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May the Fourth -- A Look at Star Bars and Deep Space Discos

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 4, 2015 11:27am | Post a Comment



The original Star Wars had a huge impact on pop culture. As a child, nothing in the film had more impact on me than the cantina scene -- and judging from the changes in dance music and imitations that followed I wasn't alone. What better occasion to reflect on the film's impact than May the Fourth, also celebrated as Star Wars Day.




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Star Wars was released on 25 May 1977. I was probably three years old when I saw it in the theater because my fourth birthday followed a couple of weeks later and there were Star Wars dolls* emerging from the middle of a birthday bundt cake. After The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas would increasingly strain to appeal directly to children by introducing cuddly aliens and increasingly relying on cartoonish CGI but for me and many other children, Star Wars was already deeply appealing, dark and sometimes frightening as it was. 


For comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell, the cantina scene was the "threshold crossing" in the "hero's journey." For me it was a bit like viewing an ethnographic bestiary -- or a Halloween party (in the 1970s, Halloween hadn't yet been hijacked by adults and turned into streetwalker cosplay). One of the cheif appeals of Star Wars was its mystery and world building -- something which the expansion of the franchise would later explain away with banal backstories -- but on full display in the cantina. Of all the characters, 
only
Greedo was addressed by a name. The rest of the assembled wore no pageant sashes, name tags, or hash tags and aside from the viewers' understandings of evolution there were few clues as to the conditions of their home worlds. 
 
LAX Theme Building

The Star Wars cantina was what I wish Encounter in LAX's Theme Building had been, and what it will be if they get it right when it's re-opened. What the cantina wasn't was every lame, uninspired hive of pretense and conformity which bills itself (despite having a liquor license) as a "speakeasy."  It wasn't illuminated by Edison bulbs, the wines weren't listed on a chalk board, there was no unfinished wooden sign on the building's exterior describing it as an apothecary, and it was probably cash only. The bartender wasn't a lumbersexual and he didn't spend twenty minutes rubbing herbs on a mason jar in the name of "mixology."

Music History Monday: January 5

Posted by Jeff Harris, January 5, 2015 10:44am | Post a Comment

To read more Behind The Grooves, go to http://behindthegrooves.tumblr.com.

On this day in music history: January 5, 1969Bayou Country, the second album by Creedence Clearwater Revival, is released. Produced by John Fogerty, it is recorded at RCA Studios in Hollywood in Late 1968. Sharp and fine tuned from heavy touring in support of their self-titled debut album, CCR will re-enter the studio in the Fall of 1968 to record their second LP. It will mark the start of an impressive run of hits for the El Cerrito-based band, spinning off the hit single "Proud Mary" (#2 Pop for 3 weeks), as well as the rock radio staple "Born On The Bayou" (the B-side of "Proud Mary"). The album is remastered on CD for its 40th anniversary in 2008, featuring four bonus tracks. Bayou Country will peak at number seven on the Billboard Top 200, number 41 on the R&B album chart, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.


 

On this day in music history: January 5, 1974The Singles 1969-1973 by The Carpenters hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for one week. Produced by Jack Daughtery and Richard & Karen Carpenter, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood from January 1969 - April 1973. Their first greatest hits album, the 12-track compilation features hit singles from The Carpenters first four years on A&M Records. The album's unique sequencing includes musical introductions and segues between the tracks. Original vinyl LP pressings were packaged in a gatefold sleeve with a 12-page booklet featuring photos and song lyrics. It will become the brother and sister duos' biggest-selling album worldwide (also topping the UK album chart for 17 weeks). The Singles 1969-1973 is certified 7x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
 

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Music History Monday: November 24

Posted by Jeff Harris, November 24, 2014 10:40am | Post a Comment

To read more Behind The Grooves, go to http://behindthegrooves.tumblr.com.

On this day in music history: November 24, 1966 - The Beatles will begin recording "Strawberry Fields Forever" at Abbey Road Studios in London. After a three month vacation, the band will return to the studio to begin work on the follow up to "Revolver." The first song recorded is a new composition of John Lennon's titled "Strawberry Fields Forever." Lennon will write the song in Almeria, Spain while filming How I Won The War with director Richard Lester in the early Fall of 1966. One take of the song will be recorded that evening, though it'll change dramatically and grow more complex over the month that it takes to complete the track. The song will mark the beginning of a new era in the band's creativity that will change the face of popular music yet again. The song is named for a Salvation Army orphanage around the corner from Lennon's childhood home in Liverpool where he would attend garden parties in the summer. Once in the studio, the song will evolve from a gentle, sparsely arranged ballad to a heavily scored piece with horns and strings complimenting the basic track. The finished version of the song will consist of two separate versions. Lennon will like the first half of the first remake and the second half of another. He will suggest to producer George Martin that the two be edited together, which at first seems to not be possible since they are recorded in different keys and tempos. Martin will discover that by increasing the speed of one and slowing down the other recording, that they will match. Originally intended to be part of the band's next album (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band), "Strawberry Fields Forever" will instead be issued as one half of a double A-sided single in February 1967 (w/ "Penny Lane"). It will peak at #2 on the UK singles chart and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
 

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Music History Monday: July 14

Posted by Jeff Harris, July 14, 2014 08:05am | Post a Comment

To read more Behind The Grooves, go to http://behindthegrooves.tumblr.com.

On this day in music history: July 14, 1967 - Bee Gees 1st, the US debut album by The Bee Gees, is released. Produced by Robert Stigwood and Ossie Byrne, it is recorded at IBC Studios in London from March 7 - April 14, 1967. Following their breakthrough success with their 12th single release "Spicks And Specks" (#3 AUS Pop) in Australia in late 1966, The brothers' father Hugh will send demo tapes of their work to Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Epstein will pass the tapes on to Robert Stigwood (Cream), who will invite the band to come to England in February of 1967 to audition for him. Impressed by what he hears, Stigwood will become the band's manager, with The Bee Gees moving to the UK. He will secure them recording contracts with Polydor Records in the UK and Atlantic Records subsidiary Atco in the US. The album is actually the third full-length release by the band, but is their first to be released internationally. It will spin off three singles including "New York Mining Disaster 1941" (#14 Pop) and "To Love Somebody" (#17 Pop), the latter of which is originally intended for Otis Redding. The album's cover is designed by artist/musician Klaus VoormanBee Gees 1st will peak at number seven on the Billboard Top 200.
 

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Music History Monday: June 2

Posted by Jeff Harris, June 2, 2014 10:00am | Post a Comment

To read more Behind The Grooves, go to http://behindthegrooves.tumblr.com.

On this day in music history: June 2, 1962 - "I Can't Stop Loving You" by Ray Charles hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks, topping the R&B singles chart for 10 weeks on May 26, 1962, and the Adult Contemporary chart for five weeks on June 9th. Written by Don Gibson, the song is originally recorded by Gibson in late 1957. Charles will record the song at United/Western Recorders on February 15, 1962. It is the first single issued from the landmark album Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music (released in April of 1962). Initially labelled "Ray's Folly" by ABC Paramount Records executives who doubt its commercial potential, the album and single are an immediate smash with the public. A major hit in several genres, "I Can't Stop Loving You" will set a record for the longest run at the top of the R&B singles chart that will hold for over 20 years until it is tied by Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" in November 1982. "I Can't Stop" will also earn Ray Charles a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording in 1963 and will be inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2001. "I Can't Stop Loving You" is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
 

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