Thursday, September 25, 2008

GMVW # 38: "I Want My MTV!"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 38:  I Want My MTV!
Song:  King of Pain by The Police
(Songwriter: Sting)
September 25, 2008

Foxboro Stadium, 1983: Part 3 of 3

The 3rd and final band to hit Foxboro in 1983 was the Police. The Police rise to fame was rapid and was enhanced by the emergence of MTV at the same time.  Along with their numerous videos, the Police were regular guests with the MTV ‘VJs’, and as time went by, it was apparent that there was no love lost between the band members, particularly Sting and Stuart Copeland (reminiscent of Lennon vs. McCartney in the movie ‘Let it Be’).  By 1983, tensions were high and the end was near, but the show went on, and the tour was a grand success on all fronts.

The Police are proof positive that even yuppies can write good music (hold on, Glenn Frey already proved that!). A little harsh, perhaps, but that’s the way they appear to me as I view their old videos again.  After all, how many bands have done a video on the ski slopes (see the “Do-Do-Do-Do-Da-Da-Da-Da” video below, which is this weeks “Gem Light”).  Ok, I do seem to recall a certain Beatles film in 1965 that included skiing, but by this time John Lennon was yelling for ‘Help!’ (often admitting that these were his ‘bloated Elvis’ days), and it was not long before he was doing bed-ins with Yoko and practicing primal scream therapy.  For his turn, George Harrison was soon playing sitar with Ravi Shankar and squatting with the Maharishi (One other thought:  In the movie Help! the Beatles come across as pretty bad skiers… knowing Sting, he probably had a skiing form that would put
Picabo Street
to shame).

By 1983, Sting was on the verge of some life changes himself, however.  His solo career was about to take off.  More importantly, he was soon to become a staple in a variety of charity and protest concert tours in the late 80’s.  When I think of rock musicians that have dedicated themselves to charitable causes, the names that come to mind are Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez, Peter Gabriel, CSN, Bono….and Sting.  Sting, as was the case with Lennon, realized a life of excess was not all it was cracked up to be and turned his life around to the benefit of himself and others. 

The Police were a band of extremes with their songs.  They were either playing music for the masses with a simple message and a simple sound (‘Every Little Thing She Does is Magic’, ‘Every Breath You Take’, and the aforementioned Gem Light) or they were waxing philosophy (‘Synchronicity II’ a song/storyline built on Carl Jung’s theory of meaningful coincidence). Another deep song was this week’s Gem, ‘King of Pain’, my favorite Police song.  Below the video url link are the lyrics to the song, which is said to be about clinical depression.

The recent reunion tour was nice to read about, but I didn’t have the urge to go myself:  In the case of this band, one show was great, and one was good enough for me. 

The Police were a rare breed of 3-piece bands.  Can anyone name at least 4 others?

- Pete

Gem Video of the Week: King of Pain

Gem Light: Do-Do-Do-Do-Da-Da-Da-Da

Lyrics to ‘King of Pain’

There's a little black spot on the sun today
It's the same old thing as yesterday
There's a black hat caught in a high tree top
There's a flag-pole rag and the wind won't stop

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running 'round my brain
I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign
But it's my destiny to be the king of pain

There's a little black spot on the sun today
(That`s my soul up there)
It's the same old thing as yesterday
(That`s my soul up there)
There's a black hat caught in a high tree top
(That`s my soul up there)
There's a flag-pole rag and the wind won't stop
(That`s my soul up there)

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running 'round my brain
I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign
But it's my destiny to be the king of pain

There's a fossil that's trapped in a high cliff wall
(That`s my soul up there)
There's a dead salmon frozen in a waterfall
(That`s my soul up there)
There's a blue whale beached by a spring tide's ebb
(That`s my soul up there)
There's a butterfly trapped in a spider's web
(That`s my soul up there)

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running 'round my brain
I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign
But it's my destiny to be the king of pain

There's a king on a throne with his eyes torn out
There's a blind man looking for a shadow of doubt
There's a rich man sleeping on a golden bed
There's a skeleton choking on a crust of bread

King of pain

There's a red fox torn by a huntsman's pack
There's a black-winged gull with a broken back
There's a little black spot on the sun today
It's the same old thing as yesterday

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running 'round my brain
I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign
But it's my destiny to be the king of pain

King of pain
I'll always be king of pain
I'll always be king of pain

About the video: Live from the 1986 tour

Video Rating: 2 (although it was hard to find a quality live version of this song)


Best Feedback: Most everyone replied to the question regarding 3-piece bands, including Steve:

Hey Mac;

Do you still weigh 140lbs soaking wet?lol!
How about;
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Dinosaur Jr.
Beastie Boys
Blue Cheer
Ben Folds Five
Urge Overkill
Ten Years After
also, Sonic Youth and Talking Heads started as trios and added a fourth
member later


Thursday, September 18, 2008

GMVW # 37: "Mojo (and lack-thereof)"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 37:  Mojo (and lack-thereof)
Song:  Blue Jean by David Bowie
(Songwriter: David Bowie)
September 18, 2008

Foxboro Stadium, 1983: Part 2 of 3

The 2nd show to come rolling into Foxboro in the late summer/early fall of 1983 was David Bowie.  Bowie was on his ‘Serious Moonlight’ tour.  It was a tremendous show.  Bowie had all his ducks in a row in those days.  Over the 10 previous years, it seemed he was on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine every other month.  Bowie was intelligent and intellectual, traits the magazine loved for a cover article.  On top of that he had a boat load of talent. Like Mick
Jagger, Bowie also had the rare charismatic personality to pull off a big stage event (unlike Jagger, he did not need to be in a permanent band to pull it off).   

A major reason why David Bowie is so successful is that he is constantly morphing his music and stage act. His stage personas have included Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke and others.  Tour after tour, including the Serious Moonlight tour, his evolution as a musician and stage presence was flawless. 

However, this is a tale of not one, but 2 concert tours.  Four years after Serious Moonlight, Bowie embarked on his ’87 Glass Spider Tour.  To say the tour was over the top and grandiose would be an understatement.  It was the Titanic movie of concert tours (or better yet, Waterworld), complete with an 80 foot tall giant glass spider.  It made little sense, and proved to be Bowie’s <temporary> downfall.

There can be a number of reasons why a show (or tour) does not connect with an audience but it all comes down to the musician, the ticket holder, or a combination of both.  For whatever reason, the musician could be off:  After years of success, they could find themselves in the predicament of having their priorities flipped.  The audience can usually sense this. As for the individuals in attendance, they could be off too.  People get cynical:  “What is he/she trying to prove up there anyway?”   “He’s only in it for the money!”  Other amazing concert memories fade away.  People move on.

Nancy and I attended the ’87 Glass Spider tour (also in Foxboro) and we left with a sense of disappointment.  For Nancy, it was the first step to shunning large shows, favoring the intimacy of smaller night clubs and festivals.  For me, it had me scratching my head at first….was it the end of the road for enjoying big concert events (I didn’t want it to be)?  Was this show supposed to be good (i.e. was Bowie enjoying it)?  Was I getting too old and cynical?!?  I’d seen it happen to many others my age.  What made me any different?

Not much can tear a performer like David Bowie down.  Unlike many Rock n Roll musicians, he appears to have a tremendous amount of self control.  For others, life on the road can take its toll (as chronicled in earlier gems).  Eventually for Bowie, however, it came down to the Icarus effect (and, no, I don’t mean Bec & Dave’s aptly named pet cockatail).  Bowie tried to soar too high.  He got burned.  He admitted this after the tour.  In an interview with Rolling Stone in '88, he divulged a conversation he had had with a close friend during the tour who asked him: “What are you doing?”  Bowie’s response: “I don’t know!”

Thank goodness for David Bowie’s honesty. If not for reading that interview, I may have missed out on some tremendous big events down the road.  Nancy is right, however.  It’s so hard for audience and artist to connect at a large event.  Bruce Springsteen and many others have lamented that fact.  It takes a lot to pull it off.  Fortunately, I’ve seen it work more often than not.  As for Bowie, he soon did a total about face, and proceeded to scale down big time.  He formed the band, Tin Machine (which included two of Soupy Sales sons), and took his name out as the headline.  Tin Machine toured at much, much smaller venues, and Bowie eventually found himself again.

Gem Music Video “Blue Jean” shows Bowie before the fall, not long after the Serious Moonlight Tour.   Thankfully, of the two sides of David Bowie I’ve seen, it’s this confident, priorities-in-order side that sticks with me.

Speaking of big shows, Mac and I are going to see the Who on October 24 and Mac has 2 spare tickets.  Is anyone game?

 “One day, I’m going to write a poem in a letter.
 One day, I’m going to get that faculty together”

- Pete

Gem Music Video: Blue Jean

Speaking of blue jean(s), does anyone remember this commercial?

About the video: Blue Jean (Alternate version for MTV) 1984 / Rest of World – Jones Music America/RZO Music Ltd.  Directed by Julien Temple

Video Rating: 1


Best Feedback: Fred

Glass Spider was THE concert that soured me on big hit the nail on the head.  AGAIN

Thursday, September 11, 2008

GMVW # 36: "Homeless"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 36:  Homeless
Song:  The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel
(Songwriter: Paul Simon)
September 11, 2008

Foxboro Stadium, 1983: Part 1 of 3

The year before Chuck Sullivan lost his shirt as concert promoter for the Jackson Victory Tour in 1984, he and his family actually hosted 3 great shows at the old Foxboro Stadium.  From August thru October of 1983, Simon and Garfunkel, David Bowie, and The Police (in that order) rolled into Foxboro.  Everyone I’ve talked to who attended these shows considered them great events. I attended all 3 and have to agree, so on this, the 25th anniversary of that triple-shot extravaganza, I will re-visit each of them, starting this week with Simon and Garfunkel.  Interestingly, this first show was a reunion tour and the last show (The Police) turned out to be a break up tour.  Sandwiched in the middle was Bowie, and he had his own thing going, but more on him next week. 

1983…by this time Baby Boomers were several years into the realization that we were never going to see a Beatles reunion… and so, Simon and Garfunkel was the next best thing.  They had broken up 11 years earlier, which in those days seemed like an eternity.  In many ways it was. 

Simon and Garfunkel were childhood friends but polar opposites, which made a reunion all the more intriguing.  It was one of the few shows I’ve attended where I felt as if I were witnessing a piece of history.  It also had a time-capsule feel to it.  The reunion actually began a year earlier in Central Park, NY, NY, their “Neighborhood Concert” which was attended by half a million people. The reception and success of that show launched a world tour, which included the Foxboro show.  Most all the songs played on the tour were the same ones played at Central Park. 

Central Park….I was there earlier that year in 1983, around mid-February (during Canada’s winter break). It was one moment of many which added up to one of the greatest road trips of my life.  The trip started in Ottawa, Canada (where I was going to school at the time) and aside from me, included college chum’s Steve Vance, Bob Mainguy, and Tom Murphy, all Canucks (although calling Bob a Canuck is stretching it, but he always liked that distinction, so I will oblige).  After hitting Winooski, Vermont (St Michael’s College, Mac and ‘Winterfest’), Cape Cod, Boston, and Franklin (the last 3 thanks to Mom and Dad who hosted 4 grubs for 3 nights) we rolled into the Big Apple to hook up with another group of Canadians who had holed up there for the entire week at the Milford Plaza Hotel on W 45th Street.  We had all planned on the 4 of us crashing on the floors in their hotel rooms that night, and with that in mind the entire group of us went out for a night on the town, catching some great comedy at a night club. 

When we got back to the hotel to spend the night however, a bouncer at the elevators had other ideas.  Checking for reservations, he refused to let us room-crashers go up the elevator.  We pleaded our case, emphasizing that we had no money or credit cards on us (these were the days when bank machines were few and far between) and that our car was locked up in a garage for the night.  Our plea went for naught.  We wandered out into the streets at 2 am.  The lone guy in the Milford Plaza Hotel crowd we hooked up with, “Chicago Jim”, came down to the alley where we were regrouping and handed us a bottle of Canadian Rye to help keep us warm in the winter air.  The bottle was housed in a brown paper bag.  We were now officially nomadic denizens of the city streets.  Someone yelled at us from a 3rd story window.  A prostitute passed by and made a proposition.  Tom asked for her student rates.

The all-nighter ended in a bus terminal on
42nd Street
.  I spent most of the time there talking to a homeless guy.  A fireside chat with Donald Trump down the road at the top of the Trump Towers would have paled in comparison.  We greeted the morning along with the other downtrodden souls in our midst.  Something about the experience, however, immediately resonated with me.  We wandered into Central Park and eventually headed toward ‘The Lake’ on the West side. This was by the Dakota Apartments where John Lennon lived and where he had been shot and killed a little over 2 years earlier (this area in the park has since been named Strawberry Fields in Lennon’s honor, and is where he had done several videos with Yoko for songs on their ‘Double Fantasy’ album).  There, in front of the Dakota, we found an old abandoned row boat with a hole in it, which we discovered could be temporarily plugged up with a tight fitting glove (if the glove don’t fit, you must jump ship!). Three of us rowed that boat across The Lake.  The 4th among us, Steve, took a picture from a foot bridge using Bob’s camera.  It’s a picture that captures an amazing memory for me.

Most of us go to New York City to broaden our horizons.  Still others go there chasing a dream.  Some succeed (Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie), others fail (John Voight’s character in Midnight Cowboy is emblematic of many).  Most struggle along the way, including the character Paul Simon writes about in this week’s Gem Video, “The Boxer”.  At the concert later that year, I’m quite sure I thought of that day in Manhattan as I listened to the verse “Seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go, Lookin’ for the places only they would know”.  Although our own experience was condensed into 24 hours, it contained the up and down swings of many who had traversed the city streets before us, like “The Boxer”, and it gave me a better understanding of the challenges they faced.

The road trip into New York made the entire Simon and Garfunkel concert more palpable than it would have been otherwise.  Below the Gem Video are some other songs from the Central Park concert and an explanation of how they connected with that surreal road trip in the winter of ‘83.

“I am just a poor boy, though my story is seldom told
 I have squandered my resistance,
 For a pocketful of mumbles such are promises.
 All lies and jest.
 Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”

Gem Video, “The Boxer”  (this link has been temporarily lost *Dec, 09*)

America”, which is also about a road trip in the States.  Simon’s comments before the song (which was near the beginning of the show) are classic

“Kodachrome” (aside from the boat photo, Bob had other classic shots of that night/day, including the Canadian Rye photo op in the alley, and a great shot of us entering Central Park at sunrise)

“Late in the Evening” (the high-life before the elevator bouncer bounced us). 
Simon and Garfunkel enjoyed playing this one so much in Foxboro they played it twice.

Simon and Garfunkel closed the Foxboro concert with their song ‘Old Friends’:  Quite appropriate for a reunion event to say the least.  They were about my current age at the time.  Looking back, I think I have a better sense now of where they were in their lives.  Despite their differences, they realized that an old friendship never dies.  It may get a bit frayed on the edges every so often, but it doesn’t fade away.  I’m pretty convinced the Beatles, particularly Lennon and McCartney, would have eventually come to that realization themselves. 

Finally, here’s “American Tune” to recognize 7 years ago today:

- Pete

About the video: Off the official Central Park video

Video Rating: 1


Best Feedback: Becca

Pete...that was the summer that our family hit concerts en masse. For the S&G concert at Sullivan it was me, Mom, Jim, Rachel, Naomi, Vern, Spencer,and Jess. Yes....Mom was really into concerts that summer (I think it was her way of staying connected with us in the months since Dad had passed...keeping the pulse on how we were doing). I left for France just a few weeks later. That was a strange summer for us all...first one without Dad... but I remember that concert as a highlight.

I hope all is well....keep these coming.

love Bec

Also: Amy

Ahhhh Simon and Garfunkel - like a favorite pair of jeans.
I sure would love to see those pictures.  You've led a much more colorful life than I ever knew.

And: Tina

oh, my, student rates...
still humming,

And: Mom

Hi Pete!
This is probably one of my favorites.....I have always enjoyed Simon & Garfunkel so much. Thank-you for this "gem of the Week" and for your exquisite writing...I so look forward to it ...XOXO Mum

Thursday, September 4, 2008

GMVW # 36: "Raw Emotion"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 35:  Raw Emotion
Song:  Everyday Clothes by Jonathan Richman
(Songwriter: Jonathan Richman)
September 4, 2008

I’ve been asked on occasion what live act I’ve seen the most.  My response is always the Who and Neil Young…. and then I remember Jonathan Richman.  How could I forget Jonathan?  In fact, Jonathan Richman is the only musician I’ve seen in 3 different countries (and 2 languages).  As is evident at his shows, Jonathan appeals to all walks of life.  His act can be best defined as captivating, hypnotic, and uplifting.  When Jonathan is on his game, either everyone is joining in or you can hear a pin drop.  There's not much in between.  He’s a performer I would recommend to anyone.

Gem Music Video of the Week, ‘Everyday Clothes’, shows Jonathan on his game, playing on the Conan O'Brien show (who is a big fan).  The crowd is stone silent until Jonathan gets them to join in half way thru the song.  He has the end-of-song, guitar-as-a-drum dance going.  He’s captivating the crowd with the honesty of his lyrics.  He’s narrating in between the lines (and mentions himself in the 1st person at one point, which he often does).

Finally, he’s got the wide eyed nod going in this video.  If there is anything that sticks with me from a Jonathan show, it’s his wide eyed nods to the crowd.  Often it seems as if he’s staring right at you when he does it. The meaning of the nods generally fall into one of 3 categories:

> You know what I mean
> Heed my warning
> What I’m saying is indisputable

Jonathan Richman is a native New Englander and has often referenced New England locales in his songs (as he does in this week Gem).  However, Jonathan has an international feel to his music.  There’s a Spanish flamenco influence, a punk roots feel, a Velvet Underground inspiration, and in this song, he’s got the Venice gondola thing going. 

I’ve done my best to explain his act, but nothing’s like seeing it (a cd purchase does not do his shows justice).  So, I’ll stop here and let Jonathan Richman and the video do the talking.

-              Pete

Gem Music Video: Everyday Clothes

About the video: Shot live on the Conan O’Brien show

Video Rating: 1 (a big, fat 1)


Best Feedback: Ruth

Good one, Pete!  Thanks for giving me a little fun in between my work tonight!



Also: Amy “yeah, yeah, yeah!”

and Jen “That was great”