“Practice Makes Perfect” – Wire

Video

The opening track of Wire’s incredible second album “Chairs Missing” from 1978. This is a song about a woman becoming a prostitute for the first time, with all the agony and paranoia a group of young English men can muster when you sound like graduate students trying to do their best Black Sabbath – Brian Eno homage. If what I described doesn’t sound like the coolest sound in the world, you don’t know what it’s like to live in my head. Maybe that’s a good thing. Who knows? All I know is that “Chairs Missing” has been one of my all-time favorite albums for the last 20+ years, when I came across a cassette of this album for $4.00 at a used record store in 1990 and it completely blew my gaskets.

“Cadillac Walk” – Mink DeVille

Video

From the damn fine 1977 debut album “Cabretta” by Mink DeVille, comes the smooth but tough “Cadillac Walk.” “Cadillac Walk” was composed by Moon Martin, whose main claim to fame was composing Robert Palmer’s huge 1979 hit “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor).”  Martin also had a Top 30 hit in 1979 with his song “Rolene.”

“A Quick One While He’s Away” – Green Day

Video

The punks meet the godfathers. Green Day mastered the mini-rock opera on “American Idiot” with two 10-minute rock operas: “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Homecoming.” Here Green Day pay homage with a damn terrific cover of the original mini-rock opera, the Who’s “A Quick One (While He’s Away),” recorded as a bonus track for “21st Century Breakdown.” This is my favorite Who track of all-time and Green Day delivers magnificently.

“Moon Over Marin” – Dead Kennedys

Video

Here’s the DK’s with a deceptively mellower vibe … but only musically. The lyrics, on the other hand, are arguably as harsh as “Holiday in Cambodia” or “Kill the Poor.” Someone named “I Am the Owl” at Songmeanings.net sums it up better than I can:

“This song showcases the contradictions that arise when greed affects how our government handles the enforcement of property, contrasting the privatization of a beach (usually considered as a public commons) with the laissez-faire attitude towards environmental protection (inevitably leading to an oil spill). The contradiction of values literally washes up upon this yuppie Marin county residence, the proprietor, having given up any concerns of the rest of the world in the pursuit of this symbol of wealth, copes with their oil-sodden acquisition by strapping a gas mask on and sidestepping the remains of ocean fauna to remind themselves of who owns the deed. The irony of it all that nobody now can truly enjoy what once belonged to no one.”

http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/12536/

Well put. A damn good song from 1982’s “Plastic Surgery Disasters” that should have been the DK’s commercial breakthrough … at least as far as American radio is concerned. But that’s not what the DKs were about … ever.  It makes me wonder had it been their commercial breakthrough, would anyone have gotten what this song was about?

“Pulp Fiction” (1994) dir. /scr. Quentin Tarantino

In honor of this year’s Cannes Film Festival (taking place as we speak), here’s one of the best-known and most beloved of all the Palme D’Or winners, 1994’s “Pulp Fiction.” There’s not much more I can say about the “Star Wars” of the 1990s that hasn’t already been said. I had seen Quentin Tarantino’s first film “Reservoir Dogs” on its opening weekend at an upscale Arlington, VA art theater in the fall of 1992, after reading about it nearly a year before in the magazine “Film Threat.”  After seeing “Dogs,” I obnoxiously demanded that everyone I knew at the time see this film, carrying a VHS copy of the film to practically every gathering I went to for the next year and a half.  A year later, I saw the Tarantino-scripted “True Romance” twice on its opening weekend in 1993 and became an even more annoying (and mouth-breathing) Tarantino disciple.  Needless to say, by the fall of 1994, especially after it won the Palme D’Or at Cannes and had so many major critics vehemently raving about it (or condemning it), I could barely contain my excitement when “Pulp Fiction” finally made its US debut.  This time, I saw it at a Tuscaloosa, AL mall multiplex, which was a real sign that the underground planets had aligned and Tarantino’s blend of violence and comedy had become VERY chic by this point.

Mark Seal recently composed a very lengthy, but immensely entertaining article about the making of “Pulp Fiction” for Vanity Fair’s March 2013 Hollywood issue, which you can read at the link below:

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2013/03/making-of-pulp-fiction-oral-history

Nearly 20 years later, “Pulp Fiction” still packs a wallop.

“Seven Deadly Finns” – Brian Eno

Video

Brian Eno’s stab at a “hit” single, circa 1974. Of course, it’s totally f–king brilliant, as was everything Eno did back in those days. But I love the way that Eno tried to stay within the pop song format, but still totally unleash all of the wild, twisted, weird, and avant-garde s–t he was famous for. A great experiment and a great single. Too bad the record buying public didn’t feel the same way. From a January 1974 appearance on the Dutch pop TV show TOPPOP.

Thanks to my British compadre Loose Handlebars for posting this. Please be sure to check out his amazing blog at:

http://loosehandlebars.wordpress.com

Lewis Black on the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show

Video

My all-time favorite Lewis Black bit, this time about the infamous 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show that featured Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, and a particular wardrobe malfunction.  The entire routine is much longer on the “Luther Burbank Performance Art Center Blues” CD, but the 8-minute portion here is still very very good. Lewis drops a lot of f-bombs and other bombs … VERY loudly. In other words, not safe for work or little ones.

“Jungle Fever” (1991) dir. Spike Lee

Video

Many people would argue that Samuel L. Jackson’s turn in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” was his breakout role. I would argue it came 3 years earlier in Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever” playing Wesley Snipe’s crackhead brother Gator. Jackson’s performance was BEYOND f–king intense and earned an unprecedented Best Supporting Actor nod at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. “Jungle Fever” is flawed (Spike Lee’s subsequent films “Malcolm X, “Get on the Bus,” “Summer of Sam,” “Bamboozled,” and “The 25th Hour” are arguably much better), but it has a lot of terrific virtues. This scene never fails to put a chill up my spine.

“Suicide is Painless” (Theme from the 1970 Robert Altman film M*A*S*H)

Video

At some point, I’m going to write an essay on Robert Altman’s classic 1970 film “M*A*S*H” and how much this movie has meant to me over the years. It’s a film that seems even more shocking and subversive these days than it did when it first came out over 40 years ago. But the story behind the theme song “Suicide is Painless” is so damn interesting, it demands its own essay. Most people know the melody, as it played over the opening and closing credits of the TV show. But for those people who don’t know that the movie exists are usually genuinely shocked to hear that the theme actually has lyrics. Marilyn Manson once said that this is the most depressing song ever written. The lyrics are pretty despairing … but director Robert Altman would’ve probably said “Are you f–king kidding me?!?” to such sentiments.

The following story below is a summary of several anecdotes related in the positively amazing oral history / biography of director Robert Altman “Robert Altman: The Oral Biography” by Mitchell Zuckoff. (What?!? You don’t have a copy of this amazing book ?!?)

The impetus for writing the song came from a scene in the middle of the film where a dentist character, a legendary cocksman of the medical unit, finds himself impotent when he hooks up with a woman and concludes that he’s gay. As a result, he wants to commit suicide. His friends think this is utterly ridiculous and treat the dentist’s desire to kill himself with absurd humor. They hold a “last supper” that’s framed in the same way as Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting. Altman thought there was too much “dead air” in the scene and that it needed a song. Per Altman, “It’s got to be the stupidest song ever written.” The composer, Johnny Mandel, said “Well, we can do stupid.” Altman said “There’s too much stuff in this 45-year old brain of mine. I can’t get anything nearly as stupid as I need. But all is not lost. I have this kid who is a total idiot. He’ll run through this thing like a dose of salts.” Altman’s son Michael (who was reportedly 14 years old at the time) was asked by his father to write the lyrics and he wrote the lyrics in approximately 10 minutes. Altman’s son wrote some chords … Mandel added some others … and the song was a done deal.

For Michael’s trouble, he was paid $500 and 50% of the song. A few years after the movie came out, the TV series “M*A*S*H” came out and he got a check for $26. Then he received a second check for $130. And then the show went into syndication and Michael received a check for $26,000. And after all was said and done, Michael earned $2 million over the years for writing an allegedly really stupid song in just 10 minutes. To put this into perspective, his father Robert only received $75,000 for directing the movie … with no royalties or profits.  Keep in mind that the movie “M*A*S*H” is considered one of the greatest film comedies ever made, was ranked #54 in the American Film Institute’s poll of the greatest American films ever made, was deemed “culturally significant” by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry,won the Palme D’Or at that year’s Cannes Film Festival, was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director Oscars, and grossed the equivalent of $475 million in 2013 dollars.

Michael admitted that he squandered most of the money, failed to pay taxes because he was young and not money savvy, and then got into a lot of trouble with the IRS. Eventually, Michael had to declare bankruptcy and his father Robert bought the song for $30,000. So his father (and his estate) wound up with future royalties after the fact.

After several years, Michael admitted that he blames himself entirely for what happened and while that he’s written other songs, no others have been recorded or released. He advised by his standards, he never liked the song or was that impressed with it.