Thursday, January 28, 2010

You Think You Know the Byrds? (MUSIC REVIEW BY SCOTT OKEN)

Everyone knows the Byrds. The folksy, mop-toppish, Bob Dylan song covering quintet that roamed the 60s, playing electric 12-string jams with impeccable, multi-layered vocals. You know all the hits. “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star”, “Turn, Turn, Turn” and the like. Back in the day, they were one of the loudest bands as well. Imagine some blaring compressed 12-string Rickenbacker guitar chiming your skull into oblivion!!!!!!!!

What I want to concentrate on is the period after this well known era. They became a completely different band with a complete turnaround in members save band leader Roger McGuinn. You can read up on that here.

My purpose here is to give y’all some reviews of their later albums and to nudge y’all to get up, go to the car/El/bus/rickshaw, and go to your nearest place that sells musical discs (or you could just utilize this “computer” thing, that the kids all like and download stuff)

The album that starts the transition is…

The Notorious Byrd Brothers-This was a total transition album from the well-known electric folk-rock to a more psychedelic sound and some premonitions of the country rock sound they would embrace in albums to come. Notable songs: “Artificial Energy”, “Natural Harmony”, “Draft Morning” also on the special edition “Triad” a song about a three-way…hippies. Smoke a bowl and put this on. You will not be disappointed. OKen’s Ultimate Rating (OUR) 10/10

Sweetheart of the Rodeo-They got Graham Parsons for this one, and he immediately made his presence felt. If you don’t like guitar-driven country mixed with folk and more country, this may not be the lp for you. If that doesn’t bother you, this is just a treat! Roger McGuinn started surrounding himself with stellar musicians here including the fantastic Clarence White, one of THE most underrated guitarists of all time! Notable songs: “You Ain’t Going Nowhere”, “One Hundred Years From Now” and “You Got a Reputation”. This one is an acquired taste, but it grows on you. OUR: 6.5/10

Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde- This one always got blasted in the reviews, but in reality, it’s a damn fine album! The country thing is still there, but not on every track, and the break out the rock and roll quite a bit here. Notable songs: “Bad Night at the Whiskey” “Child of the Universe” “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man” (a song written about a Southern DJ that treated them like shit in an interview), and ‘King Apathy III”

This album is an undiscovered little gem! OUR: 9/10

The Ballad of Easy Rider-Solid, if unspectacular. Notable songs: “Jesus is Just Alright” (yes that one), and “The Ballad of Easy Rider” OUR: 6/10

Untitled-Half live, half studio. The live half is great! They play a lot of the old classics, but give it some oomph! (I wrote “oomph”). Come to think of it, the studio half kicks it as well. More country rock here, but it works like a friggin’ charm! Notable songs “Lover of the Bayou” (Table flipping psychedelic jam!!) “Mr. Tambourine man”(kick ass version) “Eight Miles High” (for 16 minutes…enjoy acid) and one of my favorites of all time “Chestnut Mare” OUR: 26/10

Byrdmaniax-Kind of a weird one, but shit, we’ve come this far…Notable songs: “Tunnel of Love” “Pale Blue” OUR: 5/10

Farther Along-This was the last one before some guys died and they broke up. This is a really, really good album! They kind of do it all here and it’s quite enjoyable! Notable songs: “Tiffany Queen”, “Farther Along” “Bugler” and “Lazy Waters”. McGuinn lets everyone else sing more on here as well. OUR: 9.5/10

So, in conclusion, I think it’s worth it to delve deeper into this classic band’s catalogue. Go out and get The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and Untitled at least. You will live a better life…

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (GUEST REVIEWER ANITA DEELY)

Out of the Mouths of Clowns

The other night, like many of you, I eagerly anticipated the last Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. There was quite a ramp up for this. Like you, I read about his outrageous $45 million dollar settlement to step way from his dream job. 12 million of that money is for his staff, many of whom uprooted their lives in New York to join him in California. I watched Lettermen skewer NBC with some sharp, biting comedy; heard about Jimmy Kimmel’s (my mother’s favorite) antics, dressing like Jay Leno, fake chin and all, for an entire show; and enjoyed the commentary of Patton Oswald (cribbed somewhat from Bill Hicks, I guess) that Jay Leno didn’t deserve the gig because he was lazy and unoriginal and therefore not funny. Rarely does television offer you something so tantalizing, so rich. I mean, these are real people who are living through a bit of a scandal publically and because a part of their job description demands that they tell jokes about whatever’s in the newspapers, were obliged to tell jokes about their own turmoil. Talk about a house of mirrors. Thank goodness it’s over. Late Night was coming dangerously close to devouring itself whole.

