Last week, Linda and I were surfing around through the 80 or so movie channels we subscribe to through ATT UVerse – UVerse by the way, is another story altogether – and we stumbled on Scosese’s film “Casino” and since it had just started we decided to watch it, yet again, for the like the 5th time.
We have pretty eclectic taste in film and as a rule we’ll watch and enjoy nearly any movie, with a few exceptions. To me, “Rescue Dawn” has no reason to live.
But for us, “Casino” has just about everything we like in cinema. DeNiro, Pesci, Frank Vincent, Kevin Pollak and Sharon Stone – who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress – all favs. The plot, crime-drama with mob overtones. Another fav.
And it’s directed by Marty. What more do you want?
According to Wikipedia, when the film was released in 1995, it had the most uses of the “f-word,” 398, in a feature length film. But if Marty was trying for this somewhat provocative distinction, at 178 minutes, he kind of cheated.
Another favorable quality of the film that I don’t think I ever noticed before is the amazingly diverse soundtrack. Appearing on the official soundtrack are the likes of Louis Prima, Muddy Waters, Otis Redding and Ramsey Lewis as well as Cream, The Jeff Beck Group (more later,) Roxy Music, Fleewood Mac and The Moody Blues.
Oh, and somebody named J.S. Bach.
Unofficially, you also hear a bunch of Rolling Stones (whatever,) Derek and the Dominoes, even Devo. And although I can’t find any reference to it anywhere, there is one scene in the Tangiers casino where “Stone Cold Fever” by “Humble Pie” can be heard playing in the background.
Humble (effing) Pie.
Which brings me to …
Growing up in Detroit in the 70s, rock n roll was everything to us. All my little rock n roll buddies and I cared more about the new Free album than we did about math class. We were more interested in Edgar Winter’s White Trash than we were in Friday night football. We liked Vanilla Fudge more than girls. We worshipped the Allman Brothers and we thought Jeff Beck was God’s gift to the Les Paul. Of course Beck is now, and has been for quite a few years, associated with a Strat.
And this is to say nothing about the “big bands” like Zep, Floyd, Yes, Genesis and well, hundreds of others.
Humble Pie was a big part of that. I loved The Small Faces BEFORE Rod Stewart got there and at age 19, Steve Marriott had the most powerful voice in rock n roll. Joining forces with Peter Frampton and forming Humble Pie was just brilliant and the band never got the respect they deserved despite touring constantly and building a reputation as a formidable stage act.
A note about Rod Stewart. Yes, he later joined The Small Faces changing the name to The Faces and that was a good band. And yes, Stewart was a part of the first Jeff Beck Group and had a couple of good solo records as well, Every Picture Tells a Story was one of my favorite records in the 70s, but he later got so full of himself that it got in the way of that unique, soulful and bluesy voice. At a Jeff Beck concert at the Royal Oak Theater in Detroit around 1972 I heard Beck say, “I don’t think Rod Stewart is here tonight … no, I don’t think so, I can’t smell the perfume.”
I started thinking about Humble Pie and I searched my iTunes library and found that I only have two Humble Pie songs. Then I searched for Peter Frampton and turns out I have like 14 Frampton songs.
Which brings me to …
After five albums with Humble Pie, Frampton left the band and went solo in 1971. I was an immediate fan. The first three albums Wind of Change, Frampton’s Camel and Something’s Happening remain among my favorite records of that period.
Then came that monster. That thing that “Came Alive.” That 1976 version of Thriller.
Kids in Sri Lanka bought the album. It could be heard on the radio in Somalia. Suddenly, with one double-album, a previously little known artist with marginal success was enjoying the kind of stardom that was reserved for the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Elvis or Ghandi. By the end of 1976 if you hadn’t heard that guitar “talk box” squaking “Do you feel like we do?” then you were still being held in an underground, solitary confinement cell outside Hanoi.
My little rock n roll buddies and I didn’t mind because it allowed us to relive the show we saw at Cobo Hall two years before. I never saw Humble Pie but I saw Frampton 2 or 3 times and I’ll never forget that last show at Cobo when during the final encore all the house lights came on and it was like daytime in there. I thought that was a brilliant trick that was used there by Johnny Winter a couple of years before. The crowd went bEEzerk. Which is I think when A&M executives looked at each other and saw dollar signs in each other’s eyes.
