BOBBY HART'S NEW TOME 'PSYCHEDELIC BUBBLE GUM'
THE GLORIOUS CORNER
Story By: G. H. HARDING
YOU GOTTA HAVE HART --- Bobby Hart. You may not immediately know the name, but his music ("Last Train to Clarksville" only one of several great hits) has sold millions. Furthermore, he (along with songwriter partner Tommy Boyce) was a key ingredient in helping made-for-TV band The Monkees outsell both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in 1967. Hart is also a Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy Award winner. And now, Hart has just penned a book called Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem into Miracles, written with co-writer Glenn Ballantyne and published by SelectBooks.
The book follows Hart‘s rise in the music industry as half of the songwriting duo Boyce and Hart. The two friends and fellow craftsmen were in the right place at the right time when, in 1966, their song “Last Train to Clarksville”—along with one of the catchiest and coolest TV theme songs ever—launched The Monkees into both TV and music stardom (where the music eventually reached over a hundred million units in record sales).
Along the way in the new book is all the heartbreak and drama that accompanies fame and fortune―an uprooted life, conflicted morals, and the sacrifice of his wholesome high school sweetheart, Becky. He also had a long relationship with former Playboy-gal Claudia Jennings, who died tragically in an October 1979 car crash.
We’ve just started the book, which features a terrific Foreword by Micky Dolenz, and will have a full review shortly. Been waiting for this one.
TONY’S BACK --- David Bowie collaborators Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey are to perform Bowie‘s The Man Who Sold the World album in its entirety at the 02 Academy Liverpool tomorrow.
Tony, who has produced many of Bowie’s albums, will play bass, and Woody (an original member of The Spiders from Mars) will play drums.
They will be joined by special guests Marc Almond and Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet), as well as James Stevenson (The Cult, Generation X, Scott Walker, Gene Loves Jezebel) on guitar; Paul Cuddeford (Ian Hunter, Bob Geldof) also on guitar; and Lisa Ronson (The Secret History, Mott the Hoople) on vocals.
Tony says: “One reason I’m looking forward to playing The Man Who Sold the World album in its entirety again is because lots of people ask me if I still play bass.”
“I do, but I’ve since rarely played anything as ambitious and demanding as the music of that great batch of songs conceived by David Bowie. With Woody Woodmansey and Mick Ronson, two of the finest musicians I’ve had the pleasure of recording and playing with, we set out to create something both new and classic, we called it our ‘Sgt. Pepper’.”
“David gave us a chance to bring our unique talents to the table and we made up our parts within David’s framework. Mick forced me to listen to Jack Bruce, however, and told me ‘that’s what great bass playing was all about’.”
Tony worked with Bowie from 1969’s album Space Oddity to 2013’s The Next Day (still on my audio box), with album highlights including Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Low, and Heroes.
After performing The Man Who Sold the World album live in full, the band will go on to play many of Bowie’s greatest songs from the 1969-73 era, including “Time,” ”Ziggy Stardust,” “Changes,” and Woodmansey‘s signature tune on drums, the iconic “Five Years.”
Marc Almond says: “It’s a thrill to be working with Woody and sometimes I can’t believe I’m on stage with the same man I saw on stage in the early 1970s when I went to watch David Bowie.”
I got to know Visconti when he was working as producer with The Singhs on their most recent album, Science Fiction (2013). Great album, but it got lost in the corporate shuffle. Too bad, because Tony is the real deal. I predict they'll do the show over here soon.
DON’T MESS WITH HURRICANE BILLY --- William Friedkin, the 79-year-old director of the ultimate horror film (The Exorcist) and the ultimate police thriller (1971’s The French Connection, for which he won an Oscar as Best Director), has criticized the lack of substance in contemporary feature-film blockbusters and claims that television is where the great storytelling lies.
His attack goes on to include the current crop of Hollywood blockbusters, claiming the constant stream of superhero movies is killing the art form.
The director, who ironically first entered the world of film making through work on TV shows during much of the 1960s, had to watch back in 1977 as his criminally-under appreciated and near-masterpiece Sorcerer (itself a remake of the classic 1953 French thriller called The Wages of Fear) became consigned to oblivion by the release of the George Lucas blockbuster Star Wars. More than just a knee-jerk reaction to how his own picture got lost in the shuffle, Friedkin’s view is based on what he sees as a distinct lack of realism and substance in the majority of mainstream movies released today. “Films used to be rooted in gravity,” he said at the Champs-Élysées film festival in Paris. “They were about real people doing real things. Today, cinema in America is all about Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Avengers, the ‘Hunger Games:’ all kinds of stuff that I have no interest in seeing at all.”
Friedkin does believe the change in American cinema happened as his action-thriller picture Sorcerer was overshadowed by the success of Star Wars. “That is when my films went like that–out of the frame,” he said.
He now believes that the best place for filmmakers is the small screen. “You develop character at a greater length and the story is more complex and deeper than cinema,” Friedkin said. “Many of the fine filmmakers are going to long-form TV. It is the most welcoming place to work for a director today.”
Friedkin has directed two episodes of the CBS show CSI, and is hoping to make a Mae West biopic for HBO (which might star Bette Midler). He has also discussed turning his 1985 feature film, To Live and Die in L.A., into a television series.
Having just finished reading After Woodstock (the remarkable new memoir from Taking Woodstock writer and gay rights icon Elliot Tiber), I can’t help but think that Tiber’s edgy yet poignant new work (which actually brings Friedkin’s works into focus through Tiber’s decades-long relationship with late Belgian actor/director Andre Ernotte, who worked with Friedkin on The French Connection) just might have the makings of a remarkable cable-TV miniseries . . . with Friedkin at the helm. We’ll see.
CLOSING NOTES ---Why Hunger ’s gala event next Tuesday at Chelsea Piers features live performances from Felix Cavaliere and Paul Shaffer. Also, there is a mystery guest . . . and we know who it is. Stay tuned . . .
Trump? It makes for great TV, but as President?! Don't think so . . .
Tom Silverman's New Music Seminar gears up for its latest run this weekend. Silverman, who started it with Danny Heaps, Scott Anderson, David Salidor, and the late Joel Webber in the ‘80s, has tried his best to reboot it in the hopes of finding continued audiences. But, in my opinion, it just doesn't work anymore. With the rise of festivals like Bonnaroo, Coachella, and the old warhorse South by Southwest, it just doesn't hold up. It was conceived in the ‘80s, and it seems to have remained mired in the ‘80s. Calling things bluntly, it appears to me be nothing else but a money-grab. Sorry ...
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if David Letterman scores an Emmy nomination. For Pete’s sake, let's hope so. His last month of shows were all instant-classics. Here's to hoping . . .