In music, fashion, and beauty (have you seen the album cover of Aladdin Sane?!), David Bowie is an icon. He will be influential for centuries to come. So in honor of Mr. Bowie’s 65th birthday, let’s dance.
Penn Badgley, best known as Dan Humprey on the CW’s Gossip Girl, will play late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley in an upcoming biopic. The film entitled Greetings from Tim Buckley will begin shooting in August under director Dan Algrant. Robert Pattinson, who has also expressed interest in the role, may still get his chance to play the troubador–another film is in the works with the Buckley family behind the scenes is set to begin prep in September. Who do you think should play the late-great Jeff Buckley? Whoever is it, they better get to researching! Check out this “study guide” of Buckley’s 1994 version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” below.
Hilken Mancini is up on stage at Cambridge’s T.T. the Bear’s. Her pale spider monkey arms linked to lissome fingers that scrupulously strum a glossy, cherry-red guitar. She seldom takes her wide, green eyes off the guitar’s neck to emerge from under a curtain of blonde fringe. She belts out a cover of the Go-Betweens’ “Rock and Roll Friend” with fellow ‘90s rocker Mary Lou Lord before rocking out on guitar and later thumping on drums, stomping her caramel-colored boots all over the stage with her all-female band, Shepherdess.
But Mancini does more than put on a good show. Last year she co-founded the Jamaica Plain-based Girls Rock Camp, a non-profit organization that teaches girls aged eight to 16 to form a rock band, write an original song, and perform it live at T.T. the Bear’s—all in a single week. “If I were to pick up a trombone right now, I’d probably be really bad at it. You don’t have to be destroyed because you failed the first time you tried something new.” But this concept is foreign to the campers. “It’s insane to them,” Mancini says. “I’m gonna have to learn how to play an instrument?” she says, mimicking the voice of a teenage girl. “And then I’m gonna be in a band? And then I’m gonna write a song? And then I’m gonna get onstage in front of my parents, and my grandparents, and my best friends?”
It’s 9:30 on a Saturday night on Massachusetts Avenue and Wally’s Café is already at capacity of 99 people. A group of about ten twenty-somethings wearing trendy sneakers and perfectly distressed jeans wait anxiously outside the chipped red door blocked by a large African-American man, who lets two people out and another two in.
Inside it’s dark. The tiny place is packed; men and women guard their mate’s barstools, because a open seat at Wally’s is hard to come by. Black-and-white photos of long-gone jazz legends line the exposed brick wall parallel to an elongated bar that stretches from the to the stage. The four-piece ensemble is already playing on the barely-elevated stage—an amber-red drum set, a golden Les Paul guitar, a brassy sax, and a hefty double bass are all tenderly plucked and pounded on in ten-minute improvisation jazz tunes all while submerged in moody red lighting.
Sitting dead center at the bar, is a young well-manicured man wearing a dark wool tuxedo jacket with a stiff, pale pink shirt collar peeping out, head swaying, toes tapping.The bar’s younger patrons, dressed in ripped jeans and sneakers, also swing and drum to the twisting jazz grooves.
The owner and manager, Frank Poindexter, flutters down a white paper napkin before carefully placing the dapper man’s cocktail in front of him “There are not that many places in Boston where there is so much nostalgia there, and a lot of people want to be part of that,” says Poindexter. “ Wally’s is an American story.”
Jared Lucas Nathanson fondly recalls his creamsicle-colored plastic record player; he would prance all over the house with it listening to the Mister Rogers album “Josephine the Short-Neck Giraffe” when he was just three years old. When he was eight, Nathanson graduated to funk band Heatwave and Saturday Night Fever, then as a teenager onto Men At Work. He’s been a record collector ever since. Nathanson is now 38 and plays in Boston-based blues, pop-rock band The HeartSleeves and dreams of distributing his music on vinyl: “When you put your soul into your music, wouldn’t you rather someone listened to it in that thoughtful and respectful context if you could?”
Nathanson is not alone. More and more Boston audiophiles are buying vinyl records in the age of digital music. Although overall music album sales dropped 13 percent in 2010, vinyl sales increase by 14 percent—marking a new high point for vinyl sales since 1991 in the wake of the CD explosion—according to Nielsen SoundScan. In 2010, Vinyl is the fastest growing music medium with 2.8 million units sold. In October 2007, Amazon.com launched a vinyl-only store—today the site sells over one million records.
Artist: TV on the Radio
Album: Dear Science
Remember this sweet, indie-rock gem from when Brooklyn was still kind of hip and not overly invested with hipsters? Check out the video below, with the band clad in white Jedi robes, playing solid gold instruments sent straight from heaven in what appears to be on the set of a retro ’70s dinosaur flick.
Best Lyrics: “Like the sun spitting happiness into the hereafter. Oh, here it comes like a natural disaster. Ah, blowing up like a ghetto blaster. Ah, here it comes, bring it faster.”
Artist: France Gall
Album: Baby Pop
You’ve got to love the stereotypical portrayal of the French as romantically tragic and sentimental, discussing existential literature while puffing through packs of cigarettes and sipping red wine. It seems like even Serge Gainsbourg’s blond-haired Parisian protegé France Gall had this act down by the age of 18. The petite fille isn’t singing about something infantile like whipping her hair back and forth, but how forlorn the future can be. How moody and French is that? Le sigh.
Best Lyrics: “Tu seras une pauvre gosse. Seule et abandonnée. Tu finiras par te marier. Peut-être même contre ton gré. À la nuit de tes noces. Il sera trop tard pour. Le regretter.”
Google Translation: “You will be a poor kid. Alone and abandoned. You’re gonna marry. Maybe even against your will. On the night of your wedding. It will be too late to. Regret.”
The Boston Public Health Commission deemed Usher as the least healthy artist of 2010, with his singles “Lil Freak” and “Hot Tottie” topping their list of Top Ten Unhealthy Relationship Songs of 2010. The list also includes Eminem featuring Rihanna’s “Love The Way You Lie,” Ke$ha’s “Your Love Is My Drug,” and Justin Bieber featuring Sean Kingston’s “Eenie Meenie.” How do you determine if a song is unhealthy for teenagers?
“It’s technically a very rigorous process,” said Casey Corcoran, director of Start Strong, an initiative of the Boston Public Health Commission that focuses on the well being of local adolescents. According to Corcoran, the main five components of unhealthy songs are drama (unhealthy conflict—such as yelling and resentful arguing), possession or obsession, disrespect, sex as the main part of the relationship, and manipulation. The Start Strong team of 24 students that were recruited from healthy relationship community centers throughout Boston and range from 15 to 18-year-olds, chose popular songs from the Billboard Top 100 chart and examined the lyrics in co-ed pairs to determine if these toxic elements were present, then scored them up to fifty points according to their intensity.
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Album: Greatest Hits
This is one of those songs that I had to learn to love. It was on a burned CD entitled “Snowboarding Mix” that I snatched from my older sister at some point in my music-obsessed adolescence. The song has been on my calming pre-bedtime mix ever since, sandwiched between Enya and this guy.
Apparently, this song is about a prostitute (which by reading the lyrics one could easily assume the same) and it was featured on the Jerry Maguire soundtrack. Being eight years old when the film came out and innately associating Tom Cruise as a couch-jumping scientologist, I made this monumental discovery relatively recently. But get those images of Renée Zellweger in garish ’90s makeup croaking out “You had me at hello”–this twinkling chanson meanders just enough until reeling us back in with that redemptive, velvety saxaphone outro.
Best Lyrics: “She’ll let you come just far enough so you know she’s really there.”