Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mid-Winter Music & Video Post

Consistent with the theme that has predominated with me of late, I haven't been enjoying much in the way of music recently, even any of the usually reliable awful stuff. My schedule tells me it is time to do a music post however, so I am going to try to remember a few things I have clumsily groped with over the past few months.

Dance contest to the Jackson 5 on Top of the Pops from 1970. I like the enthusiasm of the English girls in this period. Yes, they were reaping the great fun that the atmosphere of the age promised and provided, but they were also instrumental in the generation and diffusion of it as well. There was almost a virtuous cycle of fun, with boys and girls equally capable, it seems, of giving the opposite sex something of what it wanted, for a brief period there.

Here's another episode from the same time. The girls are even better in this one. I think the song is quite good, too. I had never paid close attention to it before. It possesses the realized form as well as interior fullness that is the first source of success in all human endeavor, whatever the scale.

For a while they were playing this song a lot on the golden oldies radio station I usually have on in the car, and it kind of grew on me, though of late it has been growing away from me again. Several of the comments on the video posit that it may be the worst music video of all time. I think it is a contender. Very creepy, full of static, odd-looking people and repetitive camera shots; even the cuteness of the waitress can't redeem it.

This is my favorite Carpenters song.

All right, it is the epitome of a bland white-guy pop song. It does have the kind of sound that is comforting when it comes on in an empty Rite-Aid on a gloomy winter afternoon in a remote corner of the country. Granted, something Greater would doubtless be even more comforting, but they probably aren't going to play that.

There were about a million guys in 1978 who looked approximately like this singer (and about half of them were named Steve, too). It was the generic white guy look at the time. Today the default for this demographic is to look roughly like Louis C K, which seems a strange direction in which to have evolved. It also seems strange, or at least counterintuitive to me both that people in the same generation should physically have certain broadly shared characteristics, and that these do not carry over to immediately succeeding generations. Yet the phenomenon is observed by almost everyone.

Towards the middle of this one there are a bunch of old men who, the minute you see them, you are reminded that that was what lots of old men looked like in the 1970s, their faces, hair, wrinkles and so on. I see hardly any old men who look like that now.

I am not a James Taylor fan at all, though I do kind of like this song and this little video, both of which are kind of New Englandy. James Taylor is rather famously from New England--granted, that part of New England that goes to boarding school and summers on the Cape, but then that is the part that most of the outside world thinks of when they think of New England. Indeed, it is the part I think of as representing the real New England when I am not bogged down in the boring details of day to day life. Anyway, there are a lot of obviously New England towns featured in this wistful and nostalgia-inducing video, several of which I am sure I have probably been to, but cannot exactly place because I was probably only there once. The only one I am fairly sure of is that the town around 2:40 is Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

I heard this on the radio the other day and remembered that I hadn't listened to any Jo Stafford for a while. It's important that I revisit her from time to time.

I have been going through one of my periodic (every 2-3 years maybe?) spells of Paris nostalgia. I couldn't find any music videos that really captured my mood. There is however, frozen forever in the late 80s period approximate to the first time I went there (1990), the good old 'French in Action' TV series, starring the incomparable Mirielle (Valerie Allein), Pierre Capretz as the excitable Gallic teacher, and Robert the American sporting around Paris with his Yale t-shirt under a blazer. I like Robert's character too. He seems practically laid back, unobsessive about burnishing his resume and modest about his intellectual prowess to be a candidate for the Ivy League nowadays, but I suppose the pushing fifty version of the character might have snapped to attention when this new zeitgeist came in around 1992-95 and allowed these aspects of his persona more play. The city I suspect is radically changed from what it was even when I was last there, which was in 1999. Paris is the city above all others (well, Paris & maybe Prague) that I have the most attachment to in the particular version in which it existed in my youth. My love for it, even stripped of and beyond the idea of it, or ideas in general, is one of the few things I feel to be real in the whole of my existence.

I had one of those intense dreams the other night that I was there, though I was actually only in the conference room of a mid-level American chain hotel eating breakfast. There was a black preacher running a service for a largely black congregation at this breakfast, during which however I was drinking and, most uncharacteristically, laughing giddily and otherwise acting out, much to the consternation of everyone present, so that my wife, who had not been there previously, had to come in and get me and lead me out of the room and down something like an airport corridor and then suddenly back to our own kitchen. I had been whisked straight back from Paris before I had seen anything, before I had even gotten out on the street. My wife told me I could fly back later on in the day or week, but you know the dream never got to that point.

Well, there is always this, too.