This Is XTC! This Is Pop!

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Andy Partridge simply hates rock documentaries. That’s what he tells us in the opening moments of a new rock documentary called XTC: This Is Pop, which began airing on Showtime in January 2018.

Andy Partridge is the leader of a rock/pop band called XTC and he finds himself taking part, a large part, in that very thing he hates: A rock documentary. And XTC fans are so glad he did.

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Andy Partridge

Placed in the One-Hit Wonder bin in the American music market, I’ve often stated that it is criminal that XTC never got as big as their contemporaries The Police. It’s about time the greater public learn about how good this band really is and this documentary will help. Musician Stewart Copeland of The Police and actor Harry Shearer, along with other musical artists and fans, are there to heap praise on this excellent band from Swindon, England. XTC may not have found a big audience, but they had a far reaching influence on many of the pop bands that followed them.

The documentary is as much about Partridge himself as it is about the band. And that’s a drawback, because we’re not given much of a backstory about the other members of the band: Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory, Terry Chambers, and Barry Andrews. Moulding, Gregory, and Chambers do contribute to the film (and the three of them all have an odd whispered, raspy tone to their voices).

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L to R: Partridge, Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory, Terry Chambers

Andrews is missing from the film. That may be due to the friction between him and Partridge while they were in the band together. Partridge’s attitude was – “This is my band!” Andrews wanted it to be his band. The friction led to Andrews leaving and then co-founding Shriekback. In later years, the two headstrong artists did work together on Partridge’s 2007 album of improvised instrumentals – Monstrance.

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Barry Andrews

As we learn about the band’s formation in the ’70s and growth through the ’80s, ’90s, and into the ’00s; going from glam to punk to rock to lush and beautiful pop, we also learn about Andy growing up an only child having a mother with OCD, his drug-addiction that began to develop when he was 13, and we get a deeper explanation of his crippling stage fright that turned XTC from a touring band into studio artists in 1982. The stage fright was a double-edged sword. It prevented XTC from breaking through just as they were on the verge of a major American tour. But, it gave the musicians a much, much larger “box of paints” to use to create such wonderful music.

It’s a fascinating look at such an intriguing artist and his awesome band. However, clocking in at a mere hour and fifteen minutes, to quote XTC’s song All Of A Sudden, “there’s plenty missing in the middle.” There is barely any mention of XTC’s last two albums: Apple Venus Vol. 1 and Wasp Star: Apple Venus Vol. 2. And I would have liked to learn about the seven year strike the band went on, from 1992 until 1999, against their record label Virgin. But, as it is said in show business, always leave them wanting more.

Give it a watch. Your new favorite band is just waiting for you to find them.

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You Know What’s A Really Good WW2 Tank Movie Starring Humphrey Bogart?

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Columbia Pictures

As far as I know, there is only one film that tells the story of a lone tank and a group of soldiers attempting to survive in the desert of Northern Africa starring the great Humphrey Bogart. It’s called Sahara and it was released in 1943, right in the middle of America’s active involvement in the Second World War. And, because it was released during the war, don’t be surprised when the film gets a little patriotically preachy.

Be warned! There will be slight spoilers ahead, but I’ll try not to give away anything major.

The story begins just after the Americans had gotten their butts kicked by Rommel’s Afrika Korps. We find a lone American tank with a crew of three, whose commander is Sgt. Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart). Their tank, named Lulu Belle, has enough fuel and water for a few days, but they’ll need to get to friendly territory soon. They are almost completely surrounded by the Germans and really don’t have much choice but to cross the desert as quickly as they can.

They soon encounter a group of British (and one French) soldiers, who, at first, think it better to stay put. Sgt. Gunn tells them they can do that if they like, but he let’s them know the Germans are on their way and their best chance of survival is to join up with his crew. They see the soundness of the American’s plan and throw in with him.

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Deciding who is in command.

