Category Archives: Pop Culture

Why All The Nerd Rage?

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“Look, fellas! A film that didn’t go the way we wanted. Let’s burn it! BURN IT!!”

First off, I am a nerd. I freely admit it. I’m interested in and excited by many of the same things one thinks of typical nerds being interested in and excited by. I like comic books, Harry Potter, old monster movies, Star Trek, toys, science stuff, Star Wars, etc. I work at a comic book store. I blog about nerdy things. I understand the passion nerds have toward their thing.

I’m not into everything nerd, though. I don’t do cosplay. I’ve never participated in roll playing games. (Well, there was that one time in the ’70s when a friend tried to get me interested in Dungeons & Dragons. It just wasn’t for me.) I don’t play video games, because, honestly, I was never very good at them. I’ve never watched an episode of Game Of Thrones. (Yes, I’m aware that last statement has become today’s version of the “I’m vegan” boast. Sorry.) But, not everybody is into everything. Who has the time?

Still, I understand the passion. There was a time when I scoffed at Trekkers who dress as their favorite characters and go to conventions, but I realized I was being a jerk. Let the people indulge their passion. As long as they aren’t hurting themselves or others – what’s the problem? Have fun! Nerd out! Be proud!

I also understand the disappointment a nerd might feel when they believe one of their passions has let them down. It’s the rage that some express so publicly and so vehemently that puzzles me. The internet has made it possible for every nerd to have their say and, boy, are we having our say. (See update below.) Much of which, that I’ve seen anyway, is fairly benign. Some of it is quite interesting and well thought out and well presented.

But, there seems to be a small segment that needs to rage about stuff. And they also seem to need to be the first to express hate for something. On my podcast Dimland Radio (available on iTunes), for the last couple weeks, I talked about my bewilderment about a couple of raging nerds on social media being first in line to hate two movies that haven’t even been released yet!

These folks were angry at teaser trailers!

Teaser trailers!

What the hell? The movies haven’t been released, but they appear to want to be able to say, “I was the first to hate it!”

One trailer is for DC Comics’ upcoming stand-alone film focusing on the origin story of perhaps the greatest villain in comic books – The Joker. As I understand it, Joker, to be released in October, will not be a part of the same DC Universe as the other DC movies. However, it might connect to a future Batman movie.

That didn’t stop one particular nerd from expressing their hatred of the movie. Their main gripe was that Joaquin Phoenix was cast in the title role. The nerd wanted Willem Dafoe. Dafoe might have been a fine choice, but to rage about it? I mean, they weren’t just disappointed about the casting choice. They were angry.

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I tried to settle the person down by reminding them (twice) that the movie hasn’t been released yet. I was suggesting they put their rage on hold until they actually see the movie. They wouldn’t budge.

I think Joker looks like it could be very interesting and I’m looking forward to it.

But, then there’s the Star Wars franchise. Oh, my goodness. There may be no other nerd passion that can cause more rage than Star Wars.

Full disclosure here. I think the Prequels missed the mark. I think there was way too much George Lucas involved. He had attained such a high level of success and power that there was no one around to rein him in. No one to suggest less Jar Jar and more Darth Maul. No one to suggest the love story in Episode II is awful. No one to suggest that, though it looks really cool, the final lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin taking place essentially inside a volcano is ridiculous.

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“Sniff. Sniff. Anakin? Do you smell something cooking?”

“I do, Master. It’s us! We’re surrounded by lava! It’s just like being in an oven!”

The biggest problem with the Prequels was the audience never knew who was supposed to be us. Which character were we supposed to identify with? Anakin? Padme? Obi-Wan? Jar Jar?

In movies I’ve previously blogged about the audience knows who to identify with. In 12 Angry Men (1957) it’s Juror #8. In The Maltese Falcon (1941) it’s Sam Spade. In L.A. Confidential (1997) the audience is given three characters to put ourselves in the place of: Officer White, Lt. Exley, and Sgt. Vincennes. In a lesser movie, this might confuse the audience. But, for this movie, the script and the direction are so great the audience goes right along with it.

The Prequels didn’t have great scripts and direction.

I will say the Prequels aren’t all bad. Visually they are stunning. Although, I would argue the over-reliance on green screen and CGI caused a problem with the tone of the movies. The tone just didn’t feel the same as it did in the original trilogy.

So, I was disappointed by them. I’m not angry about it. They didn’t destroy my childhood. And I should say that I also don’t sense the nerd anger as strongly when it comes to the Prequels. Mainly, I think, the nerd reaction is more of an eye-rolling. The anger wasn’t quite there.

Then came the Sequels.

The Sequels’ arrival happen to coincide with the ubiquity of opinion on the internet, with the rise of social media. Now the rage could begin in earnest.

The Force Awakens? That’s just the same as A New Hope. At least the Prequels were different! The Last Jedi? That’s… that’s just too… different. These new movies have destroyed my childhood!!

Settle down.

I think these new Star Wars films do precisely what the Prequels did not: They match the tone of the originals. That may be, in part, due to the far more prominent use of practical effects than in Episodes I, II & III. Practical effects are there. They have mass. The actors can act with them. They still work better than CG effects, although CG is getting pretty damn good.

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The characters are more well-defined. We are given a hero to follow and identify with: Rey. And we are given other new characters of interest: Finn and Poe. We have a complicated and compelling villain: Kylo Ren. We have a new plucky little friend: BB-8. And, of course, our old friends have returned: Han, Leia, Threepio, R2, Chewie, Yoda, and Luke.

Sure, the films aren’t perfect. Some of the jokes don’t land. Some of the dialogue is clunky. A character or two are bit on the cartoonish side. (Cough! Cough! Hux! Cough!) But the original trilogy wasn’t perfect either. Alec Guiness himself said at the time that he thought the dialogue wasn’t the best he’d read. So it’s not Mamet or Tarantino. So what? The Ewoks are a bit too teddy bearish to be taken seriously. So what? There’s no backstory for the Emperor. So what?

The movies are fun. And that’s what I want from a Star Wars movie.

Last week, the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker dropped. It looks fantastic! I don’t know that it will live up to the trailer, I’ll have to wait to see the movie to be sure, but I am excited.

I had an exchange with one angry nerd who, mere moments after the trailer was posted online, practically tripped over himself to announce to Facebook that they already hated it. “Look at me! I hated it first!”

The angry nerd lamented that Disney can’t match George Lucas’ storytelling ability. Really? Disney? Disney?!  Well, here’s his comment and my sarcastic response:

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For the record, I will say that I have really liked the Star Wars sequels and the side stories of Rogue One and Solo. In fact, I think The Last Jedi is one of the best of the entire series.

Maybe I’m just a nerd contrarian.

Update: I changed this line to include myself as one of the opinionated nerds. After all, I’m a nerd who is taking advantage of the internet to have my say, too. I’m just not raging about it.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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April Snow And A Missed Cheap Trick Concert

“Just when we thought it was safe to put the shovels away…”

Said just about everyone living in the Upper Midwest during the last day and a half. The weather reports started warning us last Sunday evening. They told us it was early yet, things could change, but, despite temperatures in the 60s Sunday and Monday, it was looking as though winter would return on Wednesday afternoon right through Friday. They predicted low temperatures, high winds, and lots of wet and heavy snow.

They were right. The jerkfaces.

Oh, I know. Don’t blame the meteorologists. They don’t make the weather. But just look at this. Grrrrrr.

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Western Minnesota, which got hit even harder than the Twin Cities, where I live. Photo credit: KARE11.com

This is the second April in a row in which Minnesota got dumped on. It’s quite a gut punch after seeing the grass and the trees starting to bud after a long winter. It was almost 70º on Monday. 70 degrees!!

So, as I sit here, resting my once again snow shoveling sore muscles, a snow-related story came to me. No, not last year’s April gut punch. Not the Halloween Blizzard of 1991, which I experienced. Oh, boy. That was something!

I want to take you back to November 23, 1983. I was going to art school. I had been there for only three months and I still hadn’t quite jumped on the punk rock bandwagon. I was being introduced to it, but I hadn’t got the feel for it yet. However, I would before that first school year was out.

One of my favorite bands in those days (and I still like them a lot) was coming to Minneapolis – Cheap Trick. It would be a one night engagement to promote their new album Next Position Please. An album I liked, but it hadn’t charted very well. Despite the excellent production by Todd Rundgren, there wasn’t any truly standout song in the collection. Although the opening track I Can’t Take It is pretty good.

Well, no matter. My friend John and I were going to see them. We got our tickets for a mere $9.92 each. $9.92! Boy, those were the days, eh? That wouldn’t even pay for parking now.

I must have been awfully excited about it, because my classmates were well aware that I was going to the show. I got a little bit of teasing by the punk rockers in class. “That’s kids’ stuff,” they’d say. I held my ground. “Can you honestly tell me you forgot? Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander? The charisma of Rick Nielsen? How ’bout the tunes…”

Sorry. I seem to have drifted into an 80s teen comedy.

Anyway, it was late November. We were in Minnesota. And we know what can happen. Earlier in the week the weather forecasters began to predict snow. Lots of it. And right on the night of the big show. I was getting nervous. Please, let the weather person be wrong. Please, don’t snow.

I kept looking out the windows at school throughout that day. No snow yet. No snow yet. No sno… Was that a snowflake? Oh, no. Are those more? Don’t look. It’s not really happening. If I don’t look it won’t be snowing. Everything will be fine…

“Hey, Jim. Did you see outside? It doesn’t look good. Looks like you won’t be seeing Cheap Trick after all.”

The school day ended. Somehow the city bus got me home. When at home, I stood at the window looking at all that snow coming down. Realizing that not looking at it wouldn’t make it stop, I tried to will the weather to cease its impinging on my concert-going life.

The phone rang. It was John.

“Sorry, man. There’s no way I’m driving in this. We’re not going.”

“But, John! We paid $9.92! Each! It took me three hours of work to earn that!”

“It ain’t happening. And, geez, you earn crap.”

“I know. It’s minimum wage. What can I do? You know, one day this country will realize that people new to the workforce, such as myself, working entry level positions at unskilled jobs, such as working at Wendy’s, as I do, deserve a living wage…”

Sorry. I seem to have drifted into some 99% protest.

We didn’t go. The show went on without us. And, I suspect, without several other fans.

On July 11, 1997, I finally got to see Cheap Trick play live. It was at the legendary Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue & 7th Street Entry. It took more than 13 years, but it was worth the wait. They were great! I would go on to see them another four times.

One of those times was an outdoor show as part of the Minneapolis Rib Fest. It was free, but I could say I paid for it years in advance.

I got my $9.92 worth.

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The actual unused ticket.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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Love a good comedy panel show!

They may have blossomed on American television in the 1950s, but panel shows go back to the days of radio. According to Wikipedia (where I have gotten much of my information for this post), the first known panel show was called Information Please, on which a panel of celebrities would attempt to answer questions submitted by listeners. If the panel was stumped, the listener would win a cash prize.

Not having been alive in those days, from what I can gather that particular panel show was pretty straight forward. Maybe there would be a chuckle or two, but it wasn’t played for laughs. Then, in 1942, came It Pays To Be Ignorant.

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It Pays To Be Ignorant in the days of radio. L to R: Host Tom Howard and panelists George Shelton, Lulu McConnell, and Harry McNaughton.

It Pays To Be Ignorant may not have been the first panel show meant to be a comedy, but it certainly was early on and demonstrated that comedy panel shows could be very popular. The premise of the show was to have the group of regular panelists give nothing but wrong, and often funny, answers to obvious questions such as: What color is the red barn?

The show’s popularity helped move it to television for one season in 1949 and another season in 1951. The show was revived in 1973, but only lasted one year. It must have played better on radio.

In the 1950s, the panel show came into its own as American TV audiences tuned into such shows as To Tell The Truth, I’ve Got A Secret, and What’s Mine Line? (my favorite of these three). Again, I’m not so old that I got to watch What’s My Line? when it originally aired, but through the magic of oldies TV channels I’ve been able to watch it and I can see it’s appeal.

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The panelists would don blindfolds for the mystery celebrity guests.

I especially like its host John Daly. He was quite the happy host. He cracked up throughout and genuinely appeared to enjoy hosting the show. The man could get absolutely giddy as the panelists attempted to determine the occupation or particular distinction of the guests. I think he was a great host.

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The giddy John Daly with mystery celebrity guest Julie Andrews.

The 1970s had popular panel shows that were intended to provide laughs. There was The Gong Show, Hollywood Squares, and Match Game. The Gong Show was more of a watching car accidents kind of show, while Hollywood Squares and Match Game were just as funny if less edgy entertainment. Those shows would be especially funny when the celebrity panelists would get more “lubricated” as the day of taping went on.

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Match Game. Dig those fashions!

In America, the panel shows began to lose their appeal after the ’70s. There were a few that had success, the revival of Hollywood Squares comes to mind, but it seemed the day of the panel show was done.

The UK, however, beginning in the 1990s saw a great leap in the popularity of the comedy panel show. Again, according to Wikipedia, there had been panel shows on British TV for as long as there were on American TV, but in 1990 came the panel show Have I Got News For You. It was extremely successful in gathering an audience and is thought to have been the spark that set off an explosion of British comedy panel shows. Soon there were QI, Mock Of The Week, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Would I Lie To You?, and Never Mind The Buzzcocks.

I haven’t seen much of most of them, but I have watched a good deal of QI and Would I Lie To You? through YouTube. And they are hilarious. I love them! I wish America could produce such shows. Well, maybe it does and I just haven’t seen them.

QI stands for “quite interesting” and it is a show that explores little know facts of history, science, nature, literature, entertainment, and everyday life. The shows features four celebrities who attempt to answer questions put to them by the host. Right answers are good, but interesting answers are treasured. Points are awarded to the guests in some weird, mysterious, arbitrary fashion. But who cares about points? The show is very funny and totally fascinating.

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The awesome Stephen Fry.

It went on the air in 2003, with the great Stephen Fry as the schoolmaster-like host. He’s wonderful. I really like Fry. He has a level of intelligence, wit, and sophistication that is marvelous and, yet, he seems incredibly warm and welcoming. He strikes me as the kind of mentor everyone longs for. His interplay with the guests is terrifically entertaining and funny. Just watch this clip of the classic “They say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is…” moment and you’ll see what I mean.

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The very funny Sandi Toksvig.

In 2016, Sandi Toksvig took over as the host of QI. She had been a regular guest for years and she has filled Fry’s vacated seat nicely. She brings her own acerbic and keen wit to the show. Her approach differs from Fry, but still feels right.

There used to be full episodes of QI on YouTube. It’s a shame that nearly all have been taken down now, but there are loads and loads of clips of the show posted on QI’s YouTube channel.

And then there’s Would I Lie To You? Oh, how I’ve been YouTube binging this show.

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L to R: David Mitchell, Rob Brydon, Lee Weeks.

The premise of this panel show is to figure out whether or not someone is lying. Each week four celebrities guests are brought on the show, two of each join show regulars, David Mitchell and Lee Mack, to form two teams of three. Then the team members are to read out cards revealing something interesting about themselves. Some statements are lies, some are true. The tricky part for the person telling the story is that they don’t know what’s on the card until they read it. So, their improv skills had better be sharp if they need to tell a lie.

When the show first aired in 2007 it was hosted by Angus Deayton. He’s funny, but I prefer the current host Rob Brydon, who took over in 2009.

These are the two British shows of which I am familiar, but I will probably start binging the other ones soon.

I am aware there has been a revival of Match Game, which is hosted by Alec Baldwin, but I haven’t seen any of it. (Have you watched it? Is it any good?) It just seems the Brits currently have the edge on us Americans when it comes to the comedy panel show. So, if you’re looking for a funny panel show you can look to America’s classic TV show channels or you can look over there.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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Pods Looking Back 4: More Podcast Recommendations

Here are a few more podcasts to recommend for your listening pleasure. There is a more or less nostalgic aspect to all of them, but one will also examine items that are more current. The first two are heavily, if not completely, filled with music content, the third has varying topics.

These shows may contain content and language that some might find objectionable.

Click of the titles to link to the podcasts.

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Discography This podcast is relatively new. Host Marc With A C does a deep dive into the musical output of “one legendary musician at a time.” What the host does is review all the albums and singles that make up a particular artist’s body of work. Marc places the music into the context of the times it was created. And he gives the histories of the musicians, their struggles and their triumphs, who created the music.

So far the show has covered Frank Zappa, Janet Jackson, and, my favorite band, The Who. Each artist gets several episodes to go through their canonical work. I must admit I’ve only listened to The Who series, because I’m most interested in their work.

And it is The Who that has gotten the most shows so far. There are eight episodes, because Marc thinks very highly of the band and he expanded his usual format to include examining the solo material of the individual members of the greatest rock band in the world. The series isn’t just a love letter to The Who though, Marc gives his honest opinion on the times the band and the individual artists fell short of greatness.

Marc is obviously an enthusiastic music fan and a good researcher. However, he makes one error that I will correct here. When he was talking about Pete Townshend’s acoustic set at the charity event The Secret Policeman’s Ball in 1979, he mentions that Pete was accompanied on the song ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ by John Williams. That is not the John Williams of Star Wars fame as Marc states. It’s a different John Williams. This one is a well-respected classical musician who plays acoustic guitar.

Hey. Nobody’s perfect.

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Rolling Stone Music Now This podcast by the venerable music magazine has been running for a few years and covers a wide variety of topics within the world of music, both old and new. The show will also touch on other aspects of the entertainment industry.

It is hosted by Brian Hiatt and has several regular contributors. Often the show starts with a round table discussion of what everyone is listening to at that time. There are plenty of interviews with musicians and they will explore the history and significance of an artist’s body of work. They will also examine some of the seminal albums of pop and rock history. They have discussions on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s and the White Album (the remix versions), U2’s Pop, Radiohead’s OK Computer, and others.

They even have a show covering the times the magazine was less than complimentary of some of rock’s most highly revered bands, such as AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. They will also honestly assess the lesser work of artists they really like. And they really like The Who. I mean, The Who pops up in conversations with guests quite often. There’s an interview of Saturday Night Live alumnus Fred Armisen in which almost out of nowhere they go into a five minute discussion on the greatness of The Who. (How could I not like this podcast?!) But they’ll also honestly knock The Who for their less-than-stellar Superbowl Half-Time performance.

Hey. Nobody’s perfect.

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One Plus One This is the newest of the three podcasts and it’s very good. The host, Rico Gagliano, explores the history of great collaborations, times when two individuals combine their talents to produce greater work than either could do on their own. The podcast posits that:

“Every great collaboration is a love story. It’s intense. Passionate. Along the way, there’s flashes of love, hate, pride, ego, ambition, and brilliance.”

And, oh, boy! Do they start with an excellent collaboration!

The first six episodes focus on what is probably the greatest songwriting duo in pop music history: John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Rico looks into how the two met and began writing together, through their tremendous success and their tumultuous break-up and beyond. He digs into their pasts to show how these two were connected by more than their love of rock’n’roll. You see, each had lost his mother at a very young age. Paul was 14, John 17.

In fact, I had not known how John’s mother died. The story is quite tragic and very well told. The storytelling of this series is masterful. Rico weaves the stories of these two legendary artists together wonderfully. He’ll tease an event enough to pique your interest and then set it aside until the listener is set up for the full impact of the story.

For example, the first episode ‘Eyeball To Eyeball’ starts with Lennon heading over to McCartney’s place with a fragment of a song idea. He has something good, but he needs Paul to help flesh it out. Paul also had a bit of a song he had set aside. They sit “eyeball to eyeball”, combine the two songs, and get something pretty good. They bring it to the studio and invite some friends and an orchestra.

The song? A Day In The Life.

It’s an excellent podcast that won’t be focusing solely on musical collaborations. The next series, of which the first episode is available now, focuses on the collaboration of sports legends Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. If the first series is any indication, the Shaq and Kobe story should be fascinating.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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Concert-Going Veteran Finally Sees A Legend

Guest contributor Michael Noble returns with a review of rock legend Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour’s stop in Sacramento, CA.

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I’m a veteran of more than a few hundred rock concerts over the years.

BTO, The Police, Bruce Springsteen, U2, David Bowie, The Clash, Peter Gabriel, Queen, Devo, AC/DC, Depeche Mode are a handful of the big boys who come to mind immediately; The Cure, Crowded House, The Cramps, Tears For Fears, The Pretenders, Thompson Twins, Grizzly Bear, The Pixies, Love And Rockets, The The, and Adam And The Ants are a few others who made lasting impressions.

Some of the more adventurous outings featured Flock Of Seagulls, Tones On Tail, Polysics, Wall Of Voodoo, Dread Zeppelin, Haunted Garage, The Tubes and, most recently, Psychostick. Woven within them all, are hundreds more individuals and bands and shows and benefits of mind-boggling number, a couple of which I’m certain I’ve forgotten. I’m sure I’ve witnessed close to 500 events in person. And let me tell you: There were days I woke up ridden hard and put up wet after a show. (Indiana Jones said it best: “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.”)

But of all those adventures I’d never before seen Elton John.

That changed last night.

His “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour was in town (the “town” being Sacramento), the tickets for the event had been purchased back in 2017. The showcase venue was the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento, the relatively recently opened arena (2016) housing the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. With a seating capacity well over 16,000 seats for concerts, the Center did a nice little job of filling up for the night – not quite to capacity but damned close.

Going into the show, I fully predicted a retrospective sampling of John’s storied songwriting history. (And he did not disappoint.) But I was expecting more from the man and the band, regardless of the fact the dude has hit his 70 year mark. (More than a few of his band members, too, are a bit long in the tooth, some having played with him since the 1970s.) Did he still have the chops? How long would the show last? And could his voice hold out for however long the show commenced?

John set the tone for the evening by launching into the familiar strains of “Bennie And The Jets” which, of course, got the crowd clapping in unison. After that rousing beginning, however, things went downhill quickly with “All The Girls Love Alice” and “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.” Let me explain:

It wasn’t the song selection by any means. It was the unfamiliar, goofy arrangements he decided to use. His odd rendition of “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” actually had me cocking my head dog-like with its funky queerness; John’s almost off key singing didn’t help matters. And this is something that would continue throughout the evening, I was to discover. Several more tunes (“Rocket Man,” “Crocodile Rock” and especially “Sad Songs” and “The Bitch Is Back”) unapologetically tested the audience’s listening range. But isn’t that part of the concert going experience? You never know what you’re going to get, right? And, after all, they can’t all be gems.

But with the evening’s fourth song came the highlight of the show: “Border Song.” Not only did he execute it brilliantly, he offered a tale about its infancy back in 1970 when it was originally released and how, as a young man with a young band, he discovered the song covered unexpectedly by none other than The Queen Of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who did very well with her version. (Side Note: John shares a birthday with Franklin, a nice little piece of trivia there.) The song has always been a favorite of mine in my history of Elton John Marching And Chowder Society appreciation. It was a pleasant surprise to hear it. Early in the show John formally apologized to the audience in the event he didn’t get to some folks’ preferences given the abundance of tunes in his song repository.

Now, while there was often song quirkiness to break up the evening, some of the more pleasant aspects of the night hovered around the extended piano riffs and copious band pronouncements during several songs. The crowd was treated to “extended versions” of tunes courtesy of “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” the latter already clocking in as a long composition in its original form. There were a couple more examples, but these two in particular were unexpected highlights.

And, yes … there was of course the cheesiness of “Philadelphia Freedom,” “I’m Still Standing” and “Crocodile Rock” – all with ditzy arrangements – to round out the mix and get the crowd jauntily clapping in rhythm. (I’ve never been on board with those particular fluffy songs. It’s a personal thing.)

But, when all was said and done, Elton John turned in an overall worthy two and a half hour concert for the 15,000 or so in attendance. Not bad for someone turning the page on 71 years in a couple months. And while his voice didn’t hit the highs and lows of younger days, he more than made up for it with his enthusiasm and appreciation at being the center of attention. There seemed to be a palpable genuineness to the man whenever he stood and took in the applause of the crowd.

Was I happy to have finally seen him? Yes, regardless of the sometimes weird warbles with which he constructed some songs. (I even plunked down $75.00 for a poster and tour program, well worth it to this concert-attending yahoo.) I mean, come on: The dude’s an icon. He’s a legend. He’s been appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. For his charitable work, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. And, most of all, he’s a major player in music, making up a big part of the fabric of rock and roll history.

See him if you can. His Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour is worth the effort.

The Evening’s Set List

Set 1:

Bennie And The Jets
All The Girls Love Alice
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
Border Song
Tiny Dancer
Philadelphia Freedom
Indian Sunset
Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be A Long, Long Time)
Take Me To The Pilot
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Levon
Candle In The Wind

Set 2:

Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Burn Down The Mission
Believe
Daniel
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
The Bitch Is Back
I’m Still Standing
Crocodile Rock
Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

Encore:

Your Song
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Thanks, Michael! You can read more by Michael Noble at Hotchka.com.

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Great Album Retro Review: The Blurred Crusade By The Church

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One of my favorite bands from the 1980s produced this, one of my all-time favorite albums. The album is The Blurred Crusade, released in 1982, and it was recorded by Australia’s guitar-based alt-rock band The Church. It was their second album.

There’s an adage in the music industry that asserts artists have a lifetime to write their first album, but then only a year or two to write their second. The adage is meant to explain why the sophomore efforts of so many recording artists seem to drop off in quality from their freshman work. The adage may have some merit, but not in this case.

The Blurred Crusade is a brilliant album that improves on the band’s first release, Of Skins And Hearts (1981). This album is more focused and cohesive. It’s also more of a full band effort than their first album, which was more influenced by lead singer/bassist/songwriter Steve Kilbey. The guitar work of Peter Koppes and Marty Wilson-Piper is fantastic and flows so well together. And it’s jangly guitar. I love jangly guitar!

This is one of those albums that is best listened to from beginning to end. I strongly suggest that’s how you experience it.

The Tracks:

Almost With You – Holy smokes! What an outstanding opening track. If I were asked to suggest which song of The Church’s early career best defines their sound, this would be the one. Great guitar interplay, great pace, Kilbey’s deep voice, with plenty of that ethereal feel for which the band was (and still is) known. It’s my favorite track.

When You Were Mine – There’s that big 80s drum sound going on throughout the album and it’s quite noticeable here in Richard Ploog’s drumming. This is one of their rockers!

Field Of Mars – Wilson-Piper takes lead vocal on this trippy, ethereal track. I’m not sure what the lyrics mean, but so what? Most of The Church’s songs are more about the feel of the lyrics than the literal meaning. I’m sure there’s some meaning in here, but why ask why?

