Tuesday, December 07, 2010

"Hold On" by Tom Waits

To complete today's birthday video hat trick here's Hold On, a track from Tom Waits' 1999 album Mule Variations - which featured such instant classics as Big in Japan, What's He Building?, Picture in a Frame, and Chocolate Jesus.

Coming seven years after its predecessor - the 1992 album Bone Machine - Mule Variations is an almost perfect synthesis of the Asylum Years and the Island Years in one elegantly produced little package, a pristine copy of which holds pride of place in the collection of the Pop Culture Institute.
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"Romeo Is Bleeding (live)" by Tom Waits

From Tom Waits' 1978 album Blue Valentine, it's Romeo is Bleeding, shown here performed live - the way it oughta be...

I am an unabashed fan of Waits' work during the so-called Asylum Years, and depending on the day or the time of year (and occasionally even the time of day) Blue Valentine is my favourite of his albums from that time.
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"Temptation" by Tom Waits

From his 1987 album Franks Wild Years, it's birthday boy Tom Waits with Temptation, a song more properly called an aria, since the album from whence it issues was written to accompany a play - and is in fact subtitled 'Un Operachi Romantico in Two Acts'.

The play Franks Wild Years was first produced by Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company and had its world premiere in June 1986; a song of the same title originally appeared on Waits' 1983 album Swordfishtrombones.

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Happy Birthday Tom Waits

With a yelp and a growl, a shudder and a wail, Tom Waits does more than sing a song, he inhabits it... His songbook currently comprises an unparalleled achievement in American music; spanning more than thirty years chronologically, sonically as well the music of Tom Waits not only reaches back into a neverland of 1940s bluegrass, 1930s crooning, and 1920s blues, but since 1983 has also managed to offer a forceful, if dystopian, futurism. One thing a Tom Waits song never sounds like is today, which is surely why his entire catalogue seems as timeless as it does.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1949, Tom Waits began his musical career in 1965, singing with a band at a pizzeria in San Diego, a scenario which sounds very much like an early Tom Waits song; he signed with Asylum Records in 1972, and then proceeded to craft and release a veritable tapestry of songs which are not only rich in character (a trait too-often lacking in contemporary music) but which tend to shed light into dark corners and onto even darker events in the American psyche with an uncompromising compassion. His first album, Closing Time, was released in 1973; it was followed yearly by The Heart of Saturday Night, Nighthawks at the Diner, Small Change, Foreign Affairs, and Blue Valentine. Two years later - in 1980 - came the final album of the period known to Waits scholars as The Asylum Years, the nearly perfect Heartattack and Vine.

It was while recording the soundtrack to One from the Heart, a Francis Ford Coppola film for which he supplied several duets with Crystal Gayle and for which he was Oscar-nominated, that Waits met his future wife and collaborator, Kathleen Brennan. He also found himself a new label - Island Records - and a new sound as well. In fact, what happened next to Tom Waits was described by him - and he should know - as nothing less than a paradigm shift.

Waits' next album, Swordfishtrombones, was a radical departure from his previous works, and featured an experimental sound both musically and vocally; it was also around this time that Waits began acting, including a memorable turn in Ironweed. Ever since, Tom Waits has straddled that line between sentimentalist and futurist; having found a new outlet for the seedy underdogs and cocky grifters who characterized his early music in acting has freed him up to take his music (including his voice) deeper and deeper into idiosyncrasy, with altogether memorable results.
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Pop History Moment: The Bombing of Pearl Harbor

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On this day in 1941, the United States was sucker-punched by the Empire of Japan when 350 Japanese aircraft launched from six aircraft carriers destroyed 5 American ships and 188 aircraft, killing 2,388 and injuring 1,178 in under ninety minutes.

The raid, which began just before 8 AM, came in two waves; the first targeted the ships, such as the USS Arizona and the USS Utah, the second the nearby airbase and fuel tanks. The majority of the deaths that day were aboard the USS Arizona.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a rhetorical flourish even better than his usual, dubbed it 'a date which will live in infamy'; in these post 9-11 days, the academic and critical focus on the attack has shifted from the sheer horror of it to who might have known it was coming and did nothing to stop it, even though in the opinion of the Pop Culture Institute comparisons between Pearl Harbor and 9-11 are specious at best, and the very best of Republican obfuscation at worst.
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POPnews - December 7th

[As these things go, it's a third-rate planet in the boondocks of the
galaxy, but I like it better than any place I've ever lived thus far.

43 BCE - Roman statesman and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero was assassinated.

1696 - Connecticut Route 108 - one of the oldest extant roads in the US - was completed through Trumbull; it was then known as the Farm Highway, and is now called Nichols Avenue.

1724 - Religious unrest following the execution of nine Protestant citizens and the mayor of Thorn (Toruń) by Polish authorities resulted in the Tumult of Thorn, an event still observed in remembrance there at St. Mary's Church.

1732 - The Royal Opera House opened at London's Covent Garden.

1776 - France's Marquis de Lafayette attempted to enter the American military as a major general through the American agent in Paris, Silas Deane.

1787 - Delaware became the first state to ratify the US Constitution, making it the first US state.

1889 - Gilbert & Sullivan's comic light opera The Gondoliers premiered at the Savoy Theatre in London.

1916 - David Lloyd George was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain.

1930 - W1XAV in Boston broadcast video from the CBS radio orchestra program, The Fox Trappers; the broadcast also included America's first television commercial, an advertisement for I.J. Fox Furriers, who sponsored the radio show.

1946 - A fire at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta killed 119.

1955 - Clement Attlee stepped down as leader of Britain's Labour Party to be created Earl Attlee and Viscount Prestwood by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II ten days later.

1963 - Instant replay was used for the first time at an Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.

1965 - Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras simultaneously lifted mutual excommunications against their respective positions that had been in place since 1054.

1972 - Apollo 17, the last Apollo moon mission, was launched; during the flight the crew took the photograph known as The Blue Marble.

1982 - Charles Brooks, Jr. became the first person executed by lethal injection in the United States.

1987 - Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771 crashed near Paso Robles, California, killing all 43 on board, after a disgruntled passenger shot his ex-boss traveling on the flight, then shot both pilots and himself.

1993 - Colin Ferguson murdered 6 and injured 19 during the so-called Long Island Railroad Massacre.

1995 - The Galileo spacecraft arrived at Jupiter, a little more than six years after it was launched by Space Shuttle Atlantis during Mission STS-34.

2006 - A tornado struck Kensal Green in North West London, seriously damaging around 150 properties - none of which were mobile homes.
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