Just Giblets

What a Life!

22nd April 2013
by Michael

What a Life!

Chrissy AmphlettTerribly saddened to hear this morning of the death of Chrissy Amphlett, former lead singer of the Australian band Divinyls.  She passed away in her home in New York City where she lived with her husband, former Divinyls drummer, Charlie Drayton, after suffering from breast cancer with which she was diagnosed in 2010 and MS in 2007.  She was only 53 years old.

Although best known in the States for her titillating Top 5 U.S. hit “I Touch Myself” in 1991, the Divinyls came into my life in 1983 with the U.S. release of their first album, Desperate.  I was introduced to Divinyls by my friend Doug, who was the one who often discovered these bands first, and I wasn’t thoroughly convinced right away.  Their first single, “Boys in Town” was a smash, Top 10 in Australia, but it only got a little airplay in the States.  The song that captivated me from their first album was the clever love song, “Science Fiction.”  With its witty lyrics and catchy pop hook, “Science Fiction” just gets in my head and keeps me singing.

Their follow-up album, “What a Life!” was arguably their breakout album on alternative radio in the States, led by their first charting single in the States, “Pleasure and Pain,” written by Holly Knight and Mike Chapman.  Every song on that album is a winner, but once again, it was their second single that had the biggest impact on me, the beautiful pop confection, “Sleeping Beauty.”  It’s a beautiful song with subversive lyrics, barely contained sexuality, and a feminist twist that was often found in Amphlett and McEntee’s songs.

Divinyls will be well remembered for their intense stage performances, and Chrissy’s wild antics and school girl outfits.  She hurled herself across the stage, pouting, sneering, careening into her partner-in-crime, guitarist Mark McEntee.  I was fortunate to see Divinyls perform life several times, from tiny clubs like Axis to much larger venues, and even got to go backstage to meet them after their self-titled album that spawned their biggest it.  I will cherish a photo I have with the band, and Chrissy running her fingers through my hair.  I like to say, the woman who touches herself was touching my hair.

They went on to record several more albums peaking with their afore-mentioned smash hit, “I Touch Myself.”  Chrissy also performed on stage and screen.  Her film debut was the Austrlian film MONKEY GRIP, released in 1982.  She had successful theatre experiences, playing Judy Garland in the touring company of “The Boy from Oz,” and playing the lead in “Blood Brothers.”

Chrissy announced her diagnosis of MS at the start of their 2007 tour, and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.  The last years of her life were difficult as her body failed her.  But her music will live on.  Divinyls were a major part of the soundtrack of my life in the 80′s.  Everytime I go back and listen to their catalog I thrill to the songwriting skills and musicianship found in their music.  Chrissy Amplett was a pioneer for women in rock, unafraid of her sexuality, rage, and vulnerability that found her a unique and ground-breaking place in the male-dominated industry.  I will remember her and her music as an integral part of my coming-of-age.

posted in 1980s, Divinyls, Music | at 7:51 am | 0 Comments
17th October 2009
by Michael

Anne Murray at the Hippodrome

Thanks to the fabulous Jann Arden I found this amazing video of Anne Murray performing with some of the biggest early 80s British pop stars of the day. Don’t miss it. It’s work watching. Anne Murray rocks!

posted in 1980s, Canada, Music | at 12:52 pm | 0 Comments
10th July 2009
by Scot

Forever Plaid, Not So Bad. (Not so hot, either.)

Forever PlaidThanks to Chris Caggiano and some lady at NCM Fathom (a division of National CineMedia), Michael and I were able to see the one-time-only 20th Anniversary Special “cinecast” of Forever Plaid. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it. It’s a four person musical that opened Off-Broadway in 1990 and ran for many years. (The 20th anniversary, presumably, celebrates one of its pre-New York limited runs in smaller theaters.)

The premise of the show is that a quartet of clean-cut young men, on their way to pick up snazzy plaid tuxedos to top off their burgeoning swing/jazz vocal career, are killed when their Mercury crashes into a busload of Catholic schoolgirls who were headed to watch the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. We are able to watch them perform the show they always meant to do because they have one tiny reprieve from the afterlife. That’s about it for the plot and it always has been. It’s basically a cute excuse to perform a lot of nice 50′s and 60′s tight harmony numbers well, with a wink and a nudge.

The show is now pretty much a staple of regional dinner theatres, and truth be told, that’s probably where it should stay. It’s a cute show and with the right voices, makes for a satisfying dessert. My 86-year-old (I think that’s right) father-in-law would love it. My grandma would have loved it too, if I’d taken her twenty years ago. But alas, she passed several years ago. I was really hoping to love it too because I really dig the sounds of The Hi-Lo’s, who I consider the masters of this kind of tight harmony vocal acrobatics. But in the end, the film and associated live-broadcast performance left me feeling like I’d watched a fun HBO theatre special from 1980, like Annette O’Toole in Vanities or Margot Kidder in Bus Stop — an amusing two hours, but kinda like “donuts for dinner.”

So here I sit, wanting something a little meteor meatier. Why? The voices were just fine. The guys were mostly coming across very sincere, so the jokes played just fine. Some jokes were pretty lame, and the constant bumbling was a bit much to stomach outside of a dinner theatre setting, but I’m not one to quibble about that.

But first of all, the evening was presented as if it were going to be a live broadcast of the stage show. At least, that’s what I thought from the trailer we saw Tuesday at the Harvard Square Lowes. Instead, what we got was a live introduction from Fred Willard at some unknown theater in Los Angeles rambling on about how awesome it was that this was being broadcast in 500 cinemas in the U.S. and Canada. Then they showed a movie. A movie staged and shot months before. Then, the live broadcast returned to Fred Willard’s theater and — to their credit — the cast members performed some live numbers.

Second, the voices were lovely, but they did not have the energy or punch of The Hi-Lo’s. That’s just me, I know, raising my expectations based on a really high bar. The Hi-Lo’s were named that for a reason: a really, really wide range of pitch, including a first tenor that sounded like a freaking coronet. (If you haven’t heard them, lemme play you a few tracks.) Besides a few bass-heavy numbers, the Plaids were more like The Four Freshmen or … I dunno, the Ink Spots. More suited for recordings or concerts than dynamic theatre. In fact, it wasn’t until the after-film live numbers that I could even hear the high tenor wail and then I think it wore on him cause he started to crack or go flat after the first couple numbers.

Third, the direction of the film was just awful. Sorry, but you know how I said it was like an 80′s HBO theatre special? Let me amend that by saying it was like an 80′s HBO theatre special run through Adobe After Effects. Someone didn’t trust the actors to keep our attention and insisted on inserting all kinds of graphics and animation over the performers. Particularly distracting was the sheet music frame around the Scottish number and the floating business cards around their event-related medley. Ick. But what do you expect? The director was Stuart Ross, the man who conceived, wrote, and directed the stage show. All he’s credited with directing on IMDB are this film, one episode of Frasier, and one episode of Veronica’s Closet. It looks like Dad ran Baby’s first birthday through some cheesy iMovie effects.

And finally, the film boasts that it has original cast members from the stage show. Well, David Engel, who plays the bass vocalist Smudge is pretty cool. He’s my favorite performer, all told, in the film. He’s adorably goofy, but not too annoying, and gets an awesome “stud moment” late in the show. But Stan Chandler, who plays the first tenor Jinx is looking… well, like he should be 20 years younger. Oddly, so does Larry Raben, who plays Sparky, the “cut up” of the group. I’m not sure why he was cast, since he was not in the original cast and he’s playing the role created by one of my favorites — Jason Graae. Not sure what Jason’s been up to lately. He must be lying low. The fourth member, Frankie was played by Daniel Reichard of Jersey Boys fame. He was pretty good, but I can’t say I have the same attraction to him that Chris does. He’s a little too pretty.

The evening was not bad by any means, however. There is a singalong component to Forever Plaid, which I love under most contexts. I was singing my lungs out to “Matilda” along with a few others in the audience. And the after-film performance had a bit of that too. It was kind of difficult, since there were only 17 people in our audience at the Fenway 13 cinema (including the four of us who got in on Chris’s press comps), and the live performance tried to divide us into four-part harmony. But WTF. I took the high road and sang the first tenor in falsetto because there were so few people there to be embarrassed in front of.

But there were two really special parts of the evening. In the post-film performance, the Plaids trot out — OMG — Carol Effing Channing!!! She sings “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” admonishing the audience for applauding after the first verse because “I’m not DZHUN yeyat!” And then the Plaids try to get her to teach “us” how to sing “Sh-boom, Sh-boom. Ya-da-da-da-da, Ya-da-da-da.” But she’s unsure if she’s singing the right number of “Ya-da-da’s.” Priceless. And God knows, this may be the closest I get to seeing her live before she leaves us!

The other special part was getting to meet Chris and his friend Victor, who he knows from the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. Such charismatic men, both! At one point, I turned to Michael to explain that Forever Plaid was a bit like Nunsense, but since it had very little plot, it was more like Oil City Symphony. Chris grabbed my hand and said, “You just said Oil City Symphony. We are going to get on just fine.” Or something like that. My heart melted in a totally non-adulturous way.

Here’s to the power of digital media. It can stream Fred Willard live to 17 people in Boston. Or it can make really awesome friends.

posted in 1980s, Friends, Movies, Musicals, Reviews, Theatre, Web | at 1:35 am | 3 Comments
1st July 2009
by Scot

A perfect place for zombies

Carnival of SoulsIn the last two days, I’ve watched a good bit of b-film horror, including Silent Night, Bloody Night, Horror Hotel (aka The City of the Dead), and most of Carnival of Souls. And now, the fog lays low on our street. It’s quite creepy really, and I’ve just looked over our back balcony to the tree-canopied backyard that cannot grow grass, only moss.

I can’t help thinking we need to throw a Thriller party.

I know. That’s so unlike me.

posted in 1980s, Horror, Movies, OMGWTFBBQ!?, Weather | at 12:05 am | 0 Comments
14th September 2008
by Michael

Something I NEVER thought I’d see

So, during the first two or three years of the 1980s, my favorite band was a little South African outfit called Spider.  They had one top 40 hit called “New Romance (It’s A Mystery)” but became better known for a what a couple of their members went on to do after the band broke up.  Anton Fig was their drummer, and he was well-known for performing nightly on the David Letterman show.  Holly Knight played keyboards, and she went on to be a famous songwriter who wrote songs for the likes of Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, Heart, Aerosmith and many, many more.

Having missed my one chance to see them live (they were supposed to open for Alice Cooper at the Cape Cod Coliseum and I bought tickets but the show was cancelled!) and never having known them to shoot a video, I thought my chances of ever seeing them perform — even faking it — were nil.  Well, leave it to YouTube. You’ll recognize the song because Tina Turner went on to make it a huge hit.  However, Spider recorded it first, and this version will always be the one I remember and cherish the most.  (Although it’s edited way down in this clip.)

Feast your eyes on this!

posted in 1980s, Music, Video | at 9:12 pm | 0 Comments
Subscribe
RSS 2.0 Feed
Comments Feed
  • Archives

    open all | close all