Archive for February, 2011

Love those fortune cookies, Part 13

February 28, 2011

Well, I hope 13’s a lucky number.

I went to dinner the other night at the Golden in the Tower District, came away with enough leftover asparagus and salmon over chow mein noodles to carry me well into the next day.

I keep getting these signals from the universe that something big’s about to happen. I say that every Monday morning — “Something big’s gonna happen this week.” And in the end I’m disappointed. It’s like that classic Bugs Bunny Robin Hood short, where the big, oafish Little John tells Bugs, “Ah, don’t you worry, never fear, Robin Hood will soon be here!” And eventually, Bugs gets fed up and says, “Ahhhhh, you’ve been sayin’ that all through da picture!”

Except in my case, Errol Flynn hasn’t shown up yet saying “Welcome to Sherwood!”

Well, maybe this is finally the week Mr. Flynn swings onto the branch in front of me to cheerily welcome me to the next wonderful phase of my life.

Here’s what the fortune cookie said the other night:

“When the flowers bloom, so will great joy in your life.”

Everything being relative, I don’t know whether that means bloom time in Fresno, where the Blossom Trail is reaching full swing, or back in the Northeast, where my father tells me the snow will probably finally melt in July.

Here’s to many blooms. And soon. ‘Cause I’m tired of saying that all through the damn picture.

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Five Songs, Part 19

February 25, 2011

Here you go — this week’s Five Songs. As you math majors can figure out, since this the 20th installment, I’ve now put together half of a decent jukebox of singles — just don’t ask me for B-sides, okay? Enjoy:

I Can Hear Music — The Ronettes

The Worryin’ Kind — Tommy Sands

She’s Lost Control — Joy Division

You Don’t Love Me — The Epitome of Sound

This Tornado Loves You — Neko Case

New Haven Register archives: THE MODEST GENIUS: Ray Charles, who performs tonight at the Shubert, gets a thrill from the honors he has reaped

February 24, 2011

Ray Charles will tell you "I've been a very, very blessed, fortunate human being."

(This story originally ran as the lead of the New Haven Register’s Weekend section Friday, Oct. 29, 1993. It was an advance to his show that night at the Shubert in New Haven. It was one of only two interviews I ran in Q-and-A form; the other was my June 1999 interview with Brian Wilson.)

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

There’s simply no way to do Ray Charles justice in the confines of a newspaper; even a magazine piece may not be long enough. Despite his out-and-out humility, this is one of the pivotal figures of American culture — maybe not the most influential, but one of the most transcendental, and easily one of the most recognizable.

Forget about the Diet Pepsi commercials and the “Uh-huh”s; forget about even his individual hits — “I Got a Woman,” “What’d I Say,” “Hit the Road, Jack,” “I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You,” “Georgia on My Mind.” The Genius’ genius lies in his ability to travel from one musical style to another — blues, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, country, jazz, classical — tying together many threads of our collective culture while maintaining a high level of excellence.

His last album, the Richard Perry-produced “My World,” released in March, even explores the new jack territory.

Without trying to sound trite about this, Ray Charles Robinson, now 63, is a unique translation of the American success story.

Born in Albany, Ga., and raised in Greenville, Fla., he overcame one strike after another. A poor black child in the South in the ’30s, blinded by glaucoma at 7, he studied music and parlayed it into a 45-year career.

As an adult, he overcame heroin addiction and has lived to enjoy the fruits of his long labor: induction into the Rock’N’Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, 11 Grammy Awards, Kennedy Center Award, NAACP Hall of Fame Award, honorary chairman of the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

A week ago Wednesday, we talked by phone from his publicist’s office in Los Angeles, one of his infrequent interviews. Thirteen days earlier, he received his latest honor, a National Medal of the Arts from Bill Clinton at the White House.

There’s a limit to what you can cover in 20 minutes with anyone, let alone Brother Ray. Since his words speak well enough for themselves, I’ve left them in question-and-answer form:

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New Haven Register archives: Let’s give it to ’em — right now! For some reason, the long career of rocker Iggy Pop, who returns to Toad’s tonight, always returns to ‘Louie Louie’

February 23, 2011

Iggy’s older and wiser, but he still has attitude to spare. Photo by Chris Cuffaro.

(This story originally appeared in the New Haven Register as the Weekend section lead Friday, March 25, 1994. It was an advance to his show that night at Toad’s Place in New Haven.)

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

For all the years Iggy Pop has been performing – and that’s more than three decades now. If you count his teen years in Michigan, with the Iguanas – there has been one simple, recurring, two-word touchstone: “Louie Louie.”

That’s right. We’re talking about Richard Berry’s four-chord 1955 R&B cha-cha, transformed by the Wailers and then definitively by the Kingsmen into a trash-rock classic. Whether he be a singer/drummer with a frat/garage-rock band; a self-destructive, pre-punk noise demon; or a well-respected, high-energy musical father figure, everything in Iggy’s musical life has boiled down to that one song.

As Iggy, now 46, put it last week from New Orleans, “All songs are ‘Louie Louie.’ As people go on to college, they lose sight of it. You can load anything onto this music. You can use it to sell clothes, to (have sex), to promote the classics. But it’s all ‘Louie Louie.’”

As he prepares to return to Toad’s Place tonight, let’s look at how the song has figured into his career:

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Dinah Washington

February 21, 2011

Actually, to preface this, I do know what triggered this weird little memory. Someone I know this morning mentioned a weird newspaper headline she saw:

Republicans turned off by size of Obama’s package

It got me thinking of two of the weirdest headlines from my not-very-intellectual first newspaper, the most heinous and evil Waterbury Republican-American. And I thought back to the two wackiest heds I’d seen there. Both were from the mid-’80s.

One was in the sports department, where I worked. I can tell you it was unintentional — the deskman who wrote it was clueless and sexless, not to mention one of the biggest characters I ever met in a business full of them. It was a short, two-column story about a local team eliminated from the state high school volleyball tournament:

Pomperaug girls put out

The best was from around 1987 — when the American was still a separate afternoon paper, and the guys putting the features page together were just trying to fill a three-column hole on the page. And they found an Associated Press wire story about some music guy they didn’t really know much about:

Miles Davis blows

And those two bits of weirdness had me seguing today into my weirdest moment in a decade full of weird moments at a weird paper. And it had to do with a long-ago, long-deceased R&B great.

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Five Songs, Part 18

February 18, 2011

OK, time for five more Five Songs to get you excited (so I would hope) on a Friday. Actually, for the first time — because I couldn’t decide between the two versions, and because I just wanted to have a little fun — there’s a bonus sixth Fifth Song this week … but be warned: It’s definitely NSFW unless you have the headphones on.

Just part of my neverending mission to bring you the secret history of rock’n’roll. Go enjoy your weekend:

The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore — The Walker Brothers

A Casual Look — The Six Teens

I Love Paris — Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

The Beat — Elvis Costello

Think Twice — Jackie Wilson & Lavern Baker

Think Twice (Version X) — Jackie Wilson & Lavern Baker

New Haven Register archives: LOCAL BOY DOES SPLENDID: After a career of character roles, Elm City native Paul Giamatti has his first lead role in ‘American Splendor’

February 17, 2011

New Haven native Paul Giamatti’s first leading film role, after over a decade of character parts, is that of Harvey Pekar, a Cleveland VA hospital file clerk, who enlisted some artists to draw a comic book about his mundane life called “American Splendor.” The film of the same name, based on Pekar’s life and books, won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year; it opens locally Friday. Photo by John Clifford.

(This story originally appeared on Page B1, the Living section cover, of the New Haven Register, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2003.)

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

You would think this would be a film’s kiss of death.

In “American Splendor,” which opens locally Friday, Paul Giamatti plays Harvey Pekar, a longtime file clerk at the Cleveland VA Hospital who with the help of several cartoonists, including underground legend Robert Crumb, created a comic book about his mundane existence.

