Early summer has arrived in New Orleans. This week featured temperatures in the 80’s as well as the return of Formosan termite swarms who are more annoying than the average tourist. I realize I write a lot about the weather in this space. I became weather obsessed after a certain event in August, 2005. Can you blame me?
This week’s theme song comes from the David Byrne songbook. We saw him at Jazz Fest last Sunday. I’ll review it after the jump. He didn’t play Hanging Upside Down but it’s one of my favorite tunes from his salsa influenced period. It rocks with a jazzy Brazilian beat.
Now that I’ve hung you upside down to dry or some such shit, let’s jump to the break.
I got a bit woozy at the Fairgrounds last Sunday. I think it was a combination of sun, allergies, beer, and other substances. Mercifully, Dr. A and our friends Mike and Mary Hogan took good care of me and I rallied to see the closing set on the Gentilly Stage. Thanks, y’all.
David Byrne At Jazz Fest: David Byrne has always been a cold and cerebral artist and I say that as someone who loves his music. His Jazz Fest set was the David Byrne-iest thing I’ve ever seen. It was tightly choreographed and featured way too much synthesized drums for my taste. Byrne had the band lined up in a straight line, the better to avoid human contact. He was born to be a solo artist.
Despite these qualms, I enjoyed it even when they played a video claiming that all the music was played live. It was not. There were samples up the wazoo (Dr. Bornstein still hasn’t told me what this is) from old Talking Heads albums. I have no problem with artists using samples in concert, I just prefer that they fess up.
I have a friend who is related to Talking Heads keyboard player Jerry Harrison. One reason there has never been a Talking Heads reunion is that Byrne’s former band mates detest him. Life is too short to spend a year dealing with an asshole you’ve barely spoken to in 30 years. Shorter Adrastos, everybody has been burned…
One pleasant surprise in the set list was Blind from the final Talking Heads album, Naked. It was my theme song in summer of 1988. That year, I did a summer law clerkship with NASA at Stennis Space Center in Picayune, Ms. It’s a conservative area featuring this road sign:
Anyway, one of the cases I worked on involved the Randolph-Sheppard Act, which gave preference to the blind when it came to newsstands and gift shops in federal facilities. We called it the blind vendors case. That was why I could not get this tune out of my head:
Let’s move on from an artistic son-of-a-bitch to a piece about a politico-legal son-of-a-bitch.
Frank Rich On Roy Cohn: There’s an epic cover story in New York Magazine wherein Frank Rich posits that Cohn was the original Donald Trump. Hard to argue that point.
Rich writes the piece with the elegant savagery that made him the scourge of Broadway when he was the theatre critic of the Failing New York Times. It’s a pity that he can’t shut down the freak show currently squatting at the White House.
It’s time to lighten things up. Remember the laughter that used to overwhelm your favorite sitcoms even when the jokes sucked?
The Laff Box: Slate’s fabulous teevee critic Willa Paskin wrote a swell piece about Charlie Douglass, the man behind the laugh track. She closed her article with this astute observation:
I recently listened to one of Douglass’ laughs that was often heard through the late ’60s and ’70s, including in the pilot for MASH. I especially love the laugh that trails off at the end. It tells a story. There’s a joke, but one guy in the audience doesn’t get it right away. He’s a split second late, and then he laughs a little bit longer. Charlie Douglass wasn’t just a sound engineer; he was a psychologist.
The rap on the laugh track is that it’s fake laughter from a fake audience, but that’s not quite right. The laugh track doesn’t just represent a bogus audience; it represents an audience of one. Of Charlie Douglas. He definitely goosed laughs at producers’ instructions, but to a large extent, he and the people who worked with him followed their guts. It’s incredible that one man’s taste and sense of humor were so important in pacing an entire type of television comedy—but it’s true.
You know what they say, where there’s a Willa, there’s a way.
Saturday GIF Horse: Willa mentioned Jack Benny in the previous piece so I thought I’d post two animated GIFS from his old CBS show. The first shows Frank Sinatra mocking Benny’s trademark hand to the chin move.
The second features Jack showing off a shiny stage jacket to Liberace. They matched.
Let’s shut this joint down with some music.
Saturday Classic: I stumbled into some fascinating Talking Heads remixes on the YouTube. They sound great. Better yet, there are no fucking commercials but Speaking In Tongues *was* Talking Heads commercial breakthrough.
That’s it for this week. The last word goes to David Byrne who hit the stage at Jazz Fest holding a brain in his hand. I told you he was a brainy artist. Btw, when I searched for “David Byrne brain” I got a lot of pictures of him with Brian Eno. Eno is also a brainy guy.