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Paul Simon Tag

I’m going to Philadelphia tomorrow. It’s exciting for me, so exciting that I’m writing the column a day early so that I can go. I haven’t been there since I moved to Rhode Island, which is closing in on four years ago now, but since I’m spending this month in southern New Jersey, only an hour away from Philadelphia, it’s a no-brainer for me.

My love for Philadelphia goes back to my childhood in this area. I got to know a lot of Philly kids because Atlantic City was where they would come for their summer weekends. As I’ve said in this column several times before, it was those Philly kids who instilled in me the love for soul music that remains with me to this day. While the rest of the world was celebrating the British Invasion, and the psychedelic ’60s, the Philly kids were waving the banner for soul.

Sixto RodriguezBy now you’ve probably heard the story of Sixto Rodgriguez. He recorded two fine albums for Sussex Records in 1969 and 1970, but neither one made any impact on the charts. Rodgriguez backed away from the music scene and went to work doing construction in Detroit. During this time he was politically active and made an unsuccessful run for the Detroit city council. His name was misspelled on the ballot.

In the meantime, no one knows exactly how, Rodriguez’ music became immensely popular in South Africa. He was completely unaware of this however, and as far as the South Africans knew, he was dead. Finally, in the late ’90s two intrepid South Africans, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, decided to try to find out how he died, only to learn that Rodriguez was very much alive.

Rodriguez was invited to perform in South Africa and played sold-out venues before adoring fans. Some years later first-time filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul decided to tell the Rodriguez story and the result is the acclaimed documentary Searching For Sugar Man, which will be released on DVD on January 22. This week the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

For the last of the Soundtrack Saturday reruns, I thought I’d resurrect one of the first posts. You guys enjoyed this the first time around (it was posted more than three years ago), so I hope it still holds up. Maybe this is the movie you’ll watch if you’re spending New Year’s Eve at home this year? And then you can jam to some Rupert Hine. This one’s short — Soundtrack Saturday posts used to be, back in the day — so you don’t have to do a lot of pesky reading to get to the music.

This week I give you a classic John Cusack film: 1985’s Better Off Dead. The first of his two movies with director “Savage” Steve Holland, and probably my favorite, Better Off Dead tells the tale of down-on-his-luck Lane Meyer. Lane’s beautiful and popular girlfriend, Beth (Amanda Wyss), has just broken up with him for jerk ski jock Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier). He begins thinking of elaborate ways to kill himself, only to fail miserably in the execution.

In addition to dealing with Stalin, who constantly goads Lane until he throws down a challenge to ski one of the most dangerous slopes in the area, Lane has to contend with his bizarre family, his crazy neighbors, and the overly persistent paperboy. In the midst of all this, Lane manages to find someone he can truly connect with: his wacko neighbors’ French exchange student, Monique (Diane Franklin). She shows him that there’s more to life than Beth and helps him stand up for himself and realize he has the confidence to beat 12 Roy Stalins at their own game.

Better Off Dead was always one of my favorite movies growing up. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “I want my TWO DOLLARS!” around my household. Not only did my brother and I recite the film’s more famous quotes, so did my parents. Of course, I have two of the coolest parents in existence, but that’s beside the point. If you’ve never seen this movie, you should run out and rent it right now. I promise, you won’t regret it.

So there I was sitting in my apartment watching Seinfeld reruns last night, and thinking about this week’s Soul Serenade column. As far as I knew it was Tuesday, so I had the entire next day to get the column ready for Thursday. Chalk up another victim of the Monday holiday week confusion curse.

Fortunately, I knew what I was going to write about this week. There were actually three items that I wanted to address, so here goes.

Otis Redding would have been 70 years-old on Friday. For many, he was the greatest soul singer who ever lived. His death in 1968 was tragic on a number of levels. Not the least of these was that he had only recently started to cross over to a white audience when his plane went down in a Wisconsin lake on December 10, 1967.

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Megan Slankard, whose latest album, A Token of the Wreckage, is out now. Visit her official site for samples of Megan’s music — after reading her Desert Island picks, of course!

1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
I was about 10 years old when this album first blew my mind. I would sit in front of the stereo some nights with the CD or record cover (we had both) in my lap and stare at it throughout the duration of the album. It was absolutely magical. And, to this day, its chord progressions and melodies are part of the fibers that make up my being.

2. Graceland – Paul Simon
Maybe this is also an obvious choice, but it’s a very sentimental record and a part of growing up for me. I swiped most of my parents’ records, and this is one that my dad would play while working in the home office. It was on all the time, and I know it inside and out.

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This week’s Desert Island Discs list comes courtesy of singer/songwriter Jaime Michaels, currently promoting his latest release, The Man with the Time Machine. Take it away, Jaime!

The Band – The Band
When I was younger and just starting out I was such a folk purist. I’ll even admit to being one of those young idiots that booed Dylan at Newport. Then a housemate of mine promoted a concert by the Band right around the time this album came out. Everything about the music I heard that night went right through me, and turned upside down my ideas of what folk/acoustic music is.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
Why this Beatles album? A. Because I was blown away by it as the rest of the planet at the time and B. Because I can’t list Revolver, Rubber Soul, Abbey Road and the white album and have any room left!

Hearts and Bones – Paul Simon
I’ve heard this album referred to as the best Paul Simon album no one heard. Around the same time this album was released, I saw an interview with Paul in which he stated, “…sometimes the way words sound together is even more important than what they mean.” Something about that struck me as a writer and it’s something I’ve been aware of ever since, the flow and rhythm and sound of the lyric (much to the chagrin at times of my occasional co-writers).

Hey, we’re back after only a month off. This podcasting thing could become a habit. But it’s a little bit of a different show this time. Jeff and I spend a good chunk of the show interviewing Gorman Bechard, the writer/director/producer of Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements. Jason was unable to make it, which was unfortunate because he has a unique take on the band.

But before we get to the interview, we go through the sort of juvenalia you’ve come to expect from us. And if you’re listening to the show for the first time because you wanted to hear about The Replacements, we officially apologize for all the talk about 70s and 80s soft rock. Then again, Paul Westerberg was an unabashed fan of a lot of that stuff. So maybe we shouldn’t apologize.

The Popdose Podcast, Episode 17: Color Us Obsessed (1:16:32, 70.1 MB), featuring Jeff Giles, Jason Hare, and Dave Lifton.
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The late Frank Zappa was fond of a quote from the equally late Edgar Varese. The French composer said “the modern day composer refuses to die.” It’s been on my mind a lot recently.

There is a lot of music out there these days. More than at any other time in my life, and I lived through the ’60s. It’s not all great, or even good, but if you know where to dig, you can unearth the good stuff.

The question is, where do you find the time to dig? And having uncovered the new treasures, where do you find the time to listen to it all? There are so many things vying for our attention these days (and I’m a single man without the responsibilities of family), that it’s hard to keep up. My mailbox, both physical and virtual, is filled daily with pleas for attention from musicians, publicists, and record labels. To some extent, I’ve given up.

Perhaps you had a chance to read Jack Feerick’s Popdose Flashback  ‘91 post on Simple Minds.  In it, he said he had a half-assed theory that most bands only have five great albums in them. That’s it.  Five.  So, if you’re one of those bands/artists who have built up a fan base that stuck with you through your early breakthrough or slow-rise-to-fame period, right on through your experimental phase, and then to the moment you realized the music you made in your salad days was amazing and subsequently tried to recreate it, you should be able to test Jack’s theory.  So let’s take that theory and put it into practice with some side by side selections to hear how an artist grows (or doesn’t) from their early days to the latest releases. And who better to test this theory with than Baby Boomer rockers.

We have the chance for you to win a copy of this mighty fine reissue of Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel. For your chance to grab the set, send Michael Parr an email with “John Parr” in the subject line and ask him why he’s scared to interview the ’80s pop icon who happens to be a distant blood relative?  Feel free to be creative with your emails – we’ll pick a winner on Friday!

You know, we dissect a lot of new releases and reissues from classic artists around these parts including more recently, Live at Shea Stadium by Billy Joel. While there is often quite a bit of debate about these releases, I don’t think you’ll find much argument regarding the recently released 40th anniversary edition of Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel – it’s awesome.

Cratedigger

Bookends1968 was one of the most epochal years in American history. There is no need to go into the history again here, but believe me, it was a whirlwind. While most of the events of that year – war, assassination, the election of Richard Nixon – are remembered in a negative light, the year was not without its highlights. What is most fondly remembered about 1968 is the music. Musical giants were prowling the earth. You’ve heard their names. You’ve heard the music. The events of that year were inextricably linked to the music in a way that hasn’t been replicated since then.

In 1967, a film called The Graduate appeared, as if out of nowhere. To say that The Graduate tapped into the zeitgeist is a bit of an understatement. The film, directed by Mike Nichols, and featuring Dustin Hoffman in his first starring role, perfectly captured the uncertainty and restlessness of a generation. It resonated completely with young people who were trying to figure out what came next. A major part of the film’s appeal was the music. Dustin Hoffman wasn’t the only one who became a star. The Graduate’s soundtrack also made stars out of Simon & Garfunkel. While it’s true that the duo had hits prior to the release of the film, and the indelible “Scarborough Fair,” and “The Sound of Silence” are also included in the film, there is no question that their involvement in the film took them to the next level.