WEIRDLAND: November 2015

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Buddy Holly: Rock & Roll Soldier, Influence on the Beatles (Photographs from the set of Help!)

Buddy Holly was hardly the awkward geek that his amateurish, poorly lit promotional photos suggest. Duane Eddy, the twangy guitar rocker who appeared with him in 1958, once described Buddy as a “well-built” six-footer who had “wavy hair” and was “very good looking.”

While not avowedly political, fifties rock was revolutionary. It urged people to do whatever they wanted to do, even if it meant breaking the rules. Like so many of his generation, Buddy was transformed by rock ’n’ roll from a warbling C&W bluegrass country boy into an early Freedom Rider who went into a hostile South with a busload of black R&B stars. His relationship with black musicians became a powerful symbol of the fusion of R&B and rockabilly—the spark that ignited rock ’n’ roll as we know it today.

Through all the drama of a short but eventful life, Buddy Holly remains one of the more appealing public figures of mid-century America. He was capable of heroically transcending his ingrained Texas prejudices, yet he remained loyal to family and friends. In the music business, he was a gullible youth who was cheated out of a fortune. As a friend he could be generous to a fault, yet crafty as a fox. He was attracted to all sorts of women. While Elvis Presley was worshiped as a sex idol, people reserved a special love for Buddy Holly. He mirrored the ordinary teenager and symbolized both the guilelessness of the era and its repression. In his square suits and Slim Jim ties, he looked like an honor student who made A’s in algebra, but when he went onstage and blasted off with “Oh Boy,” the anchors of the past no longer held.

Buddy neglected his schoolwork through his junior year. Years later, when his tests and term themes were auctioned at Sotheby’s, the New Yorker magazine reviewed his book report on Robert Frost and pronounced it—by homework standards —“a masterpiece.” “Buddy was cocky, but he had a lot to be cocky about,” says Buddy's teacher Robert Knight: “He was what experts in interpersonal relations call a ‘bipolar 8.’ He was very self-confident and got things done. Students who weren’t that self-confident were irritated by him and took the attitude. Buddy was a visionary young man and had difficulty with them.”

Buddy Holly left the United States for the first time in 1958, carrying rock ’n’ roll—the music as well as its highly subversive message of freedom—to the world at large. Though he appears to have had little interest in politics, his music planted the seeds of a larger cultural revolution everywhere. Buddy’s forthcoming trip to England, set for March 1958, at first seemed to him quite the most important event of his lifetime. But in a conversation with [brother] Larry Holley, Buddy said that nothing would ever be as meaningful to him as the day he was baptized: “He wasn’t no saint by any means. He certainly wasn’t a goody-goody. He was a saint in the fact that he accepted Christ as his savior when he was younger.” Buddy always kept a copy of the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” handy. Like Hank Williams, he loved hymns and was fascinated by “What a Friend,” in which the composers Joseph Scriven and Charles C. Converse describe a way to turn over worries and achieve inner peace.

Unlike many who achieve early stardom, Buddy retained his humility. Maria Elena Holly said in 1993: “He said he had an appointment. I called in and Murray Deutch said for him to wait. In the meantime he started a conversation. That was when he asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner with him.” She was charmed when Buddy attempted to speak Spanish with her: “How are you, SeƱorita?” Neither of Buddy’s LPs —The Chirping Crickets and Buddy Holly— made the Billboard Top 40 in America. Years later, rock critics would place both albums near the top of their all-time best LP lists.

Buddy took Maria to dinner at P. J. Clarke’s (the popular pub on Third Avenue that had been used in the filming of The Lost Weekend in the 1940s); she still recalls how he suddenly rose from the table and said, “Excuse me a minute, Maria Elena. I’ll be right back.” When they’d entered the restaurant they’d noticed a flower vendor standing on Third Avenue, just outside the door. Buddy now went to the vendor, selected a red rose, and hurried back inside. “This is for you,” he said, “and would you marry me?” The gap in his life since the loss of Echo McGuire had left him lost and adrift emotionally.

