it—you could barely walk into the Brill Building without seeing someone handing a DJ a big envelope. But Freed got nailed as the fall guy for the payola practice.

Buddy Holly was getting even more dissatisfied with The Crickets: he wanted to go out on his own, he was outgrowing them. I saw that Buddy had an amazing future ahead of him. We became close, tight friends. We got to the point where we were talking about writing songs together and combining our different strengths as songwriters and producers, creating a situation where we could work together. We planned to start a publishing company together. By the end of the all-star tours we were separating ourselves out from the rest of the pack. During much of the time I knew him, Buddy was involved in some form of litigation with his manager (over money issues), and disputes with The Crickets (over the direction the band was going). Sometime that fall, after I got back, Buddy called Irvin Feld and me. He was sounding a bit desperate. He’d broken up with The Crickets and was having problems with his management. He told us he was out of money, and was going through problems with Norman Petty, who had apparently stolen money from him and his band. While he was away and before he could explain what he was doing, The Crickets had sided with his manager and Buddy felt betrayed. He had married this woman he’d met in New York, Maria Elena—she was the secretary at his record company—and wanted to move there. Buddy said he needed money fast, so we created a parallel tour to the one we were on, just for Buddy.

The tour was called the Winter Dance Party, just some name to make it sound lively and fun because it was in the middle of the winter and it was way out in these remote ballrooms and arenas in the Midwest. It was Buddy, the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Dion. Waylon Jennings was Buddy’s bass player at that point—I think Buddy was paying him 75 bucks a week, and incidentally he never got paid for that tour. In 1958, Buddy went into the studio to record what turned out to be his final hit, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” I really loved the way it came out. Dick Jacobs, the musical conductor at Decca studios, got his copyist to quickly write the lead sheets from Buddy’s guitar version. They wrote the arrangements for strings and rhythm very quickly. When I got to the studio there was this eighteen-piece orchestra, including eight violins, two violas, two cellos, and a harp, as well as string players recruited from the New York Symphony Orchestra. These were top session players, like Al Caiola and Abraham “Boomie” Richman from the Benny Goodman Band on tenor sax. Buddy sang it in his classic up-tempo Texas voice. His characteristic “buy-bees,” “golly-gees,” and hiccuppy vocals were so infectious and worked so well against the lush orchestration that, when he finished, he got a round of applause from those initially dubious studio musicians.

Buddy Holly talked about his new wife, Maria Elena, endlessly. Maria Elena had wanted to come on the tour, but she was pregnant and throwing up, and Buddy wouldn’t let her. Buddy would tape songs for her on his Ampex tape recording machine at his apartment. He’d written the song “Maria Elena” for her, recorded a few years later by Altenor Lima in 1963. Buddy Holly’s story was that of love. He sang about what he knew and the pureness and the simplicity of his voice reinforced that sincerity. Elvis, on the other hand, performed his songs; he personalized them with his own theatrical delivery, but by the sixties this type of song interpreter had become less convincing than groups and singers like Buddy writing their own material. Mostly, Buddy wrote in major keys: A, E, and D. That was Buddy’s magic sound.

Buddy’s vibe was always very upbeat, optimistic. He was happy he’d finally gotten rid of Norman Petty. He wasn’t the only one with problems with his manager. Don and Phil Everly were fighting their ex-manager over money, too. When I think of the difference between the way the fans saw me and the way they saw Buddy Holly, I feel it was because his approach was so personal. Buddy laid down a vibe that was unique to him. Straightforward, no technology. One microphone for him, one in front of the band, period. Nothing like it's made today. Buddy had grown up in poverty, wearing Levis and T-shirts, but now he was getting to be a real spiffy dresser. When Buddy talked about all the plans he had for a new studio and his European tour, he was just bursting with energy and optimism. One of the reasons Buddy took the plane on that fateful night was because of the way General Artists Corporation had planned the tour, without any logic to the geography. The crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper was such a monumental disaster that left an unfillable gap in rock ’n’ roll. Time really seemed to just stop. Buddy Holly’s death left a big hole in my life, an enormous silence. The one thing I’ve learned is that great pop songs never go away. The influence of the ’50s carries on today.  —"My Way: An Autobiography" (2013) by Paul Anka

"Keep on shining on" (2009), The Buddy Holly Tribute song by The Crickets Sound Project: recorded and performed by Pete Carroll.

