Category Archives: Songs

“Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”

Singer/songwriter pianist Nina Simone singing Bob Dylan’s song “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” — from her album “To Love Somebody” (released: 1969)

“Desert Rose”

Sting, Morocco, 2015

That’s Entertainment!

I recently saw for the first time the 1953 movie musical “The Band Wagon” where the song “That’s Entertainment” is from (this song subsequently became the title of the mid 1970s documentary “That’s Entertainment” that highlighted the late 1920s – late 1950s era of the Hollywood musical).

I wasn’t aware that there was actually a song that the documentary film title was based on.  This song’s lyrics, to a large extent, seem to speak to the love of theater in terms of plot scenarios…

“That’s Entertainment” by songwriter, Arthur Schwartz

Anything that happens in life
Can happen in a show
You can make ’em laugh
You can make ’em cry
Anything, anything can go

The clown
With his pants falling down
Or the dance
That’s a dream of romance
Or the scene
Where the villain is mean
That’s entertainment!

The lights
On the lady in tights
Or the bride
With the guy on the side
Or the ball
Where she gives him her all
That’s entertainment!

The plot
Could be hot
Simply teeming with sex
A gay
Divorcee
Who is after her ex
It could be Oedipus Rex
Where a chap kills his father
And causes a lot of bother

The clerk
Who is thrown out of work
By the boss
Who is thrown for a loss
By the skirt
Who is doing him dirt

The world is a stage
The stage is a world
Of entertainment!

That’s entertainment!

That’s entertainment!

The doubt
While the jury is out
Or the thrill
When they’re reading the will
Or the chase
For the man with the face
That’s Entertainment!

The dame
Who is known as the flame
Of the king
Of an underworld ring
He’s an ape
Who won’t let her escape
That’s entertainment!

It might
Be a fight
Like you see on the screen
A swain
Getting slain
For the love of a queen
Some great Shakespearean scene
Where a ghost and a prince meet
And everyone ends in mincemeat

The gag
Might be waving the flag
That began
With a Mr. Cohan
Hip hooray
The American way!

The world is a stage
The stage is a world
Of entertainment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up on the Roof

The Beatles singing “Get Back” on a London rooftop, January 1969

 

Irish rock band, U2, live performance of song “Where the Streets Have No Name,” Los Angeles rooftop, March 1987

“Yellow”

There is a backstory about the compelling letter that Director Jon Chu wrote to the members of the band, Coldplay asking permission to feature a cover of their song “Yellow” in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians.”  I’m very glad Coldplay agreed!!

This is sung in Chinese by Katherine Ho.

 

The movie takes place in New York City and Singapore and features an all Asian cast.  The film is based on the first book of a trilogy written by author, Kevin Kwan: Crazy Rich Asians (Book 1); China Rich Girlfriend Book 2); and Rich People Problems (Book 3) .

“You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way”

Elvis Costello song from the 2017 movie “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” (featuring actors Annette Bening and Jamie Bell)

 

Montage

“Montage” is a long ago song that for some reason left an imprint on my mind.  It was when I was a teenager that I heard it in the movie “How Sweet It Is” starring James Garner and Debbie Reynolds who portray a married couple who become chaperones to a group of teenagers, including their adolescent son, on a trip to Europe.  While this song’s pop melody and catchy lyrics peaked my interest, it’s actually taken me some years to actually track it down.

From what I’ve read recently it is believed that songwriter/composer/singer, Jimmy Webb, was asked to write a song specifically for this movie “How Sweet It Is” (released in 1968) and this is how the song “Montage,” was created.  The version here is sung by the group “Love Generation.”

Montage

“It was written on my mind like the back of an envelope rehearsed
and very carefully in reach,
Like cool cucumber noncommittal speech,
That I wrote while hanging out down at the beach.
And I shivered from the cold of the ice in my granite heart,
Knowing that you didn’t have a prayer,
And then I rang the bell and you were there.

And darling, then your face was full of me,
And then your eyes were, too.

And I knew that you knew that I knew
That you knew that I knew that you knew
That I knew that you knew that I knew.

I regained my self control and I tried to close my big fat mouth
Before I love you fell out on the floor,
I didn’t feel like Batman anymore,
I hit my funny elbow on the door.
And then your brother asked if I had money for a haircut,
And the pimple on my neck began to hurt,
Suddenly I wished I’d changed my shirt.

And darling, then your face was full of me
And then your eyes were, too.

And I knew that you knew that I knew
That you knew that I knew that you knew
That I knew that you knew that I knew.”

—Jimmy Webb (born, 1946)

the-love-generation-montage-from-how-sweet-it-is-i-knew-that-you-knew-imperial                       MontagePicardy

“Don’t Think Twice” – Movies borrowing Bob Dylan songs and lyrics

Most of the literate world is aware at this point that songwriter musician Bob Dylan was recently awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.  For those who don’t follow the news regularly there was some concern in the days following the announcement that Mr. Dylan couldn’t be found because he hadn’t formally commented about receiving this honor.  Finally he did respond publicly saying that receiving the award was “amazing, incredible.  Whoever dreams about something like that?”  It’s been reported that Mr. Dylan won’t be attending the awards ceremony, however, in Sweden on December 10 as he has another commitment at this time.

In the aftermath of Bob Dylan being the recipient of this award, I was reminded about seeing earlier this autumn two recent film titles that are lines lifted from Bob Dylan songs.  It made me realize how much his music has permeated our cultural consciousness.  These very recent films are entitled “Complete Unknown” (2016) and “Don’t Think Twice” (2016).

I began to wonder how many movies have borrowed their titles from Dylan songs through the years.  Here is a list of some films (as well as a few TV series):

“Forever Young” (1992)

“Corrina, Corrina” (1994) (Dylan didn’t write this blues/country song – his cover of it is well known)

“Just Like a Woman” – Three movies with this title since the late 1960s: 1967, 1992 and 2012

“A Simple Twist of Fate” (1994)

“Like a Rolling Stone” (1994) – Japanese film

“If Not For You” (1995) – TV series that ran 8 episodes

“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (1997) – German film

“All Along the Watchtower” (1999) – TV series that ran 6 episodes

“Tangled Up in Blue” – Three different full length films have been made with this title.  Their respective years of release were 2004, 2009 and 2011.

“Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast” (2005)

“Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan” (2006)

“Blowin’ in the Wind” (2007)

“One Too Many Mornings” (2010)

“My Back Pages” (2011) – Japanese film

I’m actually leaving out innumerable short films and individual television episodes (from a wide range of TV series) whose titles also borrow from Dylan’s repertoire.

Epilogue

In spring 2016 Rolling Stone magazine published this list of the 100 best Bob Dylan songs. Here is the online link: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-bob-dylan-songs-20160524

And in providing some commentary in regard to these songs, writer/director Cameron Crowe states “Dylan’s stuff continues to inform every generation – it just lives and lives and lives…”

Elvis, liking his music (& also a movie about him meeting Nixon)

Elvis!   I was too young to understand what all the fuss was about when I was growing up – I grew up on the Beatles and the first wave of the British Invasion bands that followed and Elvis just seemed corny and out of date to me.

Then one nite, in the mid 1980s, I heard a song sung live by a local rock band in the city where I was living at the time.  This song was pure rock n roll, up tempo and very danceable – it dazzled me like a meteor roaring across the sky (to make my own corny metaphor).  Afterwards I asked someone in the band who wrote this song and the musician looked at me oddly – it’s an Elvis song.

After that I began to take an interest in this American icon of rock n roll.  Within that year I watched the film performance of his 1968 Las Vegas concert.  I began to realize Elvis contributed quite a repertoire of very likeable rock n roll songs to contemporary music.  While I didn’t make it a mission to seek out any other specific songs per se, I definitely had a new respect for Elvis Presley and his music.

Now recently I saw the movie “Elvis and Nixon” released in Spring 2016 starring actor Michael Shannon as the King of Rock n Roll and actor Kevin Spacey as the President.  It’s based on the real life meeting between Elvis and Nixon that took place sometime in  Dec 1970/early January 1971.  The film takes its premise from an infamous photograph of the two of them shaking hands when they met at the White House.  No one knows what their conversation, however, was actually about.  The movie extrapolates on this meeting by additionally focusing on friends of Elvis who possibly accompanied him to the White House when he traveled there and also on Nixon’s aides who (in this film version anyway) encourage Nixon to go and ahead meet this visitor, Elvis Presley.  “Elvis and Nixon” is ultimately kind of quirky and fun and possibly of interest to Elvis fans.

Anyway here is the song that made me like Elvis!

 

More Soundtracks…”Aloha”

The film “Aloha” was released in 2015, and before its release evidently this film was riddled with controversy.  Criticism initially stemmed from what is regarded as insensitive casting choices, and then in the wake of Sony studio’s hacked email communications, it was revealed that some studio executives believed the film was a mistake and the studio would lose money.

I saw “Aloha” on DVD the other night – it isn’t a great film, and in my opinion some of the plot lacks plausibility.  The chemistry among the actors was believable, however, and that kept my interest.

What “Aloha” does have is a cavalcade of good music ranging from traditional Hawaiian songs to selections by David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oates, Eddie Vedder & his seven-year-old daughter, Harper, and more.  Given that the writer/director, Cameron Crowe is a former editor/writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, and Crowe’s other movies have similarly memorable musical moments, the abundance of music in “Aloha” is not all that surprising.

“Heart is a Drum” by Beck Hansen is a song in the film that captured me.