Friday, October 21, 2016

Mika – "Boum Boum Boum" (2014)

Boum boum boum
Même les Américains comprennent

(Or, in English, “Boom boom boom/Even the Americans understand.”)

I read an article in the New Yorker today by an American woman who had to learn French because she married a Frenchman.  (If she had just shaved her underarms and showered regularly, she could have landed an American husband and skipped learning French.)

There were a number of bizarre facts in that article, including the following:

—  “In Archi, a language spoke spoke in the village of Archib, in southern Dagestan [which is a part of Russia], a single verb — taking into account prefixes and suffixes and other modifications — can occur in 1,502,839 different forms.”  (I’d like to check the author’s math.)

— French is one of the easiest languages for a native English speaker to learn because somewhere between a quarter and a half of basic English vocabulary is derived from French words.  According to the U.S. State Department, it takes an American about 600 hours to learn French, but 2200 hours to learn Arabic or Mandarin.

Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Hoover
— Speaking of Mandarin, Herbert Hoover and his wife were fluent in it.  (The Hoovers lived in China for several years; he was employed as a mining engineer there.  The couple spoke Mandarin to each other in the White House when they didn’t want anyone to know what they were saying to each other.)

Knullrufs is a Swedish word used to describe the way one’s hair looks after having sex.

— In French, all nouns have a grammatical gender.  In other words, they are masculine or feminine for purposes of grammar.  Une chemise, which means “man’s shirt,” is feminine.  Un chemisier, which means “woman’s shirt,” is masculine.  If that doesn’t prove that the French are nuts, I don’t know what does.

*     *     *     *     *

“Boom Boum Boum” was a 2014 hit single for Michael Holbrook Penniman, Jr., who records under the name “Mika.”

“Boom Boum Boum” translates as “Boom Boom Boom” – which means “makin’ whoopee” (a euphemism that host Bob Eubanks used regularly on The Newlywed Game).

Here’s “Boum Boum Boum”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Attila – "Hate Me" (2014)

I don’t give a f*ck 
About my bad reputation

A lot of people are saying that Hell or High Water is the best movie of 2016.  

I almost agree.  Everybody Wants Some is my favorite movie of the year so far, but Hell or High Water isn’t far behind.

I say that even though the movie’s plot is based on a Bernie Sanders-ish premise that is (in the words of my high-school English teacher, commenting on the first draft of my valedictorian speech) Communistic, socialistic, and critical of parents – not to mention contrary to fact.

Here's the official trailer for Hell or High Water:

Like Walter White in Breaking Bad, the protagonist in Hell or High Water is a “justified criminal” – in the words of the TVTropes wiki, that’s “a person [who] becomes a criminal because of socio-economic reasons, or just plain horrible circumstances, and is portrayed sympathetically because of this.  Basically a person or a group of people are in dire straits and need money immediately and become bank robbers, and drug dealers out of necessity.”

In Hell or High Water, the “justified criminal” is Toby Howard (Chris Pine), a divorced father whose mother had to take out a reverse mortgage on the family farm to pay her medical bills.  Now that she’s dead, Toby has to pay off that mortgage or the bank gets the property.

Did I tell you that Toby has recently learned that there’s oil on his family farm, which makes the property vastly more valuable than anyone thought it was before his mother signed up for the reverse mortgage?

Toby doesn’t care about himself, but he wants the oil-rich farm to go to his sons so they won’t have to grow up poor like he did.  He decides to raise the cash he needs to hold on to the farm by robbing banks – not just any banks, mind you, but branches of the bank that gave his mother her reverse mortgage.  He asks his brother Tanner (Ben Foster), a hot-tempered ex-con, to help.

Ben Foster (Tanner) and Chris Pine (Toby)
“Justified criminal” movies usually feature a crime committed against an “assh*le victim” – a victim who deserves what he/she/it gets.  

A bank usually makes an excellent assh*le victim – especially if it’s a very large bank headquartered in some far away place and managed by people whose appearance and accents are very different from the justified criminal and his salt-of-the-earth neighbors.

