E-Mail Of The Day

Re: Tanglewood

Bob……. wow.. I love this..

I grew up in Stockbridge Mass.

My 89 year old mom still lives in the house I grew up in and she still goes to Tanglewood. My twin brother is a doctor in Stockbridge.. 3 miles from Tanglewood.

I went there as a small kid with my parents and brother and sister to hear the Boston Symphony play all those classical hits.. But I wasn’t into it..  but it had a deep  influence on me. It gets better.

When Rock N Roll came into OUR lives in the 60’s.. I saw MILES DAVIS (Four Is More) in his prime open up for SANTANA (first 2 records) with Michael Shrieve still playing drums at Tanglewood. I saw THE WHO perform TOMMY .. Maybe the first time in America… with JETHRO TULL and IT”S A BEAUTIFUL DAY opening up for them . Me and my twin brother at 13? or so.. were in the second row.. we were stoned and Keith Moon freaked out because he saw us and realized we were twins.. lol he probably saw 4 of us because he was stoned.. I saw the JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, SLY STONE who showed up 3 hours late, Iron Butterfly  etc etc.. but it gets better..

In 1975 I was in the student orchestra at Tanglewood.. It took me 4 years of auditioning, but I finally got in.. I got to perform Sibelius 5th Symphony on that big shed stage with Leonard Bernstein conducting  us.. my jewish mom cried the entire concert seeing her boy on that stage with Lenny.. :) I worked with conductors Arthur Fiedler and Sieji Ozawa also.. amazing..

So Tanglewood is like family to me.. It’s my roots for classical, jazz and rock n roll.

Thanks for writing about Tanglewood.. I wish everyone could have the experience you and I have had going to Tanglewood.. Nothing like it.. Fire Flys and mosquitoes.. :) wine, picnic’s on the lawn and people saying “shhhhhhhush” when some one talks to loud.. ha ha

Thanks,

Kenny Aronoff

Tanglewood

It’s America’s first music shed, summer home of the Boston Symphony, I went there Sunday with my mother.

But almost not.

You see Dark Sky said it was gonna rain. I already told my mom that I couldn’t sit on the lawn, you see I take this pill that makes me uber-susceptible to the rays of the sun. You know how you go to the pharmacy and they always warn you? Well, this time they were right. But getting from the car to the shed is quite an ordeal, you see my mother is handicapped, she uses a walker, so we went to bed saying we wouldn’t go.

And then we changed our mind.

You see I was uptight about her car. A ’99 Lexus with 156,000 miles that she no longer drives. With different tires on the front and back and enough lights on in the dashboard to illuminate a Christmas tree. I’m a safety bug, and it makes me uptight to have something imperfect. Driving this far in this car had me uptight, and if it was gonna be in the rain…but then I thought if we crashed we’d both die and that would be fitting. After all, she’s aged and I’m too old to die young.

But obviously we lived through it.

Actually, it didn’t rain at all on the way up.

And what I love about the east coast is everything’s so close. You can have a complete change of scenery on a whim. And since I was here last there’s so much more foliage. You can’t see what you once could. What’s end game, everybody living under a canopy? I’m not sure, but Siri took us there.

Yes, without an iPhone we wouldn’t be sure how to go. But now with no direction home you can fire up your maps app and end up where you wanna go. Like the Boss we took the backstreets. It made my mother uptight, the roads were unfamiliar.

But then we ended up right there.

And I was flummoxed. How was I going to get my mom from the parking lot to the shed?

You see it’s grass. And a wheelchair doesn’t roll that great on that. As for using the walker, it’s too far.

But it turns out Tanglewood is prepared. There’s a fleet of golf carts, that ferry you to the entrance, where they call for wheelchairs, with pushers, who not only get you to your seat, but back.

And this audience needed them. Wheelchairs, that is.

The classical scene is kept alive by the aged. When they die, what happens? I’m not sure. But our moms and dads, at least those still with us, venture to hear the symphony, as they did in their youth. Did I tell you my parents met hitchhiking on their way back from Tanglewood? My dad picked my mother up. So they could never tell us not to put out our thumb.

We got pretty good seats. This is not rock or pop, not something so popular you can’t get a ducat at the last moment.

And I was confronted by a full orchestra which played Mozart’s last three symphonies. Did I know them? No, but I wish I did. Still, the music set my mind free.

I first went to Tanglewood 45 years ago, to hear Duke Ellington. I’d like to tell you I got it, but the truth is the coolest thing that happened is they ultimately released a live disc. My parents dragged me to cultural events all over the northeast. But they also provided money for events in my wheelhouse, like concerts at the Fillmore East.

And the music is playing and I’m staring at the landscape on the sides of the stage and I’m wondering…how did I get here?

By car, obviously, but what I truly mean is what happened in all these decades.

I wanted some time back. I wanted some choices back. I was so lost in a way I’m not sure kids are today. I went to college because it was expected, after that…who knew what to expect. I had girlfriends and I got married and I never made a pile of cash and as time wore on the whole world changed.

But not the music.

Mozart’s career was history after these three symphonies. He couldn’t work, no one would book him. I read that in the program. Funny how the artistic legends are financially-challenged and the business titans are forgotten. Not that this kept Wolfgang Amadeus warm at night.

And the food was expensive and good. That’s another change, it used to be hot dogs and soda. Our whole country has moved upscale, and McDonald’s didn’t realize it. Millennials want fresh and their parents want nothing formula. The parking lot was littered with foreign cars, German iron, whereas in the old days Detroit predominated, hunks of junk that had to be replaced on a regular basis, fallibility was built in.

And when it was all over, we reversed our ride. Literally. Hit that icon in the maps app. And I got a hankering to go to Otis Ridge, where I went to ski camp back in the sixties.

And thanks to said maps app we found it. At the same time the heavens opened and a five star thunderstorm began. You know, the kind where you’ve got the windshield wipers on high and you still can’t see.

And we’re cruising the back roads. And we’re talking about not only the way it used to be, but what will forever be.

And I was in touch with who I was and who I’ve become.

And I realized I’m the same damn person. The alienated iconoclast who resonates with art and landscape, who likes the feeling of sliding on snow and is eager to share the experience, assuming I can find someone as into it as me.

Is there anybody as into it as me?

The Amy Winehouse Movie

What impressed me most was she was singing her truth, unselfconsciously, in a world where we’re all too guarded, posting on Instagram about our fabulous lives when the truth is so often we feel tortured and unsure, insecure.

Amy Winehouse was insecure. And she dealt with this by doing her best not to be too reliant on any one man, for fear he’d hurt her, the same way her dad hurt her mum.

Relationships… Does anybody stay in one place anymore? It seems the wealthy and educated stay together as a business deal and the rest of us are searching, judging and always wondering if there’s something better around the corner or whether the one who’s our heart’s desire will leave us first. Happened to me. And I’ve been forever untrusting since.

There was a hole in Amy’s heart that could never be filled. She was free, but too often empty.

The crime of this film is that it plays in the theatres. As if all of those who were fans of her music go out to see documentaries, as if we don’t live in a world of TV. If “Amy” premiered on television it’d be the talk of our nation, because it’s not only about fame, but the human condition. Somewhere, in between the clips and the music, is truth, a dirty one, the same one that has the paparazzi crowding around the name of the moment and abandoning it soon thereafter.

The weirdest thing is that Amy is so alive. We seem to only be aware of famous Amy, the one with the arm tattoos who kept falling down. But once upon a time she was a teenager, and there’s video of her. Seems that nothing is lost to posterity anymore. We all leave artifacts. And the loss of privacy is creepy, but to be able to sift through the ashes is fascinating.

Amy was on the fast track to nowhere. She was the antithesis of the American stars. She wasn’t sure if she wanted a career and she didn’t want to be world-famous. Then again, this is a movie, we’ll never know how she really felt.

She was a girl with friends who liked to get high. That’s why she moved out of her mother’s apartment, so she could smoke dope.

Amy was also extremely self-knowing. She said her mother was too easy on her, that’s why she was the way she was.

And she can certainly sing, but she’s told to write, about her life, and she does.

And that’s the heart of this movie, the songs. When they juxtapose the lyrics against the real life situations you’re touched. And you resonate. This is what music does best, reflect ourselves back upon us. But we seem to have lost our way these days. Who do we blame? The acts or the system? The acts want success, the system wants a return on its investment, and as a result everyone plays it safe.

Amy did not play it safe.

She was such an original. A sassy Jewish girl. She hid neither her identity nor her religion. When she leaves a phone message that she loves the recipient whether he returns her phone call or not, you’re touched. It’s so sweet and caring. Anything but manipulative, purely genuine.

Kind of like the look on her face when she wins the Grammy for Album of the Year. If it doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, you’re inhuman. My eyes are welling up as I write this. She’s standing on a stage in the U.K. in the middle of the night, watching the telecast from Los Angeles, and when they call her name she’s stricken, she can only stare into space, stock still. It’s not that it’s a dream come true, rather a shock that little Amy Winehouse resonates with so many, that doing what she wanted to do, without compromise, she was recognized, she won.

And little she was. Bulimic. We see these stick-thin stars and become envious. The truth is they either don’t eat or throw up. In this case, the latter, all over the studio stall. You can only hide your demons for so long.

Credit the manager who refused to go along for the ride.

Credit Lucian Grainge for making her sign a contract stating she could not perform on the Grammy telecast unless she was sober.

But the truth is the system ate her up. Everybody gets paid only if Amy works. Lucian told her she had to follow up her initial album. Despite her protestations, her second manager, a promoter, kept her working live when she shouldn’t have, because that’s what promoters do, oftentimes all they know, booking gigs.

And the acts go along with it.

It killed Kurt Cobain and it killed Amy Winehouse. Both protested before their deaths, said they no longer wanted to play, but it was too late, their lives had been turned topsy-turvy, they couldn’t find their way back to where they once belonged.

But the truth is they never really belonged. They were off-kilter. Thin-skinned. Following an inner art they weren’t fully sure they possessed. Poseurs are boasters, confident, all-knowing. Legends are unsure.

So what we have here is a woman so talented, many won’t realize it until they watch this film. Yes, viewing “Amy” makes you a fan of its protagonist. Sure, I knew “Rehab,” but I’m a much bigger fan now, Amy just oozed talent, she was the best of us.

And the worst.

True artists are not like us. They lack discipline. Order. You might not blow all of your money if you were a superstar, but the truth is you could never become a superstar, it’s not in your DNA, you couldn’t take the risks. Amy never could have had an executive career, she’d be fired from the 7-11 because she couldn’t show up on time. All she could do was this. And play pool. And do drugs. All the things your parents tell you not to, but which made her her.

But while we’re living the straight and narrow, we yearn to jump the tracks. Which is why we bond not to the act with the biggest sponsorship or the most famous boyfriend but the one who goes their own way, who does it different, who doesn’t beg for our acceptance and therefore gets it.

You won’t understand a ton of the dialogue. Between the English accents and the archival footage I missed so much.

Which is why I’m gonna watch it again. And again. On my TV. On my iPad. I’ve got to soak it all up, marinate in something that was hiding in plain sight that this film brings to life.

We’ve become so inured to fake that we’ve given up on genuine. Every story about the music business is about money being made or lost. How superstars are cleaning up on the road or acts are being devastated by streaming payments. If you’re not in the industry, you’re avoiding it. That’s the problem with music, not the economics, but the art itself. As Adele proved, if you’ve got it, the people want it.

But we haven’t had much of that spirit here since 1999, when Napster opened the floodgates and allowed everybody to play, when the barrier to entry became so low that chaos ruled. The crime is that as much as she was a paragon of excellence, Amy Winehouse’s greatness was buried by the tsunami of crap coming down the pike.

But now this film will resuscitate her image. Now she will truly be a legend.

And it’s so sad she’s gone.

You know how the movie ends, but when it does, even though it’s foreshadowed, you can’t believe it. You almost expect Amy to come out smiling, laughing that she fooled us.

But she doesn’t.

Life is no laughing matter. It’s not easy to kill yourself, but it’s possible. And when you’re gone, it’s forever.

So, take a few risks, but not too many.

Learn from Amy Winehouse, but don’t try to be her.

Because the truth is the greats are doomed. Even if they’re alive, they’re oftentimes broke and unhappy.

But without them, without their beacon, life would not be worth living.

This is the most painful viewing experience you will have all year.

But rush to the theatre now to see “Amy.”

I haven’t felt this bad after a flick since the “Deer Hunter.”

But this is real.

Culture Club At The Greek

I know you’ll miss me
I know you’ll miss me
I know you’ll miss me blind

Actually, no. We wouldn’t have even gone to the Greek if it hadn’t been Rena’s birthday. And when the band appeared on the big screen in her office I thought it was a commercial, because who goes on tour with FOURTEEN PEOPLE?

Culture Club. Two great albums, a flurry of hits, and then nothing. We thought Boy George would go on to further success, but he flamed out and the band are now has-beens, out for a money grab.

And the way you do this is by having a lot of the show on hard drive. But Culture Club was LIVE!

I’m trying to figure out the modern paradigm. Everyone believes it’s gonna look just like the past, with recordings being the driver. But I’m not sure. Maybe it’s all about experiences, maybe it’s all about the show. And Culture Club’s was so good, so entertaining, made me smile so much that I told myself…I WANT TO SEE THIS AGAIN!

And I never feel that way. That’s why I stay home. I’ve seen everybody I want to see too many times, in their heyday and now on the rerun. It’s creepy to go again, I don’t get it. As for the young ‘uns…they tend to be gone before they get traction, or they never get traction, or it’s about hearing a couple of hits and then…

And I’m not telling you I have an aversion to hits, but the highlight of Thursday night’s show was a reggaefied version of Bread’s “Everything I Own.”

Huh?

That’s what you can do when you have a well-rehearsed band, surprise us.

And I was surprised that they were doing my favorite song first, “Church Of The Poison Mind.” I heard it coming up the steps. And it wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t expect it to be.

But Boy George… He was wearing this concoction on his head I just could not stop staring at. As if someone at the Scotch Tape store took black ribbon and twirled it up into a double crown. Who would wear such a thing, WHO COULD COME UP WITH SUCH A THING!

And when the initial number was done and we were in our seats, Mr. O’Dowd started to talk to the audience. I haven’t seen this kind of banter since Adele played the venue, the best show of the twenty first century. She was so relaxed, at ease with herself, with nothing to prove. She talked about the audience’s outfits, engaged in conversation as opposed to ignoring the hecklers. And Boy George did this too. Maybe it’s an English thing.

And the truth is Boy George has done so many shows that he’s relaxed and skillful, it’s Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours in action. Never forget that Gladwell uses the Beatles as an example in his book, how they played more gigs in Hamburg than most bands now play in a lifetime.

First and foremost it was the original band. That never happens. Someone’s dead or there’s too much infighting, usually about money, and someone is squeezed out or refuses to participate.

And I would be lying if I said they all didn’t show the years. But they were game, and so were we.

But it was a show band, with a master at its center. They could play anything and you’d enjoy it. Because that’s the power of music, what it is first and foremost, a sound, that envelops you and carries you away, makes you feel good. Music is just not a vehicle to become rich and famous. But today that’s what it is. It’s all about the money. Whereas the English were doing it on a lark. The British Invasion guys were just trying to avoid a life of drudgery in the factory. Boy George was a gay guy who didn’t fit in, so he created his own fabulous life, and we could just peak in.

But times were different. Never underestimate the power of MTV. Freddy and Demi couldn’t stop talking about Culture Club. They had MTV when it wasn’t in every neighborhood, and if you had it you were addicted and when your friends came over they couldn’t stop watching it. And sure, Duran Duran created the paradigm of throwing a ton of money at the screen in order to become successful, but Culture Club was one of the initial breakthroughs also. Although their videos were done on a lark and were often nonsensical, I know, because they showed them all on the backdrop Thursday night. But, Boy George evidenced charisma, which he still possesses, and they were all having so much FUN! You remember fun! Instead of dancing choreographed steps to perfection, you just go with the feeling.

So, you’ve got a horn section, a trio of players who don’t sound like Chicago, but something closer to what came before, the big band era, when you needed a full complement of players to get the sound across.

And a trio of backup singers… One was not enough? Two? You’ve got to pay these people. And they didn’t have perfect bodies and didn’t look like they belonged in the centerfold but when you heard them sing, you were bonded closer than you ever were to Bo Derek and the rest of the “Sharknado” has-beens. Because physical beauty is two-dimensional, whereas soul comes straight from the heart.

And two percussionists. Unnecessary, but adding flavor.

And there was one more guitarist, he looked like the band leader, but the original player, Roy Hay, did the solos.

And Jack Black came out at the end to duet on David Bowie’s “Starman” and if you grew up with “Ziggy Stardust” it was transcendent but the truth is Boy George knows his place in time. He can pay fealty to what came before, his influences, because he knows something else is coming after.

So I’m not telling you to go to this show for nostalgia, to put a notch in your belt.

And I’m not telling you to go to this show if you don’t care, after all, the band is what it is.

But if you like to go out, if you like to feel good, if you like to be transported by music, if you’re in search of authenticity in a land inundated by fake.

This is your gig.