Chuck Berry died 3 days ago on March 18, 2017. This sent my memory back to the mid-fifties when I first heard his song, Maybellene. Of course, I had to dig out my 45 RPM recording of it as tribute to him.
I was still in Junior High (they call it middle school now) and i was listening to rhythm 'n blues, which originated in the 1940s, at the time. The song talked of hot rods
and unfaithful love but with a fast, driving beat unlike any other
rhythm song I'd heard before, I thought, "Wow, what is this?" I was
Berry was famous for his "Duckwalk" but it was years later that I actually saw him do it on television and was transfixed by it. I actually tried to do it but without success; could get the legs and walk part but just couldn't get the head to bob right. I tried the same thing decades later with the "Moonwalk" by Michael Jackson, also with no success. Oh, well!
I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that it was forty years ago today, on March 19, 1977, Eraserhead, the first feature length film by David Lynch was released to the world and the career of a great film maker was launched.
It seems only a few years ago that I went to the Roxy Theater a few blocks from my studio in the Mission
one night to see a film I had no knowledge of; I would often go there
not knowing what I would see and was never disappointed. Wikipedia says
the initial attendance was small but I remember the joint was packed on
opening night. They obviously knew something extraordinary and unique was in store but I didn't. I
was in for a
startling if not shocking surprise!
Eraserhead spent several years in principal photography because of the difficulty of funding the film; donations from Fisk and his wife Sissy Spacek kept production afloat. The film was shot on several locations owned by the AFI in California, including Greystone Mansion and a set of disused stables in which Lynch lived. Additional funds were provided by Nance's wife Catherine E. Coulson,
who worked as a waitress and donated her income, and by Lynch himself,
who delivered newspapers throughout the film's principal photography. During one of the many lulls in filming, Lynch was able to produce the short film The Amputee,
taking advantage of the AFI's wish to test new film stock before
committing to bulk purchases. The short piece starred Coulson, who
continued working with Lynch as a technician on Eraserhead.
The first scene to be filmed following the long hiatus of "Eraserhead"
(principal photography started May 1972, and resumed May 1974) involved
the Lady in the Radiator, played by Laurel Near. Laurel sang in a trio
with her two sisters, Holly and Timi, the latter was a good friend of
Catherine E. Coulson (assistant camera/assistant to director).
Eraserhead gained popularity over several long runs as a midnight movie.
Since its release, the film has earned positive reviews. The surrealist
imagery and sexual undercurrents have been seen as key thematic
elements, and the intricate sound design as its technical highlight.
Thematic analysis of the film has also highlighted these issues and has
elaborated on Spencer's fatalism and inactivity. In 2004, the film was
preserved in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The physical effects used to create the deformed child have been kept secret. The projectionist who worked on the film's dailies
was blindfolded by Lynch to avoid revealing the prop's nature, and he
has refused to discuss the effects in subsequent interviews.
The prop—which Nance had nicknamed "Spike"—featured several working
parts; its neck, eyes and mouth were capable of independent operation.
Lynch has offered cryptic comments on the prop, at times stating that
"it was born nearby" or "maybe it was found". It has been speculated by John Patterson of The Guardian
that the prop may have been constructed from a skinned rabbit or a lamb
fetus. The child has been seen as a precursor to elements of other
Lynch films, such as the make-up of John Merrick in the 1980 film The Elephant Man and the sandworms of the 1984 film, Dune.
Below is the poster included with the original vinyl LP of the infant in the film Eraserhead. The child is a
deformed creature whose appearance is one of the film's defining surreal
The Eraserhead production crew was very small, composed of Lynch; sound designerAlan Splet; cinematographer Herb Cardwell, who died during production and was replaced with Frederick Elmes; production manager and prop technician Doreen Small; and Coulson, who worked in a variety of roles.
After a poorly received test screening,
in which Lynch believes he had mixed the soundtrack at too high a
volume, the director cut twenty minutes of footage from the film,
bringing its length to 89 minutes.
Among the cut footage is a scene featuring Coulson as the infant's
midwife, another of a man torturing two women—one again played by
Coulson—with a car battery, and one of Spencer toying with a dead cat.
The film has also been noted for its strong sexual themes. Opening
with an image of conception, the film then portrays Henry Spencer as a
character who is terrified of, but fascinated by, sex. The recurring
images of sperm-like creatures, including the child, are a constant
presence during the film's sex scenes; the apparent "girl next door"
appeal of the Lady in the Radiator is abandoned during her musical
number as she begins to violently smash Spencer's sperm creatures and
aggressively meets his gaze. David J. Skal, in his book The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror, has described the film as "depict[ing] human reproduction as a desolate freak show, an occupation fit only for the damned".
