When you work at Amoeba Music there’s certain questions you answer over and over again:
“Where’s the restroom?”
“Why’s this one this price and this one this price?”
“Where can I find Edith Piaf?”
That last question is occasionally (to my endless amusement) pronounced as, “Where can I find Edith Pilaf?” to which I always want (but never) answer:
“We file her in-between Condoleezza Rice and Tim Curry. They all go great together.”
My internalized snarkiness aside, I’m all for Edith Piaf. Who could hate La Môme Piaf (her French nickname, literally translated as “That short woman in the black dress with the amazing voice but tragic make-up which someone should seriously having a talking-to-her about”)?
But I think too many people stop with Piaf and don’t investigate the chanson française of her peers, which is a shame because there’s so much to love. Below I offer some performers I think are à l'opposé de terrible.
"Please conjure sheets of paper to come floating out of the laundry basket below"
The author, circa 1996
I have recently come into possession of my adolescent photo collection. There was, for a period of about five years, a time when I owned a fetching Ricoh camera which had been given to me by a rad woman whom I lived with on a mountaintop commune on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico. She used to regale me with stories from her years as a hot-shot publicist, and explained to me which lines from David Bowie’s “Drive-in Saturday” had been written about her by the Thin White Duke.
Were these claims true? Who knows. But it did distract me from the profound and crippling nervous breakdown I was experiencing at the time, fuelled in part by excessive use of ecstasy as a means of spiritual enlightenment and by living with my then step-father who made such helpful suggestions as, “Maybe you have alien implants in your brain.”
“Oh, yes. Well thank you for that.”
I thought it might be fun to dip into the box and see what musical and/or cinematic associations they bring. Kind of reconsider my colorful past in terms of stuff you could purchase at Amoeba Music. For I am a salesman, ladies and gentlemen.
This year really flew by. I mean that 2008 really flew by. You might be thinking...it is already 2009, but I am still sort of living in 2008. I am now almost ready for the new year to start. I figure I will be ready by about March. I just moved back to Los Angeles last January and it has already been a year! I was barely done uppacking and settling down when we decided to move again. But I really did sort of fall back in love with Los Angeles this year, so we are still here for a while I think. It was just time to move again. Now that 2009 is officially underway to the rest of the world, the music is starting to come out again. I worry every once in a while about the state of the music industry. But I do get some faith back in it every time I fall in love with a new album. I just get excited thinking about all the new albums that are going to come out this year -- all the bands that might not even be bands yet that will put out fantastic little albums in the next couple of years. The albums are out there. You just have to look for them. The year might be getting off to a slow start but those new albums are coming. Just in case you don't have it already, please go buy the new Antony & the Johnsons. It is called The Crying Light and it is magical! I have also been obsessed with the debut album from Empire of the Sun. They are from Australia and sort of sound like MGMT. It is just an import right now but I am sure it will come out domestic soon.
There is something coming up for everybody, don't you worry. All you Kelly Clarkson fans out there don't have to wait too much longer, I swear. I don't really know how that Doolittle lady from american idol managed to get an album out, but it is true-- Melinda Doolittle has an album out this week. I try to avoid american idol as much as I can. I don't even think it deserves to be capitalized in this blog. But it does have an amazingly powerful hold over the country. They manage to find some of the most unattractive and worst musicians in the country and some how make people obsessed with them. Seriously, those are some magicians over there producing that show! But that Kelly Clarkson, there is just something about her. Maybe I have given into American Idol just a little bit. I never watched a single episode that she was on but somehow she got some power over me. I told you -- those producers have some crazy magical powers. Somehow those catchy pop songs get a hold of me sometimes. I do love listening to the radio though. Maybe that is my problem. So the new Kelly Clarkson is out March 17th and that is all I am going to say about it. Enough with my super guilty pleasure! But I feel like I have to give in to popular music every once in a while or I will explode or something. Some pop culture is good for you in moderation. To balance that out a bit I have been listening to this Grouper record a bunch lately. It came out last year, but my coworker Chris recommended it to me and I finally bought it and am now a bit obsessed. If you want some weird folky dark lady music than I highly recommend it. The album is called Dragging a Dead Deer Up A Hill. It is worth it alone for the amazing album cover. I seriously can't stop staring at it. I dare you to try and stop staring at it. I still can't figure out if it is a doll or an actuall girl.
Last week was the week of Bruce Springsteen and Franz Ferdinand. Two completely different generations but I imagine that I am not the only one that was interested in both albums. I have loved the Franz Ferdinand ever since I first heard "Take Me Out" about 6 years ago. I will admit that I am probably one of their older fans. Seems like their fans just keep getting younger. We went and saw them at Bill Graham Civic for the last album and the crowd was mostly 18 year olds. But they just did an instore at Amoeba last week and the crowd did mostly seem to be more like 13 and 15 year olds. But it made me happy -- not all 13 year olds just listen to the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus. I don't think I will be turning into a musical grandpa quite yet this year. But it might be getting close to that time. I still love Franz and that show was great and super high energy. Bruce was too busy performing at inaguration parties and super bowls to stop by Amoeba, but maybe someday he will stop by for a little instore. Also out last week was a new album from Andrew Bird and Amoeba's Secret by Paul McCartney finally came out on CD.
A few days ago I got to see Joan Rivers’ new show “A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress,” playing at the Geffen Playhouse until early March.
I’ll be honest, I went with the promise of meeting her after the show and I really wanted to see that face up-close.
I walked into the lobby and noticed that everyone there fell in two categories: grey-haired, elderly people who slowly moved in pairs of two, and young, muscled men in tight shirts who traveled in cliques, glimmering with hair product. Since I fit in neither group, I was a little suspect, and kept a watchful eye.
Things were downright Fellini-esque in the lobby. Amidst the geriatrics and the pretty boys was a mini red carpet on which two heavily made up “TV personalities” enthusiastically gushed to a single video camera. Now, living in Hollywood, I’m accustomed to red carpet springing up in places and thwarting me from a normal walk to get groceries, but these two – though in the middle of everything – seemed mostly oblivious to what was happening in the lobby. In their reality, they were covering the Golden Globes. I almost wanted to approach them and make sure they weren’t lost.
“Are you looking for your awards ceremony, little girl?”
I opted instead to knock back a double scotch and find my seat.
Once inside the theatre, things became clear. Projected on a screen over the stage, there were the two TV Personalities, now (thanks to the magic of blue screen technology) with a backdrop of outdoor, daytime, pre-awards show pageantry.
I watched them. The volume was low and there was buzz from the audience, so I couldn’t ever hear what they were actually saying, yet they managed to keep a constant, effervescent dialogue going between them. Considering the reality: they were just two people in the lobby of the Geffen Playhouse, surrounded by old folks and WeHo’s – this feat was equal parts impressive and unnerving. Ultimately though, I thought it was illuminating, and a smart insight into the “production” that goes into red-carpet production. It’s these announcer’s jobs, after all, to suspend their natural reactions and interpretations of events and instead, develop the spectacle an event must be in order to satisfy the public and the sponsors.