Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bobbing for Tributes

A new DC tradition is the Strathmore Music Center's (appropriately located in the suburb of "Rockville MD") annual tribute concert. Last year at about this time, it was a tribute to the music of Neil Young, and this year (last Wednesday) it was a tribute to the music of Bob Dylan (it was a good preparation for the Dylan/Elvis (C that is) concert coming up in DC/Columbia MD at the end of September.

The tributes' line-up consisted mostly of Eastern seaboard and DC talent (some Grammy and Wammie (the DC version of Grammy) winners) includes over 47 musicians including:

Bill Kirchen (from Commander Cody and other fame), The Nighthawks with Tom Principato, Tommy Lepson & Bill Holland, Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, The Grandsons, Patty Reese, Laura Burhenn, Luke Brindley, Jon Carroll, John Jennings, Mike Cotter, The Hanson Brothers, The Cravin' Dogs, Nightman, Billy Coulter, Paper Umbrella, Eric Brace, Bill Starks, Tom Miller, and even a string quartet.

Not exactly household names, but a great concert of talented musicians, putting their spin on Dylan's music for about three and a quarter fun-filled hours. The sold out crowd paid their $7 joyfully and the event was topped off by a version of Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, led by a New Orleans style jazz band marching down the aisles, and each line was such by a different musician singing lead.

My other favorites were a soft "Baby Let Me Follow Me Down," the Eric Von Schmidt tune (as "interpolated" by the Bobster); "Most of the Time"; a wild "Everything is Broken"; a wistful "Simple Twist of Fate"; a John Jennings (of Mary Chapin Carpenter fame) brooding version of "Idiot Wind"; and a Byrdesque "Mr. Tamborine Man." I've been listening recently to my dollar, discarded library purchase of a used "Oh Mercy," and that may explain in part my list.

Dylan's philosophy was summed up in a line "no one stays in one place too long...," and it fit the variety of the concert.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mix and Match Music

Although rock was always a classic mix of rhythm and blues, country, and jazz with a few other genres mixed in, the Wall Street Journal in an article yesterday notes a recent, large uptick in the mixing of musical genres, accelerated by the flat world of the Internet. The interesting article is at the following Web address:

Will it have a long-standing impact on music or will it just be a short-term blip based on the current fascination with the Internet?

Saturday, August 18, 2007


This week saw the passing of Phil Rizzuto, and Merv Griffin, and the 25 anniversary of the first CD. All three had their impact on modern culture.

Phil Rizzuto, the "Scooter," was the talented Yankee shortstop who worked hard to make the technical tools of his trade look easy--his smooth fielding, great bunting, and clutch hitting seemed effortless. He was a Yankee that even a Brooklyn Dodger fan could root for (it turned out he was from Brooklyn, and once tried out for the Dodgers). Rizzuto was a Hall of Famer, but he was passed over for the Hall of Fame 15 times by the writers and 11 times by the Veterans Committee. Finally, a persuasive speech by Ted Williams (a pretty good authority) seemed to push Rizzuto into Cooperstown in 1994. "If we'd had Rizzuto in Boston, we'd have won all those pennants instead of New York," Williams often said.

Rizzuto would do anything to win (all with a smile and grace), but he did not take himself too seriously. As a long-time Yankee announcer he was a comfort in chaos, a natural who gave classic status to "Holy Cow," and the Meatloaf song, "Love by the Dashboard Light" (which used his call of a game to achieve a strategic success). Rizzuto was a baseball gentle man who stood tall (in spite of his relatively short size) in contrast to many of our current day players, but whose tradition is being carried on nicely by the Yankee's current shortstop, Derek Jeter.

Merv Griffin is another "down-to-earth" (no pun intended) celebrity who made a recent exit. Merv was mostly remembered in the mass media as a TV impresario (credited as creator of recent era's two most popular game shows, "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy"). He was also remembered for his talk shows, in which he made easy patter a landmark that even Seinfeld's Kramer could relate to. In one memorable episode, Kramer had purchased the set of the Griffin talk show and used it as his living room; Kramer put his all of his visitors (including Jerry, Elaine, and George) into the set and started the easy, now fake-sounding, talk show patter.

I also remembered Merv's hosting of Play Your Hunch early in his career, 1958-1962, when he was a modest, unassuming, former band singer, and easy-to-take game show host of a clever game show. One day, Jack Paar accidentally emerged onto the set of Play Your Hunch during a live broadcast (Paar was superstitiously trying to avoid the elevators at Rockefeller Center), and Griffin held Paar captive for a friendly, unplanned interview. As legend has it, Paar was so impressed by Merv's effort to hold him, that he brought Merv on as a replacement host on the Paar version of the The Tonight Show, and that started Merv's more than 20-year talk show career (1965-1986). Merv made his projects seem easy and accessible, somewhat like the work of Scooter Rizzuto. Merv added much to the lure (or lore) of TV.

The CD and digital sound were first created on August 17, 1982, after the first CD first went into production at a Philips plant in Germany. For the record (pun intended), the first CD, 25 years ago was a copy of "The Visitors" by Abba, with the first batch going on sale in the retail market in November that year. It led to our supposedly better sounding, more portable world of digital music and data. Or do we continue to miss vinyl?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bending with Beckham

I was at the first MLS Beckgame in the US on Thursday night, which was also my first soccer match live, and it was "electric." DC United outplayed and outscored their LA Galaxy counterparts as they should before a capacity home crowd filled with flags and drum beating.

Beckham was a bit rusty, and apparently not at his best, but he displayed some of his ball handling (or should I say ball footling) skills in his short 21-minute stint. And, of course, every time he touched the ball, there were screams and light bulbs flashing, a la the Beatles coming to America.

Whether the Beckham's appearances will spark higher levels of interest in soccer in America for the long-term is not clear. But on a rainy Thursday night in DC, there was a high level of interest, adrenaline, and promise.

Friday, August 3, 2007

TV or Not TV--Boob Tube or You Tube

The recent CNN/You Tube Democratic presidential candidates' debate was an interesting experiment, but it was not the "revolutionary event in democracy" as it was billed. It seemed like just another example of the mass media trying to attract new media/You Tube viewers, while trying to minimize the importance of the new media by keeping the You Tube videos small and in the background. TV critic Tom Shales of the mass media, Washington Post, had an insightful review on the TV missteps of the debate at the following web address:

The new media will keep taking away viewers, readers, and listeners from TV, newspapers, movies, radio, and the recording industry until the mass media learns how to co-exist and play better with the new media.