An Interlude – Written by the entire band, we once again get plenty of jangly guitars and trippy, albeit few, lyrics as the song builds in intensity, backs off, and builds again. The intermittent use of the hushed female vocals is a nice touch on this mostly instrumental track.

Secret Corners – A brief track that is a nice little breather to cap off the first half of the album.

Just For You – This track opens with a little theatrics. Kilbey is heard strumming away on an acoustic guitar and humming when he is interrupted by a knock on the door. He responds to the knock and opens the door to the beginning of this song. It’s a great love song, but there’s a better one yet to come.

A Fire Burns – Some good buzz to the jangly guitar on this track. Good riff.

To Be In Your Eyes – This is the better love song I was referring to earlier. It’s really good. “I want the person inside me to be someone I’d recognize, if he was in your eyes…” Nice line.

You Took – An epic track that takes the listener on quite a musical journey. Slowly building at first, but then it rocks threw most of its eight minutes, it culminates with the lyric that became the album’s title. This was always a show-stopper when played in their live sets.

Don’t Look Back – A gentle, mostly acoustic, track to wrap up such an excellent album.

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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Remembering Pete Shelley (1955-2018)

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In the fall of 1983 I started my first year attending art school in St. Paul, MN. I had graduated high school the previous spring and I still carried much of my high school baggage with me, including a more mainstream taste in music. By the end of that first year, I had almost completely cast off my liking of what I then considered the trivial, trite, treacle of Top 40 radio. I had embraced the music that would come to be known as alternative.

I had a friend from high school who joined me in the exploration of punk, post-punk, industrial, and goth. We were completely open to hearing this underground music.

Sometime in the summer of 1984, the two of us were at a record store rummaging through a bin of discount priced albums on cassette. My friend grabbed a copy of Gary Numan’s Pleasure Principle (1979) and I scarfed up the album A Different Kind Of Tension (1979) by a band called Buzzcocks. I liked the name of the band and thought the cover art was intriguing and it was cheap, so I bought it.

We put our new music into my friend’s car stereo and went for a cruise around town. There are few things more enjoyable than hitting the road, windows down, and the stereo cranking good tunes. And, on that day, we both agreed that my purchase was pretty kick ass.

The Buzzcocks were one of the first of the UK punk bands to form in the 1970s. They infused punk sensibilities into infectious, danceable, driving pop songs. Their influence was far-reaching. In fact, the BBC said that the Buzzcocks’ influence can be heard in the music of such bands as Husker Du and Nirvana. To that I would add Naked Raygun and Green Day.

I was so excited by this band. But, they had broken up in 1981. Darn it! My timing was off.

However, Pete Shelley, the principle songwriter and singer of the band, had embarked on a solo career, continuing to produce danceable pop with a punk attitude and synthesizers. In 1986, he came to Minneapolis to perform at the legendary nightclub First Avenue & 7th Street Entry.  My friend and I jumped at the chance to see him.

As I recall, there wasn’t a large crowd, but those who were there got a damn good show. At the front of the stage was about a dozen or so guys, myself included, just completely going bonkers for the music. Slam dancing, pogoing, skanking, and sweating to the point of exhaustion. Shelley started the show with his solo track Telephone Operator and then played a set mixing in plenty of Buzzcocks tunes with his solo work. It was glorious!

He finished the set then he and his band came back on stage to give us an encore of two or three great songs. He left the stage again, but we wouldn’t have it. The crowd was so jacked up we demanded he return to give us more. He did.

He launched into a reprise of Telephone Operator and we loved it!

In 1989, the Buzzcocks reformed. They toured extensively and produced several new albums. They came through Minneapolis many times and you bet I was there. Slam dancing, pogoing, skanking, and sweating to the point of exhaustion.

Pete Shelley died last Thursday (12/6) of an apparent heart attack. He was 63. Too young.

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

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