Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Billary's Last Stand?

Last night's debate, the 20th for the Democrats, may have been Billary's last chance to reach a broad audience before next Tuesday's crucial primaries. The big question: could she slow the Obama Train? Nope.

Obama, while appearing a bit tired, came across much better than Billary. What was with her victim moment where she whined that she always got the first question in debates? Tim Russert and Brian Williams, as well as Barack and audience, were just confused. I guarantee you that if Obama always got the first questions, she'd feel discriminated against as well. It was such an awkward moment.

What about when she tried to lamely jump on Obama because he got Louis Farakhan's endorsement? Obama handled it well, saying "I can't tell someone not to say that I'm a good guy." He then said that he "renounced" the endorsement; but Billary plowed forward saying that "renouncing" was not enough, he should have "rejected" it. What the f**k? Obama then got one of the biggest laughs of the night when he responded that he would "both renounce and reject" the endorsement, whichever word she preferred. She looked pretty silly at that point.

On foreign policy, Obama got the upper hand as well. Somebody needs to tell Billary that being First Lady does not count as relevant foreign policy experience. Obama killed her on Iraq. Agree with him or not (which I do not), at least Obama took a definite stand on the issue. I loved this exchange: Russert asks Billary whether if she withdrew from Iraq, and then it "goes to hell", would she consider reinvading? Billary talked around the hypo and did not give an answer. Obama then clearly said that he would consider it. Billary then had a classic "oh shit" look on her face, and tried to jump in and answer more clearly, but they cut her off for a commercial break.

Russert was good. He pulled out his usual trick of throwing their own quotes at them, and he caught both in contradictions on NAFTA. I also enjoyed Russert's Alex Trebek impression, where he haughtily quizzed Billary on whether she could pronounce the next Russian president's name. It was somewhat childish, but funny at the same time.

On the whole, Billary did not do what she needed to do to change the tide, so I think that this nomination is Obama's clearly to lose at this point.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar Night

So, what did you guys think? First of all, we should note that they quoted the name of this blog when they were throwing out some memorable movie quotes. Nice.

Considering that they had much less time than usual to prepare (due to the recent end of the writer's strike), I think it came out alright. It was sort of low key when compared to previous years, but that's fine. (Bring back the interpretive dance!) I liked the collections of old clips they showed before the main categories. It gives a nice perspective. I imagine many of those clips were prepped in anticipation of a possible writer-less ceremony. The joke clip collection of "Oscar Tribute to Binoculars and Periscopes" was funny. My favorite clip collection every year is the In Memorium one; being a sentimental and melancholy fellow somewhat obsessed with death and the past, it always effects me. But did I miss Brad Renfro? I don't remember seeing him in the clips.

Jon Stewart? He's no Johnny Carson, but he is a much better host than Whoopi, Letterman or Chris Rock. He's got the right combination of being whip smart, slightly irreverent, but fundamentally a congenial guy who won't make cracks that are too uncomfortable for the stuffed suit affair. I say bring Stewart back next year.

I didn't disagree with too many of the winners, at least out of the nominees that were given to us to choose from. (Now the choice of nominees is a different matter). Best Picture for "No Country For Old Men", I'll go with that. Same for the Coen Bros. winning the Director award. It was a great, atmospheric and dark thriller. And Bardem's portrayal of the sadistic killer was probably the lock of the night. Daniel Day-Lewis will generally be nominated whenever he decides to act every few years. But his turn as the Evil Capitalist Oilman was masterful. Best Actress...who cares. As for Best Supporting Actress, I would have gone with Cate Blanchett for her turn as the "Don't Look Back"-era Bob Dylan over Swinton.

There were some fun acceptance speeches, but none that will be remembered for years to come. What's with the Europeans taking over our awards? Day-Lewis and Swinton are English, Bardem is Spanish and Marion Cotillard is French.

Complaints? "Zodiac" was my favorite film from last year, and it was nominated for nothing. That's ridiculous. We get three cheesy tunes from freakin' "Enchanted", but Eddie Vedder is not nominated for any one of his sublime tunes he provided for the "Into The Wild" soundtrack? Also ridiculous. He would have given a great performance at the ceremony. And why wasn't "Into the Wild" nominated for more than the sentimental career-achievement nomination for Hal Holbrook (who did not seem to find Jon Stewart very funny, by the way). Finally, "The Bourne Ultimatum" won three technical awards, and that film was TERRIBLE. Unwatchable. It is the apex of fast cut, steady-cam, ADD, MTV filmmaking. While I think "The Bourne Identity" was one of the best action flicks in years, its two more celebrated sequels were crap.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dez's Essentials: Gene Clark & Carla Olson, SO REBELLIOUS A LOVER, 1987

Apology: My goal here at GNABB is to provide you with new and exciting content at least every other day or so, but I have been out of town for work since Wednesday without access to a computer at reasonable hours, so that explains my absence. I hope you have been able to manage while I was out of pocket...

NOTE: This is the first in a recurring series of music suggestions on GNABB. I am going to try and avoid the obvious with this column, so you probably won't be seeing me try to tell you why you should go out and buy REVOLVER by The Beatles...if you don't know that by now then you are beyond the help I can provide to you. So, these suggestions will be ones that might need a little promotion to be heard.

Unfortunately, the world is not always a just place. As evidence of that statement, many of my dear readers probably have not heard of Gene Clark. Now, you have heard Gene Clark, but you have not heard of him. He was one of the founding members of the seminal band The Byrds, but left after their first three records. In fact, before Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman or David Crosby discovered their songwriting skills, the majority of The Byrds' original material was penned by Gene. His trademark characteristics are an aching but gorgeous melancholy that permeates many of his songs, and that voice. Gene Clark's voice is so unique, it has a warmth and sadness to it that cuts so deep, and he wields it with such devastating precision and passion that he is able to produce unusual tones and pitches that stay with you long after hearing it.

Gene's post-Byrds career was one of missed opportunities, erratic work ethic, a troubled personal life, and a baffling indifference from the listening public. Clark became one of those musical figures revered by other musicians, but almost forgotten by the masses.

All of this is necessary introduction to the innaugural Dez's Essentials selection. Granted the album cover leaves something to be desired (when did blue jean jackets ever look good?) But So Rebellious a Lover is a delightful collaboration between Gene and Texas belter Carla Olson (of the The Textones). They make a perfect, if unlikely, pair. It was also one of the last projects Gene completed before his death. Listening to these tracks, it is clear to me that Gene's voice only became richer and more expressive with the ravages of hard living and age.

In a reversal of traditional duet roles, it is Gene who takes most of the quieter material and Carla who rocks out. Their voices mix wonderfully; they back each other up throughout, and frequently trade verses within the same song.

The musical landscape is quite consistent, an acoustic folk/rock backdrop that is alternately lovely and driving. Gene's songwriting is as strong as it ever was, and Carla holds her own alongside this legend. The opening four tracks may be the strongest. Carla's "Drifter" starts things off with a bang, and then we move into Gene's sublime highway lament "Gypsy Rider". Carla's "Every Angel In Heaven" grooves with a catchy bass riff and singalong chorus. But Gene's "Del Gato" is the true masterpiece here. Listen to how Gene weaves together this story-song about a Southwestern drifter, verse after verse. The way he works his voice through these verses is masterful, and there are several moments in this song where his singing is goosebump-worthy. And on it goes, the record is great from start to finish. Mixed with their superb original material are some choice covers, like John Fogerty's "Almost Saturday Night" and Gram Parsons' "I'm Your Toy (Hot Burrito No. 1)".

SO REBELLIOUS A LOVER is one of the better acoustic, singer-songwriter albums I've ever come across. So if you enjoy that genre of music, this is essential stuff.

For Further Gene Clark listening:

The Byrds first three albums: Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn! Turn! Turn!, and Fifth Dimension

With Doug Dillard: The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark / Through the Morning, Through the Night (both albums are available on one great CD)

The best of his solo work:

White Light
No Other

Gene has a good solo career retrospective available with Flying High

Monday, February 18, 2008

All Star weekend

To some, like my Dad, the NBA All-Star game and surrounding festivities represent much of what is wrong with pro sports today. The focus on superstar culture, individual greatness vs. team play, the rock concert intros with laser lights and music blaring, etc. But to be honest, I find the All-Star festivities fun precisely because it is a time when these excesses are actually appropriate. And if sports is really just another type of entertainment for the masses...then why not?

On Saturday night I watched the notorious Slam Dunk Contest. Orlando Magic freak of nature Dwight Howard was robbed last year (his great dunk where he slapped a sticker of himself onto the backboard as he stuffed the rock was classic). So this year, Dwight was not to be denied. He performed four astounding dunks, but there are two in particular worth mentioning. First, there was the one where he started off behind the basket and bounced the ball off the back, and then soared in the air to the front and dunked it. See Below:

Then there is the one that will be replayed for years to come, the Superman Dunk. Dwight steals Shaq's favorite nickname for himself, dons a Superman cape, and flies so high that he actually has to throw the ball down at the basket once he gets there. Look at this!

The only close competitor was last year's champ, Gerald Green, who was quite creative with the Cupcake Dunk, wherein he dunked while blowing out the candle in the cupcake on the back of the rim, as well as keeping the cupcake balanced. See below:

I also enjoyed when commentators Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith soberly reflected that the Dunk Contest "is now relevant once again," like we had just witnessed something extremely important. Awesome.

As for the actual game itself, it was loose, full of offense, and fun. Lebron won the MVP, just shy of a triple-double. It was held in New Orleans. Not that sporting events can make up for an event like Katrina, but it was good to see positive attention being given to the city, and hometown heroes Chris Paul and David West (both of the New Orleans Hornets, one of the hottest teams in the NBA) played well in the game. They have been huge supporters of the rebuilding down there, the picture of athletes giving back to their community. I must disclose that I am also a big Paul supporter since he is the star of my fantasy team right now. For all of the negative attention given to the NBA, I'd say that they pulled off a great All-Star event in a city that really needs some events.

Those of you who follow the NBA, which recent trade do you think will have the biggest impact? Gasol to the Lakers, Shaq to the Suns, Kidd to the Mavericks or Artest to the Nuggets (not a done deal yet, but looks like it will happen). I've got my own opinion, but I am curious as to what others think.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dez’s Picks: “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”, 1967

This will be another regular feature of GNABB. I will recommend some of my favorite flicks and tell you why you should rush out and watch them. Also, I encourage discussion if you have an opinion (either way) about these movies.

“When you’re gonna shoot…shoot. Don’t talk.” -Tuco

People either love Sergio Leone’s movies or they hate them. There is rarely a lukewarm response. His films are much more about what you see than what you hear. The dialogue is generally sparse, but the detail in the cinematography is immense. Notice how Leone shoots his actors. Rarely is there the standard waste-up shot, it is either full body in the distance or an extreme close-up on the face. It was said that Leone was fascinated with facial features, and only worked with actors who had “interesting faces”.

For those of you who don’t know much about Leone, he was the most famous director of the “spaghetti western”, so called because they were produced and directed by Italians (generally funded by German money and filmed in Spain). Like many Europeans of his generation, Leone was intrigued by all things American. And much like de Toqueville, it sometimes takes a foreigner’s eyes to really grasp the soul of America.

The Good (relatively speaking) - Clint Eastwood as Blondie

“The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” is the third film in a loose trilogy that brought both Leone and Clint Eastwood acclaim, but the films can be watched in any order, or even without seeing the others. The story is simple: three protagonists have a piece of information as to the whereabouts of some buried gold. None of them can find it alone, so they need each other only as long as it takes to find the resting place of the treasure. Alliances are formed and broken throughout. Doesn’t sound like much to fill 180 minutes, but the story is beside the point with Leone. Many fascinating side plots come and go: such as an unusually touching plot (for Leone) involving Tuco and his estranged brother, the very funny scam Tuco and Blondie have going together early in the film, and the great Civil War battle scene at the bridge. As this film was made in 1966-67, Leone was commenting as much on Vietnam as he was on the Civil War during these battle scenes. What was Eastwood really referring to when he said “never seen so many men wasted so badly” as he and Tuco watched the carnage? Could be talking about the Tet Offensive as much as Gettysburg.

The Ugly - Eli Wallach as Tuco

The dialogue is sparse at times but great throughout, the characters are unforgettable, the visuals will stay with you for a long time, and the actors are outstanding. Eastwood really became a star with this film, and it is easy to see why. Eli Wallach as Tuco is as lively and talkative a character as Leone ever allowed in his films. Tuco provides most of the humor and energy. Lee Van Cleef is perfect as the cold blooded Angel Eyes, rounding out the trio. Below is a great example of what I am talking about. Here Eastwood turns Wallach in for a reward. Tuco's diatribe has some great lines ("one bastard goes in, another comes out"; "Let me go and I will pardon you"). Notice how Eastwood doesn't say a single word the entire scene...

The final three-way duel in the cemetery is the stuff of film legend. Roger Ebert describes it best: “Examine the masterful scene in the cemetery. A fortune of gold is said to be buried in one of the graves, and the three men have assembled, all hoping to get it…Each man points a pistol at another. If one shoots, they all shoot, and all die. Unless two decide to shoot the third man before he can shoot either one of them. But which two, and which third? Leone draws this scene out beyond all reason, beginning in long shot and working in to close-ups of firearms, faces, eyes, lots of sweat and flies. He seems to be testing himself, to see how long he can maintain the suspense…If you savor the freedom with which Leone flirts with parody, you understand his method. This is not a story but a celebration of bold gestures." The build-up for that scene feels like it goes on for ten minutes. But the actual action? The guns are fired in about two seconds.

Another star of the film is composer Ennio Morricone. His distinctive music comprising of orchestra, twangy guitar and sound effects is as distinctive as Leone’s direction. Absolutely essential to the film.

The Bad - Lee van Cleef as Setenza, aka Angel Eyes

TGTBATU is a masterpiece. It is also Leone’s most accessible film, so I’d start there and then work back to the other two in the trilogy (A Fist Full of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More), and then check out Once Upon a Time in the West, which features another unforgettable trio of Charles Bronson, Jason Robards and the brilliant Henry Fonda, as well as the enchanting Claudia Cardinale.

A note on the recently restored version of TGTBATU. Most of the extra 20 minutes are entertaining but not essential, except for one scene that becomes one of the best scenes of the entire film. I am dumbfounded as to why it was cut from the original. It features a side trip taken by Angel Eyes to a Civil War hospital, where he is told there is a soldier who has some info on the possible whereabouts of the gold. It is a powerful scene, with a pan-shot that would make Martin Scorsese blush, and it adds some needed depth to the Angel Eyes character.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Groceries and the Sexes

I can’t go to the grocery store with my wife. This is for two reasons: 1. If I let her go, we end up spending twice as much as we would spend if I go by myself. 2. We have fundamentally different methodologies of grocery shopping. Truth be told, I actually do the grocery shopping in our family. I refuse to let her go.

I have to go down every aisle. Even if it is all diapers and Gerber’s (we have no children), I still must go down the aisle. I must methodically cover the entire store, it is ritual. I enjoy it immensely. The activity, the abundance, the beautiful candy racks full of Red Hots and Sweet Tarts. I will generally begin on the far right of the store and go up and down each aisle, making my way to the left end of the store. The only deviation is I will skip the ice cream and grab that last, because I do not want it to melt. My wife, on the other hand, will grab it early and is oblivious to the imminent crisis of the ice cream melting as she wastes precious minutes at the deli counter. And I must say that the HEB stores here in San Antonio play some great music. Really. The other day while I was weighing the pros and cons of Fruit Loops vs. Fruity Pebbles (I went with the Pebbles), I heard a tune from one of Colin Hay’s solo records. I also heard “C’Mon and Love Me” by Kiss on the same trip.

Now, in contrast to my logical and complete coverage of the store, my wife goes willy-nilly, to and fro to grab what she has in mind. She may start in the center of the store, then go to the back, then go to the right, then go to the front, then go to the back again. When we go together, it is never a pleasant experience, because each method drives the other crazy. Some things we are meant to do without our partners, no matter how much we love them. Grocery shopping is one of those things.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

RIP Roy Scheider

ROY SCHEIDER, 1932-2008

In a sad case of irony, the day after I started Gonna Need a Bigger Boat, the man who uttered its namesake on the big screen passed away. With all due respect to the recently deceased Heath Ledger and Brad Renfro, I think that Roy Scheider’s legacy may shine brighter in the long run. As I stated in my introductory post (below) for this blog, “Jaws” has always been my favorite film. As a child, I watched that damn thing countless times. I still fear the ocean (maybe I would have been afraid of the ocean anyway, who knows). “Jaws” works as a great movie for many reasons, but Roy Scheider’s everyman Chief Brody was one of the key ingredients to the mix. Brody was us. In that unbeatable second hour of the film where the three men fight their epic battle against the shark, each character symbolizes different ways to face the odds. You have grizzled experience and killer instinct, the modernday Ahab, in Quint (Robert Shaw). Then you have science, technology and the power of intellect with Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss). Both were great and memorable characters, but not too relatable for most of us. But Scheider’s Brody was the Everyman, he was us out there aboard The Orca battling with the ultimate killing machine on its turf. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat, right?” Hell yeah. Quint’s expertise failed, Hooper’s science failed. It is Brody’s triumph at the end, the Everyman's ability to adapt and emerge victorious through force of will, which represents triumph for us all.

Scheider often played the Everyman. In some of his most memorable roles, we could see ourselves in that situation and reacting in the same way. Brody was his signature role, but check out his great performance in “The French Connection” as Gene Hackman’s more grounded partner (Scheider earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the role). Or even in the pedestrian “2010” (a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “2001”), where Scheider takes average material and makes it intriguing through his investment in the role. Unfortunately, he worked with subpar material for many of his roles (especially later in life, you can probably skip “Dracula III: Legacy”). I was pleased to read in his New York Times obituary that he had a parallel career acting on the stage, and even when he was appearing in B-movies in the 90’s and 00’s, he was winning awards for his stage work. I do not mean to characterize his film career as a failure. “Jaws”, “The French Connection”, “All That Jazz” (for which he was nominated for Best Actor); even genial 80’s action flicks like “Blue Thunder”…Scheider had an enviable career by most standards. But I have always felt there could have been more. He had the talent for it. What would have happened had he been able to accept the leading role that he was offered in “The Deer Hunter”? (Robert De Niro’s role was first offered to Scheider, who had to turn it down due to his contractual obligation to film “Jaws 2”).

Roy Scheider has always been a favorite of mine. An actor with great range and devotion to the craft, and by all accounts a good guy. He’s one of those actors I thought could have used a Quentin Tarantino make-over (a la Travolta and Willis in “Pulp Fiction”). I’d like to say “thank you” to Roy for giving me so much joy over the years through his performances. RIP Chief Brody.

Check out these Roy Scheider flicks…

“Jaws 2” (serviceable sequel, but Scheider was great in it)
“The French Connection”
“All That Jazz”
“Sorcerer” (an interesting, if inferior, American remake of the French classic “Wages of Fear”)
“Blue Thunder” (cheesy 80’s action flick, but fun nostalgia)
“Marathon Man”

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why I'm For Juan McNasty '08

Let me start by saying that this has been the most exciting presidential race of my lifetime. The horserace/delegate counting aspects are exciting enough (especially on the Democratic side), but I sincerely believe that we are at a crossroads as a nation. It was supposed to get easier after we declared our victory over the bankrupt Soviet Union, but it has been anything but.

I generally lean slightly right of center, so my choice for president shouldn't surprise you. I was happy to see Thompson go (too conservative, boring as hell) and Romney (too conservative, at least in his current incarnation). Ron Paul is our Kucinich (a joke and unintentionally adds levity during debates). Huck is personable, I'll give him that, but his economic ideas would be a disaster, and honestly he is generally out of his depth. Plus, that wife of his. I couldn't look at her for 4-8 years.

I have always been a John McCain supporter. (Why do I say Juan McNasty? Right Wing talk radio has taken to calling him Juan McCain due to his perceived soft stance on immigration, and Laura Ingraham has dubbed him "McNasty" due to a nickname he apparently earned in college because of his legendary short temper). I supported McCain in 2000 against 'Lil Bush, but Bush and Rove torpedoed McCain in South Carolina by spreading the infamous black baby rumour.

First, I fall in line with McCain on most of the issues. He has earned his maverick reputation, which I respect. He is not afraid to push his own ideas, regardless of party line. I'll just run down some issues on which Juan and I agree...

* Abortion: pro-life.
* McCain has led the charge against out of control pork barrel spending, and I actually believe him when he says he will veto every piece of legislation that is packed with pork.
* While McCain follows the Republican tenant of cutting taxes, he also stresses the harder other side of the supply-sider equation of cutting spending.
* McCain supports vouchers in schools, as well as merit pay for good teachers (fighting against out of control teacher unions), and also supports some local control over curriculum (including allowing Judeo-Christian ethics to be taught, which is the foundation of this country)
* For a Republican, McCain is pretty strong on environmental issues. He has fought against drilling in ANWR, and acknowledges the climate crisis and I feel confident that he will take it seriously. He now supports (although did not earlier) measures to encourage alternative energy, including nuclear power. Environmental issues are where I part ways with other Republicans, and I think McNasty is the same way.
* McCain has warned against the growing Chinese threat
* He's a free-trader
* McCain's been a leader in trying to clean up dirty money in politics and elections. I do have some reservations about McCain-Feingold, but at least he tried to do something instead of just talking about it.
* McCain is a strong supporter of the Patriot Act and Homeland Security measures
* McCain has a pragmatic approach to immigration issues. He understands the economic necessity of immigrant labor, and he also wants to deal with immigrants in a humane way. McCain was willing to admit that his original immigration package was misguided, and he now stresses border security as well.
* McCain takes a tough stance against Iran
* McCain understands that regardless of the rights and wrongs of going into Iraq, now that we are there, we need to get the job done and not cut and run. If we leave Iraq as the Democrats suggest, it would be a disaster. The Surge is working, and McCain was one of the first critics to stand up and say that the way Bush and Rumsfeld were fighting the war was a losing proposition. The fact that the Surge was attempted at all is due in large part to pressure from McCain.

Now, I do not agree with everything McCain stands for. I disagree with him on the death penalty, the war on drugs, the Cuban embargo, and torture (and he is not really clear on his health care solution)...but overall McCain and I line up pretty well.

Beyond the issues, John McCain has character that is exceedingly rare. We all know about his days as a POW in Vietnam, but that really gives him gravitas to push his policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and any other trouble spots. Unlike Bush, McCain can send troops into battle with authority and knowing what it really means. The fact that McCain had the opportunity to be released from the POW camp because of who his father was, and he chose to remain there with his comrades; that is uncommon valor. McCain also seems to be willing to admit mistakes, which is something our current administration cannot bring itself to do. On the immigration fight that nearly derailed his campaign, he admitted that the country was not ready to go as far as he wanted to go, and he shifted his focus to border security first. That took character.

McCain is the only Republican who has a chance to beat the Democrats this year. He appeals to Republicans, Moderate Independents, and Centrist Democrats alike. It is telling that his harshest critics have not been the Democrats, but the Right Wing talk radio demogogues.

I would like for anyone to beat Billary. McCain is our best shot. While I admire and am intrigued with Barack Obama (and a part of me is really pulling for him), I do not agree with his policy positions. Any premature pullout of Iraq would be disaster. But Congress would probably reign in Obama's more Leftist ideas, and I think this country could really use the dynamic and positive leadership that Barack exhibits. My ideal is McCain vs. Obama, and even though I would support McCain, I can't say I would be disappointed if Barack won the election. Except for the consequences in Iraq.

The Kink Kronikles

NOTE: This is the first installment of a semi-regular series here at GNABB that will take an in depth look at my favorite bands and musical artists.

"Everybody's a dreamer, everybody's a star." That is the promise of The Kinks. Ray Davies, the "poet laureate of rock and roll" (Peter Townshend), is perhaps rock's most effective spokesman for the common man. More than Springsteen's or Mellencamp's sometimes hamfisted working man anthems, Davies' tunes cut to the bone; speaking to the trials, tribulations, comedy, tragedy and profound boredom of living life in the middle class. Albeit, the English middle class.

The Kinks were far and away the most English of the original British Invasion bands of the 1960's. They made a half-assed effort to ape their American R&B influences like the rest of the Brit Invasion, but fortunately they sucked at it. So very early on The Kinks moved in a different direction. Perhaps that is why they have remained (other than during an unlikely breakthrough in the late 70's and early 80's) little more than a cult act stateside. But their fans are loyal and devout.

If they had accomplished only one of their many milestones, they would still be noteworthy. But considering all that Davies and Co. have accomplished, they are downright criminally underrated. To mention a few of their more notable accomplishments...they were as responsible as anyone for creating Garage Rock 101. They invented the concept rock album (a dubious accomplishment, I know). Ray Davies wrote one of the most impressive bodies of work in the rock canon. Brother Dave Davies is an influential and versatile guitar player. In another band without his prolific brother for contentious competition, Dave would have been the star. His one or two tunes he is given on each Kinks album are usually great. I actually prefer his vocals over Ray's.

THE GARAGE DAYS, early to mid 1960's

The riff in "You Really Got Me" is so basic, so primal; it is one of the defining moments in rock music, as well as the inspiration for countless aspiring axe slingers in garages across the English-speaking world. As with most records from this early period of rock, the first Kinks records were comprised of some killer singles surrounded by disposable filler. But what singles! "You Really Got Me", "All Day and All of the Night", "Tired of Waiting For You", "'Til the End of the Day", "Well Respected Man", "Dedicated Follower of Fashion"...and a handful of others.

The Kinks **
Kinda Kinks **
The Kink Kontroversy**
Live at Kelvin Hall *

For a clip of early Kinks on British TV, check out this clip of the boys performing "All Day and All of the Night".


At a time when they should have been able to capitalize on their most brilliant work, The Kinks were dealt a devastating blow when they were forbidden from touring the U.S. during the late 1960's due to a bitter dispute between Ray Davies and the musician's union. Although, the records from this period were so Anglocentric, I'm not sure how much the American audience would have related to this material anyway. It was during this time that Ray found his songwriting voice and he constructed thematic records intricately detailing everyday Briton life. Eschewing the psychedelic and flower power trappings of the day, Ray became the ultimate purveyor of nostalgia for a Britain that probably only existed in his mind.

“We are the Village Green Preservation Society
God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety
We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
We are the Draught Beer Preservation Society
God save Mrs. Mopp and good Old Mother Riley
We are the Custard Pie Appreciation Consortium
God save the George Cross and all those who were awarded them
We are the Sherlock Holmes English Speaking Vernacular
Help save Fu Manchu, Moriarty and Dracula
We are the Office Block Persecution Affinity
God save little shops, china cups and virginity
We are the Skyscraper Condemnation Affiliate
God save tudor houses, antique tables and billiards
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
God save the Village Green”
-The Village Green Preservation Society

The crunching riffs of the early days were replaced with English music hall, baroque pop and pastoral acoustic folk. Davies captured English middle class malaise better than anyone...

“My girlfriend’s run off with my car
And gone back to her Ma and Pa
Telling tales of drunkenness and cruelty
Now I’m sitting here
Sipping at my ice cold beer
Lazin’ on this sunny afternoon”
-Sunny Afternoon

He also produced brilliant concept albums that preceded the more celebrated efforts of Pete Townshend and The Who.

Face To Face *****
Something Else By The Kinks ****
The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society *****
Arthur, or the Fall and Decline of the British Empire ****

"Waterloo Sunset" is one of their loveliest songs from this period.

THE CONCEPT YEARS, early to mid 1970's

While this period started out with perhaps their strongest record, things soon went downhill with the familiar rock and roll story of excess. Ray followed his obsession with concept pieces to its logical, absurd conclusion, as their work got less accessible as the decade wore on. But this period did produce some of their most enduring songs amidst the dreck.

Check out this great visual aid some dude put together for "Lola". One of the more unusual rock hits, about a romance with a transvestite. Also, my very favorite Kinks song is "Celluloid Heroes". Here is a nice montage to the song. And this one is a pretty creative mini-movie some dudes put together to an edit of the song.

Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, Pt. 1 *****
'Percy' (film soundtrack) **
The Great Lost Kinks Album ***
Muswell Hillbillies ***
Everybody's in Showbiz ***
Preservation Act, Pt. 1 **
Preservation Act, Pt. 2 *
The Kinks Present A Soap Opera **
The Kinks Present Schoolboys in Disgrace **


After their commercial fortunes had fallen off the map, The Kinks switched labels to Arista and made a surprising commercial comeback that marked their most successful period in the United States. Between about 1977 through 1986 is my personal favorite Kinks period. I know that the late 60's were more successful artistically, but I came to the Kinks through the early 80's window. Let me see if I can explain this: my first exposure to The Kinks was through their catchy hit "Come Dancing". Then "Do It Again" hit the airwaves, and I got really hooked. Think of any classic rock band in their third decade, and they are generally on cruise control. Not that they don't create some good music, but let's face it, would The Rolling Stones hits of the 80's and after have really made it without the band's already established reputation? But The Kinks between '77-'86 produced a set of the best rock tunes out of anybody around, new or old. I decided to investigate further, and only then did I discover that this was also one of the most influential rock bands from the 1960's and 70's. Ray backed away from his convoluted rock operas, rediscovered the weapon that was Dave Davies' guitar playing, and decided to write some classic rock. But his patented wit and observation skills were still largely intact. He just decided to use them more modestly over individual songs and concentrate on rock/pop songwriting vs. making any deep statements over the course of an entire record. After they left Arista in about '86, they tried to soldier on every couple of years, but the spark was gone.

Here's the cheesy MTV video for "Come Dancing" ,but it is a great pop song. Remember when MTV videos tried to tell the story of the song? Funny stuff. One of my all time favorite rock tunes is "Do It Again", here is another cheesy early 80's MTV video.

Nowadays Ray and Dave are concentrating on their solo work, some of which is quite good.

Sleepwalker ***
Misfits ***
Low Budget ***
One For the Road ***
Give the People What They Want **
State of Confusion ***
Word of Mouth ***
Think Visual **
The Road **
UK Jive **
Phobia *
To the Bone ****

Kinks buyer's guide

Alright, now I am sure after reading all of this, you are dying to dive into some Kinks? But where to start? Well obviously the record guide throughout this piece will help. I'd grab the ***** selections first. Start with The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society and Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, Pt. 1.

If you want to start with some hits collections, be careful. They have plenty of them, but few are career-spanning. Most of them cover a particular period. The best career overview covering all periods is The Ultimate Collection. It is a bit haphazardly put together, but at 2-discs it hits lots of the high spots. If you are interested in a good collection focusing on the 1977-86 Arista period, Come Dancing With the Kinks does the trick.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Inaugural Address

Welcome friends, countrymen, and accidental visitors. As the subtitle of this Blog boldly suggests, I plan on covering a variety topics here. You will probably see more music, movies and politics than anything else...but everything under or beyond the sun is fair game. And I love a lively discussion and spirited debate, so please feel free to add your two cents regarding anything that grabs your interest. My ideal is that we have ongoing discussions flourishing under several posts at any given time. Also, feel free to make suggestions, because while this Blog is not a democracy, I do listen to good advice. I've been a devoted commentator on other Blogs, but this is my first attempt to start my own.

I have to thank five friends in particular for inspiring me to finally start my own Blog. They get tired of me commenting all over their Blogs, so the chorus of "do your own!" finally brought me to this place. Willis and 8-Ball EZ-Eze (that is his real name, by the way) both have now-deceased Blogs, but they were the first Blogs that I ever got involved with, and it was their creativity and energy that first got me interested in the Blogworld. Three Blogs currently run by friends of mine and that are better than mine are: A Special Way of Being Afraid , A New Career In a New Town and Violently Arousing . You should visit all three of them (and see how I shamelessly rip them off format-wise.)

Finally, what's with the name of this Blog? Glad you asked. My favorite movie of all time is "Jaws". Seen it about 200,000 times, can quote the entire film to you, I am still afraid of the ocean because of it...the name is a slight bastardization of the immortal line spoken by Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) to Quint (Robert Shaw) in this great scene...

If Quint isn't the baddest ass of all bad asses in the movies...more soon, my friends.