Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Ain't it a shame - Fats Domino has left this Valley of Tears

I must have first heard a Fats Domino record when I was five or so, which means The Big Beat has kept me rocking in my seat (and on my feet, when nobody's looking) for the best part of 60 years...

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The secret of Chic's success, revealed by Nile Rogers on BBC4 - start your song with the chorus!

Strictly speaking, most of Chic's hits start with the instruments establishing a groove for anything up to 30 seconds - but what follows is the chorus (i.e. the  rousing, chanty bit where everyone usually sings the song's title - the part listeners tend to remember), rather than the verse (usually a single voice setting the scene, telling a story etc.): it's normally the other way round. Chic's first hit, "Le Freak", goes straight into the chorus ("Ahhhhh...FREAK OUT! - Le Freak, c'est chic"):
This is to grab the listener's attention...

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Legendary British TV and music producer Jack Good and the Cary Grant film "Father Goose" - synchronicity strikes again!

I was watching Cary Grant and Leslie Caron in the WW2-set romcom Father Goose (1966) the other night in a fairly desultory fashion (it's an enjoyable film, but I've already seen it at least twice and it was past midnight). There are several scenes...

Monday, 28 August 2017

Britain should celebrate the actress, director, singer, and screen-writer Ida Lupino

A few years ago, I was slumped on the sofa watching an old film noir on television - Roadhouse (1948), starring the rather charmless Richard Widmark as a nightclub owner, the rather wooden Cornel Wilde as his bar manager, and Ida Lupino - an actress who had barely impinged on my consciousness until that point - playing a cabaret singer. I wasn't sure whether to stick with it - until this scene, in which Lupino delivers a mesmerisingly strange performance of "One for My Baby":
I'm not a big fan of...

Friday, 25 August 2017

Take the "My Favourite Song Openings" quiz - a blast from the past

First warning: I first posted this four years ago. Second warning: If you want to test your knowledge of popular music (1953-1983), you should look away while the video is playing, because it includes a host of visual clues. The titles of the 31 songs can be found below:
Why am I repeating myself, I hear you ask? Because...

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Fats Domino - ten rays of aural sunshine from a true rock 'n' roll giant

I gave a friend a Fats Domino greatest hits LP for his 20th birthday. I'd been bullying him into appreciating early rock 'n' roll (I was young and determined to spread the gospel). When he unwrapped it and studied the distinctly uncool, unthreatening-looking, fat little black man smiling benignly beside a piano on the cover, his disappointment was evident. "Just give it a listen," I suggested. I was relieved a week later when the birthday boy appeared at my door, raving about the album. (He might have been trying to spare my feelings, but that really would have been a first for him.) I've long ago stopped expecting anyone to share my popular culture enthusiasms, but I still suspect anyone who fails to react positively to The Fat Man's music of being  an anhedonic miserabilist. You don't have to respond to Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent or Carl Perkins - but if your system doesn't flood with endorphins the moment Fats Domino comes on the radio, it probably means you're a bad person. Not that I'm being judgmental or anything. If you've got Sky, and you've hooked it up to broadband, I strongly recommend visiting the Sky Arts catch-up section to download The Big Beat: Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock 'n' Roll...

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Happy 66th Birthday, Jonathan Richman, you splendidly goofy musical misfit!

Very Velvet Underground - but minus the heroin and the gloom. "Roadrunner" is from 1974, and it's still his finest recording, but I have huge affection for this instrumental chart hit from 1977 (even if you can't abide the song, you'll enjoy the video):

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Eurovision Song Contest may have tipped the scales in favour of Brexit

As I'm not a fan of kitsch campery, and as I despise Europop with all my being, I usually give the Eurovision Song Contest a miss. But, feeling unable to pitch straight into a fourth instalment of a Belgian crime drama about a child-murdering psychopath being aired by Sky Atlantic, I did catch the scoring section of the warblefest...

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Cool Cat Wild! goes all "friend of Dorothy" - we've been watching That's Entertainment III. Again.

In 1976, I landed two tickets to the London premier of That's Entertainment! Part II, a second compilation film featuring clips from the heyday of MGM musicals, with linking material provided by toupée-wearing old stars, many of whom looked as if they'd been embalmed. I can't now remember why I was given a ticket - something to do with my job as a publicist for the publisher, New English Library - but, thinking about somebody else for once, I had the cheek to request a second ticket, was promptly given one, and asked my mother to accompany me. Like me, she wasn't a great fan of musicals, but she'd been raised on a diet of Hollywood movies in pre-War Glasgow. Oddly - considering she was a former fashion model - she became flustered as we walked up the red-carpeted stairs towards the entrance and press photographers started snapping us. At the end of the screening...