He’d found, in his typically impulsive way, the girl he wanted to marry, someone with whom he could share what he called 'true love ways': dining out, exchanging hopes and dreams, laughing, and being romantic together. “Music is my life,” he told Maria Elena. “I want people to feel wonderful and great when they hear my music.”

His voice in "Learning the Game" is edged with bittersweet irony as he drives home the truth that romantic love is the cause of most human suffering. There is something deeply comforting, even healing, in the way Buddy defines heartache as the common lot of mankind. “Buddy wouldn’t hurt my feelings for anything,” Maria Elena remembers. By the end of 1958 Buddy Holly’s life had become all but unlivable. When asked in 1992 if the original Crickets were intent on a reconciliation with Buddy, Larry Holley simply said, “I think that was another fictitious thing.” His funds were frozen in New Mexico, largely as a result of having given Norman Petty power of attorney over his business affairs. Bankruptcy had forced him to accept a dangerous bus tour in one of the worst midwestern winters on record.

Buddy was now on the "Winter Dance Party" tour without management, but even when Petty had represented him, Buddy had been subjected to exhausting conditions on previous GAC tours. In the Midwest's “icy breath of death rolling down low across the land” (as F. Scott Fitzgerald described it in Flappers and Philosophers) it was sheer chaos for the performers: On the way to Fort Dodge, the bus was so cold that once again they were in danger of frostbite. Carl Bunch (victim of frostbite and hospitalized) was convinced that “Satan” was determined to stop the tour  In a 1981 interview with Bill Griggs, he’d refer to Buddy as the musical point man of a “massive rebirth” of Christ consciousness throughout the world. Buddy by this point was “just a high-class bum being kicked around on the road.” By the time they bumped and skidded into Clear Lake (frozen solid for the winter of 1958–59), Buddy knew he couldn’t endure another long bus ride.

Robert Frost once wrote a poem called “A Soldier.” In it, the soldier falls in battle, but Frost says the force of his fall shoots his soul on to heaven. And so it was, I like to think, with the singers who fell so hard on this cold and merciless ground.

Despite the liberties the moviemakers took with historical fact, The Buddy Holly Story turned out to be disarmingly lovable, thanks largely to Gary Busey’s performance, a tour de force of acting and singing. Though vocally unimpressive (painfully obvious when one listens to the sound-track album), Busey knew how to handle a guitar. More importantly, Busey knew how to act, turning in a performance of such sincerity and conviction that no one cared whether it resembled Buddy. Just prior to the film’s release, Robert Gittler, the writer of the screenplay, committed suicide. Lubbock, ever predictable, failed to lobby hard enough for the world premiere and lost out to Dallas, where the movie opened on May 18, 1978, at the Medallion Theater. –"Buddy Holly: A Biography" (2014) by Ellis Amburn

Buddy Holly's melodies and arrangements were a huge influence on the Beatles. ("At least the first 40 songs we wrote were Buddy Holly-influenced," said Paul McCartney). With the whirlwind they were on in 1964, the first thing John Lennon asked when he got to The Ed Sullivan Show was, "Is this the stage that Buddy Holly played on?" Listen to the songs on the first three Beatles albums. Take their voices off, and it's Buddy Holly. Same with the Rolling Stones. The magic that Buddy Holly created was nothing short of a miracle. The fact that he died at 22 is just ridiculous. That tells you all you need to know about just how focused and visionary he was. Source:

The Beatles: Photographs from the Set of Help! (2015) by Emilio Lari, Alastair Gordon, with Introduction by Richard Lester. There are great candid and posed shots of the Beatles, many unseen for years or never published, throughout. Musicians will enjoy the close-up images of the band with its famed guitars: George Harrison with his Gibson acoustic, John Lennon with his Rickenbacker, Paul McCartney with his violin-shaped Hofner bass. We’ve seldom seen these instruments so closely and looking so shiny and new. The same is true for the pictures of the Beatles themselves. They look so young, fresh and lively that it’s hard to believe the pictures are more than 50 years old. It’s an excellent collection of one photographer’s intimate view of the Beatles, featuring mostly unfamiliar and very compelling images of history’s most famous band. Source:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, The Velvet Underground: Light & Tragedy

‘The film is about the man behind the myth, the power of his music, the sheer voltage of his talent and charisma, and his formidable demons; he wrote some of the greatest songs in the history of American music.’ ―Tom Hiddlestone (I Saw the Light) on Hank Williams.

