Tag Archives: Jeff Beck

Hazy Shade of Winter

Time, time, time, see what’s become of me—Paul Simon

“It has been nearly a year and a half since Thomas, at 78 one of the world’s leading musicians for more than half a century, announced he would be undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer,” the New York Times reported in a story about conductors of classical music. The story, “A Mighty Generation of Musicians. A Moving Final Chapter” by Zachary Woolfe, opens with the conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas, leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. He is still working.

The story goes on: “The performance came just days after another miracle of a concert from an eminent maestro lately forced to reckon with mortality. On Jan. 6, Daniel Barenboim, 80, stepped down from the podium of the Berlin State Opera. . .after a year buffeted by health problems.”

Woolfe goes on to note that:

  • Riccardo Muti, 81, will end his role as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Maurizo Pollini, 81, a pianist, canceled a recital at the Salzburg Festival last summer after the audience was seated because of heart trouble
  • Herbert Blomstedt, 95, a conductor, had to stop touring last fall because of a fall, but will conduct the New York Philharmonic in Symphonie fantastique in February

The tone of the story is quite elegiac. Writing of Barenboim’s conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in Brahms’s Second Symphony earlier this month:

“Without lacking vividness, the Brahms had a gentle cast in its opening; the allegro finale sent off bright energy, but its colors were the blaze of a sunset rather than daylight brashness. It was just the right amount of goodbye.”

Continue reading Hazy Shade of Winter

Love & Stratocasters

In 1968 a student teacher at the junior high I was attending took a group of us on an after-school outing to see Romeo and Juliet at a local movie theater. Our parents undoubtedly figured what could be bad about going to see a film based on what is arguably one of Shakespeare’s most famous (if not the most famous: Hamlet might give it a run for attention) plays? While they—and we—weren’t familiar with Franco Zeffirelli, I’m sure that if it was noted by said student teacher that the movie was made by a famous director, it made it all seem the more worthwhile.

Realize that then there wasn’t the proliferation of instant information outlets. Perhaps the closest thing would have been AM radio, and in that period of time AM radio was about spinning the 45s, not news and talk (unless the talk was of a religious nature).

And so we saw the movie that included a sex scene between Olivia Hussey’s Juliet and Leonard Whiting’s Romeo. At the time Hussey was 15 and Whiting 16. The two, now in their 70s, have recently filed a lawsuit in Santa Monica Superior Court against Paramount for having exploited their teenaged nudity, charging that their careers were negatively impacted by their roles. (Oddly enough, Hussey went on to perform in another Zeffirelli film, Jesus of Nazareth, as the Virgin Mary, and as this was serialized and shown on TV in 1977, there was no eyes-wide-open associated with her role; this was not Scorsese’s version of the story. One wonders about her claim.)

In Shakespeare’s play, Juliet is 13 and while Romeo’s age is not given, it is estimated by Shakespeare scholars that he is probably 16.

In 1968 a slightly older friend played an album for me that had been released in the fall of that year: Jeff Beck’s Truth.

The point about Romeo and Juliet the movie, Romeo and Juliet the characters and Truth is this: When we are teenagers, some things like love, star-crossed or otherwise, and music can have long-lasting, indelible effects on us.

And Truth was an album that had an impact on me the likes of which few recordings have.

Continue reading Love & Stratocasters

Just Try Not to Listen

The level of commerce that is associated with rock and roll is something that is best not thought about. It’s sort of like the old line that you never want to go into the kitchen of a restaurant—regardless of whether it has three Michelin stars or it is a McDonald’s—because you’re likely not to have much of an appetite as a result of what you’ll discover.

So it is best that we enjoy the filet—or the Filet o’ Fish—without much consideration beyond the object itself.

It is best that we enjoy the work of our performers without knowing what it is that has gotten them in front of us, assuming, of course, that the performers in question are those who have visibility that is perceptible beyond a small group of like minds.

But sometimes it is bracing to see how things are.

Case in point: the boiler plate description of Clear Channel Radio. This is how that company describes itself:

“With 237 million monthly listeners in the U.S., Clear Channel Radio has the largest reach of any radio or television outlet in America. The company’s radio stations and content can be heard on AM/FM stations, HD digital radio channels, Sirius/XM satellite, on the Internet at iHeartRadio.com, and on the iHeartRadio mobile application on iPads, and smartphones, and used via navigation systems from TomTom, Garmin and others. The company’s operations include radio broadcasting, online and mobile services and products, syndication, event and promotion creation and operation, music research services and national television, radio and digital media representation. Clear Channel Radio is a division of CC Media Holdings, Inc. (OTCBB:CCMO), a leading global media and entertainment company. More information on the company can be found at www.ccmediaholdings.com.”

Sort of sounds like that Skynet from the Terminator movies. Or, to take another science fictional analogy, the Borg. Resistance is futile.

This past weekend Clear Channel launched iHeartRadio, its competitor to Pandora. And it just didn’t hold a press conference followed by a cocktail party.

Rather, it held a two-day event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It calls it the “inaugural iHeartRadio Music Festival.” A music festival in a stadium in a casino seems a bit odd, but there it was.

The event started with the Black Eyed Peas. It closed with Lady Gaga. And in between there were performers ranging from Jay-Z to Sting, from Kelly Clarkson to Jeff Beck, from Jane’s Addiction to Kenny Chesney. It was hosted by Ryan Seacrest.

That’s entertainment circa 2011. Sure, it’s long been this way. Just not so widely and well packaged.

My advice: Stay out of the kitchen.