Thursday, May 31, 2012

I (Still) Feel Love

It seems as soon as I started blogging again, rad people started dying. I don't feel like writing about Donna Summer, you know. I mean, I do, but not in any context having to do with her not being alive. That's too much to ask. Just too much. She was too alive and still is in my heart. I love you, Donna Summer.

Here's a shorty Q&A with her from LA Weekly days. Even in just a little phone interview she had such joie de vivre, it made you feel like everything was happy and fine. She must have been an incredible mother. Like so many genius females, she took time off from her professional life to raise her children. What a life.

5 Questions with Donna Summer

When did you realize you had a voice from God?
I think I write about that in my [2003] book, Ordinary Girl. I heard God speak to me when I was 8. It happened while I was singing — I heard this voice say, “You’re going to be famous, this is power, and you’re never to misuse it.” And I’m like, whoa — what was that? Instantly tears just started coming out of my eyes, almost uncontrollably crying.

I heard John Lennon flipped for your work with Giorgio Moroder — what’s the story?
When he got the single of [1977’s] “I Feel Love,” he went back home and listened to it over and over again, and he said to someone who knew him very well, “Listen to this, you’ve got to listen to this song — this is the future. ”

You’ve been out of the spotlight a long time — is this a comeback?
When [my youngest child] Amanda graduated from college two and a half years ago, I was sort of set free to go be myself again. I thought, what am I doing with the rest of my life here? My husband always laughs at me: “You go from housewife/mom to, like, Donna Summer!”It’s kind of a bizarre feeling sometimes for me too.

Is it like riding a bike?
Yeah, it is. I’ve put on a few pounds and for a long time I was really afraid to go out. I thought, I’ve got to be perfect all the time. [But] you’re gonna get older and things are gonna change. It took me a minute to just figure out, okay, this is who I am now — like it or lump it!

And little human things play such a big part in your perception of what you can accomplish — now, performing in 5-inch spike heels kills my feet! One day I thought, well, let me wear flats onstage — and no one noticed the shoes. They just noticed I could dance more.

Who’s your performing role model?
Judy Garland. When she was onstage, I couldn’t see the orchestra. All I could see was her — every motion and eye flutter. That’s my goal. Not to be where Beyonce is now — where it’s about the clothes and the girl and blah blah. I want it to be about me and my music.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

What's Up, Professor Booty

Since Adam Yauch's passing last week, I've been thinking a lot about the album that converted me into a real Beastie Boys fan. As a teenage girl, I didn't find what I was looking for on License to Ill, or in their pseudo-fratboy "antics." You know, giant inflatable penises onstage and a generally metallic attitude toward females. I was probably a little afraid. Definitely too young to grasp any of the knowing humor behind a giant inflatable penis.

I think at some point, someone should make a documentary about the Great Inflatables of rock. Off the top of my head I am thinking of the giant inflatable cobras I saw at Aerosmith and the giant inflatable mouth & tongue when the Stones played Dodger Stadium several years ago. Giant inflatables are not to be taken lightly. They can be a huge hassle. At the Stones show, the tongue wouldn't unfurl and inflate properly, so it was sort of flaccid and weird for much of its appearance. I believe giant inflatables are like fireworks—the two really go hand in hand—in that they give roadies and crew a huge headache and can be downright dangerous, but when they work, they turn even smart audience members into complete idiots. This is a kind of liberation.

In any case, if I had known then what I know now about giant inflatables, I would have probably realized the Beastie Boys were geniuses. As it was, their music didn't appeal to my ears as much as other pop music and even other hip-hop of the time, although we didn't call it hip-hop. We called it rap. (And they didn't play it on KROQ. The first girls heard singing "Brass Monkey" at Immaculate Heart High School were African American, because they were listening to KDAY.)

All the obituaries I read for Adam Yauch mentioned Paul's Boutique as their seminal album, their Sgt. Pepper. But I think that's probably, at the deepest level, not true. (I don't even think Sgt. Pepper was the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper.) 

The Beasties' most expansive, intriguing, and thematically meaningful album was not mentioned in any of the obituaries I read. That album is Check Your Head, which also represented the Beastie Boys' return to recording and playing as a real band. Importantly, Check Your Head also contains as many pop thrills as any Beasties' album besides License to Ill, of course. Those pop thrills are what makes it work. I love the way that "Something's Got to Give"—which comes off as a meditative premonition of the impending L.A. riots—seques into the silliness of "The Blue Nun" ("Mmmm... It does go well with the chicken.")

I have a lot to say about Check Your Head (and its spinoff, The In Sound from Way Out) an album that was recorded in Los Angeles—specifically, Atwater Village—using instruments found through the Recycler. But now I am going out into the great, wide world.


Friday, May 04, 2012

Good Evening, Captain Hornblower

Hear no evil
See no evil
Talkin' no bullshit.

Thank you, Adam Yauch.

Sometimes when someone dies way too young, I wonder... Did they know? And is that why they packed so very much into their life so early?

It's something that you tell yourself as brain comfort. It almost helps to make sense of something that doesn't make sense, if that makes sense.

If Adam Yauch frontloaded his life's work so intensely, perhaps it makes his death somehow... deathless?

Just a little bit?

These are the things you try to think about, to not feel sad.

But you still feel so, so sad.

I want to thank Adam Yauch for setting an example of style, maybe more than anything else. Just straight up style.

It's the joint.

If you can feel what I'm feeling then it's a musical masterpiece

But if you can hear what I'm dealing with then that's cool at least

What's running through my mind comes through in my walk

True feelings are shown from the way that I talk

And this is me, y'all. I emcee, y'all

My name is M.C.A. and I still do what I please.


PS: As a lesson in style, Exhibit A: A letter he wrote to the New York Times after a bad review of his film "Ch-Check it Out."

To the Editor:
I had the great pleasure of reading your unsolicited critique of the "Ch-Check It Out" music video ["Licensed to Stand Still" by Stephanie Zacharek, May 16]. It took some time to get to me, as it had to be curried (sp?) on goatback through the fjords of my homeland, the Oppenzell. And in the process the goat died, and then I had to give the mailman one of my goats, so remember, you owe me a goat.
Anyway, that video is big time good. Pauline Kael is spinning over in her grave. My film technique is clearly too advanced for your small way of looking at it. Someday you will be yelling out to the streets below your windows: "He is the chancellor of all the big ones! I love his genius! I am the most his close personal friend!"
You journalists are ever lying. I remember people like you laughing at me at the university, and now they are all eating off of my feet. You make this same unkind laughter at the Jerry Lewis for his Das Verruckte Professor and now look, he is respected as a French-clown. And you so-call New York Times smarties are giving love to the U2 because they are dressing as the Amish and singing songs about America? (Must I dress as the Leprechaun to sing songs about Ireland so that you will love me? You know the point I make here is true!)
In concluding, "Ch-Check It Out" is the always best music film and you will be realizing this too far passing. As ever I now wrap my dead goat carcass in the soiled New York Times — and you are not forgetting to buy me a replacement! Please send that one more goat to me now!