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It’s Got a Good Beat and It’s Easy To Dance To

18 Apr

CNN has been, for at least two hours straight now, honoring the life of Dick Clark, who passed away today of a heart attack at age 82.  I could wax rhapsodic about the man’s history on this blog, too, but the story’s pretty well-known, isn’t it?  American Bandstand host and producer.  Game show host, of programs like The $100,000 Pyramid.  New Year’s Rockin’ Eve emcee.  Instead (much like when Davy Jones passed even more unexpectedly), I’m compelled to offer some brief thoughts on three ways I’ll remember Dick Clark.

1.  He brought music into my living room.  Specifically, through American Bandstand he brought all sorts of modern music – pop, rock, R&B, dance, famously breaking down color barriers for artists on TV – into my grandmother’s living room.  When I was really young and living in a small town and my family was poor.  Some of my earliest memories are of being spread out on the cold cement floor, watching any and all music programs on that tiny television.  Saturdays seemed to be full of them, though my fuzzy memories could be mashing them all into one time frame: Soul Train, Dance Fever, Solid Gold, Puttin’ on the Hits.  (I couldn’t stay up late enough for the really cool stuff like The Midnight Special.)  My first glimpses of icons like Stevie Wonder (playing “Superstition”!), Tina Turner, and Elton John were on these programs.  I’m pretty certain the first time I saw the childhood dreamboats in Wham! and Duran Duran was on Bandstand, too.  And even if I didn’t catch those artists on Bandstand, that show obviously laid the foundation for the other shows to exist, and for artists to be seen as well as heard long before MTV blew those doors open. 

2.  That Barry Manilow “Bandstand” theme song.  The “Bandstand Boogie” tune was always American Bandstand‘s theme song, but appeared in instrumental form until 1977, when it was replaced by Barry Manilow’s version with lyrics about appearing on the show.  When you think about American Bandstand, this is likely the first thing that comes to mind – soon followed by Dick Clark sitting in the audience with the young dancers when introducing the week’s musical guest.  Or maybe you thought about the Rate-A-Record segment, when the kids ranked new singles on a scale from 0-100.  (“It’s got a good beat and it’s easy to dance to.  I’d give it a 75.”)  The theme song jumps to mind for me because it was catchy as hell, and because in high school, I had to dance a routine to this song.  Let me remind you all that I cannot dance.  I rarely even ever feel compelled to dance.  (Unless this is playing live in front of me.)  But I attempted to go along with choreography, along with about a dozen of my female classmates, in the service of trying to win the local level of the 1993 “Young Woman of the Year” pageant (formerly known as Junior Miss) and getting some college scholarship dough.  Unshockingly, I didn’t win, or even rank.  It’s more shocking that I even entered the pageant.  I really needed that money.

3.  He was immortal, and then he was too mortal.  The joke I always heard when I was a kid was about how Dick Clark never appeared to age.  He did look incredibly good for his age over the years, an eternal teenager.  Maybe being around all that youthful energy for decades kept him young?  Then came the debilitating stroke of a few years ago.  Everyone thought Clark was down for the count, but he lived to make public appearances again, most notably alongside heir apparent Ryan Seacrest on the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve specials in recent years.  After his return, Clark was pretty much universally mocked by the press for his slurred speech and decreased mobility.  After all those years of being the closest thing pop culture had to a real-life Dorian Gray, it was like someone destroyed the painting in Dick Clark’s attic.  And it was startling.  He went from eternally young to incontrovertibly old in the blink of an eye.  I commend him for attempting to return to the stage, though; he wouldn’t have tried if the passion still wasn’t within him.

We may not have a musical innovator the likes of Dick Clark again in our lifetimes.  I’m grateful for the diversity, accessiblity, and sheer joy of music he spread across the nation.  I’d give him a 100.

You’re No Good For Me, But Baby, I Want You

1 Feb

Yesterday saw the release of arguably the most argued-about album in eons: Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die. I can’t remember the last time music fans worked themselves into such a froth over an unproven artist. The official reviews are decidedly “meh”. Entertainment Weekly gives Born To Die a C+, while Spin gives the album an almost apologetic 6 out of 10. “This record is not godawful. Nor is it great. But it’s better than we deserve. We broke her; we bought her,” Spin critic Rob Harvilla declares. I wish somebody would bother to explain to me why there is so much vitriol directed towards Lana Del Rey. So, I’m going to try to figure it out myself. Continue reading

It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp

25 Jan

The nominations for the 2012 Academy Awards were announced yesterday. Most film buffs are rejoicing/cursing about who and what is in (Gary Oldman!) and out (Albert Brooks??), but what I thought most startling is the fact that there are only two nominees this year for Best Original Song. According to news outlets, 39 songs were eligible for the Best Original Song nod – but we ended up with two. Since I haven’t seen The Muppets or Rio, I can’t pass judgment on these two songs. Though I like Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie, so I’m rooting for him to win for his Muppets song, “Man Or Muppet”. Continue reading

You Probably Think This Song Is About You

20 Jan

As the whole world likely knows by now, Jay-Z and Beyonce welcomed their first child, a little girl named Blue Ivy Carter, into the world about two weeks ago. And while most proud parents send around ebuilient Facebook updates or share cigars, Jay-Z was moved to song. Very soon thereafter, he dropped “Glory”, an ecstatic paean to his baby. Thanks to a sample of little girl Blue crying, “Glory” carries a “featuring B.I.C.” credit – and as a result, Miss Carter now holds the Billboard record for the youngest Hot 100-charting artist in history. Continue reading

The Essential Noise on Turntable.fm!

4 Nov

Who wants to have a DJ date tomorrow? I’ve been meaning to give Turntable a spin (pun only halfway intended), and my last post about Jim Ladd (read here: https://theessentialnoise.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/the-last-dj/) made me nostalgic for the days when I wanted to do that thing.

1PM PST tomorrow – Saturday, 11/5/11 – come with me for a taste of AngieMusic. The Essential Noise has its own Turntable.fm room!

Log in with your Facebook credentials here:  http://turntable.fm/the_essential_noise

Feed my ego! I’ll do more Turntable days if this one goes over well.

The Last DJ

27 Oct

Now-unemployed DJ Jim Ladd, back in the day.

There goes the last DJ                                                                                                                                                         Who plays what he wants to play                                                                                                                                  And says what he wants to say…                                                                                                                                   And there goes your freedom of choice                                                                                                                    There goes the last human voice                                                                                                                                          -Tom Petty, “The Last DJ” Continue reading

…And I Feel Fine

21 Sep

It happened today. After 31 years and 15 albums, the band that changed my life called it quits. R.E.M. has disbanded, apparently without acrimony or scandal, merely with the desire to stop. You can read their official statements here:
http://remhq.com/news_story.php?id=1446   Continue reading