Which brings me to …
A couple of months ago I was killing time searching around for music-related iPhone apps in the Apple Store and came across one called “Concert Vault,” which is the iPhone equivalent of Wolfgang’s Vault. If you’re a music lover and you haven’t seen this yet, you NEED to check this out. Free, streaming live music archives of pretty much any artist you can think of and a whole lot you’ve never heard of. After you register, you’ll get a weekly email of the “featured” artist. Click the link and you’re taken to a list of live recordings of that artist throughout the whole range of his/her career. Many of these just happen to have been recorded at The Winterland in San Francisco.
So I’m thinking about Humble Pie and Peter Frampton and I’m playing some old songs from Wind of Change last week when I get an email from Wolgang’s Vault with a link to the featured artist of the week – Peter Frampton. I click the link and there are three live concerts by Peter Frampton available, one of which was recorded May 4, 1973 at Cobo Hall.
The show where they turned the house lights on.
Which brings me to …
So I Tivo’d last night’s 4-hour+ Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Concert on HBO but as it turns out, I couldn’t wait to watch it later and ended up putting it on about an hour into the show. I watched it from the beginning but just didn’t start watching it at the beginning of the broadcast. Obviously, this was an amazing show with an amazing lineup of artists but watching it put me in touch with my own mortality in a way that nothing has before.
I think I realized, maybe for the first time, that most of these acts were from “my era” and that television has caught up with me, even passed me. TV is no longer about my parents and there’s no more Ed Sullivan Show or The Fugitive or M*A*S*H or Johnny Carson or Seinfeld or even MTV.
Now, I AM my parents and I doubt there were very many of the coveted 18-24-year-old demographic tuning in to see a wax figure of Lou Reed propped up onstage with a fence post hidden behind his back. How many of them wanted to see Art Garfunkel wheezing for breath at the end of the last note to Bridge Over Troubled Waters? Who believed that was really Jerry Lee Lewis and not some robot with radio controlled servos turning his head slightly from right to left? Well, he did kick over the piano bench at the end of Great Balls of Fire, in a sort of robotic way.
And what is up with Paul Simon’s hair? If you’re going to wear a wig, why not wear one that’s not, blue? And Graham Nash coming out barefoot? Dude, by the time you got to Woodstock, you were half a million years younger.
Sheesh, even James Hetfield’s goutee was pure white.
Don’t misunderstand, I really enjoyed the show. For the most part, save for the attempts at jumping around onstage – something Paul Simon never did when he was 20, so why is he doing it now? – and the out-of-breath, hand-on-your-heart, whew! expressions at the end of songs you’ve been playing every night for 40 years, I thought the music was great.
Maybe that’s because the music IS great.
Bonnie Raitt was awesome. I loved the moment when Stevie Wonder sincerely choked up in the middle of the Michael Jackson song The Way You Make Me Feel. Bruce, U2 and Patti Smith, Metallica.
But Jeff Beck stole the show. At 65 the man still looks great and plays even better. Beck doesn’t play the guitar. He grabs the notes, strangles them to within an inch of their life and pushes them out to his amp where they make their appearance in new forms that they’ve never been seen/heard in.
I’m just not sure how HBO and the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame promoters pulled this off. Did they have banks of oxygen bottles and dialysis machines backstage?
Where there was once cases of Jack Daniels were there now cases of ensure in the green room?
I watched this broadcast with some fear that somebody (Ray Davies) would break a hip.
This whole rock n roll thing, this is a endeavor of the young. Always has been.
Which brings me to …
Most people will say that rock n roll was born in the 50s. I guess it was but it grew up in the 70s and now has great grandchildren taking over the business. Artists like Wolfmother, Chevelle and A Place to Bury Strangers are now kicking your ass and trashing your hotel rooms.
Some of those guys you saw on TV last night are today sitting in rocking chairs, staring out the window and day-dreaming of being with Fergie while trying to remove the glitter from underneath their fingernails.
With the exception of Buddy Guy (how the hell does this guy do it?) and Jeff Beck.
Footnote: There is a heavy metal band playing in and around Cincinnati called Visual Kaos. Go figure.