Friday, March 08, 2019

30th Anniversary of "New York" by Lou Reed

A demo by Lou Reed of his famous song I’m Waiting For The Man has been discovered. The track, about buying drugs from a dealer on a New York street corner, was released with The Velvet Underground in 1967. Reed’s demo was recorded two years earlier, with an unknown male voice harmonising, and before the singer had found his distinctive, gravelly tone. Archivists had “goosebumps” listening to the demo, which was unearthed, untouched for decades, on a reel-to-reel tape in what was once Reed’s study. His widow and an archivist were sorting the musician’s belongings to donate his archive to the New York Public Library For The Performing Arts when they found the sealed object. Judith Kampfner, who has produced a BBC Radio 4 show about Reed’s life and music, featuring a one-minute, eight-second “fragment” of the demo, airing for the first time on what would have been Reed’s birthday, said: “One of the last things they found on a shelf, behind his desk, behind a row of CDs was a tape.” She told the Press Association: “They realised that this was something that Lou had sent to his parents’ house in Long Island in 1965.” At the time Lou was working at Pickwick Music, having to write songs very fast for this budget record company, said archivist Don Fleming. “Obviously I’m Waiting For The Man is about going to meet your heroin dealer. Reed was trying to be gritty, writing a song about heroin, but his tone comes across as quite innocent. “He knew what he wanted to say in the lyrics but he didn’t know how to say it musically. He hasn’t found his tone yet.” Source:

Musically, New York’s among Lou Reed's best. I could talk forever about just the guitar sound on New York, how basic it is, and how infinite. Admittedly, hearing a politicized, socially conscious Lou Reed is weird. Up to now, his solo career was about the choice between his faith in rock & roll primitivism and—contradictory, he thought—high-art aspirations. At least in the liner notes, that schizophrenia crops up again here: Lou goes out his way to say you can’t best the basic rock & roll combo, but also directs that New York should be experienced in one sitting, “as though it were a book or a movie.” In the grooves, on the other hand, snaggly, unadorned riff-rock wins out, to its and Lou’s permanent glory. But while I delight in New York’s great noise, I find the rationale behind it as specious as I did the high art vs. riffraff dilemma. I think Reed was willing to accept basic rock as his best medium on the grounds that today it can carry any message desired. There are melodramatic lapses like the climaxes of “Strawman” and on “Dirty Blvd.,” Reed brings in Dion on the coda, but instead of being brained by the intended irony—here’s what the Belmonts’ street corner looks like 30 years later—you’re just blown away by the beauty of Dion’s vocal. Above all, the sound’s autonomy keeps reminding you that Lou’s coming to his subjects from the outside. The archetypal Lou Reed song makes you feel compassion for somebody you never understood and never expected to feel compassion for.  On his Vietnam-vet tearjerker “Xmas in February,” his subject is brutalization: these aren’t the noble poor but the degraded poor, and even at his remove Lou understands that the worst of what society does to you is what it makes you do to yourself. Reed caps “Hold On” ’s catalogue of flashpoints with “That’s New York’s future, not mine.” New York is a musical novella combining humor and squalor, humanity and the devil. Source:

Monday, March 04, 2019

Quantitative Sentiment in Music, Buddy Holly

The expression of anger and sadness in pop music lyrics is on the rise, according to a recent quantitative analysis of the emotional sentiment contained in over six thousand songs that reached Billboard’s “Hot 100” between 1951 and 2016. This paper, “Quantitative Sentiment Analysis of Lyrics in Popular Music,” was recently published in the Journal of Popular Music Studies (on December 4, 2018). Notably, chart-topping songs released during the mid-1950s were the least angry during the entire sixty-six-year timespan of this pop music analysis except for the three years between 1982-1984. So, what happened since 1955? First, timbral variety went down. That means that songs are becoming more and more homogeneous. Pop music kind of sounds the same nowadays. The study also found that the number of chords and different melodies has gone down. 