Some early friction between the Allies arises when the men question just who is in command. You see, the Brits have an officer, Capt. Halliday (Richard Nugent) and they takes orders from him. But Gunn is the commander of the tank. Capt. Halliday settles the argument by assuring his men that he and the sergeant will consult with each other, but command of their mission to survive the desert will be given to the American. After all, the captain is a doctor, while Gunn is a combat-hardened tank commander… and the star of the film.

The party is soon joined by a Sudanese national and subject of the British Empire, Sgt. Maj. Tambul (Rex Ingram). Tambul has a prisoner, an Italian soldier played by J. Carrol Naish, whose performance may be a tad on the stereotypical side with the “whatsa matta you” dialog delivery. But it was 1943, so it’s more understandable. In fact, Naish received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for this portrayal.

Now more mouths means less water. A hard decision has to be made. Tambul can stay, of course, but the Italian…

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“Please-ah, dona leave-ah me!”

Sgt. Gunn turns out to be a softie and the Italian, despite being an enemy, is allowed to join the group. I know, that’s a little spoiler.

Tambul knows the area and he knows where wells can be found. He cautions that, although he can get them to a well, he can’t guarantee there will be water. And it turns out the first well is dry, but there is another. They have no choice. They have to get to that well.

Along the way, they pick up a prisoner. A German. And this German is depicted as being a true believer of the Nazi cause. (I won’t say how he joins the group. I’ve already spoiled enough of this 75 year old movie.)

They find the well. There is water, but just barely. It’s a trickle from the rocks at the bottom of the otherwise dry well. Tambul takes the duty of collecting as much water as possible. However, the trickle soon stops.

The water helps revive the men, but now the well is dry and they have another problem: A German battalion will arrive soon. Gunn convinces the men to stay and fight. That’s one of the scenes that get a bit patriotically preachy, but it works. Gunn dispatches one of his men, Waco (Bruce Bennett), in a German half-track they acquired at the well to try to reach the Allies for reinforcements, while this small group of soldiers does its best to hold off the Germans.

When the Germans, who overwhelmingly outnumber the good guys, arrive under a flag of truce to negotiate the Allies’ surrender, Gunn refuses and bluffs them into thinking there’s plenty of water. He knows the Germans are desperately thirsty, so he tells them they’ll get water for guns. The Germans will either have to surrender or fight to get any water.

Oooooo, how does it end, eh? Well, I won’t spoil it for you.

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“When you’re shot, you’ll take it and like it!”

The film is well acted and well written. And the cinematography was nominated for an Academy Award. As a war film, I rank it pretty high. It’s well-paced with plenty of good action and suspense. And the characters are likeable, except for the Nazi prisoner. I find it thoroughly entertaining.

Before I sign off, I want to mention one scene that I found surprisingly progressive and tolerant, especially for 1943. Waco, a Texan, heads down into the well to give Tambul a break from the water collecting, but Tambul is content to stay. It’s probably much cooler being in the well than up top in the sun.

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Tambul

The two men strike up a conversation which leads to Tambul explaining the philosophy behind the Islamic tradition of having more than one wife. Tambul explains that the Prophet tells his followers that four wives make for a happy marriage. It’s a strange concept for Waco who is a non-Muslim; however, he learns that his and Tambul’s lives aren’t all that different.

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Waco

What I like about this exchange is that there is no hint of disgust or shock or indignation from Waco when learning about the tradition of multiple wives. The Texan is genuinely curious to learn about a culture different, not better, not worse, than his own. More people today should be like Waco.

I can’t recommend Sahara highly enough.

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The Transformation Of Four Artists

In comic books, if an artist is good (and maybe a little lucky) they can have long careers, sometimes decades. A lot of factors are at play. Can they draw? Can they convey the story visually? Can they meet deadlines? Do the fans like their work? Can they keep looking fresh?

Some artists change their style, which can cause some chagrin for some fans. Just a couple months ago, on a Facebook comic book fan group page, a member posted two images of the work of John Romita Jr. One was an early piece of his from an issue of The Dazzler, the other was a Superman cover from a few years later. The fan wondered what happened to Romita Jr.’s work. Why had it gotten so different and, in their opinion, so bad?

