“Are you a John or are you a Paul?”
This is the catch-all personality test a friend of mine once suggested for use on all us toilers in the business of show. Meaning, are you a tortured, self-destructive soul who pours your guts out in your art? Or are you a happy, stable person who wants to get the job done, and get it done right?
For 40 years I’ve put Paul McCartney in the latter category. A genius, sure, but with a tradesman’s ethic and very few demons coming between him and his work.
Then I read Howard Sounes’ excellent McCartney bio, “Fab.” A meticulously researched book, it re-balances Macca’s life compared with other bios to put his post-Beatles efforts – personal and creative – under the lens. By doing so, this biography paints the portrait of a more complex character than we might have imagined.
I spoke to Sounes the other day by phone from his home in London and I realized that there are at least four major contradictions on display in McCartney’s persona.
1. Paul is the “cute” Beatle, the charmer, but he always needs to let everyone around him know who’s in charge.
Sounes’ refers to this as “a slightly less attractive side of Paul.” “He appears to be this genial easygoing guy, but he really likes to
be in control and has a pretty monstrous ego and that’s not necessarily the image he projects,” he told me. (more…)
Don’t ask me why but my proudest accomplishment when it comes to “The Inner Light” is that I got to name an episode of television after a Beatles song. And I don’t care if you say I’m a loser.
So you can imagine my excitement, while making my way through the long and winding stacks at Powell’s Books in Portland Oregon, when I stumbled upon TELL ME WHY, a fabulous work by music critic and classically trained pianist Tim Riley.
Okay, I get that there are others like me who have spent eight days a week for the last half century obsessing over every one of the 220 or so songs recorded by the foursome. But to actually write a book about it, examining every measure of music and putting it all in a sociological and interpersonal context? You can’t do that without passion for the subject. (more…)
One of my favorite tasks as a TV Showrunner is music spotting. This is the process by which you – along with the composer and music editor – pick the spots where music will play. Will it be “source music” – which means the characters in the show also hear it, because it’s coming from an on-screen “source” such as a car radio or TV or live performer? Or will it be a “cue,” which launches at a particular point in the action and ebbs and flows to enhance what we’re feeling.
I’ve seen a great score totally save a mediocre TV episode or make a great movie greater. I’ve often wondered if “Star Wars” would have been the phenomenon it became without John Williams’ masterful wall-to-wall score and his stirring, memorable themes. The music wasn’t “better” than the visuals but it told us loud and clear, “Take this movie seriously.”
As for “Star Trek,” the goofily sublime theme that Alexander Courage wrote for TOS, complete with beatnik bongos, exquisitely captured the Shatner-Kirk zeitgeist, while Jerry Goldsmith’s theme with its martial 2/4 time signature perfectly set the mood for TNG. Jay Chattaway not only picked up the baton with great brio, he contributed memorably to “The Inner Light” with his theme for the Ressikan Flute, since arranged for everything from Theremin to solo piano to full orchestra. (It is apparently his best-known work.) (more…)