October 2007 / 5 posts found

A Beach Is A Place Where a Man Can Feel

by Tom Watson
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QuadropheniaLike Bob Dylan and a few others, Peter Townshend understood the 20th century version of the successful artist, which combined the cultivation of a pop sensibility and the cash it brought with some vein of purity in exploration. As the Who has recycled a long strong of Townshend’s pearls – on TV, in advertising, in compilations, on their latest geezer tour, and in the new biopic Amazing Journey: The Story Of The Who which premieres in the U.S. at the Paley Center for Media next week – so to has its master creator continued to explore.

Townshend’s latest rock opera, The Boy Who Heard Music, took shape as a blog, a dissembled convocation of voices brought together online. Earlier this year, Townshend put the algorithm behind the synth opening for Baba O’Reilly and Won’t Get Fooled Again online and let musicians (including me) upload pieces of recorded music and get back synthesized loop patterns. The Who made the cash, and a commercial legacy that keeps in giving, but throughout the band’s 20-year dry spell Townshend worked as an artist, and still works into his 60s.

Was Townshend’s best work was in his 20s? Perhaps, like Dylan’s. But he keeps on, like Picasso an aging combination of pop sensibility and persona, continuing to work. Paul McCartney, a comtemporary, wrote his own epitaph, a grand old painter’s evocation of his death. Townshend still flays the guitar and his Internet explorations – at present, silent – have given his work a new flavor, and a direct channel to his audience.

But Townshend’s finest work was his most complete as an artist – and not particularly successful commercially, but it endures. Quadrophenia is the one Who record I still return to year after year; a complete story with recurrent themes, and a fantastic composition and performance. Quadrophenia grows and I grow with it. Into my 40s and Townshend’s 60s, it still feels relentless and lasting.

Live-Blogging Mad Men: the Final Chapter

by Tom Watson
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In October, 1960 in New York, at the annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf – the traditional gathering of politicos and Catholics – Senators Richard Nixon and John Kennedy wore formal white ties and made jokes, as is the custom. Here’s a taste of JFK’s monologue: Cardinal Spellman is the only man so widely respected in American politics that he could bring together amicably, at the same banquet table, for the first time in this campaign, two political leaders who are increasingly apprehensive about the November election [laughter] who have long eyed each other suspiciously, and who have disagreed […]

House and the Kiss of Death

by Tom Watson
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HouseTen minutes into last night’s House, one of the famed doctor’s underlings gave their gravely ill patient a couple of pills and said: “Take these, you’ll be better within an hour.”

I turned to my daughter, a major House junkie.

“He’s a dead man,” I said, and so he was, but not for another 48 minutes, a time punctuated by the kind of medical madness that would cause the closure of House’s hospital even in less-regulated states than New Jersey. House is yet another occasionally brilliant show done in by its premise – by which to say, its formula. In year three, it’s clearly run its course and not even Hugh Laurie’s convincing portrayal of an American can save it.

Live-Blogging Mad Men: Some Things Don’t Change

by Tom Watson
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Last week, I just missed Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad up at Columbia, but I did dodge the motorcades and frozen zones around the United Nations, and undergo the requisite pat-down at the Clinton Global Initiative. What a wild week in New York, and it reminded by a little bit of 1960, the year of our blogging discontent. A year after Cary Grant’s Roger O. Thornhill dodged assassins under the gaze of Hitchcock at the UN in the clearest stylistic model for Mad Men, Cuba’s Fidel Castro hit the streets of New York and the right-wingers in the press went wild. […]

Springsteen and the American Muse

by Tom Watson
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SpringsteenHere’s the lead: Bruce Springsteen’s deep and nourishing Magic, released today, isn’t on a par with Born to Run or Darkness on the Edge of Town. But it’s firmly on the next level down, alongside The Wild, the Innocent & the E-Street Shuffle, Nebraska, The River and Tunnel of Love. And that’s saying something for a rock star of 58 years in age who has nibbled around the edges of pop music for the last two decades without fully wading in.

Magic is a self-referential work of mature genius, a work of its time, and a record built on the foundations of others, from Brian Wilson and Roy Orbison to the Byrds and Dylan and Phil Spector. Unlike The Shamus, whose terrific review appears below, I’ve spent several weeks with Magic and have listened to its best tunes dozens of times – it’s frankly brilliant, and worthy of the best in the Springsteen canon. It’s the work of an older man, the rare record recorded by a star in late middle age who drops the teen angst and captures both those long decades and the deep pop groove, filled with happy hooks and fills.

Further, there’s a darkness there that I admire deeply – a writing in the shadows that rekindles what I first loved about Bruce Springsteen’s writing, when I was a skinny teen and he was a skinny 25-year-old.