Cautionary tales with a side of singing

A recent book review sparked my interest. Some publishing houses are really pulling out the stops and know just how to attract readers! Take a look at this!

I was intrigued and did what I do far too many times–took a quick jaunt over to Amazon. I like to support businesses that acknowledge me on a first name basis. Then, a big surprise to me and probably a shock to my family as well as the guy who drives the Amazon delivery truck right up to our door, I did NOT purchase…not yet anyway.

The temptation is there, but then temptation is a key element of many cautionary tales, and the Brothers Grimm are perhaps our most familiar purveyors of warning.  One source notes that unless  you’re reading the “lightened up” fairy tales, the Disney-fied condensed versions, some fables should only be read “to kids you hate.” A harsh statement? I think perhaps they got it right.

Even Disney can be too much for me–think of Bambi or Dumbo.

When Sophia was in preschool I would read to her from a beautiful book that told the story of Bambi. It was not a “baby book’ but geared for young children with a well-developed attention span. I had a problem reading it to her, however, because I had to be lightning fast with story substitutions. She loved the flirtatious play between Bambi and Faline, but I couldn’t manage to read the parts involving Bambi’s mother and the hunter. Mothers don’t fare well in these fables.  Come to think of it, neither do fathers.

The truth is that I do find the brothers rather “grim,”   but I’ll admit I’m fascinated.  Then again, fascination is one of the major pitfalls in the majority of cautionary tales. Beware!

Musical entertainment is always my first choice and generally a lighter way for me to absorb a dark story.

I hope that many of you will make the effort to see the current release of “Into the Woods.” If you are not familiar with the original play, let me assure you that although older children might enjoy the movie, it is not primarily for children. Familiar fairy tale characters enter other stories in the most unique and creative unfolding to remind us all to be careful what we wish for, what we dream about, what we run after…temptation and lust and greed–and so much more. The brilliant Stephen Sondheim allowed some changes to make his wonderful work more cinematic, with some scenes less graphic and violent than the stage play. Disney has experience in this area. Nothing replaces live musical theater, but this is a good adaptation.  Read what Variety has to say for a much better review than I can provide. I’d see it again simply for Meryl Streep’s performance.

And my granddaughters are now ready to begin enjoying some of the live performances that are plentiful in Los Angeles.

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Two grandmothers, two mommies and four cousins went into Hollywood to see the stage production of Wicked at the famed Pantages Theater. Their oldest cousin had previously attended, but for the younger three this was the first time to see a performance of this magnitude. They were so excited and I don’t think Karina, the youngest at five, even moved. I did have to tap her lightly when at one point she started to hum.

I won’t admit how many times I’ve seen this play, but it grows in richness each time and like much of what we enjoy in theater, music or literature, there are deep layers of story to stimulate thought–or, as in the case of the children not quite old enough to catch those cautionary themes, just sit back and take in the music, and wonder, as Sophia questioned, “What do they use to get her to fly?”

I’m listening to my personal warnings–my own cautionary tale. About that Princeton University Press release of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm– I am really tempted. But then, how many books can one stack about the house before they become a physical threat? I DO live in California Earthquake territory.

Maybe if you share your favorite cautionary tale I’ll be distracted and forget about my Amazon wish list? Help me out, please!

The Laurel Canyon Sound at the Los Angeles Grammy Museum

 

I haven’t been reticent in telling you about the concerts I’ve enjoyed this past season and by now it should be clear that whenever possible I enjoy a bit of nostalgia mixed in to round out the experience. There are particular periods in my musical memory that I have always found intriguing, and this summer I was able to really jump into one of those periods by way of a very interesting and entertaining  exhibit that opened earlier this year at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles.

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I previously mentioned how much fun it was to meet one of the local Disc Jockeys I listened to throughout my teen years. The more I mused over the memories of my “radio days” I recognized that my curiosity about the story behind people, places and events has always been a part of my entertainment. Wouldn’t I have enjoyed blogging in the 1960’s!

The music associated with Laurel Canyon, represented by many of my favorite artists, isn’t just the songs I heard on the radio, but a much larger story that has fascinated me for decades. My bookshelves show my interest with several volumes specifically dedicated to the Laurel Canyon artists of the 1960’s and 1970’s and the mystique that continues to surround this particularly unique portion of the Hollywood Hills.

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The exhibit does not allow for photography, so unfortunately I can’t show you Jim Morrison’s writing chair, Frank Zappa’s drumhead,  Mama Cass Elliot’s hand-painted chair, or dozens of amazing Harry Diltz and Graham Nash photos from that era.  According to Michael Walker’s “Laurel Canyon, The Inside Story of Rock-and Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood,” Laurel Canyon is described as where “Pot and sympathy at Cass Elliot’s, Crosby, Stills and Nash in the living room, Eric Clapton in the backyard, [and] California dreaming’ becomes a reality.”

Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Carole King, Judy Collins, Glenn Frey and Don Henley of the Eagles, Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees and John and Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas as well as Jim Morrison and other members of the Doors all called Laurel Canyon home during Laurel Canyon’s golden era.

 

IMG_4011One of my favorite photos is Joni Mitchell at her Laurel Canyon bungalow, the inspiration for Graham Nash’s “Our House,” the home they shared together “with two cats in the yard.”

I didn’t know about Laurel Canyon when I was a teen, but it wasn’t unusual to hear stories about the artists playing in the Los Angeles area, and although I didn’t know anything substantive about the private lives of these 60’s music rock stars, the mystique surrounding the Whiskey A Go-Go on the Sunset Strip and other night clubs just down the hill from Laurel Canyon was common knowledge–the local Dee-Jays kept those stories front and center.

Here’s a little piece of trivia you may not know. In November 1966 Buffalo Springfield started playing as the house band at Whisky a Go-Go. Huge crowds of teens congregated on the Strip in order to be a part of the vibrant and exciting psychedelic era music scene. When local residents began demanding a curfew the teens protested the curfew, and fueled by announcements from local rock radio stations thousands of teens flocked to Sunset Boulevard.

The protest erupted with demonstrators clashing with police, and Buffalo Springfield band member Stephen Stills composed “For What It’s Worth,” not as an anti-war song as it is typically regarded, but in response to the “Sunset Strip riots.”

“California Dreamin': The Sounds of Laurel Canyon” continues until the end of November and if you’re in the Los Angeles vicinity I think you’d thoroughly enjoy stepping back into a musically rich era and seeing some of today’s still wonderfully prolific and entertaining artists captured in photos with expressions of youthful exuberance.

I can’t share the photos, but I can send you on a tour. Ray Manzarek and Bobby Krieger of the Doors have a blog tour you might find interesting. You can hop on board the bus right HERE. This is just a very short tour of “Love Street,” where Morrison and his girlfriend Pamela Courson lived in Laurel Canyon. Parts of the home are still there, but a fire, new owners and more than four decades have erased all but the nostalgia.

If you have as strong an interest in the music and the stories of the 60’s as I do, you might enjoy this rather extensive look at Laurel Canyon history. Access the wealth of stories HERE and you’ll be able to answer any possible Jeopardy questions related to Laurel Canyon and the music of the 60’s and 70’s.

Next time I’m in the area I’ll stop and take a few photos of the “old neighborhood.” Once a year , Laurel Canyon residents gather at the Canyon Country Store for a portrait–without the countercultural “loitering and countless drug deals in the parking lot.” At least that’s what I hear!

A summer Beatles-fest…Looking back but enjoying today

Of course I loved the Beatles from the time they hit the American shore. I sing with gusto to the music that marks my life from about 12 years old until they broke up my senior year in high school. As they moved into solo careers and formed new band configurations I wasn’t always as interested as I had been when the Fab Four performed, but they were never completely off my playlist.

Through the years I’ve met a few people who were fortunate to have seen the Beatles in concert when they first came to Los Angeles 50 years ago and it’s always struck me that it would be a real treat to have that remarkable memory.  I can’t make that claim, but I am still smiling after seeing Paul McCartney return to play at Dodger Stadium, the first time since the Beatles braved screaming and hysterical fans 48 years ago.

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McCartney returned to Dodger Stadium Los Angeles as part of his Out There Tour, an ambitious performing schedule including 41 concerts in North America, 8 in South America, 6 in Asia, 3 in Europe and 1 in Central America. Starting in May 2013 and ending in October 2014 the total  59 concerts is impressive for anyone, and especially for 72-year old McCartney who puts on a fantastic and energetic show.

For more than 3 hours, no intermission, McCartney never left the stage, performing 40 songs, if I counted correctly, spanning his entire career from Beatles to songs new and recently recorded.  It was a beautiful summer evening with the Supermoon as the perfect backdrop for Paul’s verbal and musical salute to John Lennon and George Harrison.

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I could go on and on about all the ways this concert filled my nostalgia cup!  I have many little clips of the concert saved on my computer and at one point I thought about sharing them, but if you’re really interested you can always take a little trip over to YouTube and get your fill.

See this guy?

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Double-fisted video recording. Was he even enjoying the concert? Maybe he’s responsible for this nearly 90 minutes of boot-legged concert. You can get a little of the flavor HERE.

And that could have been quite enough, but this past weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles appearance at the Hollywood Bowl, August 23, 1964.

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I wanted to help celebrate, and I’m  never disappointed at the Bowl. My friend Linda and I  had a wonderful evening and spent a few hours together reminiscing about our teen years and the music we loved.

Was it just the music that kept me glued to my little turquoise transistor radio?

I was so happy to see Bob Eubanks and Dave Hull (The Hullabalooer) introduce the show.  I was a fairly average teenager with a love for the music of the day, and I feel really fortunate that in my youth the disc jockeys were such vibrant and energetic personalities, delivering background on the artists and mixing in humor and entertainment that was compelling enough to make the deejays local stars.

One long summer in the middle of my high school years we briefly entertained the idea of moving to Northern California. I was at my aunt’s house 550 miles away from Los Angeles, missing my friends and feeling very homesick, and somehow my little radio, the same little turquoise transistor, picked up Pasadena-based KRLA and I was thrilled. The radio was my friend, and so were those on-air personalities.

Bob Eubanks was responsible for the Los Angeles promotion of the Beatles coming to the Hollywood Bowl and Dodger Stadium and in the early 1960’s Bob was a fixture in Los Angeles teen radio, KRLA. It was only right he should introduce the evening’s commemorative performance. And he also introduced Dave Hull–sometimes referred to as “The Fifth Beatle” because of all he did to have the inside story on the band.

In the 1960’s every teenager knew Dave Hull. Oh my goodness! He had a massive fan club and was always up to mischief somewhere. For instance, there was the time he gave out the Beatles phone numbers on-air or the time he stowed away on their plane. He appeared at events all over the Pasadena area, knew all the big names of the day and no one was off-limits or immune to his wickedly playful sense of humor.

Sunday I walked up to shake his hand at a book signing at the Bowl and had a wonderful walk down memory lane with this charming 80-year old Los Angeles legend.

He inscribed the book, “To Debra. You and I go way back! Don’t tell anybody! We hope you enjoy our story!! Dave Hull (the Hullabalooer) 2014

I can’t wait to read the book and continue with fond reminiscence. Do you have a favorite radio personality? I wonder if young people today can even imagine how much fun it was to listen to music on a scratchy, raspy sounding little turquoise transistor–what IS a transistor? Those were the days! *sigh*