There’s also the real-life Pekar on camera, looking at Giamatti and rasping, “He don’t look nuttin’ like me! But whatever…”

But it’s part of the charm of Pekar — an unvarnished, pessimistic, abrasively honest, obsessive-compulsive-neurotic working-class intellectual. And it sure didn’t prevent the film from winning the grand jury award at Sundance this year.

Besides, said New Haven native Giamatti, “I actually do think I look like him.”

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New Haven Register archives: ’60s garage rock sees daylight again with new box set

February 17, 2011

Barry Tashian (foreground), who has gone on to a successful folk/country career, fronted The Remains, a Boston band that had a regional hit with “Don’t Look Back” in the mid-’60s. The drummer, Waterbury native Chip Damiani, lives in New Haven these days. The keyboardist was Bill Briggs; Vern Miller played bass.

(This story appeared on Page G1, the Arts section cover, of the New Haven Register Sunday, Sept. 13, 1998.)

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

Chip Damiani of New Haven is a little bewildered. He’s wondering why a rock band he quit 32 years ago is popular enough to be playing a reunion show in Spain next week.

“I don’t have a clue. I have no idea,” he said. “(Our music) wasn’t popular in the first place. I just accepted that our recorded stuff was not good. I find it remarkable we sold any records at all.”

Kurt Robinson of Torrington is likewise amazed that total strangers bring up his teen-age band.

“You’re kidding me,” was his reaction four years ago when “some guy called me from Utah, Nebraska, somewhere, and asked for some memorabilia. I said, ‘Why do you want to talk to me?'”

Damiani was the original drummer for The Remains, a Boston band that achieved fame in mid-1966 — shortly after he quit and just before they broke up — with the regional hit, “Don’t Look Back,” and the opening slot on The Beatles’ final tour.

Robinson played keyboards for The Squires, a Bristol-based band originally called The Rogues, which released two singles that got local airplay.

These days, “Don’t Look Back” and The Squires’ “Going All the Way” are regarded by aficionados as two of the best rock songs of all time.

Those tunes are among the 119 to be found on Rhino’s new four-CD box set, “Nuggets,” which comes out Tuesday. Until now, “Nuggets,” which was also re-released on Sire in 1976, was the only album in Rolling Stone’s top 200 of all time that hadn’t been released on CD.

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Five Songs, Part 17

February 11, 2011

Hi. Here are this week’s Five Songs — things that just seem to fall from the remote corners of my brain. Sometimes they’re up front, simmering just beneath the surface. Like the last song on the list — “Going Nowhere,” by the ’60s Spanish group Los Bravos, one of their follow-ups to “Black Is Black.”

On the surface, it’s a killer pop song that worked its way into a cheesy Spanish romantic comedy film called “Los Chicos con Las Chicas.” Listen to the lyrics, though, and, well, they speak loud and clear to the current state of my life. And if any of my musician friends are listening, I want to record my own version, nudge nudge wink wink …

Anyway, that’s the news. Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow …

Here We Go Again — Those Melvins

Moons of Jupiter — Scruffy the Cat

Baby Come Back — The Equals

Sixteen Tons — Frankie Laine

Going Nowhere — Los Bravos

Love those fortune cookies, Part 12

February 9, 2011

Well, I hope this isn’t the universe playing a cruel hoax on me.

This fortune came from a couple weeks ago, at a particularly slammed dinnertime at the Golden, in the Tower District. (Cheap eats, plus it quasi-adequately satisfies my occasional need for dumplings — or, as they call them out here, pot stickers. One thing, though: No one seems to know how to make dumpling sauce — say, like my favorite joint, House of Chao in New Haven, which has a particularly pungent garlic sauce. Out here, it’s either chili oil or soy sauce.)

The fortune isn’t cryptic, just bewildering at the moment, given my job and financial status:

“You should do well at making money and holding on to it.”

Yeah, I should if I had any to hold onto!

Maybe the universe is telling me things again. About three weeks ago, it told me four separate times in two days to get straight with people who’d hurt me, and all four times it worked out well. So maybe, just maybe …