Showing posts with label clint eastwood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label clint eastwood. Show all posts

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Movie Review ~ Jersey Boys

Due to the polar vortex, (or "cold weather") I took a couple of days off this week. That afforded me some time to catch up on my Netflix bookmarks. I watched two depressing documentaries about the Fyre Festival (two-plus-some hours I'll never get back and a story I found I don't actually give a damn about), and I also watched Jersey Boys, primarily because it was directed by Clint Eastwood, who normally directs awesome movies.

Plus, it was a music flick about artists I am actually familiar with ~ The Four Seasons.

To assign a letter grade to the movie, I would rate it a C minus.

The first act is unnecessarily long. We get to know little Frankie Castelluccio, soon to be "Valli", sixteen and yelled at a lot by his mother for staying out late. Frankie cuts hair by day, his main customer being a Tony Soprano-like mobster played by Christopher Walken. Everyone acknowledges that little Frankie is a wonderful singer, even though his singing voice is catastrophically nasal to the point at which a good allergist might prescribe bed rest and a strong humidifier.

The main character in Act One, however, is Tommy DeVito (or "Chandler Bing"), a small-time hood who nevertheless fronts a musical trio and ultimately brings little Frankie into the group, due to his ability to snort snot onto the female audience members and send them into phlegm-induced convulsions.

This goes on and on, until little Frankie meets a hard-edged woman who talks him into changing his last name, and upon hearing this revelation, he immediately proposes marriage. (Frankie and Hard-Edge ultimately have three daughters, to which he sings inappropriate lullabies about how his eyes adored them, but he never laid a hand on them. Whew!)

The little quartet doesn't gain any traction, though, until DeVito's friend Joe Pesci (yes!) introduces them to a songwriter who has absolutely no cognizance that he's, in fact, gay. But that's neither here nor there in the arc of the story.

New songwriter writes a song called "Sherry" and their flouncy record producer, for whom the group has been singing background vocals, realizes that it's a hit in the making.

This begins a whirlwind of hit recordings and appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show with Topo Gigio.

Act Two introduces us to the anonymous bass player's exasperation at having to share a hotel room with Tommy DeVito, who is a certified slob whose habits ultimately lead to Anonymous Bass Player quitting the band. Plus DeVito (Chandler) is constantly badgering the group's accountant for loans to pay off Tony Soprano's designated loan shark. We're not sure why Tommy needs to borrow money all the time, but he claims it's to "keep the band afloat". Apparently the record company contract is woefully paltry. We're not sure.

Eventually there is a band showdown in Tony Walken Soprano's living room, during which Little Frankie tells Tommy that enough is enough, and DeVito is banished to Las Vegas and reduced to being Joe Pesci's go-fer, while Joe peruses scripts that include the role of a sad-sack "mobster" who terrorizes Macaulaly Culkin.

Little Frankie, altruistically, volunteers to cover all of Tommy's debts. That leads to Act Three, during which Frankie plays bowling alleys and diners, collecting his twenty-dollar wages in all ones. Meanwhile, he hooks up with an unnamed newspaper reporter, who eventually just "can't deal with it" and leaves, stuffing her suitcase full of way too many articles of clothing than a normal person would pack for a weekend getaway.

Eventually, one of Frankie's generic kids dies from some malady and Frankie suffers guilt pangs until closeted gay writer pens him a new hit, which makes everything all right.

Many years later, the Four Seasons (who took their name from a bowling alley ~ not the same one in which Frankie later shilled for dollar bills) are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and meet for the first time in decades outside the hall. Frankie sports a fake "old person" look, as do the other three seasons. No one, however, is leaning on a cane. Each of the Seasons gets their turn to speak directly into the camera, to tell their side of the story, by which point the viewing audience is checking the time on their phones and Googling "good rock movies".

The movie ends by every...single...member of the cast (even the "dead" ones) performing a choreographed dance on a sound stage street. Apparently it was supposed to be an homage to the Broadway show from which the movie was adapted. But it was....weird.

Clint, Clint, Clint...I don't know what you were thinking. Maybe, like I do sometimes, you got so far into the thing that you just kept going and hoped it would all turn out all right.

I bet there's a good movie to be made about this seminal sixties group. This wasn't it.

The thing about the Four Seasons is, they were always there. No, they weren't cool. But there was something about their sound. You couldn't ignore them. Even Frankie's comeback song, which he did as a solo, will live on forever. Me, straddling the era of my big sisters and big brother and ultimately my own, felt like I'd always known them.

Sorry this video sucks, but it's the only original I could find (and good luck finding "Sherry", by the way):

This was not a huge hit, but I like this one:

This was definitely from my era:

In case you were wondering, this was Frankie's comeback song (again, 1967 ~ my era):

In 1975, I was minding my own business, listening to AM radio like I always did, and this song came on. "Is this the Four Seasons? I thought they all died in 1969!"

Speaking of Christopher "Tony Soprano" Walken, Frankie actually gets hit in the Sopranos.

And we never heard from him again.

Just kidding.

The Four Seasons legacy is way stronger than a crappy movie. 

Although I do wonder whatever happened to Chandler Bing.


Friday, September 7, 2018

East Bound And Down

If you were pop-culturally aware in the 1970's, you knew Burt Reynolds even if you never saw a single one of his movies. You see, Burt Reynolds was everywhere. There he is on Merv Griffin. Ooh, he's Johnny's first guest tonight! Daytime TV? Why, look -- he's on Dinah Shore's show! He's the cover story this week on People Magazine! It's all about his romance with Sally Field! Then there's Cosmopolitan Magazine...

Burt Reynolds could thank his winning personality for his storied movie career. Fans showed up at the movie theater to see a Reynolds film because they liked the guy. They liked his sly smile, his rapacious arched brow, and his cackling laugh.

I don't remember if I ever saw Smokey and the Bandit; I think I probably did, but it wasn't memorable. It was silly and dumb. Even his country music co-stars couldn't lure me to his mid-career lowbrow movies.

I did see Deliverance, but I'll just say that Reynolds was not the most memorable aspect of that movie...

I also saw The Longest Yard, which was a good movie -- catch it sometime on the oldie movie channel.

Nowhere in his numerous obituaries is WW and the Dixie Dancekings mentioned. I saw that movie -- for the music. I have absolutely no memory of the film itself. And I thought that the music was really good, until I Googled the soundtrack and found that basically every song was performed by Jerry Reed, even though I swear Mel Tillis was a featured player. I think in 1975 I was so stunned that any flick would include (gasp!) country music that I was determined to support it with my three dollars. Apparently Ned Beatty was also in that film, and hopefully he had a less strenuous role then he did in Deliverance.

To see a Burt Reynolds flick was to leave the theater with a smile (mostly - Deliverance notwithstanding). Like I suppose Clark Gable and Cary Grant were in their day, when one slapped their dollars on the counter to buy a ticket to a Reynolds movie, they knew what they were getting.

Burt's career continued after the seventies ended, but by then most of us had moved on.  He had a TV show called Evening Shade that I don't think I saw more than a snippet of one episode, but I'm sure he was good in it - Burt Reynolds good. I didn't see Boogie Nights, but I'll accept the critics' word that his performance was excellent.

I appreciate that Burt liked country music and wasn't ashamed to admit it. He was like Clint Eastwood in that respect. I didn't especially care about Reynolds' love life. Loni Anderson always seemed like a bit of a drama queen to me. Sally Field was a better choice; she was at least sweet and likeable. That was the extent of my interest in Burt's private life.

Two songs will always be associated with Burt Reynolds. Of course, the first:

And this one, even if you, like me, didn't appreciate the "artistic statement" of Smokey and the Bandit:

Rest in peace, Burt Reynolds. Thanks for the seventies.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mel Tillis

The guys who write obituaries for newspapers are probably around thirty or so. Maybe forty at the most. Everyone knows that companies are in the midst of showing baby boomers the door. That leaves a gap when it comes to writing about someone's life, because these young guys (and/or girls) don't have a clue who Mel Tillis was. It makes me mad when I realize that an obituary consists of bits gleaned from Wikipedia. A life should mean more than that. Especially Mel Tillis's.

Country music would have been so much less if Mel Tillis hadn't come along.

When I first became involved with country music, I didn't know Mel Tillis. I might have seen "M. Tillis" in parentheses beneath the song title on a '45 single, but at that time, I only cared about who sang the song. Granted, I was only around thirteen, so I was as shallow as a...well, thirteen-year-old.

I didn't even know that the title song of my all-time favorite album (because it was Dad's all-time favorite album) was written by this Mel Tillis guy. Dad bought the LP in 1965, when I was still engrossed in the orange and yellow Capital '45's released by this group called "The Beatles".

Sorry, apparently they didn't make videos in 1965, but this is still awesome:

Seeing as how I was a remedial country music student, once my best friend Alice began schooling me in the ways of (good) country music, I caught up with this next song. Alice also was the person who taught me how to play (chord) guitar (I never actually learned how to "play"), and she taught me the intro to this song. 