The researchers based their analysis on the Million Song Dataset—of songs from nearly 45,000 artists. Of the million songs therein, 464,411 came out between 1955 and 2010 and include data on both the sonic characteristics and the year of release. In another parallel study, 6,150 songs from Billboard's Hot 100 charts were analyzed using a text-mining program called "Tone Analyzer" (which is part of the computational linguistic tools in the IBM Watson developer cloud) to conduct an automatic analysis of the "tone" of sentiments (e.g., emotions, feelings, attitudes) found in written text such as published song lyrics. “Although love and romance have always been the most dominant topic of popular music, lyrics have changed significantly across the decades, reflecting social and political changes,” the authors said. “In general, the results show a clear trend toward a more negative tone in pop music lyrics, with a more significant change around the early 1990s. That trend can also be explained by changes in social values, reflected through changes in mainstream popular music. The results show that anger, disgust, fear, sadness, and conscientiousness have increased significantly, while joy, confidence, and openness expressed in pop song lyrics have declined.”

There were two quirky anomalies in the statistical analysis that bucked overall trends of increasing anger and sadness in Hot 100 songs from 1951-2016. Surprisingly, the researchers found that Top 40 songs released between 1982-1984 were less angry compared to any other period in modern pop music, except the 1950s. Another exception to general trends occurred in the mid-1970s, when there was a dramatic spike in Hot 100 songs expressing joy. (e.g., "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille was one the most popular songs of 1975). The findings, published online on Scientific Reports, show that some trends do emerge over the decades—most of them not necessarily good. Unfortunately, anger started to skyrocket in song lyrics as the 1980s were winding down and there was more and more anger every year from the 1990s till the end of compiled analytic data in 2016. Whatever the cause, the authors conclude that “the period from the 1960s to the 1990s was a special time in popular music history.” Source:

Corporate takeover and subsequent ownership of the music industry has eliminated most meaning in an art-form that once thrived. Modern pop music is simply the soundtrack for the moguldom that has become the end-game. If there is an 'underground' scene it might never surface for fear of being bought. As David Leonhardt explains, “For Americans under the age of 40, the 21st century has resembled one long recession. This loss of dynamism hurts millennials and the younger Generation Z, even as baby boomers are often doing O.K. Because the layoff rate has declined since 2000, most older workers have been able to hold on to their jobs. For those who are retired, their income—through a combination of Social Security and 401(k)’s—still outpaces inflation on average. But many younger workers are struggling to launch themselves into good-paying careers. The generational gap in both income and wealth is growing.” 1989 was a turning point when the cumulative change in inflation-adjusted median net worth by age group took a significant nosedive for every generation under 55. Whatever happened to the Senate's Antitrust and Monopoly Committee? Isn't it interesting to think that we once thought monopolies to be a problem? Now we have them controlling newspapers, TV, Internet, Manufacturing, Scientific research, Pharmaceuticals, Agriculture, you name it and yet nobody bats an eye. And such monopolies are even being promoted and advanced by the majority of our government on both sides of the aisles and supported by voters. Unbelievable, isn't it?" Source:

For centuries, guitars were strung with 4 wound strings (a wire with thinner wire wound around it) and 2 plain (one wire) strings, the plain strings being the highest treble strings, E and B. Normally, the 3rd string, the G, is wound, making it a tough string to bend. An unwound G instantly makes a guitar easier to play and more expressive. And, the G string is often the string that is voicing the ‘flavor’ note in any given chord, and is also often the root string when soloing. Buddy Holly’s G string was unwound and his guitar style was one of the most profoundly pivotal moments in the history of the guitar. Like Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran also was writing his songs using the immemorial 1-4-5 chord sequence in ways that did not use the the standard 1-4-1-5-4-1 blues sequence (even if you know nothing about music, you can understand it by humming a blues to yourself). Virtually every one of Cochran’s masterpieces utilizes those same three chords.

From 1954 onward, rock and roll advanced very quickly in the popular music and soon about 40% of the hit songs belonged to the emerging rock and roll stream. Entering the field in 1954, Decca was the first major record company that became active on the market of rock and roll music, signing Buddy Holly & The Crickets in 1957. Rock and roll scared some sectors of the American society and representatives of the establishment spoke out against it vehemently. Church officials typified the music as rebellious and warned that it would subvert American youth. As Columbia University's Dr. Meerio was moved to conclude at the time, "If we cannot stem the tide of rock and roll with its waves of rhythmic narcosis and vicarious craze, we are preparing our own downfall in the midst of pandemic funeral dances." The musical establishment incited a congressional investigation into the widespread practice of payola, by steering the investigation exclusively to those involved in producing and playing rock and roll music, making Alan Freed their designated scapegoat in the process.

Remembering Buddy by John Goldrosen is, by consensus, the best Buddy Holly bio out there, and Goldrosen does a great job digging into first-hand sources, exploring mythology and apocrypha and avoiding baseless speculation. To his credit, he speculates only as far as the facts lead him. Also, a feeling of sadness is reflected in Goldrosen's excellent account of the last hours of Holly's life, a strange and disturbing set of weird and ironic turns of fate that left three stars of '50s rock strewn lifelessly among plane wreckage. Amid the chronological facts, and Goldrosen's frequent attitude of apology for failing to capture the elusive nature of Buddy Holly, there are moments of illumination. One is a 1959 photo of Holly taken in a photo booth at the Grand Central Station, New York, in which he is sporting a sense of glee, a mischievous smile, and a cigarette dangled self consciously between his fingers—it reminds us that for all the genius and gravitas ascribed to Holly, he was still just a young man from a more innocent time when drugs and debauchery were almost unheard of. When Holly showed a temper, impatience or distance, Goldrosen suggests that came from a desire of wanting things done right, and from not tolerating those who settled for less. Holly was an introverted, well-behaved geeky kid who essentially changed an art form because, beneath his humble background, a sharp sensibility burned hot and bright. 

Philip Norman also does a remarkable job with his well-researched bio on the Lone Star's original rock star. Who could have predicted a bespectacled, unruly-haired working-class kid would actually became the early, rare 'triple-threat' of singer-songwriter-instrumentalist in the American rock music scene? What is also refreshing is that, by all the accounts documented, Holly was a genuinely decent guy—barring one brief fling with a married woman—he's otherwise presented as a good son, brother, friend, husband, and (even at his young age) show-biz mentor. His life story is certainly not boring, but thankfully the standard sleaze and scandal (Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin type) is absent and not missed at all. On the opposite side of professional research, we have a highly inaccurate book in the "Goldman tradition" of trashing the legends of deceased musicians. Leaden with errors, Amburn's bi­ography of Buddy Holly would be merely an embarrassment if it weren’t fundamentally mean-spirited. Amburn misquoted and distorted what his sources told him—even Buddy Holly historian Bill Griggs is misquoted here—while also making up parts of a nonsensical narrative that doesn't fit Buddy Holly's personality at all. Not all sources are equally reliable and truthful, Amburn should know. The supposed “sexual” relationship—which probably never happened—of Holly with the 'wild girl' of Lubbock is mentioned by a musician named Tin­ker Carlen, a very unreliable source. 

Carlen lost all credibility when he told Amburn he had “formed the Crickets originally” and “did their book­ings”—much to the amusement of Jerry Allison (surviving member of The Crickets). Another similar case was Terry Dahlgren from Arroyo Grande, California, who once told The Tribune he had been hired in August 1958 by Holly & the Crickets to perform with them in a show in Cleveland. Dahlgren said that after that show, Holly asked him to get on the bus to tour as a member of the Crickets. Jerry Allison denied this claim in a telephone interview from his home in Tennessee saying he didn’t know Dahlgren and that the Crickets never had local performers play with them on tours. “We never had anyone fill in the tours, ever.” Allison said that details of Dahlgren’s story were untrue, including that the band traveled by bus then. “We didn’t have a bus in those days,” Allison said. Guitarist Tommy Allsup, who joined the Crickets in May 1958—and played with Holly in his final Winter Dance Party tour—also said Dahlgren never played with the group during its Summer Dance Party tour in July 1958, or Biggest Show of Stars tour in October 1958, or the Winter Dance Party tour in early 1959. “I never heard of this guy, he was not there,” said Allsup in a telephone interview from his home in Missouri. Asked if the Crickets ever had local guitarists play with the group during the tour, Allsup said, “absolutely not.”

Other fact-checking by The Tribune shows that many of the details of Dahlgren’s story conflict with the documented history of the 1958 tours of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Told that Allsup and Allison called his story false, Dahlgren said he never played with them. “I played with Carl Bunch and Waylon Jennings in 1958 when the Crickets were touring with Holly,” he said. Documentation of the tours, however, shows that Holly didn’t tour with Bunch and Jennings in 1958. Holly did tour with Bunch, Jennings and Allsup in the 1959 Winter Dance Party tour. Dahlgren was unable to provide The Tribune with any evidence that he played with Buddy Holly and the Crickets, such as mementos, memorabilia, photos or people who could corroborate his story. In one last desperate attempt, Dahlgren said it had been in Akron when he had played with Buddy Holly. That lie was what ended with the patience of Bill Griggs and other researchers. Dahlgren was just another fake in a long line of opportunists trying to attach themselves to the rock and roll history. Source:

Buddy Holly's widow threatens to sue Lubbock DJ: Portions of an email from William Clement, operator of KDAV 1590 AM, were included in his exchanges with Stephen J. Easley, the attorney representing Maria Elena Holly. Easley sent Clement a 'Cease and Desist' letter regarding a celebration in the Depot District of Lubbock called the “Buddy Holly Birthday Bash.” The letter also demanded that the station remove all mentions of Buddy Holly from their advertising, which included a picture of the statue at the Buddy Holly Museum. Clement stated that the planned festivities, scheduled to take place two days after what would be Buddy Holly’s 75th birthday, was actually being put along Buddy Holly Avenue, in the Depot District. Clement specifically listed the Melt Lounge as primary sponsor of the event. Clement continued stating that the sponsor had the right to use the Buddy Holly Avenue. Easley countered saying that “’A Buddy Holly Birthday Bash’ certainly is not within any license to rename a street.” Clement continued noting that Buddy Holly had a relationship with the station in the past, and claimed that Holly worked as disc jockey at the station in 1955-1956. KFYO News found numerous records of Holly performing and recording at KDAV-AM, but there has been nothing found that actually lists Holly as a disc jockey at the station. Multiple allegations and criticisms were made by Clement throughout his correspondence as well, and he offered to supply Ms. Holly’s attorney with “trinkets of history your client would most probably not like to be made public.” Easley reiterated the original 'Cease and Desist' demand, and expressed confidence in a favorable outcome for his client Maria Elena Holly if the issue ended up in court. Parts of the email sent to Easley from Clement alleged that Ms. Holly was a “golddigger” who was employed at Peer Southern “to entertain male entertainers,” prior to her marriage to Holly. Easley countered saying throughout the correspondence, “It is fortunate that you published the vile and defamatory statements about Mrs. Holly, reducing my burden of proving that you made them.” Source:

Buddy Holly had died intestate and so Maria Elena received the first $5,000 of the net estate, with the remainder being shared with his parents. Three guitars went to the Holley family with Maria Elena keeping the Gibson J-200. Buddy Holly’s claim against Norman Petty was settled in April 1959 for $40,000 and he was acknowledged as the only composer of ‘Peggy Sue’. In 1993, Holly was the only major rock’n’roller not to benefit from an officially released CD box set. Maria Elena Holly: "I have been in litigation with MCA and Universal for years. We know from that telephone conversation with Paul Cohen that Buddy’s original contract was suspect, and his one with Brunswick was as well. Norman Petty–I call him ‘The Evil Man’–had signed the contracts and he had no reason to sign on Buddy's behalf. Even in litigation, they said that someone had got into the office and ripped the signature out, a fan, and I said, ‘In your office? You know, that isn’t possible’."  Shortly after the plane crash, Paul Anka told the NME on February 13, 1959, that he had played 150 shows with Buddy Holly and he added, ‘I feel especially unhappy for Buddy’s widow Maria who, to the best of my knowledge, is expecting a baby. Buddy’s marriage was a very happy one.’ This comment confirmed Maria Elena's pregnancy and I think that Buddy simply preferred to keep it a secret amongst his family and working associates until it was further advanced.

Unfortunately, Maria Elena lost their baby. ‘It was the shock. I was in bed, and one of the young men that Buddy was recording, Lou Giordano, called me and I told him that I was still in bed. I was not feeling good in the mornings. He said, ‘Don’t put on the TV and just wait until I get there.’ Of course, I got up and put the television on and they were talking about the crash. When my aunt came in, I was running around like a demented person and that is when I lost the child.’ The conclusions of the report by the Civil Aeronautics Bound were published on 23 September 1959: "At night, with an overcast sky, snow falling, no definite horizon, and a proposed flight over a sparsely settled area with an absence of ground lights, a requirement for control of the aircraft solely by reference to flight instruments can be predicted." Musicologist Dominic Pedler (author of Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles): ‘The intuitive appreciation of musical and lyrical semantics would intensify as Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting structures matured and they began incorporating the Buddy Holly trademark of an ambitious key change within the middle eight (a musical bridge that refers to a section with a different melody or lyrics within a song). In this regard, Holly's catalogue represented essential listening for the Beatles in their formative years. Indeed, it is no surprise that the origins of several distinctive Beatles chord progressions and songwriting manoeuvres can be traced to some of their favourite Holly songs.’ Would Paul McCartney have written ‘Yesterday’ if Buddy hadn’t come up with ‘True Love Ways’? Surely not.

Michael Gray, author of the definitive book on Dylan’s music, Song and Dance Man (1981): ‘Dylan was very proud at having seen Buddy Holly on his last tour. No musician who had an interest in rock’n’roll could avoid being influenced by Buddy Holly. He was the first person who knew what he was doing – he did the writing, the arrangements, he wasn’t just a singer being moulded by a manager. Holly had rather a strange voice and he sounded like nobody else. Nik Cohn’s book, Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom, says that Holly was the typical no-hoper that everybody liked precisely for that reason. It’s rubbish to say for Cohn that Bob Dylan can’t sing, but he can’t sing like Picasso can’t paint. They broke rules (Holly and Dylan), without taking notice of anything else. Holly’s first attempts at recording were complete failures and he was sent back to Lubbock, Texas, which is one of the most godforsaken spots in the universe, but he refused to become the small-town hick. There are several pieces by Dylan where you can hear a very strong Buddy Holly influence: Maybe Someday from Dylan's album Knocked out Loaded has a very Holly sound.’ —"Buddy Holly: Learning the Game" (2019) by Spencer Leigh