The thing about art is that it’s really subjective. It depends on what you like. The John Romita Jr. discussion fostered plenty of disagreement. Folks were arguing about which period of Romita Jr.’s work was better. There were lots of opinions attempting to justify each person’s position, making consensus difficult.

What do I think? Later John Romita Jr. illustration is better.

The answer to what happened to John Romita Jr.’s work, and I’m speculating here, is that he appeared to have decided to stop trying to conform to a formulaic comic book style and started drawing in his style. And, in my opinion, his work got so much more interesting.

Romita Jr. is one of four artists that come to my mind as examples of embracing their own style and achieving greater artistic heights. The others are Barry Windsor-Smith, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Mike Mignola. They are each examples of artists coming into the industry with a look that wasn’t especially interesting (not bad, just not interesting), and then developed into great and unique artists.

Barry Windsor-Smith

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So much Jack Kirby (and some Jim Steranko), but where is Barry Windsor-Smith?

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Some Windsor-Smith is beginning to break through.

Barry Windsor-Smith started working for Marvel in the late 1960s. His Jack Kirby-like style endeared him to Stan Lee. That got Windsor-Smith’s foot in the door, but then he began to adjust his style and moved away from producing work the looked like Kirby to work that had elements of Joe Kubert and Moebius, but was becoming more an more his own look. His progression in the ’70s and ’80s right through the 2000s is nothing less than astounding.

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Brilliant!

Bill Sienkiewicz

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It’s good, but very Neal Adams-ish.

When Marvel Comics’ character Moon Knight received his own title in 1980, Bill Sienkiewicz was the artist at the helm. He had done a few Fantastic Four issues as well and he had a decided Neal Adams style. As his work continued on Moon Knight, the Neal Adams influence began to fade and what Sienkiewicz began to produce would lead to a style that, although having similarities to illustrator Bob Peak’s work, really was all his own and very innovative in the field of comic books.

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Now that’s some Bill Sienkiewicz!

His work may not have pleased purists, but it brought comic book art into a whole new strata of illustration.

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Brilliant!

Mike Mignola

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It’s not quite right.

Mike Mignola started at Marvel in the early ’80s and I was buying Alpha Flight when he took over pencils after John Byrne left the book and I was… underwhelmed. Something just didn’t look right. Eventually, even while drawing superheroes, Mignola’s style began to come through. My whelmness increased. And when Hellboy debuted, I felt Mignola’s true style had fully revealed itself.

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Mignola’s uniqueness!

John Romita Jr.

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It’s not bad, it just doesn’t quite grab me.

This brings me to the artist I talked about at the beginning of this week’s blog. I think John Romita Jr.’s career has the benefit and difficulty of following in his father’s footsteps. The senior Romita cast a very large shadow. His influence on Marvel Comics in the ’60s and ’70s cannot be overstated. The man was a workhorse and he was a large factor in establishing the Marvel look.

So, I think, when Romita Jr. started he was pretty much locked in those giant footsteps of his father’s, but he began to allow his style to come out. His doing so, in my opinion, propelled his work beyond that of his father’s.

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Junior has emerged from his father’s shadow and I’m grabbed.

 

What these four artists have in common is they all started in the industry working in the style set down by their predecessors. They were all capable storytellers, but they lacked that certain something. When each artist shook off the establishment style and embraced they own way of drawing, their work became more fresh and exciting. They became innovators and they expanded the world of comic book art.

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Great Album Retro Review: Quadrophenia By The Who

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I should say that I’m no musical expert. I’m not some music critic who can dive deeply into the artistry (or lack thereof) of a musician’s work and poetically explain its merits to the reader. But, I know what I like. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d start a (perhaps monthly) series of retro reviews of what are some of my favorite albums.