Detroit City was released in 1963, and while I didn't listen to country music then, one could not help but be exposed to it, because the radio stations played an eclectic mix of musical styles. My cousin and I created a comic book about "singers when they get old". Bobby Bare was one of our subjects, but in our version he was an actual bear. Our comic was a huge hit among my Uncle Howard's bar crowd. Orders rolled in, but unfortunately we would have had to recreate the whole thing by hand over and over, so we sacrificed the big bucks (twenty-five cents) we could have made from the venture, essentially because we were lazy. 

Around 1967 Alice and I were excited to see Bobby Bare in person, but thanks to a freak winter fiasco, we never got to. We ended up going back to her house and watching the local TV broadcast of Bobby's performance. 

A lot of my musical history is tied up in Detroit City, and it was all thanks to Mel Tillis:

The very first song I ever wrote went like this:

1967, you taught me how to play
All those Merle Haggard songs
Man, he had a way
And the intro to Detroit City
I remember it today
You were my hero then
You still are today

So, again, it all started with Mel.

Much like I traveled back in time to capture songs like "City Lights", I didn't quite catch that Mel had written this hit song from 1957. Was Mel around forever? 

I never understood why this guy named Webb Pierce was considered the Hank Williams of the fifties. Pierce didn't even write his own songs! And he was rather an awful singer, but apparently the "nasal" sound worked for him. In the fifties, who was the competition? Pat Boone? The only thing I know about Webb Pierce is that he had a guitar-shaped swimming pool and he was a renowned asshole. Regardless, Mel Tillis wrote this song and Webb should have thanked him for it, but apparently that wasn't Pierce's modus operandi:

More my style was this single released in 1967:

And seriously, all this time, I had no idea that a guy named "Mel" had written these songs.

So, when did I become aware of this Mel Tillis guy? In the mid-sixties, I began hearing songs on the radio by someone who had a different sort of voice. He was no Ray Price. He sang like the words were stuck in his gullet. I was judgmental. The songs were good, but I was perplexed by the singer.

Eventually, as more of this guy's recordings got played by the DJ's, I became used to him.

In 1970, I got hooked. This is one of my favorite recordings ever.

 In the mid-seventies, Mel's career took off. He was still writing songs and still writing hit songs, like:

By then, I'd bought his live album, and it was hilarious. I never knew that Mel Tillis stuttered! Of course, if you read the various obituaries, that's practically all that is written about him.

Yea, Mel Tillis was funny. And Clint Eastwood and all the Hollywood set loved him. 

This might have been from a Clint movie, or maybe not, but I think it was:

This one, I'm pretty much convinced is from a Clint movie:

Here's one more (Mel did it better):

I'm going to guess that the most famous song Mel Tillis ever wrote was this next one. It would have been nice if Kenny Rogers had tweeted a few words and had thanked Mel for his career, but whatever. I'm not going to judge the propriety or impropriety of not acknowledging.

Mel Tillis was with me all my life and I didn't even know it. I didn't know that Mel was wrapped up in my musical belonging. 

Pay it forward, they say.

Mel paid a lot of artists' ways.

Mel Tillis is wrapped up in my musical memories. Ir's not everyone who can encompass a person's life. I wanna cry just thinking about him. And I truly miss him.

Thank you, Mel Tillis, for things I didn't even know you taught me.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Featured Artist Of The Day - Eddie Rabbitt

From time to time, I would like to feature a singular artist, one who I admire.

This is a newly minted idea, so I don't have a list or anything.

But, as I was looking for videos today for a previous blog post, I happened to run across some videos from Eddie Rabbitt. I always really liked Eddie. Plus, he joins the pantheon of artists who nobody seems to remember anymore.

Eddie was born in Brooklyn in 1941, and was raised in New Jersey. An inauspicious beginning for a future country singer and songwriter (at least it was unusual back then).

His first success came as a songwriter, when Elvis recorded his song, "Kentucky Rain".

Then, in 1976, Eddie had his own big hit, "Drinkin' My Baby (Off My Mind)". Unfortunately, I can't find a video of this song, which I happen to love, but I did find a video of his next hit, "Two Dollars In The Jukebox"(along with "I Can't Help Myself).

1980 was really Eddie's year. He had two enormous hits in 1980. And the first one goes something like this (crank it up):

Then came "I Love A Rainy Night" (again, crank it up!)

Did you know that Eddie also wrote this hit for Ronnie Milsap (coincidentally my next featured artist)?

Eddie had other hits, of course. Videos are difficult to find, though.

Eddie died in 1998. Ten years ago.

I haven't forgotten him. Real connoisseurs of good country music haven't forgotten him. Maybe you've never even heard of Eddie. If that's the case, I hope these videos have served as a good introduction.

The things that drew me to Eddie were his understanding of honky tonk music on the one hand, and his melding of country music with a rock sensibility on the other.

So, here's to Eddie.  Miss you!