Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon


This and That

Posted in Jazz,Music,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other,Sumo,The Kinks by bourdaghs on the June 24th, 2010

We spent yesterday afternoon at the Field Museum of Natural History, taking in the “Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age” exhibit. The centerpiece artifact is Lyuba, the one-month-old mammoth discovered frozen below the permafrost in northern Russia in 2007. She is remarkably well preserved for a creature some 40,000 years old: she is even cute in a baby animal sort of way. But as I gawked I couldn’t stop myself from wondering what separated this scientific exhibit from, say, the curios that drew crowds in 1840s and 50s New York to P.T. Barnum’s Museum. Well, it’s something to do with the kids on a summer afternoon, and it’s air conditioned.

(Image source)

If I were in England this weekend, I’d be trying to worm my way into the Glastonbury Festival. Among many others, one Raymond Douglas Davies will be taking the stage for a set on Sunday. A preview article notes the role the Kinks had in establishing this annual music festival back in 1970:

In 1970, founder and dairy farmer Michael Eavis decided to hold a music event and booked the Kinks for 500 pounds but, when they failed to show, got Marc Bolan instead.

Typical. Ray is a little better about these things nowadays, so presumably he will actually play his scheduled set.

Tonight, the plan is to catch the fabulous jazz chanteuse Dee Alexander in a free concert out on the Midway Plaisance. Summertime, and the living’s easy….

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This and That

Posted in baseball,Current Events,Music,The Kinks by bourdaghs on the June 5th, 2010

It won’t last for long, which is all the more reason to commemorate the occasion here: as of this morning, I have moved into first place in the “Critical Asian Studies” fantasy baseball league. It’s a nice little ending for what’s been mostly a chaotic week.

Sad news from Los Angeles re the passing of legendary basketball coach John Wooden. One of the pleasures of teaching at UCLA in the late 1990s and early 2000s was that every once in a while you would walk past the great man on campus, still quite spry in his 90s. “Don’t give up on your dreams,” he once said, “or your dreams will give up on you.”

Kan Naoto, the new Prime Minister of Japan, was actually our local Diet representative when we lived in Fuchu-shi in western Tokyo from 2005-2007. We used to see posters of his face all around the neighborhood at election times. And now I live just a few blocks from the residence of the current President of the U.S. Apparently, I am fated to haunt the neighborhoods of power….

Finally, here’s a lovely new feature on one of the last Kinks’ music videos, “Lost and Found” (1987). A rarely seen clip based largely on Ray Davies’ cinemaphilia, it takes up a lovely, melancholic tune, and the folks at the Kast Off Kinks website have tracked down several people involved in filming the video. Be sure to check out the video and the interviews there, but for now let me leave you with another video of the Kinks ‘performing’ the song ‘live’ in a late 1980s television appearance:

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This and That

Posted in baseball,Current Events,Music,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other,Sumo,The Kinks by bourdaghs on the March 20th, 2010

The sumo tournament in Osaka has reached the midway point, and as expected sole yokozuna Hakuho (7-0) has dominated. But two promising rikishi have also stepped up to take advantage of the opening created by yokozuna Asashoryu’s sudden retirement last month: ozeki Harumafuji, the former Ama and a disappointment since his promotion to ozeki a couple of years back, is now 7-0, as is sekiwake Baruto, who could win promotion to ozeki with a championship in this tournament. Baruto in particular has been impressive: he just looks much more serious about things this time around, his goofy grin a thing of the past. Down in the maegashira ranks, Tokitenku is also 7-0, but that’s just a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

In the meanwhile, spring has arrived in Chicago (never mind those snowflakes falling outside the window as I write these words). I celebrate by listening to Minnesota Twins spring training games in the afternoon at my office. I’m pretty optimistic about the coming season, despite noises being made by local White Sox fans….

In the category, “It’s bloody well about time”: Universal betting on lower prices to boost CD sales.

Ray Davies continues to wow them on his current tour. MSN.com reports that “Ray Davies rules on second night of SXSW.”

The coming week should be a hectic one for me. I’m in Philadelphia on Monday and Tuesday for the NCC 3D conference, then up to Princeton for the “Rethinking ‘Hihyo’: Postwar Literary Criticism and Beyond” workshop, then back down to Philadelphia on Thursday for the 2010 AAS Annual Meeting.

