“Out you two pixies go – through the door or out the window!”
Some call this surreal television. Some call it the weirdest moment in entertainment. To me it’s just a perfect musical moment.
Tomorrow marks the 35th anniversary of the airing of the Bing Crosby’s last Christmas special. In 1977 glam rocker David Bowie appeared as a guest and sang a duet with Bing. The song was a medley of the new song “Peace On Earth” with the standard “Little Drummer Boy”.
Bing died a month after this was recorded, and a month prior to the airing of this TV special. Then the song was released as a single in 1982. Also that year, MTV added the clip to its rotation as a stand-alone video.
After decades of forgettable holiday TV specials and variety shows with duets with artists from varying genres, this one performance stands out from all others. At first you may think it’s due to how odd this pairing is: it’s the tiny point on the Venn Diagram where The Golden Age of Hollywood overlaps with Modern Rock. Shock value doesn’t hold it up for 35 years; two great voices do.
(Here’s another guest post from Atlanta-based Singer/Songwriter Michael Hodgin!)
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that you hate Christmas music.
You are wrong.
And my good friend Jack Monson is letting me steal a few posts on his blog this holiday season to prove it. See, I absolutely LOVE Christmas music. I love Christmas too. It’s my favorite time of year. I love the feelings and the sentiment, the shopping and the giving, and Love Actually and It’s a Wonderful Life. I love very special holiday episodes of sit-coms. I love emotionally manipulative holiday-themed commercials that are hellbent on making you cry by showing some college kid returning home from Africa to spend Christmas with his family.
As Andy Williams said, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
And what is more wonderful than the idea of Bob Dylan doing a Christmas album. I like to think about what all the booing hordes of British folky teens would shout out if Mr. Zimmerman walked on stage with The Band in 1965 and did “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
Anyway, back in the present, check out the glorious, raucous mess that Bob makes of the holidays in this video from his excellent X-mas album.
It’s a great week and kickoff to the Christmas shopping season for Retro tunes from some of the greats. Any of these would make a great gift or a holiday insanity-defying muscial treat for yourself on Cyber Monday.
Do we really still call it Cyber Monday? Cyber….hmmm. I guess it’s like still saying “dial” a phone though we haven’t had a phone with a dial since around the time Led Zeppelin broke up.
Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day
Which brings us to this new release from last Tuesday – Led Zeppelin Celebration Day. It’s not really new music; it’s a live album of their greatest hits. It’s not really even a new release as it was recorded at their one-shot reunion 5 years ago! Lastly, the reunion term is used loosely as John Bonham is still quite dead.
These may be valid points for not going all-out crazy about this release. But, c’mon! It’s more Led Zeppelin! We really do not have enough material from these guys who were officially together for a only decade and released only 10 albums if you include the live Song Remains The Same (which I do) and not include the 1990s Page / Plant reunion album (which I don’t). Celebration Day is actually better than Remains, in my early listening opinion. These guys are now true old bluesmen with about a billion more miles on them. And although we don’t have John Bonham onboard, we have the closest match both musically and genetically with Jason Bonham.
AC/DC on iTunes
I was shocked last Tuesday seeing the big banner on iTunes announcing AC/DC’s catalog finally being released for digital download. They are the only major band that held out even longer than The Beatles, and I’m glad to finally see some of the greatest albums of all time like Dirty Deeds and Back in Black available for future generations who won’t own a CD player!
You can buy the entire collection, or of course choose only individual songs to purchase. But there’s still no official AC/DC Greatest Hits album. I think the band’s stance on this is so cool, especially in a world where every lame pop singer, hip hop noise maker, and American Idol contestant who has been around for more then 18 months is putting out a Greatest Hits collection.
The Stones put out a huge Best Of collection last week. The sheer scope is impressive, with you choice of the 40, 50, or 80 track versions. I recommend downloading the 2 new songs, “Gloom and Doom” and “One More Shot”. Both are rockin’ numbers that are a couple of the best they have created in several years.
But, seriously, I think The Stones have run out of ideas on album titles and cover photos.
This is an interesting collection of old Elvis Costello tunes used in various movies over the past 30 or so years. It’s a cool idea and an even cooler album cover!
The Who – Music For The Closing Ceremony
Pete and Roger’s performance closing the 2012 London Olympics was awesome and the 4 tracks are now for sale for download or on a limited blue vinyl LP!
Remember when Adam Sandler was funny? I think it was a narrow window from 1993 through mid-1997. But in that time he gave us a few holiday tunes via Saturday Night Live. Here’s the Turkey Song – Happy Thanksgiving!
Pop music, especially in the modern rock era (which I define as roughly 1979 to 1999), has a lot of Christmas songs in its catalog. A lot. A whole lot. In fact, way too many.
Like Christmas itself throughout the same era, pop and rock bands have cashed in over the past couple of decades, using Christmas as a reason to offer up specific product. But, no one has really created big hits for other holidays since Bobby “Boris” Picket staked his claim on Halloween in 1962.
Enter Ray Davies. The first time I heard “Thanksgiving Day” in 2005, I could just picture Ray telling his friends that the song isn’t just a Thanksgiving song, but more importantly it’s NOT another Christmas song. After all, Ray and his band The Kinks already conquered the Christmas genre with 1977’s “Father Christmas”!
Have a listen below to Ray perfroming this on the old Conan show in 2005:
Viewers of Chicago TV in the 1980s will remember Night-Owl which aired on WFLD-TV Channel 32. Night-Owl was a service by KeyFax which provided rotating text of news, sports, and weather that ran all night long.
This was before the independent Field Communications station was sold to Medtromedia, and then to News Corp as part of the core of the Fox Network.
The truly independent WFLD in 1981 and 1982 had an innovative, informative, and unique programming approach for overnight viewing.
To experience what Night-Owl was like, check out these videos from the always-reliable Fuzzy TV Memories channel on YouTube and FuzzyMemories.tv has several hours of Night-Owl available for viewing.
By today’s standards of computer-generated text – or even by 1990s standards! – it looks pretty lame. But remember, this was 1981!
There’s something very relaxing about these videos. Maybe it’s the comforting familiarity. Maybe it’s the fact that you know nothing too exciting is going to pop up. Or maybe it’s the memory of falling asleep to Night-Owl many times as a kid. I dare you to pull one of these videos, leave it running late in the evening and NOT feel a little sleepy!
And maybe that was the real charm of Night-Owl; it was as much a companion as it was a news source. Today, this is also the true value of the Internet and late-night cable TV for many.
One thing that was better about Night-Owl over today’s CNN and the rest of the 24 Hour cable news channels: no talking heads shouting biased political opinions over each other! Night-Owl was simple, yet had basic journalism down perfectly: just the facts. And a few fun facts…
Today’s Retro Media guest post is by Atlanta-Based Singer / Songwriter Michael Hodgin.
This weekend, I traveled back in time. To 1981. An odd choice, you say? If you could pick any year to travel back in time to, would it really be 1981? It might not have been my first pick either, but as I sat in my local IMAX theatre watching Raiders of the Lost Ark on the giant screen, I felt like I was seeing it again for the first time.
And I have seen this movie many, many times. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to narrow down my top 20 most-loved movies, I would have no regrets about choosing Raiders as my number 1. I’ve even seen it on the big screen at least twice. The first time, when I was a kid in 1981, and a few years ago when it was showing for some reason at the Music Box in Chicago.
But it wasn’t like this. Seeing Indy punching out Nazis on an IMAX screen was seriously thrilling. The opening with Alfred Molina and the giant boulder. The fight in Marion’s bar. The Cairo market basket bit. And by the time it got to the legendary truck chase, forget it. I know it’s ridiculous but I was on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t sure if Indy was going to make it out of this one!
And it’s not just because Raiders is kind of a perfect film. It is kind of perfect because all the people involved were absolutely doing their best work. Spielberg at the helm in his heyday. John Williams serving up one of his most rousing scores. Lawrence Kasdan writing the script. And say what you will about George Lucas, having seen him through hindsight and the cracked rose-colored glasses of the Star Wars prequels and Crystal Skull, but back in the day, that guy sure could be counted on for a good idea.
Oh, and Harrison Ford is absolutely killing it in his signature role.
But no, the thing that makes you forget you’ve seen this movie a thousand times, the thing that makes you forget that you’re watching a movie, is not that it’s a great movie. It’s that you’re seeing it on the big screen.
Because that’s how movies were intended to be seen. That’s how the artists meant for you to see their artwork. Rothko on a postcard is not as meaningful as being sucked into a giant Rothko painting, your entire field of vision taken up by his unique red. Seeing a picture of a Rodin sculpture is not the same as seeing it in person. U2 is probably best observed in concert. In 1987. Or 1992. Or 2009.
And Raiders is best seen on the big screen.
We’re so used to cramming content and information into our heads these days, with quick mp3 downloads and DVD bonus features and streaming Netflix to our mobile devices, that it’s hard sometimes to be moved by art when it’s in these tiny and immediate versions. But when I saw Indiana Jones dragging under that Nazi truck, trying to save the Ark of the Covenant from the greatest evil of the 20th century, I was moved. I suddenly realized my muscles were tight, my eyes were wide, and I had forgotten everything around me, including personal problems and annoying movie patrons alike.
And that’s what art should do. It should move you. So, I am definitely a fan of this new marketing ploy where they bring back a classic movie in anticipation of its Blu Ray release. When it comes down to it, that’s all this was, I guess. Just a way to build excitement and hype over the release of all four Indy movies on Blu Ray. But that’s fine with me because it gets a classic movie back on the big screen and gives people a chance to see a work of art the way it was meant to be seen.
And since Blu Ray is the next best thing to the big screen (right now), that’s cool too. Give me all the Raiders on Blu Ray that I can handle. I’ll take every extra feature you’ve got. I realize that these big screen re-releases and bonus content bundles are just ways to make me spend my money on something I’ve already seen and probably already own on DVD. But I’m totally fine with that. For a fan, that’s nothing new and I’m happy to try to repay Spielberg, Lucas and Ford for all the enjoyment they’ve given me since 1981.
What I’m not fine with is that I have to buy the four-pack of movies. What I’m not fine with is sub-par product being bundled with great content. I have to buy Crystal Skull to get Raiders. That hurts. Even a big Indy fan like me can’t abide that. In the words of Indy himself, when the face-melting terror of the Ark is revealed at the end, “Don’t look at it, Marion! Shut your eyes!”
Because they’re probably going to make a fifth Indy movie anyway, so it’s not really “The Complete Collection,” now is it? Not cool. Just let me buy Raiders, huh?
But Casablanca in theatres for one night only, just before the big 70th anniversary Blu Ray box set comes out? Yes, please. And I saw a trailer before Raiders for Lawrence of Arabia, back in theatres, coming soon, coincidentally around the time it comes out on Blu Ray.
Count me in.