I expected to have a problem with Hell or High Water because some of the reviews I had read made it sound like cartoonish left-wing propaganda – evil bankers engage in predatory lending so they can profit by foreclosing on poor hard-working folks who fell on hard times, until a couple of modern-day Robin Hoods show up and give them their comeuppance.

There are a number of problems with the movie’s plot.  For example, once oil was discovered on his family farm – making the property worth many times the amount of the mortgage debt owed to the bank – Toby would have had no trouble refinancing the loan . . . which means that he didn’t need to rob banks to hold on to his property.  (If you don’t believe me, go to any bank in the world and see if you can get a $45,000 loan secured by a property that produces $50,000 in oil royalties every month.  I think you’ll get that loan toot sweet.)  

Toby and Tanner rob a bank
But I’m used to having to overlook a little illogic when I go to the movies.  Sometimes the scriptwriter has to cheat a little to make the movie work dramatically. 

Hell or High Water gets really interesting when Toby’s decision to rob banks has some unanticipated – and very bad – consequences.  

The movie opens by showing what happens the first time Toby and Tanner rob a bank.  Tanner – who’s a real loose cannon – smacks a harmless old banker in the face for no apparent reason.

In this video, the director of the movie discusses the that opening scene:

Later, the boys hit a branch that was full of customers – and since the movie is set in Texas, several of those customers are carrying guns.  Toby and Tanner lose control of the situation and a full-scale firefight ensues, resulting in the death of two bystanders.

The brothers then split up.  Tanner really has nothing much to live for – a fact which he is all too aware of – so he takes a rifle and heads for the hills, hoping to draw the attention of all the lawmen who are chasing them away from Toby so Toby can get to the bank on time to pay off the mortgage and save the farm for his sons.  

Tanner is outnumbered, but he has the high ground and he’s a good shot.  He takes down a Texas Ranger with a gruesome head shot before being flanked and killed by that Ranger’s partner. 

Paying off the mortgage
At this point, we can no longer characterize Toby or Tanner as a “justified criminal.”  While it may be OK to rip off a bank that’s ripped you off, it’s hardly OK to kill several innocent people along the way.  And while it was Tanner, not Toby, who pulled the trigger, Toby knew his brother well enough that he should have anticipated that him losing control and going off the rails was a real possibility.

So while Hell or High Water may begin as a simplistic morality tale pitting a working-class hero against greedy bankers, it turns into something much more subtle and compelling along the way.

Jeff Bridges in "Hell or High Water"
The Texas Ranger who becomes Toby and Tanner’s nemesis is played by Jeff Bridges, and Bridges delivers a tour de force performance.  But I couldn’t help but wish that the producers had cast Tommy Lee Jones in that role instead.  

Bridges does a great job depicting a crusty, politically incorrect, soon-to-be-retired Ranger who is a lot smarter than he looks.  

Perhaps the most impressive demonstration of his acting chops is when he sits back and lets an even crustier and more politically incorrect waitress absolutely steal the one scene that she appears in – Bridges knows that what she is doing is magic, and he gets out of her way and lets her have at it.  

But I feel like Jones would have not only have been able to do everything that Bridges did, but also would have inhabited the character so completely that you would have forgotten that you were watching an actor.  

If yu want to know what I’m talking about, compare Bridges in True Grit to Jones in No Country for Old Men.  Bridges was very good, but Jones was perfect.

*     *     *     *     *

When New York director Sidney Lumet came to the Texas panhandle years ago to make a movie based on a book by Texas native Larry McMurtry, McMurtry was dismayed by Lumet’s utter lack of knowledge about all things Texan.  “I doubt that he’s ever had a Dr. Pepper,” McMurtry said.

By contrast, Hell or High Water screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is a west Texas native whose script displays his broad and deep understanding of Texas culture.  Sheridan fully appreciates the significance of Dr. Pepper to Texans.

In my favorite scene in the movie, Toby and Tanner stop for gas at a nondescript convenience store.  When Toby goes inside to pay, Tanner asks him to bring back a Dr. Pepper.  

But before Toby returns, a couple of young punks with more testosterone than brains pull up to the pump.  The driver tries to stare down Tanner – who pays no attention to him – then waves a very large handgun around while berating Tanner verbally.  

You expect the volatile Tanner to pull his gun and start blasting away.  But it’s the mild-mannered Toby who returns from paying the cashier and proceeds to beat the everloving crap out of the driver.  

As the brothers drive away after the beatdown, you hear this exchange:  

Tanner:  This is a Mr. Pibb.  I asked for a Dr. Pepper.
Toby:  So?
Tanner:  Only assholes drink Mr. Pibb.
Toby: Drink up!

*     *     *     *     *

When the two punks pull up to the gas pump in the scene described above, today’s featured song is blasting out of their car stereo.

Attila is a metal band from Atlanta that formed about ten years ago.  “Hate Me” – which has truly appalling lyrics – was released in 2014 on the group’s fifth album, Guilty Pleasure.

Here’s the official music video for “Hate Me”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Beatles – "She Loves You" (1964)

She loves you
And you know you should be glad

(The fangirls always went crazy when the Beatles sang that falsetto “Oooooh!”)

The Liverpool Football Club is one of the 20 soccer teams in the Premier League, the highest-ranking division of the English Football League.  It has more first- and second-place finishes than any other team in the Premier League except Manchester United, and has officially recognized fan clubs in at least 50 foreign countries.

The most fanatic Liverpool F.C. supporters once watched the game while standing on the terrace at one end of the club’s Anfield stadium that was known as the “Spion Kop.”  

Originally, the Spion Kop was a steep embankment without seats – the fans in that area had to stand throughout the match. 

Spion Kop standees
At the height of Beatlemania in the early 1960s, the Spion Kop could hold up to 30,000 standing fans – most of whom were working-class men or younger fans who took advantage of the fact that admission to Spion Kop was much less costly than buying a seat elsewhere in the stadium.    

The absolute best thing about director Ron Howard’s new documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, is the film of thousands of “Kopites” — all males — swaying and singing “She Loves You” a cappella during a Liverpool match.

Here's the BBC television feature that film came from – the singing begins about 55 seconds into it:

Spion Kop got its name from a 4790-foot-tall mountain in South Africa that was the site of a Second Boer War battle.  The Battle of Spion Kop — the name means “Spy Hill” in Dutch – was a defeat for the British, who outnumbered the opposing Boer forces considerably.  

A few years after the battle, a local newspaperman compared the appearance of fans standing atop an embankment for spectators at the Arsenal F.C.’s London stadium to soldiers standing atop Spion Kop at the battle.  

Boers soldiers in front of Spion Kop
A couple of years after that, a Liverpool newspaper reported that a similar embankment at Anfield “has been termed ‘Spion Kop,’ and no doubt this apt name will always be used in future in referring to this spot.”  The name was made official in 1928, when a roof was built to shelter Spion Kop standees from the rain.  Many other English football and rugby clubs named their standing-only terraces “Spion Kop” as well.

Liverpool Kopites are famous for singing at soccer matches.  “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the musical  Carousel became the club’s official anthem after it was covered in 1963 by Gerry and the Pacemakers, a “British Invasion” group that rivaled the Beatles in popularity at one time.  (The band’s first three releases that year – “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was one of them – went to #1 in the UK, and the Pacemakers had three other top ten hits the following year.)

*     *     *     *     *

Before producer/arranger George Martin became the “Fifth Beatle,” he produced a number of novelty records — including two Peter Sellers comedy LPs.  

After “She Loves You” became a hit, Sellers recorded four readings of the song’s lyrics in different accents – a Cockney accent, an upper-class English accent, an Irish accent, and a Dr. Strangelove accent.  That recording was released only after Sellers died in 1980. 

Here it is:

*     *     *     *     *

“She Loves You” climbed to the #1 spot on the British record charts in September 1963, and surpassed a million units in sales by November.

But when the single was released in the United States, it sold barely a thousand copies and never cracked the Billboard “Hot 100.”

“I Want to Hold Your Hand” made it all the way to #1 in January 1964, and after the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in February, “She Loves You” quickly took the #2 spot.  

The two songs switched positions in March, and in April, the Fab Four held down the top five spots in the “Hot 100” with those two songs plus “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” and “Please Please Me.”  That’s never happened since and I doubt that it ever will. 

And here’s “She Loves You” by the Beatles:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, October 14, 2016

Beatles – "Eight Days a Week" (1965) (part 3 of 3)

Love you every day, girl
Always on my mind
One thing I can say, girl
Love you all the time

In his review of Ron Howard’s new documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, Tom Shone of Newsweek describes the Beatles as “the original and best boy band.”

It may seem blasphemous to lump the Beatles in with boy bands like One Direction, the Backstreet Boys, ’N Sync, the Bay City Rollers, and the Monkees because the Beatles eventually matured into something very different from those boy bands.  

But The Ed Sullivan Show-vintage Beatles – the Beatles of “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” — were not only a boy band, but the original boy band. 

The Beatles had a Svengali-like figure who took control of their career – Brian Epstein, who took the scruffy, leather-jacket-clad lads from Liverpool (by way of Hamburg) and put them in natty matching suits with matching haircuts.  And having a Svengali pulling the strings is de rigueur for a boy band.

More importantly, the Beatles had a legion of insanely devoted fangirls, which is even de rigueur-er for a boy band.  

Beatles fans
When I saw Eight Days a Week last weekend, I was struck by just how many of the fans at Beatles concerts were teenaged girls too young to have a driver’s license.  (I’m guessing about 99% fit that description.)

Writing on, Jillian Mapes notes correctly that “Beatlemania established the barometer by which all other boy-band-demonium has been gauged.  Is that not the defining aspect of what separates a boy band from merely an all-male pop group?”

Makes goes on to explain what made the Beatles uniquely appealing to their fangirls:

Certainly Elvis and even a young Sinatra inspired similar reactions in teen girls, and doo-wop and R&B groups had proven that there's a certain magic in male voices playing off each other.  But the Beatles marked the first time listeners were able to customize their fandom by claiming one of four distinct personalities that corresponded to their romantic tastes.  This is the model more or less emulated by every wildly successful boy-band since: a boy for every type of girl (however laughably reductive that may be).

Why did girls scream at Beatles concerts?

Rachel Simmons, whose website describes her as “an author, educator and coach helping girls and young women grow into authentic, emotionally intelligent and assertive adults,” believes that concerts give young females who are socialized to be polite, modest “good girls” an opportunity to let it all hang out:

In their day-to-day, non-concert-going lives, girls don’t have a lot of permission to scream.  A concert offers an oasis from the daily rules about being good girls.  Screaming is about letting go and leaving the confines of being the self-conscious pleaser.

Simmons also believes that screaming at a concert allows teenaged girls to be part of a group but also express themselves as individuals:

Adolescent girls are really invested in the acceptance of their peers.  But there’s a competitive element to fandom and fangirling — and screaming is an expression of that fandom.  So girls are doing it not only to assert their passion for the band, but to compete with each other and to signal to each other that, “This is what I care about.”  It’s part competition, but partly a way to connect.  During adolescence for girls, that’s a very complex and important drive.

I don’t find Ms. Simmons’s theory very persuasive, so I did some research to see what science might have to say about why fangirls scream at boy-band concerts.

Professor Harold Gouzoules, the chairman of the psychology department at Emory University, has been studying how rhesus monkeys use screams to communicate for years.  He believes that screaming by humans is also a means of communicating, and that the message that screamers are communicating is generally the same one: LOOK AT ME!!!

According to Professor Gouzoules,

If you got back to Nazi rallies in the ’30s, when Hitler was rising to prominence, there are historical accounts that young women were screaming.  There’s something about that kind of social event — there’s excitement being generated by somebody who has power or authority. . . . And those screams are attention-getting.  That’s how they serve monkeys.  That’s how they serve us a lot of the time.

In other words, young girls at Beatle concerts screamed for the same reason that young girls at Nazi rallies screamed and the rhesus monkeys that Professor Gouzoules observed screamed: because they were desperate for attention.

The girls who attended Beatles concerts did a lot of screaming.  They also cried and fainted.  But that’s not all they did.

From the Huffington Post:

Multiple people have claimed Beatles shows were known for their urine.  Notably, John B. Lynn, son of the owner of a venue the Beatles played, told The Washington Post that the concert hall smelled like the pee of overexcited girls after the show.  


Bob Geldof has admitted that he associates the Beatles with the smell of urine.

The singer revealed that he was stunned by the large number of young girls "pissing themselves" at a Beatles concert he attended in the 1960s and can no longer remember the band without thinking of the incident.

"The Beatles was a case of watching females in excelsis.  It's the old cliché, but you couldn't hear them for all the screaming," he told Q magazine.

"I remember looking down at the cinema floor and seeing these rivulets of piss in the aisles. The girls were literally pissing themselves with excitement.  So what I associate most with the Beatles is the smell of girls' urine."

(Hopefully, Geldof’s memory is better than his Latin.  In excelsis means “in the highest.”  I think Sir Bob meant to say in extremis.)

Click below to buy a new remastered version of the Beatles’ Live at the Hollywood Bowl album, which is a companion to Ron Howard’s Eight Days a Week movie:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Beatles – "Eight Days a Week" (1965) (part 2 of 3)

Oooh, I need your love, babe
Guess you know it's true
Hope you need my love, babe
Just like I need you

(Shouldn’t it be “Just like I need yours”?)

As I told you in the previous 2 or 3 lines, I went to see The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years (director Ron Howard’s new documentary about the Beatles) last week.

Eight Days a Week is about what we might call version 1.0 of the Beatles — the pre-Revolver, pre-Sgt. Pepper Beatles who wore matching suits, cranked out hit single after hit single, and caused teenaged girls to be seized by fits of hysterics at their concerts. (One critic described those Beatles as “the original and best boy band,” and he was exactly right.)   

The movie ends when the Beatles stopped touring in 1966, frustrated by the fact that those their audiences made so much noise that no one — least of all the Beatles themselves – could hear them perform.

I was in sixth grade when the tidal wave that was Beatlemania engulfed the United States.  It was an amazing phenomenon – and a largely inexplicable one.  I’ve spent a lot of time over the years pondering exactly why the Beatles had such an impact on us baby boomers . . . and I’m still pondering that question today.  

As Oscar Hammerstein might have put it if he had been writing about John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead of Maria von Trapp, “How do you solve a problem like Beatlemania?”

Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp
in "The Sound of Music"
Most Fab Four devotees would say that Beatlemania was primarily a product of the unforgettable pop songs that Lennon and McCartney cranked out by the dozen.  

There’s no denying that many of the songs recorded by version 1.0 of the Beatles are extraordinary – more so the melodies than the lyrics, of course. 

Generally speaking, the lyrics of Beatles 1.0 songs weren’t anything to write home about.  As John Lennon admits in the Ron Howard documentary, he and Paul didn’t spend that much time on the words to their songs.  (A case in point: the verse from “Eight Days a Week” quoted above.)  

Lennon and McCartney were gifted tunesmiths, although their tunes aren’t quite as good as English composer Howard Goodall claimed in Eight Days a Week.  (Goodall said that the Beatles had written more great melodies than Schubert, although maybe not as many as Mozart.  Elsewhere Goodall has said that his shortlist of composers whose work changed all the music that followed it is topped by Beethoven, Wagner, and the Beatles.  Really?)  And there were a lot of other great pop tunes being recorded in the mid-Sixties.

The Beatles wouldn’t have been the Beatles without all the great songs, but those songs alone don’t explain their unprecedented success – to put it another way, the songs were a necessary but not sufficient condition for Beatlemania to happen.

I would never have expected to find the answer to my question in a senior thesis written by a Wesleyan University history student in.  But Daniel Nathan Charness’s 2010 thesis – which is titled BeatleBoomers: The Beatles in Their Generation – hits the nail squarely on the head when he states that we’ll never understand Beatlemania unless we stop focusing only on the Beatles and start considering the Beatles’ audience.  (You can click here to read the thesis in its entirety.)

The cover of Charness's thesis
That’s right, boys and girls.  Beatlemania isn’t so much about the Beatles and their music as it is about you and me and our fellow baby boomers:

The explosive impact of the Beatles is easier to explain when it is viewed from the perspective of their audience.  If it is already assumed that their music was good enough to appeal to a broad audience, this generational perspective allows us to examine why the Beatles – rather than any of the other bands that emerged during the early 1960s – became the most influential and enduring pop phenomenon of the 20th century.  The Beatles were the perfect match for this generation of youth, not just because they were good musicians, but also because they possessed qualities that had a nearly universal appeal to baby boomers of all nationalities and backgrounds.

Most of Charness’s thesis is devoted to exploring those uniquely appealing qualities of the Fab Four.  

As he notes, the Beatles had a great look — the haircuts and the matching suits – and appealing personalities.  (Eight Days a Week aptly describes them as “cheeky,” but it was an innocent and inoffensive cheekiness.)

And after countless hours performing live in Liverpool and Hamburg clubs, the Beatles had developed a live act that electrified audiences.  The lads looked like they were having a ball on stage – especially Paul – and the people who came to see them couldn’t help but enjoy themselves, too.

Charness’s arguments are persuasive, but I can’t say that he has entirely explained Beatlemania.  Maybe that’s because he’s not a baby boomer – and so he can’t entirely appreciate what it was like to be a teenager when the Beatles exploded on to the pop music scene.  

I’m not sure that we will ever get to the bottom of why the baby boomers responded to the Beatles differently than they responded to the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Who, and all the other great groups of the era – and why they still feel very differently about version 1.0 of the Beatles today. 

But I believe that Charness is absolutely correct when he says that understanding the Beatles’ baby-boomer audience is key to solving the problem that is Beatlemania.

Charness’s thesis describes how the baby boomers differed from previous American generations, and ticks off the factors that made the boomers were so receptive to Beatlemania.  

He correctly notes that “the baby boomers have refused to give up the band they grew up with.”  (And we never will.  If you want to take our Beatles records away from us, you’ll have to pry them from our cold, dead hands.)

But he kindly refrains from attributing our devotion to the Fab Four to the fact that we have always been a remarkably self-absorbed generation.

Let’s face it.  We boomers will never be dissuaded from believing that ours is the most especially special generation of all.  We view everything that happened during our formative years – JFK, the Vietnam War, Laugh-In, men walking on the moon, The Graduate, the Ford Mustang, Rocky and Bullwinkle, the Beatles – as being uniquely meaningful.

(Those were the days!)
Here’s a question for my fellow baby boomers: if you were older or younger than you are, who would be you favorite pop musician?

If you were older, Elvis Presley might have been your pop-music touchstone instead of the lovable lads from Liverpool.  But given our age, Elvis is more of a curiosity – interesting and of some anthropological significance, but not one-hundredth as interesting or significant as the Beatles.

And if you were younger, perhaps you would feel the same way about Michael Jackson or Prince or Madonna as you feel about the Beatles.  

But we’re card-carrying members of a generation that believes in the Beatles above all other musicians . . . as our children roll their eyes.

Don’t misunderstood what I’m saying, mes amis d'un certain âge.  I’m not dogging on the Fab Four – I’m just saying that a large part of the reason that we deeply believe that the Beatles are special is that we deeply believe that we are special. 

*     *     *     *     *

If you’ve ever seen film of the Beatles performing live, you know that the vast majority of the audiences at their concerts were girls — mostly teenagers who look too young to have had a driver’s license.  In the next 2 or 3 lines, we’ll speculate about why that was . . . and also why so many of those girls grew up to be women who are still devoted to the Beatles.  

Click below to buy a DVD of the Eight Days a Week documentary movie from Amazon.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Beatles – "Eight Days a Week" (1965 (part 1 of 3)

Hold me
Love me
Hold me
Love me

The posters and other promotional materials for The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, which is director Ron Howard’s new documentary about the 1964-66 Beatles, feature this line:

The band you know.  The story you don't.

Actually, I do know the story – and I'm guessing you know it, too.

Howard's movie present an oft-told tale: how four cheeky lads from Liverpool became the biggest pop stars in history . . . how the demands of their fans and the press became overwhelming  . . . and how they got sick and tired of performing before audiences full of teenaged girls who screamed so loudly the entire time they were on stage that they couldn't hear themselves play.

 Howard is a Beatles fan, and his movie is strictly for other fans.  It has the Apple Corps seal of approval, and doesn't contain anything negative about the Fab Four.  It's sort of a coffee-table-book of a movie.

No matter.  Eight Days a Week is a very pleasant trip down Memory Lane for all of us baby boomers, although I would have preferred fewer talking heads, less hagiography and more commentary-free film of the Beatles performing live.

Here's the trailer for the movie:

The movie opens with some concert footage that was filmed in Manchester, England, by newsreel producer Pathé News on November 20, 1963 – just two days before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

The Pathé short, which shows the Beatles performing “She Loves You” and “Twist and Shout,” is earliest surviving color film of the Beatles that includes sound, and it is electrifying.  (You can click here to view the entire short.) 

That Manchester footage looks and sounds almost too good to be real.  One could almost believe that Howard filmed it just last week using computer-generated imagery or well-coached Fab Four impersonators.  (Howard and his crew obviously took advantage of all the modern-day technological tricks that money can buy.)

Nothing else in the documentary is quite as wonderful, but all of the archival film in Eight Days a Week is compelling stuff — even the blurry stuff shot by fans who brought their home-movie cameras to Beatles concerts. 

As far as I’m concerned, Howard could have done without the interviews that are interspersed throughout the movie.  Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr do a lot of talking, and what they have to say is only intermittently interesting.  

Most of the other interviews are even more forgettable – especially Whoopi Goldberg’s (whose real name, by the way, is Caryn Elaine Johnson.)  

Whoopi waxes philosophical about how much she loved the Beatles – even though she was a nine-year-old black girl from New York City and they were four young white men from the UK.  “They were colorless, and they were f*cking amazing,” she gushes.

After the Eight Days a Week credits rolled, there was a screening of a 30-minute excerpt from a documentary about the Beatles’ 1965 concert at Shea Stadium.  It was fabulous, and not just because it was free of Whoopi Goldberg’s yakety-yak.
The Beatles performing at Shea Stadium
Here are a few random thoughts about Eight Days a Week:

Less was more when the Beatles performed live.

Thankfully the Beatles didn’t stretch their songs out with interminable instrumental solos or do any on-stage shtick comparable to Pete Townshend’s “windmill” power-chord move, or Roger Daltrey’s constantly swinging his microphone around by the cord.  (I love the Who as much as anyone, but that stuff is pretty tired.)

Playing it straight is fine with me – I wish more bands kept it simple when they perform live.  But when you go to a live performance, don’t you want to hear something that’s a little different than what’s on the record?

Hearing the Beatles play a concert is like listening to a Beatles cover band.  When the Fab Four played live, they essentially replicated their records note for note.  There were no surprises, particularly when it came to the guitar playing of John, Paul, and George.  (John’s guitar work was especially pedestrian.  I’ve seen more interesting playing by guitarists on American Bandstand who weren’t plugged in because the band was lip-synching its single.)
The Beatles were a very good vocal ensemble, and their singing carried the live shows.  John, Paul, and George could each handle the lead, and their two-part and three-part singing was solid.  (Given the noise generated by their live audiences and the fact that they didn’t use stage monitors prior to the last year of their touring career, it’s amazing they managed to sing in tune as well as they did.)

Of course, most people didn’t go to Beatles concerts to hear the music.  (That’s good, because all the shrieking made it impossible to hear much of the music.)  They went to Beatles concerts to see the Beatles in person – and so they could tell their friends that they had seen the Beatles in person.

Ringo Starr was a very underrated live drummer.
Although Ringo was much beloved by Beatles fans, he was never taken very  seriously as a musician.  But I was pleasantly surprised by energy and power Ringo displayed in the Eight Days a Week footage of the Beatles playing live in 1963 and 1964 – at times he reminded me of the Who’s Keith Moon (which is high praise indeed).

John Lennon was kind of a dick.

I always attributed John Lennon’s jumping the shark and breaking up the Beatles to drugs and Yoko Ono.  But Eight Days a Week presents the pre-LSD, pre-Yoko version of Lennon as a wiseass who clearly thinks he’s too cool for school.

John has been described by both Paul McCartney and ex-wife Cynthia Lennon as painfully insecure, and perhaps that explains why Lennon came across as such an obnoxious showoff at times.  (That insecurity may also explain why Lennon trivialized George Martin's enormous contributions to the Beatles' later recordings – although he did eventually give Martin the credit he was due.)

John was the only Beatle who was the least bit annoying in the live performances shown in Eight Days a Week.  His between-songs patter was always affected and unfunny.  And when the Beatles closed their Shea Stadium concert by playing “I’m Down,” Lennon performance on a Vox Continental organ consisted of little more than ripping off of glissandos with his elbow– as lame a rockstar move as you’ll ever see.

About 99% of the audience at Beatles concerts was female.

And those females were very, very young — most of the girls in the film footage of Beatles concerts in “Eight Days a Week” looked too young to have a driver’s license.

The audience at the “Eight Days a Week” screening I attended was very old not young. 

Just before the movie began, I overheard this exchange between two audience members:

Man: “I bet there aren’t three people here tonight who are under 55.”

Woman: “And they're with their parents.”

(I'll explain why this comment was significant in the next 2 or 3 lines.)

I don’t know why Ron Howard chose to title his movie “Eight Days a Week.”

“Eight Days a Week” was a #1 single for the Beatles in 1965, but the Beatles never performed the song live.  (John Lennon once called it “lousy.”)  So it seems like an odd choice for the title of a movie that's all about the Beatles' touring career.

One final note: If Eight Days a Week isn't showing in a theater near you, you can always view it on Hulu.  (I don't have the Hulu personally, but I hear it's good.)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, October 7, 2016

Knack – "My Sharona" (1979)

Ooooooo-ohhh, my Sharona!
Ooooooo-ohhh, my Sharona!
Ooooooo-ohhh, my Sharona!

In 1979, musician Doug Fieger was introduced to Sharon Alperin, a 16-year-old high-school student.

Fieger – who was nine years older – was immediately smitten:

It was like getting hit in the head with a baseball bat; I fell in love with her instantly.  And when that happened, it sparked something and I started writing a lot of songs feverishly in a short amount of time.

One of the songs Fieger penned was “My Sharona,” which became the biggest hit single of 1979.  He later said that it took him just 15 minutes to write “My Sharona.”

Doug Fieger and Sharona Alperin
According to Alperin, Fieger didn’t waste any time making a major play for her:  

And within a month or two [of being introduced to me], he told me that, “I’m in love with you, you're my soulmate, you're my other half, we're going to be together one day.”  And I was madly in love with my boyfriend at the time, and so it took a year for me to leave my boyfriend.

After Sharona did leave her boyfriend, she and Fieger were a couple for several years.  When the Knack went on tour, he asked Sharona to look for a house for him to buy.  Local realtors were eager to help the teenager buy a house for her rock-star boyfriend:

They were picking me up, sometimes in limousines, from my mom’s house.  They would show me houses, and then I would choose which ones I thought Doug would like.  When Doug would come back into town, he’d ask the brokers, “Do you mind if she shows it to me? I’d prefer if she shows it to me.”  The brokers would tell me, “Oh my gosh, you should be a realtor!”

Sharona took their advice.  Today, she’s a very successful Los Angeles realtor with a lot of high-priced listings.  (When I say "high-end listings," I mean seven- and even eight-figure properties.)

Sharon Alperin today
She obviously embraces her history as Doug Fieger’s muse: if you go to her real estate website – – you’ll be treated to a minute or so of “My Sharona” as the home page loads.

Doug and Sharona broke up before she turned 21.  Each of them eventually married other people, but they remained in touch over the years.  

When Fieger died of lung cancer on Valentine’s Day, 2010 — he was only 57 — Sharona was one of the group of friends who were bedside with him.  

The sleeve for the “My Sharona” single featured a spectacular photo of the teenaged Sharona Alperin, wearing Levi’s and a white tank top and holding a copy of the Knack’s Get the Knack album:

(Words fail me.)

Here’s “My Sharona,” with its unforgettable riff and its pervy lyrics:

Here's a video of a killer live performance of the song:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: