throwing it back to 1976: randy newman and ry cooder

On this date in 1976 (the Bicentennial year!), we saw Randy Newman and Ry Cooder at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. Newman wasn't pushing an album, far as I can recall ... Good Old Boys was a couple of years old, Little Criminals was still a year away (Cooder would play on both of those albums). Newman was 32 years old, Cooder 29. Cooder released Chicken Skin Music later in '76, so I imagine he played some of those tunes ... clearly my memory is shot, I can't even picture Cooder in my mind from that night.

We enjoyed Newman ... only time we saw him, but whenever I see him on TV or YouTube, his personality reminds me very much of that night.

They both appeared on the soundtrack to one of my very favorite movies, Performance, back around 1970. Here are a couple of examples. First, the opening of the film, which features a few bars of Newman singing "Gone Dead Train". Note: some S&M sex in the clip, if you click on it.

Performance opening

And "Hashishin" by Cooder and Buffy Sainte-Marie:

Might as well include the most famous song from the movie:

 


throwback thursday: my first prince concert

Saw Prince for the first time, 37 years ago, at The Stone in San Francisco, capacity around 700. Greil Marcus was there, and wrote the following:

Fronting a band of three blacks and two Jews from Minneapolis, Prince stormed into town on the heels of last year’s breakthrough Dirty Mind, was greeted by the most excited and diverse crowd (black and white, punk and funk, straight and gay, young and old, rich and poor) I’ve been part of in a long time, and sent everyone home awestruck and drained: “That was the history of rock ‘n’ roll in one song!” a friend shouted before the last notes of “When You Were Mine” were out of the air. All barriers of music, sex, and race were seemingly trashed by Prince’s performance, and leering organist Lisa Coleman walked off with the 1981 Most Valuable Player award—edging out Junior Walker, whose sax work on Foreigner’s “Urgent” is the closest he’s come to hoodoo in a twenty-year career.

The setlist:

Do It All Night
Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?
Gotta Broken Heart Again
Broken
When You Were Mine
Sexy Dancer
Sister
I Wanna Be Your Lover
Head
Still Waiting
Partyup
Crazy You
Gotta Stop (Messin' About)
Dirty Mind

Everybody Dance
Bambi



 


throwback thursday: love has gone away

I picked up a CD the other day, and I assure you, I rarely buy CDs anymore. But this one can't be found on streaming. It's a couple of Lou Reed concerts from 1978, when he was touring behind Street Hassle. The concerts happened a month or two before the ones memorialized on Lou's official live album, Take No Prisoners.

One of the concerts on the CD I got, Waltzing Matilda (love has gone away), was from The Old Waldorf in San Francisco, recorded 40 years ago today, March 22 1978. And we were there. I think it was the third time we'd seen him, first time in a club (so this might have been the night my wife looked at Lou's hands ... we were right up against the stage ... and informed me that they looked like her grandfather's).

There are no easily available cuts from the night we went (hence my buying the CD), so here is one from Take No Prisoners:

 


throwback to 1980

I wrote about this 12 years ago ... thought I'd just cut-and-paste for Throwback Thursday:

25 years ago today [ed. note: now 37 years], I attended a double-header at Candlestick Park that shows the way sports works its way into our lives not only in large ways but also in small ones.

1980 was a nondescript season for the Giants. They got off to a slow start, and by June 29, they were already 11 games out and well on their way to a fifth-place finish in a six-team division. On offense, they had Jack Clark, Darrell Evans and very little else ... the pitching was a bit better, with Vida Blue and Ed Whitson having decent years (and making the All-Star team) and the bullpen pitching well.

Anyway, a bunch of us decided to take in the double-header, which was against the hated Dodgers. My then-brother-in-law Randy came with us, and my then-sister-in-law [ed. note: actually she's my niece] Julie (lotta "thens" in this story) ... Julie was attending her first-ever baseball game (I guess she was also attending her second-ever baseball game). I don't remember who else went. The only thing going on for the Giants was the impending retirement of Willie McCovey, who was closing down a Hall of Fame career, and would be leaving the game at the All-Star break, which was a little more than a week away.

McCovey wasn't in the starting lineup for the first game. That spot belonged to Rich Murray, a 22-year-old pheenom who had just come up to the majors earlier in the month. (Murray's tenure as McCovey's replacement didn't last long ... he only played 57 games in the majors, and is mostly known now as Eddie Murray's brother.) The game was to-and-fro, Bob Knepper dueling with Don Sutton, and as the Giants came to bat in the bottom of the ninth, the score was tied 3-3. (It should be noted that the prospect of extra innings at a double-header wasn't quite so frightening in those days ... the game I am currently describing, for instance, only lasted 2 hours and 12 minutes.) The Dodgers brought in Bobby Castillo to relieve the tiring Sutton, and after a leadoff single by Rennie Stennett, Castillo retired the next two hitters, bringing up the pitcher's spot in the lineup.

And pinch-hitting for Bob Knepper was Willie McCovey.

There were 50,000 people at the park that day, and this was what we'd come to see: our old hero taking one last shot at our archrivals to the south. McCovey had managed only one homerun all season, the 521st of his career, but I think we can be forgiven for thinking hoping begging praying that he had #522 somewhere in that tired body.

And Castillo pitched to McCovey, and he got ahold of one. It went flying towards the right-centerfield fence, and 50,000 of us leapt into the air while Rennie Stennett circled the bases towards home. And then, since this is real life and not a made-up story, the ball fell just short of a homer, bouncing off the fence for a double that won the game for the Giants.

And I remember that game to this day.

Everything after that was anti-climactic. The Giants were shutout by Burt Hooton in the second game, and McCovey did not make an appearance. The most legendary occurrence in that second game was that Randy, who's gotta be like 6'5", fell asleep, which is hard enough with 50,000 people making noise, and even harder when you can barely fit into the seat in the first place. I've never let him forget that little nap.

The next Thursday, McCovey played his last game at Candlestick, and I played a little hooky to be there. In the third inning, with Jack Clark on third, Mac dribbled a ball past Dan Driessen at firstbase for a single and an RBI, his last at Candlestick. In the top of the 8th inning, McCovey went out to his position, and then, while everyone stood and cheered, Pheenom Murray came out to replace him. (There were 26,000 of us, not bad for a midweek day game.) Stretch McCovey was gone.

McCovey had one last shot in him, it turned out. On Sunday in Los Angeles, in his last game ever, he pinch-hit late in a tie game and lifted a sacrifice fly that gave the Giants the lead. It was his last major-league at-bat.


throwback thursday, sense8

I didn’t expect this post. I didn’t expect that Sense8 would already belong in the “Throwback” category.

The first time I wrote about Sense8, I connected it to the feeling I got experiencing Pink in concert performing “What’s Up?” I quoted from an earlier post about Pink:

No matter how corny the song, or Pink's delivery of the same, it's quite a moment when all those youngsters throw the peace sign in the air and sing "hey hey hey hey, what's going on?" In fact, it's this element of pop community that I like best about Pink concerts ... So now Pink sings that song as if she's known it all her life, and based on the voices in the Fillmore who sang every word, her audience has known it all their lives as well, and it's a great pop moment that reflects the optimism of the young just as other Pink songs reflect their sadness. The song indeed no longer belongs to Linda Perry, it belongs to Pink and the fans who know and sing all the words.

After Season Two, I connected my attachment to Sense8 to my connection to the world:

When I see the characters in Sense8 merging, I experience the most beautiful community of them all, one that results from the blending of the eight into one. It is as if my long-ago dreams are manifested on my television screen.

When I wrote those words about Pink, I was reeling from the news that Sleater-Kinney was going on “indefinite hiatus”. As the years approached a decade, “indefinite” seemed like a tease.

But then Sleater-Kinney came back.

Not everything comes back:

After 23 episodes, 16 cities and 13 countries, the story of the Sense8 cluster is coming to an end ... It is everything we and the fans dreamed it would be: bold, emotional, stunning, kick ass, and outright unforgettable. Never has there been a more truly global show with an equally diverse and international cast and crew, which is only mirrored by the connected community of deeply passionate fans all around the world.

And so, one more time:


throwback thursday, new blu-ray player edition

Got a new Blu-ray player yesterday. Everyone streams nowadays, so you can get Blu-ray players for cheap. To test it out, I watched a favorite of mine, Don’t Look Now. I wrote a fairly long post on this four years ... it was a request at the time. It’s worth reading, including the comments section:

By Request: Don’t Look Now (Nicolas Roeg, 1973).

I got the Blu-ray just after I’d watched it for the above post, which is why it sat unopened for four years. It looks and sounds great, no surprise since it’s a Criterion release. I still love this movie after many viewings over the years.

Even though the new player is mostly functional and lacking many bells and whistles, it has many more features than my old Panasonic that served me well for so long. Most of those bells and whistles are irrelevant to me ... you can watch Netflix and Amazon and all that stuff, but I already have a Roku box, a Chromecast dongle, and an Amazon Fire Stick, so I don’t really need that. The one improvement that I’ve already taken advantage of is Bluetooth. I listened to the movie on Bluetooth headphones. It worked fine, and I didn’t have to worry about being too loud while my wife was working down stairs.


throwback this blog

These are rough figures, done very quickly and unscientifically by hand.

Just under 50% of the posts on this blog in 2016 carried the Film label. This compares to Music (about 1/3 of the posts), Television (1/7 of the posts), and Current Affairs (less than 1% of the posts).

I may be compulsive, but I am not going to look prior to 2016. But I think I can say a few things about the above numbers.

I write more about film than anything else.

I write a lot about music, but this is primarily because it’s the one category with a built-in schedule (Music Fridays).

I write less about television than I used to.

I hardly ever write about current affairs, which used to be one of my most frequently-used tags (108 posts in 2003, the first full year of this blog, compared to 7 this year).

I think the main reason for this is that I have no confidence any longer in my ability to bring something new to the table regarding current affairs. My opinions haven’t changed very much over the years, so if anyone wants to know what I think, they can just look into the archives. But more importantly, there are so many excellent writers and thinkers about current affairs that I don’t think I can match them. My approach to writing in general is extremely subjective, but I’d like my approach to writing about politics to be grounded in reality, and again, others do this better than I do.

When it comes to the arts, I am even more subjective than usual, but I believe that is the best approach, and so I have something new to say with every movie or TV show or concert or book. And since the only reason this blog still exists is so I have an outlet for the writing that I am apparently incapable of quitting, the blog gets more arts oriented and less real-life oriented.

Here’s a link to the very first “current affairs” post on this blog, from January 24, 2002:

http://begonias.typepad.com/srubio/2002/01/_the_apotheosis.html

Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come that it also carries a “Sleater-Kinney” tag. Another sign of its age (15 years): I had to remove two dead links from the original post.


throw me back to the ball game

I wanted Cleveland to win, because an old friend of mine who died some years ago was a lifelong fan of the team. But as I watched Game Seven, one of the greatest baseball games of all time, I knew I didn’t really care who won, as long as the game never ended.

Wright Thompson wrote a great piece about the Cubs (“In Chicago, the final wait for a Cubs win mixes joy and sorrow”). Anything Wright Thompson writes is worth your time ... everything I’ve ever read of his resonates.

When the Giants won their first World Series in San Francisco in 2010, I kept saying over and over to myself, “I never thought it would happen”. I was five years old when the team came to San Francisco, and New York didn’t count for me, so I had been waiting 52 years for a championship. That was a long time. Because of that, I understand some of what Cubs fans are feeling today. Their wait was historically longer ... twice as long as the SF Giants, plus another four years. But while the news outlets managed to find a few who had been there for 60 or 70 or 80 years, most Cubs fans had been devoted to the team for something less than 52 years. Many of them weren’t born 52 years ago. Some of them only became Cubs fans a month ago (which is perfectly fine). I felt like our 52-year wait was the equal of the misery of Cubs fans, at least for people like me who had been around for all 52 years.

What Thompson’s piece reminds me, though, is that there is one crucial unique element that the Cubs bring to the table. Ancestors.

So many of the stories Thompson tells are about dead people. Tale after tale recounts how Grandpa waited his whole life for the Cubs to win, but he died eight years ago and never saw it happen. (The Onion understands this ... they ran a piece titled “Millions of Drunk Cubs Fans Rioting in Heaven Following World Series Win”.) It’s wonderful, how many Cubs fans are taking the time to remember their ancestors who are no longer here, who missed the moment.

And ancestors is what Giants fans didn’t have in 2010. Basically, I was my own ancestor. My 52-year wait marked me as someone who was there from the beginning ... you couldn’t go back any farther than me. When the Giants finally won, I thought of my fellow, living, Giants fans who had suffered for so long.

But when the final relief of your suffering must allow for dead parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts ... well, that’s why 2010 is important for Giants fans, but 2016 is important for people who rooted for the Cubs in 1909.

So I can pretend to understand how Cubs fans feel, but ultimately I don’t think anyone but Cubs fans know what today feels like.


don't throw back that ball, keep it

The baseball season is over for Giants fans, but I can still drag out a happy memory from 2002, a season that didn’t end well. It was the third year I had full season tickets, which meant I went to every home post-season game, including Game 4 of the NLCS against the Cardinals, which was played 14 years ago today, October 13, 2002. The Giants were up 2 games to 1 in the best-of-seven series. The Cards’ SS was a future Giants’ post-season hero, Edgar Renteria. The starting pitchers were Andy Benes for the Cardinals, in what was to be his final game as a major-leaguer, and Livan Hernandez for the Giants.

The Cardinals jumped on Livan for two runs in the first, and Benes held off the Giants until the sixth, when two straight walks sent him to the showers. J.T. Snow doubled off of reliever Rick White to tie the game, which is how it stood until the bottom of the 8th. White was still pitching, and in fact had retired six straight after Snow’s hit. There were two outs, with the dangerous Barry Bonds at the plate. You youngsters out there might find it hard to believe, but those of us who there during the latter part of Barry’s career won’t be surprised by what followed. Bonds had been walked 198 times during the regular season. He had been walked four times in five games in the NLDS against Atlanta. The Cardinals walked him seven times in the first three games of this series, and they walked him again in the 6th inning, when he scored after Snow doubled. So here in the bottom of the 8th of a tie game, two outs, no one on base, pitcher has retired six in a row ... and St. Louis manager Tony “The Genius” LaRussa walked Bonds intentionally.

Up came Benito Santiago. Benito had three hits including a homer in Game One, and two more hits in Game Three.

This happened next:

The Giants went on to win, 4-3, and won the series the next day, setting up the ill-fated World Series against the Angels. Benito Santiago was named Most Valuable Player of the NLCS.