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Archive for the ‘Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life’ Category

Terry Jones [1942-2020]

Terry Jones died last night at age 77 because of complications from a rare form of dementia.

I was a huge Monty Python fan back in the day.  I’ve seen all the episodes (even the German ones) and the movies.  I have the records and the books and just about everything they’ve done.  They influenced me terrifically.

Terry Jones was a founder of Monty Python and while I tended to not think of him as my favorite on screen person, thinking about all of the amazing characters he played over the years, I think I’ve unfairly put him too low.  Especially as I think of some of the most quotable lines and how he either said them or was in the skit that spawned it (wafer-thin, anyone?).  Not to mention he did some of the best women’s voices in the series.

Most of the Pythons have been slowing down as of late, which is to be expected.  I was supposed to see John Cleese live recently but my plans fell through. Terry Gilliam is making some unfortunate comments in the media lately.  Eric Idle seems to always be about.  Michael Palin has been doing fantastic work travelling and writing no-fiction. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINK FLOYD-the final cut: a requiem for the post war dream (1983).

My college experience seems very unlike many people’s (especially the stories I hear from you young kids today).  And I’m just talking musically.  I went to college in the late 80 and early 90s.  And my freshman year, the most popular albums on campus  were Steve Miller’s Greatest Hits, Squeeze’s 45s and Under and Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  My friend John also loved this album.  And I think we listened to it hundreds of times, blasting out of dorm room windows.

It’s kind of strange that college freshmen would embrace an album about (more or less) Roger Waters’ father dying in WWII, especially since none of our fathers had died at all, much less in WWII.  But angst finds its home I suppose.

This album is not a sequel to The Wall, but it has echoes (see what I did there) from that album.  There were touches of WWII in The Wall.  And sonically a lot of this album sounds similar.  The big difference is that Roger Waters wrote pretty much the whole thing, long time keyboardist Richard Wright left the band and David Gilmour, sings on only one song.  So, it’s practically a solo project (and it fees a lot like Waters’ solo album The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking).

This album seems to have alienated fans of Floyd. But I happen to like it quite a lot.  And, I it a lot while reading Gravity’s Rainbow.

“The Post War Dream” opens with military sounding horns and funereal organs, as befits an album about the war.  It also has an intriguing assortment of sound effects (I wonder where he gets most of this stuff).  It sounds very Pink Floyd–Roger Waters’ voice is pretty unmistakable).  But “Your Possible Pasts” sounds even more Pink Floyd.  Evidently this album has a number of songs that were cast offs from The Wall.  If that’s true, this is probably one of them, as it sounds like it could easily fit on that album–especially when the keyboards kick in during the second chorus (even if Richard Wright wasn’t on the album).  And the guitar solo is so David Gilmour–that’s what you call a signature sound.

“One of the Few” has something I love from Floyd–whispered vocals (“teach”) and creepy laughing; it works as a nice transition to the louder “The Hero’s Return.”  This track is very complex–all kinds of tonal shifts, echoed vocals and bitter lyrics.  It explodes into “The Gunner’s Dream,” a gentle piano ballad about a soldier being shot down.   It’s a surprisingly tender song (although not really given the topic of the album) and lyrically it is really impressive.  I don’t really care for the saxophone solo–it’s not my thing, but I think it actually works well for the song.  And, again the end sounds like it came from The Wall (Waters is amazing at angsty screams).

“Paranoid Eyes” is a delicate song that works, for me, as lead in to the wonderful “Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert” a short, string-filled somewhat goofy song that is very bitter under its seeming jocularity.  It’s followed by “The Fletcher Memorial Home,” a really dark track about old age with a lot of current political commentary thrown in (although the “group of anonymous Latin American meat-packing glitterati” always confused (and amused) me.  So even though it is “about” WWII, there’s plenty of anger at current political climate, right Maggie?.  Boom boom, bang bang, lie down, you’re dead–take it away David…

“Southampton Dock” is another gentle song, more of a story with musical accompaniment.  It segues into “The Final Cut” a fitting piano end to a sad album about death and loss, that also happens to reprise song elements from The Wall.

But that’s actually not the last song.  We get the incongruous “Not Now John.”  It really doesn’t fit with the album at all (I happen to love it, even if it doesn’t).  It’s way over the top, including the how-in-the-hell-did-they-think-this-would-be-a-single? opening lyrics: “fuck all that we gotta get on with this. (fuck all that).”  And yet, single it was, reaching #7 in the US.  Man it rocks.  Oi, where’s the fucking bar, John?

The album ends properly with “two suns in the sunset” a mostly acoustic track that returns the mood to more sombre feelings (except for the rocking section where you drive into an oncoming truck).  Never has futility felt so upbeat.  For an album as personal as this is, it really draws the listener in.  Of course, if you don’t want to be drawn in, it’s easy to resist, as many have.

The reissue (which I don’t have), includes the cool song from The Wall movie, “When the Tigers Broke Free.”  Which I imagine would work quite well contextually.

[READ: Week of April 30] Gravity’s Rainbow 4.7-end

And the book ends with a bang and a lot of leftover questions.  My first reaction is that I can’t get over Pynchon spent so much time in the last 60 pages talking about things that had nothing to do with the “plot” per se.  I never really felt like the story was all that hard to follow until the end, when Pynchon let loose the dogs of war on his writing.  There are several pages of stream of consciousness reverie where I was completely at a loss.  Of course, this has been true for much of the book–Pynchon would talk about something and then cycle back into it, filling in the gaps that he left open.  The whole book seemed to have this kind of coiled effect (perhaps a slinky). He would set up a scene as if you had been there all along.  And while you were puzzling over just who the hell he was talking about, he would flashback to whatever you needed to fill in the missing pieces.  And he is still doing that as the story comes to a close.

And although it starts out with a familiar figure, he quickly takes something and has a massive hallucination.  Is this even true? (more…)

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