Skal also posits a different characterization of the Lady in the
Radiator, casting her as "desperately eager for an unseen audience's
approval". In his book David Lynch Decoded, Mark Allyn Stewart proposes that the Lady in the Radiator is in fact Spencer's subconscious,
a manifestation of his own urge to kill his child, who embraces him
after he does so, as if to reassure him that he has done right.
As a character, Spencer has been seen as an everyman figure, his blank expression and plain dress keeping him a simple archetype. Spencer displays a pacifistic and fatalistic
inactivity throughout the film, simply allowing events to unfold around
him without taking control. This passive behavior culminates in his
sole act of instigation at the film's climax; his apparent act of
infanticide is driven by his life of being domineered and controlled.
Spencer's inactivity has also been seen by film critics Colin Odell and
Michelle Le Blanc as a precursor to Lynch's 1983–92 comic strip The Angriest Dog in the World.
Lynch and sound designer Alan Splet spent a year working on the film's audio after their studio was soundproofed. The film's soundtrack features organ music by Fats Waller and includes the song, In Heaven, penned for the film by Peter Ivers.
The soundtrack to Eraserhead was released by I.R.S. Records in 1982. The two tracks included on the album feature excerpts of organ music by Fats Waller and the song, In Heaven, written for the film by Peter Ivers. The soundtrack was re-released on August 7, 2012, by Sacred Bones Records in a limited pressing of 1,500 copies. The album has been seen as presaging the dark ambient music genre, and its presentation of background noise and non-musical cues has been described by Mark Richardson of Pitchfork Media as "a sound track (two words) in the literal sense".
sound design has been considered one of its defining elements. Although
the film features several hallmark visuals—the deformed infant and the
sprawling industrial setting—these are matched by their accompanying
sounds, as the "incessant mewling" and "evocative aural landscape" are
paired with these respectively.
The film features several constant industrial sounds, providing
low-level background noise in every scene. This fosters a "threatening"
and "unnerving" atmosphere, which has been imitated in works such as the 1995 thriller by David Fincher, Seven, and the Coen brothers' 1991 drama Barton Fink. The constant low-level noise has been perceived by James Wierzbicki in his book Music, Sound and Filmmakers: Sonic Style in Cinema
as perhaps a product of Henry Spencer's imagination, and the soundtrack
has been described as "ruthlessly negligent of the difference between
dream and reality". The film also begins a trend within Lynch's work of relating diegetic
music to dreams, as when the Lady in the Radiator sings In Heaven
during Spencer's extended dream sequence. This is also present in
"Episode 2" of Twin Peaks, in which diegetic music carries over from a character's dream to his waking thoughts; and in 1986's Blue Velvet, in which a similar focus is given to the song, In Dreams, by Roy Orbison.
During production, Lynch began experimenting with a technique of
recording dialogue that had been spoken phonetically backwards and
reversing the resulting audio. Although the technique was not used in
the film, Lynch returned to it for "Episode 2", the third episode of his 1990 television series Twin Peaks.
Lynch worked with Alan Splet to design the film's sound. The pair
arranged and fabricated soundproof blanketing to insulate their studio,
where they spent almost a year creating and editing the film's sound
effects. The soundtrack is densely layered, including as many as fifteen
different sounds played simultaneously using multiple reels.
Sounds were created in a variety of ways—for a scene in which a bed
slowly dissolves into a pool of liquid, Lynch and Splet inserted a
microphone inside a plastic bottle, floated it in a bathtub, and
recorded the sound of air blown through the bottle. After being
recorded, sounds were further augmented by alterations to their pitch,
reverb and frequency.
My favorite song from his album, Breakin' Away, is his translation of the 1959 jazz classic by Dave Brubeck, Blue Rondo à la Turk. I don't call it a cover or a rendition as the song is originally an instrumental piece of music to which Jarreau wrote lyrics.
The 1926 recording by Louis Armstrong of Heebie Jeebies
is often cited as the first song to employ scatting but there are
earlier examples. One early master of ragtime scat singing was Gene Greene who recorded scat choruses in his song King of the Bungaloos and several others between 1911 and 1917. Al Jolson
scatted through a few bars in the middle of his 1911 recording of That
Haunting Melody. The 1917, From Here to Shanghai, by Gene Green
featured faux-Chinese scatting, and in 1924, Scissor Grinder Joe and Some of These Days by Gene Rodemich pre-date Armstrong. Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards scatted an interlude on his 1923, Old Fashioned Love, in lieu of using an instrumental soloist. Harry Barris, one of Paul Whiteman's "The Rhythm Boys", along with Bing Crosby, scatted on several songs, including Mississippi Mud, which Barris wrote in 1927. One of the early female singers to use scat was Aileen Stanley, who included it at the end of a duet with Billy Murray in their hit 1924 recording of It Had To Be You (Victor 19373).
starts out with a traditional jazz vocal in a fast tempo that is truly
beautiful and graceful, as only she could do, with improvisation that is
marvelous. Suddenly she breaks into scat then swoops and soars like a
humming bird at breakneck speed! It is astonishing!
