Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Eight is Enough to fill our lives with KISS!

Choice clips from the hit ABC-TV series Eight is Enough set to the music of the hottest band in the world...KISS! Does it get any better than that?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chariots of Funk

I finished the second night of SXSW watching the Bar-Kays funk it up at the Memphis music showcase. They covered everything from "Soul Finger" through "Freakshow on the Dance Floor" before I ducked out to beat the drunks home. It was an altogether solid revue, though I missed hearing "Son of Shaft."

Speaking of, here's a related aside from a short interview I did with original Bar-Kays bassist James Alexander that ran in Thursday's Chron SXSW daily edition. By the time I got done covering the 1967 plane crash that killed Otis Redding and four members of the Bar-Kays, I knew I wouldn't have room for this. I still think it's a great story, though:.

As Isaac Hayes’ longtime backing band, it makes perfect sense that the Bar-Kays first significant hit after “Soul Finger” was “Son of Shaft.” The mostly-instrumental “answer” record was a Top 10 R&B hit in 1972. Their elongated performance of the song was a highlight of 1972’s Wattstax festival.

If the Bar-Kays had their way, though, that performance in front of over 100,000 at L.A. Memorial Coliseum would’ve been even more spectacular.

“We were like little bad kids,” says bassist James Alexander. “We always wanted to do something dramatic to draw attention to us rather than other people. So we wanted to ride out on the field with some horses and chariots. You know, like Chariots of Fire or something like that.”

According to the liner notes of 2007’s Wattstax box set, Bar-Kays producer Allen Jones went so far as to call a movie studio to arrange for the rental of horses and chariots.

“To be quite honest with you, Isaac Hayes found out about it and then said we couldn’t do that,” Alexander laughs. “Because that would’ve upstaged everybody. Nobody would’ve been able to come in behind that.

“We’re coming out there with all this white on and on some chariots? And then we run up on the stage and turn it out?”

As it was, you’d be hard-pressed to pick a more electric single moment in the Wattstax film than when Bar-Kays vocalist Larry Dodson stoically approaches the microphone, raises his fringe-draped arms and screams, “I’m the son of a baaad…!”

If you've never seen this clip before, watch it now:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Now entering SXSW

After tying up a bunch of loose ends at work this afternoon, I'm finally ready to dive headfirst into SXSW.

I always get a bit lethargic before SXSW starts. I think it's my body doing the nut-gathering thing. Many years ago, I was able to cover SXSW showcases, play 2-3 gigs and still show up at my government job from 8 to 5. I didn't do all of those things particularly well, mind you, but I did do them. Even with the graying temples, this week's schedule should be much more manageable.

Tomorrow I'll be covering the Jarvis Cocker panel on song lyrics at the Convention Center before heading out to review showcase sets from French post-punks Bogart and the Addictives and former Cramps/Gun Club/Nick Cave guitarist Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds. I'm still trying to figure out everything in between.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Our feature presentation

I can't count the number of times I was dropped off at a multiplex cinema as a child to watch a matinee that was preceded by the now-defunct General Cinema Corporation's "projector dots" jingle. Sure it's simple, but nearly three decades after they quit using this 1977 clip, I sometimes hear its ear-wormy jingle in my head when I can't sleep.

Here's a history of General Cinema from Pleasant Family Shopping via MetaFilter.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sixth grade reunion party

Kate and I went to Houston last weekend so I could attend a reunion of my sixth grade class in the bar at Palace Bowling Lanes on Bellaire Blvd.

Clockwise from the left in the photo above are my classmates Israel Rodriguez, Gayle Carlisle, Steve Amaya, yours truly, Rose St. Andry, Shean Valentine and Shawn Stevenson. I'm rather proud of myself for not having reflexively flipped the bird like I did in a similar photo taken at our sixth grade graduation party.

Sixth grade reunions aren’t exactly common, but neither was our class. In fact, we were the last sixth grade class to graduate from Horn Elementary School 28 years ago this May.

I’m not sure why the Houston Independent School District moved sixth graders from elementary to middle school in 1981. It probably had to do with overcrowding, but maybe they were looking to consolidate budding adolescent mischief under one roof. Perched precariously between childhood and teenhood, my sixth grade class constituted a force of fun-loving insolence that manifested itself in both mudfights and spin the bottle.

Our first-year teacher, Miss Collins, did her best to keep us in line and we did our best to drive her crazy. She actually had to blow a coach’s whistle in the classroom to get us to shut up. Even so, if the principal or the teacher next door tried to call Miss Collins’ teaching ability into question, we would collectively defend her (and ourselves, by extension).

I learned a lot of life lessons in sixth grade that proved to be more valuable than most anything you’d pull out of the Texas edition of a public school textbook. Perhaps most importantly, we got to grow into ourselves together. For me, that meant having a rare sense of belonging. At the end of the year, I knew we’d had something special and fleeting even though I couldn't have defined melancholy.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one because about 15 of us showed up in the Palace Lanes’ bar on Saturday for our Facebook-facilitated reunion. It was great fun to see everyone again. My only regret was not getting to see some of my classmates who arrived after Kate and I left.

I believe Miss Collins stopped teaching after that year, but I wish she could've seen us catching up and talking about the old times on Saturday.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

A peek inside the Michael Ochs Archives

Here's a quick interview I did with photo archivist Michael Ochs for the Chron's first SXSW issue (scroll all the way down). You may not know the name Michael Ochs, but if you've purchased any reissues on on Rhino Records in the past three decades, you've seen images from Ochs' collection. He'll be presenting at the SXSW Music Festival on Friday, March 20.

Ochs, whose brother was the late protest singer Phil Ochs, was an interesting guy to interview. I've always appreciated the completist mindset that drives people like him to do what they do. He also relayed a great story about the Lennon Sisters of Lawrence Welk Show fame (sort of).

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Dillard's abandoning Highland Mall

No one who has been to Highland Mall recently will be surprised to learn that Dillard’s is closing its store there. Coupled with J.C. Penney’s exit in 2006, this leaves Macy’s as Highland Mall’s sole anchor tenant.

Despite its close proximity to where I live and work, I cannot recall the last time I shopped at that Dillard’s. I think it was about the time “Who Let the Dogs Out?” began infesting our nation’s sports arenas.

Driving by the new MetroRail station across Airport Blvd. from Highland Mall yesterday, I noticed the signage read “Highland,” not “Highland Mall.” Whatever else Capital Metro might screw up with the commuter rail launch, at least we won’t have to pay to have “Mall” scraped off those signs when they implode that dying shell of retail.

Monday, March 02, 2009

I gotta take a Nixon

Kliph Nesteroff posted this captioned 10-minute rant from disgraced former President Richard Nixon concerning Archie Bunker and homosexuality on WFMU's awesome Beware of the Blog yesterday.

It's clear early on that Tricky Dick does not approve of either All in the Family or homosexuality. Aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman can barely get a word in edgewise.

At the end, Nixon expresses faith in his administration due to its honesty and intelligence. Now that he's safely dead, it's sort of funny to hear what a raving lunatic the man could be when he got going.