I leave you with the late Alex Chilton. I saw him play with the reunited Big Star seven or eight years ago at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. It was a joyous occasion, especially when they covered The Kinks’ “‘Till the End of the Day.” Ray Davies dedicated that song to Chilton in his performance at SXSW this week (where Chilton had been scheduled to play) and spoke from the stage about how Chilton had visited him in the hospital after he was shot in New Orleans. A great songwriter and a wonderful voice: so long, Mr. Chilton.

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Check Out the Shoes

Posted in Putting One Foot in Front of the Other,The Kinks by bourdaghs on the March 16th, 2010

Granted, this may be taking my Kinks mania in an entirely unhealthy direction, but just check out the shoes Ray wore at his gig in Kansas City last night (full review of the show here). I thought it was pretty cool when for my birthday last year my wife and daughter finally gave me those Converse low-top black sneakers I’d been lusting after forever and ever, but after this they seem pretty small potatoes.

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Ray Davies at the Riviera, 3/13/2010

Posted in Music,The Kinks by bourdaghs on the March 14th, 2010

It was a terrific show last night, powerful enough to sweep away any lingering mental and spiritual cobwebs. It was, in short, just what I needed. After a spirited opening set by LA band The 88, Ray took the stage with his accompanist, Bill Shanley, and opened with the wistful “This is Where I Belong.” He followed up immediately with the acoustic blues version of “You Really Got Me” that he developed for The Storyteller show, the number morphing halfway through into “I Need You,” and we were off and running. He asked the audience how they were feeling and then added, “Do you want to know how I’m feeling?,” whereupon he burst into song: “Well, baby, I feel good” (“‘Till The End of the Day”).

He played tunes from all stages of his career, including early (“Too Much on My Mind,” “Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy,” “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?,” “Sunny Afternoon,” “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” “See My Friends,” “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” “Tired of Waiting”), mid (“Two Sisters,” “Victoria,” “Apeman,” “Twentieth Century Man”), late (“The Hard Way”) and solo (“In A Moment,” “The Tourist”). Highlights included two songs I’d never heard live before, “Nothin’ in This World (Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl)” and “Postcard from London.” The latter, released just a few months ago as a duet with Chrissie Hynde, worked remarkably well in the stripped down version Ray performed. We were also treated to Ray singing a verse of “A Well Respected Man” in his best Johnny Cash voice, as well as his imitations of David Letterman (so-so) and Paul Schaffer (pretty good), and a touch of an Irish folksong in honor of St. Patrick’s Day–Shanley played brilliantly on this and everything else through the evening. A high energy version of “All Day and All of the Night” closed the acoustic portion of the show.

Ray was in fine voice and seemed in good spirits throughout. For this Kinks’ fan, it’s been gratifying these past few years to see him relax and simply enjoy the respect and adulation he’s earned. The 88 returned to the stage to back Ray for a powerful final set that lit the joint on fire: “You Really Got Me” (reprised with heavy guitars and drums), “David Watts,” “Celluloid Heroes,” “Dead End Street,” “Low Budget,” and finally “Lola.” After playing most of the show from a sitting position, during the closing set Ray was jumping up and down and racing across the stage, looking nothing at all like a 65-year-old senior citizen.

The crowd was a typical Ray/Kinks mixture: young ‘uns in their twenties, gray hairs in their seventies (some literally with canes), and everything in between. I rode the Red Line El train home with a big grin on my face. For the umpteenth time, I’d participated in the big communal singalong on the chorus to “Lola”: that’s the closest thing there is to a religious ritual in my life.

Fan videos from the show:

This and That

Posted in baseball,Music,Sumo,The Kinks by bourdaghs on the March 13th, 2010

On the dark side, tomorrow we take our first step into that gray new world known as post-Asashoryu sumo. Yokozuna Hakuho is the prohibitive favorite to take home the title in Osaka (has it really been a year since I was there in person for Day 8 last March, watching Asashoryu knock off Baruto in a fierce match?). Ozeki Kotooshu seems the only possible threat to Hakuho’s championship, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Kotooshu over the years, it’s that he shrinks like a banana souffle anytime he gets close to something good. Perhaps his recent marriage will change things, but my money’s on Hakuho (ho-hum: the subtle sound of a middle-aged man yawning).

Even darker, this is the week we learned the Minnesota Twins may have to live without relief ace, Joe Nathan. There are some viable replacement candidates already on the roster, including the marvelous Pat Neshek, back after an injury-related break of nearly two years, and Francisco Liriano has been tantalizingly good so far. But the loss of Nathan has Twins’ fans literally offering up parts of their own bodies in hopes of resuscitating Nathan’s pitching arm.

On the bright side, I’m taking Satoko to see Ray Davies in concert tonight at the Riviera. The last show we saw by him here in Chicago, a little more than a year ago, was transcendent, and reports from previous gigs on the current tour are quite positive. Here’s a little taste of what’s in store for me:

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Songs in High Rotation Just Now

Posted in Books,Music,The Kinks by bourdaghs on the March 10th, 2010

“Little Bird” by Eels (from their new CD, End Times) is one of the better break-up songs I’ve encountered lately.

I have tickets to see the one and only Ray Davies here in Chicago on Saturday night. Here’s one of the back-catalog songs he’s resuscitated for the current tour:

And here’s Delroy Wilson’s 1968 cover of the obscure Motown song, “Put Yourself in My Place” (apologies for the abrupt cut off at the end):

Ah, the sadness of pop songs. As Nick Hornby sums it up so admirably in High Fidelity, “Which came first, the music or the misery? Did I listen to music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to music? Do all those records turn you into a melancholy person?” Hell if I know, but Mr. Bartender can I please have change for this fiver so I can plug another handful of quarters into the jukebox?

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I’m back!

Posted in Music,The Kinks by bourdaghs on the March 5th, 2010

Apologies for the radio silence around here lately. It’s been a wee bit busy on the South Side the past week or two. I’ll resume real blogging in short order, but in the meanwhile, here’s a clip I posted here a zillion years ago that’s well worth revisiting. It’s Kate Rusby’s cover of one of the very greatest of Kinks’ songs, “Village Green Preservation Society.” Nice slide show to go with it, too.

We are the Office Block Persecution Affinity
God save little shops, china cups and virginity
We are the Skyscraper condemnation Affiliate
God save tudor houses, antique tables and billiards
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do?
God save the Village Green

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Getting the Band Back Together

Posted in J-Rock,Music,The Kinks by bourdaghs on the February 18th, 2010

Everyone is doing it these days, it seems. Yoko Ono has reunited the Plastic Ono Band. Minnesota punk-funk-rock legends The Suburbs got back together last weekend for a show in honor of their guitarist, Bruce Allen, who passed away late last year. Stew and Heidi, late of The Negro Problem and the musical Passing Strange, have a new show up this week that’s all about breaking up. Anzen Chitai, the kings of 1980s Japanese soft-rock, have likewise announced an upcoming reunion tour.

Everybody’s doing it, it seems….except of course for The Kinks. But at least now we have a new documentary feature film that explains, after a fashion, why that isn’t happening. Do It Again: One Man’s Quest to Reunite the Kinks had its world premiere last month at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Directed by Robert Patton-Spruill, the film follows the quixotic journey of Boston reporter Geoff Edgers, who is determined to bring Ray, Dave, Pete and Mick back together again. I haven’t seen it yet, but the film has been getting good reviews (e.g. here and here) and will be playing at a series of film festivals in the coming months (details available on the film’s website).

A Ray of Hope

Posted in Music,The Kinks by bourdaghs on the January 27th, 2010

The gloom of winter: this morning, the radio newscaster announced that the wind chill factor outside was “4 below” and then, not five minutes later, amended that to “6 below.” Yikes. But things got a little more warm and cheery in Chicago yesterday, because we learned that Ray Davies is on his way: a new March U.S. tour was announced. It includes a March 13 gig here at the Riviera. The full tour schedule is available here.

On top of that, “Postcard from London,” Ray’s new duet with Chrissie Hynde, was officially released in the U.S. yesterday. You can download it at Amazon.com or at I-Tunes.

So I’m in a pretty good state of mind. And I’ve shut the radio off, because I don’t want to hear what the newscaster will say next.

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