Archive | June, 2008

Hidden Pond Gala A Success?

30 Jun

Hidden Pond Maine’s fabulous grand opening gala was a huge success this past Friday night.  The beautiful people of Kennebunkport and surrounding areas flocked to the resort.  Unfortunately, this being suburban Maine, it would have taken an army of Beverly Hills plastic surgeons to make them actually beautiful.  (Maybe that explains the Open Bar.)  And though these party-goers might be designated the coast’s “Cultural Elite,” very few could be confused with Henry James, William Dean Howells, Dorothy Parker, or Edmund Wilson.  A more apt comparison would land them accurately and fairly with Lawrence Fine and the Howard brothers. 

The residents of Goose Rocks Road must have swelled with pride seeing their once-quiet street turned into a facsimile of a luxury car dealership.  BMW’s, SUV’s, Mercedes, Lexus, and even the occasional Caddy lined the road shoulder, manned by a squad of hard-working valets.  That the slamming car doors and revving engines displayed more rhythm than the music bleeding from the midst of Hidden Pond is a sorry statement of fact.

Emails and phone calls flooded Hangover Headquarters during the shindig.  The band could be heard clearly throughout the neighborhood, keeping children awake and causing dogs to howl.  It’s not that we object to music.  But if children are going to be subjected to lack of sleep, it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment when the offending tunes are produced by the most pathetic of musical groups:  The Wedding Band.  Do not the cultural elite and beautiful people deserve music with heart, integrity, and substance?  Why torture them (and us) with an onslaught of hackneyed, over-played Top 40 trash?  The kids would be all right if they were forced to listen to the Who, Billy Joe Shaver, Stones, Clash, Hannah Montana, Nirvana, Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam, Graham Parker, Graham Nash, Bob Dylan, John Hiatt, or Lucinda Williams, etc.., (Just check the music category of the blog and you’ll get the idea).  Instead it was Love Shack,  Fly Me to the Moon, Last Dance, Some Kind of Wonderful and countless other lowest-common-denominator musical cliches.  

Kennebunkport has a sound ordinance which states that:

It shall be unlawful for any commercial establishment, without special permission from the Board of Selectmen, to allow electronically amplified sound to be emitted from, or outside of their establishments. (Adopted at the Annual Town Meeting on March 15, 1980.)

The Hangover finds it hard to believe that the fine selectmen of our town would allow innocent residents to be subjected to such awful music.   Hopefully, this was as close to pirate radio as the resort will ever get.  But we can look at the bright side:  As advertised, Hidden Pond is somewhat secluded and we were spared the visual of the full-bellied, well-heeled attendees attempting to dance.   The horror, the horror.

Three days later, life here has returned to normal.  Money was raised for some charities (one of which got to compromise its good name as a bonus).  No permanent harm was done.   Expansion will come to Hidden Pond next year and there will likely be another grand-opening gala.  The Hangover has but one request:  Get a real band.  Please.    

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Best Cover Songs of Rock’s Early Years

27 Jun

The best cover songs pay homage to the original while the band doing the ‘cover’ puts their own distinct stamp on it.  In the early days of rock, this meant that the first rock ‘n roll artists were taking Rhythm and Blues songs and making them their own.  Then during the 1960’s, a second generation of musicians covered songs by the original rockers.  The following are The Hangover’s best from the advent of rock through 1970.

Elvis Presley, Hound Dog

Elvis took a shuffling Big Mama Thornton blues song and made it jump with pace and attitude.  It became one of the biggest hits of early rock and roll, charting at number one for 11 weeks in 1956.  The song is also listed at 19 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all time.  The song gave proof that there was room to interpret rhythm and blues in a new way, and sold four million records in its original release.  The song lives today on as a classic.

The Beatles, Twist and Shout

The Beatles took a lively R and B song by the Isley Brothers and completely re-energized it.  The music is more upbeat, the vocals suggest an unleashing of passion, and the overall vibe is one of breaking loose.  The Beatles always-excellent harmonies rise and drive toward John Lennon’s let-loose scream.  The song conjures images of ’60’s youth shaking their way out of the ultra-conservative 1950’s.  It is rock and roll in its purest form.

Jimi Hendrix, All Along The Watchtower

Hendrix takes a Dylan classic and puts his own guitar-driven signature on it.  The music is more electric and urgent, while maintaining a mystical quality.  The Hendrix version is faster and the beat is heavier, with a bottom-ended base. Hendrix’s vocals are solid, but it is his guitar that’s on fire, giving the song its edge.   This version of the song became more popular than the original and was Hendrix’s only Top 4o hit in the US.  That Hendrix so skillfully delivers the high-minded Dylan theme in his own style makes this a brilliant cover.

