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Archive for the ‘Grease’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 15, 2019] Idles

I learned about Idles through NPR (of course).  I can recall Bob Boilen talking about their live show (I think at SXSW) and how amazing it was.  He said that they were very high on his must-see list.  And since then I have wanted to see them.  When they announced the show at Union Transfer I bought a ticket immediately.

I never really understand how bands become popular over here.  Most people I know have not heard of Idles.  And yet this show sold out very quickly.  I don’t understand why, given how many other bands that I think are bigger don’t sell out.  Maybe Philly just loves punk.

I know that Philly loves a mosh pit.  And boy did they ever get one.  Well, technically it wasn’t so much a mosh pit as a pogoing, bouncing, swarming mass of bodies.  And lots of crowd surfing–including from the band!

I knew a couple of Idles songs pretty well, but I didn’t know a lot of their songs.  However, I knew their basic style: lead vocalist Joe Talbot kind of speak/sings/screams lyrics of disaffection and the band alternates between quiet sections and full-on mayhem. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JULIANA HATFIELD-Sings Olivia Newton John (2018).

When I was a kid, I loved Grease.  My parents took me to see it multiple times and I loved the soundtrack.  There are still things from the movie that I am just “getting” now because I was so young when I first heard it.  I listened and sang along to Grease thousands of time.  I didn’t care for Saturday Night Fever (too dark and grown up), but i did love Xanadu.  So clearly I loved Olivia more than John.

I did not love “Physical,” the only other ONJ song I had heard, but honestly who didn’t dance around singing the chorus.

Aside from those songs I didn’t know a lot about ONJ’s career.   I had never heard of “Have You Never Been Mellow” until I bought the 1984 album by The Feederz.  They covered the song in the only way that a band whose album cover was literally sandpaper (to mess up the neighboring albums) would do.

Decades later I loved Juliana Hatfield.  I saw her live at Boston College (she opened for the B-52s and I left between acts because I was too cool for the B-52s).  She sung heartfelt and direct songs in a sometimes childlike voice.  But she rocked pretty hard too.

Juliana seems like an obvious choice to cover Olivia, except I didn’t think that Juliana had the range.  But boy was I surprised.  She hits high notes that I don’t recall her hitting before.  And while her singing style is still pretty soft, she really powers through a lot.  She also multitracks her voice from time to time to give it more power.

Plus, how great is that cover?

I didn’t know all of the songs on this but I grew to like the all.  I like the gentle synths and the cool guitar line on “I Honestly Love You.”  But she really impressed me with her take on Xanadu’s “Suspended in Time.”  She hits some beautiful notes and really makes the song wonderful.  I particularly like the e-bow.  “Magic” from the soundtrack also sounds great.  I’ve always liked this song so a cover has to meet some tough standards.  “Xanadu” is another great version–JH nails this soundtrack.

She hits some really wonderful high notes on “Have You Never Been Mellow?”  I’m still not sure if I’ve heard ONJ’s version.

“A Little More Love” adds some of Juliana’s crunchy guitar to the verses, but the chorus is pure ONJ.

I also had no idea she sang “Please Mr. Please,” which I remember from when I was a kid.  Who was listening to country stations in New Jersey back then?  Apparently much of ONJ’s pre-Grease career was in the country realm.

As I was going through this collection I discovered that ONJ sang a ton of versions of songs that I had no idea about.

Songs that she did a cover of which do not appear here:

  • God Only Knows
  • Jolene
  • Me and Bobby McGee
  • If You Could Read My Mind
  • Angel of the Morning
  • Take Me Home Country Roads
  • Summertime Blues
  • Ring of Fire
  • He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother [!]
  • Don’t Cry for Me Argentina [!]

And that was all before she did Grease.

This collection mostly covers her records from Grease (1977) to Physical (1981), but there’s a couple of older songs too.

I had given up on her by Physical, but JH’s version of the title song has some nice chunky guitars and emphasizes the cool riff in the song–it’s much less discoey than the original.  There’s even a loud (but short) guitar solo and some cool noise at the end.  She also sounds a lot more like Juliana than Olivia on this one.

I didn’t know anything from Totally Hot, the album in which she dressed all in leather (like Sandy!).  I feel like “Totally Hot” is the least successful song here.  The lurching style is kind of clunky.  Although JH is clearly having fun by the end with the multitarcked vocals.

“Don’t Stop Believin'” is not the Journey song.  It sounds so very ONJ to me (with the high vocal notes at the end of each line).  JH sounds a lot like ONJ on this one.

The biggest challenge has to have been “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”  It’s the only song from Grease that she tackles. JH sounds a little flat (not in notes, but in…power?) during the verses.  But the multi tracking on her voice makes the chorus sound wonderful.

“Dancin’ Round and Round” comes from that rockin’ Totally Hot album and JH covers it perfectly.  “Make a Move on Me” has some interesting guitar and synth sounds.

The “I Honestly Love You” reprise is more fun because of the extended noisy guitar at the end.

This is a really fun collection of songs, including many songs I had forgotten I liked.

  1. I Honestly Love You [various, depending on country of release, you know, like The Beatles]
  2. Suspended In Time [X]
  3. Have You Never Been Mellow [HYNBM]
  4. A Little More Love [TH]
  5. Magic [X]
  6. Physical [P]
  7. Totally Hot [TH]
  8. Don’t Stop Believin’ [DSB]
  9. Please Mr. Please [HYNBM]
  10. Hopelessly Devoted To You [G]
  11. Xanadu [X]
  12. Dancin’ ‘Round And ‘Round [TH]
  13. Make A Move On Me [P]

X = Xanadu ; HYNBM = Have Yo Never Been Mellow ; [TH] = Totally Hot ; [P] = Physical ; [DSB] = Don’t Stop Believin’ ; [G] = Grease

[READ: January 29, 2019] Is This Guy for Real?

I enjoyed Box Brown’s Andre the Giant book.  In fact I’m quite the fan of Box Brown’s work.  So you bet I was going to read Brown’s biography about the enigma who was Andy Kaufman.

I was old enough to be aware of Kaufman (from Taxi, mostly), and young enough to be interested in the wrestling aspect of what he was doing.  Even if I had no idea what was real during the whole thing.  Apparently no one else did either.  What’s interesting is that you probably couldn’t get away with these kinds of stunts now because of the pervasive media.

Andy Kaufman grew up as a pretty normal kid who liked Mighty Mouse, Elvis and wrestling.  He also liked to imitate all three.  The one unusual component of his arsenal of favorite things was Babatunde Olatunji a Nigerian drummer who played his high school.  Andy was transfixed by the drums and set his mind to playing them.  All of these would comprise his stand up act, (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 27, 2016] The Wizard of Oz

wozBack in February, Tabitha and I went to the Montgomery High School’s production of The Little Mermaid.  I was pretty sure they did two performances a year, so I was surprised to see them advertising The Wizard of Oz already.

This turned out to be not the high school actors but a group of semi- and non-professional adults.  Best of all, the entire cast was made up of teachers and faculty from the Montgomery School System.

All four of us were going to go, but Clark had a sleepover the night before, which meant no sleeping, so he crashed while we went to the play.

This production was for something called Music from the Heart.  As the blurb noted:

The Montgomery Township Education Association and Montgomery High School Band Parents Association present the musical The Wizard of Oz for the fifteenth production of Music from the Heart! The fully volunteer cast and crew are assembled from an eager group of district teachers, support staff, administrators, and students. Proceeds from the production fund the graduating senior class scholarships awarded by both the MTEA and MHS Band Parents Association.

I’m all for helping out band and education associations, and since their Theater is amazing, I figured it would be a good show.

And boy was it. (more…)

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mazeppa[ATTENDED: July 13, 2014] Xanadu

The movie Xanadu has been a long lost guilty pleasure of mine since I was a kid. I remember watching the movie and not caring that it was weird or, stupid or whatever. I loved Grease and therefore I loved Olivia Newton John.  And while I didn’t love E.L.O., I certainly loved the soundtrack to this movie about, well, whatever it was about.

I have the soundtrack on vinyl, and I clearly listened to it hundreds of times because when the songs popped up in this production, I knew if not all the words, then certainly the melodies.  I haven’t seen the movie since the 80s, though, and I didn’t watch it before going into this play.  And, indeed, I didn’t even know that the play was different from the movie, but I am so glad it was.

The musical (which was on Broadway) takes the basic sketches of the movie (which was pretty much just sketches anyway) and makes a new, very funny and very meta- (jokes about the movie and about the 80s among other things) look at the original, while keeping the characters and the music.  And man did I laugh a lot.  It helped that I knew the movie, but it wasn’t necessary for full enjoyment.

The basic plot is that Sonny is an artist.  He is inspired by a mural of Greek muses.  And after he gives up on his latest painting, the muses come to life and decide to inspire him.  The main muse is Clio who will come to earth “with an Australian accent” (for Olivia Newton John, of course) and call herself Kira.  Kira plans to help Sonny to open a club.  A club where there will be roller disco.  Naturally there is a bad guy–the creator of the club who once loved music but is now all about money.  And, since there are gods involved, there is bound to be mischief, as Clio’s sisters don’t want to see her get Xanadu as she was promised.  Their mischief is to make her fall in love–which will get her banished from Mt Olympus.

Amazingly enough, this crazy plot is much simpler and sensible than the original movie plot. (more…)

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