I finally caught up with the Elvis Costello show on Sundance. The episode I caught featured guest Elton John. Now I'm not a fan of John's. I liked Tumbleweed Connection very much but after that it was a race to the bottom--the bottom being songs of interminable length and cringe-worthy lyrics.
But last night John and Costello spent the night talking about the music that had influenced them and it was like hearing Crider, Reasoner, Randisi and Gorman sitting around discussing vintage paperbacks. Reference after reference to singers dating at far back as 1946. They even sang a few of the songs they cited. The big surprise for me was their reverence (and nothing less) for Laura Nyro. They discussed at length how she'd not only influenced them but influenced the songwriting of our entire generation. Elton John even sat down and played piano on one of his songs. He said he hadn't cribbed this but it was certainly (time changes etc) very much a Nyro.
I don't know diddly about music so I was fascinated by their talk about hooks and bridges and choruses etc. They also had an interesting discussion about some of the great songwriters they'd known who just never, for a variety of reasons, got any radio play and thus never had any hits.
I'm sure all the episodes are still in rotation. Fine fine program.
NBC News gave Michael Jackson seventeen minutes tonight. One of the segments showed people all over the world sobbing. In London there was a mass impromptu rally with people dancing and singing his songs. Despite myself I was moved by it. Pretty damned cool all the races as one grooving in this wide avenue.
I say despite myself because I never quite caught the fever. The music was ok but the videos always struck me as overwrought. His final videos were so wantonly narcissistic I was (seriously) embarrassed for him.
I remember Sony wanting to curb his budgets. He was coming off a flop CD and yet he wanted enormous money for a lavish video so he could break the new CD. I guess they couldn't say no. The people around him couldn't say no to his insane spending or to the little boys who came to Neverland or to his drinking or his drugging. But they sure could leech his money and largesse. They didn't have any trouble with that at all.
I felt sorry for him because he was a creature apart from the vast human tribe. His self-hatred--trying to become feminine and white--was saddest of all. The writer Michael Kinsley wonders if was even minimally educated. The Jackson crowd would never address the question of his education. He likely didn't have any. He was touring when he was five.
Vanity Fair's Maureen Orth covered Jackson and came to thunderously moral conclusions. She was quoted today, the same day that her husband was cited by Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post (he was fired Monday for being too left wing) for being one of George Bush's enablers in selling the lies that led us to the Iraq war. Mary Matalin said that whenever they wanted to get "their" message out all they did was call Russert. He had the number one rated show on Sunday morning and his influence was unquestioned. So if I was Maureen baby I'd be worrying about glass houses. At least a hundred thousand people have died in the war so far.
I blame Joe Jackson for his son's freakiness. He's a despicable human being, a sleazebag in a league of his own. His children were his employees and what a sorry lot they've turned out to be. I blame the parents who went along with Michael Jackson's wishes and I blame Michael Jackson. Whether it was arrogance or a simple inability to face himself, he should have asked for help before his dark side took hold.
Because the music never touched me, I'm having a difficult time understanding how this story has taken over TV world wide. But today I feel what I've always felt for Michael Jackson--a sadness that he was a tormented freak in an unforgiving world.