The Kingsmen, Louie, Louie

One would have to be somewhat of a musicologist to know that Louie, Louiewas not a Kingsmen original.  It was written by Richard Berry and recorded by his band The Pharoahs as Doo Wop, with clear vocals and well-timed harmony back up.  But it was the Kingsmen who took it off the street corner and brought it to the garage.  The Kingsmen, with three chord electric crunch, sloppy drums, and some indecipherable vocals, made this the greatest garage rock song of all time.  It’s now synonymous with kegs, colleges, and good times.  Uncomplicated and uncompromised. 

The Rolling Stones, Not Fade Away

The  Stones covered two artists with one take.  They took Buddy Holly’s song and applied the Bo Diddley beat to it, making it seem like a Stones original.  The Holly song is brilliant on its own, but by applying a chugging Bo Diddley bounce, the Stones took it to a higher plane than if they had just done a typical rough-and-ready Stones treatment.  It was a brilliant way to glorify two of the artists who influenced the Stones.

The Who, Summertime Blues

Many experts (as well as The Hangover) consider Live at Leeds to be one of the great live albums of all time.  The brilliance of the concert is en-capsuled in the Who’s version of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues.  Pete Townsends’s power chords storm through the song with John Entwistle’s booming bass and Keith Moon’s havoc-wreaking drums.  Roger Daltrey’s vocals are strong and rollicking.  While Cochran’s original stands as a young man’s protest, the Who’s version is an electric good time.

Infame Hall of Fame (but still a great) Cover Song

The Beach Boys, Surfin’ USA

While the lyrics are Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, the music is strictly Chuck Berry–Sweet Little Sixteento be exact.  The Beach Boys recorded Surfin’ USA as an (unauthorized) “tribute” to Berry, taking his music note for note while failing to credit him as a songwriter.  When Berry threatened a law suit, he was then listed as the songs composer and received most of the royalties.  No one from the early days of rock and roll had more of their songs covered than Chuck Berry.  He was, and is, a master songwriter.

Big Hype, Bad Movie–The Love Guru Standard

22 Jun

The Hangover suspects that the amount of marketing preceding a movie’s release exists in an inverse proportion to the movie’s quality.  In other words:  Big Hype, Bad Movie.   This thesis results from 1) suffering throught a month-long, full scale media assault by Mike Myers and 2) various reviews of his film The Love Guru.  (Full Disclosure:  This is a movie that The Hangover won’t be seeing until it hits HBO in the hopefully distant future.)

In the past few weeks, Myers has:

  • Appeared on the cover of the July Esquire.  The accompanying article 45 Years in 45 Sentences wasn’t nearly as funny as it could have been, although it did manage to pimp The Love Guru and re-pimp Shrek, Wayne’s World, and Austin Powers
  • Hosted the 6th Annual TV Land Awards (6/15/08 )
  • Appeared with Justin Timberlake (also from the movie) on ESPN’s Sportscenter.  (And this is after hockey season.) (6/13/08 )
  • Appeared on The Tonight Show (6/12/08 )
  • Hosted MTV Movie Awards (6/1/08 ), resurrected a tired Wayne and Garth
  • Appeared on Ellen (5/21/08 )
  • Appeared on American Idol Finale as Guru Pitka, his character from (surprise) The Love Guru. (5/21/08 )
  • Well, you get the point by now.  The Hangover also wishes to remind the reader that this is only a partial list.

Now let’s compare the amount of Myer’s promotional work with some reviews of The Love Guru.

From Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe ( earning 1 out of 4 stars):

“Some movies are polite enough to save their outtakes for the closing credits. Others wait for the DVD release. “The Love Guru” doesn’t have that kind of patience. It’s a pitiful assortment of bad ideas and gags that never work; I don’t know what else to call a movie that asks us to find Jessica Alba credible not only as the owner of the beleaguered Toronto Maple Leafs and a comedian, but as a woman attracted to a vulgar, hirsute Mike Myers. Oh, yes I do: Embarrassing.”

From A. O. Scott of the New York Times: 

“Which (the movie’s catchphrase being much less amusing than it should be) might sum up “The Love Guru” in its entirety but only at the risk of grievously understating the movie’s awfulness. A whole new vocabulary seems to be required. To say that the movie is not funny is merely to affirm the obvious. The word “unfunny” surely applies to Mr. Myers’s obnoxious attempts to find mirth in physical and cultural differences but does not quite capture the strenuous unpleasantness of his performance. No, “The Love Guru” is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.”

The Hangover realizes that we may be committing a stasticial fallacy by taking this one example and extrapolating the “Big Hype, Bad Movie” theory of film marketing.  We’ll have to put the research department on this for further study.  Or perhaps we’ll wait and see what happens when Shrek Goes Fourth comes out.  The guess here is that Myers will have a much less demanding promotional schedule–those Shrek movies are actually funny.     

In Praise of Andre Dubus

19 Jun

Andre Dubus is considered by many (myself included) to be one of America’s greatest short story writers.  So why haven’t you heard of him?  Precisely because he was a short story writer.  While some novelists sell millions of books and become known figures, those working in short fiction are almost always ignored by the greater public.  It’s unfortunate, but it is reality.   The sad thing is, with Dubus, it’s the greater public who is missing out.

In the July/August issue of Poets and Writers, Joshua Bodwell contributes an essay, “The Art of Reading Andre Dubus:  We Don’t Have To Live Great Lives.”   The title indicates much of a what a reader needs to know about Dubus:  real people, real situations, real emotion–and tough writing.  Dubus may have been a writer, but he lived in the same world that you do.  His work reveals the gravity found there.

The Hangover grew up in Plaistow, New Hampshire, just across the state line from Haverhill, MA, where Dubus taught at small Bradford College.  The local paper, The Haverhill Gazette, frequently mentioned publications of and readings by Dubus.  I was a somewhat well-read youth, but as foolish as any teenager.  I saw that French name and pictured a Euro-weenie in a beret writing about wine-drinking fops.  I wondered, “How good can this guy be if he’s teaching at Bradford?”  I never bothered to pick up one of his books.   

I finally read Dubus as an adult when Tom Bailey assigned “A Father’s Story” for a writing class I was taking.  I went out and bought Andre Dubus: Selected Stories.  After that first story, I started at the beginning and whipped through the collection.  Dubus’ characters were people I knew.  Both literally and figuratively, they drove down streets I’d traveled, lived in houses I recognized, and drank in bars I’d frequented.  It didn’t take me long to realize that I’d been a supreme jackass. 

The Hangover urges you not to make the same mistake.  If you’ve read Dubus, pick up Poets and Writers and read Bodwell’s essay.  If one of Dubus’s books hasn’t made it onto your shelf, go out and get Selected Stories.  That you’ll be entertained is an understatement.     

 

Obama Not Rolling Over

13 Jun

Barack Obama’s campaign has launched the site fightthesmears.com to combat the forces (read: the Republican WarCampaign machine) that made “swiftboating” a commonly used verb.   The Primary battle against Hillary, a bloody contest that dragged on like an extended version of “Night of the Living Dead: The Democrat’s Cut,” has taught Obama well.  While he might not be willing to run around the country yelling “Keating Five” and “senile, old bastard,” Obama’s not going to back down.   Gore and Kerry were gentlemanly in their quests, hardly ever showing outrage at Republican tactics, and look where it got them.

Of course, it’s one thing to put factual information out there and it’s another to get people to read it.  The Hangover fears that the citizens inclined to seek out the facts and truths about Obama are the same ones who are likely to vote for him anyway.  There’s also an “anti-intellectual” bent evident in much of the country, as if reading was this great super-cerebral activity.   Why actively seek out information when one can scan the front page of the Enquirer in the checkout line or flip a switch and listen to the bombast of drug addict Rush Limbaugh and his cronies?

Red state voting patterns of 2000 and 2004 indicate there are plenty of voters who prefer a candidate who appears to have never read a book, rather than contenders who have actually written one   (Sorry, but we refuse to give George W. Bush credit for My Pet Goat on 9/11/2001.)  While Gore and Kerrywere obviously more intelligent, they were not better campaigners than G. W. Bush.  Perhaps more forceful, less compliant Presidential bids would have served them (and us) better.

The Hangover takes fightthesmears.com as a good sign.  In schoolyard terms, Obama is not going to be handing over his lunch money to the Republicans this fall.  He doesn’t have to be a bully to win, but he can’t allow himself to be pushed around.  This new site is Obama rolling up his sleeves. 

Songs For Your Rich Girlfriend (Or Wife)

6 Jun

Some of you out there are riding the gravy train with a girlfriend or spouse whose income is much greater than your own.  (The Hangover knows the trip.)  It’s a safe bet that at some point you will screw it up.  You’ll want to go crawling back with roses or chocolate, and that’s a good idea.  But in your other hand, you’d be wise to to carry a Rob Gordon-type (High Fidelity) mixed CD.  You’ll want to burn a disc with songs that tell her you appreciate, respect, and worship her.  But you’ll want to do it with style and wit, and you’ll want to be able to walk around the house without wincing when she plays it.  So in addition to any number of sappy love songs (which The Hangover assumes you can figure out on your own), you’ll also need these:

The Hangover’s Songs For When You’ve Screwed It Up With Your Rich Girlfriend (or Spouse):

“Working Girl” by The Members

The chorus of this song states with luxious harmonies, “Hey, I’m in love/I’m in love/I’m in love with the Working Girl.”  Those words will no doubt bring a smile to Baby’s face as they are repeated again and again.  The Members are clearly grateful, as are you, for Baby’s hard work.  As the chorus echoes in her head, she’ll probably miss lines like, “If she works nine to five trying to keep my love alive/If she works from nine to five, that’s okay with me,” and  “She can go out to work and bring home her money for me.”  No, you don’t have to grovel while telling her you love her–and the results of her hard work.

“I Touch Myself” by Divynls

Although sung by a husky-voiced Christina Amphlett, the sentiments are what counts.  Is not thinking of Baby during self-pleasuring the most heartfelt form of appreciation and flattery?  This song is all about the hold she has on you.  She’ll again see herself as the object of your affection and forget about the jaw-dropping, bug-eyed face you made when that blonde in the little black dress walked past your table the last time you took Baby out to dinner.  (Which was probaly months ago.  Another reason to burn this disc.)

She Makes Me Feel Bigby The Fools

This is a hip retro-swing number.  The singer comes home beaten and defeated by the daily grind.  Only his girl can restore his pride and dignity, and make him big again.  Isn’t that what Baby does for you?  And won’t she be thrilled to recognize the nurturing role she plays in your life?  The band backs up the lead vocals a response that emphasizes her glorious powers:  “She makes me feel big/Big Big Big/That’s why I love her.”  It is a simple, sweet lament.  Baby will love it.  

“She Pays The Rent” by  The Lyres

This one gets down and dirty.  The Lyres have lived on the outs and are happy to be in–as in “in an apartment.”  The garage band guitars and organ cook, as MonoMan’s vocals lustily cry out with gratitude.  Baby will feel better about herself and you for your allowing herself to keep you alive.   The lyrics recognize that “She don’t love me the way that she used to/And when she kisses me I know that we’re through” but that doesn’t stop The Lyres. They answer:  “But I do love her with no regret/because she pays, she pays the rent.”  Sound familiar?  Better burn her two discs.   

“Cheatin'” by The Gin Blossoms

Okay, say you’ve really done it.  You’ve slept with A) Her Sister, B) Her Best Friend, or C) Any other woman on the planet.  You are in big trouble.  You’ve probably blown it for good.  So take a shot with this song.  Gin Blossoms songwriters Jesse Valenzuela and Doug Hopkins pen the tale of a poor soul being away and lonely–and making the ultimate mistake.  They come clean and don’t want to throw it all away over one minor indiscretion.  Their lyrical reasoning:

She had a way just like you do
To make me feel just like a woman should
You cant call it cheatin
Cause she reminds me of you…

Hey, at this point, anything’s worth a try.

BONUS TRACKS:  If you’ve made it this far through the post, you might be in real trouble.  The Hangover is here to help, again.  We’ve recommended that some sappy love songs accompany the above selections.   But Baby doesn’t need a disc full of “More Than Words”, “Everything I Do (I Do For You),” and post-Beatles Paul McCartney.  To that end, here are two classics that you won’t be ashamed to hear bouncing off of your bedrooms walls:

“Loving Cup” by The Rolling Stones

It’s from Exile on Main Street, the Stones at their grittiest, and although there is clear sentiment, no syrup is spilled.  The singer has a car that won’t start, is stumbling, and plays a bad guitar (sounds like The Hangover in his Heyday).  But a drink from Baby’s loving cup will make it all good.  You’re down and out and she can bring you back:  Let her know it with a real band and you stand a chance. 

“Cupid” by Graham Parker

Baby probably sees herself as a modern woman, especially if she is supporting you.  So give her  a modern version of this Sam Cooke hit.  The lyrics are simple.  The music is acoustic and quiet, but it still swings.  Parker’s vocals are honest and true.  This one hits the bulls-eye of Baby’s heart.