Willie Simpson, Memory Lane

Posted in Willie Simpson's Original Music on December 31st, 2013 by Willie

memory-lane

 

UPDATE 12/31/2013: Happy New Years everybody! I just want to let you know that I re-recorded Memory Lane and I updated the music video to reflect all the new sonic goodness! I hope you have a great 2014 filled with tons of dreamy memories.

UPDATE 12/22/2013: Today marks the end of what turned out to be a very productive weekend for me. As you can see below, I updated the song and music video for Chain Letter, and now I am adding a brand new original music video for my song Memory Lane. I wasn’t planning to make a music video for this but my dear friend Sonia and I were wondering around Southern Brooklyn and captured some footage of some swans and ducks and realized we had some interesting footage. Combined with some other stuff we’d filmed over the summer, we found ourselves with a video perfect for Memory Lane. In the clip, you can see me and Sonia bumbling around and excitedly pointing at things by Sheepshead Bay. I hope you enjoy it and I hope it gets you excited for my soon to be released album Funeral Business. Again, big thanks to the ultra-talented Andrew Lee for providing the beautiful electric guitar work to the song. I’d also like to thank Andrew for believing in the song when I was ready to throw it away for some reason. So, without further babbling, here is music video!

Originally Published May 8, 2011:  Andrew and I tweaked the song.  He redid his solo to make it more tuneful, and I redid the chorus to achieve a similar effect.  I’d love for everyone to hear it!

I woke up at 5 am on Saturday Morning and made this, my newest song, Memory Lane.  Well, to be honest, I had written most of the song last fall, but it wasn’t till this past weekend when I figured out how to record it.  Conceptually, I was very much inspired by the Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields single.  But unlike those songs, this one is more universal, and less personal.  The version I present to you is mostly finished.  I might tweak the drums or add a little more guitar color in a future version, but its basically done.  I hope you enjoy it.

Memory Lane featuring Andrew Lee on lead guitar.

(Words and music by Willie Simpson)

Oh, here are the lyrics if you wish to sing along.

Read more »

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My New Music Video, Chain Letter!

Posted in Andrew Lee, Willie Simpson's Original Music on December 22nd, 2013 by Willie

UPDATE: 12/22/2013.  This song has undergone an significant overhaul in the past few months. First, the immortal Feliziano B. Flores came by to help me flesh out the chorus and middle part. Mr. Flores was wonderfully inspiring, providing incredible work under time pressured conditions and my less than reliable producing. I thank him for that. Still, after working through some changes with the talented FBF, it still was missing something. At long last I found the missing piece and balance needed to send the song off on the glittering flying saucer I envisioned in my head when I first created it. As a result, I pulled the original YouTube video down and replaced it with the one below. I hope you enjoy it as I near the finish line of finally finishing my new album, Funeral Business!

Originally published on September 7, 2012: I wrote this song by accident.  I came home from Australia after five months of having no guitar to play with, and started to write a song about how miserable life could be.  The opening line, “27 lonely years, you’ll be living with your fears, if you don’t send, this message to your friends,” was all I had.  I had no idea what the song would be about, but I loved the rhyme scheme and the rapid fire delivery.  As I kept writing lines that fit the pattern, it dawned on me that I was writing about the doom and gloom found in chain letters.  After that revelation, it was only a matter of ripping off “Paperback Writer” and “Day Tripper,” and boom, I had a delirious new psychedelic pop song.  My last music video, “Funeral Business,” featured the Ghostbusters rocking out to that jam, so I figured I’d return to the pop culture well for the equally spooky “Chain Letter.”  One of my favorite shows ever, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” offered the perfect template for a song about tempting supernatural fate.  I’d like to thank my friend Andrew Lee, first and foremost, for his incredible guitar solo.  I’d also like to thank Lilja Nielsen for much needed video editing critiques, and the brilliant George Gross for more of the same.  Lastly I’d like to thank my friends Matt Sturm, Sonia Rapaport, and Ian Wehrle for a bunch of moral support and musical advice.  That’s enough yapping, so please enjoy the song and video below, and remember, chain letters only work when you share them with all your friends, so if you don’t wish to be cursed with 27 years of misfortune, please share this video with everyone you can!

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The Beatles, Words Of Love

Posted in The Beatles on November 17th, 2013 by Willie

words of love

I had a dream the other night (no, please keep reading) where the Beatles were reunited in the 1980s and John Lennon was still alive. It was an incredibly visceral dream with the four guys aged perfectly for the time. They were recording a track in the studio. John was decked out in a red and black leather jacket with his hair pulled back in a pony tail, rocking his classic black circular sunglasses. Paul was dressed in a large Christmas sweater, holding his Hofner bass and looking very nervous. John was also a bundle of nerves, pacing near the microphone with a grey colored Fender. I don’t remember what George and Ringo looked like but they were there as well. Then, the magic happened. They started playing Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day,” harmonizing beautifully, restarting a few times in the process. The dream felt real and the music sounded live. I was thrilled to experience it.

Anyway, as fate would have it, the Beatle company Apple, released a new music video, “Words of Love,” another Buddy Holly cover, just the a few days ago. The song originally appeared on Beatles For Sale, a criminally underrated Beatle record (if there is such a thing) that got a lot of slack for featuring too many covers and carrying a bit of a depressed vibe. The record was released late in 1964 and reflects the exhausted around the world impact that Beatlemania had on the guys. The songs like “I’m a Loser” and “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” had a sense of world-weariness to them but like any Beatle record, the performances and production are immaculate, creating a warm and intimate listening experience.

The “Words of Love” music video is just gorgeous. Mixing in psychedelic animation, a bit of CGI and sparkly magic to priceless clips of the Beatles running around during the height of Beatlemania. I would be incredible if Apple released a video like this for every song in the catalog. A massive task for sure, but, who cares, the music still holds up so breathing new life into the old songs with gorgeous imagery is a wonderful idea. I always wised that Apple should make a sequel to Yellow Submarine, featuring music of the White Album. The Beatles themselves didn’t voice Yellow Submarine when they were all alive in the first place so a new animated movie wouldn’t be so sacrilegious and would be really awesome. That will probably never happen unless I somehow become president of Apple records one day so in the meantime, enjoy the limitless splendor and charm of this wonderful “Words of Love” music video.

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Paul McCartney’s Queenie Eye And His Long Road To Simulated Creativity

Posted in Paul McCartney on October 27th, 2013 by Willie

paul queenie eye

Well, I haven’t updated since May and there are many reasons folks. New apartments, new jobs, working on new music and finishing my album all led to a general lack of time to devote to my website. On top of that, I spent last weekend furiously going through as many old posts as possible, replacing all the busted video links I could. I know there are still many more that don’t work and I hope to get to them someday. Just drop me a line on ones you find that don’t work that you’d like to see and I’ll see what I can do. Anyway, it’s good to be back to talk all things rock and roll.

Paul McCartney has released dozens and dozens of records since the Beatles split in 1970. When the Beatles broke up, he was only 28 or 29-years-old, still incredibly young for all he had accomplished and still burning to make music. And make it he did. Throughout the 1970s, with his wife Linda and then with Wings, he produced a plethora of hit records and singles. My favorite record from this era is Ram, his second solo LP. If you ever wanted a sequel to Paul’s work on the White Album, Ram is your record. Critics often point to Band on the Run as representing the peak, but to me that album is Paul’s effort to overhaul his experimental and intimate pop sound into something more slick, energized and urbane. I think Paul is at his best when he is sitting around with his acoustic guitars, overdubbing psychedelic style blues riffs, and crafting intricately layered vocal harmonies over his melodies. I never really dug the slicker ‘big band’ style Paul, which I feel was his attempt to create a larger than life stage show built around bombastic circus anthems and 70s influenced guitar stylings. Don’t get me wrong, there are many tracks that are great in this style, including Jet or the title track from Band on the Run, but I can’t help but feel that even those songs feel a bit forced.

In the 1980s, Paul, like many of the great 60s rockers of his generation, fell off his artistic peak. He produced many shitty electronic albums like Pipes of Peace or the abysmal 1986 effort Press to Play. That record was described by huge Paul McCartney fan and genius rock rock critic George Starostin as “Pure electronic garbage. One of the lowest moments in rock history.” It was hard to blame Paul for starting to suck. He was a workaholic in spite of his constant stream of massive success and he burned out. The 1980s marked the end of his career as a contemporary artist.

As the 1990s dawned, Paul, like his legendary pals who were still alive, entered into what I call the nostalgia museum phase. His new records would be attempts to give audiences what they loved most about him in the first place, namely, Beatles music, and his shows would be more carefully pruned to forever ditch the stuff that nobody every cared about. To achieve that goal, he stripped back any pretense of trying to keep up with musical trends and just come up with the same mix of experimental (now traditional) pop and clever little love ballads. The results were mostly mixed to bad. Flaming Pie from 1997, was awful. Starostin wrote that “The search for simplicity has ended in banality and primitive tunelessness.” Paul, and the rest of the music business, hadn’t figured out how to give people a simulation of the magic that could never really be repeated anyway.

So, with that in mind, let’s jump to the musical world of 2013. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, a lot of embarrassing music was produced by everybody but improvements in technology and a whole new generation of obsessed and passionate music nerds started changing the way music was being made. When I talk about passionate music nerds, I’m not just talking about purists in any specific sense, I’m talking about purists across the board. An army of hardcore music fans, each holding up a banner for a certain genre, be it hip-hop, classic rock and roll, indie rock, disco, bubblegum, techno and everything in between, emerged. These music geeks were not only armed with an encyclopedic history of their favorite types of specific music, but were training themselves to make it, using relatively cheap recording and producing technology. From this bubbling explosion of intelligent and self motivated music enthusiasts, the very best found themselves in studios, working with technology that allowed for practically any style of music to become possible. Retro could somehow be made to sound new and the aesthetics of handmade creations could be designed to come off corporate and slick. This technological revolution has seemingly made it possible for current music stars, motivated to stay relevant, to churn out a never ending stream of stylish pop music that is as hard to ignore once released as it is easily forgotten.

Pop music these days is a purely transient experience, like an express train flying by a local subway stop. It is not only designed to push your emotional pleasure buttons, but stomp them in a fury of dazzling and breath-taking maneuvers. Producers are getting so good at crafting these things that people who hate Beyonce for instance, are finding themselves surprised to be liking her single in the back of their minds, even though they are consciously rejecting it both viscerally and emotionally. As I eluded to before, the biggest side-effect of this phenomenon is forgetability. Everyone sounds fresh. Everyone sounds retro. Every song is pulsing with those homemade ramshackle garage drums while being spliced with the addictive beat of authoritative drum machines. It’s a sensory overload that sounds phenomenal at a club or at a concert but is quickly disposed of once it’s time to release the next batch of songs. No one can even characterize the decades anymore by what types of music is being produced. It’s all becoming a meaningless white noise designed to flash across our brains like a multi-colored strobe light.

Whew. So, back to our friend, and one of the originators of practically everything going on today some how. Paul’s newest single, off of his stupidly named album “New,” is everything I was just talking about. Why is “New” a stupid name? Well, my biggest gripe with the title of his record is that it reminds me of this new trend of “minimalist corporate futurism.” People try to sell everything with this element of simplicity, trying to capture the iPhone marketing mentality. It’s gotten dumb. Also, besides the slick marketing presentation, God love him, Paul has undergone a series of face lifts and hair transplants and despite this, the 70-year-old ‘cute’ Beatle is finally showing his age. The power of his voice, once capable of scorching out high notes as well as Little Richard, has diminished significantly. When he was playing Beatle classics on the Colbert Show earlier this year, astute fans had noticed that he transposed the songs down a whole step to match his lost ability. No longer can he belt out those gorgeous upper register notes that he used to hit so effortlessly. I am not faulting him for aging, or trying to cover it up, in fact I’m not faulting him for anything. I just find it all interesting to witness. Still, whatever, he can’t really be blamed for any of this. In fact, he should be applauded for continuing to entertain his millions of fans, both young and old, decade after decade.

When I first heard Queenie Eye, I caught it for 30 seconds at the end of a rather unrevelatory Howard Stern interview, where Paul dished on John’s LSD use and the making of “Getting Better” off Sgt. Pepper. One nugget I did take away from the talk was Paul talking about the first song he wrote with John called “Just Fun,” or something like that. I am always surprised to hear new Beatle trivia as I have practically memorized their entire story. Anyway, the flash of that song had everything I explained above. It pushed all my Beatle buttons. The melodies seemed to curve unexpectedly and the harmonies were lush and intricate. The stomp of the music had that classic marching Ringo beat and the energy was way up for someone trying to disguise their increasing weariness. Queenie Eye is some meaningless story about an obscure British game played by children Liverpool. The song would probably be perfect for scoring a scene from a Harry Potter Quidditch match, capturing a childhood sense of magic, Britishness and sports.

Anyway, whoever produced it, had access to the magic “sound like solo Paul doing Beatles” button in the studio, stuffing it with all the touchstones. I don’t for one second believe Paul himself really directed the production of the song. Sure, he wrote it, arranged it and possibly played most of the instruments on the track but there is no way he was fiddling with all the modern compression and equalization knobs found in the latest version of whatever fancy recording software is being used in Abbey Road these days.  I doubt Paul was telling the producer to fill the piano sound all the way up to the front, creating that deafening modern wall of sound effect that practically all songs have now. I’m also certain it wasn’t Paul’s idea to have that mellotron drone so loudly in the mix, giving the song that delicious 60s vibe. Also, I’d bet that the radio effect on Paul’s voice is there to mask his increasingly elderly sounding voice.

In the end, what we are left with is a simulation of everything we love about Paul McCartney. Twisting melodies, harmonies, interesting and homespun sounding keyboard sounds, chants, choruses, anthmatic refrains and rainbows. All of it curiously sucked dry of anything resembling reality. The only thing it proves is that Paul is a master of his style, a hallow thing considering he has proved it a billion times before. What is the point of him proving this at age 70? His fans know him, inside and out. Maybe Paul realized that many of his failed records in his later career are too filled with the sort of sad energy that comes with aging. This record itself might be full of those songs too actually, I have no idea, but Paul did announce with this album that he will never retire, so he has probably given up the idea of trying to communicate to people that he is tired and old. Again, I’m not blaming him for anything. The man obviously needs to keep the charade going for his mental health, which is fine. After all, life is mostly a charade, basically. Also, when ranking the most authentic Beatles, you have John and George at the top, godly in their lofty punkishness, Ringo next, never pretending to be anything other than a drummer from Liverpool who made it big, and Paul at the bottom, desperate to keep reminding people of his fame decade after decade, despite never realizing that there was nothing he could do to ever really lose it.

The video itself, presented below, is the perfect compliment to the dazzling nothingness that the song represents. You have Paul, blithely playing piano with his frail hands, which indicate how withered his face really should be, while A-list celebrities appear out of nowhere to listen in. As Paul pounds away, the celebrities either gawk at him, bob their heads slowly or dance in a spirit that doesn’t come close to reflecting the nature of the song. Paul, who has always had a problem appearing natural on camera, doesn’t even register their presence and acts like this is all par for the course, which in his insanely amazing universe, probably is. It might have been nice to see Paul actually backed by other musicians. As it is, he looks like he is drowning in the middle of the music instead of being the source of it. It also would have been nice to see Paul get up and dance around with the celebrities or shake their hands. If I were directing this, I’d have told them all to lift him on their shoulders and carry him around or something. Instead, everyone appears to be divorced from reality, again, unintentionally reflecting the truth of the matter despite best efforts made not to. It’s kind of a shame because Paul was once part of a video that captured everything incredible about this kind of environment. In “All You Need Is Love,” the Beatles are seen performing the song with a live orchestra, surrounded by a mix of normal people and celebrities like Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger. Those megastars are seen sitting on the floor and singing along, forced to the honor the majesty of the Beatles in a non-phony way.

Well, I am out of things to say. As you can see, the longer the layoff, the longer the posts. I hope to keep updating on a more regular basis again and continue to clean up the site as I get closer to releasing my record. All the best everybody!

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Paul McCartney And Carl Perkins, My Old Friend (Documentary)

Posted in Carl Perkins, Paul McCartney on March 22nd, 2013 by Willie

paul and carl

Every once in a while I stumble across something really beautiful and rare. This is one of those finds. Zod bless YouTube users for cataloging practically everything in filmed existence that would otherwise be lost or inaccessible to mass audiences. This 45 minute documentary features guitar legend Carl Perkins and Beatle legend Paul McCartney just hanging out, strumming, picking and singing the time away. The video also has some interesting Carl Perkins history tucked away between the performances. I particularly loved the history of “Blue Suede Shoes” and how Carl always thought ‘suede’ was spelled ‘swade.’ The closing song, “My Old Friend,” was also touching, especially the revelation of Carl playing it for Paul right after John had died. It is a beautiful song and its remarkable how Paul has the ability to just create wonderful vocal harmonies and backing melodies on the spot. This is a nice companion piece to the Carl Perkins and Friends Rockabilly School (where George Harrison got to sit in as Carl’s best friend), and it is well worth your time.

PS- If you are wondering where I have been, take comfort in the fact that I pretty much do blog style reporting for a living. Check out my work at Sheepshead Bites and Bensonhurst Bean, covering all the ins and outs of Southern Brooklyn.

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George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, Sitar Lesson and Within You Without You

Posted in George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on December 12th, 2012 by Willie

EDIT: Ravi Shankar died yesterday, Tuesday, December 12, 2012, at the age of 92 in Southern California. RIP you beautiful man; legend of music, Beatle guru, sitar master.

Orignally Published May 5, 2011- Part 56 is a double dose adventure of Indian/English fun.  First we have an awesome rare clip of George Harrison in India taking a sitar lesson with legendary sitar master Ravi Shankar in 1966.  After the Beatles quit touring the mad, mad, world in early 1966, they all took long vacations.  George decided to take his wife, Patti Boyd, to India, where he met Ravi, and insisted on becoming his apprentice.  The first video shows Ravi instructing George on some scales near a beautiful lake and mountain, while Ravi narrates the experience, expressing total shock and bewilderment at why a pop musician of George’s stature would be interested in classical Indian music.  Of course, George’s interest in sitar music caused an international explosion in the instrument and genre, and made Ravi Shankar an international star.  Video two shows the results of all of these efforts, “Within You Without You,” the second best song off Sgt. Pepper, (“A Day in the Life” being the best.)  This song is so incredible.  It’s a total masterpiece of artistic expression.  John Lennon said it best about the song, saying that George was “so clear” on this track, and that it was one of his favorite songs.  The lyrics are some of the most brilliant in the entire Beatles catalog, and sonically, its just perfect, a psychedelic joyride through George’s Indian soaked mind.  I also think its a stunningly original song coming from a man who adopted gurus to learn from his whole life, (Perkins, Lennon, McCartney, Dylan.)  This song has nothing to do with any of those guys, its just pure George, and its brave of him to stick his head out, in the Beatles of all groups, with a song like this.  And its undeniably fantastic!

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Making More Rock And Roll, Deconstructing Sgt. Pepper

Posted in The Beatles, Willie Simpson's Original Music on December 1st, 2012 by Willie

Well, I haven’t updated the ole’ website in a good while, and the reason is because I’m still making more rock and roll. The intention of this humble little corner of internet space was never to be a daily rock and roll blog, that happened more or less organically. The site was created to feature my music, and to that end, my album, which I’ve previewed extensively on this site, is nearly finished. The album in question, which I’ve named Funeral Business, is something I’m growing increasingly proud of. The album art, which the ever lovely Sonia Rapaport created, is the thing you’re looking at right above. Right now I’m collaborating on one last tune with Andrew Lee, and from there, the future promises to reflect the glimmering wonderfulness to be entailed within it. I’m planning a mini documentary movie in the coming weeks about the creation of the record, and a further reflection on my thoughts on rock and roll and what it means to me. Its a flourish of self centered activity that I find rather distasteful, but necessary to further spread the joy this music has brought to me. I want to thank all my friends and family who have helped me along the way here, and I also want to post this incredibly cool video someone made deconstructing the “Sgt. Pepper” song, because it goes against everything in my nature to provide an update without some music. This little video is really fascinating, breaking the song down into its component parts, giving you a sense of how the Beatles created their masterpieces. You will also be hypnotized by those groovy multicolored lines of sonic goodness. Enjoy.

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Happy 72 John Lennon, Woman

Posted in John Lennon on October 9th, 2012 by Willie

Well, if John Lennon had survived, he’d be 72 years old today. I do think its kind of strange to wish a dead man happy birthday, but this is John Lennon, a guy that still lives in my fantasies and dreams. Along with Martin Luther King Jr., JFK, RFK, and Bob Marley, John Lennon is one of the mythic superstars of reality that I had wished lived to see the future. His work in life was unfinished, and the thought of wondering what music and outrageous activities he had saved in cranium can drive any Beatle lunatic fan mad. Recently I discovered that John was offered the role of Professor Falken in the cult classic “War Games,” and seriously considered it until his untimely murder stopped all that. At first I thought that would have been terrible, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought how brilliant John would have been in that role. John WAS an actor after all, with a lot of experience making movies and being in front of the camera. Most of his roles were Beatle related, and not exactly serious, though he shows flashes of brilliance in every movie he was in. John could have had a distinguished career as a wonderful character actor, a dimension that would have brought to life a whole new artistic light for him and the world. Anyway, its always fun to speculate on what might have been every time John Lennon’s birth, or death date, comes around, whether they be dreams about Beatle Reunions, or battling rogue AI in an effort to save the world from global thermonuclear war. But in the final analysis, to quote another dead hero, John was a musician, so here is some; the song and video for “Woman” from “Double Fantasy.” “Woman” is a beautiful soft rock ode to Yoko, and all women too. It’s a lovely philosophical and mature song on the subject of love, and its also a great feminist anthem, an awesome talent John possessed. Enjoy, and Happy Birthday Mr. Lennon.

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New Historical Movie Madness!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 22nd, 2012 by Willie

So yesterday, the internet was all abuzz with the debut of the “42,” trailer, the new Jackie Robinson biopic featuring the music of Jay-Z. First of all, what trailer doesn’t feature the music of Jay-Z these days. Second, the introduction of this movie’s presence into my little world, sent my movie loving heart into overdrive. Historical biopics are my absolute favorite genre of movie, even though they are almost all terrible. Quentin Tarantino said it best, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘You can’t just shove a famous person’s life into a 2 hour movie and expect it to be a good exercise of film-making.’ He’s right, practically every historical biopic is fatally flawed for this reason. In these movies, the main actor is usually too old looking for the teenager scenes, and too young looking for the elderly scenes. Think “J. Edgar.” Another problem is the level of historical accuracy. Most times, historical fact is stretched for storytelling purposes in order to sensationalize the person or their story. One scene that comes to mind is from “Nowhere Boy” where fictional teenage John Lennon punches fictional teenage Paul McCartney at John’s mother’s funeral.

Needless to say, this never happened. The director of the flick, Sam Taylor-Wood, remarked that they needed a way to show John and Paul physically bonding…you know outside of their incredible musical partnership.

Another problem with historical accuracy is that sometimes its too accurate. This is the main criticism levied at Steven Spielberg’s soon to be released historical extravaganza, “Lincoln.” The film is an early bet to win a slew of Oscars because of the combination of the commercial master Spielberg, and Daniel Day-Lewis, the actor with the world’s greatest method. Lewis is known for throwing himself into roles with extremely methodical techniques and extensive research. Naturally, the excitement level for this flick was off the charts, and when the trailer hit, the general popcorn munching crowd were stunned when they heard the great Lincoln speak at last. Day-Lewis employed a high pitched, slightly whiny, Kentucky accent. By all recorded accounts, this is how Lincoln spoke. The public, used to seeing Lincoln sit majestically in the Lincoln Memorial, or gaze stoically off their pennies and 5 dollar bills, expected this man to speak with the voice of God. There was a palpable disappointment from the trailer debut because of this one minor point. For me, I loved that Daniel decided to give his Lincoln a historically accurate voicing. My problem with the trailer was the presence of too many familiar superstars dotting the canvas. I found it distracting to see Sally Fields, Tommy Lee Jones, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt inserting their famous mugs in the middle of 19th Century America. To me, this should be a movie where Day-Lewis is the most famous face, and all the rest should be brilliant but lesser known character actors like Jared Harris, who plays General US Grant, and Jackie Earle Haley, who plays Confederate Vice President Alexander Stevens. I’m not too upset though. Sometimes a trailer can’t do a great movie justice. Hopefully the film matches its hype and star power. Judge for yourself.

The next movie that I am absolutely seeing is “Hyde Park on Hudson.” The film is directed by Roger Mitchell, and stars Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Its set during a crucial visit of British Royalty to FDR’s palatial family estate in Hyde Park, New York right before the onset of World War II. For those wondering, yes, its the same King and Queen we all loved from “The King’s Speech,” though obviously played by different actors. A lot of “Lincoln’s” early hype came from the fact that Daniel Day-Lewis was able to physically embody the person of Abraham Lincoln so perfectly. The man transformed magically into that Honest Abe, even if his voice shocked people. When I see Bill Murray as FDR, I just see older Bill Murray with a cigarette holder and a fancy hat. He looks nothing like FDR, and frankly, doesn’t even really sound like him. Now, its actually not really important for an actor to look exactly like the historical figure he is portraying. If the movie and performance are great enough, you end up buying the whole thing no matter what people on the screen look and sound like. Bill gives Roosevelt a halting and mischievous voice, hinting at Bill’s expert comedy skills. There are hints of seriousness from Bill, and I hope there are more in the actual movie, because FDR was one of the country’s greatest and most brilliant Presidents, and it would be interesting to see Bill play a character of such historical gravitas. On the surface, this trailer looks sleight, as one of the biggest plot points seems to be the scandal at serving the King and Queen of England hot dogs and cocktails. Take that you poncy snobs! It also seems to be an awkward love story where we are supposed to be rooting for Franklin as he merrily cheats on his wife with Laura Linney, who plays FDR’s real life mistress. Could be great, could be a train wreck, either way, they have my money.

Now we’re going to end from where we began, with “42,” the story of Jackie Robinson. Ironically, of the three trailers, this was my favorite, even though I think this will be the worst film of the bunch. On top of being a huge fan of history, I’m even a bigger fan of baseball history. It was stunning to see the long destroyed monument to Brooklyn baseball, Ebbets Field, existing in full HD reality. Also, the vintage uniforms and realistic baseball choreography was like catnip to me. Jay-Z’s ode to Brooklyn, “Brooklyn (We Go Hard),” which bleats menacingly over the gorgeous imagery of late 40s era baseball is a great contrast. Harrison Ford plays Branch Rickey, the real life hero who had the good sense and courage to integrate baseball with the signing of Jackie Robinson in 1947. Having seen Ken Burns’s “Baseball” documentary a hundred times, I can tell you that Ford looks and sounds just like Rickey, and based on the trailer, I’m betting on a masterwork performance. The actor that plays Jackie Robinson, Chadwick Boseman, is a dead ringer for the man, however there is one crucial difference. Boseman gives Jackie a thunderously low and powerful voice, like a cross between Shaft and Howling Wolf, when in reality, Jackie had a high pitched, almost nerdy voice. Think Tony Gywnn. The voice Boseman uses sounds great, and it makes you wonder how much more excited people would have been for “Lincoln” if Daniel Day-Lewis employed a similarly powerful voice. Now, with all that said, why do I think this film will be the worst of the three highlighted? Well, first of all, I hope it isn’t. I have high hopes that the filmmakers will be focused and clever enough to give Jackie the story he is due. The problem is that this is being marketed as a sensationalistic movie. Jackie is being presented as the toughest, most hard loving, passionate, and heroic human beings ever, all in the span of 1:47. Now, obviously, Jackie was all those things, but being a hero in a movie is radically different then being a hero in real life. In movies, heroes tend to swerve from one adrenaline spiked moment to the next, carried on the wings of ceaseless action and drama. What’s left out is the sense of tedium, loneliness, awkwardness, and randomness that makes up the majority of anyone’s life, be they an average Joe or Niel Armstrong. Like I said, hopefully this movie lives up to its great trailer.

Well, lastly, I hope you are looking forward to these movies as much as I am. I plan to be providing extensive reviews of each one once they come out to let you know how well I think they held up to their hype, so stay tuned historical biopic junkies! First up is “Lincoln,” premiering right after election day in early November. “Hyde Park on the Hudson” is coming out December 7th, and we’ll have to wait to April 2013 for “42.”

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The Beach Boys, In My Room

Posted in The Beach Boys on August 9th, 2012 by Willie

Followers of this site know I have about one billion tributes, breakdowns, and videos of my favorite group ever, the Beatles.  If you didn’t know any better, you’d think I am some sort of pasty, Union Jack waving, North Englander filled with way too much national pride.  The reality is, that while I am pasty, I’m actually an American from Brooklyn, New York, and you couldn’t get more Brooklyn then honoring the Beach Boys, local lads direct from Coney Island!  Just kidding, they are from sunny Hawthorne California, a suburb of Los Angeles.  The Beach Boys crested into the hearts of America on harmonies that no one thought possible from 5 young men with rock and roll addictions.  Songs like “In My Room,” seem as wholesome as songs can get. The Beach Boys look and sound like a gang of elitist preppy choir boys, which to me, makes the band, and their leader, Brian Wilson, all the more subversive.  The Beach Boys projected an image of friendly prettiness, but the beauty of Brian Wilson’s songwriting, which in reality was painstakingly tortured, hinted at something darker and more intimate.  Much like his contemporaries John and Paul, Brian accidentally began to realize that just because you write pop music, you can’t really hide your artistic pain behind the veneer of a two minute song written for teenagers.  Brian’s discovery allowed him to tap further depths of soul that would inform his later masterpieces.  Those masterpieces will be explored later this week as we delve deeper into the wonderful world of Beach Boys music.  Stay tuned.

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