Here’s my plan: Pick an album, give a brief overview on why I think it’s great, and then give an even more briefer review of each song on that great album. Sound like a plan?

I’ll start with my favorite album by my favorite band: Quadrophenia by The Who.

Released in 1973, Quadrophenia is the second rock opera released by this seminal band. It is the follow up to their classic Who’s Next (1971) and the use of a synthesizer, introduced on Who’s Next, continues to play a large part in the band’s sound. Quadrophenia also continues with the harder rock style that would influence the heavy metal of the later 70s and 80s.

Quadrophenia is also the only Who album entirely composed by Pete Townshend. He had always been the main songwriter, with John Entwistle as the second songwriter of the band, but this one was all Pete. That may contribute to why it’s my favorite.

The story is about a teenager who is having an identity crisis. The main character, Jimmy, is a Mod (it was a British thing dealing with fashion, drugs, and a certain attitude) who is staring ahead at adulthood. And he’s scared. He doesn’t know who he is, what his life is about, where he’s headed. He doesn’t know why he should care.

Isn’t he a bit like you and me?

I know. Wrong band, but it still applies.

According to Townshend, Jimmy may be messed up, but he gets better.

This album helped me out as a young adult and I’ll always be grateful to Townshend and the boys for that.

Now the tracks! It’s a double album, so be prepared.

I Am The Sea – This isn’t really a song. It’s an intro using the sound of the sea crashing against the rocks, in which we can hear snippets of Jimmy’s four personalities. These  personalities are expressed through four theme songs, each of which also represents a member of the band, which are peppered throughout the album. This is the first time The Who had used sound effects on an album. The sound effects (crashing waves, rain, trains, birds, etc) were recorded by Townshend.

Sitting on one of the rocks, Jimmy is at a crisis point as he contemplates his life…

The Real Me – Damn! What a great song! It has the fantastic bass work of Entwistle, Roger Daltrey’s voice is in fine form, and Keith Moon is out of his mind. In fact, listen closely, you can hear Moon shouting as he plays, something The Who have included on several songs, beginning with Substitute. The song presents Jimmy’s self-perceived craziness, his anger, and his frustration. And it rocks!

Quadrophenia – The title track is the first of two instrumental songs on the album. The synthesizer comes into play as this song explores the musical themes we’ll be hearing as we listen to the rest of the album.

Cut My Hair – The lyrics set up the conflict Jimmy was having with himself and with his parents. Townshend works in lyrics from early Who and High Numbers (an early name for the band) songs to help bolster the Mod connection. He does this throughout the album. And great drums with Moon yelling as he plays.

The Punk And The Godfather – Fighting against the system is difficult, because the system has all the power. Again Townshend uses early Who lyrics, this time from their legendary hit My Generation.

I’m One – This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Townshend takes on the lead vocals as Jimmy acknowledges his shortcomings, but declares he will overcome them. “You’ll all see!”

The Dirty Jobs – Townshend’s ode to the working man. Some nice use of violin (or is that synthesizer?) And, seriously, Moon ought to get a backing vocal credit for all the shouting he does on this song.

Helpless Dancer – Listed as Roger’s theme, this song continues the theme of working against the system. It’s the struggle of the common person against the power. Nice piano and acoustic guitar.

Is It In My Head? – Ever conscious of his band’s history, Townshend precedes this track with a snippet of The Kids Are Alright, another early song from The Who’s catalog. The song describes a particular low point for Jimmy as Daltrey sings about numbering all those who love the protagonist and “finds exactly what the trouble is.”

I’ve Had Enough – This is the moment Jimmy breaks from his life and hops on his Vespa scooter to revisit places that remind him of better times. And, for the first time since the intro, we hear the phrase “love reign o’er me” from the final song of the album.

5:15 – This classic rock radio standard is fantastic. The horn fills provided by Entwistle give this song an extra punch right into your ears. It starts with the sound effects of Jimmy at the train station at the beginning of his journey to find himself. This one kicks ass!

Sea And Sand – Jimmy arrives at the beach on which he had participated in the riots between gangs of Mods and Rockers. A time of triumphant fun, but now he’s thinking of his hypocritical parents, his unrequited love, and his failure to be a leader in his gang. Lyrically Townshend again draws upon early Who and High Numbers songs.

Drowned – This was a sleeper track for me. It just didn’t grab me at first, but after multiple listens it became a stand out track. That rolling piano provided by English session musician Chris Stainton (he also plays piano on The Dirty Jobs and 5:15) is infectious. It’s a rollicking song about Jimmy contemplating drowning himself. I love it!

Bell Boy – Adding to Jimmy’s feelings of depression is this song in which he discovers his hero, a Mod leader in the days of the riots, is now a lowly bell boy, resigned to the job to earn a living. Well, what are ya gonna do? Gotta pay the rent. The song features Moon’s wonderful Cockney vocals as Jimmy’s fallen hero. Keith was never much of a singer, but he doesn’t do too badly on this his theme song on the album.

Doctor Jimmy – This is John’s theme and it’s my least favorite track. I still like it, but it’s a bit too long. The song is filled with blustery bravado as Jimmy tries desperately to convince himself that he is strong, but his self-doubt continues to plague him.

The Rock – We’re back on the rock surrounded by the crashing sea for this excellent instrumental. Will Jimmy give into despair? Will he take his own life? Is he going to be OK?

Love Reign O’er Me – Of course, Pete reserved this song to be his theme. Daltrey’s vocals are at their peak on this cathartic song, in which Jimmy has a break through. He realizes he needs to allow himself to love and to be loved. He is worthy. What do you know? The kid’s going to be alright.

After all, love is all you need.

I know! Wrong band, but it still applies.

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Herb Trimpe, The Hulk, And Another Great Cover

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September 1973

It really was an excellent pairing of artist and character, when Herb Trimpe drew the Hulk. During his run as artist on Marvel Comics’ The Incredible Hulk, Trimpe was at the peak of his powers. It’s difficult to define that certain magic that comes from the perfect pairing of artist and character, but when it happens it’s awesome.

Jack Kirby and the Fantastic Four; John Buscema and the Silver Surfer; Neal Adams and Batman; John Byrne and the X-Men; are just a few of explosive combinations. (Yes, yes. Each artist produced brilliant art on other titles, but those are the best examples that come to my mind.) And, we can add Herb and Hulk to the list of great combos, because they certainly rocked together.

So, I return to the Trimpe/Hulk pairing once again (I first featured a great cover with that pairing in June, 2016). This month’s great cover, drawn and inked by Trimpe, is from issue number 167 (September, 1973) and it’s a doozy!

There’s the “Dutch Angle” applied to add drama and tension. There is speed involved in the crushing stomp the big baddie is trying to drop on our hero. I mean, look! Those are sparks jumping from Hulk’s right hand, aren’t they?

I’m not sure how impressive of a villain Modok normally is, being mainly a giant head, but, with the addition of that over-sized robot body, he looks pretty damn formidable. Obviously, the Hulk is struggling mightily with a bad guy who declares he isn’t afraid of our great, big, green hero. (But, I’m guessing the Hulk triumphs in the end.)

This is such a great, eye-catching cover. It gives Gil Kane a run for his money and his covers were consistently fabulous. There was just something about Herb Trimpe and the Hulk.

Incredible!

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Pods Looking Back 2: Another List Of My Favorite Nostalgic Podcasts

A year ago I recommended a few podcasts that have a nostalgic theme to them. (Click here to get that list.) Since new podcasts are always popping up, I thought I should list a few more as suggestions for your listening pleasure.

These are podcasts and the rules of terrestrial radio do not apply. These shows may have adult language and themes, so you should check them out first before sharing them with your kids or more sensitive folks.

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The Dollop with Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds The hosts are comedians who dive deep into an historical topic and mine whatever comedy gold can be found. Dave is the “historian” who finds the topics and gives the information to Gareth, who doesn’t know what each show’s topic is until they start recording. The two will then riff to their hearts’ content. Some of the show are absolutely hilarious.

They get very bawdy as they work their way through each show’s topic. The Dollop has over 300 hundred episodes and I’ve just started listening to it, so I have a long way to go to catch up, but I find it very entertaining and informative.

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My Favorite Murder Odds are pretty good that, if you’re familiar with podcasts at all, you’ve heard about this one. Hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are two comedians who discovered that they both really like murder stories. They decided to do a podcast discussing various real life murders. Their first show dropped in January, 2016 and the podcast has taken the world by storm. Combining their regular shows with their “minisodes” Karen and Georgia are closing in on 180 episodes.

It is a comedic show about murder, but the hosts are careful to respect the victims and the families and friends. They also try to give sound advice on preventing oneself from being a victim. It’s a very funny podcast with a big heart that reminds us to “stay sexy and don’t get murdered!”

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Friendly Fire In my first podcast suggestions blog I recommended The Greatest Generation podcast. It’s a podcast about the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, they have gone through all that classic sci-fi program’s episodes and they have since moved on to discussing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (I still recommend it!) Well, the hosts of The Greatest Generation, Adam Pranica and Benjamin Harrison, have teamed up with John Roderick to examine war movies.

Each week they examine a different war movie (and who doesn’t like war movies?) for its accuracy and cinematic value, and they manage to get some laughs along the way. Although, so far, most of their reviewed films have been WWII-based, they will cover other wars. They’ve talked about Saving Private Ryan, of course, but they’ve also reviewed Master & Commander: From The Far Side Of The World, First Blood (yes, they considered that a war movie), and they will be watching Braveheart for an upcoming installment.

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Du You Remember? A Podcast About Husker Du And, finally, I’m recommending this podcast to anyone who is a fan of alternative music. It’s just five installments (with two extras, one a short introduction to the series, the other a tribute to drummer/singer/songwriter Grant Hart) and it is a fascinating look at one of alternative rock’s founding bands.

Husker Du came from St. Paul, MN in the late 70s and created their own tremendous presence in the 80s hardcore/punk/underground music scene. The podcast has interviews with all three members (Hart, Bob Mould, and Greg Norton) done just prior to Hart’s untimely death in September, 2017. The band members and others who worked with them or were fans and friends tell the story of the music scene in the 80s, how Husker Du was formed, how they embraced the “do it yourself” ethic, their rise and abrupt fall, and how very important they were to the music world. Without Husker Du, there would have been no Pixies, no Nirvana, no Green Day.

It’s all good stuff!

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You Know What’s A Really Good Musical With A Man Singing And Dancing In The Rain?

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Although, I generally like most kinds of movies, I’m not a big fan of musicals. There are a few I enjoy, but as a genre the musical usually leaves me cold. Often the songs feel as though they slow down the movie. I find myself saying, “Get on with it!” Good musicals, however, have songs that advance the narrative, not put it on hold.

My pedantic nature makes it difficult for me to suspend my disbelief of a world in which people burst into song and dance numbers. Even as a kid, I would wonder how everyone knew the words to the song one character was spontaneously singing. How was it everyone was so good at dancing? Even the milkman.

I like The Wizard of Oz and it’s a musical. In fact, I’d say this 1939 classic is one of the films I love. There are song and dance numbers the same as other musicals, but somehow I don’t have a problem with any of it. Perhaps the fact that Oz is a fantasy film makes it easier for me to accept the singing and dancing.

As a kid, the Over The Rainbow segment was a little dull. I just didn’t understand the importance of the song to the story. I’ve heard the song was almost cut from the film because an executive felt the same way as the younger version of myself. It was a good thing that it was kept. Not only for the narrative flow of the story, but to demonstrate that not every song has to be a show-stopper.

A more recent musical really could have benefited from that lesson. Chicago (2002) was filled with nothing but show-stopping numbers. Every song! Each song would start slow and quiet and build and build until the performers were belting it out to the back row. Every song! Why must every song be a home run? What’s wrong with a hitting a single or a double? It was exhausting.

I say it would have benefited by having less show-stoppers, but it did win the Oscar for Best Picture that year. And my mom loves it. Well, I hated it.

So, when I was shamed by a friend for never having seen the 1952 MGM classic, Singin’ In The Rain, I decided I’d set my usual distaste for musicals aside and try to give it a fair shake. (Incidentally, the friend who shamed me hadn’t seen it either. Still hasn’t. I learned this after I watched the legendary musical. The nerve of some people.)

Was this musical going to be a collection of show-stopping numbers sung at the tops of the performers’ lungs? Or would the movie understand how to bring things down a little? Would there be subtly? Would the musical numbers make sense?

The answer to those last three questions is yes!

I had seen bits and pieces of Singin’ In The Rain, but never the whole film. Well, I finally saw it and I really liked it.

Not only is a good musical, Singin’ In The Rain gives the audience a glimpse of the art of filmmaking. The story takes place in Hollywood’s transition period from silent films to talkies, showing the challenges of using sound (played for laughs with some of the moments being a bit hokey) and the fact that some of the stars of the silent era were going to be left behind. Some actors just didn’t have the voice for talkies, as was shown by Don Lockwood’s (Gene Kelly) female partner in the silents Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen).

We are shown that the whole way of acting needed to change with sound. In the silents acting could be big and bold, but with sound a softer, more subtle mood could be more easily portrayed. Lockwood and Lamont needed to learn that lesson. Lockwood could make the adjustment, but Lamont’s voice was just too off-putting.

To save his studio’s first (and awful) attempt at a talkie, Lockwood had the brilliant idea to remake it as a musical. The idea of dubbing a performer’s voice was also born. That’s where Kathy Seldon (Debbie Reynolds) came in handy. She had a great speaking voice and she could sing, so she would become the film voice of Lina Lamont. Sadly, due to Lamont’s ego, Seldon would be contracted to always be the woman behind the scenes. She would never be a star. However, Lamont’s ego would also lead to the vindictive star’s undoing.

The musical numbers are pretty damn impressive. Gene Kelly is a hell of a dancer. He makes it look so easy. He co-directed the film, which I assume included being it’s choreographer, and the choreography is terrific. I had no problem accepting singing and dancing in this world. It all worked for me.

I had, of course, seen the landmark dance scene of the title song. It’s so good. It’s long been a rumor that Kelly was suffering from a 103° fever as he performed the number, which took two to three days to film. I’m not sure I buy it. Kelly was in fine physical form, but with that severe of a fever, even he would have been side-lined. But I could be wrong.

Then there’s costar Donald O’Connor’s wonderful Make ‘Em Laugh routine. Holy smokes! Were these guys good. His dancing filled with pratfalls and running up walls and back flips, all while lip-syncing the song, is amazing.

Also, amazing is the Broadway Melody (Gotta Dance) number. It comes into the story by way of Lockwood telling the studio’s head executive of the big dance number to go into the reworked movie. The routine is lengthy, but terrific. There’s even a ballet segment which beautifully makes use of a 20 foot long shimmery scarf being blown in the air. That scarf is as much a part of the ballet as Kelly and his dance partner Cyd Charisse.

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Cyd Charisse. Oh. My.

Talk about an entry. Charisse arrives onscreen, legs first, as a vamp who proves to be quite the temptation to Kelly’s smalltown boy who has “gotta dance.” Charisse is as sexy as hell in that green flapper outfit. She and Kelly dance so well together, from the more contemporary dance on through the ballet. It’s wonderful, but in the end money talks and the smalltown boy does not win the vamp’s heart.

This 1952 musical classic was thoroughly enjoyed by me. I may have to take in some more of the classic musicals. If there are others on the same level as Singin’ In The Rain, I might just become a fan of the genre.

Packing Peanuts!

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