WEIRDLAND: July 2019

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Historical deviation in Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Joan Didion, in an essay first published in 1973, described the Hollywood of that era as “the last extant stable society,” and Tarantino’s tableau confirms this view in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Life isn’t perfect, but it is coherent. People know their place. They respect the rules and hierarchies. The governing virtue in this world is courtesy. John Ford, one of old Hollywood’s greatest conservatives, ended one of his greatest movies with the exhortation to “print the legend.” Tarantino’s answer is to film the fairy tale. Alongside the knight and his squire, there is a princess — Sharon Tate — who lives in something like a castle and is married to a man who looks a little like a frog. Tarantino has a sentimental investment in marriage and a thing about wives.

Didion, in “The White Album,” wrote that “many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on Aug. 9, 1969, ended at exactly the moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brush fire through the community.” But what if the ’60s never ended? The music we hear isn’t a soundtrack of rebellion, but an anthology of pleasure. Tarantino’s anti-ironic celebration of the mainstream popular culture of the time amounts to a sustained argument against the idea of a counterculture. Those who would disrupt, challenge or destroy the last stable society on earth are in the grip of an ideological, aesthetic and moral error. Hippies aren’t cool. Old-time he-men like Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are cool. Tarantino brilliantly uses the presence of the Manson girls to suggest something in the Hollywood cosmos that’s diabolical in its bad vibes. In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, there is a karmic justice that finds everyone getting what they deserve. 

Dean Martin and Sharon Tate in The Wrecking Crew (1968)

At the end of the film, the course of history is changed. Rick and Cliff decide to have one last hurrah as Rick’s expenses filming spaghetti westerns in Rome have crippled his finances. And Susan Atkins (Mikey Madison) decides that Rick Dalton would make a better target than Sharon Tate because his work on violent TV shows have made society violent. Both of these decisions result in Cliff and Rick (with a movie prop no less) killing Tex Watson (Austin Butler), Susan 'Sadie' Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel (Madisen Beaty), saving Sharon Tate and her house guests. This isn’t the first time Tarantino has used his films to take a participatory with history. He did it first in Inglourious Basterds (2009), and then again in Django Unchained (2012). Like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, each of those films ended with the evil being defeated by flames as the filmmaker literally burns away the atrocities of our past—the Holocaust, slavery, the Manson murders—the effects and after-effects of which shaped America in the 20th century. 

But the historical deviation of Tarantino’s latest feels the most useful, the most lasting, perhaps because it is centered on one person. Rick and Cliff prove their usefulness, and so does Tarantino in this neo-Western. It’s not cowboys and bounty hunters who save the day, but filmmakers whose human flaws allow their main characters not only redemption, but connection. Although we can’t help but mourn the absence of the Sharon Tate who could’ve been, there is solace found in the fact that her legacy drives this work of art and is therefore irreplaceable and transformative, all things that Hollywood, at its best, can be. Tarantino had an almost impossible mission in fleshing out this story and he'll be collecting soon a heap of criticism, ignoring all his—frequently unnuanced—earnest efforts to advocate for women and minorities through strong portrayals. As a director he uses people, props and screen time to express a humanism so palpable it's damn near a fetish. Source: www.hollywoodreporter.com

Monday, July 29, 2019

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (ode to a cultural rebirth), soundtrack and reviews

Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is unquestionably the movie in which Tarantino has it all coming together: a passion for forgotten B-movies, for correcting history, for all things pop culture, for a time and place before the disease of chain restaurants and big box stores infected every other time and place, for obscure pop songs the now-corporatized Oldies Stations refuse to play, for cool men who are all men, for women who are all woman, and for a deliberate pace that slowly raises a middle finger to the MTV-afflicted. And this is just the way Tarantino likes it, this is where he would freeze the world forever — a world filled with cool cars, drive-in movies, diners, and blue skies… A world where one amazing radio station is so omni-present that acts as the soundtrack of an entire city.

OUTIH is not just a movie, it’s an experience — a hypnotic, captivating, immersive tour. Over one weekend in early February 1969, Tarantino dedicates himself to taking us back to a Hollywood — a mythical place, where the studios and their clean cut, square-jawed heroes have not yet been replaced by the anti-heroes of Easy Rider and Raging Bull. Cocaine is nowhere to be seen. People trip but they don’t fall. Dalton even calls Tex Watson 'Dennis Hopper' at one point. Tarantino is just taking the mickey out of hippies and leftist counter-culture. Especially he’s having a go at pathetic losers that have been monumentalized by society for grotesque reasons. Tarantino suceeds in depicting the flower childs of California as creepy, unkept, dirty, and barbaric while living on the outskirts of society while the viewers are repulsed by their rat-infested lifestyle. The hippie communes may be romanticized in most of the media, but definitely not by Tarantino.

But in a place called Chatsworth, just outside of Tarantino’s Magic Place, a cancer is growing. In fact, a malevolent force has already blackened a piece of that magic, a Holy Land where Tarantino’s heroes once came to life. Of all things, the Spahn Ranch, a mystical movie lot where TV Westerns and Western heroes like Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds once walked, is now home to the Manson family, of Charlie and his harem of malevolent hippies, those goddamned hippies who ruined everything. Also looming on the horizon are the horrors of the Woke generation, whose strident bossiness will take all the fun out of everything — especially the movies.

It was a half-hour, black and white Western series called Wanted: Dead or Alive that made Steve McQueen a star. And after he had some success in movies, McQueen deliberately sabotaged his own show, and it was canceled after just three seasons. Rick Dalton did the same, only his half-hour Western TV series is called Bounty Law. Rick Dalton is staring dead in the eyes of 40 and obscurity, so he just made a movie where he killed a bunch of Nazis, but the only rope ladder being thrown his way is an Italian Western. Everyone knew Burt Reynolds from his three seasons on Gunsmoke, but all he ever wanted was to be a movie star — and as he watched Eastwood and McQueen succeed where he couldn’t, he grew more insecure and despondent. Same with Rick Dalton. Burt Reynolds also lived at times with his best friend, Hal Needham, a famous stuntman. Rick Dalton’s inseparable sidekick is stuntman Cliff Booth. DiCaprio inhabits Dalton beautifully. His desperation, his insecurity, his determination, and his talent. One of the best moments is when Rick Dalton discovers he truly can act.

And then there’s Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), the Ethereal Beauty, the Innocent in The White Boots, the Unaffected Angel still enthralled by the idea of being a star, the Golden and Radiant Dream Girl who just has to tell the ticket lady she’s in the movie playing there and who practically squeals with delight as she watches a matinee audience enjoy her silly performance as a sexy klutz in The Wrecking Crew. Tarantino wishes the late 60s culture wave hadn't 'rolled back upon itself', to use Hunter Thompson’s words. What would’ve happened if Tate hadn’t died? Where would we be if the positive ethos of the ’60s blended naturally into the socio-political, cultural, and technological changes of the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, etc.? The murders of the Manson Family signaled the loss of a communally guiding ethic that triggered the explosion and exploitation of the free love movement. They ushered in the birth of harsh, well-earned cynicism on a national scale. By giving Tate a new life on screen, Tarantino memorializes her while suggesting that we’d be better off in a world in which what she embodied — openness, hopefulness, peacefulness, equality, sober-minded anti-establishment thought — found new life at the turn of the decade. Perhaps, for Tarantino, her survival in the film is not just a celebration of her life, but an ode to a cultural rebirth that never were, a new era that never came. Source: www.breitbart.com

-How did you cast Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate?

-Tarantino: I’d seen her in a couple of things and thought, she’s really the only person. Everybody else would be a secondary choice. Then I let some of my friends read the script, and they all said,  “So you’re casting Margot Robbie, right?” And out of the blue I got a letter from her, saying, “I really like your work, and I’d love to work with you sometime.” Literally, I had just finished the script a week and a half earlier. I knew I wanted to tell the Rick and Cliff story, and I knew I wanted to tell the Sharon story. In the movie she is a real person, but she is also an idea.  Source: time.com

The soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino’s new-released film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood has been announced. The 31-track release features the likes of Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Diamond and Deep Purple. It comes out via Columbia on July 26 to coincide with the film’s US release (the film comes out in the UK on August 15), and will be available on CD, vinyl and digitally. View the tracklisting for the Once Upon A Time In Hollywood soundtrack below.


1.   Treat Her Right – Roy Head & The Traits
2.   Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man – The Bob Seger System
Boss Radio feat. Humble Harve:
3.   Hush – Deep Purple
4.   Mug Root Beer Advertisement
5.   Hector – The Village Callers
6.   Son of a Lovin’ Man – Buchanan Brothers
7.   Paxton Quigley’s Had the Course (from the MGM film Three in the Attic) – Chad & Jeremy
8.   Tanya Tanning Butter Advertisement
9.   Good Thing – Paul Revere & The Raiders
10. Hungry – Paul Revere & the Raiders
11. Choo Choo Train – The Box Tops
12. Jenny Take a Ride – Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels
13. Kentucky Woman – Deep Purple
14. The Circle Game – Buffy Sainte-Marie
Boss Radio feat. The Real Don Steele:
15. Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel
16. Numero Uno Advertisement
17. Bring a Little Lovin’ – Los Bravos
18. Suddenly / Heaven Sent Advertisement
19. Vagabond High School Reunion
20. KHJ Los Angeles Weather Report
21. The Illustrated Man Advertisement / Ready For Action
22. Hey Little Girl – Dee Clark
23. Summer Blonde Advertisement
24. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show – Neil Diamond
25. Don’t Chase Me Around (from the MGM film GAS-S-S-S) – Robert Corff
26. Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon – Paul Revere & the Raiders (feat. Mark Lindsay)
27. California Dreamin’ – Jose Feliciano
28. Dinamite Jim (English Version) – I Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni
29. You Keep Me Hangin’ On (Quentin Tarantino Edit) – Vanilla Fudge
30. Miss Lily Langtry (cue from The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean) – Maurice Jarre
31. KHJ Batman Promotion

We hear Sharon Tate say, ‘Don’t tell Jim Morrison you’re dancing to the Raiders!’ They never had the coolness vibe of bands like the Doors, but they were a good pop band.  Paul Revere & the Raiders's Hungry is featured in a scene in which Sharon Tate meets Charles Manson for the first time. The Raiders were chosen for a specific historical reason: Terry Melcher, who was Doris Day’s son, was their producer, and he lived in the Cielo Drive house [where the murders took place] and had a connection to the Manson family. The Buchanan Brothers, “Son of a Lovin’ Man” (1969): Heard in a party scene set at the Playboy Mansion, this adult-bubblegum deep cut wasn’t made by actual brothers but by a trio of singer-songwriter-producers (two of whom went on to form the folk-pop duo Cashman and West). “It’s such a great dancing song, and it’s not that easy to find. That was a record in Quentin’s collection.” Source: www.nme.com

Friday, July 26, 2019

Moral Reckoning hits hard in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

"Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood Is His Best Film: It’s also his first political film, with a moral reckoning that hits hard. At the screening I attended, most of the audience went into quiet shock during QT’s finale, an extended sequence of conventional action-movie moral reckoning." -Armond White (National Review)

Tarantino once said, “When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, ‘no, I went to films.’” And it’s that education by projector light that weaves its way through every frame of “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” a movie only he could have devised. And yet this is not the film that hardcore fans of “Pulp Fiction” and “Inglourious Basterds” may be expecting. It’s somber at times in the way it seems to be trying to grab something just of reach—the limitless potential of the people on the fringe of the city of angels and an attempt to capture a mythical time when movies, real life, and imagination could intertwine. It’s one of those rare movies that will provoke conversation and debate long enough to cement itself in the public consciousness. Source: www.rogerebert.com

With his latest feature, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Tarantino finally moves beyond the comfortable confines he created and delivers an assured masterpiece of breathtaking, and restrained filmmaking. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is Tarantino's most complete film to date. Each character has their own voice and they are written with the depth needed to speak for themselves. Tarantino was destined to make a film about Hollywood. There are beautiful maidens, charming princes, dreamers of ridiculous dreams, and evil hippies. Lots and lots of evil hippies. The Manson Family members are portrayed as individuals with free will who deliberately made poor choices rather than being brainwashing victims, and hippie culture/drug culture isn't glorified either. With restraint and understated sentimentality, Tarantino gives Rick and Sharon a chance to escape their insecurities through fleeting moments of professional recognition. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood forestalls cynicism and irony to indulge a simpler time in the world of make-believe. I left wondering if the message of this LA fairy tale was really a warning of a bleak future for art and cinema. Source: www.popmatters.com

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Tarantino "very infatuated" with Sharon Tate

Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” earned strong reviews after its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, but it was the film’s confrontational press conference that ended up dominating headlines. One journalist asked Tarantino why Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate gets significantly less dialogue than her male co-stars, to which the writer-director replied, “I reject your hypothesis.” In a new interview with Deadline, Tarantino opened up about crafting Sharon Tate’s narrative in “Hollywood.” “The thing about it is, unfortunately she’s a woman who has been defined by the tragedy of her death,” Tarantino said. “While not making the Sharon Tate story, I wanted to explore who she was, the person. She knew a lot of people so there’s a whole lot of verbal historical accounts of her.”

While Robbie’s Sharon Tate does have less dialogue than the film’s two leading male characters played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, Tarantino said that it was more important for him to give the late actress her life back than to force her into the larger narrative through dialogue and character interactions. Tarantino said he got “very infatuated” with Tate the more he learned about her and wanted in the film to define her life by more than just her death. “I thought it would both be touching and pleasurable and also sad and melancholy to just spend a little time with her, just existing,” Tarantino said. “I didn’t come up with a big story and have her work into the story so now she has to talk to other characters and move a story along. It was just a day in the life. It’s a day in the life of all three of them, that Saturday in February. A day in the life, driving around, running errands, doing this, doing that, and just being with her. I thought that could be special and meaningful. I wanted you to see Sharon a lot, see her living life. Not following some story, just see her living, see her being.”