Sony Pictures Classics were hoping that I SAW THE LIGHT, the Hank Williams biopic starring Tom Hiddleston, would be generating some major Oscar buzz and had the film appropriately slotted into the Oscar bait slot of November 28, 2015. However, despite the acting of stars Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen receiving praises, the film failed to generate the Oscar buzz that the studio wanted at last month's Toronto International Film Festival. Seemingly in response to that lack of Oscar attention, Sony has pushed back I SAW THE LIGHT to March 25, 2016. Source:

The gifted British actor Tom Hiddleston plays Hank Williams and also creditably sings his songs (musician Rodney Crowell worked with Hiddleston). I Saw the Light follows Williams’ life from his marriage to Audrey Sheppard (Elizabeth Olsen) at a gas station in Andalusia, Alabama in 1944 to his death, from alcohol and pill-induced heart failure, en route to a concert in Canton, Ohio on New Year’s Day 1953. Marc Abraham’s effort is a fairly standard film biography. “I got caught up in Hank’s story. He died at 29, wrote all these songs, divorced the same woman twice, married a 19-year old right after recording ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’. I thought what an amazing story. He was in the public domain, and I just started writing the script,” said Abraham.

Hank Williams had his first big hit with “Move It on Over,” about a man in trouble with his wife, in 1947. In fact, it is an early rock and roll song, one that unmistakably reflects the postwar atmosphere. After a successful stint on the Louisiana Hayride, Williams first performed at the Grand Ole Opry in June 1949, where his “Lovesick Blues” was a triumph.

The glory did not last long. He was eventually fired from the Opry for alcoholism in 1952 and his famed producer, Fred Rose (Bradley Whitford in the film), stopped working with him. His life went from bad to worse… In one of the better scenes in I Saw the Light, Williams is in New York—where he feels like a fish out of water—for the Perry Como television show in November 1951. He speaks frankly to a reporter from a big city newspaper. “Everyone has a little darkness,” he says. Williams refers to the anger, misery, sorrow and shame that everyone feels. “I show it to them [the public] … They think I can help.”

In another comment, cited by Colin Escott in his biography of Williams, the real-life singer told an interviewer in 1951, “Folk songs express the dreams and prayers and hopes of the working people.” Williams was born in immense poverty in rural southern Alabama and grew up during the Depression. His father was a terrible drunk and his mother was not an easy person. He drank, and ultimately took pills, all his brief life to alleviate physical and psychological pain. But his songs reflected something more than merely his own personal distress and striving. Their rhythms and words tapped into the sentiments of large numbers of people. As historian Rachel Rubin notes: “In its most important early decades (the 1920s to 1940s), country music told the story of urbanization, and the genre’s relationship to rural living was more a musical epitaph for a way of life increasingly being left behind.” Source:

Like a sonnet, or a hymn, Hank Williams’ songs are timeless both because of and in spite of their structural limitations, using primary colors to drill down to the primary essences of the most primary human emotions. Unfortunately, Marc Abraham’s Williams biopic “I Saw the Light” fails to mirror its subject, focusing on the footnotes, the asides and the marginalia instead of the singular genius at its center. Despite a thoroughly committed, impressive performance from Tom Hiddleston as Williams, the film tackles the life of one of the 20th century’s most seminal musicians with all the passion of a stenographer. Erasing all traces of Britishness from his voice, Hiddleston makes for a very effective country singer; he doesn’t necessarily sound like Williams, but as with Joaquin Phoenix’s Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line,” the sheer amount of effort the actor took to nail a number of the singer’s distinctive tics, hiccups and blue notes is obvious. Source:

Country song craft was in transition. From the dawn of recorded country music in 1923, country songs had been a mixture of traditional ballads, dance tunes, Victorian parlor songs, hymns, blues, and vaudeville numbers. Deep introspection was rare. As far back as a 1947 Montgomery Advertiser feature, Hank Williams was dubbed “the hillbilly Shakespeare.” His songs were the true-to-life blues. Like most truly great songwriters, he flirted with banality, but nearly always managed to sidestep it. Hank’s ultimate triumph as a songwriter was that he learned to tell an audience of thousands what he couldn’t tell someone sitting one-on-one across the room. Hank felt the need to mask his tenderheartedness with callousness and shitkicker bravado, but in his songs he let his weakness show, increasingly so once he discovered that everyone else was weak too.

In endless gestures of appeasement toward Audrey Mae Sheppard, Hank bought jewelry and things for the home as she performed the sacred task of perpetuating his line. All the while, Audrey was more interested in perpetuating her career. She could truly see no reason why Hank’s applause should not be hers. After four years as a singer, she still had little grasp of how she really sounded. The pickers said that she sang “between the frets” (meaning she hit neither one note nor the other). Horace Logan recalled: "Audrey was a pure, unmitigated, hard-boiled, blue-eyed bitch. She wanted to be a singer and she was horrible, unbelievably horrible. She not only tried to sing, she insisted on it, and she forced herself out onstage when Hank was out there."

Wondering what Audrey was doing while he was out on the road contributed to Hank’s broodiness and general upset. He saw the band members happy to get off the road and get home to their wives and families. He would go home and perhaps not find Audrey there at all. If she was there, they’d probably have a fight. As early as 1950, coming in off the road, he had told the guys that he was going to Acuff-Rose to pick up a check for two thousand dollars, go home, give Audrey half of it, then spend the rest of the night fighting with her over the other half. It just wasn’t funny anymore. Still, Hank loved Audrey, but it’s clear that she no longer loved him.

Audrey claimed that she was divorcing Hank for the good of the children. Hank knew that he had failed and, according to those close to him, still hoped from time to time for a reconciliation. In the cross-complaint Hank spoke of his humiliation and grief when he heard what Audrey had done (an abortion). Hank’s cross-complaint document was, by turns, sad and bitter. Hank more or less agreed to Audrey’s terms, despite the fact that his lawyer considered them punitive. This, according to Price, was because Hank wanted to show his continued love for Audrey and his regret over what had happened. Audrey got the house on Franklin Road, and one-half of all Hank’s future royalties with a binding obligation upon MGM and Acuff-Rose to remit them directly to her. If Audrey ever remarried, her claim upon the royalties would end and Hank’s only obligation would be a maintenance payment of $300 a month for Hank Jr. until he was twenty-one.

Hank’s self-defeating conduct stemmed in part from his perception that he was being marketed as a commodity. He was sent to fly the flag for country music in general and the Grand Ole Opry in particular. The comfort and joy he’d once drawn from checking the charts diminished now that he came to see himself as commodified. Never especially forthcoming, he withdrew all the more now that Audrey was gone. As 1952 wore on, Hank was increasingly past caring what the Opry’s plans were, and whether or not he figured in them. Most of those who worked with him that year talk of his rapid disintegration. There’s a romantic notion that the writer or poet calms his troubled soul by reducing it to rhyme, but as Hank Williams pulled off his boots and eased himself gingerly onto his bed, the little verses he had scratched out in his untutored spidery handwriting almost certainly offered him no relief at all.

The final paradox is that Hank Williams left no journals, almost no letters, and no extended interviews, and the people who knew him best have to admit that on some level they didn’t know him at all. Yet, for all the ambiguity and unknowableness, Hank Williams appears almost desperately real to us through his music. At his best, he froze a moment or a feeling in terms simple enough to register instantly yet meaningful enough to listen to forever. ―"I Saw the Light: The Story of Hank Williams" (2015) by Colin Escott & George Merritt

Musically, 1949 was also an important year not just for country music but for pop music in general, with the emergence of Hank Williams, already a major country star, as a mainstream ‘crossover’ artist, with the huge success of his definitive recording of ‘Lovesick Blues’. Williams’ music could be heard in Lubbock (Texas) thanks to his live broadcasts on country music stations – the Louisiana Hayride on KWKH from Shreveport, throughout 1948, and the Grand Ole Opry on WSM from Nashville, where he started in 1949.

