Archives for March 2013

Everything I Watch Makes Me Cry

I just finished watching all 18 episodes of Freaks and Geeks, the 1999 dramedy series about high-school kids in 1980 Detroit, which despite the involvement of a murderer’s row of current comedy stars, was canceled before the end of its first season.

That’s too bad, because this show (and I know I am very, very late to the the party here) was really something special. Of the countless TV shows set in high school, this is the only one that actually made me feel like I was back in high school, that awful purgatory between being a kid and an adult, too much of both and not enough of either. It’s so sweet and funny and sad and heartbreaking — the writing is painfully true to life and the kids they cast, particularly John Francis Daley, Martin Starr, and Samm Levine as the freshman geeks, are probably the best child-actor ensemble ever. Out of the 18 episodes, probably 14 or 15 choked me up at one point or another.

But then, it seems like everything chokes me up these days. I don’t know what’s changed, but it seems like almost everything I watch on TV anymore gets me a little misty. Maybe it’s because I’m a dad now and I love my little family. Maybe because I’m getting sentimental. Maybe because I’m just too old to care anymore if anyone catches me wiping my eyes.

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The All-Asshole Band

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, so I admit it: I am addicted to rock docs. Rock books, too. For whatever reason, I seem to be infinitely fascinated by the sordid details — and equally, the boring daily ins-and-outs — of musicians who make it to the top of the pyramid, and I have the bathroom library to prove it. I once read a book about the Grateful Dead, and I HATE THE GRATEFUL DEAD.

So it was that, whilst channel-flipping not long ago, I came across the new documentary The History of the Eagles. I never particularly liked the Eagles, although the way their material transports me back into my 6-year-old self, when they were on every radio station three times an hour, is not altogether unpleasant. And, any way you slice it, The Eagles stood at the summit of Rock Mountain throughout the ’70s, so I was interested in their story. Did they really start as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band? How did Joe Walsh, a successful solo artist in his own right, end up as their second third guitarist? Did they snort all the cocaine in America while making Hotel California, or just most of it?

I got the answers to all these questions in the first half of the documentary. (The second half was about their cynical 1994 reunion and beyond.) But the main takeaway of the whole piece was that both Don Henley and Glenn Frey are huge, huge assholes, and worse, they’re the kind of assholes that say huge asshole things right into a camera totally unaware of their own assholery. By the end of the Eagles’ first run in 1980, they had driven out two of the other three original members, and shortly after the 1994 reunion they got rid of the guy who wrote “Hotel California” because he wanted everyone to be paid the same as Henley and Frey, as the Eagles became the first band to charge more than $100 per ticket for the record-breaking tour. (He submitted to their threat to fire him if he didn’t take less money, and then they fired him anyway.)

I mentioned all this to my wife, who as she always does when I relate third-hand rock lore, did an excellent job of pretending to listen, and then she said, “Someone should make an all-star band of the biggest assholes in rock history.” I love this woman more with every passing day.

So let’s do it! Auditions for The All-Asshole Band start right now!


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Everything I Remembered About The ’90s Was Wrong

Fashion and music seem to coexist on a 20-year cycle. That is, 20 years after something comes into fashion, it seems to come back again for a revival. The ’60s were really big in the ’80s, and since I was in middle and high school in the ’80s, my musical self-education was more about the Beatles and the Stones and Jimi Hendrix than U2 or Bon Jovi or Duran Duran. Likewise, tie-dye made a big comeback in the late ’80s, although I had the uncharacteristic good sense to stay away from it. Similarly, bell-bottoms made a bit of a return in the ’90s even as George Clinton and P-Funk suddenly found itself filling midsize concert venues again. And, bafflingly, ’80s music made a monster comeback in the 2000s, as did Members Only jackets and Wayfarers and neon t-shirts and skinny pants.

In the ’90s, as the ’70s were getting dusted off just the same as the ’60s had in the ’80s (despite the fact during the ’80s, people looked on the music and fashion of the ’70s with undiluted revulsion), I remember thinking, well, there will never be a fashion revival for the ’90s, because the fashion of the ’90s is no fashion at all.

It certainly seemed that way at the time. Everyone seemed to be in jeans, plain T-shirts, and unbuttoned flannel, and after a decade of leg warmers, shoulder pads, miniskirts, ugly sweaters, designer jeans, parachute pants, and FRANKIE SAY RELAX, it seemed like everyone had recovered their sanity, or at least their bedroom mirrors, and toned things down for a less frivolous decade. This was also reflected in the music; out with Warrant and Poison, in with Nirvana and Alice in Chains.

The only fashion I really remember from the ’90s was hip-hop guys wearing big pants, and that is not going to be getting a revival anytime soon because it never went away.

Anyway, I recently stumbled across a music video from 1993 that drove this point home like Morgan Freeman drove Miss Daisy: the 4 Non Blondes (awesome band name, guys!) classic “What’s Up,” which should have been titled “What’s Going On” but couldn’t be because of Marvin Gaye. It had been a long, long time since I saw this video and I’m guessing I’m not alone in that, but in 1993 it was in constant rotation on Ye Olde Music Video Channel. Let’s have a look, shall we?

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