The “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” theatrical cut will run two minutes longer than the Cannes cut Tarantino first premiered. The director revealed he added back in more scenes of Sharon’s time in Westwood, slightly extending the moment when she picks up a hitchhiker. An interaction between DiCaprio and Timothy Olyphant’s character was also added for the theatrical cut. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” opens in theaters nationwide July 26 from Sony Pictures. Source: www.indiewire.com


Sharon Marie Tate Polanski (January 24, 1943 – August 9, 1969) was an American actress and model. During the 1960s, she played small television roles before appearing in films and was regularly featured in fashion magazines as a model and cover girl. After receiving positive reviews for her comedic and dramatic acting performances, Tate was hailed as one of Hollywood's most promising newcomers. Her most remembered performance was as Jennifer North in the 1967 cult classic film, Valley of the Dolls, earning her a Golden Globe Award nomination. Roman Polanski gave away all of his possessions after the murders, unable to bear any reminders of the period that he called "the happiest I ever was in my life." His 1979 film Tess was dedicated "to Sharon", as Tate had read Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles during her final stay with Polanski in London and had left it for him to read with the comment that it would be a good story for them to film together. He tried to explain his anguish after the murder of his wife and unborn son in his 1984 autobiography Roman by Polanski, saying "Since Sharon's death, and despite appearances to the contrary, my enjoyment of life has been incomplete. In moments of unbearable personal tragedy some people find solace in religion. In my case the opposite happened. Any religious faith I had was shattered by Sharon's murder. It reinforced my faith in the absurd."

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Rock Culture in the 21st century, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Buddy Holly in Rhinelander

"I don't think that I've ever made a fully realized piece of art. I've always felt like the best stuff I've made has been the stuff that I didn't intend to be there, that I look at and say, how did that happen? that's the stuff that makes it worthwhile to me. Because if you could imagine it, why do it? Why take that journey?" -Jeff Tweedy from Wilco.


In their many justified laments about the trajectory of their profession in the digital age, songwriters and musicians regularly assert that music has been “devalued.” Over the years they’ve pointed at two outstanding culprits. First, it was music piracy and the futility of “competing with free.” More recently the focus has been on the seemingly miniscule payments songs generate when they’re streamed on services such as Spotify or Apple Music. Less obvious are a number of other forces and trends that have devalued music in a more pernicious way. And by music I don’t mean the popular song formats that one sees on awards shows and hears on commercial radio. I mean the sonic art form — imaginative, conceptual composition and improvisation rooted in harmonic and rhythmic ideas. In other words, music as it was defined and regarded five decades ago, when art music had a seat at the table.

When I hear songwriters of radio hits decry their tiny checks from Spotify, I think of today’s jazz prodigies who won’t have a shot at even a fraction of the old guard’s popular success. They can’t even imagine working in a music environment that might lead them to household status of the Miles Davis or John Coltrane variety. They are struggling against forces at the very nexus of commerce, culture and education that have conspired to make music less meaningful to the public at large. We truly do devalue music when we reduce our most impactful art form to an artifact of celebrity. Complex instrumental music has become marginalized to within an inch of its very existence, and that has a lot to do with industry folk defining “value” in only the way that affects their mailbox money. Here are some of the most problematic issues musicians are facing in the industry’s current landscape.

1. The Death of Context: Digital music ecosystems, starting with Apple’s iTunes, reduced recordings down to a stamp-sized cover image. As classical music commentators have long argued, these systems do a poor job with composers, conductors, soloists and ensembles. Plus they’re devoid of context. While there are capsule biographies of artists and composers in most of the services, historic albums are sold and streamed without the credits or liner notes of the LP and CD era. The constituency of super-fans who read and assimilate this stuff is too small to merit attention from the digital services or labels, but what’s lost is the maven class that infuses the culture with informed enthusiasm. Our information-poor environment of digital is failing to inspire such fandom, and that’s profoundly harmful to our shared idea about the value of music.

2. Commercial Radio: It’s an easy target, but one can’t overstate how profoundly radio changed between the explosion of popular music in the mid 20th century and the corporate model of the last 30 years. An ethos of musicality and discovery has been replaced wholesale by a cynical manipulation of demographics and the blandest common denominator. Playlists are much shorter, with a handful of singles repeated incessantly. DJs no longer choose music based on their expertise and no longer weave a narrative around the records. As with liner notes, this makes for more passive listening and shrinks the musical diet of most Americans down to a handful of heavily produced, industrial-scale hits.

3. The Media: In the 1960s, mainstream print publications took the arts seriously, covering and promoting exceptional contemporary talents across all styles of music. Thus did Thelonious Monk wind up on the cover of TIME magazine, for example. When I began covering music for a chain newspaper around 2000, stories were prioritized by the prior name recognition of the subject. Music/discovery stories were subordinate to celebrity news at a systemic level. Industry metrics (chart position and concert ticket sales) became a staple of music “news.” In the age of measured clicks the always-on focus grouping has institutionalized the echo chamber of pop music, stultifying and discouraging meaningful engagement with art music.

4. Anti-intellectualism: Music has for decades been promoted and explained to us almost exclusively as a talisman of emotion. The overwhelming issue is how it makes you feel. Whereas the art music of the West transcended because of its dazzling dance of emotion and intellect. Art music relates to mathematics, architecture, symbolism and philosophy. And as such topics have been belittled in the general press or cable television, our collective ability to relate to music through a humanities lens has atrophied. Those of us who had music explained and demonstrated to us as a game for the brain as well as the heart had it really lucky. Why so many are satisfied to engage with music at only the level of feeling is a vast, impoverishing mystery.

5. Music in Schools: It all begins — or ends — here. Like any other language, the rules and terms and structure are most readily absorbed by the young. And as music’s been cut from more than half the grade schools in the US in a long, grinding trend, the pushback has been based increasingly on evidence about music education’s ripple effects on overall academic performance — the ‘music makes kids smarter’ argument. This is true and vital, but we tend to lose sight of the case for the value of music in our culture — that music education makes kids more musical. Those who internalize music’s rules and rites early in life will be more likely to attend serious concerts and bring a more astute ear to their pop music choices as adults. Source: medium.com

It’s also important to note that no one individual person or act invented the genre formally known as rock & roll; it was, generally speaking, wrought from the confluence of Americana forces: big band, jazz, country, and blues. When Dylan turned electric in 1965, it was seen as a betrayal to the folk genre, something a lot of fans hated and scorned him for, even to this day. In reality, the move from lone troubadour to electric frontman was, in fact, his total acknowledgment and loyalty to pure music Americana. Rock ’n’ roll was a new art form that emerged with the deepened expansion of the American spirit. He was honoring his roots. “I’m not a folk rock singer,” he adamantly told the press. When asked by journalists why he didn’t write protest songs anymore, he simply responded, “Who said that? All I ever do is protest.”

Bob Dylan's Behind the Shades interview appeared in the February/March 2015 issue of AARP magazine, while promoting his live album Shadows in the Night. Dylan talked about Sinatra, aging, his new album and if the thinks rock ’n’ roll died. The article started out with Dylan discussing the fact that his band was made up of old-timer elements like the pedal steel and stand up bass, and that there were no overdubs or separate tracking. But when the conversation moves into his early influences during childhood, he went off onto a tangent about rock ’n’ roll: “I was still an aspiring rock 'n' roller. The descendant, if you will, of the first generation of guys who played rock ’n’ roll — Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis. They played this type of music that was extremely incendiary. And there must have been some elitist power that had to get rid of all these guys, to strike down rock ’n’ roll for what it was and what it represented. And that was extremely threatening for them, I would think. When they finally recognized what it was, they had to dismantle it, which they did, starting with payola scandals.” 

The payola scandals revealed that labels and distributing companies were bribing disc jockeys to spin certain records a certain amount of times per week. Before DJ’s were known as the lucrative, technical button-pushers they are today, they were curators of music trends in the 1950’s, when cheap 45 rpm’s took off and the American teenager (*Boomer alert*) was, for the first time, a viable economic force. In 1950, there were approximately 250 disc jockeys in the U.S. By 1957, the number had grown to over 5,000. The increase was partially due to the sheer amount of new records being produced, both by major and indie labels. These on-air personalities had so much clout with younger listeners, Time magazine called them the “poo-bahs of musical fashion and pillars of U.S. low-and-middle-brow culture.” The hammer eventually came down in 1959, when 335 DJs admitted to receiving over $263,000 in “consulting fees” before the U.S. House Oversight Committee (over $2 million in today’s money). 


It was around this time Doo-wop came to commercial prominence, and not only did it help simmer the flames sparked by rock, but it also helped cultivate the eventual Italian-American assimilation. Doo-wop did to rock ’n’ roll what Sinatra and his previous generation of crooners did to jazz. In A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell, it’s described as: “A style combining smooth vocal harmonies, romantic lyrics, and a stationary stage presence… doo-wop shot to the top of the pop charts in the late 1950s when Italian Americans adopted it as their own — just as most African American performers moved toward ‘soul music.’” Why did the committee single Alan Freed out? Freed was abrasive. Dick Clark was squeaky clean, Brylcreemed, handsome and polite. Once the grilling started, Freed’s friends and allies in broadcasting quickly deserted him. Freed refused — “on principle” — to sign an affidavit saying that he’d never accepted payola. WABC fired him, and he was charged with 26 counts of commercial bribery. Freed died five years later, broke and virtually forgotten. By the time “Twist and Shout” arrived to us from across the pond in 1964, rock ’n’ roll had already taken one hell of bludgeoning.

Although the primal wave of Rock & Roll of the Fifties is seen almost like a surreal fantasy these days, what’s happening in garages and makeshift basement studios across the country — the fourth wave of garage rock, as loosely described by Ty Segall — tells us that despite the turbulent effects of the digi-scape on all sectors of our culture in the 21st century, rock ‘n’ roll is not only still kicking, but it’s doing so in the illuminated dark, out of the mainstream limelight. Though it may be snatched or bought off the streets and shamelessly adulterated in corporate studios now and again (and forever doomed to the purgatory of PR sub-genre-labeling), the current garage revival underway proves its spirit is what persists, and what returns to haunt the status quo.



Lou Reed's "Your Love" (1962) from Rare Singles From The Golden Age of Rock and Roll. Sylvia Morales (Reed's ex-wife) is contemplating to write a memoir about their marriage, she met with NPR at a Chinatown cafĂ© recently for a chat: "Lou was a person who was extremely bright. For example, there was the music he really loved – the ‘50s doo-wop, Otis Redding, a very intense love for that that remained his entire life. Lou didn’t like to do interviews, and he shied away from too much press. He asked me if he should release Take Not Prisoners and I said yes – I was younger, and maybe should have rethought that one. Well, he was very close to not releasing it, and a lot of people around him were saying, “Are you insane? Do not release this!” Growing Up in Public (1980) was deadly serious. Lou was dealing with growing up in one big lump, as he tried to evolve into a healthier version of himself. It was very rough. But I’ve never seen anyone stronger. Nowadays, people have rehab and more social support, there is a little less social stigma. But he totally did it by himself. He was very strong and determined.  Maybe “Heavenly Arms” from The Blue Mask (1982) is not as timeless as “A Perfect Day” or “Pale Blue Eyes,” but it's what he gave to me. After the Velvets reunion, Lou and I attempted to work together despite our marriage eroding. We tried to work together because we both still had the same values. We both believed very much in doing his work. I totally think he was a very meaningful, very important artist. We struggled through a lot. But I’m pretty proud of the fact that we didn’t do what maybe other couples have done. We tried to behave a certain way to get things done." —Podcast by Eric Davidson (December, 2018)

The world of Rock and Roll was a bit different in the 1950s than it became in later years. Other than Elvis Presley, who was already playing in stadiums in the late 1950s, most rock bands still performed in smaller auditoriums and arenas. In 1958 Buddy Holly was a recognized musical star, yet he barely got interviewed by the press or radio and domestically he maintained a grueling schedule playing in smaller venues across the country. One of those small venues was the Crystal Rock in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. In July 1958 Buddy Holly and the Crickets toured the upper Midwest with the Summer Dance Party, a tour that started on July 4 in Indiana, and ended on July 13 in Wisconsin. They played every day in a different town or city, except for July 7. On July 12 the band was scheduled to play two shows in Wausau, Wisconsin.


Holly’s time in Wisconsin could not have been overly memorable for him. The band spent the night in Wausau, and Holly woke up to find that someone had slashed the tires on his Lincoln Continental. After getting the car repaired, the group drove up to Rhinelander for the July 13 show at the Crystal Rock. In Rhinelander a local band, the Runabouts, and twin sisters Judy and Joan Bender, who performed as the Jayettes, opened for Holly. Judy Bender, now Judy Oestreich, knew that she was performing on the same stage as an up-and-coming legend. "Holly was very talented. Very, very talented," remarks Judy Oestreich, from the town of Ringle, WI. "I think it was the way he presented the music. He wrote it, so he felt it." Judy and his friends started talking with Holly, and when the bar closed, the party moved to her house. Judy rounded up his extensive record collection, and she and Holly talked about music, and life on the road. She reckons that Holly was a perfect gentleman that night and maybe he might have been expecting for some sign of personal interest on her part, but she was too tired to initiate a romantic overture. Also, Judy was dating his future husband, Terry Oestreich, The Runabouts drummer, who also attended the party. Terry gave Buddy Holly his name and number, and was surprised when Holly called him the next morning.

Holly and the Crickets had another gig on July 13 at the Crystal Rock Ballroom in Rhinelander, and The Runabouts and the Jayettes opened the concert again. The musicians and Terry Oestreich spent part of the afternoon at a picnic with the band. Judy Oestreich ended up seeing Buddy Holly once again, on February 1, 1959, before a performance in Green Bay. With them were Judy's sister Joan, and Larry Matti, who played sax for The Runabouts and who ended up marrying Joan. Holly invited them into the performers' dressing room, and they all met the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and other performers on the fateful Winter Dance Party Tour in the Midwest. Two days later, Holly, the Big Bopper and Valens were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. When Judy and Terry Oestreich got the news, "We were absolutely devastated," Judy lamented. "I think Buddy Holly would have been huge, if he had lived. Bigger than even Elvis." But not everyone attending was a fan. In 1958 a 17-year-old Bill Knutson was at the Rhinelander concert, and he recalled being in the rest room during a break when Buddy Holly came in another burly fellow in the restroom started to threaten Holly physically. Knutson intervened and allowed Holly to duck out before anything worse could happen. Back on stage, Holly (tongue-in-cheek) dedicated his next song “for the guy who just saved my life.” Holly and his band slept in their cars that night in a parking lot across the street from the Crystal Rock, after which they returned home. Holly passed through the Northwoods again for 1959s Winter Dance Party tour but never performed in Rhinelander again. Terry Oestreich, Judy's husband, was a roadie of sorts for the Jayettes and The Runabouts. His brother Bob Oestreich also was a drummer for The Runabouts. Holly's music "was just different, you know? And we liked it," Terry said: "The talent was obvious, but everyone who came in contact with Holly that night and the following morning say the same thing. He was a decent, quiet, down-to-earth, nice guy." Source: medium.com/cuepoint

Strauss-Howe's The Fourth Turning references the cyclical nature of history, the rise of authoritarianism in the past and the likely future cycles. It is interesting to note that this work, published in the nineties, predicted a major financial (on par with the great depression) occurring some time between 2005 and 2010, and a major democratic (as in the system, not the party) crisis between 2015 and 2025 in Europe and the US. Fast forward to 2019. 90% of American media controlled by 6 corporations. Or just 5, since CBS and Viacom have consolidated under the umbrella of National Amusements. A Google search of the legislation passed in 1999 that deregulated our financial industry and lo and behold the very first result was a form of compliance for the bill that protects consumer privacy/information. Anyone looking to research the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act is met with a friendly search engine optimized version of the bill that tells them nothing about the havoc it actually caused. This cross contamination occurs as often it's more about making people angrier and more paranoid. Getting angry has become our primary source of entertainment. Now we're all angry at one another and factioned to a degree where we're dismissing one another's concerns, paralyzing us from addressing the source of our problems and becoming a parody of the mass media we consume. Much like the media, every time a lot of of us talk, it's just to make someone angry. It turns out that liberal democracy and free trade may actually be rather fragile achievements. There is something out there that doesn’t like liberalism, and is making trouble for the survival of its institutions. Fukuyama thinks he knows what that something is, and his answer is summed up in the title of his new book, “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” (2018). Hegel thought that the end of history would arrive when humans achieved perfect self-knowledge and self-mastery, when life was rational and transparent. Rationality and transparency are the values of classical liberalism. Source: www.newyorker.com

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Luhrmann's Elvis biopic, Rock & Roll, Vietnam, Analysis of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket

Miles Teller: “I feel they’ve never really got an Elvis biopic right yet. I want to play young Elvis. It’s easy to do wrecked, bloated, and drug-addicted. You’ve got to see him rocking and rolling. Just gotta make my accent a little more ‘Memphis’”

Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Austin Butler and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are in the funning to play Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann's Untitled Elvis Presley Project. Five young actors have tested for the part of the King of Rock and Roll in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Elvis Presley biopic. Ansel Elgort, the Baby Driver star who is about to start shooting Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story; Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who appeared in Kick-Ass and Avengers: Age of Ultron; and Miles Teller, the Whiplash actor who will be in the Top Gun sequel, tested for the filmmaker last week. Also Austin Butler, who has a role in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The lead role is expected to be filled in the coming weeks. Tom Hanks is already on board the project as Col. Tom Parker, the legendary manager who controlled every aspect of Elvis' life. Source: www.hollywoodreporter.com

Elvis completed his 18-month stint in Germany and arrived back in the U.S. in March of 1960. At Fort Dix, New Jersey he was honorably discharged from active duty on March 5, 1960. He received his mustering-out check of $109.54 and Elvis Presley, Sergeant E-5 returned to home the life and career he had left behind.  Where did Elvis stand on the Vietnam War? He did not issue a single public statement about the Vietnam War, either for or against it. Elvis may well have supported the war, if we take into account his letter written to President Nixon in December 1970, but his stance was not cut clear. Other musicians like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez wrote a handful of protest folk songs. Jimi Hendrix was not an official protestor of the war, and he actually sympathized with the anticommunist view. However, with songs like “Machine Gun”, dedicated to those fighting in Vietnam, he did protest the violence that took place during the conflict. While Hendrix’s point of view was probably not similar to the protestors, his songs became anthems to the antiwar movement and a driving force during the war years even after his death. 


There are few songs particularly representative of that period and, all of them, are openly against the war. In chronological order of recording: “Eve of Destruction” (Barry McGuire), “Give Peace a Chance” (John Lennon), “Fortunate Son” (Creedence Clearwater Revival), “Ball of Confusion” (The Temptations), “Ohio” (Crosby Stills Nash & Young), and “War” (Edwin Starr). These songs were written (except the first one “Eve of Destruction” which was released in the 1965) recorded and released between late 1969 and early 1970. In fact, a few of them were during in the same month: at the height of the American presence in Southeast Asia and at the height of the anti-war movement in the U.S. In the immortal words of the German Romantic writer Jean Paul Richter “Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life”. Vietnam was in fact known as “America’s first Rock ‘n’ Roll War.” Much of the music written during the 1960s and 70s characterized the discontent of American youth with the escalation of America’s involvement in the Vietnam conflict (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from November 1955, to the fall of Saigon in April 1975). Since Rock music was the most popular genre at the time with American youth, it inevitably became popular also in Vietnam among the young American soldiers. In retrospect, Rock ‘n’ Roll music ultimately became an anthem of the American youth demonstrating their anti-establishment anti-war sentiment. 90% of the combat soldiers were under 23 years of age.


For instance, “Purple Haze”, by Jimi Hendrix, made reference to a slang term for the M-18 violet smoke grenade, used by United States armed forces. In the song “Magical Mystery Tour” by The Beatles, the lyrics “Coming to take you away, dying to take you away”, had special meaning for Marines during the battle of Khe Sanh (when the Marine base was isolated and there were a series of desperate actions that lasted 77 days). The most common medium for the music between soldiers in Vietnam was the Armed Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN) Radio. This 24 hour radio station was created by the U.S. Armed Forces to entertain the American troops. As Michael W. Rodriguez (combat veteran of the Vietnam War and writer of the book “Humidity Moon”) stated: “Rock ‘n’ Roll meant fully automatic fire, get some adrenaline running through the body like a runaway train.” Rock music became the megaphone of an idealistic and confused generation, which ultimately identified itself in the lyrics and music by artists such as Jim Morrison and The Doors, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan, just to name a few. These so-called “cursed heroes” became wonderful interpreters and their songs have survived long past the war torn years during which they were created. The music itself has become immortal still listened to today, some 40 years later, by American youth who have little knowledge of the Vietnam War. Source: faculty.buffalostate.edu

The Balance of Order and Chaos in Full Metal Jacket: The combination of the demented treatment the recruits receive in boot camp with the combined hours of boredom and terror of the Vietnam scenes is intense. There is the ongoing theme of dehumanisation, the cynical world view, the hilarious black humour, the cold, distant and unsympathetic characters, the key use of disconnecting popular music, and the central role of war and conflict. Yet again, and very much like Werner Herzog he makes the surreal seem utterly believable, and reality seem surreal. The dehumanisation and brutality of boot camp, the moral ambiguity of the war and the questionable mental stability of some American soldiers is shown unsparingly, but so is the uncompromising barbarity of the communist enemy. When Joker finally confronts the sniper, Kubrick begins anew his deconstruction of hypermasculinity, in extremely complex ways. To begin, that the sniper is revealed to be a woman has enormous implications. In the ideological programming of the Marine Corps, that a woman could kill and hold off a whole platoon of marines is in itself deeply emasculating. 

The ending moment is keenly allegorical. Kubrick has created in this space apocalyptic signifiers, staging a Dante’s Inferno. When Joker approaches the unknowing sniper, Kubrick juxtaposes Joker with a conspicuously undamaged Vietnamese flag, which later becomes juxtaposed to the five men hovering over the mortally wounded Vietnamese woman soldier and then becomes a signifier throughout the mercy killing scene. Kubrick again uses shorthand signifiers to offer us larger allegorical meanings, in this case, represented by the space of the allegorically coded Vietnamese building and the allegorically coded Vietnamese woman. Arguably, up to this moment, Joker has not fully succumbed to the hypermasculinization process. Throughout the film, Joker has mocked and ironized the hypermasculinization process as well as America’s ideological rationalizations of the war: his mocking John Wayne line; his “duality” conception throughout, especially as he defines it to the colonel asking him “which side are you on?” 

Killing the (woman) sniper is a killing of the self. The fact that Joker delivers the shot that finally kills her can be read to mean that, in killing the sniper, Joker takes a further step toward self-mutilation and, therefore, toward self-destruction. Joker’s killing of the sniper can be seen not just as a self-mutilation but as a suicidal act. Kubrick establishes once again, that the Other is always the Self because the distinctions between the masculine and the feminine are false. Masculinity and femininity are  symbolic scripts, and masculine is not to be confused with male. In other words, the Vietnamese woman sniper becomes a kind of symbolic mirror image of Joker as he wrestles against his action, the contemplation of which is very much an interior Otherness (in ideological terms, the “feminine” within) pushing back against such a traumatic, monstrous act. The dramatic music, lighting (half of Joker’s face cast in shadow emphasizing his duality), Joker’s peace sign disappears when he takes the shot, leaving only the “Born to Kill” on his helmet, suggesting that his duality is at an end. Joker’s face contorts in a mask of what looks like supreme will power to commit this extremely difficult act. 

The Mickey Mouse Club song chanting in the end can be confusing to the viewer. Seen through a conservative or patriotic perspective, some film critics found a bit suspicious the lack of an explicit condemnatory stance in Kubrick's final conclusion. In order to save communist Vietnam (or the woman sniper) America had to mercy kill her? Or, more likely, Kubrick forces us to see the hidden reality of war: Sanctioned killing is sanitized by the military and in most war genre representations (especially filmic), but when presented in this naked form, where ideological/moral sanctioning does not apply, we witness a killing of the self. In this way, like Kubrick showed with the developmentally challenged Private Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence (who killed himself), Kubrick teachs us in this decisive moment that killing the Other can be, from a moral perspective, a killing of the self or “suicidal” act. Source: www.yourfilmprofessor.com