Buddy Holly was fascinated by the Hank Williams sound, which involved a semi-yodelling style that stretched and bent individual syllables of words over several notes. But as John Goldrosen has pointed out, there was more to it than that. Williams wrote songs from the heart, drawing on his personal life and speaking directly to his audience, rather than simply performing (in effect, acting) someone else’s message. The fact that so many of his songs dealt in a plaintive or wistful fashion with lost or unrequited love simply made them even more appealing to teenagers. Like Hank Williams, Buddy Holly was deeply influenced by the spiritual sound of the old country church. ―"Not Fade Away: The Life and Music of Buddy Holly" (2012) by John R. Gribbin

"Buddy Holly was sort of a hero. Though a star, he still sounded and looked like a friend. He was one with his listeners, with one important difference: he could successfully express through his music the feelings that those listeners could not express for themselves. And since he was unusual only in his ambition, perseverance and musical talents, his concerns were shared by his audience. When he sang his song, his audience could claim that it was their song too." ―"Remembering Buddy: The Definitive Biography Of Buddy Holly" (2001) by John Goldrosen

Rave On Buddy Holly is a compilation tribute album released on June 28, 2011, through Fantasy Records/Concord Music Group and Hear Music. The track # 17 is "Peggy Sue" revisited by Lou Reed.

Sterling Morrison, Lou Reed, Maureen Tucker and Doug Yule (The Velvet Underground lineup in 1969). Those who have long been left cold by the Velvet Underground cite more than a waft of pretension, the sense that the music requires a pedigree. But that’s nonsense and The Complete Matrix Tapes collection (2015) makes you realize that. This is a band that, were time and circumstances different, could have reached a much wider audience; a band that was equal parts dangerous, demanding, assured, sarcastic, arty, unreal, sincere, tentative, patient, searching, ironic, unpretentious, formidable, and surprisingly capable of pure entertainment.

A lengthy take on “The Ocean” doesn’t just unfold with all the brawn and brain you might expect, it also sounds (despite some sonic limitations) as though it’s being revealed to the band on the spot and, consequently, revealed to us only now, in this very moment. It may be one of the finest moments of the Velvet Underground captured here or anywhere. The same might be said of the 37-minute take on “Sister Ray”. There is nasty, gnarled guitar work that comes crawling out of the speakers like snakes creeping from a swamp, like a transistor transmitting its thin, eerie tones into the night. Source:

"Beginning to See the Light" by The Velvet Underground, early version (recorded at the "Temptation Inside Your Heart" session, 1968) from the 'White Light/White Heat' album which was reissued on its 45th Anniversary in 2013.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fever City, Rock and Roll Fever: Buddy Holly

If you took James Ellroy at his most imaginative and Oliver Stone at his most conspiratorial, and mixed them up in a supersized martini shaker, you would produce the vivid writing, explosive events, and irresistible entertainment of Fever City.

The story kicks off in 1960 Los Angeles, with the daring kidnapping of the child of one of America's richest men. It then darts back and forth between a private detective's urgent search for the child, the saga of a notorious hit man in the days leading to JFK's assasination, and the modern-day story of a skeptical journalist researching the still-active conspiracy theories of the 50s and 60s, with the aim of debunking them. Just as the detective discovers that the kidnapping is a crime much larger than he imagined, and the hit man finds himself caught in a web that is astonighingly complex, the journalist discovers -to his horror, dismay, and even his jeopardy- that the conspiracy theories might well be true. Source:

The plane crash that claimed the lives of three rock 'n' roll stars, including Buddy Holly, could be investigated afresh by US transport safety experts. According to the Mason City Globe Gazette, the NTSB received the request from a pilot from New England called LJ Coon. Source:

Clear Lake, Iowa (May 1, 2015): The National Transportation Safety Board will not reopen the investigation of the plane crash in February 1959 that killed Lubbock-born rock pioneer Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and "Big Bopper" J.P. Richardson. The NTSB said Coon did not present enough evidence to back up his assertions. Source:

Gary W. Moore (author of Hey Buddy, 2011) discounted conspiracy theories alleging a gunshot from a handgun owned by Holly brought down the plane. Barb Dwyer, wife of Jerry Dwyer, who was the fixed base operator at the airport and owner of the plane, declined to comment on Coon's attempts to reopen the crash investigation. Source:

Rolling Stone critic Johnathan Cott eloquently singled out "Peggy Sue" as a masterpiece: "With Peggy Sue, he created the first rock and roll folk heroine. In Peggy Sue Got Married, Peggy Sue vanishes, like Lolita, into the mythology of American Romance." About this mythic Peggy Sue, the words revealed nothing other than that she made her moody paramour feel ‘blue’, yet still love her ‘with a love so rare ’n’ true’. Where she came to life was in the ever-changing shades and shifts of Buddy’s voice, her name repeated over and over like a mantra – now murmured in tongue-tied bashfulness, now stretched to a six-syllable schoolyard taunt (‘Sue-oo-oooo-oo-oo’), now hiccuped, now sighed in rapture, now transmuted into a ringing four-chord eulogy, perhaps the most infallibly nerve-tingling solo in all rock ’n’ roll.

The Real Buddy Holly: In truth, Lubbock always went on with or without Buddy Holly, the city’s only world-famous native son. Two decades passed before city officials, in the wake of a Hollywood film depicting Buddy’s life, saw fit to erect a statue of the great musician. This seeming apathy has been a matter of consid­erable outrage among Holly fans, but one acquaintance of Buddy’s suggests that Buddy would have had no hard feelings. “There’s a stubbornness in Lubbock, which Buddy himself had,” says Peggy Sue Rackham, the woman immortalized in two Buddy Holly songs.

Understanding Buddy Holly is a different matter. He could be numbingly shy or obnoxiously self-confident depending on whether he was holding a guitar at the time. Even his musical genius is hard to nail down. As a lyricist, he was disarmingly cavalier. He was a stealth rocker, that hayseed grin and those im­possibly daft glasses making the world safe for the audacious overtures suggested in “Rave On,” “Oh Boy!” and especially “Not Fade Away”: “I’m gonna tell you how it’s gonna be/You’re gonna give your love to me.” While Elvis’ gyrations were inducing panic in the world, Buddy was slipping hedonism through the front door like a bouquet proffered by a happy-faced delivery boy.

His was a triumph of subver­sion; but how such a feat grew out of a per­fectly ordinary boyhood in Lubbock is an astounding mystery, one that no one has ever come close to solving. Amburn’s primary source for Buddy’s teenage antics is a Lubbock musician named Tin­ker Carlen. If only there had been loose Lub­bock women in the fifties to have had one’s way with, several of Buddy’s male pals lamented to me, adding that Buddy was every bit as unlucky as they were. Similarly, several of Amburn’s sources scoff at the author’s theory that Buddy had a drinking problem, “He wasn’t even a moderate drinker,” Sonny Curtis told me. Leaden with errors, Buddy Holly: A Bi­ography would be merely an embarrassment if it weren’t fundamentally mean-spirited.

Buddy Holly was on a roll. In June, while visiting his music publisher in New York, he laid eyes on the company’s rav­ishing Puerto Rican secretary, Maria Elena Santiago, asked her out that night, and proposed to her over dinner. In August the couple were married in the Holley home. They returned to Manhattan and moved into a Greenwich Village apartment. Despite his multitude of hit singles, Buddy was broke: The royalty money was tied up in the account of his manager, Norman Petty. Buddy convinced the Crickets that they needed to wash their hands of Petty and move permanently to New York, where they could get better representa­tion. After a tour in late October, they converged on Petty’s studio in Clovis. But Buddy and Maria arrived to find that the Crickets were already there, and that Petty had talked the boys into staying with him. “I want my money,” Buddy said. According to Maria, Petty replied, “I’d rather see you starve to death first.” Source:

In order to allow J.I. Allison to impress the real Peggy Sue, Buddy gave him the songwriting credit on the record. For his own reasons, Norman Petty added his name. Buddy could take someone else’s song and make it his own with a vastly superior rendition. By contrast, nobody, not even the Beatles, ever took a Buddy Holly song and improved upon his own recording of it.

