Quick Hits: November 27 – December 3

  • Christine McVie died on November 30 after a brief illness. I just don’t have the words yet.
  • Irene Cara died on November 25 at the age of 63. Born Irene Cara Escalera on March 18, 1959, Cara made her Broadway debut at the age of nine in Maggie Flynn and starred in her first feature film, Aaron Loves Angela, in 1975. The following year, she made a splash as the titular character in Sparkle, a period musical set in Harlem during the 1950s and ’60s. Cara became a household name in 1980 when she starred as Coco Hernandez in Alan Parker’s Fame (a PBandJulie fave). Post-Fame, Cara’s focus was music; most notably, she co-wrote (with Keith Forsey and Giorgio Moroder) and performed the title track to 1983’s Flashdance, for which she won an Oscar, a Grammy, a Golden Globe, and an American Music Award. Cara passed away at her home in Largo, Florida (no cause of death has been announced).
  • Clarence Gilyard Jr. has also passed away. Best known for his television roles in Matlock and Walker, Texas Ranger, and his entertaining appearances in films like Top Gun and Die Hard, Gilyard was also an associate professor in the theatre department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gilyard died on November 27 at the age of 66 after a long illness.
  • I saw Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery with my sister and nephew the day after Thanksgiving and it’s a goddamn delight. The film is funny and twisty (refreshingly, the trailer gives away nothing, down to the A-list cameo that confirms Benoit Blanc’s sexual orientation), with a to-die-for cast and sumptuous visuals. Glass Onion will be available to stream on Netflix on December 23.

I really enjoyed this piece about costume designer Jenny Eagen, who should be in the conversation come awards season:

https://ew.com/movies/costume-designer-jenny-eagen-glass-onion-knives-out-story-interview/

  • All Things Must Pass, the seminal solo album by George Harrison, was released on November 27, 1970. Harrison’s first solo single, “My Sweet Lord”, was a worldwide smash, going to #1 in thirteen countries, including the US and the UK. The single also proved to be controversial, as Harrison ultimately lost a years-long copyright infringement suit brought by Bright Tunes Music, owners of the Ronnie Mack-penned “He’s So Fine” (in his memoir, I Me Mine, Harrison said of the similarities between the tunes, “Why didn’t I realise?”). In the end, Harrison was found to have unintentionally plagiarized “He’s So Fine”. Legal drama notwithstanding, “My Sweet Lord” became one of Harrison’s signature tunes. But All Things Must Pass is so much more than “My Sweet Lord”; it is, quite simply, the greatest solo album by any of the former Beatles. The album was Harrison’s coming out: after years of playing a decidedly supporting role with The Beatles, his songwriting – and his absolutely amazing guitar work – took center stage. Co-producer Phil Spector applied his “Wall of Sound” technique to create layers of gorgeous tones and textures. All Things Must Pass was a commercial and critical sensation, spending weeks at the top of the charts in the US and the UK and earning a Grammy nod for Album of the Year (it lost to Carole King’s Tapestry).
  • Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, the debut album from Soft Cell, was released on November 27, 1981. “Tainted Love” was one of the best-selling singles on both sides of the pond that year and helped usher in the Second British Invasion.
  • Bruce Lee was born on November 27, 1940. One of the most iconic figures in 20th-century cinema, Lee combined his knowledge of several disciplines to create his own mixed martial arts method he referred to as “Jeet Kune Do” (“The Way of the Fist”). He starred in five Hong Kong action films (including 1972’s Fist of Fury and 1973’s Enter the Dragon) – and shattered Asian stereotypes – before tragically passing away from cerebral edema on July 20, 1973, at the age of 32.
  • The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour had its US release on November 27, 1967. The album includes the soundtrack to the made-for-television film of the same name (side one) and a handful of other non-album singles released by the band that year (side two). Among the album’s more iconic tracks are “Magical Mystery Tour”, “I Am the Walrus”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, and “Penny Lane”. The album went to #1 on the Billboard 200 and earned the band their fourth of five Album of the Year Grammy nominations.
  • “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” by Bing Crosby and David Bowie was finally released as a single on November 27, 1982, five years after it was recorded for Crosby’s 1977 television special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas.
  • Natalie Wood died on November 29, 1981, while spending the holiday weekend with her husband Robert Wagner, as well as her friend and Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken, aboard Wagner’s yacht, Splendour. Her cause of death, which has officially been listed as “drowning and other undetermined factors”, remains a mystery; the investigation by the LA County Sheriff’s Department is still open. Wood’s body was covered in fresh bruises and abrasions, consistent with either an assault or being thrown out of the boat. Wagner has always maintained his innocence, insisting that Wood voluntarily left on the yacht’s dinghy and that her death was a tragic accident. Wood’s sister Lana, though, alleges that Wood was terrified of the water and would never have gotten in the dinghy on her own, particularly at night. Additionally, the boat’s captain, Dennis Davern, admitted in 2011 that he had initially lied at Wagner’s direction and that Wood and Wagner had argued earlier in the evening (apparently, Wagner accused Wood of flirting with Walken). Davern also alleged that Wagner instructed him not to turn on the yacht’s searchlights or notify the authorities of Wood’s disappearance. In 2018, Wagner was listed as a person of interest in the case, but he has since been cleared.
  • Andrew McCarthy celebrated his 60th birthday this week. Best known as an actor who appeared in ’80s classics like St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink, and Weekend at Bernie’s, McCarthy later segued into writing and directing. He has directed episodes for series such as Orange is the New Black, The Blacklist, New Amsterdam, and The Sinner. His travel writing, including a stint as Editor at Large for National Geographic Traveler magazine, earned him awards. He published a YA novel titled Just Fly Away in 2017 and a memoir, Brat: An ’80s Story (a cheeky reference to the “Brat Pack” moniker that McCarthy spent decades attempting to escape), in 2021.
  • On December 1, 1957, Buddy Holly made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
  • On December 2, 1982, NBC aired the 100th episode of Taxi, titled “Elaine and the Monk”.
  • Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, starring Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, Robert Goulet, and Roddy McDowall, opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theatre on December 3, 1960. The Arthurian musical won four Tony Awards, including Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for Burton, and was adapted into a 1967 feature film.

Badass Women of Rock

Originally published in 2021, edited for content and clarity.

Rock and roll remains a man’s world – women make up less than 8% of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame membership – but that doesn’t mean women don’t know how to rock. Women may still struggle to be recognized for their contributions, but these trailblazing women have been rocking out for decades.

  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Ruth Brown, Memphis Minnie

Rock and roll evolved from a combination of blues, gospel, jazz, and rhythm & blues – all genres originated by black people. So it’s no surprise that the original women of rock and roll were black. These badass pioneers paved the way for the rest of the women on this list. Tharpe was one of the first artists to use heavy distortion on her electric guitar, heralding the rise of the electric blues; she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Brown was noted for bringing a pop music style to R&B, portending the popular R&B music of the 1960s; she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Memphis Minnie, known as “Queen of the Country Blues”, was a trailblazing guitar player, and her songs have been covered by such artists as Jefferson Airplane and Led Zeppelin; she has not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

  • Grace Slick

As singer and songwriter for Jefferson Airplane, Slick was an instrumental figure in the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene of the mid-1960s. Airplane’s first album with Slick, the stone-cold classic Surrealistic Pillow, is quintessential psychedelia. “Somebody to Love” is an absolute banger, and “White Rabbit”, the album’s highlight, is two and a half minutes of sheer perfection. The song was purportedly written by Slick in less than an hour, and it’s so good, I even forgive her for “We Built This City”. Slick, along with the rest of Jefferson Airplane, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

  • Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin’s career only spanned about three years, but what a legacy she left behind. Though Joplin played the autoharp, her voice was her primary instrument. She could pivot between a lovely mezzo-soprano lilt and a full-on bluesy wail with astonishing ease. Joplin died in October 1970 of an accidental heroin overdose; three months later, her fourth album, Pearl, was released posthumously. Pearl went to #1 on the Billboard album chart and stayed there for nine weeks, and her blistering, beautiful cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” became only the second posthumous #1 single in chart history (fun fact: the first was Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”). Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

  • Joni Mitchell

The best female folk singer-songwriter of all time, period. A bout of polio when she was nine guided Mitchell toward music. Her early songwriting years yielded hits for other artists (“The Circle Game”, “Both Sides Now”) and garnered her enough attention to record her first album in 1968. Her masterpiece, 1971’s Blue, is one of the best albums by any artist (in 2017, Blue was ranked #1 on a list of the greatest albums made by women); highlights include “California”, “A Case of You” and “River”, a song so gorgeous, Kate Hudson shed unscripted tears in the Almost Famous scene where Penny Lane and Russell Hammond meet. Mitchell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

  • Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt can play the slide guitar with the best of them, and her bluesy voice can convey a myriad of emotions. Raitt recorded her first album at the age of 22, and the mastery of her craft was evident from the very beginning, but it took her eighteen years – and ten albums – to become a superstar. Nick of Time, released in 1989, was a critical and commercial smash, selling five million copies in the US and winning Raitt an armful of Grammys. It’s now been 50 years since Raitt’s debut; she has maintained that longevity by consistently staying true to herself. Raitt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

  • Ann and Nancy Wilson

The only siblings on this list, the Wilson sisters have been rocking together since they saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan when they were kids. Ann’s voice is a force of nature; her full voice is powerful and compelling, and her vibrato is perfection. Nancy’s guitar provides some of the band’s best moments – that opening riff in “Barracuda” is such a killer (she’s also done some beautiful scoring, primarily for ex-husband Cameron Crowe’s films; check out “Lucky Trumble” from Almost Famous). Nancy occasionally sings lead, but usually provides harmonies, and the combination of their voices is simply to die for. One of my favorite songs by the two is their cover (as The Lovemongers) of “The Battle of Evermore”; here’s a live version of it from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert in 1995, the year Led Zeppelin was inducted (the Wilson sisters, and the rest of Heart, were themselves inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013).

  • Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie

It’s impossible to overstate how massive Fleetwood Mac was in the 1970s (Rumours alone has sold 40 million copies worldwide), and they had their greatest success after Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks joined the band (I’ll likely wax poetic about my love for Lindsey Buckingham another time; this ain’t his day). Nicks, with her distinctive voice and her witch persona, got the lion’s share of the attention, but McVie’s contributions to the band should not be overlooked: “Don’t Stop” is as good as anything Fleetwood Mac recorded. Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll in 1998; Nicks was also inducted as a solo artist in 2019, making her the first of two women inducted twice (Tina Turner became the second in 2021).

  • Joan Jett

Joan Jett is a rock and roll icon. From her early days with the all-female teenage band The Runaways, she was a superstar. In 1980, after being rejected by 23 labels, Jett formed her own label, Blackheart Records (becoming one of the first women to create her own label) and went on to record some of the most recognizable rock songs of the early 1980s, among them “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”, “Bad Reputation” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You”. She’s also a fashion icon; her signature look consists of black hair, black eyeliner, and black leather. Jett was inducted, along with her band the Blackhearts, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

  • Tina Weymouth

Tina Weymouth joined Talking Heads when David Byrne and Weymouth’s then-boyfriend/future husband Chris Frantz couldn’t find a suitable bass player for their band; in doing so, she paved the way for future female bassists like Kim Gordon and Kim Deal (more on them in a bit). Weymouth kept the Heads’ rhythm going without flourish, but when she stepped to the forefront, as in the (ahem) killer opening bass riff on “Psycho Killer”, she absolutely dazzled. And her side project with Frantz, Tom Tom Club, produced one of the most original songs of the era, “Genius of Love”. Weymouth, along with the rest of Talking Heads, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

  • Debbie Harry

You don’t get much more badass than Debbie Harry, lead singer and co-founder of Blondie, fashion icon and friend of Andy Warhol. Blondie created some of the most iconic music of the late 1970s and early 1980s and is credited with recording the first rap song to top the Billboard singles chart (“Rapture”, off their 1980 album Autoamerican, a personal favorite of mine). Harry’s edgy persona and dreamy voice were a significant part of the band’s success, and Blondie just wouldn’t have been Blondie without her. Harry and Blondie were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

  • Pat Benatar

Originally trained as an opera singer, Pat Benatar decided to be a rock star instead; she recorded some of the most indelible music of the 1980s. Beginning with her debut album in 1979, Benatar was a force to be reckoned with. Strong, confident and sexy as hell, with a powerful three-octave range, Benatar forever changed what rock stars looked and sounded like. Benatar was finally inducted – along with her spouse and longtime collaborator Neil Giraldo – into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022.

  • Chrissie Hynde

As the founding member, guitarist, lead vocalist, and songwriter of the Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde is one of the most influential women in rock and roll and an all-around badass. Confident and cool as shit, with a deep growly voice, Hynde started out with a bang – the Pretenders’ 1980 self-titled debut, with its smash hit “Brass in Pocket”, an ode to female empowerment, heralded the arrival of a superstar. Hynde is a survivor, moving past drug and alcohol use (and the premature deaths of two of her bandmates) to create some of the most iconic music of the 1980s. Hynde and the Pretenders were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

  • Kate Bush

Kate Bush has always defied categorization, but art-rock is an appropriate moniker for her innovative combination of eclectic melodies and unconventional, often literary lyrics. Bush was just nineteen when her debut album, The Kick Inside, was released. The lead-off single, “Wuthering Heights”, went to #1 on the British charts. Bush was wildly successful in the UK but failed to catch on in the US until 1985, when she released her fifth – and best – album, Hounds of Love. And while Bush plays piano and keyboards, her main instrument is her voice: with a four-octave range, Bush can go from a child-like whisper to a bloodcurdling shriek. Bush is a three-time nominee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but has yet to be inducted; perhaps the Stranger Things fans responsible for her chart resurgence this past summer can get out the vote on her next time up to bat.

“Running Up That Hill” LITERALLY saved Max’s life
  • The Go-Go’s

The Go-Go’s started life as an LA punk band in 1978 and switched to their signature power pop-new wave sound once their lineup of Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, and Charlotte Caffey was complete. The Go-Go’s were the first all-female rock band to write their own music, play their own instruments AND top the Billboard album chart. Beauty and the Beat, their iconic 1981 debut, is one absolute banger after another. One of my favorite Go-Go’s songs is “Cool Jerk”, off their second album Vacation; give it a listen to hear killer solos from drummer Schock and bassist Valentine. The Go-Go’s were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, after fifteen years of eligibility.

  • Siouxsie Sioux

It’s hard to explain just how much my world opened up when I discovered goth music in the mid-1980s, and the main reason why is Siouxsie and the Banshees. Impossibly cool, with a raw yet commanding voice, Siouxsie Sioux exemplified the sound – and look – that helped me survive my adolescence. Sioux’s version of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”, off the Banshees’ 1984 album Hyaena, is quite possibly my favorite cover of all time, retaining the song’s original psychedelic sound yet making it utterly her own. Sioux has never been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but she’s too cool for the Hall of Fame anyway.

  • Kim Gordon and Kim Deal

Not to diminish the accomplishments of these two by lumping them together, but they have so many things in common – bass players named Kim, in iconic bands of the post-punk era. Kim Gordon, co-founder of Sonic Youth with ex-husband Thurston Moore, and Kim Deal, bassist and co-lead vocalist (with Frank Black) of Pixies, are two of the most badass female rockers of the last forty years. Sonic Youth and the Pixies helped pioneer the scuzzy post-punk sound that presaged the grunge movement, and Gordon and Deal were a big part of that sound. For proof, listen to Sonic Youth’s “Kool Thing” or Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man”. Deal also founded another iconic band of the 90s, the Breeders, during a Pixies hiatus. Sonic Youth has been nominated twice for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but has not been inducted; in one of the biggest snubs (THE biggest?) in the history of the Hall of Fame, the Pixies have never even been nominated, despite influencing a generation of artists from Nirvana to Radiohead (both of which have been inducted).

  • Björk

Björk is another artist who defies categorization; eclectic, avant-garde, and experimental are all adjectives used to describe her unique blend of pop, trip-hop, and electronica. Her dynamic, somersaulting voice is unlike anything else you’ve heard. From her early days with the Sugarcubes (if you’ve never heard it before, do yourself a favor and listen to “Birthday”), through her magnificent solo work, Björk is authentic and audacious, and I love her for it. Björk has never been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

  • Liz Phair

Self-assured, refreshingly candid, and delightfully foul-mouthed, Liz Phair made her entrance into the music world in 1993 with Exile in Guyville, one of the finest debut albums in history. Spare and unpretentious, Exile inspired countless imitators, but Phair is a one-of-a-kind. Phair has not been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; her foray into more overt pop in the 2000s may keep it that way.

  • Courtney Love

Though her personal life tended to overshadow her career, there’s no denying that Courtney Love belongs on a list of badass female rockers. Live Through This, Hole’s breakthrough album, was released on April 12, 1994 – four days after Love’s husband, Kurt Cobain, was found dead from a shotgun wound to the head. The timing was unfortunate, because Live Through This is one of the best albums of the 1990s, blending grunge riffs with stripped-down, structured melodies. Listening to Love sing “Someday you will ache like I ache” in “Doll Parts” could crack your heart wide open. Hole has not been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

  • Some other badass women who rock:

Readers – who are YOUR favorite badass women of rock?

The 27 Club

This post was originally published in April 2021. It has been edited for content and clarity.

***** CONTENT WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS REFERENCES TO MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, EATING DISORDERS, SUICIDE, DRUG ABUSE, OVERDOSE, DROWNING, AND MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS *****

In April 1994, Kurt Cobain died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, becoming Generation X’s most famous inductee to the “27 Club”. The club, a cultural concept without an official membership, is a list of musicians, actors, and other artists who have died at the age of twenty-seven. The theory was first floated fifty years ago after four of the era’s most prominent rock musicians – Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison – all died at twenty-seven within a two-year period. Some twenty-five years later, Cobain’s death reignited the conversation. Although the notion of a statistical spike has been dispelled repeatedly, the myth persists, largely due to the violent and/or mysterious nature of many of the deaths. Experts have concluded that being a rock star of any age is statistically riskier, and a generally unlimited supply of illicit and prescription drugs fuels that risk. Here are some of the most notorious members of the “27 Club”:

  • Robert Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938)

Robert Johnson, a pioneering blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter, is widely considered the founding member of the 27 Club. His life was poorly documented and his death was mysterious, which gave rise to the legend that Johnson sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in order to achieve musical notoriety. Johnson was found dead at the side of the road near Greenwood, Mississippi. No autopsy was done, and his death certificate lists no official cause of death. One of the theories surrounding Johnson’s cause of death: he may have suffered from congenital syphilis. It’s also possible he was poisoned by the jealous husband of a woman he flirted with at a club three days before his death. Johnson only participated in two recording sessions during his lifetime; those recordings were finally released by Columbia Records in 1961. The resulting album, King of the Delta Blues Singers, was enormously influential on the burgeoning blues-rock scene of the time, including some of the other artists on this list.

  • Brian Jones (February 28, 1942 – July 3, 1969)

Brian Jones was the founder and original leader of The Rolling Stones, and a talented multi-instrumentalist1. As the band gained acclaim, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards took over the group’s musical direction, sidelining Jones; Jones also found himself at odds with the band’s manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. Tensions mounted in 1967 when Jones’ girlfriend Anita Pallenberg left him for bandmate Richards. Jones’ alcohol and drug use resulted in him becoming increasingly unreliable, and his appearances with the band became more and more sporadic. On June 8, 1969, Jagger, Richards, and Charlie Watts visited Jones and informed him he was no longer a member of the band he founded. Less than a month later, Jones was found motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool. His death was ruled a drowning, but the coroner later changed the ruling to “death by misadventure”, noting the significant damage to Jones’ organs due to his drug and alcohol use.

1Aside from playing lead and slide guitar, here are some of Jones’ most significant instrumental contributions to the band:

Sitar on “Paint It, Black”

Organ on “Let’s Spend the Night Together”

Recorder on “Ruby Tuesday”

Dulcimer and harpsichord on “Lady Jane”

Mellotron on “She’s a Rainbow”

  • Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970)

Born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle, Washington, Jimi Hendrix was perhaps the greatest guitarist of all time. A pioneer in the evolution of both blues rock and psychedelia, Hendrix was instrumental in popularizing the use of feedback and fuzz distortion. Success for Hendrix came in Europe first, where his sound complemented the British blues scene of the time. His big break in the US came with the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, where he was introduced by Brian Jones; Hendrix lit the crowd – and his guitar – on fire, and a star was born. By 1969, Hendrix was the world’s highest-paid rock musician, and he headlined Woodstock in August of that year; his scorching version of “The Star Spangled Banner” was a highlight of the festival, even as the crowd had all but disappeared by the time Hendrix took the stage Monday morning. For years, Hendrix had abused alcohol and experimented with drugs like LSD and amphetamines, and the pressures of fame began to take an additional toll. On September 18, 1970, Hendrix supposedly took nine of his girlfriend’s prescription barbiturates, eighteen times the recommended dosage, and was found unconscious. He was taken to the hospital and declared dead at 12:45 pm. Hendrix’s cause of death was listed as asphyxiation; the coroner concluded that he had aspirated on his own vomit.

ICONIC
Watching this interview, which aired a little more than a year before Hendrix’s death, breaks my heart
  • Janis Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970)

Janis Lyn Joplin left her childhood home in Texas for San Francisco at the age of twenty, and three years later became the lead singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band’s appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival brought them national – and international – acclaim. By 1969, Joplin was a solo artist, and an absolute superstar. Joplin could never seem to resist the trappings of fame; she drank heavily throughout her career and abused narcotics like methamphetamine and heroin. By early ’69, Joplin was allegedly shooting up $200 worth of heroin a day. Joplin was at work on her new album (released posthumously as Pearl in 1971) when she died of an accidental heroin overdose on October 4, 1970 – just sixteen days after Jimi Hendrix’s death.

A star is born: Cass Elliott mouthing “WOW” at the 5:26 mark tells you everything you need to know
  • Jim Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971)

James Douglas Morrison was a songwriter, a poet, and the iconic lead singer of The Doors (fun fact that my bestie loves to dole out: the group took its name from Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, which itself is a reference to a William Blake quote). The Doors were among the most successful bands of the late 1960s and early ’70s, and Morrison, with his distinctive voice and unpredictable personality, was the primary reason why. After recording the band’s sixth album L.A. Woman, Morrison joined his girlfriend Pamela Courson in a Paris apartment she had rented for him. On July 3, 1970 – two years to the day after the death of Brian Jones – Morrison was found unconscious in the bathtub of that apartment. No autopsy was done (French law didn’t require it) but the official cause of death was listed as heart failure. The general consensus is that he died of an accidental heroin overdose, exacerbated by a years-long alcohol dependency. The lack of an autopsy – coupled with Morrison’s mythic personality – has even led to conspiracy theories that he’s still alive.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/jim-morrison-found-alive/

(Am I the only one who thinks that the aged version of Morrison in this article looks like Jon Voight?)

  • Chris Bell (January 12, 1951 – December 27, 1978)

Musician, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Chris Bell was the co-founder (with Alex Chilton) of Big Star, the best god-damn band you’ve never heard of. Big Star was the quintessential power pop artist, and their music influenced a generation of indie rock artists like R.E.M., The Replacements, Matthew Sweet, and Beck. #1 Record – the only Big Star album officially credited to Bell – is a stone-cold classic, with songs like “The Ballad of El Goodo”, “In The Street” and “Thirteen” (my personal favorite). Bell left the band in 1972 and attempted a solo career without much success. Plagued by depression, and battling drug and alcohol addiction, Bell was only able to record some demos and one single prior to his death (a posthumous collection was released in 1992 as I Am the Cosmos). On December 27, 1978, Bell was on his way home from a rehearsal and lost control of his Triumph TR7; the car hit a pole, the pole fell and Bell was killed instantly.

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988)

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent who was an influential figure in the early days of hip-hop culture in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the late 1970s. At the age of twenty-two, Basquiat became the youngest person to exhibit at the Whitney Museum Biennial. Basquiat’s work was overtly political, with emphasis on the criticism of colonialism and the systems of racism. Basquiat sold his first painting, 1981’s Cadillac Moon, for $200 to Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry.

Basquiat’s collaborations with Andy Warhol in the mid-1980s produced some of the decade’s most iconic pop art.

Despite professional success, Basquiat was haunted by emotional issues and began coping with his fame and the pressures of the art industry through drug use. On August 12, 1988, Basquiat was found unresponsive in his bedroom and taken to Cabrini Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. His cause of death? A heroin overdose.

  • Kurt Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994)

Singer, songwriter, and musician Kurt Donald Cobain is Generation X’s most iconic rock star. Born in Aberdeen, Washington, Cobain formed Nirvana in 1987 with Krist Novoselic. Aaron Burckhard, the band’s original drummer, was replaced by Chad Channing for the band’s 1989 debut album, Bleach. Unhappy with Channing’s performance, Cobain and Novoselic fired him; Dave Grohl joined the band in time for their follow-up, 1991’s Nevermind.

Nevermind, generally regarded as the most important and influential album of the 1990s, was a critical and commercial smash and yielded the #6 hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Faced with overnight success, and already managing a fragile psyche, Cobain developed a heroin habit. His tabloid-fodder marriage to Courtney Love threatened to dwarf his musical career, but Nirvana managed to create one more brilliant album, 1993’s In Utero (which contains my favorite Nirvana song, “Heart Shaped Box”). But by early 1994, Cobain’s mental and physical health had deteriorated. A March 4th overdose of alcohol and Rohypnol led to an intervention, and Kurt agreed to check himself into a drug treatment program in Los Angeles. After one day, he hopped the facility’s fence and flew home to Seattle. On April 8, 1994, electrician Gary Smith arrived to install a home security system and found Cobain’s body. Although he left a suicide note, Cobain’s death has generated several urban legends over the years: his death wasn’t a suicide and Courtney was responsible, or he isn’t actually dead at all. Cobain never wanted to be the voice of his generation, but his tragic, untimely death ensured that he forever would be.

  • Kristen Pfaff (May 26, 1967 – June 16, 1994)

A little more than two months after Kurt Cobain’s death, Courtney Love’s Hole bandmate Kristen Pfaff lost her own battle with heroin. Pfaff had only joined the band the previous year, moving from Minneapolis to Seattle to help record the gorgeous Live Through This. The album, released four days after Cobain’s body was discovered, was a massive commercial and critical success. But living in Seattle had left Pfaff with a heroin addiction. After a stint in a Minneapolis detox facility, and distraught by Cobain’s death, Pfaff decided to leave Hole and return to Minneapolis permanently. On June 14th, Pfaff flew to Seattle one last time to gather her belongings; on June 16th, a friend found Pfaff’s body. On the floor was a bag of syringes and other drug paraphernalia. The official cause of death: acute opiate intoxication.

  • Jonathan Brandis (April 13, 1976 – November 12, 2003)

Jonathan Brandis began modeling at age two and acting in television commercials at age four. He found success in movies like Ladybugs and Sidekicks, in the ABC mini-series It (based on the Stephen King novel of the same name), and in guest spots on series such as Murder, She Wrote and The Wonder Years. Brandis’ big break came in 1993, with a regular role on the NBC series seaQuest DSV; the show made him a teen idol, but once the series came to an end in 1996, Brandis struggled to find work. In 2002, he thought he’d found the role that would revive his career, in the film Hart’s War, but his performance was drastically reduced in the film’s final cut. Grappling with depression and alcoholism, Brandis hanged himself in the hallway of his Los Angeles apartment on November 11, 2003. He was found and transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries the next day.

  • Amy Winehouse (September 14, 1983 – July 23, 2011)

Never has a song been so retroactively heartbreaking as Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”, the lead-off single to her 2006 album Back to Black.

They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said “no, no, no”
Yes, I’ve been black, but when I come back, you’ll know, know, know
I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab, but I won’t go, go, go

Amy Jade Winehouse, born in north London, knew early on she wanted to perform. At the age of nine, she began attending Susi Earnshaw Theatre School and founded a short-lived rap group there called Sweet ‘n’ Sour. She bought a guitar at age fourteen and started writing songs shortly thereafter. Winehouse recorded her first album, Frank, in 2003 at the age of just twenty, and though it was a critical success, it made little impact beyond her native England. Back to Black, however, made her an international superstar. Her sultry, distinctive contralto voice, the ’60s girl group-inspired harmonies, and the first-rate production by Mark Ronson – not to mention her shockingly intimate, confessional lyrics – made Back to Black one of the best albums of the decade. But stardom came with a price: Winehouse’s heavy drinking, drug use, and eating disorders only worsened as her fame grew and her live performances were often disastrous. A promised third album was delayed. Legal problems ensued; she was arrested numerous times for drug offenses and assaults. Multiple stints in rehab proved unsuccessful. On July 23rd, 2011, Winehouse’s bodyguard found her lying in her bed, unresponsive; the Metropolitan Police and two ambulances arrived but were too late, and Winehouse was pronounced dead at the scene. Her death was officially declared a “misadventure”, but a second inquest in January 2013 reclassified her death as accidental alcohol poisoning (her blood alcohol level had been .416%).

  • Anton Yelchin (March 11, 1989 – June 19, 2016)

Anton Viktorovich Yelchin was born in Leningrad to Soviet figure skaters. When Yelchin was just six months old, his parents traveled to the United States and were granted refugee status by the State Department. Yelchin grew up in Los Angeles and began acting professionally at the age of ten. He is perhaps best known as Chekhov in the Star Trek film series that launched in 2009. He also played a young Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation and starred in the lovely romantic drama Like Crazy in 2011. On June 18th, 2016, Yelchin failed to appear at a rehearsal; friends went to his house, where they discovered him trapped between his Jeep Grand Cherokee and a brick driveway pillar. It was determined that his vehicle rolled backward down his driveway, which was on a steep incline, and trapped him against the pillar. He was pronounced dead at the scene just after midnight on July 19th.

POSTSCRIPT:

In doing research for this piece, two things stood out to me: 1) how devastatingly young these people were and 2) how profoundly sad so many of them were. The tragedy of many of these deaths was how inevitable – and preventable – they were. My heart aches for the loved ones they left behind – those who lost their children, their partner, their parent – and for those who live with psychic pain so immense, they’ll do anything to alleviate it. In so many of these cases, mental illness and substance abuse went hand-in-hand. As someone who suffers from several mental health issues (among them, depression, anxiety, and insomnia), I know first-hand how it feels to want so desperately to quiet those voices.

One more thing: my morbid curiosity got the better of me, and I did an internet search for “people who just missed the 27 Club”. The search generated this list:

  • Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon) – died 26 days after his 28th birthday of a cocaine overdose
  • Steve Gaines (Lynyrd Skynyrd) – died 36 days after his 28th birthday in a plane crash that killed six members of the band and its entourage
  • Gram Parsons – died 47 days before his 27th birthday of a morphine and alcohol overdose
  • Bradley Nowell (Sublime) – died 93 days after his 28th birthday of a heroin overdose
  • JP Richardson AKA The Big Bopper – died 102 days after his 28th birthday in the plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens
  • Tim Buckley – died 135 days past his 28th birthday of a heroin/morphine/alcohol overdose (Buckley’s son Jeff missed the club by just over two years when he drowned at the age of 30)
  • Nick Drake – died 206 days before his 27th birthday from an antidepressant overdose
  • Otis Redding – died 274 days before his 27th birthday in a plane crash
  • Hillel Slovak (Red Hot Chili Peppers) – died 292 days before his 27th birthday of a heroin overdose

80s Soundtrack Jams A-Z

As an avid fan of film and music, not much makes me happier than a movie soundtrack. And as a Gen-Xer, I am particularly fond of 80s movie soundtracks. From pop-rock to synth-pop, ska to funk to power pop, the following songs were an integral part of my formative years. Not every song on this list was written directly for its corresponding film; if the song was featured prominently in the movie, it counts (my blog, my rules). Also, I’m only including jams, so look for ballads somewhere else! Without further ado, here is a selection of some of my favorite 80s soundtrack jams.

  • “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton (9 to 5)

Dolly Parton, who made her film debut in 9 to 5, was the only choice to write and perform the title tune. This absolute stone-cold classic earned Parton an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song (it lost to “Fame”), two Grammy Awards, and a place on AFI’s “100 Years, 100 Songs”. The single also went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the ninth most popular song of 1981.

  • “Alex F” by Harold Faltermeyer (Beverly Hills Cop)

German film composer Harold Faltermeyer struck gold with his iconic, Grammy-winning score for the 1984 blockbuster Beverly Hills Cop. “Axel F” was a top-five hit in several countries, including the US and the UK, a rarity for an instrumental.

“Axel F” plays over numerous scenes, including the shootout at Victor Maitland’s mansion

Honorable mentions: “Absolute Beginners” by David Bowie (Absolute Beginners), “All Over the World” by ELO (Xanadu), “Anotherloverholenyohead” by Prince and the Revolution (Parade: Music from the Motion Picture Under the Cherry Moon)

  • “Back in Time” by Huey Lewis & The News (Back to the Future)

While “The Power of Love” is certainly the more popular Huey Lewis song featured in Back to the Future, “Back in Time” is without a doubt my favorite of the two. First of all, it actually references the film’s plot. Second, I love the wordplay used to convey the different meanings of “back in time”. Third, THOSE HORNS!! 🎷🎺

Honorable mentions: “Breakin’… There’s No Stopping Us” by Ollie & Jerry (Breakin’), “Batdance” by Prince (Batman), “Bring on the Dancing Horses” by Echo & the Bunnymen (Pretty in Pink), “Baby I’m a Star” by Prince (Purple Rain)

  • “Cry Little Sister” by Gerard McMann (The Lost Boys)

Gerard McMann had not seen The Lost Boys when he wrote this hypnotic theme song; director Joel Schumaker was blown away by how well McMann captured the essence of the film, telling McMann, “I can’t believe you wrote this without seeing a frame of film!”

Honorable mentions: “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” by David Bowie (Cat People), “Call Me” by Blondie (American Gigolo), “Causing a Commotion” by Madonna (Who’s That Girl), “Computer Blue” by Prince (Purple Rain)

  • “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds (The Breakfast Club)

Simple Minds initially turned down the offer to perform the iconic theme to The Breakfast Club; the song had been written for the film by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff, and Simple Minds preferred to write their own music. A&M Records and Chrissie Hynde (who was then married to Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr) managed to persuade them to do it. Kerr made the song his own by adding the “la la la la la” vocal fills for the song’s outro. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” was Simple Minds’ first and only US #1.

Fun fact: Before the tune was offered to Simple Minds, it was turned down by Bryan Ferry, Billy Idol, and The Fixx’s Cy Curnin.

Honorable mentions: “Down in the Park” by Gary Numan (Times Square), “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins (Top Gun), “Dragnet ’88” by The Art of Noise (Dragnet), “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)” by Q-Feel (Girls Just Want to Have Fun), “Do Wot You Do” by INXS (Pretty in Pink), “Dancing in the Sheets” by Shalamar (Footloose), “Darling Nikki” by Prince (Purple Rain)

  • “Everybody Want to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears (Real Genius)

This iconic tune, written for Tears for Fears’ brilliant 1985 album Songs from the Big Chair, plays over the closing credits of one of my all-time favorite movies, Real Genius.

Fun fact: The song’s title comes from a line in The Clash’s “Charlie Don’t Surf”. In a 1988 interview, Joe Strummer described bumping into TFF’s Roland Orzabal at a restaurant and telling him, “You owe me a fiver”; Orzabal reached into his pocket and handed Strummer a five-dollar bill.

Honorable mentions: “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor (Rocky III), “Erotic City” by Prince with Sheila E. (in her recording debut!) (Purple Rain), “Everywhere at Once” by The Plimsouls (Valley Girl)

  • “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins/”Flashdance… What a Feeling” by Irene Cara/”Fame” by Irene Cara (Footloose/Flashdance/Fame)

There was no way to decide between these iconic “F” title tracks, all released between 1980 and 1984. So a three-way tie it is. All three songs were top-five hits. “Flashdance… What a Feeling” and “Fame” both took home the Academy Award for Best Original Song; “Footloose” lost to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, but it should have lost to “Purple Rain”, which WASN’T EVEN NOMINATED (more on that later).

Honorable mentions: “The Fanatic” by Felony (Valley Girl), “Fire in the Twilight” by Wang Chung (The Breakfast Club), “Flash” by Queen (Flash Gordon), “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy (Do the Right Thing)

  • “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” by Cyndi Lauper (The Goonies)

The Goonies, another PBandJulie all-time fave, features a kick-ass score by Dave Grusin as well as pop songs by artists like REO Speedwagon and Philip Bailey. But by far the best-known song from The Goonies is Cyndi Lauper’s “Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough”. Lauper hated the song so much she refused to perform it live for twenty years (she eventually relented to fan demand and put it back on her setlist).

This video is…something.

Fun fact #1: The song’s original title was simply “Good Enough” but Warner Bros. insisted the film’s title appear in the tune’s title.

Fun fact #2: Lauper recorded a parody version of the song titled “Taffy Butt” for an episode of Bob’s Burgers.

Honorable mentions: “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. (Ghostbusters), “Good Times” by INXS and Jimmy Barnes (The Lost Boys)

  • TIE: “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham (National Lampoon’s Vacation) and “Hazy Shade of Winter” by The Bangles (Less Than Zero)

I simply couldn’t decide, and then I realized I didn’t have to. My blog, my rules.

Honorable mentions: “The Heat Is On” by Glenn Frey (Beverly Hills Cop), “Hot Lunch Jam” by Irene Cara (Fame)

  • “Into the Groove” by Madonna (Desperately Seeking Susan)

DUH.

Fun fact: “Into the Groove” topped the charts in eleven countries but was ineligible for the US charts. The reason? Sire Records refused to release it as a single in the US because they didn’t want it to interfere with “Angel”, the third single off Madonna’s second studio album, Like a Virgin (though it did go to #1 on the US Dance Club chart).

Honorable mentions: “I’m Alive” by ELO (Xanadu), “I’m Alright” by Kenny Loggins (Caddyshack), “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” by Kenny Loggins (Footloose), “I Still Believe” by Tim Cappello (The Lost Boys), “Imagination” by Laura Branigan (Flashdance), “If You Leave” by OMD (Pretty in Pink), “I Melt with You” by Modern English (Valley Girl), “Invincible” by Pat Benatar (The Legend of Billie Jean), “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince (Purple Rain), “In the Name of Love” by Thompson Twins (Ghostbusters), “Iko Iko” by The Belle Stars (Rain Man)

  • “Jungle Love” by The Time (Purple Rain)

The truth is, there aren’t many songs that start with “J”. Even so, “Jungle Love” is one of the jammiest jams on this list. It’s also the list’s first of two songs from Purple Rain (see also “L” for “DUH”).

  • “Kiss” by Prince and the Revolution (Parade: Music from the Motion Picture Under the Cherry Moon)

The first of two consecutive Prince songs, “Kiss” went to #1 in the US and was a top-ten hit in eleven other countries. The British music magazine NME named “Kiss” the best single of 1986. “Act your age, mama, not your shoe size” is, quite simply, one of the greatest song lyrics of all time.

Fun fact: The backing vocals to “Kiss” were inspired by Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothin’s”.

The 1988 cover of “Kiss” by Art of Noise and Tom Jones is a fascinating little time capsule
I can’t hear “Kiss” without thinking of this utterly charming scene from 1990’s Pretty Woman

Honorable mention: “A Kind of Magic” by Queen (Highlander), “Kajagoogoo” by Kajagoogoo (Sixteen Candles)

  • “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince (Purple Rain)

What else could it be? Purple Rain is not only the greatest soundtrack album of the 1980s, it’s one of the best albums of any decade, period. Every song is an absolute banger. “Let’s Go Crazy”, the opening track, was Prince’s second chart-topper (after the album’s first single, “When Doves Cry”). I’m still not over the fact that not a single song from Purple Rain was nominated for Best Original Song at the 57th Academy Awards (to add insult to injury, the song that won that year was Stevie Wonder’s dreadful “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, from The Woman in Red).

Fun fact: After Prince’s death in 2016, “Let’s Go Crazy” re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 and made it to #25.

Honorable mentions: “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” by Deniece Williams (Footloose), “Laying Down the Law” by INXS and Jimmy Barnes (The Lost Boys)

  • “March of the Swivel Heads” by The English Beat (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

“March of the Swivel Heads” was recorded for The English Beat’s 1982 album Special Beat Service (it’s actually an instrumental variation on the album’s track “Rotating Heads”). The song is the perfect soundtrack to Ferris’s race home toward the end of the iconic flick.

The song playing at the beginning of this video, “The Edge of Forever” by The Dream Academy, is also awesome, but we’re talking about jams here (“March of the Swivel Heads” begins at the 1:32 mark)

Honorable mentions: “Maniac” by Michael Sembello (Flashdance), “Mighty Wings” by Cheap Trick (Top Gun), “A Million Miles Away” by The Plimsouls (Valley Girl), “Modigliani (Lost in Your Eyes)” by Book of Love (Planes, Trains and Automobiles)

  • “NeverEnding Story” by Limahl (The NeverEnding Story)

Limahl (Christopher Hamill) is best known as the lead singer of Kajagoogoo, which had its biggest hit in 1983 with “Too Shy”. He also had a US top-twenty hit with the theme song to the 1984 fantasy film The NeverEnding Story.

Fun fact: “NeverEnding Story” was featured prominently in the season finale of Stranger Things 3, to the delight of everyone.

Honorable mentions: “Neutron Dance” by The Pointer Sisters (Beverly Hills Cop), “New Attitude” by Patti Labelle (Beverly Hills Cop)

  • “Oldest Story in the World” by The Plimsouls (Valley Girl)

At my husband’s suggestion, we watched Valley Girl two nights ago. I hadn’t seen it in many years, but the killer soundtrack is never far from my mind. In the film, 80s power pop darlings The Plimsouls appear as themselves, performing “A Million Miles Away”, “Everywhere at Once”, and “Oldest Story in the World”.

Honorable mentions: “One Vision” by Queen (Highlander), “Oh Yeah” by Yello (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), “On the Dark Side” by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band (Eddie and the Cruisers), “Only the Young” by Journey (Vision Quest)

  • “Pretty in Pink” by Psychedelic Furs (Pretty in Pink)

I honestly prefer the 1981 original (which inspired the film’s title) to the more polished version the Furs recorded for the iconic 1986 teen romance, but that’s just me splitting hairs.

Honorable mentions: “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News (Back to the Future), “Playing with the Boys” by Kenny Loggins (Top Gun)

  • “Romancing the Stone” by Eddy Grant (Romancing the Stone)

Reggae artist Eddy Grant, fresh off his worldwide smash “Electric Avenue”, wrote the theme song for one of my favorite films of 1984. Unfortunately, the song was cut from the finished film, but it still managed to crack the top 30 in the US.

Honorable mention: “Rhythm of the Night” by DeBarge (The Last Dragon), “Ring Me Up” by Divinyls (Sixteen Candles), “Real Wild Child” by Iggy Pop (Adventures in Babysitting)

  • “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion”) by John Parr (St. Elmo’s Fire)

It’s hard to overstate my love for St. Elmo’s Fire, Joel Schumaker’s ode to Brat Pack romance. John Parr, who became a household name the year before with “Naughty Naughty”, initially struggled to find inspiration for the tune until producer David Foster showed Parr a clip of Paralympian Rick Hansen. At the time, Hansen had embarked upon his worldwide “Man in Motion” tour; Parr was so moved that he wrote lyrics that vaguely touched on the film’s plot, but directly referenced Hansen’s story. “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” went to #1 in the US and Canada and was a top-ten hit in ten other countries.

Fun fact: Members of 80s rock titans TOTO, REO Speedwagon, and Mr. Mister performed on the track.

Honorable mentions: “Stir It Up” by Patti Labelle (Beverly Hills Cop), “Shakedown” by Bob Seger (Beverly Hills Cop II), “She Talks in Stereo” by Gary Myrick & The Figures (Valley Girl), “Shake Down” by Billy Squier (St. Elmo’s Fire), “Speeding” by The Go-Go’s (Fast Times at Ridgemont High)

  • “Twist of Fate” by Olivia Newton-John (Two of a Kind)

The late, great ONJ also appears on this list twice. First up is the theme to the absolutely terrible Two of a Kind, her much-hyped film reunion with John Travolta. “Twist of Fate”, Newton-John’s final US top-ten, was by far the best thing about the movie.

Honorable mentions: “Taste the Pain” by Red Hot Chili Peppers (Say Anything…), “Together in Electric Dreams” by Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder (Electric Dreams), “Take Me with U” by Prince (Purple Rain)

  • “Under the Sea” by Samuel E. Wright (The Little Mermaid)

“Under the Sea”, the calypso-inspired song from Disney’s triumphant return to form, The Little Mermaid, earned songwriters Alan Menken and Howard Ashman their first Oscar for Best Original Song.

PERFECTION
  • “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran (A View to a Kill)

For the theme song to 1985’s Bond entry, A View to a Kill, the producers chose my beloved Duran Duran, and the results were sublime. “A View to a Kill” is the only Bond theme to reach the top spot on the US charts. Inexplicably, the tune wasn’t nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar, but it did receive a Golden Globe nod.

“Bon. Simon Le Bon.” is so cheeky and delightful
  • “Weird Science” by Oingo Boingo (Weird Science)

Danny Elfman is better known these days as a film and television composer, but he had his biggest hit with the now-defunct Oingo Boingo in 1985 with the title song from John Hughes’ Weird Science.

Honorable mentions: “When Doves Cry” by Prince (Purple Rain), “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Go’s (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), “We Are Not Alone” by Karla Devito (The Breakfast Club), “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going” by Billy Ocean (The Jewel of the Nile), “Who’s That Girl” by Madonna (Who’s That Girl), “Waffle Stomp” by Joe Walsh (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), “Wild Sex (in the Working Class)” by Oingo Boingo (Sixteen Candles)

  • “Xanadu” by ONJ & ELO (Xanadu)

Trust me when I tell you, even if I had thought of another X song (which I didn’t), “Xanadu” would still have been the pick. I’ve talked about my utter devotion to ONJ and Xanadu before (here: https://peanut-butter-and-julie.com/2021/04/14/guiltless-pleasures/ and here: https://peanut-butter-and-julie.com/2022/08/17/onj-forever/), so I won’t dwell on it today, but seriously, this song – written by ELO’s Jeff Lynne – fucking rules.

  • “You Can Leave Your Hat On” by Joe Cocker (9 1/2 Weeks)

“You Can Leave Your Hat On” was written by Randy Newman for his 1972 album Sail Away. The 1986 cover by Joe Cocker, which made it to #35 on the Billboard Hot 100, played over the striptease scene in Adrian Lyne’s 9 1/2 Weeks; it remains a striptease anthem to this day.

Listen to all of these songs and more here:

Quick Hits: November 10

  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame held their annual induction ceremony this past weekend. During Duran Duran’s acceptance speech, they read a letter from guitarist Andy Taylor, who left the band for good in 2006 but was expected to appear at the induction. In the letter, Taylor revealed he had been diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer back in 2018 and a recent setback left him unable to attend the ceremony. The ceremony – which also honored Pat Benatar, Eminem, Eurythmics, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, and Carly Simon – will stream on HBO Max on Saturday, November 19.
  • On November 10, 1940, Walt Disney began serving as a secret informant for the FBI. His job was to report on the activities of actors and other film artists suspected of political subversion (AKA “commies”). Disney held this role until his death in 1966, but his involvement with the FBI only became public knowledge due to a 1993 Freedom of Information Act request.
  • Sesame Street premiered on this day in 1969. A benchmark in children’s television programming, Sesame Street is both entertaining and educational. It also introduced the world to Jim Henson and the Muppets. It is estimated that as many as 90 million American adults watched Sesame Street as children.
Fun fact: James Earl Jones was the first celebrity to appear on Sesame Street
  • One of my favorite film composers, Ennio Morricone, was born on this day in 1928. Morricone composed the music for more than 400 films and television series and received six Oscar nominations for Best Original Score, finally winning his last time up to bat (for 2015’s The Hateful Eight). Among Morricone’s most iconic scores: The Mission, Days of Heaven, The Thing, Once Upon a Time in the West, Cinema Paradiso, The Untouchables, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Morricone died in 2020 at the age of 91.
  • British lyricist Tim Rice was born on November 10, 1944. Best known for his collaborations with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rice is responsible for some of Broadway’s most iconic shows (The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Evita, just to name a few). He has worked with Elton John multiple times, including “Legal Boys” from John’s 1982 album Jump Up!, the songs for 1994’s The Lion King (the pair won the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and were also nominated for “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata”), and Broadway’s Aida. Rice also wrote the lyrics for “All Time High” by Rita Coolidge – the theme song for the thirteenth Bond film, Octopussy – AND Chess, the concept album-turned-musical written by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus that spawned the unlikely hit single “One Night in Bangkok” in 1985. Happy birthday, Sir Tim!
  • Greg Lake would have turned 75 today. Co-founder of seminal prog-rock bands King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Lake also had a successful solo career and toured with such heavyweights as Ringo Starr and The Who. Lake learned to play guitar at the age of twelve and wrote “Lucky Man” – which would eventually become ELP’s first single in 1970 – that same year. Lake died of cancer in 2016.
  • “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson (featuring Bruno Mars) was released on this day in 2014. The single went to #1 in nineteen countries, including the U.S., where it spent fourteen weeks in the top spot. When I think of “Uptown Funk”, I think of this brilliantly edited video:
  • Amazon’s The English, starring Emily Blunt, debuts this Friday.
Badass Emily Blunt is my favorite Emily Blunt
  • Netflix has released the full trailer for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, and I am 100% here for this movie. Glass Onion will play in theaters for one week in November before hitting the streamer on December 23.
  • Season three of Amazon’s Jack Ryan will also arrive in time for Christmas (December 21).
  • Showtime’s George & Tammy, which explores the stormy marriage of two of country music’s all-time greats, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, will premiere on December 4. Starring the incomparable Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, George & Tammy will be directed by The Road and Lawless helmer John Hillcoat.

On a personal note, I apologize that it’s been so long since my last post. I’m still job hunting and it’s not going very well. It hasn’t left me much time for writing, and it’s been nearly impossible for me to concentrate. I’ve worked on a couple things but couldn’t create anything publish-worthy. But I missed writing, and I missed all of you! Thank you all for your support and patience while I work through my personal shit.

XOXO – Julie

Legend: Angela Lansbury

Dame Angela Lansbury has died at the age of 96. A five-time Tony winner, three-time Oscar nominee, and eighteen-time Emmy nominee, Lansbury was an icon of the stage and screen and one of the most beloved actors of all time.

Angela Brigid Lansbury was born on October 16, 1925, in Regent’s Park, London. Her father Edgar was a British politician and her mother, Moyna Macgill, was an Irish actress. Angela had an older half-sister, Isolde Denham, from her mom’s first marriage, and younger twin brothers named Bruce and Edgar. Lansbury knew she wanted to perform from a young age, studying piano before turning to acting at age fifteen. In 1940, with the onset of the Blitz, Macgill took her three youngest children to the US (Isolde was married by then, and Edgar Sr. passed away when Lansbury was nine). The family settled in New York, where Lansbury earned a scholarship from the American Theatre Wing and began studying at the Feagin School of Drama located at Carnegie Hall.

In 1942, the family moved to Los Angeles; one fateful night, at a party hosted by her mother, Lansbury met playwright John Van Druten, who had just co-written a screenplay for an upcoming motion picture, Gaslight. Lansbury, just seventeen years old at the time, secured a role in the film, and the rest, as they say, is history. Over the next eight decades, Lansbury starred in some of the most iconic films, television series, and theater productions of all time.

A brief marriage to Richard Cromwell imploded after less than a year (Cromwell was gay and hoped that the marriage would “turn” him heterosexual), though the two remained lifelong friends. In 1946, Lansbury met the love of her life, actor Peter Shaw; the two were married in 1949 and had two children, Anthony and Deirdre. Lansbury and Shaw remained married until his death in 2003; they have three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

By all accounts, Lansbury was kind and generous; in researching this piece, I’ve found no evidence to the contrary. During her time on Murder, She Wrote, Lansbury put pressure on casting to hire actors “of a certain age” who weren’t working enough to maintain their medical benefits through the Screen Actors Guild. She sponsored charities that worked to combat domestic abuse and provide support for people with substance abuse issues (her son Anthony is a substance abuse survivor). She supported LGBTQ+ rights and joined the fight against HIV/AIDS in the 1980s. She rescued her daughter from the Manson family.

Lansbury passed away in her sleep on October 11. Today would have been her 97th birthday. She left behind a lasting legacy, with more than 100 film and television credits in addition to her work on the stage. In honor of this absolute legend, here are fifteen of her most iconic performances.

  • Gaslight

Lansbury was just seventeen years old when she landed her first film, George Cukor’s masterpiece Gaslight. For her role as conniving cockney maid Nancy, Lansbury garnered a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 17th Academy Awards.

  • National Velvet

Lansbury made her second film appearance in 1944’s National Velvet, portraying the older sister of Elizabeth Taylor’s titular character. Lansbury and Taylor remained lifelong friends.

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray

In 1945, Lansbury received her second consecutive Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod for her performance as the doomed tavern singer Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Decades later, Lansbury recreated the scene on Murder, She Wrote
  • The Manchurian Candidate

Lansbury received her final Oscar nomination for 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate. For her role as Eleanor Iselin, a leading candidate for “Worst Mother Ever”, Lansbury won the Golden Globe and National Board of Review awards for Best Supporting Actress.

  • Mame

In the 1960s, with film roles fewer and farther between, Lansbury turned to the stage, with spectacular results. Her first starring role, as the titular character in Jerry Herman’s 1966 Mame, garnered Lansbury her first of five Tony Awards.

Fun fact: For the 1974 film adaptation, Lansbury lost the role of Mame to Lucille Ball. She was reportedly heartbroken, but she continued her successful stage career, earning three more Leading Actress in a Musical Tonys over the next thirteen years.

In 2022, Lansbury received a Lifetime Achievement Tony; she wasn’t on hand to accept the award but the tribute included this performance of “Mame” by the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus
  • Dear World

In 1969, Lansbury reunited with Jerry Herman for Dear World – and won her second Tony Award in the process.

  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks

In 1971, Lansbury made one of her most beloved film appearances, as benevolent witch Eglantine Price in Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks. For her performance, Lansbury was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy.

  • Gypsy

In the mid-70s, Lansbury starred in both the West End and Broadway productions of a revival of Gypsy. For her role as Rose, the ultimate stage mother, Lansbury received her third Tony Award for Leading Actress in a Musical.

  • Death on the Nile

Lansbury received a BAFTA nod for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the constantly sauced romance novelist Salome Otterbourne in the 1978 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile.

Fun fact: Lansbury and her Death on the Nile co-star Peter Ustinov were in-laws for a time (Ustinov was married for ten years to Lansbury’s half-sister Isolde Denham).

“This crocodile has lost its croc!” is just a magnificent line reading
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

In 1979, Lansbury earned her fourth Tony for Stephen Sondheim’s iconic Sweeney Todd. As gleefully malevolent baker Mrs. Lovett, Lansbury also received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for the PBS Great Performances production that aired in 1985.

Earlier this week, Lansbury’s Sweeney Todd co-star Len Cariou reminisced about his beloved colleague and friend
  • Murder, She Wrote

In her late fifties, Lansbury became a bona fide television star with the premiere of Murder, She Wrote in 1984. For her iconic performance as mystery author/amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher, Lansbury earned twelve consecutive Emmy nominations (one for each season the series aired).

Fun fact: Lansbury holds the record for the most Emmy nominations – eighteen – without a win.

  • Beauty and the Beast

In 1991, Lansbury was introduced to a new generation of fans when she provided the voice of Mrs. Potts in Disney’s iconic Beauty and the Beast.

  • Blithe Spirit (2009 Broadway, 2014 West End)

Lansbury won her final competitive Tony as well as her one and only Olivier Award for her performance as Madame Arcati in Noël Coward’s comic masterpiece Blithe Spirit.

Lansbury was 89 years old
  • Little Women

Lansbury made her final television appearance as Aunt March in 2017’s BBC production of Little Women.

  • Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Lansbury’s final film will be the eagerly-awaited Knives Out sequel, in which she plays herself. Obviously, she’s going to nail it.

Some other fun stuff:

Quick Hits: October 6-7

  • HBO has dropped the trailer for Mama’s Boy, based on Dustin Lance Black’s 2019 memoir. Black, who is gay and was raised in the Mormon church, won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for 2008’s Milk and subsequently became an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. This will be a must-see.
In case you don’t remember Black’s moving Oscar acceptance speech, here’s a reminder
  • The Jazz Singer was released on October 6, 1927, effectively ending the silent film era.
“You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!”
  • Spartacus, Stanley Kubrick’s fifth feature film, held its premiere at the DeMille Theatre in Manhattan on October 6, 1960. Starring Kirk Douglas in the title role, Spartacus was a critical success and a box office smash, earning $60 million (adjusted for inflation, that’s $600 million today). Spartacus received six nominations at the 33rd Academy Awards; it took home four Oscars (Best Supporting Actor for Peter Ustinov, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design). The film also won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
  • Barbra Streisand guest-starred on The Judy Garland Show on October 6, 1963. Streisand was just 21 years old at the time.
  • Midnight Express, directed by Alan Parker and written by Oliver Stone, held its US premiere on October 6, 1978. Brad Davis stars as Billy Hayes, an American student imprisoned by the Turkish government for attempting to smuggle hashish (the title, based on Hayes’s memoir of the same name, is a reference to his late-night prison escape attempt). At the 51st Academy Awards, Midnight Express garnered six nominations and won two awards: Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score (Giorgio Moroder, in his first outing as a film composer, beat John Williams, Ennio Morricone, Dave Grusin, and Jerry Goldsmith).
  • John Mellencamp was born on October 7, 1951, in Seymour, Indiana. Mellencamp has sold more than 60 million albums worldwide and has twenty-two top 40 hits, including 1982’s “Jack and Diane”, which spent four weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Mellencamp, who co-founded Farm Aid in 1985 with Willie Nelson and Neil Young, has been inducted into the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Halls of Fame.
  • The French Connection, starring Gene Hackman as NYPD detective Popeye Doyle, opened in the US on October 7, 1971. Directed by William Friedkin, The French Connection is best known for its infamous chase sequence, in which Doyle (driving a 1971 Pontiac LeMans) chases an elevated train through the streets of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. The French Connection received eight nominations at the 44th Academy Awards, taking home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing (it was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Roy Scheider, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound).

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. When Harry Met Sally… (“The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” from Oklahoma!)
  2. Chicago (“We Both Reached for the Gun”)
  3. Grease (“Summer Nights”)
  4. Top Gun (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” by The Righteous Brothers)
  5. My Best Friend’s Wedding (“I Say a Little Prayer” by Dionne Warwick)
  6. Mary Poppins (“Step in Time”)
  7. The Blues Brothers (“Think”)
  8. The Music Man (“76 Trombones”)
  9. Almost Famous (“Tiny Dancer” by Elton John)
  10. West Side Story (“America”)
  11. Mrs. Doubtfire (“Don’t Rain on My Parade” by Barbra Streisand)
  12. A Clockwork Orange (“Singin’ in the Rain” by Gene Kelly)
  13. Elf (“Baby It’s Cold Outside”)
  14. Cabaret (“Mein Herr”)
  15. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (“Danke Schoen”, but I’d also accept “Twist and Shout”)
  16. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (“Afternoon Delight” by The Starland Vocal Band)
  17. The Sound of Music (“The Lonely Goatherd”)
  18. (500) Days of Summer (“Here Comes Your Man” by Pixies)
  19. Frozen (“Let It Go”)
  20. Singin’ in the Rain (“Good Morning”)
#2 “We Both Reached for the Gun” – Chicago
#3 “Summer Nights” – Grease
#4 “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” – Top Gun
#5 “I Say a Little Prayer” – My Best Friend’s Wedding
#7 “Think” – The Blues Brothers
#9 “Tiny Dancer” – Almost Famous
#10 “America” – West Side Story
#13 “Baby It’s Cold Outside” –Elf
#14 “Mein Herr” – Cabaret
#16 “Afternoon Delight” – Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
#17 “The Lonely Goatherd” – The Sound of Music
#18 “Here Comes Your Man” – (500) Days of Summer
#19 “Let It Go” – Frozen
#20 “Good Morning” – Singin’ in the Rain

Project Golden Age, Vol. 1

I recently embarked on a new pop culture project: Project Golden Age. While my knowledge of Hollywood classics is better than average, there are entirely too many embarrassing gaps (particularly for a pop culture blogger). If it’s not a musical, an Alfred Hitchcock film, Disney animation, or something starring James Dean, there’s a decent chance I haven’t seen it. And with all the streaming options available to me, there’s no excuse (at least no GOOD excuse). I figured as long as I was going on this journey, I might as well share it with all of you! Here’s a peek at the films I’ve watched so far; this project will be ongoing, so look for additional volumes.

  • Gaslight (1944)

Directed by: George Cukor

Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, Angela Lansbury (in her film debut)

17th Academy Awards: Seven nominations – including Best Picture, Best Actor for Boyer, and Best Supporting Actress for Lansbury – and two wins, Best Actress for Bergman and Best Production Design

The verdict: Film noir perfection. Gorgeously shot. Fantastic performances. 10/10

Fun fact: In the mid-1960s, psychologists began using the film’s title as a verb (known as denominalizing), but the term “gaslighting” only came into common use in the last several years.

Gaslight is available for streaming on HBO Max.

  • A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Directed by: Richard Lester

Starring: The Beatles, Wilfred Brambell, Richard Vernon

37th Academy Awards: Two nominations (Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Score)

The verdict: The Fab Four, at the peak of Beatlemania, having a genuinely good time. Musical perfection. 10/10

Fun fact: A Hard Day’s Night, which basically invented the music video, is one of the most influential musical films of all time, inspiring everything from spy thrillers to The Monkees.

You can stream A Hard Day’s Night on HBO Max.

  • Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Directed by: Alexander Mackendrick

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Martin Milner

11th BAFTAS: One nomination, Best Foreign Actor for Tony Curtis

The verdict: Well made but didn’t do much for me. I guess I’m just not into the whole anti-hero thing right now. 8/10

Fun fact: Sweet Smell of Success is filmmaker Barry Levinson’s favorite movie and it’s featured in two of Levinson’s own films: 1982’s Diner, in which a minor character only speaks in Sweet Smell quotes, and 1988’s Rain Man (the film can be seen playing on a television set).

You can watch Sweet Smell of Success for free on Tubi or Pluto.

  • The Thin Man (1934)

Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke

Starring: Myrna Loy, William Powell, Maureen O’Sullivan, Nat Pendleton

7th Academy Awards: Four nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor for Powell

The verdict: Fizzy chemistry between the leads. Endlessly quotable dialogue (Nora: I read where you were shot five times in the tabloids. Nick: It’s not true. He didn’t come anywhere near my tabloids). A mystery worthy of the hard-boiled source novel by Dashiell Hammett. An absolute delight from start to finish. 15/10

Fun fact: Asta, the Charles’s Wire Fox Terrier, is played by Skippy, who also had roles in The Awful Truth and Bringing Up Baby.

The Thin Man (along with its five sequels) is available for streaming on HBO Max.

The dialogue is <chef’s kiss> Nora: How many drinks have you had? Nick: This will make six martinis. Nora: [to the waiter] All right. Will you bring me five more martinis, Leo? Just line them right up here.
  • Royal Wedding (1951)

Directed by: Stanley Donen

Starring: Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford, Sarah Churchill (daughter of Winston)

24th Academy Awards: One nomination, Best Original Song for “Too Late Now”

The verdict: Fluff, but entertaining fluff. Charming performances. Lawford was absurdly handsome. Fun song and dance sequences, especially “You’re All the World to Me” AKA the ceiling dance (the primary reason I chose this particular Fred Astaire movie). 8/10

Fun fact: The technology used to create Astaire’s iconic ceiling dance – essentially a set built into a giant rotating barrel – has remained relatively unchanged for seventy years. It was used in the music video for Lionel Richie’s 1986 jam “Dancing on the Ceiling” (which was directed by Royal Wedding helmer Stanley Donen) and more recently, for Billie Eilish’s 2019 SNL performance of “bad guy”.

You can stream Royal Wedding on Amazon Prime.

The OG ceiling dance
This cool video demonstrates how the rotating set works
According to director Stanley Donen, Lionel Richie picked up the ceiling dance moves faster than Fred Astaire did
Just because
  • Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Directed by: Sydney Pollack

Starring: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow

48th Academy Awards: One nomination, for Best Film Editing (it lost, correctly, to Jaws).

The verdict: Fine. Honestly, I’m a little underwhelmed. The cast is great, especially Redford (proving once again why he was THE movie star of the 1970s) and von Sydow as antagonist Joubert. I also loved the Dave Grusin score. But the romantic subplot feels forced and detracts from the film’s pacing. 7/10

Fun fact #1: In the Seinfeld episode “Junk Mail”, Newman’s speech to Kramer uses one of Joubert’s monologues almost verbatim.

Fun fact #2: In Out of Sight, Jack Foley (George Clooney) and Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) discuss the film’s romantic subplot; it’s honestly sexier than any of Three Days of the Condor‘s scenes.

Three Days of the Condor is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Pop Quiz, Hot Shot!

This time around, we’re looking at movie scenes where a character is singing. From the photos, can you tell me the name of the movie as well as which song the characters are singing? Each song title and movie title are worth one point, for a total of 40 points. Come back in a few days for the answers!