The Legend Bob Gruen

LENNON NYC -- We finally got to watch the excellent American Masters/PBS special entitled Lennon NYC which focuses on John Lennon’s time in New York City. The 1 hour and 55 minute documentary is jammed packed with many never before seen interviews with the likes of Elton John; recording engineer Roy Cicala; photographer Bob Gruen; Yoko Ono; Ringo Starr; drummer Jim Keltner; May Pang; David Geffen; guitarist Earl Slick; and, most notably producer Jack Douglas, who gives out some really terrific revelations on the artist, including the fact that Lennon would always flatten his D chord on the guitar, so when someone asked if that was him, he could say the out-of-tune somewhat guitar was his. He also offers some rather startling views on his songwriting and habits in the recording studio. I found it particularly moving that the day after Lennon’s death, he and Ono retreated to the studio where they listened to out takes and what they had recorded with him for hours. As Douglas says, “We had our own wake.” Drummer Keltner says that he was a powerful songwriter and listening too much of his work again, he’s definitely right on the money. Even the songs from his album Sometime In New York City; somewhat derided at first sound just sensational and hold up amazingly well. Clips from the famous One To One (1972) concert and several with the band Elephant’s Memory immediately show just how quick-witted Lennon was with a lyric and how quickly he worked was in the studio. Douglas says that he always had the concept for the music first; then fit the lyrics to that concept. Writer Jon Weiner whose 1996 book Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files famously tells how the FBI sought to have Lennon deported, after he appeared at a rally for John Sinclair (jailed for possessing two joints) and succeeded in turning the event into a major one; as the Ann Arbor police had no choice but to free Sinclair two days later due to the public outcry and national attention. So, the feds figuring a rumored appearance by Lennon at the 1972 Republican Convention would only turn out bad, had to figure a way to oust him. As Weiner succinctly points out, the 1972 election being the first time 18-year olds could vote (my God, was it really that long ago?), the powerful-Republican party wanted every advantage they could have. Directed with verve by Michael Epstein, it’s really one terrific document of a major, major personality in not only music, but society. Lennon who would have tuned 70 years old this past October would have found it positively riveting. My only criticism is that it rather abruptly ends once he is murdered in 1980. Truth be told, there’s been many revelations since that time which seem odd to not have been included here. But, it’s definitely worth viewing, especially if you cared about and remember John Lennon.


Bette Midler

BETTE MIDLER – HBO’s The Showgirl Must Go On featured the marvelous Bette Midler in one of her final appearances at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, on New Year’s Eve. The 70-minute special, which began its run at the Colosseum at Caesars’s in February 2008, featured some of Midler’s best songs, including “From A Distance,” “Wind Beneath My Wings” and, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Between glimpses of Ryan Seacrest with Dick Clark and Jenny McCarthy, The Divine Ms. M proved the perfect antidote to an otherwise somewhat sullen New Year’s in NYC (maybe it was our recent snow storm!). I had two immediate reactions to the show: I was amazed just how strong and powerful her voice still was, and, second: Just how much of the show was unchanged from the first time I saw Midler at The Continental Baths (the summer of 1970) in NYC with none other than Barry Manilow! Believe me, she was funny then … and, though some of the material is dated … she's still funny now! I guess the old adage: if it ain’t on the page; it ain’t on the stage rings true. Midler’s made quite the career for herself; having been nominated for two Academy Awards; won four Grammy Awards; four Golden Globes; three Emmy Awards; and, a Tony Award, and has sold over 30 million records, she’s a singular talent. We loved the show! She’s also a producer on the forthcoming Broadway play Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which will bow this year.


Micky Dolenz

Monkee- Micky Dolenz, currently in Hairspray in Europe, is back in L.A. for a week on January 10th and has a rich cameo in SyFy’s Mega Python Vs. Gatorid (directed by Mary Lambert) that debuts on the channel on Monday, January 24 (the flick also stars Tiffany) … Who says the music business is over? City Boy Records, based in Syracuse, New York, has just begun their efforts for the new years with new released from Circle Of One and instrumentalist Kyoji Yamamoto. Fronted by Bruce Pegg, we'll have more on them next time.

Photos By: Sara De Boer/RD/Orchon/Kabik/Derek Storm/Retna