Saturday, March 8, 2014

Monday's Muse: Spinal Tap Turns 30!

There aren't many movies I've seen so many times I've lost count, but This Is Spinal Tap is one of them. Over the years, I've had the chance to introduce it to several friends which is always fun. And it's also having a big anniversary; the coolest, most quotable mockumentary around just turned 30. (Which is shocking because everything about it, from its hapless humor to the reality-TV style shoot, holds up amazingly well.) You don't need to be a music fan to appreciate the genius driving this movie. In fact when it was released, many people even didn't realize it was a parody.

There are many things to love about Spinal Tap but my favorite scenes are the ones based on rock and roll reality. Like this:

This Is Spinal Tap, "Hello Cleveland!"

Yep, the Tap getting lost backstage was inspired by my boo, Tom Petty. Apparently he and the 'Breakers aimlessly wandered the bowels of a concert venue, stumbling upon an indoor tennis court instead of the stage. (Hello Cleveland!) Cool fact: that's the very real Bo Diddley giving the band directions in the movie. The music legend is one of several great cameos.

If you've never Spinal Tap, please, please go rent it now! And don't forget to turn it up to 11

What's inspiring you?


Monday, February 24, 2014

It's a Rap!

Isn't Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" off to a really good start? His obvious love of music is one of the reasons I like him so much. One of my favorite sketches is his "History of." (No surprise there) So clever and funny, and somehow Jimmy manages to keep it fresh even after many a redux. (As for Justin Timberlake, he needs to forget about becoming a  Big Movie Star and stick to comedy. He'd be a much-needed and great addition to SNL.) 

Now, rap isn't really my thing. (Have I mentioned that before? Maybe a little bit here.) So I was pretty surprised when I knew almost all of these songs:

"The History of Rap Part 5," Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake

Another great thing about Jimmy Fallon: He's able to tap into the things you didn't realize were buried deep in your consciousness. By the time they got to "Walk This Way," you were busting a move. I know you were.

And speaking of busting moves, there's this:

"Rapper's Delight," Brian Williams courtesy of Jimmy Fallon

Not to get all technical and ruin the genius of this clip, but... The researcher in me can't help but wonder how much work this was! I hope the show's writers have a magic turn-TV-newscaster-into-rapper translation program or at the very least a good voice recognition video search program. (You: Buzz. Killed. Thankyouverymuch.) My second thought: Wouldn't it be hilarious if Brian "rapped" something a lot more hard-core? Like "Straight Outta Compton"? But Jimmy already beat me to it. Of course.You can watch that one here.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reality Still Bites, Twenty Years Later

As if there aren't enough reminders of how quickly time is passing, here's another. This movie just turned 20 years old:

"Reality Bites" was one of several aptly timed narratives of my generation (I count John Hughes's films as the others). I was less than two years out of college when it was released, so it was supposed to be a recognizable reflection of the ennui and struggles of Gen-X. College graduates adrift, unable to find jobs, a path, a life. So what do you think it means that, for me, this was its most memorable scene?

The Knack's "My Sharona," from "Reality Bites"

Maybe the characters were too aloof, too chain-smokingly hip? (A few things I definitely wasn't.) I know this for sure: I will never be Winona Ryder and I will never score with Ethan Hawke. No worries though. Dancing like crazy in a gas-mart to an 80s (okay, 1979) pop song (My my my myyyyyyy Sharona!) is something I can always get behind. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It's Definitely Still Rock and Roll to Me

When I was in college, I went through this crazy Billy Joel phase. I'm not sure why he became so important then, because his music had been around for most of my life. His trademark whistling in the opening to "The Stranger" played on the radio in my mother's 1970s Chrysler sedan, the song's provocativeness totally lost on a seven-year-old kid. His 1980 effort Glass Houses was the first record I owned that wasn't pilfered from my brother's cool collection. After school, my friends and I would dance wildly around my bedroom to "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" while the needle bounced up and down on the record. I listened to that album so many times, I wore out the grooves on the vinyl. (Yes, vinyl.) Ten years later, I did my dancing in a dorm room and saw Billy Joel live for the first time in Boston with my college roommates. By then, I had collected all of his albums on CD. I'm sure my dorm-mates were sick of hearing them.

College was a long time ago (sigh) and while I still like Billy Joel, it's been a while since his music was on regular iPod rotation. (That tattered old record still exists in a box tucked away somewhere. Yes, I save everything.) That is, until yesterday when someone posted this on Facebook:

Billy Joel and Vanderbilt student Michael Pollack, "New York State of Mind"

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Is this not the dream of pretty much everyone who loves music? Even if you can't play one damn note of piano? Now before anyone tells me that this was set up, yes it very well might have been. Perhaps Billy Joel's manager was given a demo tape and Billy agreed to this ahead of time. Can't blame him if he did. But that doesn't take away from the fact that he is cool enough to let an unknown college student accompany him on stage. And he didn't just do a good job, Michael Pollack KILLED IT. Truly amazing. Kudos to Billy Joel for being so gracious. This is what it means to be a true artist and musician. And it makes me feel like all that the fan worship for all of those years was totally, totally worth it. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Monday's Muse on a Wednesday: Buck It Up!

We're going to break tradition here and do a Monday's Muse on a Wednesday! Why? Well, it's not every day that I get to write about a musician I know personally. So this is pretty cool and exciting!

When you work in publishing, sometimes you meet some super-creative people. This is my friend Amy's husband, Butch Phelps. (Amy isn't too shabby herself, by the way.) 

Butch Phelps and the Buck Ups, "Bought and Sold" 

I love how smoothly the country twang mixes with the singer-songer confessional. (It's also great to see someone play guitar and sing. Seems like a lost art lately.) While we watch Butch grapple with the creative process, writing and rewriting, and eventually tossing out his efforts in the end, he still has that confidence. You know, he's that guy walking around Brooklyn clad in cowboy boots with a guitar strapped to his back. He's someone you just know you want to see. So why don't you? Find out more about Butch Phelps and the Buck Ups here

Click here to learn more about Monday's Muse.