Exactly why ‘That’ll Be The Day’ took so long to get into the charts never has been satisfactorily explained. For most rock ’n’ roll classics, success has appeared soaringly effortless with the frenetic pace at which America’s record business operated in the rock ’n’ roll fever of early 1957. The blend of sounds, which has seemed unimprovably right to modern ears, was an unusual, even eccentric one in mid-1957. And the voice sounded unlike that of a potential teenage idol, being totally lacking in sexual suggestiveness, self-pitying angst or any other clue that its owner belonged to the same generation as Elvis, Ricky Nelson or Eddie Cochran.

June Clark was a highly attractive woman, slim and wavy-blonde, with snub, big-eyed features glancingly like those of Brigitte Bardot, the French ‘sex kitten’. Her job on the cosmetics counter at Hull’s drugstore gave her an aura of glossy, nylon-crisp untouchability. But she found herself increasingly drawn to Buddy for his charm, his kindliness, his singleminded ambition and the dark, lonely depths in him which now and then revealed themselves. ‘I knew he liked me because he was a normal young guy,’ June says: ‘But the thing he always wanted to do most when we were together was just talk to me.’ June had been prepared for a superficial flirtation. But the intensity of Buddy’s feelings began to alarm her. Forgetting the need for discretion, he phoned her constantly, and also took to hanging around the Hull drugstore. ‘He’d just stand there staring at me while I waited on customers, till it got to be really embarrassing and unnerving.’

Since groupies and drugs still were almost nonexistent pleasures of ‘the road’, having fun meant one thing only. ‘We’d sometimes be drunk in the morning,’ J.I. has since admitted, ‘and stay drunk all day.’ This slackness and unprofessionalism infuriated Buddy. Lubbock may have been slow to recognize his enormous fame, but at least that has prevented any hint of the tacky opportunism with which Elvis Presley is memorialized at Graceland. In death, as in his brief life, Buddy remains untainted by vulgarity. On a basis of simply counting heads, rock music surpasses even film as the most influential art form of the twentieth century. By that reckoning, there is a case for calling Buddy Holly the 20th century’s most influential musician. Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly are the two seminal figures of fifties rock ’n’ roll.—"Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly" (2014) by Philip Norman

In The Buddy Holly Story (1978), the legend from Lubbock, Texas, is reassessed in a thoroughly entertaining musical biography that mixes fact and fiction in equal parts, a practice Hollywood is unable to resist despite the potential for distortion and false allegations. Luckily, the film captures Holly's charm and stubborn individuality through Gary Busey's chameleon-like performance in the title role. As the story progresses from Holly's formation of his band, the Crickets, to his departure for a recording career in New York City, it also charts the evolution of some of the musician's most famous tunes. The Buddy Holly Story also took dramatic liberties with biographical details (the scene in the church where Holly's pastor attacks his music was fabricated - the two men were close friends in real life) and completely omitted Norman Petty, Holly's producer, from the story line.

For the actors, however, The Buddy Holly Story was a dream come true. Gary Busey, who was once a drummer with Leon Russell's band, threw himself into the lead role with such intensity that he began to resemble Holly, the result of heavy dieting and the makeup department's influence (horn-rimmed glasses and curled hair). He also got a charge out of performing Holly's music with co-stars Charles Martin Smith and Don Stroud.

Audiences and critics were into The Buddy Holly Story as well, and typical of the reviews was this assessment by Film Quarterly: "Director Steve Rash and Gary Busey have interpreted The Buddy Holly Story with an unpolished beauty that remains faithful both to the spirit of the man and to his music." The film went on to receive three Oscar nominations in 1978. Busey was nominated for Best Actor. He would later say he won the role of the late singer because "they finally realized I have the same-sized teeth." Source:

Friday, November 06, 2015

Rare Songs by Frank Sinatra, Chairman of the Board Film Collection

A rare recording from his 1945 radio program, Songs by Sinatra. Had he survived the cold, music legend Frank Sinatra would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year. But there's still some of his stuff almost no one in the world has heard—so all of that is coming out in a new compilation this month. Sinatra had a long history of performing the American classic Ol’ Man River by Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II. The song was one of his go-to tunes for nearly three decades. He sang it during his Man and His Music TV special and even included a stripped-down rendition during his 1962 world tour. The version below is taken from one of his early performances, from a radio show in 1945. At just 30 years old, a young Sinatra sings what will become a lifelong favorite for one of the first times. Source:

To celebrate “The Chairman of the Board’s” centennial, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) release Frank Sinatra: 3 Film Collection DVD & Blu-ray on November 16th and we have a Blu-ray up for grabs! This collection includes newly re-mastered releases of Anchors Aweigh, On the Town and Robin and the 7 Hoods for the first time on Blu-ray and is packed full of new special features!

