Tag Archives: BBC

Blast From The Past: Badfinger

So I got a little nostalgic this week. Sue me!

It happens whenever you start moving and refiling albums and you slow to a crawl because you read the liner notes, slap an old favorite onto the player, get lost in the moment. So forgive the back to back memory posts.

I remember thinking – like many did – that Badfinger was another Beatle prank. Surely “Come And Get It” was Paul, probably playing all the parts, trying to balance the scales because he wasn’t really dead. But no, Badfinger was a real band, and a great one. and tragic beyond words.

The BBC disc that came out years later really gave a nice glimpse into what was and what might have been, and were the rock graveyard not littered with so many casualties, maybe the current generation would look back and realize how much was lost. But Badfinger is likely just a footnote in the current scene; even older fans have had their pain numbed enough to cast them aside.

Not me. Here’s a review from that archive disc from 2000

Culled from two concerts at pivotal points in their career, BBC is remarkable in that the obvious hit singles are nowhere to be found. Instead, listeners will be surprised at just how talented Pete Ham and Joey Molland were as guitar players. Both shows were recorded at the Paris Theatre in London, with seven tracks from each included (along with “Come And Get It” from a 1970 show on Top Of The Pops as a bonus track).

The first half of the disc features two shimmering acoustic numbers in “We’re For The Dark” and “Sweet Tuesday Morning,” which are counterbalanced against two Dave Mason covers(!). Badfinger as…jam band? You bet. “Only You Know And I Know” and “Feelin’ Alright” get a serious thrashing, the latter track a nine minute indulgence of funk, soul and harmonic pop. Kicking off the set with a rocking rendition of “Better Days,” and arguably at the height of their popularity, the band is confident and tight.

The second show, recorded fourteen months later (October 1973) finds the band in their post-Apple, pre-Warner Brothers era. Although continuing to feature strong harmonies and solid musicianship, Badfinger dabbled in harder, more guitar oriented rock and roll. Look no further than the two versions of “Suitcase” – in 1972 it chugged along, but the 1973 version is far more powerful. “Constitution” boasts some blistering axe work complete with wah-wah workout, and this live version of “I Can’t Take It” might be the most intense track the band ever recorded.

At the time, new songs like “Matted Spam” showed a taste of things to come…or so we thought. Tragically, Pete Ham took his life only a year and a half later, and eight years later, Tom Evans followed. Those not familiar with the band would be well advised to pick up “Without You: The Tragic Story Of Badfinger“; author Dan Matovina also wrote the liner notes for this release. Later this year, VH-1 will also recall their tale with an episode of “Behind The Music.”

Fuel 2000 has plans to mine the vaults and release or reissue many classic titles from the BBC vaults. In tandem with the King Biscuit releases, a new generation can finally savor what the elders among us enjoyed (and took for granted) as a weekly staple of our rock and roll lives.

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USA – (PBS + NPR) = WTF?

Really? We need to cut spending and this is where we start?

Why is this even a left vs. right issue anyway? Isn’t it appalling enough that your elected officials – supposedly representatives in the full sense of the word – align and vote according to party lines rather than for their constituents? Are there really communities of people who don’t want the availability of television (PBS) and radio (NPR) that is not owned and operated by a corporation’s political contributions? FOX shills for the right, MSNBC shills for the left, and those seeking unbiased reporting about America have to turn to the BBC?

PBS is a proven source of educational programming whose effects upon participants is well documented. Programs like Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow revolutionized the way television could be used to jump-start a child’s ability to grasp and learn fundamental skills. Granted, the issue is not targeting specific programs but the funneling of public money to arts channels. But those matching grants and supplemental contributions are often the difference between whether a program gets made or not. And with the economy in the toilet, public contributions are down, because people cannot afford to be as generous.

But those people aren’t buying twelve hundred dollar hammers or giving themselves lifetime perks of retirement funds and health care (that they deny to the very people who elected them to serve). These contributors are mostly people like you and me trying to heat our homes and put food on the table.

I’m sure I could find fat on the bone somewhere else. So can you.

I mean, what has to be done to convince these political dunderheads that our failing educational system is an integral part of our fall from grace (right alongside corporate greed, public indifference and the insistence on propping up governments around the world to support our corporate interests while our own population is underemployed, hungry and in need of basic human services)?

Do I have to type shorter sentences?

Do I have to sign yet another petition?

Does LeVar Burton have to appear on Community to remind us how we didn’t save Reading Rainbow?

Or can we perhaps just get it through our thick skulls that the very name “Corporation for Public Broadcasting” is an oxymoron? Maybe we don’t need to cut funding, but to fund better?

Maybe Congress should be spending some time figuring out how to better fund and manage an institution that is supposed to service the entire country by providing funding to “promote ideas and perspectives that are ignored or underrepresented in the commercial media“.

Of course that would mean Congress has less time to pointlessly witch-hunt Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but dammit, sacrifices must be made.

If you want more information or want to get involved, click here.

Today’s topic was brought to you by the letters E-L-I.

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Stand Up Wit…The 100 Best?

When I first posted this blog almost two years ago, I added the bulk of the content on the tabbed sections, which are more static than the main page. No need to update my essay on comedy that often, for example. It’s a pretty straightforward piece about how I got interested in stand-up, some of the classics who knocked my socks off and where my tendencies and loyalties lie. The main thrust of the piece is that most people take comedy for granted and settle for the lowest common denominator, largely because they are not exposed to the more unique and daring comedians unless they make an effort to seek them out. And not many people look for things they don’t know exist.

Part of that essay was a link to Comedy Central’s list of the Top 100 Stand-Up Comedians of all time, a 2004 ranking that like most lists is jammed with hits and misses. Hard to argue with a top three of Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Lenny Bruce, but when Louis CK is sitting at #98 and Ricky Gervais doesn’t even make the list, it’s time for an update. The report was assembled by Comedy Central staff and management polling a group of comedians, although some accused the network of goosing up the ratings of some comics who had product on the label and/or specials on the network. (That logic fails to explain Freddie Prinze at a lofty #49, though.)

Across the Big Pond, of course, things are a bit different – many of their great comics are complete unknowns over here, and there are several panel shows that provide them an opportunity to become more familiar to the audience. And the UK list was voted upon by the public, so it tends to skew way younger and more mainstream, although even the general public proves they appreciated Bill Hicks more than we did. (I thought  we learned that lesson with Jimi Hendrix…) Here’s the new top ten:

1 BILLY CONNOLLY
2 RICHARD PRYOR
3 RICKY GERVAIS
4 BILL HICKS
5 EDDIE IZZARD
6 PETER KAY
7 BILL BAILEY
8 CHRIS ROCK
9 MICHAEL MCINTYRE
10 VICTORIA WOOD

In a word…wow.

 There were a lot of changes between the 2007 and 2010 lists and some of them are completely laughable. I can understand the increase in popularity for people like Sean Lock and especially Stewart Lee, but Lee Mack and Alan Carr just blew by too many people for my taste. And Michael McIntrye goes from nowhere to the 9th greatest standup in history? But George Burns falls off the list? Some veterans made upward moves, although still vastly underrated (Bill Cosby, George Carlin) while others (Joan Rivers, Lenny Bruce) took a serious tumble. Ah, those silly gits.

Here’s the updated 2010 list. Happy grumbling!



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Never Mind The Buzzcocks

Thanks to another recently converted-to-region free DVD player, I’ve been catching up on some great comedy from across the Big Pond. Although most of my also-converted money has been going for stand-up comedy shows, I’ve also been loading up on some bargains on comic panel shows like Mock The Week, 8 out of 10 Cats and an old favorite, Never Mind The Buzzcocks. In 2009, an excellent DVD was released featuring clips from the show’s lengthy run under recent host Simon Amstell with great featurettes and gag reels.

Amstell is a cocky, cheek host who (depending on which year’s hairstyle) looks like a cross between Michael Cera and a pre-weightlifting Carrot Top. The irreverent panel show features a host and two teams of comics and pop culture stars, many of whom are complete unknowns stateside but household words there, like longtime team captain Bill Bailey, Jack Dee, Frank Skinner, Catherine Tate, Frankie Boyle and Martin Freeman. Of course many pop culture celebrities would appear as guests to take the piss out of themselves and others, most of whom got into the spirit of the event, although when they didn’t (I’m talking to you, Lemmy!) that could be fun as well. Many appear on this DVD; two of the funniest are Russell Brand and Amy Winehouse, albeit for opposite reasons.

I first heard of the show years ago and tuned in because I thought it was actually about The Buzzcocks, one of the finest bands of the late 70s punk pop movement. (The show did get its title by mixing  the band name and the Sex Pistols album Never Mind The Bollocks). Although initially disappointed, I was soon swept up into the pulse of the show, which ranges from good sarcastic fun to sheer lunacy. Pop culture cows are gutted and nothing – and no one – is sacred. My younger daughter is a fan of the show, and this holiday we skipped the usual Sci-Fi marathons to watch every minute of this great collection.

Is there a Doctor in the house?

I used to watch the show on occasion as various cable packages over the years were sketchy on what UK programming might be included in the package. Perhaps like Monty Python and Benny Hill, it was the PBS station to the rescue once again. (Yet another reason to support their annual fund-raising drive when the envelopes arrive in December!) As with many successful UK shows, eventually the US tries to copy it. Hard to believe that I not only forgot that this happened with Buzzcocks, but also that the host of the US version was one of my favorites, Marc Maron. (The show lasted one season on vH-1.)

Some households gorge on college football during the Thanksgiving holidays.

I’ll take comedy every time.

The show’sWiki page and list of episodes.

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New Album! Rory Gallagher

After Elvis Presley died, there was such a flood of posthumous album releases and collections that even loyal devotees who cried at Graceland that weekend began to wonder if he wasn’t cranking them out from a studio behind that Dunkin Donuts in Minneapolis. The Who aren’t literally dead (although their career might be), but their catalog over the past couple of decades has consisted mostly of repackaging similar groups of hits, a trick The Rolling Stones only exceeded by actually recording them live.

Maybe it takes the artist’s family to intervene and bring sanity. Although the Jimi Hendrix releases aren’t culling a bottomless well of new material, at least love and care are shaping some definitive packages for posterity. And while Gail Zappa might have a wee bit too much stranglehold control on her husband’s name and likeness, every year there’s an intriguing new Frank Zappa release that meets the highest standards; an album that Frank himself would be proud to stand behind.

Donal Gallagher has taken a similar approach when it comes to the legacy of his brother. Rory Gallagher was one of the best guitarists ever to walk this planet (I’ll save you the fawning here as I’ve done it enough over the years). Those who knew him were mesmerized by his performances, but despite a history of heavy touring he still slid under the radar of too many listeners. Recent DVD releases have made great strides to right that wrong, especially Live At Cork and the unbelievably rich Rockpalast Collection (a three DVD set featuring hours of amazing footage). Sure, there have been a couple of “best of” titles over the last twenty years, but gems like the acoustic Wheels Upon Wheels album have been the focus.

The latest releases feature Rory’s live work for Radio Bremen that were broadcast on the German music show Beat Club. Featuring what I feel was his strongest band – the trio with Gerry McAvoy on bass and Wilger Campbell on drums – The Beat Club Sessions is another sizzling testimony to his genius. The CD features many of his best tracks (“Laundromat”, “In Your Town”, “Messin’ With The Kid”) and demonstrates why people are still buzzing about his talent fifteen years after his death. Gallagher was able to play ferociously or delicately with equal skill; a premiere blues soloist and slide guitar player, he also made the mandolin a weapon of choice.

Video: “Goin’ To My Hometown

The twelve cuts (culled from sixteen on the Ghost Blues DVD) feature stomping rockers (“Sinnerboy”), blues workouts (“I Could Have Had Religion“) and acoustic treats (“Just The Smile“). As a  contemporary of Cream and asked to replace Clapton in that lineup after his departure – one wonders why his songs  “Used To Be” never found the acclaim that “I’m So Glad” did, let alone his great interpretations. (His is the definitive version of “Messin’ With The Kid“, and “Toredown” is simply amazing)

I’m expecting my copy of the Ghost Blues documentary any day now and will be certain to have more on that in the near future. And Donal and family are working to secure the full BBC archives as well as work from Rory’s prior band Taste. Eagle Vision is now the official distributor of Rory Gallagher’s work, and if this is any indication of what’s to come, I am thrilled. This is magic stuff.

The Official Rory Gallagher Website

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Monty Python, Again

No Spam here.

Monty Python: The Other British Invasion. Great DVD documentary about how the comedy troupe changed America…albeit by accident.

This two-disc documentary about the origins of Monty Python is an informative and enjoyable blend of archival information and contemporary interviews. There are no skits within, only occasional excerpts; instead the programs focus upon how the infamous troupe first met, overcame numerous obstacles and eventually became world-famous practitioners of absurdly silly comedy.

Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle all found that thread of madness in their youthful experiences that demonstrated they saw life a bit differently. And once they realized that there were others who shared this skewed vision, they quickly immersed themselves in a myriad of artistic endeavors until their paths finally crossed into this immortal configuration.

Read the full review at PopMatters.

***

R.I.P. Jay Reatard

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The Prisoner. Number 2?

Prisoner original

Will TV leave nothing alone?

So you say TV isn’t out of fresh ideas? More thinly veiled copies of worthless reality shows? Cloning lawyer and cop shows with a rubber stamp? Five nights of Jay Leno is new because you moved it up ninety minutes? And now, a remake of The Prisoner, one of the most classic series in television history?

Is nothing sacred? What’s next, The New Avengers? Oh…

Prisoner remake

Little pink houses for you and me

But here we are, and over the next few nights we’ll see whether Sir Ian McKellen and Jim Caveizel can pull off the impossible by raising the bar. At least we know the special effects have a shot at being better.

It will be interesting to see how this holds up, especially since the overlying mystery of the original was trying to figure out WTF was going on. At least we can hope Caviezel doesn’t get subjected to another beating like this one.

Well, since AMC is jamming six episodes in three days, we’ll know soon. Ironically Patrick McGoohan wanted the original series to be a seven-episode arc but the network wouldn’t fund and promote it unless it was longer. The original Number 6 died last January, so we’ll never know his take on the results of this new effort.

Info on both shows at The Prisoner Appreciation Society.

prisoner buttons

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