Monthly Archives: November 2012

Forever Young

“Is it hard to make arrangements with yourself, when you’re old enough to repay, but young enough to sell.”  Tell Me Why, Neil Young

Today we honor Neil Young on his 67th birthday–old enough for sure.  And still young enough to sell, with a new biography, new cd, and epic concert tour all on the market right now.

Over six decades, Neil has produced some of rock’s most haunting melodies and enigmatic lyrics.  From crafting the country rock sound with Buffalo Springfield, weaving orchestral dreamscapes with his eponymous solo debut,  firing off fevered, mono-note  excursions on his first record with Crazy Horse, adding sound and fury to Crosby, Still, and Nash, defining the genre of acoustic troubadour with “After The Gold Rush” and “Harvest,” defying expectations with his output in the ’70s that gave us enduring anthems like “Cortez The Killer,”  and “Like a Hurricane,”  ending the decade triumphantly with “Rust Never Sleeps” and its epic saga “Powderfinger,” experimenting with disco, rockabilly, and electronica in the 80’s, then closing that decade with still another timeless anthem–“Rockin’ in the Free World,”  powering on in the  90’s with “Harvest Moon” his beautiful counterpart to “Harvest,” and continuing his prolific output even last week with the release of “Psychedelic Pill” and its masterpiece of AARP angst “Ramada Inn,”  Young has defied the odds as he produces music for the ages.

On this, his 67th birthday, I’d like to list some of the musical metaphors and images that have formed the soundtrack of my life:

“What is the color, when black is burnt?”  I Am A Child, Buffalo Springfield.

“They say the old laughing lady’s been here before.  She don’t keep time. She don’t keep score.”  The Old Laughing Lady, Neil Young.

“A dreamer of pictures, I run in the night.”  Cinnamon Girl, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.

“Old enough now, to change your name. When so many love you, is it the same?”  Cowgirl In The Sand, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.

“Don’t let it bring you down, it’s only castles burning.”  Don’t Let It Bring You Down, After The Gold Rush.

“I want to live, I want to give, I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold.”  Heart of Gold, Harvest

“See the lonely boy, out on the weekend.”  Out On The Weekend, Harvest.

“Blue, blue windows behind the stars.  Yellow moon on the rise. Big birds flying across the sky.  Throwing shadows on our eyes.”  Helpless Deja Vu.

“Back in those old folkie days.  The air was magic when we played.”  Ambulance Blues, On The Beach

“All the bush league batters are left to die on the diamond.  In the stands, the home crowd scatters.  For the turnstiles.”  For The Turnstiles, On The Beach

“He came dancing across the water, with his galleons and guns.”  Cortez The Killer, Zuma.

“I am just a dreamer,  and you are just a dream.”  Like A Hurricane, American Stars and Bars.

“It’s better to burn out, than to fade away.  My my, hey, hey.”  Out of the Blue, Rust Never Sleeps.

“Lookout mama, there’s a white boat coming up the river.”  Powderfinger, Rust Never Sleeps.

“Somewhere on a desert highway. She rides a Harley-Davidson.  Her long blond hair flying in the wind . . . The chrome and steel she rides colliding with the very air she breathes. ”  Unknown Legend, Harvest Moon

“I’ve got a thousand points of light for the homeless man. I got a kinder, gentler machine gun hand.”  Keep On Rockin’ In the Free World, Freedom.

The list could go on and on.  Please add your favorites to the comments section.

Long may you run, Neil.  And many happy returns.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”  ― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Mississippi Burning Over Paris: Faulkner Sues Woody

“There’s a whole lot of magic when you’re in Paris. . . .I want to tell you ’bout all I see.  Stars in my eyes that you would not believe”  Midnight In Paris, Stephen Stills

It never occurred to me that Woody Allen and Stephen Stills shared the same aesthetic.  Stills, of course, achieved fame and notoriety as a member of The Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Still, Nash and (sometimes) Young.  He’s written and sung anthems for his generation–(“For What It’s Worth, Carry On, Woodstock)–and his battles, on and off stage, are the stuff of legend, including an episode in the early ’80s when Stephen’s then-bandmate Bonnie Bramlett  reportedly punched Elvis Costello in a Ohio Holiday Inn bar.

Woody Allen, on the other hand, has always favored wits over fists.  When Stills was telling the crowd at Woodstock that he was “scared shitless” before breaking into Suite:Judy Blue Eyes, Woody was probably playing Dixieland clarinet at his regular weekly gig at Michael’s Pub in Manhattan while pondering  the absurdity of life.  The auteur claims to have been thrown out of college for cheating on his metaphysics exam (“I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me”).  In Annie Hall, when he dates the wispy Rolling Stone writer (Shelley Duvall), his absolute disdain for the entire Rock genre is palpable.

Yet when it comes to France’s City of Lights, Woody and Stephen see eye to eye, with Woody taking a title out of the Stephen Stills songbook.  Stephen’s 1976 solo album contained “Midnight In Paris,” with lyrics celebrating the joy and wonder of that magical place.  Woody’s 2010 film by the same name not only won praise from critics and audiences, but also exuded the same spirit of awe and wonder as Stills’ song about “stars in your eyes that you would not believe.”

Woody’s Paris, too, is populated by an unbelievable constellation of stars.  When struggling writer Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is stranded by his shallow fiance on a gaslight Paris lane, he soon finds himself whisked upon a journey to past–to the literary salons and speakeasy of jazz age Paris, where he encounters a who’s who of the era’s cultural elite.  Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and even Dali!, populate Gil’s nightly jaunts.  When he returns to the present, aglow with  heady banter and bon mots, he’s eager to share his new-found enlightenment.  In one scene, Pender exclaims, “The past is not dead! Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.”

This line added to the picture’s panache, but hardly was a defining moment.   With so many literary and artistic heroes crowding each frame, and with the Hemingway character itching for a fight in every scene, Woody’s nod to Faulkner hardly stood out.

But it didn’t escape the attention of Faulkner’s estate.  And unlike Woody’s many fans, Faulkner’s folks did not see this as a laughing matter, even though the line merely paraphrased Faulkner and gave him attribution.  They’ve sued.  Faulkner Literary Rights, LLC, the owner of William Faulkner’s literary properties,  filed a complaint in the US District Court in Mississippi against Woody’s studio, Sony Pictures Classics, Inc. for copyright infringement, violation of the Lanham, and commercial misappropriation. Faulkner’s estate asks for “damages, disgorgement of profits, costs and attorneys fees.” The complaint states, “The Copyright Act grants Faulkner the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the Book and the Original Quote.”  The complaint also alleges that, “The use of the infringing quote and of William Faulkner’s name in the infringing film is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, and/or to deceive the infringing film’s viewers as to a perceived affiliation, connection, or association between William Faulkner and his works, on the one hand, and Sony, on the other hand.”

Sony’s response so far has been terse and emphatic:   “There is no question this brief reference (10 words) to a quote from a public speech Faulkner gave constitutes fair use and any claim to the contrary is without merit.”

The merits of this literary/cinematic stand-off will now be played out in a Mississippi courtroom.  Whether it will be all sound and fury, signifying nothing remains to be seen.  But even though Woody Allen may appear diffident, Faulkner should not take him lightly.  As he showed when playing Fielding Melesh in Take The Money And Run, Woody can be a  formidable interrogator.   Perhaps Mr. Allen will invoke the literary conceit from Midnight In Paris and journey to the past himself to confront his accuser, where he’d surely use his signature line of cross-examination: Are you being coy, Mr. Faulkner?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It seemed the world was divided into good and bad people. The good ones slept better… while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more.Woody Allen


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