Saturday, January 26, 2008

THE Must-Watch Event of February 3

Category: Preview

If you're not interested in football, or if your team isn't in the Super Bowl, or if you're just sick of all the talk talk talk about the game, fear not. There is something to watch on February 3 other than the game.

In fact, I would recommend this over the game.

The event is Puppy Bowl IV.

This year's lineup looks to be superb. My eyes will be on Attucker, an adorable beagle, Raven, an mini-pin/beagle mix, and Jack, the mini dachshund. It doesn't matter, however, because these 24 will vie for the honors of MVP (Most Valuable Puppy) as they romp in a playpen decked out like a football field. Highlights include BOWL CAM (a camera beneath a glass drinking bowl) and a caretaker dressed like a referee who throws a flag for personal fouls such as puppy business on the playing field. Apparently, the halftime kitty show will return this year as well.

So, if you're looking for a great alternative to the four hours of so-called "experts" talking about the game, tune in the Animal Planet on February 3, starting at 3 PM eastern time, for Puppy Bowl IV.

A word of warning, though: this show, which runs nonstop for 12 hours, is so addictive, you just might forget the game.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Some Get the Awful, Awful Diseases

Category: Memorial

January 24th is the anniversary of Warren Zevon's birth. Instead of wishing him a happy 61st birthday, however, it's time to remember the remarkable talent we lost all too soon.

There's no middle ground on Warren Zevon. You either find him to be the eighth wonder of the musical world, or you find him repulsive. His songs were brutally frank, much the same way a great movie (think The Godfather or Schindler's List) can be to tell the story. While he could be popular (he wrote a few songs for the Turtles in the 60s), most of his songs explored a side of life wilder than Hank Thompson ever sang about.

He was pigeonholed as "the Sam Peckinpah of rock and roll" following the release of 1978's Excitable Boy, but that was an unfair assessment. Yes, there was violence and murder in some songs, but the Beatles gave us that jovial murder ditty "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and no one pigeonholed them because of that. Excitable Boy also produced two of Zevon's best songs ever: the doting dad looking at a little girl and seeing her as a grown woman in "Tenderness on the Block," and the pain of a marriage falling apart in "Accidentally Like a Martyr."

And, honestly, therein lies the beauty of Warren Zevon. Anyone can make an album of violence. Anyone can make an album of love songs. It's hard to find one artist who can do both.

In honor of what would've been Warren's 61st birthday, here are a few Zevon songs to enjoy:

Charlie's Medicine (from The Envoy, 1982). An ode to a dealer who was gunned down by "some respectable doctor from Beverly Hills," this powerful song is even more haunting after reading Crystal Zevon's account in I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon that Warren, thought to be "clean and sober" in 1982 following a long, painful climb out of the vodka bottle in 1979, was actually using heroin during the time this song was written.

Searching for a Heart (from Mr. Bad Example, 1992). This song contains one of David Letterman's favorite lines; indeed, one of Zevon's best lines: "They say love conquers all, you can't start it like a car, you can't stop it with a gun." This song is proof positive that Zevon could write a love song as well as anyone.

Bed of Coals (from Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School, 1980). Co-written with T-Bone Burnett, this is a powerful song with an eerily prophetic line: "I'm too old to die young and too young to die now."

Mr. Bad Example (from Mr. Bad Example, 1992). One critic offered an interesting comment about this polka-flavored tale of debauchery to the nth degree: the reviewer wondered why "no one thought to ask Zevon if it was autobiographical."

Desperadoes Under the Eaves (from Warren Zevon, 1976). Zevon has recorded gems, classics, and marvelous songs, but the crowning achievement of his career. If Warren Zevon's entire career can be summed up in one song, it's this masterpiece. Funny, sad, desperate -- all in the same song. Just as Zevon is ready to drink up "all the salty margaritas in Los Angeles," the air conditioner begins to hum -- complete with orchestration and backing vocals. What more could you want out of a song?

As with most Zevon fans, I'd much rather be celebrating than remembering. However, like most Zevon fans, I'm certainly thankful for the recordings he left us with. And, thanks to the recent release of the remaining two albums on CD that had previously been out of print for decades (1980's Stand in the Fire -- once hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as "one of the best live albums ever" -- and 1982's The Envoy), the catalog is complete and available on CD.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tom Dooley Hangs Down His Head for a Different Reason

Category: News

John Stewart, a member of the Kingston Trio as well as a solo performer and songwriter, has died after suffering a massive stroke. The Kingston Trio's web site reports that Stewart died Thursday, January 17th.

Stewart was a well-known songwriter, having penned the song "Daydream Believer," which became a hit for the Monkees in pop and a country hit for Anne Murray. He had his own solo success with the 1979 song "Gold," which featured backing vocals by his longtime friend Stevie Nicks.

Stewart was a member of the legendary folk group the Kingston Trio from 1961-1968.

Stewart was 68.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

An Under-the-Radar Obituary

Category: News

By now, most people have forgotten Ruth Wallis. Indeed, her risque songs wouldn't raise an eyebrow today. During the heyday of her career, however, she was banned in Boston, and her double entendre numbers such as "The Dinghy Song," "Johnny Has a Yo-Yo," and "Hopalong Chastity" were the scandal of the era. If you remember Rusty Warren (of "Knockers Up" fame), the best way to describe Wallis is that she made Rusty Warren look tame THEN.

Ruth Wallis died December 22, 2007 from complications of Alzheimer's disease. Her passing was just announced this week.

She was called "The Queen of the Party Song," and her sexual innuendos inspired a play, Boobs! The Musical: The World According to Ruth Wallis.

Wallis was 87.