Monday, October 30, 2023

Review: 'In the Groove: The Vinyl Record and Turntable Revolution'

Long ago declared dead, vinyl has made a zombie-like comeback in recent years that doesn't seem in danger of declining. A report on sales published in Variety just three and a half months ago provides strong support for such confidence. 

But if you're the kind of person who reads Psychobabble, you probably already know this. In fact, I'd discontinued music reviews on anything but vinyl quite a while ago and walk it like I talk it with my own music collection: I've sold off almost all of my CDs and replaced almost all of the essentials with their vinyl equivalents in a move I hope I won't regret the way I regret exchanging my original vinyl collection for a handful of magic beans back in 1990. 

Monday, October 16, 2023

Review: 'The Lyrics' by Paul McCartney (Updated Eidition)

From August 2015 to August 2020, Paul McCartney talked to poet Paul Muldoon about songs he'd written since 1956, and these talks became the basis of the 2021 book The Lyrics. In his foreword, McCartney explains that he'd been approached several times to write an autobiography, but the idea never interested him much, so this is the closest we'll probably get. In a non-linear way, it does get the job done, because the guy who wrote "Bip-Bop" and "Wild Honey Pie" often doesn't engage much with his lyrics and instead uses the various songs he discusses as pretexts to open up about The Ed Sullivan Show ("All My Loving"), Jane Asher ("And I Love Her"), the Beatles' decision to quit touring ("Honey Pie", of all things), the Rolling Stones ("I Wanna Be Your Man"), his bass playing ("She's a Woman"), his mum ("Let It Be"), his feelings about being on the receiving end of John Lennon's infamous nastiness ("Too Many People)", and quite a lot more. 

Monday, October 9, 2023

Review: 'Elvis Remembered'

Elvis superfan Shelly Powers chatted with ten people in Elvis's inner circle, posed for pictures with them, and assembled a bunch more vintage ones, and Elvis Remembered is the result. While this may all sound pretty superficial, and not all of Powers's questions are David Frost-quality, she's actually quite good at weaving "What's your favorite Elvis song?" level queries with more probing ones that reveal some fairly personal things about the icon. 

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Review: 'The Spice Must Flow: The Story of Dune from Cult Novels to Visionary Sci-Fi Movies'

We are living through very Duney times. The last thing I reviewed here on Psychobabble was Max Evry's oral history A Masterpiece in Disarray. The latest is Ryan Britt's The Spice Must Flow: The Story of Dune from Cult Novels to Visionary Sci-Fi Movies. This is a very different worm from Evry's hulkingly exhaustive 500-page dive into David Lynch's bizarre adaptation of Frank Herbert's sci-fi franchise. Britt delivers only half the page count but sets his blue-within-blue eyes across a more complete vista, reminding us that Lynch's film is only one stop along a hero's journey that began in the early sixties when Frank Herbert, a struggling writer with a debt to the IRS looming over his head, conceived a far off galaxy in which royal houses squabble over control of a sandy drug empire. Dune World was published as a magazine serial in 1963, fleshed out for the more pithily titled novel in 1965, and further expanded for a series of literary sequels. Then came Alejandro Jodorowsky's doomed aborted attempt to adapt it into a film, Lynch's doomed unaborted attempt to adapt it into a film, John Harrison's TV miniseries for the Sci-Fi channel, and Dennis Villeneuve's ongoing big-screen remake series.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Review: 'A Masterpiece in Disarray: David Lynch's Dune, an Oral History'

Having only made one purely avant garde feature that became a smash by playing to freakos at midnight showings and one Oscar-baity period piece, David Lynch was a real weird choice to helm a blockbuster adaptation of Frank Herbert's space opera Dune. But chosen he was, though he couldn't quite be blamed for the critical and commercial disaster it became. Although Lynch's sensibility has never exactly been commercial, he was also at odds with a producer who didn't quit sync up with his vision on this particular project, a truly harrowing production in an inhospitable environment, source material that may be a bit too convoluted and esoteric to translate into matinee fare fit for Star Wars fans, and a truncated run-time that forced the story to get whittled down to a confusing nub. 

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Review: 'We're Not Worthy: From In Living Color to Mr. Show, How '90s Sketch TV Changed the Face of Comedy'

Over TV's first several decades, there were never many more than two or three sketch comedies vying for American air-space at the same time. Your Show of Shows ruled the fifties. Laugh-In and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour took over in the sixties. The Carol Burnett Show and Saturday Night Live gave the format new life in the seventies. SNL continued its reign in the eighties while  SCTV from Canada and Not Necessarily the News on cable applied some competition. 

Review: 'Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever'

Watching Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert's TV reviews in the eighties and nineties was only partially about finding out which new movies were worth watching, especially if, like myself, you often disagreed with them (those guys had little affection for horror movies or David Lynch). Watching two guys who look like fairly benign uncles get genuinely exasperated with each other was a big part of it too. As anyone who reads Matt Singer's new book Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever (or watches that infamous behind-the-scenes video of them shooting a TV promo and calling each other assholes) will learn, Siskel and Ebert really didn't like each other. At least at first. After nearly two decades sharing the camera, a sincere love developed between the critics, and viewed from one of several angles, Opposable Thumbs is a sort of Sam-and-Diane love story. 
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