Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Music Videos--Whether You Want Them or Not

Rediscovering some of the hits of my early childhood, from the viewpoint of a half-lifetime of experience.

("Without You"--Harry Nilsson--I am writing in the titles for the benefit of any future scholars who do not come to the page until after all the videos have been removed).

My response to this even now is that it is the sensibility of the time distilled to about as fine a point, while remaining somewhat tasteful, as could be reached. I don't say it was an especially deep or intelligent one, but I immediately recognize the feelings and emotions at work, and even though they still make me uncomfortable, they nonetheless make sense on some level which most contemporary manifestations of emotion do not.

This song was featured to striking dramatic effect in a suicide scene in the nihilist college movie The Rules of Attraction, which is where I was reminded of it recently. Here is that video. It is rather grim, and a lot of people don't like it, or the entire movie for that matter, which runs in much the same vein. I have to admit, I didn't hate it, even though it is probably pointless and there is much that is disgusting in it. Nonetheless it hits at several of my weak spots, being about rich, good-looking and cruel people who are more verbally adept and probably smarter than I am, though this last is evinced more in the style in which they speak than the content. So I have a hard time taking it seriously when unspeakably awful things take place in the movie, because the characters still seem to me better than I am in all the most important ways. The movie also has a stylish flair to it--at times and in certain scenes--that I found attractive (the scene where one insouciant asshole type recounts his year in Europe meeting women and unapologetically spending tens of thousands of dollars of his parents' money is everything I fantasize about my triumphant enemies brought into thrilling clarity). The girl who killed herself should have gone to St John's. Not that such things are important of course, but she would have been considered practically a beauty there. She would have fit in better anyway. I found it amusing that even though the film appears to be set in the 2000s (I realize that the book was set in the 80s) no one uses cell phones, or computers/the internet, except for the purpose of accessing porn.

(Albert Hammond--"It Never Rains in Southern California")

All right, kind of a run of the mill early 70s hit with a run of the mill look and performance video, but, I find it a pretty catchy song, and there is something in it that encapsulates a number of phenomena that at the time seemed like they would go on forever. Such as the idea that a substantial portion of the coolest young people would naturally flock to California above all other places to frolic together in the sunshine into the foreseeable future. Granted, I don't have a lot of contacts among cool people, but one doesn't seem to hear of anyone going out there to just be part of a scene, without a specific economic or professional purpose, anymore. I even know cool people who grew up in California and have moved away, which would have been unthinkable in 1973. What else? The centrality of popular music in the culture? The preeminence of the fairly conventional straight white middle-class male singer-songwriter type? (I know they are still trying, but they don't seem to be breaking through at a comparable rate to the past). For that matter the similarly-oriented, homogenous audience for the same. The socio-cultural fragmentation of the former mass middle class, which one admittedly looked forward to and despaired of any possibility of its happening in the 1970s and early 80s, is one of the more significant developments of my lifetime, and whatever boat I needed to be on when this iceberg began to break apart, I seem to have missed. I thought it would have worked out better for me.


Nice video.


From 1976. This song, along with Player's "Baby Come Back", from '77, and maybe a few other numbers from the same period, strike me as reflecting in some sense the high tide of the entire rock and roll worldview. Not the peak in terms of artistry by any means, but the mentality that the rock song was the dominant mode of musical expression such that no other form could be imagined. I was only 6-7 years old at this time, but my sense was that the rock ethos was solidly entrenched in the culture. The idea that the medium as it was known in the mid-70s would be effectively dead within 20 years I think would been shocking to people. I find it shocking still. I thought Rock would rule at least for the duration of my lifetime, and at the very least I did not think it would be replaced, as far as the mainstream goes, with effectively nothing.

Lennon Sisters Interlude. The Lennon Sisters were on TV every week for 13 or 14 years. There is a lot of footage of them to work through, and it's looking more and more like I am going to work through a substantial portion of it. I don't know if there is another musical act whose fortune stands to gain more from the ascendance of internet video than the Lennon Sisters. No one, including me, was ever going to sit through years of episodes of the Lawrence Welk show in order to rediscover them, and while they released records throughout the 50s and 60s, none of their singles ever attained radio immortality in any form (though their brilliant version of My Favorite Things was featured on the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas soundtrack). They were destined, under the old media model, for ever-increasing oblivion. But when you can come upon them in 3 and 4 minute video clips, their appeal, especially in the current environment where their type is not especially well represented either in the popular culture or society at large--though plenty of people sure would like it to be--is direct, and striking. To some people, anyway.

For this edition we are going to have a couple of solo efforts from the two elder sisters, both at age 19. First is Dianne's rendition of "Our Love is Here to Stay", which among other thoughts, encourages the idea that taking a vacation to 1959 once in a while might not be such a terrible burden after all.

Peggy doing "Oh Johnny!" in 1960. A excellent singing performance, probably too precious and adorable to be acceptable to enlightened modern audiences, of which I however do not constitute a part, so I can appreciate it fully.

"Melodie d'Amour"--1964. A reprise, as they also sang this song on the air in '58. In '64 their age range would have been 18-24, so they are pretty close to peek group beauty here. While the 60s in general were an all-time great decade for female beauty, '64 seems to have been a high point among high points, with regard to hair and clothing styles and the general zeitgeist, all of which went off the rails at various junctures during that turbulent period.

Dianne gives a peppy little introduction to the song here, in what appears to be her comeback performance after having had to go off the air for several years in the early 60s after getting married (when Peggy became engaged around this time and it finally dawned on Lawrence Welk that he was on the verge of losing his most popular act entirely, Dianne was abruptly called out of retirement to save the show). In case you haven't figured it out, there is someone in this group of ladies I am kind of in love with, and that somebody is Dianne. There is very little that is more attractive, character-wise, in a person than discovering that they are smarter and have more fortitude of spirit than they let on they are aware of having. Such people seem, unfortunately, to be exceedingly rare, especially nowadays, when the importance of presenting one's self as highly intelligent is so great. Anyway, Dianne Lennon strikes me as one of these affable but subtly strong and exacting people. Of course I know nothing about her but the impression is a powerful one. The sisters made an appearance on "Family Feud" sometime around 1983-84 (on which they chirpily but methodically took apart Sister Sledge--it was music week), at which time they would have been in their late 30s, early 40s, their golden years behind them, matronly in some instances, and the effect of the whole group is that they were still these delightful women--Richard Dawson was practically in raptures--but Dianne still stood forth as the leader, the smartest, the most aware of what was going on, not forcing any of this on the observer but just being completely comfortable with who she was and steering what I was anticipating would be an embarrassing appearance by a bunch of washed-up old singers desperate to get back on television by any means into a rather effervescent display of womanhood where if you watched the show everyday you'd have been sad that they were going away again so soon.

Edie Gorme--"Button Up Your Overcoat"

Edie Gorme is another favorite old singer of mine, at least for certain numbers, such as this one. I had kind of forgotten about her for a while until a few weeks ago, hence her appearance here. She was a real nightclub/lounge singer for the most part, so there are not a lot of filmed performances of her up on Youtube.

The Beatles--"You Won't See Me"

Holding the position of my current favorite Beatles song. It was one of the last of the songs-I-knew-but-didn't-realize-it-was-a-Beatle-song in my youth. I'm pretty certain that the real peak Beatles was in '65, the Help!/Yesterday and Today/Rubber Soul period. These records, already perfect after a fashion, are yet still better than they announce themselves to be, which is largely impossible with everything that comes after them; and as such, one's pleasure attains a level that he can never reach with the later albums.

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