Wednesday, June 29, 2005

T. Rex "Born To Boogie" -- my thoughts

Yes, I bought the T. Rex Born To Boogie DVD and its 2-CD soundtrack on June 7th, the day they were released in the U.S. It was worth the wait. As a concert film, it definitely delivers the goods. Ringo Starr directed the "new Beatle", Marc Bolan, filming two T. Rex concerts at Wembley Stadium on March 18th, 1972. It's great fun to watch the pompous and entertaining glitter-rock guru performing at his peak. The 61-minute film also contains bizarre fantasy sequences, in which Bolan and Starr were aiming for Fellini-like surrealism. In one sequence, Ringo is dressed in a dormouse costume, and Bolan is dressed as the Mad Hatter from Alice In Wonderland. A dwarf eats the rearview mirror on their car. Yes, it's that kind of self-indulgent mess, but it's somehow fascinating to watch. In another sequence, T. Rex perform "Tutti Fruitti" and "Children Of The Revolution" with Ringo and Elton John, and Bolan's head protrudes from the top of Elton's piano. The best sequence is the Mad Hatter's tea party, which was filmed on John Lennon's property. Bolan and Micky Finn (dressed as a vampire) played four T. Rex songs acoustically, accompanied by a string quartet, which gives them a feeling like their earlier Tyrannosaurus Rex recordings. The sound and picture restoration were very well-done. I remember watching the film on VHS years ago, and this DVD looks and sounds much better than I remember the VHS version looking and sounding.

Of course, the 2 discs contain about 4 hours' worth of bonus material, including the two complete concerts that were filmed. Rolan Bolan, Marc's son, interviews several people who were involved in the film and its restoration. Marc died when Rolan was barely two years old, and watching Rolan conduct these interviews has a certain poignancy, as he seemingly seeks to learn more about the father he never really knew. Among the interviewees are producer Tony Visconti (who worked with Marc from 1967 until 1974) and drummer Bill Legend (who is the only surviving member of the 1972 lineup). One bonus feature I was thrilled to see: b&w footage of the original Tyrannosaurus Rex duo -- Bolan and Steve Peregrine Took -- performing the song "Sara Crazy Child" in a small hippie club in 1967. Coolness!

Interestingly, this DVD set rarely, if ever, mentions Bolan's post-1972 years of personal and professional decline, except for the unavoidable mentions of his 1977 death. This set was clearly meant to glorify Bolan, and glorify him it does. It focuses on his 1972 peak, when Bolan was a star in the U.K. on a Beatles-and-Stones scale. It is difficult for an American viewer (especially one like myself who cannot remember 1972) to realize just how big a sensation Bolan was on the other side of the pond. But this set effectively shows what "T. Rextasy" was all about. Aside from one moment where Visconti tells Rolan, as gently as possible, that his father was "arrogant", this set portrays Marc Bolan as an icon who could do no wrong, as if the glitter never faded.

The first disc of the 2-CD soundtrack contains audio of nearly every second of the film, musical and spoken word. So, would you like to watch the film or listen to it? Also, the same disc contains part of a late-1971 BBC interview with Bolan that does not appear anywhere on the DVD. The second CD contains the complete "matinee" concert at Wembley on 3/18/72, as opposed to the evening concert that was used for the proper film. Of course, the afternoon concert is included on the DVD as well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Starbucks to release CD of Dylan bootlegs

The Starbuck's Coffee Company's CD business is getting interesting. The company is going to produce and exclusively release Bob Dylan: Live At The Gaslight 1962, a CD containing 10 much-bootlegged songs performed by a 21-year-old Dylan at New York's Gaslight Cafe. That Greenwich Village spot was key to the early-'60's folk revival. Here is the AP story:

http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/news/wire/sns-ap-people-dylan-starbucks,0,673181.story?coll=sns-ap-entertainment-headlines

Starbucks will also sell the two-CD soundtrack to No Direction Home, the upcoming Martin Scorsese PBS documentary about Dylan, although that will not be a Starbucks exclusive. Both items will be available at Starbucks on August 30th.

Friday, June 24, 2005

John Hiatt AP article

A very good article about John Hiatt, one of my favorite relatively-unknown artists, appears today in the Associated Press. It's recommended reading:

http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/news/wire/sns-ap-music-john-hiatt,0,3360077.story?coll=sns-ap-entertainment-headlines

The Hiatt quote that ends the article is a good one. Hiatt says:

"It's all good now. I don't have huge hit records. But by not going away and maintaining a steady pace I've built up a great following. We sell a couple hundred thousand records a pop. We can fill up 1,000- to 3,000-seaters pretty much anywhere. I make a good living, and I do what I love doing. What's not to love?"

It's good to know he is contented. Also, bear in mind that Hiatt is currently on an indie label (New West Records). If he were on a major, selling "a couple hundred thousand records a pop" would be no big deal. But on an indie? He's definitely a big fish in a small pond.

Rarebird's John Hiatt Reviews
http://rarebird9.net/hiatt.html

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Pink Floyd mentions in recent MOJO magazine

One more Floyd-related post. The band was mentioned twice in the recent May 2005 issue of MOJO magazine. Both of these short sidenotes are now amusing to read in light of current events.

The first one appeared on page 51, in a side column titled "I Hate You So Much Right Now! Five More Bands Who Rucked As They Rocked", by Tom Doyle. The third band mentioned is Pink Floyd, and Doyle says:

"A born troublemaker, Roger Waters sidelined and then sacked keyboardist Rick Wright during the making of The Wall, hijacked the band for his own ends and then flounced out in 1985. Relations between Dave Gilmour and Waters have remained bitter since, with the former dismissing The Final Cut as 'cheap filler' and the latter calling The Division Bell 'awful'. Waters recently noted, 'We're both quite truculent individuals'. A reunion isn't anticipated."

Until now. The other mention came on page 56, in a sidenote to a Boomtown Rats article. This was titled "In The Pink: Bob Geldof looks back on the start of his short-lived acting career, in Pink Floyd's The Wall." This is what Geldof said:

"I had no ambitions to be an actor, but Alan Parker rang me up, which was very flattering because I loved Midnight Express. He said he was working on an adaptation of The Wall. Problem was, I didn't like the Floyd. I thought, bunch of hippies, get it together and make a bloody pop song. More pressingly, the script was flimsy to say the least. Nonetheless, my manager Fachtna was keen for me to do it, so while we were in a taxi, I pulled it out and challenged him to keep a straight face while I read it. Of course, he pisses himself laughing. But Parker doesn't stop pursuing me. They said, 'Meet up with Roger Waters', and I said, No, he's a c**t. But I go, and I like him very much. He says, 'I heard you don't like the Floyd.' I tell him that I love 'Arnold Layne' and 'See Emily Play', but beyond that I don't get it. He tells me if he'd had an idea like 'I Don't Like Mondays', he'd make it into an album. I tell him the whole point is that it's a pop song. Then he says, 'I believe you think the script is horrible' and I said 'Well yeah. That's why I don't want to do it. And I'm not sure I understand the album..." Gradually we start getting along great - we're both combative and snotty. Then he tells me how he knows I don't like the script. It turns out that the taxi driver when I'd been sneering at the script was Roger Waters' brother! How bizarre is that? Anyway, Waters is cool because I've never brown-nosed him. He goes into what it's about, and I sort of begin to see. The pay isn't very good, but I figure I'm never going to be asked to do a movie again. Looking back at it, it's mortifyingly embarrassing. I am completely c**tish in it. But it didn't stop me from being offered other parts."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Syd Barrett article

Speaking of Pink Floyd, an interesting article on the band's original frontman Syd Barrett appeared in the Cambridge Evening News, Barrett's hometown paper, yesterday. It seems to dispel most of the rumors I've heard about him in recent years:

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/lifestyle/arts_music/news/2005/06/16/6582daf9-adfc-4d8d-878c-858700bf0b02.lpf

Here is the text of the article in case the link doesn't work:

Star's choice not to shine

PINK Floyd may be reforming for the biggest gig of the decade but it would seem one of the band's founders could not care less.

The wayward genius Syd Barrett, who lives as a recluse in Cambridge, appears indifferent that one of the greatest feuds in rock history will end for the Live 8 concert next month.

The man who wrote many of the band's early songs shuns fans, rarely answers his door and has not spoken to his former bandmates - Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright, or his replacement, Dave Gilmour - for nearly three decades.

According to his sister, Rosemary Breen - one of the few people Barrett still sees - news that his old group is reforming has left him unmoved.

"I saw him this morning and told him the news, but he did not react,' said Mrs Breen, who lives a few miles from her 59-year-old brother.

"That is another life for him, another world in another time. He is not Syd anymore, he is Roger," added Mrs Breen, referring to Barrett's real name.

Barrett, who created, named and powered the pied pipers of the psychedelic rock movement, lives alone in a semi-detached house.

One of his neighbours said: "He never gives anyone here the time of day. I see him perhaps once a month going to the shop to get a newspaper of cigarettes or whatever but I've never spoken to him.

"No-one in this street has ever been inside his house. We've had people coming from all over the world to see him. They sit on the pavement outside his house but he's never opened the door.

"I know he's inside but he never speaks to anyone. I don't think he would be interested in rejoining Pink Floyd. They'll have to do the concert without him."

Barrett left Pink Floyd in 1968, two years after forming the group, his brain frazzled by drugs but his legacy already assured.

Five years later the band released Dark Side Of The Moon and the single Money.

In 1975 came Wish You Were Here (with its tribute to Barrett in the song Shine On You Crazy Diamond). The band had hit the big time. But as Waters, the driving creative force in the band after Barrett, said years later: "Everything after Dark Side Of The Moon was very difficult."

Barratt turned his back on stardom and lives, seemingly happy, on the royalties that still roll in from the songs he wrote in almost total anonymity.

Mrs Breen said: "There is no contact and he does not want them to get in touch with him. He is fine, he is very well. He does DIY, he listens to music and he goes out."

Mrs Breen added that her brother would probably not watch Live8, when his old band will play alongside Sir Paul McCartney, U2 and Madonna.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Roger McGuinn's list at Amazon.com

Roger McGuinn is another artist who recommends his favorite CDs at Amazon.com. It's a good list to read, as McGuinn speaks of experiences and influences (much like he did on his album Live From Mars).