Steely Dan’s Magisterial Sleeze

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You either swoon to the jaunty guitar lick that rips Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years,” or you hold your ears. Same with that eerie figure at the top of “FM,” or the sly, cribbed piano vamp to “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” Steely Dan tracks can seem not just overproduced but overplayed, overpraised, and catnip for the wrong kind of music nerd. Long before you dig into a five-decade career with countless buried pearls, the band inspires way too many harangues about everything rock supposedly squelched (instrumental pretension, phony … [Read more...]

Ghosts of Deportees

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"...Woodie Guthrie’s famous ballad Deportee about a 1948 plane crash in California that killed the pilot, crew and passengers, who were Mexican nationals being deported back to Mexico at the end of the harvest season.  Guthrie had read about the crash in the New York Times, which described the crew in detail and then dismissed the passengers as anonymous deportees.  The point of the song is in the refrain:  “You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane / All they will call you will be deportee,” capturing the denial and indignity … [Read more...]

Wes Anderson in Chart Form

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Also: 21 Writers Tell Us Which Books They’d Add to the Canon – Flavorwire. Wes Anderson Related articles Charting popular words in music over the last half-century [charts] Fascinating Graphs Trace Words' Appearances in Songs, 1960-Present … [Read more...]

American Hustle’s Music of Swindle, by Geoffrey O’Brien

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Bale and Adams fall in love to the strains of Duke Ellington, and dance while Jack Jones croons “I’ve Got Your Number”; the hapless Cooper pursues his doomed amour fou as Donna Summer chants “I Feel Love” at Studio 54; Lawrence lip-syncs “Live and Let Die” in close-up as she boils with rage against her cheating husband; Bale and Renner seal their newfound friendship by singing along with Tom Jones on “Delilah.” The steady stream of Chicago, America, Elton John, Santana, Steely Dan, and Jeff Lynne tracks sometimes gives the impression of a Top … [Read more...]

So Hip It Hurts: Penman on Steely Dan

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Penman enjoys Eminent Hipsters a lot more than I do (watch this space), but he gets off some very fine licks: "It’s a portrait of the artist as an embryonic Florida retiree: grumpy, fidgety, fond (his hotel room iPod plays nothing but old Verve jazz or Stravinsky), ungrateful toward fans, snarling at managers, leering at young poolside babes, spiteful to hotel staff. Fagen doesn’t skirt the risk of deep mortification. He leads us round 360 degrees of his touring profile: petty, grouchy, backward-looking, too smug by half. And yet, while it … [Read more...]

Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs, by Jaan Uhelszki

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That night, after I interviewed Hoffman, I went back to my hotel room and had a dream about Lester, something that happens with some regularity. In every dream, he isn't dead, but instead has been hiding out somewhere. Waiting. This time, I asked him where he had been. He told me Florida. "I've just been waiting for you to get it right," he told me. Well, Philip Seymour Hoffman certainly got it right when he played Lester in Almost Famous. And maybe tonight I'll go to sleep and bump into Lester and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Lou Reed arm … [Read more...]

Splendid Time Guaranteed

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Already sputtering for choosing "That Means a Lot"... but keep it coming. Related articles The Beatles' TV Debut--Not on Ed Sullivan The Beatles' 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' at 50 (video) You: Beatles NYC 50 Festival set for Feb. 6-9 Music Match: The Beatles' 'I Want to Hold Your Hand,' Then Al Green's How the Beatles Took America: Inside the New Issue of Rolling Stone Songs You May Have Thought the Beatles Wrote, But Didn't Beatles bootlegs released on iTunes … [Read more...]

Innovation Hub: Beatles Arrival

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America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' arrival, and the quotes just keep coming... Guests: Mark Lewisohn, author of "The Beatles: All Those Year, Volume 1 - Tune In" Vivek Tiwary, author of "The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story" Tim Riley, author of "Lennon: The Man, The Myth, The Life" Fifty years after The Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" – inspiring a generation of Americans to don collarless jackets and mop-top haircuts – we examine the Fab Four's magic formula for creativity, innovation, and … [Read more...]

Talking Sun City with Steven Van Zandt

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Always good to see Paul Simon's political laundry hung out to dry: Dave Marsh: You’re the only person who’s ever met Paul twice who thinks that’s surprising. [laughter] Steven van Zandt: I mean, at this point, you still think you were right?! Meanwhile, that big “communist,, as soon as he got out of jail, I see who took the first picture with him. There’s Paul Simon and Mandela, good buddies. I’m watchin’ CNN the other day. Mandela dies, on comes a statement by Bono and the second statement’s by Paul Simon. I’m like oh, just make me throw up. … [Read more...]

Explosion at the Wiig Factory

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  Write text here... Related articles Kristen Wiig & Tobey Maguire: 'Spoils Of Babylon' DGA Screening! Sundance: Bill Hader-Kristen Wiig's 'The Skeleton Twins' Sells Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig Show Acting Chops in Charming 'The Skeleton Twins' [Sundance 2014 Review] Sundance Film Review: 'The Skeleton Twins' Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgard Teaming on 'Diary of a Teenage Girl' … [Read more...]

What the Beatles Meant

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“There’s so much there in that ‘Ed Sullivan’ appearance it’s almost overwhelming to me," says Lennon and Beatles biographer and NPR critic Tim Riley. “But there is this thought that they articulated later: ‘We are a rock ‘n’ roll band, we know where we’re situated in rock ‘n’ roll history and we do not want to make the mistake that Elvis made.’ It’s almost articulated in that Sullivan appearance. They’re very defiant. They have a very strong, secure, cocky sense of who they are and where they might be going, of their own potential.” “At the … [Read more...]

WHY CATHOLICS NEED GARRY WILLS

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On similarly fake grounds, Republicans use the Catholic bishops’ opposition to contraception as an excuse based on “religious freedom” to oppose the Affordable Care Act. The bishops’ case is phony—no one is forced to use or not use contraception by the act. But bishops say that countenancing the act offends the bishops who follow Rome in condemning it (not actual Catholics who overwhelmingly exercise their right of conscience in using contraceptives). The defense of victimized Catholic bishops reached a comic peak when Jeb Bush (one of … [Read more...]

SELECTED 2013 LISTS

Under the weather, behind on my spotify list, but watch this space... "We construct the experience of time in our minds, so it follows that we are able to change the elements we find troubling — whether it’s trying to stop the years racing past, or speeding up time when we’re stuck in a queue, trying to live more in the present, or working out how long ago we last saw our old friends. Time can be a friend, but it can also be an enemy. The trick is to harness it, whether at home, at work, or even in social policy, and to work in line with our … [Read more...]

New York Times Book Review: Lewisohn’s TUNE IN

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Before the British invasion: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison in 1962. By TIM RILEY Published: December 6, 2013 Approaches to retelling the Beatles’ story slice in two distinct directions: narrow or wide. Some authors choose a single figure and bore down deep, which has brought the count of Paul McCartney life stories to at least 10, with more in the pipeline. Others frame the narrative from more expansive angles, weaving in the era’s social texture, politics and cultural context (see Devin McKinney’s shrewd … [Read more...]