Tag Archives: Donna Summer

I Got The Knack

R.I.P. Doug Fieger

R.I.P. Doug Fieger of The Knack.

The best-selling album of 1978 was Saturday Night Fever, the zenith of popularity for guys in satin shirts (open to the waist so that the gold medallions could bounce within the prominent clump of chest hair, of course). Women were no better, focused upon inane dances with said hairy men, hopefully rendered impotent after bathing in strobe lights under satanic mirror balls and shaking what booty they thought they had to beat-pulsing stage lamps flashing primary colors like an amoral heartbeat. Surely the world had gone to Hell in a handbasket, although that handbasket now had a designer name and cost more than a week’s wages.

Sadly, 1979 was no better. Those of us buying Blondie and Ramones and Sex Pistols records could not help but wonder what the hell happened to rock’n’roll, since all the attention and the money and the shelf-rack space in the record stores – our record stores, dammit! – were being glommed by Donna Summer and Chic and Andy Gibb. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, this simplest of rock songs, this most basic beat, blasted its way to the top of the charts like a lung full of oxygen in a coal mine…”My Sharona“.

Video: “My Sharona

No, it wasn’t the best pop song ever written and The Knack were certainly not The Beatles despite the great pains the Capitol Records marketing department went through (the black and white cover photo and the Meet The Beatles cadence of the title Get The Knack). Nor did the bizarre decision to not do any interviews play out well; what initially inspired mystery in a band holding the Number One Single hostage for six weeks soon turned into resentment and an attitude of animosity towards four guys who were just trying to sell pop music.

But “My Sharona” did serve notice to the industry that despite disco and punk and prog and that god-awful corporate rock that Columbia Records kept spewing out its sewage pipe, there was an audience for what we refer to as powerpop music. Good melody. Great hook. Big beat. Maybe it wouldn’t dominate the charts like it did in the 60s, but when given a chance, people respond to it. Sure, you might gloss a sheen of hair metal over it, maybe even countrify it, but at its core a great pop song is a great pop song.

Of course The Knack didn’t last long; maybe these things aren’t supposed to, although their next couple of albums weren’t bad. One knock on the group was that the girls being sung about might be a tad on the younger side, which could explain the occasional leering expressions from the band members. (I’m not certain where these prudential critics were when Gary Puckett and The Union Gap were prowling school yards in the 60’s in military gear, but so be it.) In subsequnet years The Knack would occasionally reform sans retired drummer Bruce Gary (who passed in 2006) with ringers like Terry Bozzio standing in alongside Fieger, guitarist Berton Averre and bassist Prescott Niles.

The Knack will never have the cred that Big Star or Badfinger or even The Romantics have earned, but “My Sharona“, the biggest pop single of 1979, was the right song at the right time. Thanks, Doug (and co-writer Averre), for that lifeboat you dropped into The Sea of Disco. Rest in peace.

***

And R.I.P.  Dale Hawkins, the rock and roll tornado

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Rock’n’Roll Hall of Shame (Again)

The Mistake By The Lake

The Mistake By The Lake

I don’t know why I even bother getting agitated anymore. 

I don’t take it seriously, and it’s been a long time since I have gone out of my way to look for the list of nominees, let alone actually root for someone to make it in. It’s a sham, a political clusterfuck of a process, and certainly bears no resemblance to a recognition of the truly worthy. But the other day an email hit my mailbox listing some of the nominees, and well…here we go again.

Some of the finalists this year include The Stooges (again), and KISS (finally), two bands that have obviously made an impact on rock’n’roll, albeit in very different ways. Even The Hollies surfaced after being eligible for over two decades.

But Donna Summer? Disco-thumping, heavy-breathing Donna Summer? Are you kidding me? Sure, she sold a lot of records in the 70s, but so did Cheap Trick and Deep Purple. She might get in before them? They haven’t even hit the finalists list yet! Hall and Oates were way bigger than Donna Summer could ever dream of, with a long string of hit singles that dominated the charts, but I don’t see their name.

And L.L.Cool J? Why- because he stars in a new CSI spin-off show? I like the guy, but not only does his music have nothing to do with rock, there are tons of deserving artists with longer careers who sold more records – what’s the criteria here? And how are rap artists more rock than progressive rock veterans like Yes and King Crimson? Where are The Moody Blues and  Procol Harum?

And before you start tossing the race card at me, I’m not rushing to send Laura Nyro in there, either. At least she has been an influence on a number of rock artists, but until the day Carole King walks through that door, don’t talk to me about great female songwriter/performers. (I wouldn’t have voted Bonnie Raitt in that quickly – yes, she’s had a lengthy and brilliant career, but she’s far from a household name. John Hiatt is a far better songwriter and he’s not in; and if you want to talk underappreciated musical geniuses, where’s Rory Gallagher’s name on that wall?)

And I’m still appalled that bands like R.E.M. – worthy eventually – are in while earlier artists aren’t.  No J. Geils Band, Humble Pie or Johnny and Edgar Winter? All those record sales and The Guess Who, The Turtles and Tommy James are waiting? No Small Faces? Where the hell is Lou Reed?

Some of the elections are artists who also have success as producers, but Todd Rundgren and Rick Derringer have done both – where are their names on the ballot? And if the anything-but-rock Madonna is in because of cultural impact and huge record sales, why not The Monkees?

No idea who the final five will be, but since it’s the 25th Anniversary you can be sure that fanfare will trump honest voting (just ask The Dave Clark Five about that one) because they gotta sell those dinner tickets. Predictability? You’ll see a female artist or female fronted band, a disco or rap artist, a blast-from-the-early-days, a hugely famous artist/band, and one crapshoot. That’s how they roll in Cleveland…well, actually New York, where Jann Wenner and his cronies run the floating crap game. They need to uproot the damned thing and move it to Detroit where it belongs.

The absurdity can be summed up in five words: Alice Cooper isn’t in it.

Here’s a list of the current inductees. For a list of the truly worthy artists and a real Hall of Fame, do what I do – look at your record collection.

If not, enjoy your Eminem and Beyonce inductions. Maybe you can hang on until 2034 when Chickenfoot is eligible.

Without some of this kind of DNA, you ain't rock'n'roll

Without some of this kind of DNA, you ain't rock'n'roll

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Emmy (See if I got this straight…)

Doogie nailed it.

Doogie nailed it.

Here’s the list of nominees and winners. I was a miserable 6 of 18 on my predictions, but there were a few upsets. So, attention DVR People – my comments below include spoilers! Now I’ll wait a minute while those people leave the room and seat-fillers take their place…  

Gone? Okay…cue my theme music!

Let’s hear it for the boy! Doogie was great – killing it with an opening number that was acerbic and funny (and props to him for immediately crediting the writers – Scott Wittman and Mark Shaiman from Hairspray) and keeping things moving pretty briskly. Made some great quips and dished out some kudos where and when appropriate without being fawning. Great running gag (with Jon Cryer, among others) after not winning for Supporting Actor, which several critics apparently took seriously. The retort to Academy President John Schaffner in the audience after the latter gave him an Emmy pin (“Yeah, that helps.”) was hilarious. Only the extended “best seat in the house” gag got tired. But really, how can you possibly dislike the guy? He must have a Q rating off the charts. (And if you thought that bit where he breathlessly rattled off the list of networks was great, watch this !)

And speaking of the Harlem Globetrotters – the only time that tired gag was really funny – it was good to see the Washington Generals of the Apple ads get his night. While Justin Long had to sit complacently next to Drew Barrymore, his partner in those hilarious commercials, John Hodgman,  got to zing one-liners from the booth. Between serious voice-overs (“This is her first win and her second nomination“) he peppered the audio with absurdly funny comments (“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart is celebrating its 76th year on the air. It began on Comedy Central Radio as Stewart-Brand Chicken-Fat All-Star Baked Beans Half Hour. This is their 900th Emmy, and frankly, that’s too much“). Likewise, Harris often introduced nominees by “obscure” credits from their resumes.

The tables have turned.

The tables have turned.

Splitting the show into segments. Very good idea, albeit risky. Of course, they always have to start out strong to keep the audience from flipping, so Comedy was the appropriate leadoff hitter. Exhausting that category so soon risked weakening the overall show but they pulled it off. Better yet, getting to fast-forward through the Reality segment kept the projectiles off my screen and the vomit off my floor. After last year’s program, where TV almost killed its own Golden Goose by kissing the ass of the most unreal programming on television, can you blame me for avoiding that train wreck of a category? (And please explain how American Idol was included within the “Reality” part of the program, but then the director won in the “Variety” category?)

Three cheers also for the set. The theatre is amazing, and the versatile set was configured to expose the composition of the evening like peeling the skin off the skeleton. The band out of the pit, the production booth in view upstage, the host actually able to host from a designated location. Aside from one obvious technical glitch – which Ricky Gervais turned into gold, of course – the show ran very smoothly.

The mood of the show was also interesting. Fairly egoless – our host was a big part of that. Almost everyone got through their lines and cues without issue, and for the most part the presenters and recipients avoided the usual politicking (Washington and Hollywood) that the Oscars seem to bring in droves. There weren’t enough performance clips for my taste – sometimes none at all – and the gimmick about asking some of the non-performer nominees mostly fell flat because some took it seriously while others didn’t (the clip of the night was from Conan O’Brien’s show, where he predicts “YouTube, Twitter and Facebook will merge to form one super time-wasting Web site called YouTwitFace.”)

And thanks to the network for not picking up that ridiculous gimmick that Fox dropped on us recently where the lower third of the screen is filled with scrolling tweets. Die in Hell for that one, television. Isn’t it enough that you pander to wannabe celebretards by cramming as many of these unreal crapfests onto the air in place of creative and scripted programs? Now you have to let couch potatoes try to tweet their way onto the screen so they can – I dunno – tweet their friends that their tweet was broadcast? (That’s like a snake eating its tail, right?) Then you’ll complain that no one could follow the plot of your show.

Neil Patrick Harris Dr Horrible

Best surprise – an appearance by Dr. Horrible, which was perhaps not as funny for people who have not seen the hilarious webisodes starring Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day.  Of course, the irony that the program was created on the Internet during the writer’s strike and aired without any network or commercial involvement was probably also too subtle as well. But why fret about those who can’t appreciate it, knowing the zeitgeist of 2009 somehow justifies Leighton Meester and Brooke Lively walking on the same stage as Glenn Close and Bob Newhart? (And folks,  Nathan Fillion rules.)

I always get a little verklempt during the In Memoriam segment anyway, but really – bringing Sarah McLachlan out to drive a nail through my heart? Was that necessary? If you’ve been to a memorial service in the past decade you know that song is as requisite as Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” at a wedding reception…and I experienced both within twenty-four hours this weekend. (She did nail the performance, though).  Maybe a good career move for her, since the last few times I’ve seen her on television she’s been asking me to save abused pets. But between those ads and that song, she’s unquestionably the reigning Debbie Downer.

Eat, already!

Eat, already!

Kristin Chenoweth squeaked and squirted so much during her crying jag that the high-pitched whine probably killed one of Mickey Rourke’s dogs. I was surprised by her win, but she is talented (Wicked on Broadway? Girl, please!) and now can hopefully afford to buy a sandwich. She was the first person that said “this is really heavy” when holding the Emmy Award that I believed. Really – the girl makes Olive Oyl look fat. Great bit pimping for jobs on Mad Men and 24 now that her show is cancelled.

Ricky Gervais. Pure freakin’ gold. I don’t know if he could keep up that pace for the entire program, but I’d sure like to watch him try. As solid as Neil Patrick Harris was – and he was very good – Gervais has the fastest mind I’ve seen since Robin Williams in his prime. Combine that with a self-deprecating attitude and a bold disregard for convention (I’m willing to go there, and don’t care what you think about it) and you get both humor and unpredictability. He is, as the Brits say, brilliant.

"We fixed the glitch"

"Fixing the glitch"

Comedy WTF Award: Toni Collette. Really? Really?? I’ll bet more people lost betting on Tina Fey than the ones betting on these guys or them or (sniff!) them. I remember hearing about The United States of Tara being scheduled but that’s the last time I heard it mentioned. Tina Fey might be getting so many accolades that there’s a backlash, but she was funnier than ever this year. But she nailed the guest appearance as Sarah Palin and won that Emmy as expected, plus having 30 Rock win was probably more satisfying, since it works because it’s an ensemble piece. (Well, more satisfying to me, anyway.)

Loved Brian’s Emmy vote. “Suit up!”

Perhaps it was because they front loaded the comedy, but after all those overt verbose kudos to Lorne Michaels,I figured he either was quietly diagnosed with inoperable cancer or owns a scrapbook with incriminating photos of everyone he’s ever worked with. (Probably it’s just that he’s a nice guy).

There were some repeat winners I can’t argue with – Jon Stewart, Alec Baldwin – they deserve the accolades. Happy to see Michael J. Fox snag a Guest Actor win for Rescue Me; it reminded me of some shows and people who got overlooked entirely.

Really Mad Men

Really Mad Men

Drama kudos: Bryan Cranston. I figured that Jon Hamm would walk off with it as Mad Men gets a lot of Emmy love, but Cranston is unbelievable in his role and well deserving. Can’t knock the win by Michael Emerson, either – here’s a guy who was so good that a guest spot on Lost was transformed into the central character on the show. But I wish the voters showed the love to Aaron Paul, Cranston’s co-lead on Breaking Bad, who had a (ahem) breakout year.

And speaking of breakouts…WTF was up with that “breakout moment of the year” polling? Those were the three most transcendent moments on television this year? Really? Did they limit the voting to people under the age of twelve? Not only was the gimmick itself distracting and juvenile, but the impact was…well, what’s the opposite of buzzworthy?

Some good presenter moments, too. Jimmy Fallon’s dance injury bit was great. Justin Timberlake after Sarah Silverman’s moustache shot (“That’s what hormones will do“). Ken Howard (The White Shadow!!) hoping his speech “doesn’t get interrupted by a Congressman or a rapper”, then cracking an opportune SAG joke. Amy Poehler and Julia Louis-Dreyfus smilingly confirming the end of broadcast television as a vital medium. Jessica Lange -a cougar even at 60-  saying parts (ahem)  “don’t come around that often for me anymore“. The always randy Dana Delaney  topping that with “I like a man who delivers week after week!” Bryan Cranston saying he’s thankful that Glenn Close is actually a woman. Tina Fey taking a well-deserved shot at NBC by thanking them for keeping 30 Rock on the air “even though its much more expensive than a talk show“.

Who would have thought that after their Super Bowl duet, Justin Timberlake would be so much more popular than Janet Jackson’s breast? I’m still not a fan of his music, but the guy is funny as hell and despite incredible fame seems to be pretty humble about it. If only more famous people took themselves less seriously.

Oh, wait. Then we wouldn’t have Award Shows. Never mind.

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