The performance was on February 13, 1960, at the Deutschlandhalle in Berlin, Germany. To have been there to hear it live must have been a fantasy ride to heaven. Those lucky people!
Ella in Berlin was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame
in 1999, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor
recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have
"qualitative or historical significance." And significance this album
has a-plenty. There has never been an album like this one and I doubt there ever
Pressed By – Capitol Records Pressing Plant, Jacksonville
Recorded At – Dawnbreaker Studios
Recorded At – Sunset Sound
Recorded At – The Pasha Music House
Overdubbed At – Garden Rake Studio
Mixed At – Garden Rake Studio
Mastered At – A&M Studios
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Warner Bros. Records Inc.
Copyright (c) – Warner Bros. Records Inc.
Published By – Aljarreau Music
Published By – Desperate Music
Published By – Garden Rake Music, Inc.
Published By – Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.
Published By – Entente Music
Published By – Blackwood Music Inc.
Published By – Magic Castle Music, Inc.
Published By – Derry Music
Published By – MCA Music
Published By – Cahn Music Co.
Published By – Hub Music Co.
Alto Saxophone – Lon Price (tracks: A3, B4)
Arranged By [Horns] – Jerry Hey (tracks: B1, B2)
Arranged By [Rhythm] – Al Jarreau (tracks: A1 to B2, B4), Jay Graydon
(tracks: A1 to B2, B4), Tom Canning (tracks: A1 to B2, B4)
Arranged By [Rhythm], Piano – Milchio Leviev* (tracks: B3)
Arranged By [Strings] – Billy Byers (tracks: B4), David Foster (tracks: A5)
Arranged By [Vocals] – Al Jarreau (tracks: B3), Jay Graydon (tracks: B3), Tom Canning (tracks: B3)
Art Direction, Design – Christine Sauers
Backing Vocals – Al Jarreau (tracks: A1, A3 to B2, B4), Bill Champlin
(tracks: B2), Richard Page (tracks: A2, A5, B2), Steve George (tracks:
A2, A5, B2)
Bass – Abe Laboriel* (tracks: A1 to A5, B2 to B4), Neil Steubenhaus* (tracks: B1)
Contractor – Frank De Caro*
Drums – Jeff Porcaro (tracks: B1), Steve Gadd (tracks: A1 to A5, B2 to B4)
Electric Guitar – Dean Parks (tracks: B4), Jay Graydon (tracks: A1 to B2, B4), Steve Lukather (tracks: A2, A3)
Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – David Foster (tracks: A2,), David
Foster (tracks: A5, B1), George Duke (tracks: B2), Michael Omartian
(tracks: A3), Tom Canning (tracks: A1, A4, B4)
Engineer – Joe Bogan
Engineer [Second On "breakin' Away"] – Csaba Petocz, Mikey Davis
Engineer [Second] – Debbie Thompson
Flugelhorn – Jerry Hey (tracks: A2)
Horns – Tom Scott (tracks: A1)
Mastered By – Bernie Grundman
Mixed By – Jay Graydon
Percussion – Bob Zimmitti (tracks: A4)
Photography By – Susan Jarreau
Piano – David Foster (tracks: A2), David Foster (tracks: A5, B1), Tom Canning (tracks: A1)
Producer – Jay Graydon
Producer [Associate] – Tom Canning
Programmed By – Jay Graydon (tracks: A1, A2), Michael Boddicker (tracks: A2, B3)
Recorded By [Basic Track] – Larry Brown (tracks: B1)
Recorded By [Strings] – Humberto Garcia*
Synthesizer – David Foster (tracks: A2, A5, B1), Larry Williams
(tracks: A4), Michael Boddicker (tracks: A3 to B1, B3), Michael Omartian
(tracks: A3), Peter Robinson (tracks: A4), Tom Canning (tracks: A1, A2,
Trombone – Bill Reichenbach (2) (tracks: B1, B2)
Trumpet – Chuck Findley (tracks: B1, B2), Jerry Hey (tracks: B1, B2)
Vocals [Uncredited] – Al Jarreau
Lyrics and credits on inner sleeve.
tracks recorded at Dawnbreaker Studios, San Fernando, Calif. Overdubs
and mixing at Garden Rake Studios, Studio City, Calif. Strings Recorded
at Sunset Sound, Hollywood, Calif. Basic track for Breakin' Away
recorded at Pasha Music, Hollywood, Calif. Mastered at A&M
Studios, Hollywood, Calif.