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.


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, 
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."

10 Albums to Pick Up for Valentine's Day

Posted by Billy Gil, February 7, 2014 05:21pm | Post a Comment

Hey you! Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Like it’s next week. We’ll leave the chocolates and stuff to you, but we’ve got your music covered. Pick up any of these releases to help you seal the deal. Or to just enjoy quietly on your own with some white wine. That sounds great, actually.

Tina TurnerLove Songs

tina turner love songs amoebaThis compilation CD was just released and features some of Turner’s best songs, focusing on her comeback from 1983’s Private Dancer and on. Songs include a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “The Best” and more.



SadeThe Ultimate Collection

sade the ultimate collectionI mean, c’mon, duh. You can’t go wrong with any Sade album, but this readily available collection has all the hits, including later period songs like “Soldier of Love.”

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In Memoriam: 2012

Posted by Billy Gil, December 26, 2012 03:15pm | Post a Comment

As the year comes to an end, we pause to remember those who have passed this year. Click on the photos to see our bloggers’ tributes earlier this year.


Austin Peralta, pianist/composer

austin peralta



Whitney Houston, singer

Whitney Houston












Ravi Shankar, musician

Ravi Shankar









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Queen of Disco Donna Summer Dies at 63 of Cancer

Posted by Billyjam, May 17, 2012 10:10am | Post a Comment

Donna Summer "I Feel Love"

Donna Summer, who was the reigning "Queen of Disco" during that dance genre's pop era, died earlier today following a long battle with cancer according to a recent report from the Associated Press. She was 63 years of age. During her incredibly successful career (mostly in the '70s but into the '80s too), the Boston-born singer scored Grammy awards, and ruled the radio and dance floors with such hits as "I Feel Love," "Love To Love You Baby," "Bad Girls," "On The Radio," "Last Dance," "Hot Stuff," and the "She Works Hard For The Money." That latter 1983 hit been one of her few '80s chartbusters.

Arguably her best and most successful work was with producer Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Among the disco diva's followers was a large segment of gay fans who took offense when rumors circulated that she had made negative statements about gays. See my article (The "Gay Myth" that Still Haunts Donna Summer)  on the Amoeblog on this topic, posted four years ago before Summer was about to play in San Francisco. Of the numerous albums and collections of Donna Summer's music released over the years, ones available from Amoeba online include Bad Girls, The Wanderer LP, the Once Upon A Time.... CD collection, and the Disco Queen DVD collection released four years ago. But if you head into one of the three Amoeba stores and dig in the vinyl and CD crates, you will find many more including tons of Various Artists disco and dance compilations featuring hits by the artist who was only 63...too young to go.  Rest in peace Donna Summer!

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(Wherein Spring Fever takes over the jukebox.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 28, 2011 04:25pm | Post a Comment
80's keyboard

Well my little dreamlets, we’re ten days into Spring, and it’s already clear to me what music is going to carry me through into Summer – it’s all about synthetics. Synthpop, that is, of the late 70’s and early 80’s variety.

This amuses me, because for much of my life I detested a lot of the music I’m going to celebrate here. A lot of the hatred stemmed from being so unhappy in the 1980’s; by association, the music “sounded” like unhappiness. Think of it this way: When was the last time you were taking a shower and felt like listening to the soundtrack to Psycho? Exactly.

Some say that synthpop began when Giorgio Moroder teamed up with Donna Summer and created the hit single "I Feel Love." Calling this the “start” of synthpop is convenient, but an over-simplification, because so much came before that informed it. What can be said is that the song was influential, both in terms of inspiring artists who would go on to develop the synthpop genre, and give mainstream audiences a taste for it.

What follows are some synthpop songs that bring me joy. Many can be claimed by other sub-genres of music, but they're all related. Some are guilty pleasures – the sonic equivalent to a Snickers bar, in that they are bad for me, but make me feel great for the duration I’m imbibing – and others I stand by as solid accomplishments. I’m also putting a spell on them: listening to these songs will make you feel a little ticklish in the deepest part of your brain, which will result in your not hating your fellow man as much (even though they totally deserve your hate). Enjoy!

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