Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Closer To Fine" by Indigo Girls

To mark the birthday of Emily Saliers - herself half-responsible for the sweet harmonies of Indigo Girls, alongside Amy Ray - I thought I'd post this clip of their first network television appearance, on Late Night with David Letterman in 1989. In addition to singing their first hit, Closer to Fine, they also engage in a little awkward banter with Letterman afterwards, in which he falls all over himself to be nice to them.

Although they'd released a 7" single (Crazy Game with Everybody's Waiting (for Someone to Come Home) on the b-side) in 1985, and their first full-length album Strange Fire in 1987, it wasn't until the release of their first major label release - 1988's Indigo Girls - that they scored a major hit with Closer To Fine. The album unfortunately* lost the Best New Artist Grammy to pop fraudsters Milli Vanilli, but won Best Contemporary Folk Recording.

*Or fortunately, given the curse that winning Best New Artist seems to bestow.
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Remembering... Estelle Getty

Television lost one of its brightest stars on this day in 2008 when Estelle Getty - who for seven seasons played Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls* - succumbed to natural causes at her Los Angeles home just three days before her 85th birthday. Getty had been battling Lewy body dementia.

PhotobucketAlthough it would seem that Getty was a late-comer to show business, she was in fact a seasoned stage veteran; she not only got her break in New York City's Yiddish theater but also trod the boards as a comedienne in the Catskills - the so-called Borscht Belt - before landing the role of Harvey Fierstein's mother on Broadway in the play Torch Song Trilogy - also opposite a very young Matthew Broderick.

Despite being one year younger than Beatrice Arthur, Getty submitted to being aged in order to play Sophia, which is the sort of precaution TV producers have taken ever since Irene Ryan agreed to be biddied up in order to play Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies; alas, similar precautions weren't taken with Marion Lorne, who died in 1968 during the run of Bewitched, thus depriving viewers of Aunt Clara's priceless loopiness for that show's final three seasons.

Getty won a Golden Globe in 1986 and an Emmy in 1988 for her portrayal of Sophia; she also won a Golden Raspberry Award in 1992 for her part - opposite Sylvester Stallone - in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. My inclination, though, is to blame Stallone for that one; film fans may remember (but wish they didn't) that time he also tried to ruin Dolly Parton's career with Rhinestone in 1984.

So while Estelle Getty will be sorely missed, her verve, killer smile, and inherent humanity live on; to any of you jonesing for a Sophia fix having just read this may I suggest you check out The Lanai, on YouTube, and catch up on some of those great episodes of The Golden Girls you might have missed. Or, you know, really splash out and buy them on DVD.

*As well as one season on the spin-off The Golden Palace** and the occasional appearance on Empty Nest.
**Which featured an early appearance by Don Cheadle!
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"The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley

Birthday wishes go out today to Don Henley - who is not only a founding member of the 1970s super group the Eagles but who's also had a successful solo career as well; when not making music (or headlines, thanks to romances with the likes of Stevie Nicks) Henley devotes his time to environmental charities. Unlike many celebrity activists, though, Henley appears to have a sense of humour about himself. Once upon a time while performing in Austin he got onstage with Mojo Nixon and began beat boxing to Nixon's song Don Henley Must Die, leaving the audience ecstatic, Nixon speechless, and the two musicians fast friends...

The Boys of Summer was a Top 5 hit for Henley when it was released as the first single from his second solo album, 1984's Building the Perfect Beast; the video, directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, is in the style of the French Nouvelle Vague. Not only did Henley win a Grammy for his performance of the song but the video won a Grammy as well.

I can't say for certain what drew me to the song in the first place as a teenager aside from its haunting style, sharp imagery, and literate lyrics; as I get older, though, I've come to appreciate the song on an entirely different level. As much as I am able to see the onset of middle age as a positive development (and not just because no amount of money would make me go through my 20s again, unless I could do it knowing what I know now) there's always going to be that sense of loss about growing older as well, even if it is a loss which is both welcome and commonplace.

For me The Boys of Summer neatly combines these two opposing sets of emotions.
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POPnews - July 22nd

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[At the time of his death, John Dillinger was the most wanted man in America for his role in a series of bank robberies; he was even more wanted in another way - seen as a dashing hero by millions of Americans who were affected most acutely by the Great Depression, Dillinger was also one of the era's foremost sex symbols.]

1298 - At one of the major battles in the First War of Scottish Independence - the Battle of Falkirk - England's King Edward I and his longbowmen defeated William Wallace's Scottish schiltrons.

1456 - During the Ottoman Wars in Europe - as the Siege of Belgrade ended - the defending forces of John Hunyadi, regent of the Kingdom of Hungary, defeated the invading armies of Sultan Mehmet II; despite handing the Ottoman Empire a rout and effectively halting their intended invasion of Europe, an outbreak of plague in his camp would claim Hunyadi's life within three weeks.

1499 - At the Battle of Dornach Swiss troops decisively defeated the army of Emperor Maximilian I, thus ending the Swabian War; one possible reason for the Swiss victory was the death of the Imperial commander, Heinrich von F├╝rstenberg, early on in the fighting. Although the independence of Switzerland from the Holy Roman Empire was recognized by the Treaty of Basel (signed on September 22nd) as a result of this battle, it had been proclaimed by the Old Swiss Confederacy as early as August 1291.

1587 - A second group of English settlers numbering 117 in total and led by John White arrived on North Carolina's Roanoke Island in order to try to re-establish the Colony of Roanoke, which had mysteriously disappeared.

1686 - The city of Albany was formally chartered by New York governor Thomas Dongan; originally the site of a Dutch settlement, Fort Orange, Albany is now the capital of the state of New York.

1793 - Having reached the Pacific Coast of North America at Bella Coola (which is located on North Bentinck Arm via West Road River) on July 20th, Alexander Mackenzie reached the Pacific Ocean - becoming the first European to complete a transcontinental crossing of Canada - when he arrived at the westernmost point of his journey at Dean Channel. While there he inscribed Alex MacKenzie from Canada by land 22d July 1793 on a rock - an inscription which has been faithfully preserved ever since.

1796 - Surveyors of the Connecticut Land Company named an area in Ohio 'Cleveland' after Gen. Moses Cleaveland, the superintendent of the surveying party.

1812 - During the Peninsular War phase of the Napoleonic Wars British forces led by Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) defeated French troops commanded by Auguste Marmont at the Battle of Salamanca, seriously damaging the western quarter of the city of Salamanca in the process.

1894 - The first-ever motorized racing event was held - in France, between the cities of Paris and Rouen, a distance of 128 km (80 miles) - organized by the Parisian newspaper Le Petit Journal; although technically the race was won by Jules de Dion, because his vehicle was steam-powered he was never given the reward money being offered to the winner.

1916 - A bomb exploded on San Francisco's Market Street during a Preparedness Day parade, killing 10 and injuring 40; although labour leader Thomas Mooney and his assistant Warren K. Billings were eventually arrested and Mooney sentenced to die for the crime, their trial later proved overwhelmingly corrupt, and eventually both were released.

1933 - Famed aviator Wiley Post completed the first solo flight around the world, covering 25,100 km (15,596 miles) in 7 days, 18 hours and 45 minutes.

1934 - Agents of the newly empowered Federal Bureau of Investigation shot and mortally wounded their 'Public Enemy No. 1' John Dillinger outside Chicago's Biograph Theater; Dillinger had just left a showing of the gangster flick Manhattan Melodrama when his own Chicago melodrama played out. The event is the climactic moment of Michael Mann's film Public Enemies - based on the book of the same name by Bryan Burrough - in which Dillinger is portrayed by Johnny Depp.

1942 - Under Nazi supervision, the deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto began; the exiles were sent mainly to the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Treblinka.

1944 - The Polish Committee of National Liberation published its manifesto, starting the period of Communist rule in Poland.

1946 - At 12:37 PM Irgun bombs rocked Jerusalem's King David Hotel - headquarters of the British civil and military administration of the British Mandate - collapsing the western half of the H-shaped building's southern wing; although warning calls were placed to the hotel's switchboard, the offices of the Palestine Post, and the French consulate, they were not heeded and no evacuation was carried out. 91 people were killed and 46 injured in the blast.

1983 - Poland's state of martial law - declared by Wojciech Jaruzelski in December 1981 in response to the Solidarity movement - was officially revoked.

1991 - Jeffrey Dahmer was finally arrested, having murdered at least 11 (and as many as 17) young men in the Milwaukee area - as well as untold others (possibly including Adam Walsh) when he lived in Florida.

2003 - Members of the US 101st Airborne, aided by Special Forces, attacked a compound in Iraq, killing Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay, along with Mustapha Hussein (Qusay's 14-year old son), and a bodyguard.

2005 - Jean Charles de Menezes was shot seven times in the head at close range by London's Metropolitan Police at Stockwell tube station as their hunt for terrorist bombers responsible for attacks on the city's public transportation system on 7 July and 21 July intensified... De Menezes, a Brazilian national, bore a passing resemblance* to one of the suspects, Osman Hussain. His tragic death is currently the subject of a play, written by Kieron Brady and directed by Sophie Lifschutz. and has inspired a song by Pet Shop Boys entitled We're All Criminals Now.

*Police code for 'was brown'.
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