Throughout his six-decade career, Frank Sinatra performed on more than 1,400 recordings and was awarded 31 gold, nine platinum, three double platinum and one triple platinum album by the Recording Industry Association of America. Sinatra demonstrated a remarkable ability to appeal to every generation and continues to do so; his artistry still influences many of today’s music superstars. He also appeared in more than 60 films and produced eight motion pictures. Source:

Sinatra had been growing steadily more impatient with Capitol Records, with which his contract would expire in November 1962. He had been agitating for many things—a greater share of the profits, a producer of his own, control of his master recordings—but it’s hard to escape the impression that what he wanted most of all was out. When one listens to the recordings Frank made on the night of May 14 —and especially to his new “I’ll Never Smile Again”— it’s hard to escape the impression that, consciously or not, he already had one foot out the door. Singing over Jenkins’s sad strings, Sinatra sounds tender and vulnerable and middle-aged; there’s a slight quaver to his voice that’s not at all unattractive. Yet as he sings the first chorus —I’ll never smile again, until I smile at you, I’ll never laugh again, what good would it do— something quite strange happens. His pitch is uncertain from the first syllable, and—after weirdly mispronouncing the word “laugh” as “luff”—he hits an unmistakable clam on the word “do.” Frank’s ear was exquisitely tuned: he was famous for bringing a take to a grinding halt if, say, the third violin was a half note off, fixing the offender with an ice-blue glare and saying, “Where you working next week?” He would do multiple takes of a song if anything about his vocal or the accompaniment displeased him. Why did he not rerecord this “Smile”? SINATRA: THE CHAIRMAN (2015) by JAMES KAPLAN

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Next projects: Buster’s Mal Heart (Rami Malek) & Mute (Duncan Jones)

Rami Malek, leading star of the so-hot-right-now cyber-thriller Mr. Robot, has today landed his first major role. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the up-and-comer has agreed a deal to topline Sarah Adina Smith’s mystery drama Buster’s Mal Heart. Malek will spearhead the drama as an eccentric recluse who lives out his days in the mountains, breaking into one vacation home after another in order to survive through the harsh winters.

During his illicit escapades – which ought to be right in Malek’s wheelhouse after Mr. Robot – our protagonist is plagued by a series of vivid and indeed recurring dreams; dreams that cast him astray at sea without a hope. As the narrative unfolds, Malek’s character learns that the dreams are in fact real, and that his conscious is inexplicably split across two bodies in two very different locations. It’s this mind-bending plot that will underpin Buster’s Mal Heart. Source:

EXCLUSIVE: Duncan Jones’ long-cherished Mute, about a mute bartender who goes up against his city’s gangsters in an effort to find out what happened to his missing partner, may be coming a step nearer to fruition with the news that Paul Rudd and Alexander Skarsgard have boarded the project. Also joining Mute is Lotus Entertainment, which will handle international sales and finance the ambitious film in time for AFM.

The film is set in Berlin, 40 years from today. A roiling city of immigrants, where East crashes against West in a science-fiction Casablanca. Leo Beiler (Skarsgard), a mute bartender, has one reason and one reason only for living here, and she’s disappeared. But when Leo’s search takes him deeper into the city’s underbelly, an odd pair of American surgeons (led by Rudd) seem to be the only recurring clue, and Leo can’t tell if they can help, or who he should fear most.

“I’ve been working towards making Mute for 12 years now. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that we’re finally going to shoot this utterly unique film,” said Jones. “Mute is a film that will last. It is unlike any other science fiction being made today.” Source: