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Archive for the ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown’ Category

1963SOUNDTRACK: RESTORATIONS-Tiny Desk Concert #462 (August 14, 2015).

restor I don’t know Restorations, although I understand that they usually play pretty big loud guitar rock.   For the Tiny Desk they are stripped down (I guess) to the three guitars, but no drums or bass.  Lead singer Jon Loudon has a powerful and excellent voice.  On “Separate Songs” there are two guitars and a keyboard and wonderful harmonies.  The keyboardist sings backing vocals in the beginning of the song, so that when the lead guitarist joins in later, it’s even more impressive.

The guys are very friendly and funny.  The joke about the “desk” and about their constant tuning needs.

For “Tiny Prayers” all three play guitars and there some wonderful melodies that they play together.  The Future” is the slowest song of the three, but it contains all of the same elements–cool guitar sounds and wonderful harmonies.

The band has a great sense of melody.  And yet for all that I liked t his set, there was nothing that really stood out for me about the band.  They are simply a good rock band, and that’s not a bad thing.

[READ: November 29, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1963-1964

The drawing style of Peanuts that I most associate with the strip has been pretty consistent by this point.  And most of the characters look “right” (although Snoopy will continue to morph over the years).

Why does Charlie Brown keep going?  Despite all of the abuse Charlie gets, this one strip seems to sum up his strengths: “adversity is what makes you mature…the growing soul is watered best by tears of sadness.”

I feel like Schulz was either looking up facts to write about for some of this year.  Because we get things like this: Lucy: “You have to have [a note excusing you from school] otherwise the school can’t collect its state-aid money.”  Is that true or has Lucy hoodwinked Linus and me?  Later Charlie tells Lucy “when cranes and herons stand on one leg they can’t be injured by ground lightning.”  Later, Linus tells Sally that birds “have muscles in their feet which automatically contract when they fall asleep (which is how they sleep on a limb without falling off).  He then says the same principle applies with Snoopy’s ears.  Is this true?

In July 1963, there must have been an eclipse as the strip spends several days telling everyone how to safely watch it.

Linus’ blanket continues to occupy a lot of attention, with Lucy continually yelling at him about it.  His blanket hating grandma returns and even takes it away (she gives him a dollar bill which he tries to snuggle with).

Linus is full of ambition in these years.  He wants to be a rancher for several weeks in 1963.  Although, horror of horrors, he doesn’t make the honor roll in March of 1963.  But that doesn’t stop him.  And in a big surprise in 1964, he runs for school president (and has but one failing…and it’s not his blanket).

Schroeder continues to dismiss Lucy, this time even saying the chances are a googol to one (and then writing out how many zeros that is) of them getting married.  In July 1963 she complains that Beethoven never made it on any bubble gum cards.  Later when Lucy asks him why he doesn’t like her, Schroeder gives a very simple answer.  She replies, “I hate reasons.”

Rachel Carson returns in Feb 1964 with Lucy saying “we girls need our heroines.”  Of course Lucy also gets this quotable moment: “The crabby little girls of today are the crabby old women of tomorrow.”

Attacks on consumerism continue with a shoddy baseball about which Charlie says “this is what is called ‘planned obsolescence.'”

Speaking of baseball, there’s plenty of it.  I enjoyed the Sunday strip where Charlie using Snoopy to show how to break up a double play.  In 1964, Charlie suffers from Little Leaguer’s Elbow (and the team does great without him).  And when Lucy hurts her elbow (and refuses to call it Washerwoman’s elbow) she says she’ll sue Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Willard Mullin (Mullin was a sports cartoonist).

In August 1963, we see the first mention of Charlie Brown’s baseball hero Joe Shlabotnik (and the very distressing moment when Lucy won’t give let Charlie have his card).

I got a real kick out of Schulz returning to the McCovey joke from last year (in January!) saying “or why couldn’t McCovey have hit the ball even two feet higher?”

In 1963’s National Library week, Sally gets her library card this time and she is even more excited than Linus was.  She even has the line: “Happiness is having your own library card.”

Sally also addresses helicopter parents of 1963: “My mother is watching me out of the window.  Mothers feel secure when they see a child of theirs playing in a sandbox.  Sigh.  She’s secure and I’m bored to death.”

The little red-haired girl is obsessed over from time to time. Especially during Charlie’s lonely lunches.

Frieda has definitely dwindled by now–even if she never really did much.  She does abuse Snoopy about chasing rabbits but in one strip, we seem him playing with bunnies and four sleeping on his stomach on top of his doghouse.  This seems to set in motion Snoopy’s love of all other animals.

Later, there’s a really funny strip with Snoopy trying to fill his water bowl from a tap.  Then it rains on him.  The punchline “That’s one I’m going to have to think about for a while” is hilarious.

And…Snoopy goes to the hospital for a couple weeks! (nothing serious).  Charlie says he has a private room “he has a health insurance policy that pays forty dollars a day!”

In September of 1963, there’s a joke about ZIP Codes (Snoopy forgets his) and then shortly after a new character named 5 is introduced.  He explains, “My dad says we have so many numbers these days we’re all losing our identity.  He’s decided that everyone in our family should have a number instead of a name.”  His sisters 3 and 4 look like Peppermint Patty (who hasn’t arrived yet).  ZIP codes were introduced in 1963.

At Halloween in 1963 Linus slips about the Great Pumpkin and says “if he comes” (like in the TV show).  He’s doomed!

In February of 1964 a whole set of strips focuses on the existence of the humane society.

And in May of 1964 we get the classic bit from the movie when Charlie puts a coin in Lucy’s can and she sings “Boy what a sound.  How I love to hear that ol’ money plink!  That beautiful sound of cold hard cash!  Nickels! Nickels! Nickels!”

In June of 1964 there is a very touching Father’s Day strip.  (Although it wasn’t officially recognized until 1966 and signed into law as a official day by Nixon in 1972).

I really enjoyed the series of strips where they clean out Snoopy’s house and the dimensions (which we never see) are enormous!  There’s stairs, a pool table and all kinds of cool things.

For years now, Peanut has had strips where charters hold up signs–sometimes for Beethoven’s birthday, or national library week.  But in Sept 1964 it gets a bit more surreal with a bird holding a sign that has  ! on it.  Later another bird’s sign says ; and ?   A fight breaks out about it.  It’s very funny.

And in October 1964 Lucy pulls away the football despite given Charlie a signed document… “it was never notarized.”

And the year ends with something of cliffhanger.  Charlie has to do a report on Gulliver’s Travels over his holiday break, but he keeps putting it off… what will happen in 1965?

The foreword was written by Bill Melendez.  Melendez first met Schulz when they collaborated on an animated commercial for the Ford Falcon in 1960.  In 1963, they worked together on a documentary about Schulz using more animation.  Then in 1965 Coca Cola contacted him to see if Schulz would like to make a Christmas special.  They had 5 days to write the outline.  They used the kids from the Ford commercial as the voices. And they had six months to make the move.  It first aired on December 9, 1965.

Melendez raves about their work (rightfully) and then talks about the many other specials the made together–a Veterans’ Day one called What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown, and a show about cancer called Why Charlie Brown, Why?   In total they made fifty network specials and 4 feature films.  He talks about how great it was that they found Vince Guaraldi for the music and that they used real kids and no laugh track.  It’s hard to believe that special is so old!

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1961SOUNDTRACK: NICK LOWE-Tiny Desk Concert #87 (November 1, 2010).

lowe Nick Lowe is legendary.  And yet I don’t really know that much about him.  I knew he did “Cruel to be Kind” which is very dated sounding but still great.  I didn’t know that he wrote my favorite Elvis Costello song “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?” (which he first recorded with his band Brinsley Schwarz).  He also produced a bunch of Costello’s albums.

This Tiny Desk is a mellow affair, with Lowe gently playing acoustic guitar and his low, smooth vocals singing interesting lyrics: “His heart’s a prune / when it once was a plum / If you know him / that’s the kind of man that I’ve become” (from “Man That I’ve Become”).

“Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day” is done in the same vein.  Cathy, mellow pop, with an almost countryish feel.

“All Men Are Liars” is a pretty typical song about lying men, until you get this fascinating lyric: “Do you remember Rick Astley?  He had a big fat it.  It was ghastly.  He said I’m never gonna give you up or let you down.  Well, I’m here to tell you that rick’s a clown.”

“House for Sale” was a then new song.  And it’s just as sharp and strign as the rest.

At the time of this recording, Lowe was 61 and he sounds great.  His voice has changed, but it hasn’t lost anything.

[READ: October 29, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1961-1962

By this book, Peanuts had been in print for nearly 12 years.  And the core group has remained Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, Schroeder, and now Sally.  And to a smaller extent Shermie, Patty and Pig-Pen are still around.   But in 1961 he added a new character: Frieda, the girl with naturally curly hair.

One thing I hadn’t noticed so much in previous books is that he has been getting some very funny “jokey” punchlines.  Most of the Peanuts punchlines have been funny/thoughtful/amusing.  But I felt like this book had a few that were really funny.  Like Lucy saying in response to beauty being only skin deep “I have a very thick beauty.”  Or this funny groaner: Linus: “Do they always bring the cows in from the pasture at night?” Lucy: “Of course you blockhead, if they leave them out over night they get pasteurized.” I especially like that it isn’t even the final panel.  And in 1962, Charlie asks this question when he turns on the TV and sees reruns: “What would happen if comic strips had nothing but re-runs all summer?”

And of course, there’s a lot of baseball strips.  Including this one with a great set up and punchline.  Charlie is talking about the game and how “For one brief moment victory was within our grasp.”  To which Linus says, “And then the game started.” (more…)

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1959SOUNDTRACK: TOM TOM CLUB-Tiny Desk Concert #82 (October 6, 2010).

tomtom Tom Tom Club were a side project of the rhythm section of the Talking Heads.  They had a hit with their song “Genius of Love” (you’d know the melody instantly).  I’ll be honest–I thought they only had one album out, but I see they had quite a few out and had recently re-formed and put out new records.

This set contains three songs.  “Wordy Rappington” which was on their debut, but which I’d never heard of.  I am shocked to see that it was a double A side with “Genius of Love.”  The song is a kind of amusing rap with a chorus of the children’s song “A Ram Sam Sam.” It is very kid friendly.

I will also be honest that I didn’t like The Tom Tom Club when they came out.  So even though I know the melody of “Genius of Love” I don’t know the song very well.  It’s kind of amusing though in that it name checks all kinds of musicians.  At one point they repeat “James Brown” over and over and then climax with “hit me!”

The music is surprisingly spare: an acoustic guitar or two, some bongos and an accordion (which plays the “Genius of Love” melody).

“Only the Strong Survive” is a cover of song by zydeco band The Franks.  Lead vocals and washboard are supplied by Mystic Bowie.

The band is having a ton of fun.  Considering Talking Heads were always kind of serious it’s nice to see Chris and Tina being silly..

[READ: September 29, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1959-1960

This book marks more or less the ten-year anniversary of the first Peanuts strip.  Even though Patty (not Peppermint Patty) is on the cover, she gets very little time in the book.

The big news in this book is the arrival of Charlie’s little sister Sally!  In May of 1959 Charlie’s mom goes to the hospital for a few days.  And then Charlie is a proud big brother.  For a time, Snoopy is jealous and acts like a “fuzzy baby.”  However much Charlie talks about Sally, we don’t actually see her until August!  On a random Sunday Charlie is seen pushing her in her stroller (and missing out on baseball because of it).  There’s no really babyness for Sally.  She has a bottle, but while we saw a lot of baby time for Linus, there’s hardly any for Sally.  In fact, in October Snoopy gets her to dance.  And much later she gives Schroeder a hard time when he won’t play a lullaby for her.

She doesn’t really come into the picture all that much.  But by August of 1960, Sally thinks (still no speaking) that Linus is the cutest thing and has hearts floating around her when she sees him.  Charlie even has to wonder what’s going on here.  But Linus says, “I’m almost five years older than she.” (more…)

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peanuts4SOUNDTRACK: BRIAN COURTNEY WILSON-Tiny Desk Concert #76 (August 25, 2010).

bcwBrian Courtney Wilson is not Brian Wilson. Rather, this Wilson sings  lovely religious songs.

This is an overtly Christian performance and as such I did not really enjoy it. Having said that, his voice is terrific and his backing vocalists are subtle and uplifting without overpowering the music.

He sings three songs: “All I Need” “Believe” and “Already Here.”  For some reason, there’s no video for “Believe” so you have to listen to the audio only track to hear it.

[READ: September 29, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1957-1958

Some new themes emerge in this, the fourth volume of the Complete Peanuts.  Charlie seems to get branded with the “wishy-washy” curse a lot more (except when it’s raining and he’s not willing to give up his baseball game).

The angst is getting heavier now too with Charlie Brown saying “sometimes I think my soul is full of weeds).   Then in April 1958 he says “It always rains on the unloved.”   Even the normally chipper Snoopy (who at one point says “to live is to dance, to dance is to live”) gets a little mopey and introspective “when I was a puppy every day was a happy day suddenly bang, and I’m in my declining years.”

I feel like Lucy and Linus are showing up a lot more.  And Pig-Pen, really a one-joke character is appearing less but has not been forgotten.

I particularly enjoyed the concern that the earth was overpopulated (from Lucy).  And after she says “The earth can’t feed this many people” Linus replies “Why Don’t You Leave?” (more…)

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