The show was decent for the most part with two really brilliant moments. The monologue contained some good jokes about what to do with the studio and they were witty with “leave the studio cold and empty and rename it “The World's Largest Metaphor For NBC Programming” as hands down the best of the lot. That was not so unexpected or really shocking. Late Night hosts always make fun of the boss and this is no big deal. It’s always a vague kind of: they don’t know what there doing we’re third in the ratings kind of stuff. When they make fun of the network it makes us trust them and we tune in more so it really doesn’t hurt the network. Plus Thursday night is back with Community, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and The Office. The montage of Conan’s greatest moments (a call back bit with shots of Conan’s running from New York to California that started his reign) with The Squeeze song in the background was sweet. My favorite bit from this version of The Tonight Show, puppies dressed like cats (which is exactly what it sounds like it is), was featured. Steve Carrell made a surprise visit and did an exit interview with Conan and shredded his ID card. And the shout out to Up In The Air was cool. I’m glad I saw the movie so I could get the joke. Tom Hanks was charming and dependable with his glass of scotch (or cream soda?) and of course said nothing that could be considered controversial, not even a little bit. And hey, Tom Hanks gave Conan the nickname CoCo! What an upstanding guy. Reading Questlove’s tweet announcing that Hanks’s walk on song, Lovely Rita, costs $500 thousand dollars and is on NBC’s restricted song list enhanced my viewing making me feel in the know and high-tech modern. Way to stick it to ‘em Coco. Then Neil Young (Neil. Young.) performed “Long May You Run” on dark stage with a single spotlight. It was very elegant and a lovely image and I liked that the chorus was a little on the nose. It was a farewell show after all.

But the ‘water cooler moments’ didn’t really happen till the end. Conan said that while there was a lot of talk about what he could say about his deal with NBC (his settlement includes an agreement that he will not speak of the thing for 3 months and not do a show of his own till September) he could, in fact, say whatever he pleased. And what did he choose to do? He chose the high-road thanking NBC for the work they had done together (adieu Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and masturbating bear), thanked his fans for their rabid support and then he said this: “To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."And I felt a little better. About everything.

This is not the first time we have had an experience with comedian as shaman. The first time, for me, was seeing Steve Martin’s “Let’s Get Small” bit on SNL when I was a kid. I didn’t know why it was funny, of course, but I knew it was funny somehow. I sort of waited for my brain to develop so I could get that joke. And I think we all remember hearing about Steven Colbert’s speech at the White House Correspondents Association dinner. I bet a few heads rolled after that one. I mean if Laura Bush really did say “Get F*cked” to him, as she allegedly did, then you have to think someone got fired for inviting him. Who was invited the next year? Rich Little. That vanilla sundae of a comedian who couldn’t offend a fly his imitation of it would be so complimentary. There’s Jon Stewart defining one of the many problems with the Bush administration with a Moment of Zen that featured George Bush holding hands with a Sheik from Saudi Arabia. David Letterman’s recent championing of climate change awareness.

The other great moment was the ending with Will Farrell the ZZ top dude and Beck singing Freebird in front of an enormous American flag. Free bird, a song that is used in so many jokes its gone Meta. Yelling Free Bird has morphed into a joke about bad jokes. Freebird sung by Will Ferrell with the beloved cowbell. It was pretty good (what was up with the annoying pregnant girlfriend bit, funnier in the writer’s room, I think) but what made it great was Conan playing the electric guitar as how he spent his final moments hosting The Tonight Show. Not many people get do to that at the job they just lost. Most people have to pack up their desk and carry it home on a crowded train, wake up the next morning and apply for unemployment. Conan was literally going out like a rock star. USA! USA! USA!

By the way, what is so great about The Tonight Show? Don’t get me wrong, I loved Johnny Carson, Doc Severenson and Ed McMahon like every other red-blooded American. I used to get to stay up late to watch it at a very young age. But I’m not sure it should mean as much to America as it does. Let it go America. And while we’re at it let Star Wars go, too. We had to let Michael Jackson go, didn’t we? You can still feel the sting of nostalgia but on your own time, not while I’m trying to watch the tube. The only thing you can feel nostalgic about is The Wire and even then only the first and last episodes. Besides, isn’t the formula of a host who opens with a monologue, has repartee with his band leader, signature comedy bits and talks to stars a mainstay now? I mean you take away the legacy of Johnny Carson, the time slot and that it’s on NBC and it’s just another late night show with a host who opens with a monologue has a repartee with his band leader and…oh wait…I get it now. Sorry. Yeah. I get it.

It was a good night of television, a rarity these days. I should know because I watch way too much of it.

My final words of wisdom from a clown come from Homer Simpson. Hearing these words (or word) was a small awakening for me. Homer is dealing with some crisis or other that I can’t recall right now what. Sometimes, I have a terrible memory for the Simpsons which is good since it allows me to see episodes over and over again and still find them funny. The other day I caught the Monorail episode (by Conan O’Brien, if I’m not mistaken) and I marveled at it. Anyway, Homer is having some big thing happen to him and Lisa says: “You know, Dad, the Chinese have the same word for crisis and opportunity” And Homer says: “Yeah. Crisatunity.”

See you in September, CoCo. If you do get another talk show, it will be your second highly anticipated show of the year. You’ll have relevance, not just a great job. You are fortunate, indeed.

A+, Conan

-Anita Deely, Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Interview with Madame Barker (Interview)

This past weekend I had a chance to sit down with the famed and infamed Madame Barker to discuss the new television season for NBC. We never got to that, instaed I took a trip down memory lane with the Madame, and boy was I in for a surprise...

It's great to finally talk to you.

Mind if I drink?

Do you always wear capes in the winter?

I do. They are delicious and attract the hungry. As you can see, I prefer Black Forest with whipped icing. Oh, I see capes. Yes. I wear a cape year round.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood.

I believe it was 1693, Massachusetts. I was born to Elizabeth Emerson, a Colonial teenaged slut or "rape victim", as she might be called these days. She tried to strangle both myself and my twin sister, but she only got it half right. They hanged dear Mother anyway. But they never found me. I burrowed through the Earth from the shallow grave where she left me and wound up in Wyoming.


Isn't that what I just said? Yes. Wyoming. There I started my career as a prostitute and a frontierswoman and an alcoholic. I became quite a shooter. I also was good with guns. I was well acquainted with the horse. I also was quite a rider. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show hired me in their traveling act. I became a trick rider and markswoman and alcoholic.

Is that when you taught Nijinski to dance?

That was a little later, when I was barnstorming out of Pascedena. I really never could teach him to dance very well. He had no focus or discipline, and he was wouldn't wear what I told him to.

What do you do during your down time?

In recent years, I caused Roman Empire to Fall
I knocked down the Berlin Wall
Followed you into the bathroom stall

What kind of person do you usually follow into the bathroom stall?

The kind that's in front of me.

I see.
(Falls down. Gets back up. Eats some cake.)

What projects are on the horizon for you?

I'm going to perform a little number at the Strawdog Phonebook Event on February 1, along with John Fournier and the Barker Dames. On February 5, me and the gang are going to do a pre-Valentine's Show at Strawdog at 11 p.m. Beyond that, I am hoping to make it through the winter mostly.

I really enjoyed your Christmas show.

You could see it from the bar you were at, you fucking liar? Couldn't get a ticket, could you? We were sold out. But I appreciate the flattery, you son of a bitch. You stinking harbinger of falsehood.

You are.

There was one?

Anything you want to say to the public?

I love you. You're my favorite.

Nice to see you again.

I used to work at the Goodman. THE GOODMAN!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Interview with Chuck Dubroski (Comedian)

This is an interview I got to do with one of my comedy heroes…

Back to Paradiiiiiise
an interview with Chuck Dubroski

Famous for his love of cheeseburgers and milkshakes and jokes about his dead parents, Chuck Dubroski rose to ethereal regions in the mid 80's and one of the best selling comedy records (the firestarter, 'Lizards for Sale") which won a grammy. We caught up with Chuck on his state fair "tour" to talk about the future, the past, and what it meant to be in "Paradiiiiiiise".

Which state fair has been your favorite so far?

Hey, honestly, they are ALL a treat...mostly cuz that's where the heart is, that's where the fun is, you know? My real fans, they are ready...after a full day of Tilt-a-Whirls and funnel cakes, where better to go than to a sweet Chuckie DUBRO set! But, the most memorable had to be the Pittsburgh Kansas one where Mudfoot Davis and His All Star Zydeco Band opened for me! Not really opened, he was on at noon and I was on at 6, but let me tell you, Mudfoot kicked up a storm and I almost got into a fight with about 6 townies [ed. - "Comedian Chuck Dubroski got into a scuffle with Jake "Mudfoot" Davis and his dog Sal at the Corn Queen Fair on Saturday after Dubroski kicked the dog into a cotton candy stand. Both men were over the legal BAC and were arrested for public drunkenness." - Pittsburgh Star, 7/23/05], but none could survive the Dubroski Pants Dance, get me??? HAH!

Is it hard to share a tour bus with country legends?

Well, Willie [Simonson] and George Jones [Johnson III] are great guys, always telling stories about the old days, but Hank [Phillips] can be a real jagoff!

Oh yeah?

Oh YEAH! Hey, you remembered another catch phrase! You did your homework! Hank [Phillips] is always hoggin' the bathroom...and hoggin' the LADIES, if you know what I mean? HAH! OH YEAH! That one never took off...

Where did you see yourself now in the mid 80's?

Well...I'm still doing what I love...over and over again for smaller houses, but hey! Who's counting? [ed. - Chuck's "Lizards for Sale" was taped in front of an audience of 25,000 at the Denver Auditorium in 1986. Chuck's last performance at Six Flags over Great America drew a crowd of 127 - 32 of which left when they found out that Dokken would not be headlining as promised.] But, love is making great comedy...I hope to still have a TV sitcom, that's where a guy like me can really shine! I once pitched an idea to Fox set around one of my many characters, Chinese Man, but they said it was a bit "un-PC"...*adopts horrible Chinese patois* can you BERIEVE it???? ASOH! ME SO SOLLY!

Does your ex-wife's ownership over your catchphrase create problems with your new act?

Bonnie, how are you, how's Pedro the Pool Boy???? Kidding! Bonnie and I are on really great terms. The divorce was a bit "hostile" as the scumbags...I mean lawyers, HAH!..say. But, really, she got what she deserved [ed. - Bonnie Dubroski nee Frances lives in a 12 room mansion in Beverly Hills with comedian John Pinette. Her ownership of Dubroski's catch-phrase "I'm in PARADIIIISE!" nets her approximately $730,000 per year.] and it doesn't really affect my act at all! Listen, I'm a talker, I get paid to come up with brilliant insights into the American condition, and it takes more than catchphrases to tap into that, my friend! I'm in HEAAAAVEN!!!!! HAH!

Talk a little about your new act and the way you see it fitting into the quilt of modern American comedy.

Well, still coming out to Halen's "Runnin with the Devil"...that's a staple...a Dubroski classic. I usually warm up with local color bits, and that's where I can really show off the homework. So many young guys, the younger comics they don't take the time to get to know the places they perform. You know, off the bus, do the set, on the bus again. Hey, it's tough, I get it...but you've got to get tough! That's what it's about, these kids can't go the distance. If there's a joke about the local bar, the local BBQ joint, the've GOT to hit that stuff. That's what the people want. I perform for them, not me. They are the paying customers. Usually after that I segue into the dead mom and dad jokes, which are screamers and I usually throw in the know, dead mom gets wet, she's called Cassie, giving dead dad the 'marvin'...but I'll keep em fresh...just to freak out the straights! HAH! But, really, what sets Dubroski apart is the way I can relate and riff with an audience. A lot of the new performers can't handle're gonna get heckled pal! Better get on it!

Any performers in particular?

Dane Cook, this Dave Attell guy, the jerk from the Chipmunks movies [ed. - David Cross, star of Arrested Development and Mr. Show, two shows considered cult classics of this generation of TV comedies.], even Larry the Cable Guy...WHO I LOVE, don't get me wrong! Hey Larry! Gitrdone! But, really, I always give the crowd what they want, and more importantly what they NEED. That's the Dubroski style, and it can't be stopped. A guy starts heckling, does the crowd want you to ignore it? Hell no, they want to see that guy get shut down! We aren't paying for you pal, we've come for the Chuckmeister! And that's the diff, my man...the relationship with me and the Dubroski fans, the Chuckleheads as they call themselves!

When did you decide to replace the cheeseburgers and shakes with ramen and tea?

Well, during the 90s things were a little nuts, I started drinking a LOT and you know how it goes, you get a little older and that kinda lifestyle can catch up. So, one night, I was HAMMERED drunk at a Fair in East Barlow, Texas and I started dipping the burger in the strawberry shake ON STAGE and ate the whole thing. I tell you, passing a burger, shake, and styrofoam cup and straw is a my ex-wife! Kidding! AHAH! So, after a few trips to the doctor and a couple of high colonics, we decided it was best to tone it down. Saves money too! Anything to keep the Dubroski Express running smooth!

Anything really bug you?

Manbags! Really, who thought that up? Why would I want a purse? If a wallet was good enough for Gramps Dubroski, it's good enough for me! Oh, and sitcoms with no laugh I need a pretentious comedy! Gimme some According To Jim and I'm ALL GOOD, YO! The worst is these new performers doing "Alt" comedy...*overenunciates* DOUBLE YOU TEE EFFF? Why would anyone sit through an hour act of someone with terrible diction, bad language, and comments about Roy Schieder's film career? This is funny? Sorry PAL, I ain't buying what you're selling. I mean, gimme some great comics ok! Robin Williams, Louie Anderson...there's a couple new guys that are good...Carlos Mencia! Love him. I mean, I was one of the trendsetters..."I don't come to where you work and knock the dick out of your mouth"...that was ME! I created that. [ed. - The first instance of this particular heckler response was in 1967 at a Lenny Bruce show in the East Village of New York.] All I do is comedy...that's all I think about...constantly trying to come out of the box with new things! MAMMA MIA, here I go again!

Finally, where did "I'm in paradise" come from?

Said it in Aspen at a ski lodge in like 1982...we were all really high on blow and it seemed appropriate. Just kinda stuck...*drawn out sigh while staring into the middle distance*

Have a safe trip.

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach