Quick Hits: June 25-26

  • The Omen, starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, was released on June 25, 1976. The film received mixed reviews but it was a box office success and spawned a franchise that includes three sequels and a remake. The Omen also launched the directing career of Richard Donner, whose next feature – 1978’s Superman – was a massive hit.
Eighteen-time Oscar nominee Jerry Goldsmith won his only Academy Award for The Omen soundtrack, which features an ominous choral component. In addition to his Best Original Score Oscar, Goldsmith was nominated for Best Original Song for The Omen‘s main theme, “Ave Satani”.
  • Ridley Scott’s stone-cold sci-fi neo-noir classic Blade Runner – based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – was released on June 25, 1982. Set in a dystopian Los Angeles in 2019, Blade Runner stars Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, a replicant bounty hunter who may or may not be a replicant himself (spoiler alert: he’s a replicant). Blade Runner was a box office disappointment, especially compared to other Ford films like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but in time it became a cult classic and one of the most revered and influential sci-fi features ever. It also kicked off the era of Philip K. Dick adaptations, including Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, The Adjustment Bureau, and Amazon’s series The Man in the High Castle.
Rutger Hauer famously added the “tears in rain” line to replicant Roy Batty’s heartbreaking death scene monologue
Blade Runner‘s brilliant electronic score was written by the late, great Vangelis, who had just won an Oscar the previous year for Chariots of Fire. Unfortunately, Vangelis wasn’t even nominated for Blade Runner, but the film did receive Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects.
  • Speaking of stone-cold classics, Purple Rain was released on June 25, 1984. The first album to officially credit Prince’s backing band, The Revolution, Purple Rain was the soundtrack to the film of the same name and Prince’s first number one album on the Billboard 200 (it spent twenty-four consecutive weeks in the top spot). Purple Rain also yielded four top-ten singles: “When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain”, and “I Would Die U”.
Prince won the Oscar for Best Original Score for Purple Rain, but incredibly, he did not receive a nomination for Best Original Song (even more incredibly, Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” won the award). Prince also won the Grammy for Best Score, but lost the Album of the Year award to Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down.
  • Freaks and Geeks co-stars Linda Cardellini and Busy Phillips jointly celebrate their birthdays on June 25. They’re both as adorable as ever.
  • Only five days until Stranger Things 4, Volume 2 is released (not that I’m counting). So far, season four is my favorite since the first; based on the trailer, I’m hopeful the final two episodes will deliver on that promise. By the way, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” has gone to #1 in nine countries, including the UK and Australia; it currently sits at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. My guess is that the song will get another boost after the release of “Papa” and “The Piggyback” on Friday. I’m also guessing that “The Piggyback” will also resolve my long-running theory that time travel will play a role in the series.
  • Friday night at the Glastonbury Festival, Phoebe Bridgers led the audience in a chant of “Fuck the Supreme Court”, a sentiment I wholeheartedly share. Bridgers also assisted The Jesus and Mary Chain with this gorgeous version of one of my all-time favorite songs.
  • Nora Ephron died ten years ago today. A three-time Oscar nominee (Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally…, Sleepless in Seattle), Ephron parlayed a journalism career into screenwriting when she helped write an adaptation of All the President’s Men with then-husband Carl Bernstein. The script wasn’t used, but it caught the attention of a producer who offered Ephron a job writing a television movie called Perfect Gentleman. In 1983, she wrote her first film script, Silkwood, and published her first novel, Heartburn, a semi-autobiographical account of her failed marriage to Bernstein. With When Harry Met Sally…, Ephron began producing films as well and in 1991, she made her directorial debut with This Is My Life. She went on to direct such beloved movies as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. In 2006, Ephron was diagnosed with leukemia. She was able to make one more film – 2009’s Julie and Julia – before passing away in 2012. May her memory be a blessing.
  • The AFI tribute to Julie Andrews is now available on YouTube, and it’s a delight from start to finish.
  • Chris Isaak is celebrating his 66th birthday today, and now I’m off to listen to San Francisco Days.

Legend: Judy Garland

***** CONTENT WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS REFERENCES TO SUBSTANCE ABUSE, MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, AND SUICIDE *****

This month marks Judy Garland’s 100th birthday. Born performing, Garland transitioned from vaudeville to motion pictures at the age of thirteen. She earned two Oscar nominations – Best Actress for 1954’s A Star Is Born and Best Supporting Actress for 1961’s Judgment at Nuremberg – and was the first woman to receive the Album of the Year Grammy for 1961’s Judy at Carnegie Hall. In 1962, Garland became the first female recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award, a lifetime achievement award presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the organization that hosts the Golden Globes). The American Film Institute (AFI) ranked her eighth on its list of the greatest actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Garland was a legend, an icon, a once-in-a-generation talent. She also spent her life haunted by the demons that would ultimately take her life.

Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota on June 10, 1922. Her parents were vaudevillians who settled in Grand Rapids to purchase a movie theater they used to stage their vaudeville act. Garland’s two older sisters, Mary Jane “Suzanne” and Dorothy Virginia “Jimmie”, were already part of the family business, which Frances – then known as “Baby” – joined at the age of two. In 1926, the Gumm family relocated to Lancaster, California, north of Los Angeles; they had dreams of stardom for their daughters. After too many snickers and mispronunciations, the Gumm Sisters eventually became the Garland Sisters (the exact origin of the name is still up for debate); Frances chose the first name Judy in honor of the song by Hoagy Carmichael, the Tin Pan Alley artist best known for writing “Stardust”. But the Garland Sisters broke up in 1935 when Suzanne eloped to Reno.

In September 1935, Louis B. Mayer sent a scout to see Judy perform; Judy was brought to the studio and signed on the spot. The studio wasn’t really sure what to do with her; she had a wholesome, girl-next-door look that contrasted with the glamorous stars of the time period, and at thirteen Judy was older than the typical child star but not yet ready for adult roles. She was ultimately paired with Andy Rooney in movies like the Andy Hardy series (in which she literally played the girl next door) and Busby Berkeley’s Babes in Arms. Over a two-year period, Garland co-starred in six films. Garland later claimed that she, Rooney, and other young stars were prescribed amphetamines to help them maintain that breakneck pace, as well as barbiturates to help them sleep at night. This combination began an ultimately lethal cycle of addiction for Garland.

For the record, Rooney denied Garland’s allegations, but they sure sound plausible to me. MGM had absolute control over Garland; they monitored her weight and oversaw her diet and exercise regimen. They forced her to wear removable caps on her teeth and rubberized discs to change the shape of her nose (what the everloving fuck?). Mayer referred to Garland as “my little hunchback”. Men in power, who are committed to breaking a woman down, will generally stop at nothing to accomplish that objective. Certainly having a doctor on staff to pass out pills would be within the realm of possibilities. Perhaps Rooney wasn’t aware, perhaps he lied; either way, I believe her.

At sixteen, Garland got her biggest break to date: the starring role of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz. Garland wasn’t MGM’s first choice; the studio wanted to borrow Shirley Temple, but 20th Century Fox declined to loan her out. Deanna Durbin was unavailable. The role then went to Garland, who was actually the producers’ favorite from the beginning. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else as Dorothy. Garland’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow”, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song, is heartbreaking and goosebump-inducing. It is, quite simply, one of the most iconic musical performances in the history of cinema. As a matter of fact, the song tops AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs list (fun fact: Garland and Gene Kelly are tied – with five each – for most appearances on that list). The Wizard of Oz made Garland a star; for her performance, she was awarded the honorary Academy Juvenile Award at the 12th Academy Awards.

Garland made the transition to adult roles in the early forties and starred in a string of successful musicals, including For Me and My Gal, The Harvey Girls, and Meet Me in St. Louis. The latter film (more on it in a bit) introduced Garland to her second husband, Vincente Minnelli. The two of them would make four more films together – and have a daughter, Liza – before divorcing in 1951. By that time, Garland’s film career had stalled; her attempt to segue into dramatic roles was not well-received and her struggles with substance abuse and mental health issues had made her unreliable.

Back to Meet Me in St. Louis, which chronicles a year in the life of the Smith family as they prepare for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Once again, a song performed by Garland – this time “The Trolley Song” – was nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar. Even more significantly, one of the era’s most enduring and iconic Christmas songs – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – was written for the film. Meet Me in St. Louis is sumptuous, with eye-popping colors and an Academy Award-nominated song score. It was the second-highest-grossing picture of 1944, behind eventual Best Picture Oscar winner Going My Way. It was chosen as the tenth-best movie musical of all time by the AFI. You can – and should – stream Meet Me in St. Louis on HBO Max.

Meet Me in St. Louis made the most of the burgeoning technology known as Technicolor. One of the film’s four Oscar nominations was for Best Cinematography, Color, and deservedly so; it’s just so gorgeous to look at!
Some of the original lyrics to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” were deemed too downbeat and the song was rewritten before filming began. Songwriter Hugh Martin initially resisted making any changes, but ultimately agreed. The line “It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past” became “Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.”

In 1948, while filming The Pirate with Gene Kelly, Garland suffered a nervous breakdown. She was missing a lot of days due to a combination of substance abuse and migraines. She was able to finish the shoot, but in July, Garland made cuts to her wrists with a piece of broken glass. She was still taking barbiturates and had also developed an alcohol addiction. Garland was suspended from The Barkleys of Broadway after missing too many days (Ginger Rogers took over the role), but she was able to bounce back with 1949’s In the Good Old Summertime. She was fired again in May of 1949, this time from the film adaptation of Annie Get Your Gun. For several pictures, Garland repeated this cycle until MGM finally had enough, suspending her contract in the middle of shooting Royal Wedding with Fred Astaire and replacing her with Jane Powell.

Garland’s final film for MGM was 1950’s Summer Stock

Following the termination of her MGM contract – and another suicide attempt – Garland became a frequent guest on The Bing Crosby – Chesterfield Show (ah, the good old days of cigarette sponsorship). Her appearances on the radio show were wildly popular and Garland parlayed that into a successful concert tour of the UK in 1951. By 1953, Garland was remarried (to impresario Sid Luft) with another baby (Lorna) – and ready to mount her movie comeback. The project she chose, George Cukor’s remake of 1937’s A Star Is Born, was a commercial and critical success and earned Garland her first competitive Oscar nomination. But the financial reward she was looking for failed to materialize. Production delays (often caused by Garland herself, who was back to missing days due to her migraines and substance abuse) caused the film’s budget to balloon to more than $5 million, and A Star Is Born failed to turn a profit. Garland’s film comeback was over before it began.

Once again, Garland performed a song nominated for the Best Orginal Song Oscar; “The Man That Got Away”, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Ira Gershwin. lost to “Three Coins in the Fountain”

Despite all the production woes, Garland was nominated for Best Actress at the 27th Academy Awards (the film itself earned five additional nominations). She was widely expected to win, and NBC had a camera crew waiting in her hospital room – where she’d just given birth to her son Joey – to record her acceptance speech. When Grace Kelly unexpectedly won for The Country Girl, the crew had their equipment packed up before Kelly even reached the podium.

Her film career stalled once again, Garland turned to television and concert appearances to pay the bills, including the premiere episode of CBS’s Ford Star Jubilee and a brief residency at the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. A 1961 concert appearance at Carnegie Hall yielded a highly successful live double album, Judy at Carnegie Hall, which spent thirteen weeks at the top of the Billboard chart and won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.

That same year, Judy made her final major film appearance in Stanley Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg, which was a critical and box office smash. For her performance as Irene Hoffman, a reluctant witness for the prosecution, Garland was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 34th Academy Awards. She lost to Rita Moreno for her portrayal of Anita in West Side Story, a decision I cannot argue with.

Garland’s last major project was a series of specials for CBS that culminated in 1963’s The Judy Garland Show. The musical variety series had a devoted following but couldn’t compete in the ratings with NBC’s Bonanza and CBS canceled it after one season. A tour of Australia ended badly. Garland was plagued by money issues; her agents had mismanaged – and outright embezzled – her earnings. At one point, she owed about $500,000 to the IRS, which placed liens on her home and her recording contract with Capitol Records. She was forced to sell her home at a loss. She was fired from one final movie, 1967’s The Valley of the Dolls. She completed a 27-show stint at New York’s Palace Theatre that same year, but the IRS seized most of her $200,000 earnings. And she continued to abuse prescription drugs. On June 22, 1969, Garland was found dead in the bathroom of her rented London home. Her death was ruled an accidental overdose; the autopsy results showed that her blood contained the equivalent of almost 1000 milligrams of the barbiturate Seconal. She left behind a bankrupt estate, three grieving children, and a legacy that has endured for one hundred years.

Watergate in Pop Culture

Fifty years ago this weekend, five men were arrested after breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. The five men – Virgilio “Villo” R. González, Bernard Barker, James McCord, Eugenio Martínez, and Frank Sturgis – were arrested and charged with attempted burglary and attempted interception of telephone and other communications. The story was given scant attention until it was revealed that McCord was the head of security for the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CRP or “Creep”). Initially, the White House denied any advance knowledge of the break-in; eventually, it was revealed that the burglary was sanctioned by the highest levels of the Oval Office. Sixty-nine people were indicted for crimes related to the break-in and the resulting cover-up; forty-eight people – many of whom were top White House and CRP officials – were indicted. President Nixon, his impeachment looming, resigned from office on August 8, 1974; President Ford pardoned him thirty days later.

One of the biggest political scandals in US history, Watergate found its way into the zeitgest. The Senate Watergate hearings were broadcast live on television; an estimated 85% of Americans tuned in to their TV sets for at least a portion of the proceedings. National Public Radio, then in its infancy, broadcast gavel-to-gavel coverage of the hearings, allowing people to listen at their workplaces and in their cars. Watergate was as much a cultural event as a political one. As with other political events that capture the nation’s attention – JFK’s assassination, for instance – there are plenty of pop-culture depictions of Watergate to choose from. Here are just a few:

  • All the President’s Men

By the time the Watergate break-in became a major political scandal, The Washington Post had two of its best reporters – Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein – investigating the story. Their work is the gold standard in Watergate reporting. Woodward and Bernstein were initially hesitant to write the book but committed once Robert Redford expressed interest in a film adaptation. According to Woodward, Redford was instrumental in switching the story’s viewpoint from the Watergate co-conspirators to the reporters themselves and the Post‘s investigative and editorial process.

All the President’s Men was the book that made me want to be a journalist; I didn’t become a journalist, obviously, but that doesn’t change how it made me feel at the time. If you haven’t seen Alan J. Pakula’s flawless film adaptation, you’re in for a treat (it’s available to stream on HBO Max, by the way). All the President’s Men earned eight Academy Award nominations and won four Oscars: Best Supporting Actor (for Jason Robards’ brilliant portrayal of Post executive editor Ben Bradlee), Best Adapted Screenplay (William Goldman), Best Art Direction, and Best Sound. It should have won Best Picture but Rocky – shockingly – took home the top prize (I would also have accepted Network). In 2015, The Hollywood Reporter interviewed hundreds of Academy members about some of the more controversial Oscar decisions from years past; the voters indicated that All the President’s Men should have beaten Rocky for Best Picture. Oscar nonsense aside, All the President’s Men is a gripping, superbly-acted thriller that is at least as relevant today as it was in 1976.

Among the brilliant supporting cast is Hal Holbrook, who played Woodward’s confidential source “Deep Throat”. Deep Throat’s identity was kept hidden for more than thirty years, but rumors swirled: the top contender was former White House Associate Counsel Fred F. Fielding. Some opined that Deep Throat was a composite of several sources, or that Woodward and Bernstein fabricated the story. In 2005, former FBI associate director Mark Felt’s family attorney confirmed that Felt had been the informant, which Woodward and Bernstein then confirmed.
  • Slow Burn, Gaslit, The Martha Mitchell Effect

“I’m convinced if it hadn’t been for Martha, there’d have been no Watergate” – Richard Nixon

Martha Mitchell’s story is equal parts fascinating and heartbreaking. I begrudgingly admit that I wasn’t as familiar with it as I should have been, but I understand it all too well now. Mitchell was the wife of former Attorney General John N. Mitchell, who at the time of the Watergate break-in was Nixon’s reelection campaign manager. Outspoken Martha – the pride of Pine Bluff, Arkansas – was always a bit of a thorn in Nixon’s side, despite the fact that she fully supported the president and his reelection campaign. That all changed in the days and weeks after the break-in. You see, James McCord – one of the five men arrested at the Watergate that June morning – had worked at one time as a bodyguard and driver for the Mitchell family; Martha was quite fond of McCord and John Mitchell knew that Martha would recognize him. At the time of the break-in, the Mitchells were in California for a campaign fundraiser. John Mitchell hurried back to Washington to help clean up the mess, leaving Martha behind with former FBI agent Steve King (over Martha’s objections). Martha was essentially held hostage in a hotel room and denied access to any media. Five days after the break-in, Martha made a frantic phone call to UPI reporter Helen Thomas; before the phone call abruptly ended, Thomas could hear Martha say “You just get away”. A few days later, another reporter – Marcia Kramer of the New York Daily News – tracked Martha down and discovered she had massive bruises on her arms. Martha relayed to Kramer her astonishing story – after attempting to escape from the hotel balcony, five men physically accosted her and held her down while a doctor injected her with a tranquilizer. The White House went into damage control mode, painting Martha as an alcoholic with mental health issues in an attempt to discredit her (they almost got away with it). John Mitchell abandoned his wife in September of 1973, taking their pre-teen daughter with him. In 1975, Martha was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. She passed away on May 31, 1976, at the age of fifty-seven. Eventually, James McCord admitted that everything Martha had said was true. In 1988, psychologist Brendan Maher coined the term “The Martha Mitchell Effect”, defined as “the process by which a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health clinician, or other medical professional labels a patient’s accurate perception of real events as delusional, resulting in misdiagnosis”. More recently, we’ve adopted the term “gaslighting” to describe the process of making someone question their own reality.

A chrysanthemum arrangement reading “Martha was right” was sent to Mitchell’s funeral; no card was attached.

All three of the above titles revolve around Martha’s story. The best of the bunch is Slow Burn, based on the podcast of the same name. Slow Burn is a six-episode docuseries that tells the lesser-known stories related to Watergate, including Martha’s. The series makes extensive use of archival footage, as well as new interviews with folks like John Dean and Eugenio Martínez. I was shocked to learn how much I didn’t know about Watergate; I was thoroughly entertained and enlightened throughout. Slow Burn is available to stream on Epix, which I subscribe to because their docuseries game is on point; you can also purchase the season from Amazon for $10.99.

Fun fact: Slate‘s Slow Burn pod covers a different storyline each season. Subsequent seasons have covered topics such as Bill Clinton’s impeachment, the Iraq War, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots that resulted from the police beating of Rodney King. I’m hoping the Slow Burn docuseries will cover some of these topics as well. I’d watch as many hours of that as they could crank out.

On to Gaslit, the Starz original series that concluded last week, which I am entirely ambivalent about recommending. I wanted to love it, and I did love it about 75% of the time; it’s just that the other 25% of the time I kind of hated it. Let me preface this by saying that Shea Whigham is brilliant as the idiosyncratic and unapologetic G. Gordon Liddy, but the darkly comic Liddy sequences border on slapstick and the tone is out of sync with the rest of the series. And Sean Penn’s hammy portrayal of John Mitchell is as terrible as his make-up; I found him to be excruciatingly distracting. That being said, Julia Roberts is magnificent as Martha Mitchell; her performance is so convincing that I often forgot I was watching Julia Roberts. Roberts should and will be nominated for all sorts of awards. Dan Stevens is charming enough as White House Counsel John Dean, but his scenes really come alive when he is with the glorious, gorgeous Betty Gilpin, who plays Dean’s wife Mo and who also should be nominated for all sorts of awards. The talented supporting cast includes Allison Tolman, Hamish Linklater, Chris Messina, and John Carroll Lynch, but none of them is given enough to do (I would have especially loved more screen time for Tolman, so lovely as Martha’s friend and biographer, reporter Winzola “Winnie” McLendon).

And finally, to Netflix’s The Martha Mitchell Effect, which was just released on Friday. If you’re looking for a tidy summary of Martha’s story, this forty-minute documentary will get the job done (it also clarified a couple of things that confused me in Gaslit). Do yourself a favor and spend a little time in Martha Mitchell’s world; she’s earned it.

  • Dick

If you’re looking for a more light-hearted take on the Watergate scandal, try Andrew Fleming’s delightful 1999 romp, Dick. The film stars Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as Betsy and Arlene, two teenagers who inadvertently foil the Watergate break-in, then are offered jobs as presidential dog walkers to ensure their silence. Ultimately, the two decide to come clean, sharing what they know with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Yes, that’s correct: Betsy and Arlene are Deep Throat. Dunst and Williams are adorable and the supporting cast features comedy legends like Dan Hedaya (Richard Nixon), Harry Shearer (G. Gordon Liddy), Dave Foley (as H.R. Haldeman), Bruce McCulloch (Bernstein), and Will Ferrell (Woodward). You can stream Dick on Hulu.

  • Nixon

Oliver Stone’s Nixon is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of film. Critics, including Richard Nixon’s family, have lambasted both the historical inaccuracy of the film and Anthony Hopkins’ campy portrayal of Nixon (his accent, which sometimes sounds Irish, is especially perplexing). But the film also garnered four Oscar nominations: Best Actor for Hopkins, Best Supporting Actress for Joan Allen (as Pat Nixon), Best Original Screenplay (The Usual Suspects rightfully took home that award), and Best Original Score for John Williams. Biopics tend to play fast and loose with the facts, so the historical inaccuracies bother me less than the film’s run time: a butt-numbing three hours and twelve minutes.

  • Frost/Nixon

Frost/Nixon, on the other hand, clocks in at a far-more-reasonable two hours and two minutes. Based on the stage play by Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon reenacts David Frost’s 1977 interviews with Richard Nixon. Plenty of dramatic liberties are taken here too, but Frost/Nixon features a far more convincing Nixon (Frank Langella, in a commanding, Oscar-nominated performance). And while Nixon may not have revealed nearly as much to Frost as the film suggests, Frost/Nixon is riveting nonetheless. Langella received all the accolades, but Michael Sheen is also terrific as Frost.

  • Secret Honor

I’ll admit I’ve never seen Secret Honor, which stars the late, great Philip Baker Hall as Richard Nixon, but I can imagine how awesome his performance must be. Robert Altman directed this adaptation of the one-man play of the same name. Roger Ebert called Secret Honor “one of the most scathing, lacerating and brilliant movies of 1984.” You can stream Secret Honor on the Criterion Channel or rent it for $1.99 on Amazon.

  • The Final Days

In 1976, the same year All the President’s Men arrived in theaters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein published their second Watergate book, The Final Days. The sequel continues where All the President’s Men left off: in April of 1973, with John Dean’s firing. It chronicles the events of the next fifteen months and ends on August 9, 1974, the day Nixon left office. In 1989, The Final Days was adapted into a mini-series starring Lane Smith, Ed Flanders, Richard Kiley, Gary Sinise, and David Ogden Stiers. The series was nominated for four Emmys, including Outstanding Miniseries or Made for Television Movie. Smith was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film for his portrayal of Richard Nixon.

  • The White House Plumbers

FIlming for this upcoming HBO limited series ended in October; no word yet on a release date. The series will document the story of E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, and their covert White House Special Investigations Unit (AKA The White House Plumbers). The unit was formed a week after the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971; their job was to stop the leaks coming out of the White House (hence, “plumbers”). Several of the plumbers went on to work for CRP, including Hunt, Liddy, and Frank Sturgis. Given their work on Veep, showrunners Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck will likely give the proceedings a comedic edge. The cast – including Woody Harrelson as Hunt, Justin Theroux as Liddy, Domnhall Gleason as John Dean, and John Carroll Lynch as John Mitchell – is fantastic. I’m pretty excited for this one!

Quick Hits: June 9-10-11

***** CONTENT WARNING: DRUG ABUSE *****

***** SPOILER ALERT: CONTAINS CLIPS FROM STRANGER THINGS 4 *****

  • On June 9, 1934, Donald Duck made his debut in Disney’s Silly Symphony cartoon The Wise Little Hen.
  • On June 9, 1980, Richard Pryor suffered second- and third-degree burns over half his body. Pryor had become addicted to freebasing cocaine and that evening, in a drug-induced psychosis, he doused himself with 151-proof rum and set himself on fire. Pryor spent six weeks in the Sherman Oaks Hospital burn unit. Given his age and the extent of his injuries, Pryor had only a 25-35% chance of survival, but he defied the odds. Two years later, Pryor incorporated a joke about the incident into his stand-up act, Live on the Sunset Strip.
  • On June 9, 2014, Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine.

Speaking of Laverne Cox, this exists and it is glorious.

Cox’s Orange Is the New Black co-star Samira Wiley also killed it.

  • One of my favorite film composers, James Newton Howard was born in Los Angeles on June 9, 1951. Howard dropped out of USC’s music program after six weeks and worked as a session musician for artists like Diana Ross and Ringo Starr. In 1975, he got his big break when his manager arranged an audition with Elton John; Howard joined John’s road band and arranged strings for iconic singles like “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word”. He began composing music for films in 1984, with David Lynch’s Dune. Howard has nine Oscar nods to his name; among his nominated scores are The Fugitive, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and Michael Clayton.
  • Thanks to Stranger Things 4, Kate Bush’s iconic “Running Up That Hill” is back on the charts in a bunch of countries, including the US. In fact, the song is currently sitting at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at #30 in 1985; it is now Bush’s first US top-ten single, thirty-seven years after its initial release. As a longtime fan, I adore the idea of an entire generation discovering Kate Bush’s music.
This scene is one of the highlights of the new season, thanks to Sadie Sink’s Emmy-worthy performance and the magic of Kate Bush
Bush’s original music video for “Running Up That Hill”
  • Volume 2 of Stranger Things 4 will be released on July 1; this is the only teaser Netflix has released, but I’m sure we’ll get a longer trailer in a week or two.
  • The teaser for Amazon’s A League of Their Own reboot has arrived. The series will premiere on August 12. I am 100% here for this.
  • On June 10, 2003, Wicked opened at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco after two weeks of previews. Much of the original cast – including the Tony-winning Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, and Norbert Leo Butz – went on to star in the Broadway production. Wicked debuted at the Gershwin Theatre on October 30, 2003; the Gershwin is still home to the show, which is now the fifth-longest-running Broadway musical in history. Wicked won three Tonys, seven Drama Desk Awards, and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album.
  • On June 10, 2007, HBO aired “Made in America”, the series finale of The Sopranos. The episode, which ends with a quick cut to black/silence, caused quite a stir. Many viewers mistakenly believed their cable or DVRs had malfunctioned (FYI for you youngs, streaming was in its infancy in 2007 and most people used either cable or DVDs to watch their favorite programming). The final scene has been the cause of much speculation over the years; the clues were there that Tony was about to become the victim of a mob hit (presumably by the guy at the counter in the Members Only jacket) but “Don’t Stop Believin'” is playing on the tabletop jukebox, Journey imploring us to hope for Tony’s survival. Regardless of your interpretation, it is brilliant filmmaking. At the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards, “Made in America” earned David Chase the prize for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, and the series itself won Outstanding Drama Series. With those wins, The Sopranos tied Hill Street Blues for the most-honored drama series in Emmy history (Game of Thrones now tops the list).
  • Nashville, Robert Altman’s brilliant dramatic musical/political satire, was released on June 11, 1975. Nashville, generally regarded as Altman’s magnum opus, follows its two dozen-ish main characters over the course of five days leading up to a fundraising concert for a third-party candidate’s presidential campaign. The cast – including Lily Tomlin, Scott Glenn, Keith Carradine, Ned Beatty, Geraldine Chaplin, Ronee Blakley, Shelley Duvall, and Karen Black – is one of the greatest assembled for a motion picture. One of Altman’s trademarks was on-set improvisation, and Nashville was no exception; not only did his actors improvise much of the dialogue (with Joan Tewkesbury’s script acting as a “blueprint”), but they also wrote and performed their own songs. Nashville was a modest box office success and a critical darling. At the 48th Academy Awards, Nashville received five nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress for both Tomlin and Blakley, and Best Original Song for “I’m Easy”, which was written and performed by Carradine.
<swoons>
Keith Carradine won Nashville‘s only Oscar
  • After two years of COVID-related delays, the American Film Institute (AFI) has honored Julie Andrews with its Life Achievement Award. Among the evening’s presenters were Carol Burnett, Steve Carell, Cynthia Erivo, Gwen Stefani, and the surviving actors who played the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music. TNT will air the ceremony next Thursday (June 16) at 10 PM; clips from the event should be available on AFI’s YouTube channel the following morning.

Quick Hits: May 27

  • Ray Liotta was found dead yesterday morning at the age of sixty-seven.I know many of the tributes will be about either Goodfellas or Field of Dreams – and rightfully so, he’s sensational in both – so I’d like to go in a different direction. In his second film appearance, after the 1983 Pia Zadora vehicle The Lonely Lady (no, I am not making that up), Liotta got his big break, co-starring as Ray Sinclair in Jonathan Demme’s delightful Something Wild. For his performance, Liotta was nominated for several awards, including the Golden Globe (co-stars Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith were also nominated), and won (tied with Dennis Hopper for Blue Velvet, to be precise) the Best Supporting Actor prize from the Boston Society of Film Critics. Three years later, Liotta appeared in Field of Dreams as Shoeless Joe Jackson. The year after that, he headlined Goodfellas as mobster turned FBI informant Henry Hill. Liotta worked consistently after that, mostly playing baddies (although by all accounts, he was an absolute teddy bear in real life). Among the accolades he received: two Screen Actors Guild nominations, for 1998’s The Rat Pack (he played Frank Sinatra) and 2015’s Texas Rising, a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for a 2004 appearance on ER, and an Independent Spirit Award nomination for 2002’s Narc.
Content warning: this clip contains a fairly graphic sexual reference
  • Andrew “Fletch” Fletcher, keyboardist and founding member of Depeche Mode, has died of natural causes at the age of sixty. I honestly can’t even put into words right now how I’m feeling about this. Depeche Mode was part of the musical bedrock of my teen years. I’m just heartsick.
Depeche Mode was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020; they accepted the honor remotely due to the pandemic
  • After three interminably long years, Stranger Things 4 is FINALLY here! Volume 1 encompasses the first seven episodes: “The Hellfire Club”, “Vecna’s Curse”, “The Monster and the Superhero”, “Dear Billy”, “The Nina Project”, “The Dive”, and “The Massacre at Hawkins Lab”. Volume 2, set for release on July 1, will be comprised of the final two episodes, “Papa” and “The Piggyback”.
  • Also arriving today is Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+. YouTube helpfully suggested this clip a few days ago, and it seems like the perfect way to celebrate the occasion.
  • The winner of Survivor 42 has been crowned. After a commanding final tribal council performance, Maryanne Oketch won the jury vote AND the hearts of the audience, including yours truly, to become just the second black woman to win Survivor (Vecepia Towery won the fourth season way back in 2002 – when Oketch was just four years old). Back in March, after only two episodes, I selected Oketch for my “Badass Women of Survivor” list (https://peanut-butter-and-julie.com/2022/03/19/badass-women-of-survivor/), stating “Only time will tell how Oketch will fare in the game, but no matter the outcome, this young woman has a place in my heart forever.” ❤️❤️❤️
  • After two years of COVID-related delays, Top Gun: Maverick lands in theaters today. An icky detail that I’ll have a hard time overlooking: Maverick reunites with Penny Benjamin, the admiral’s daughter referenced in the first film. Penny is played here by Jennifer Connelly, who was fifteen years old when the first movie came out. I’m just spitballing here – and no disrespect to Connelly, who is talented and lovely – but perhaps this makes a case for Cruise’s characters to start romancing age-appropriate women.
  • The Old Man premieres on FX/Hulu on June 16. Based on Thomas Perry’s 2017 novel of the same name, The Old Man stars the marvelous Jeff Bridges as former CIA operative Dan Chase, who has spent years off the grid until an assassination attempt brings him out of hiding. The outstanding supporting cast includes John Lithgow, Amy Brenneman, and Alia Shawkat.
  • The Gray Man, starring Ryan Gosling and directed by the Russo Brothers, will be released in theaters on July 15, followed by a July 22 debut on Netflix. Based on the book series by Mark Greaney, The Gray Man follows a CIA assassin (Gosling) hunted by a psychopathic ex-colleague (Chris Evans, clearly having an absolute blast). The cast includes Ana de Armas, Julia Butters (so good as Leonardi DiCaprio’s young co-star in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Alfre Woodard, and Billy Bob Thornton. At a cost of $200 million, The Gray Man is Netflix’s most expensive film to date, but with the Russos at the helm and Gosling in the driver’s seat, it feels like a sure thing.
  • The first teaser for the penultimate episode in the Mission: Impossible series – subtitled Dead Reckoning – Part One – was released this week. Due to be released in 2023, the film features series regulars Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, and Rebecca Ferguson. It will also introduce newcomers Hayley Atwell, Shea Whigham, Esai Morales, Rob Delaney, and one of my personal faves, Cary Elwes. Dead Reckoning – Part Two is slated for a 2024 release.

47 Awesome Albums from ’77, Vol. 2

  • Going for the One – Yes

CHART POSITION: #8 in the US, #1 in the UK, top ten in six other countries

SINGLES: “Wonderous Stories”, “Going for the One”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Turn of the Century”, “Parallels”, “Wonderous Stories”

FUN FACT: “Turn of the Century” is about a sculptor named Roan whose wife dies; in his grief, Roan creates a statue of her – and brings her back to life. The song was inspired by Puccini’s opera La bohème and the Greek myth of Pygmalion, who fell in love with a statue he carved out of ivory. Pygmalion was also the basis for George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion and its musical adaptation My Fair Lady.

  • The Grand Illusion – Styx

CHART POSITION: #6 in the US, #49 in Australia

SINGLES: “Come Sail Away”, “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” 

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “The Grand Illusion”, “Come Sail Away”, “Miss America”, “Man in the Wilderness”

FUN FACT: “Come Sail Away” features in the pilot episode of my all-time favorite television series, Freaks and Geeks. Our hero Sam has finally gotten up the nerve to ask his crush Cindy for a slow dance and they make their way to the dance floor – just as the music speeds up.

  • My Aim is True – Elvis Costello

CHART POSITION: #32 in the US, #14 in the UK

SINGLES: “Less Than Zero”, “Alison”, “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Welcome to the Working Week”, “Waiting for the End of the World”, “Watching the Detectives”

FUN FACT: Costello’s backing band Clover could not be credited on My Aim is True for contractual reasons. Clover was an American country-rock band that consisted of future members of Huey Lewis and the News, The Doobie Brothers, and Toto.

  • Chicago XI – Chicago

CHART POSITION: #6 in the US, #17 in Australia

SINGLES: “Baby, What a Big Surprise”, “Little One”, “Take Me Back to Chicago”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Mississippi Delta City Blues”, “Take Me Back to Chicago”, “Takin’ It on Uptown”

FUN FACT: Chicago XI was the last Chicago album to feature Terry Kath, who died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound just four months after the album’s release. The band nearly broke up after Kath’s death but they decided to carry on, hiring session guitarist Donnie Dacus to replace Kath.

  • Talking Heads: 77 – Talking Heads

CHART POSITION: #97 in the US, #60 in the UK

SINGLES: “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town”, “Psycho Killer”, “Pulled Up”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Tentative Decisions”, “No Compassion”, “Don’t Worry About the Government”, “Psycho Killer”, “Pulled Up”, “Love → Building on Fire”

FUN FACT: “Love → Building on Fire”, Talking Heads’ first single, was released about seven months before Talking Heads: 77 but didn’t appear on the album until a 2005 reissue.

Talking Heads were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, 25 years after the release of Talking Heads: 77
  • Aja – Steely Dan

CHART POSITION: #3 in the US, #5 in the UK

SINGLES: “Peg”, “Deacon Blues”, “Josie”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Black Cow”, “Aja”

FUN FACT: Aja is the third album on my list to have been nominated for the 1977 Album of the Year Grammy (along with James Taylor’s JT and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, both of which were included in the first volume of this post). Aja did win the Grammy for Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical; Steely Dan’s music won the same award twice more in the next four years, for their 1978 single “FM (No Static At All)” and their 1980 album Gaucho.

  • The Stranger – Billy Joel

CHART POSITION: #2 in the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, #24 in the UK

SINGLES: “Just the Way You Are”, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”, “The Stranger”, “Only the Good Die Young”, “She’s Always a Woman”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “Vienna”

FUN FACT: The Stranger is stacked with five top-forty hits and popular album tracks like “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “Vienna”, but it was far from a sure thing. Joel had failed to capitalize on the success of his second album, Piano Man; Streetlife Serenade and Turnstiles, his third and fourth albums, were commercial disappointments and Columbia Records was prepared to drop Joel from the label if his next album wasn’t a hit. Feeling the pressure, Joel hired legendary producer Phil Ramone, whom he would work with through 1986’s The Bridge. The Stranger ultimately became Columbia’s best-selling album ever, with more than ten million copies sold.

  • Flowing Rivers – Andy Gibb

CHART POSITION: #19 in the US, #25 in Australia

SINGLES: “I Just Want to Be Your Everything”, “Love Is (Thicker Than Water)”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “I Just Want to Be Your Everything”, “Words and Music”, “Love Is (Thicker Than Water)”, “Flowing Rivers”, “In the End”

FUN FACT: The Brothers Gibb had a very, very good year in 1977. The Bee Gees helped craft the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, and baby brother Andy released his debut album. Barry Gibb co-wrote and provided harmony vocals for Flowing Rivers‘ two #1 hits, “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” and “Love Is (Thicker Than Water)”. But another artist that you might not guess also appears on both tracks: Eagle Joe Walsh. Flowing Waters was recorded at Miami’s Criteria Studios in the fall of 1976, at the same time the Eagles were recording Hotel California. Gibb borrowed Walsh for a day to lay down guitar tracks for the two songs.

  • In Color – Cheap Trick

CHART POSITION: #73 in the US, #93 in Australia

SINGLES: “I Want You to Want Me”, “Southern Girls”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Big Eyes”, “I Want You to Want Me”, “Oh Caroline”, “Come On, Come On”

FUN FACT: “I Want You to Want Me” didn’t chart in the US upon its initial release in 1977 – but it went to number one in Japan. The group’s success in Japan paved the way for a series of concerts at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, where Cheap Trick recorded a live album – the imaginatively titled Cheap Trick at Budokan – that went on to be the band’s best-selling album. The live version of “I Want You to Want Me” was released in the US in 1979; this time, the song made it into the top ten.

  • Simple Dreams – Linda Ronstadt

CHART POSITION: #1 in the US, Australia, and Canada

SINGLES: “Blue Bayou”, “It’s So Easy”, “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”, “Tumbling Dice”, “I Never Will Marry”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Carmelita”

FUN FACT: At the time, Simple Dreams was the second-best-selling album ever by a female artist, after Carole King’s Tapestry. Ronstadt also became the first female artist to have two singles in the top five at the same time, with “Blue Bayou” and “It’s So Easy”.

  • Lust for Life – Iggy Pop

CHART POSITION: #120 in the US, #28 in the UK

SINGLES: “Success / The Passenger”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Lust for Life”, “Some Weird Sin”, “The Passenger”, “Neighborhood Threat”

FUN FACT: As he did with “China Girl” off Pop’s other 1977 album, The Idiot (featured in volume one of this list), co-producer David Bowie later recorded his own version of a song he wrote with Pop. “Tonight” was the title track to Bowie’s 1984 follow-up to Let’s Dance.

  • Out of the Blue – Electric Light Orchestra

CHART POSITION: Top five in eight countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia

SINGLES: “Turn to Stone”, “Mr. Blue Sky”, “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”, “Wild West Hero”, “It’s Over”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Standin’ in the Rain”, “Sweet is the Night”

FUN FACT #1: Out of the Blue‘s liner notes credit some highly unusual instruments for a pop record, including violins and cellos, a gong, a Wurlitzer piano, and – I am not making this up – a fire extinguisher. It was also one of the first albums to extensively use the vocoder, a speech decoder/synthesizer; the vocoder appears on the singles “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” and “Mr. Blue Sky”.

  • Point of Know Return – Kansas

CHART POSITION: #4 in the US, #7 in Canada

SINGLES: “Point of Know Return”, “Dust in the Wind”, “Portrait (He Knew)”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Paradox” and “Hopelessly Human”

FUN FACT: “Dust in the Wind”, Kansas’ most iconic song, was inspired by biblical passages from the books of Genesis and Ecclesiastes as well as the opening lines of the Japanese war epic The Tale of the Heike (“…the mighty fall at last, and they are as dust before the wind“).

  • “Heroes” – David Bowie

CHART POSITION: #35 in the US, #3 in the UK

SINGLES: “Heroes / V-2 Schneider”, “Beauty and the Beast / Sense of Doubt”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Sons of the Silent Age” and “Blackout”

FUN FACT: After “Rebel Rebel”, “Heroes” is David Bowie’s most commonly covered song. A 1998 version by The Wallflowers appeared on the Godzilla soundtrack. Peter Gabriel, whose solo debut was highlighted in volume one of this list, recorded a gorgeous stripped-down version of “Heroes” for his 2010 album of covers, Scratch My Back. And after Bowie’s 2016 death, “Heroes” tributes were performed by artists like Lady Gaga, Blondie, and Prince.

One of my all-time favorite needle drops occurs in chapter three of Stranger Things, “Holly, Jolly”, with an emotional scene set to Peter Gabriel’s haunting version of “Heroes”.
  • Street Survivors – Lynyrd Skynyrd

CHART POSITION: #5 in the US, #13 in the UK, #3 in Canada

SINGLES: “What’s Your Name”, “That Smell”, “You Got That Right”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above

FUN FACT: Ronnie Van Zant wrote “That Smell”, which includes the lyric “The smell of death surrounds you”, about the rampant drug and alcohol abuse some of his bandmates were engaging in. But the song took on a whole new meaning when, three days after Street Survivors was released, the band’s plane ran out of fuel and crashed near Gillsburg, Mississippi, killing Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray (and seriously injuring many of the twenty survivors).

  • Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf

CHART POSITION: #14 in the US, #9 in the UK, #1 in Australia and New Zealand

SINGLES: “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)”, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”, “All Revved Up with No Place to Go”, “Bat Out of Hell”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: That about covers it.

FUN FACT: The album’s genesis was a musical called Neverland, a futuristic rock & roll take on Peter Pan, which songwriter Jim Steinman workshopped in 1974. Steinman and Meat Loaf agreed that three of the songs – “Bat Out of Hell”, “Heaven Can Wait” and “The Formation of the Pack” (which became “All Revved Up with No Place to Go”) – were good enough to record. They were rejected by every major label and finally signed with upstart indie Cleveland International Records. Producer Todd Rundgren thought the album was hilarious; he was certain Steinman had written a Springsteen parody (nope, Steinman was 100% sincere). For his part, Meat Loaf called Rundgren “the only genuine genius I’ve ever worked with.”

  • Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols – The Sex Pistols

CHART POSITION: #106 in the US, #1 in the UK

SINGLES: “Anarchy in the U.K.”, “God Save the Queen”, “Pretty Vacant”, “Holidays in the Sun”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Bodies” and “E.M.I.”

FUN FACT: The Sex Pistols only released one album in their brief but glorious life span, but it’s one of the most influential albums of all time. Kurt Cobain was a huge fan, and Nirvana named their second album Nevermind in the Pistols’ honor.

The Sex Pistols were eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, 25 years after the release of Never Mind the Bullocks…, but they weren’t inducted until 2006. Naturally, they refused to attend the ceremony. Jann Wenner unironically reading John Lydon’s letter is absolutely hilarious.
  • News of the World – Queen

CHART POSITION: #3 in the US, #4 in the UK, top ten in eight other countries

SINGLES: “We Are the Champions / We Will Rock You”, “Spread Your Wings”, “It’s Late”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Fight From the Inside” and “Who Needs You”

FUN FACT: Queen recorded News of the World at Wessex Studios, where The Sex Pistols were recording Never Mind the Bullocks…, leading to several interactions between the two bands. An infamous exchange occurred when Sid Vicious stumbled into Queen’s studio and asked (referencing a recent article in New Musical Express), “Have you succeeded in bringing ballet to the masses yet?”. Freddie Mercury replied, “We’re doing our best, dear” and referred to Vicious as “Simon Ferocious”. As always, Freddie Mercury for the win.

  • Here You Come Again – Dolly Parton

CHART POSITION: #20 in the US (#1 on the country album chart), #12 in Canada

SINGLES: “Here You Come Again”, “Two Doors Down”, “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right”, “Me and Little Andy”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Baby Come Out Tonight” and “Sweet Music Man”

FUN FACT: Both the album and the title track were huge pop crossover successes for Parton, who was predominantly known as a country artist to that point. The single spent five weeks at #1 on the country chart and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 (it was her biggest pop hit until 1980’s “9 to 5”). “Here You Come Again” also earned Parton the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

  • Slowhand – Eric Clapton

CHART POSITION: #2 in the US, #3 in the UK

SINGLES: “Lay Down Sally”, “Wonderful Tonight”, “Cocaine”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Lay Down Sally, “Cocaine”

FUN FACT: “Wonderful Tonight” and The Beatles’ “Something” share the same subject: Pattie Boyd, whom George Harrison married in 1966 and divorced in 1977. In 1979, Boyd married Harrison’s good friend Eric Clapton. Clapton’s “Layla” and “Bell Bottom Blues” are also about Boyd (Clapton and Boyd divorced in 1989).

  • Running on Empty – Jackson Browne

CHART POSITION: #3 in the US

SINGLES: “Running on Empty”, “The Load-Out/Stay”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Running on Empty”, “The Road”, “Shaky Town”, “The Load-Out”, “Stay”

FUN FACT #1: Running on Empty‘s songs all revolve around life on the road, and all of the songs were recorded while Browne was on tour, either live on stage or in locations associated with touring, such as backstage, in a hotel room, or on a tour bus. For example, “Cocaine” and “Shaky Town” were recorded in room 124 of the Holiday Inn in Edwardsville, Illinois, and “Nothing But Time” was recorded “on a bus somewhere in New Jersey”. By the way, “Cocaine”, written by blues artist Rev. Gary Davis with additional lyrics by Browne and Glenn Frey, is unrelated to Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine”.

FUN FACT #2: “The Load-Out”, Browne’s gorgeous ode to his roadies and fans, and “Stay” are technically two separate tracks, but they blend together seamlessly and are often played as a medley on the radio.

  • ABBA: The Album – ABBA

CHART POSITION: #14 in the US, #1 in five countries including the UK, New Zealand, and the band’s native Sweden

SINGLES: “The Name of the Game”, “Take a Chance on Me”, “Eagle/Thank You for the Music”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Take a Chance on Me”, “The Name of the Game”, “Hole in Your Soul”, “Thank You for the Music”, “I’m a Marionette”

FUN FACT #1: In spite of the fact that Western music was actively discouraged in Eastern Europe at the time, ABBA: The Album sold a million copies in Poland, using up the country’s entire allocation of foreign currency. In the US, it was the third-best-selling album of 1978, after the soundtracks for Saturday Night Fever and Grease.

FUN FACT #2: A 1992 EP titled Abba-esque featured the best ABBA cover of all time, Erasure’s “Take a Chance on Me”.

  • Eddie Money – Eddie Money

CHART POSITION: #37 in the US, #24 in Canada

SINGLES: “Baby Hold On”, “Two Tickets to Paradise”, “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Wanna Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Don’t Worry”

FUN FACT: Money toiled for almost a decade in Bay Area bars before being discovered by rock impresario Bill Graham and signed to Graham’s Columbia imprint Wolfgang Records.

  • Pink Flag – Wire

CHART POSITION: N/A

SINGLES: None

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Three Girl Rhumba”, “Lowdown”, “Pink Flag”, “Strange”

FUN FACT: In true punk fashion, seventeen of Pink Flag‘s twenty-one songs clock in under 2:30.

Elastica borrowed the opening riff of “Three Girl Rhumba” for their killer 1995 single “Connection”
R.E.M. recorded a cover of “Strange” for their 1987 commercial breakthrough Document
  • Suicide – Suicide

CHART POSITION: N/A

SINGLES: “Cheree”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Ghost Rider”, “Johnny”

FUN FACT: “Frankie Teardrop” was inspired by the real-life story of a factory worker who lost his job (and his mind), murdered his wife and child and committed suicide. Lead singer Alan Vega used a method approach to the song, putting himself into the mindset of the killer and improvising the lyrics – as well as the blood-curdling screams, wails, and moans. It’s disturbing as fuck, which of course is precisely the point. In his book 31 Songs, Nick Hornby proclaimed that “Frankie Teardrop” is the kind of song you want to listen to “only once” (he’s not wrong). In 2017, Henry Rollins described the song as  “the single most intense song I’ve ever heard in my life”. And Lou Reed once lamented that he wished he’d written “Frankie Teardrop”.

“Frankie Teardrop” was the inspiration for Bruce Springsteen’s song “State Trooper” off his bleak as fuck album Nebraska

And finally, here’s the updated 1977 playlist:

47 Awesome Albums From ’77, Vol. 1

These albums are all turning forty-five this year. This list is in chronological order by release date and covers albums released between January and June of 1977.

  • Low – David Bowie

CHART POSITION: #11 in the US, #2 in the UK

SINGLES: “Sound and Vision”, “Be My Wife”, “Breaking Glass” (Australia and New Zealand only)

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Speed of Life”, “Sound and Vision”, “Always Crashing in the Same Car”, “Subterraneans”

FUN FACT: Low began life as the soundtrack to the film The Man Who Fell to Earth, in which Bowie starred. Director Nicolas Roeg rejected Bowie’s submission, preferring a more folk-oriented sound. Upon Low‘s release, Bowie sent Roeg a copy with a note that read, “This is what I wanted to do for the soundtrack. It would have been a wonderful score.”

  • Animals – Pink Floyd

CHART POSITION: #3 in the US, #2 in the UK

SINGLES: NONE

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Pigs on the Wing (Part One)”, “Dogs”, “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”, “Sheep”, “Pigs on the Wing (Part Two)” (that’s all the songs, by the way)

FUN FACT: Animals is loosely based on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, with the animals representing various social groups – the ruthless tycoons (dogs), the greedy politicians (pigs), and the mindless masses (sheep).

  • Rumours – Fleetwood Mac

CHART POSITION: #1 in seven countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia

SINGLES: “Go Your Own Way”, “Dreams”, “Don’t Stop”, “You Make Loving Fun”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: I mean, all of them, but especially “The Chain” – that bass drum! those harmonies! – and “Gold Dust Woman”

FUN FACT: I have nothing new to say about this masterpiece, so just read this again, please: https://peanut-butter-and-julie.com/2022/02/04/rumours-at-45/

  • Marquee Moon – Television

CHART POSITION: #23 in Sweden, #28 in Great Britain, and #92 in Australia (didn’t chart in the US)

SINGLES: “Marquee Moon”, “Prove It”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Venus”, “Marquee Moon”, “Torn Curtain”

FUN FACT: Marquee Moon was a landmark post-punk album and had a huge influence on artists like Joy Division, Echo & the Bunnymen, and R.E.M.

  • Peter Gabriel AKA Peter Gabriel 1 AKA Car – Peter Gabriel

CHART POSITION: #38 in the US, #7 in the UK

SINGLES: “Solsbury Hill”, “Modern Love”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Solsbury Hill”, “Humdrum”, “Down the Dolce Vita”, “Here Comes the Flood”

FUN FACT: “Solsbury Hill”, a marvel in 7/4***** time (a highly unusual time signature), is about letting go of what was (Genesis) in order to experience what could be (a successful solo career with complete artistic control). It was inspired by a spiritual encounter Gabriel had at the top of Little Solsbury Hill in Somerset, England, after his departure from Genesis.

So I went from day to day
Tho’ my life was in a rut
“Till I thought of what I’d say
Which connection I should cut
I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery

***** Speaking of 7/4 time, if you are a nerd like me or you want to better understand what the fuck I’m talking about, you should check out David Bennett’s videos. He does a great job explaining what the time signature sounds like and gives great examples. Anyway, this one is about 7/4 time and “Solsbury Hill” is his first example.

  • Foreigner – Foreigner

CHART POSITION: #4 in the US, #9 in Australia 

SINGLES: “Feels Like the First Time”, “Cold as Ice”, “Long, Long Way From Home” 

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Headknocker” and “I Need You”

FUN FACT: “Starrider” features a rare lead vocal by co-founder Mick Jones. It doesn’t even sound like a Foreigner song; it almost has a prog-rock feel to it. Fortunately, Jones let Lou Gramm do the rest of the vocals.

  • Works Volume 1 – Emerson, Lake & Palmer

CHART POSITION: #12 in the US, #9 in the UK

SINGLES: “Fanfare for the Common Man”, “C’est La Vie”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “C’est La Vie”, “Closer to Believing”, “L.A. Nights”, “Fanfare for the Common Man”

FUN FACT: You might not know it by name, but you’ve almost certainly heard “Fanfare for the Common Man”. Written by Aaron Copland in 1942, “Fanfare” has been widely used in pop culture and at sporting events, including the Olympics.

  • The Idiot – Iggy Pop

CHART POSITION: #120 in the US, #28 in the UK

SINGLES: “Sister Midnight”, “China Girl”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Sister Midnight”, “Baby”, “China Girl”, “Dum Dum Boys”

FUN FACT: David Bowie co-wrote and produced The Idiot, which Pop has described as “a cross between James Brown and Kraftwerk”. Six years later, Bowie re-recorded “China Girl” and released it as the second single off his Let’s Dance album.

  • Let There Be Rock – AC/DC

CHART POSITION: #154 in the US, #17 in the UK, #19 in Australia

SINGLES: “Dog Eat Dog”, “Whole Lotta Rosie”, “Let There Be Rock”, “Problem Child”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Bad Boy Boogie”, “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”

FUN FACT: The cover for Let There Be Rock was the first to feature the band’s iconic “lightning bolt” logo.

  • Commodores – Commodores

CHART POSITION: #3 in the US

SINGLES: “Easy”, “Brick House”, “Zoom”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Won’t You Come Dance With Me”, “Funky Situation”, “Patch It Up”

FUN FACT: Alt-metal band Faith No More performed a surprisingly reverent cover of “Easy” for their 1992 album Angel Dust.

  • Even in the Quietest Moments… – Supertramp

CHART POSITION: #16 in the US, #12 in the UK, #1 in Canada

SINGLES: “Give a Little Bit”, “Babaji”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Give a Little Bit”, “Lover Boy”, “Even in the Quietest Moments”, “Babaji”, “Fools Overture”

FUN FACT: The cover art depicts an actual snow-covered piano; a gutted grand piano was brought to Eldorado Mountain Resort in Colorado, left out overnight, and photographed while the snow was still fresh. The sheet music – titled “Fools Overture” – is actually “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

  • Ask Rufus – Rufus

CHART POSITION: #12 in the US

SINGLES: “At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up)”, “Hollywood”, “Everlasting Love”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up)”, “Earth Song”, “Hollywood”, “Better Days”

FUN FACT: Erykah Badu covered “Hollywood” for the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, and Mary J. Blige performed a version of “Everlasting Love” for the 1996 Olympic Games album Rhythm of The Games.

  • The Clash – The Clash

CHART POSITION: #12 in the UK (not released in the US until 1979)

SINGLES: “White Riot”, “Remote Control” (1977 UK release)

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: Literally all of them. One of the greatest debut albums ever. Timeless.

FUN FACT: CBS Records in the US initially passed on the album, stating it wasn’t “radio-friendly”, so The Clash was actually the second Clash album released in the States, after 1978’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope. Because it was only available in the US as an import that first year, The Clash was the best-selling import of the year with about 100,000 copies sold.

  • Right on Time – Brothers Johnson

CHART POSITION: #13 in the US

SINGLES: “Strawberry Letter 23”, “Runnin’ For Your Lovin'”, “Love Is”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Free Yourself, Be Yourself”, “Right On Time”, “Strawberry Letter 23”

FUN FACT: “Love Is” was co-written by producer Quincy Jones and his then-wife Peggy Lipton (credited as Peggy Jones).

  • Little Queen – Heart

CHART POSITION: #9 in the US, #34 in the UK, #2 in Canada

SINGLES: “Barracuda”, “Little Queen”, “Kick It Out”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Barracuda”, “Love Alive”, “Dream of the Archer”, “Kick It Out”

FUN FACT: “Barracuda” was inspired by the scumbags at Mushroom Records, who as a publicity stunt took out an ad in Rolling Stone, made to look like the cover of a tabloid, that implied an incestuous lesbian relationship between the Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy. A male radio promoter asked Ann how her lover was; Ann assumed he meant her boyfriend, but when he clarified that he was referring to Nancy, Ann furiously went straight to her hotel room and wrote the lyrics to “Barracuda”. Heart’s new label, Portrait Records, released “Barracuda” as the first single off Little Queen.

And if the real thing don’t do the trick
You better make up something quick
You gonna burn, burn, burn, burn, burn to the wick
Oooo, Barracuda, oh yeah

  • Book of Dreams – Steve Miller Band

CHART POSITION: #2 in the US, #12 in the UK, #1 in Canada

SINGLES: “Jet Airliner”, “Jungle Love”, “Swingtown”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Winter Time”, “Swingtown”, “True Fine Love”, “The Stake”,

FUN FACT: Book of Dreams‘ artwork was done by Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse, who also created the “wings and beetles” artwork for several Journey albums and the “skull and roses” artwork for 1971’s Grateful Dead.

  • Lights Out – UFO

CHART POSITION: #23 in the US, #54 in the UK, #31 in Sweden

SINGLES: “Alone Again Or”, “Too Hot to Handle”, “Try Me”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Too Hot to Handle”, “Lights Out”, “Alone Again Or”,

FUN FACT: “Alone Again Or” was written by Bryan MacLean of psychedelic band Love for their 1967 album Forever Changes. Other artists who have covered the song include The Damned, The Boo Radleys, and Matthew Sweet & Susannah Hoffs.

  • I Robot – The Alan Parsons Project

CHART POSITION: #9 in the US, #26 in the UK, #2 in Sweden and New Zealand

SINGLES: “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You”, “Don’t Let It Show”, “Day After Day (The Show Must Go On)”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: Like any good concept album, I Robot is meant to be listened to as a whole. That being said, “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You” and “Breakdown” are my two favorites.

FUN FACT: The cover art features a giant robot with an atom brain; the robot is superimposed over a picture of photographer Storm Thorgerson’s assistants in the escalator tubes at Charles de Gaulle Airport (the robot also appears on the label). Thorgerson was a legend in the art of album covers, famous for his work with Hipgnosis, the design collective he founded with Aubrey Powell. Hipgnosis designed two more covers on this list, Animals and Peter Gabriel.

  • Exodus – Bob Marley & the Wailers

CHART POSITION: #20 in the US, #8 in the UK

SINGLES: “Exodus”, “Waiting in Vain”, “Jamming”, “Three Little Birds”, “One Love/People Get Ready”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: Literally all of them, but especially “Three Little Birds”

FUN FACT: “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”, from Stevie Wonder’s fantastic 1980 album Hotter Than July, is an ode to Marley’s “Jamming”:

Everyone’s feeling pretty
It’s hotter than July
Though the world’s full of problems
They couldn’t touch us even if they tried
From the park I hear rhythms
Marley’s hot on the box
Tonight there will be a party
On the corner at the end of the block

  • CSN – Crosby, Stills & Nash

CHART POSITION: #2 in the US, #23 in the UK

SINGLES: “Just a Song Before I Go”, “Fair Game”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Carried Away”, “Fair Game”, “Cathedral”, “Dark Star”, “Just a Song Before I Go”

FUN FACT: “Cathedral” was inspired by a particularly heady LSD trip Graham Nash took at Winshester Cathedral in Hampshire, England.

  • JT – James Taylor

CHART POSITION: #4 in the US, #10 in Australia

SINGLES: “Bartender’s Blues”, “Your Smiling Face”, “Honey Don’t Leave L.A.”, “Handy Man”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Another Grey Morning”, “Looking for Love on Broadway”

FUN FACT: JT (along with one more album from my list, which will be included in the second volume) was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy; it lost to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.

  • Love Gun – Kiss

CHART POSITION: #4 in the US, #3 in Canada, #2 in Japan

SINGLES: “Christine Sixteen”, “Love Gun”

MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Christine Sixteen”, “Love Gun”, “Plaster Caster”, “Then She Kissed Me”

FUN FACT #1: “Plaster Caster” was inspired by a groupie named Cynthia Plaster Caster (real name Cynthia Albritton), who created plaster molds of the erect penises of rock musicians and other artists. Her subjects included Jimi Hendrix, Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, and Television’s Richard Lloyd. Cynthia also inspired the Jim Croce song “Five Short Minutes”. Albritton passed away just a few weeks ago from cerebrovascular disease.

FUN FACT #2: “Christine Sixteen” is one of several songs Tone-Loc sampled for his 1989 hit “Funky Cold Medina” (among the other samples are “Hot Blooded” by Foreigner, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones, and “All Right Now” by Free). And Gin Blossoms performed a cover of “Christine Sixteen” for the 1994 Kiss tribute album Kiss My Ass.

Here’s the 1977 playlist (like Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash removed their music from Spotify earlier this year):

Quick Hits: May 13

  • Happy Friday the 13th! The fear of Friday the 13th (known as friggatriskaidekaphobia) has its roots in Norse and Christian mythology. As the Norse myth goes, twelve gods were having dinner at Valhalla when an uninvited thirteenth guest – mischief-maker Loki – crashed the party and tricked Höðr into killing his brother Baldr (son of Odin and Frigg, Friday’s namesake) with a poison-tipped arrow. The Christian influence is the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion. The modern fear of the day may be linked to the publishing of T.W. Lawson’s 1907 book Friday, the Thirteenth, in which a corrupt broker takes advantage of the superstition to manipulate the stock market. Several major 20th-century events occurred on a Friday the 13th, including the 1940 bombing of Buckingham Palace, the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, the 1972 plane crash (and grisly aftermath) that inspired Piers Paul Read’s Alive, and Tupac Shakur’s 1996 murder. Since 1980, the Friday the 13th franchise – which includes twelve films, a television series, comic books, video games, and merch – has kept the Friday the 13th superstition at the forefront of popular culture.
  • Danvers (Massachusetts) State Hospital opened on this day in 1878. Danvers was the inspiration for Arkham Sanitorium in the works of H.P. Lovecraft and later, Arkham Asylum in D.C.’s Batman universe. Danvers was also the setting – and the filming location – for the 2001 horror film Session 9.
  • The series finale of Frasier, titled “Good Night, Seattle”, aired on this day in 2004. The episode was watched by more than 33 million people, making “Good Night, Seattle” the eleventh-most-watched series finale of all time.
  • Today would have been Bea Arthur’s 100th birthday. I’ll just leave this here:

And this:

And this:

And this:

  • Happy birthday, Stevie Wonder!
  • Apollo et Hyacinthus, Mozart’s first opera, premiered in Salzburg on this day in 1767; at the time, Mozart was just twelve years old.
  • An upcoming limited series on FX/Hulu will tell the story of Great Britain’s punk pioneers The Sex Pistols. Titled Pistol, the series is based on Pistols guitarist Steve Jones’ 2017 memoir, Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol. All six episodes were directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle, and I honestly couldn’t imagine a better person for the job. Pistol will premiere on May 31.
  • Character actor Jack Kehler, best known for playing the Dude’s landlord Marty in The Big Lebowski, has died of leukemia complications at the age of seventy-five. Kehler’s other movie appearances include Men in Black II, Point Break, Wyatt Earp, and Waterworld. His television credits include Murder One and The Man in the High Castle.
  • A new novel by Liz Michalski, Darling Girl, is a modern-day reimagining of Peter Pan. The protagonist, Holly Darling, is Wendy’s granddaughter; the plot kicks off with the kidnapping of Holly’s daughter Eden, who has been in a coma for ten years. Holly is certain she knows who the kidnapper is: Eden’s father, Peter Pan.
  • Last but not least, the final Stranger Things 4 poster is here. It prominently features both the season’s “big bad”, Vecna, and the Creel House, a major set piece for the season.

Quick Hits: May 8

  • Pink Floyd has written its first new material since 1994, a single titled “Hey Hey, Rise Up”. The lyrics are based on the Ukrainian protest anthem “Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow”. Ukrainian singer Andriy Khlyvnyuk, who took a break from touring the US with his band BoomBox to join the resistance to the Russian invasion, recorded himself singing the song in Sophia Square in Kyiv and posted the video to Instagram. David Gilmour’s Ukrainian daughter-in-law shared the post with Gilmour, who obtained permission from Khlyvnyuk to use his vocals. Gilmour collaborated with Floyd drummer Nick Mason to create the music. All proceeds from the single are going to Ukrainian Humanitarian Relief.
  • The charming, delightful, colorfully-blazered Mattea Roach has ended her run on Jeopardy! after winning twenty-three games and more than $560,000 dollars. She is ranked fifth all-time in both total wins and total earnings. Roach will obviously return for the Tournament of Champions, where she’ll face off against Amy Schneider.
  • Mike Hagerty, best known as Mr. Treeger on Friends, has passed away at the age of sixty-seven.
  • Paramount Pictures was founded on this day in 1912 as Famous Players Film Company. Paramount is the second-oldest American film studio after Universal. Among the most well-known Paramount productions are The Greatest Show on Earth, Vertigo, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Beverly Hills Cop, Forrest Gump, Titanic, and the Mission Impossible series.
  • Dr. No, the first film in the James Bond series, was released in the US on this day in 1963.
Dr. No‘s iconic opening credits were created by Maurice Binder, who worked on a total of sixteen Bond films
  • Roberto Rossellini, Italian film director and father of Isabella Rossellini, was born on this day in 1906. Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman fell in love with each other on the set of Stromboli; since both were married to other people, the affair caused quite a stir in the US, especially after Bergman gave birth to a baby boy the same month that the movie was released (twins Isabella and Ingrid came along a few years later). Stromboli tanked at the box office in the States (though it fared better in Europe, where the affair wasn’t quite as scandalous) but it won the Rome Prize for Cinema as the year’s best film and is generally regarded as a masterpiece of Italian cinema.
  • Phyllida Law, Scottish actor and mum to Sophie and Emma Thompson, is celebrating her 90th birthday today.
  • Robert Johnson, blues musician, songwriter, and founding member of the 27 Club (https://peanut-butter-and-julie.com/2021/04/05/the-27-club/), was born on this day in 1911. A master of the Delta Blues, Johnson is one of the most influential musicians of all time (I won’t get into boring music theory here, but there’s a direct line from Johnson to Chuck Berry to Keith Richards to Eric Clapton). Johnson’s death in 1938 remains a mystery, though there are plenty of theories: he likely had congenital syphilis, he may have been poisoned, or maybe he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his musical talents. Even Johnson’s gravesite is unknown; markers have been put up in three different Mississippi cemeteries where his body could be buried.
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opened at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre). With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart (who later created the M*A*S*H television series and wrote the Oscar-nominated Tootsie screenplay), A Funny Thing… really came alive when Jerome Robbins was brought in to consult after a disappointing preview. Robbins suggested a new opening number, one that would herald the bawdy comedy ahead. Sondheim wrote a new song – the iconic “Comedy Tonight” – and the rest is history. The original Broadway production racked up eight Tony nominations and six wins, including Best Musical, Best Director for George Abbott, and Best Actor for Zero Mostel (Nathan Lane also won a Tony for a 1996 revival). Mostel reprised his role in the delightful 1966 film adaptation, which you can stream on Tubi or Hoopla.
  • Three Imaginary Boys, The Cure’s UK debut, was released on this day in 1979. The album was later repackaged as Boys Don’t Cry (and given a different track order) for its release in the States. I much prefer the original cover.
  • After a more than two-year delay due to COVID, Top Gun: Maverick is finally set to be released later this month. Lady Gaga has released the first single off the film’s soundtrack, “Hold My Hand”. The clip includes snippets from the movie; Maverick, still haunted by Goose’s death, is now the flight instructor for Goose’s son, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller). Oh, and Maverick gets another chance to hook up with Penny Benjamin, played by Jennifer Connelly.

Quick Hits: May 4

  • Happy Star Wars Day, once again! May the force be with all of you today.
Obi-Wan Kenobi debuts on Disney+ on May 27
  • Spider-Man premiered twenty years ago today. Starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson and Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn AKA Green Goblin, Spider-Man was the result of Marvel’s twenty-year journey to bring their flagship character to the big screen (a 1985 version might have starred Tom Cruise). Spider-Man broke box office records (it was the first film to earn $100 million in a weekend) and was the third biggest film of the year, after The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It also earned two Oscar nominations, for Best Sound and Best Visual Effects.
  • The teaser trailer for Weird: The Al Yankovic Story was released yesterday. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Weird will debut this fall on the Roku Channel.
  • The first Grammy Awards were held on this day in 1959. Henry Mancini earned the Album of the Year award for The Music from Peter Gunn, the soundtrack to the television series of the same name, and Bobby Darin won Best New Artist.
  • Gaslight was released on this day in 1944. Directed by George Cukor and starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight also featured an eighteen-year-old Angela Lansbury in her film debut. Gaslight was a commercial and critical success, receiving seven nominations at the 17th Academy Awards and winning two Oscars, Best Actress for Bergman and Best Art Direction.
  • Seven Beauties was released on this day in 1975. The film’s director, Lina Wertmüller, went on to become the first woman nominated for a Best Director Oscar.
  • Moe Howard (born Moses Horwitz) died of lung cancer on this day in 1975.
  • Nickolas Ashford was born on this day in 1941. Ashford and his wife Valerie Simpson joined Motown as songwriters in 1966; the two penned some of the label’s most iconic songs, including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”. As performers, Ashford & Simpson had their greatest success in 1984 with the release of their album, Solid. The title track was their biggest hit, reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ashford died of throat cancer on August 22, 2011.
  • Green Day’s Mike Dirnt is celebrating his 50th birthday today!
  • And finally, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced the inductees for the Class of ’22: