Monthly Archives: May 2016

Dancing out of your constrictions: Best songs of 1978

In 1978 disco conquered America and Washington DC conquered Jimmy Carter. Here are the year’s best singles.

1. Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)
2. Rolling Stones – Miss You
3. Funkadelic – One Nation Under a Groove
4. Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive
5. Earth Wind & Fire – Serpentine Fire
6. Chaka Khan – I’m Every Woman
7. Cheap Trick – Surrender
8. Evelyn “Champagne” King – Shame
9. Bryan Ferry – Sign of the Times
10. Chic – I Want Your Love
11. Public Image Ltd – Public Image
12. ABBA – Summer Night City
13. The Clash – Safe European Homes
14. Willie Nelson – Blue Skies
15. Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
16. Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy
17. Yvonne Elliman – If I Can’t Have You
18. The Cars – Just What I Needed
19. Gerry Rafferty – Right Down the Line
20. The Isley Brothers – Take Me to the Next Phase (Part 1)
21. Peter Gabriel – D.I.Y.
22. Blondie – Hangin’ on the Telephone
23. Parliament – Flash Light
24. Wire – I Am the Fly
25. Rod Stewart – I Was Only Joking
26. Rick James – You & I
27. Wings – Girl School
28. Carly Simon – You Belong to Me
29. The Jacksons – Blame it on the Boogie
30. Nick Gilder – Hot Child in the City
31. L.T.D. – Holding On (When Love Is Gone)
32. Steely Dan – Deacon Blues
33. Jackson Browne – Running on Empty
34. Joe Walsh – Life’s Been Good
35. Dolly Parton – Here You Come Again
36. Ashford & Simpson – It Seems to Hang On
37. Bill Withers – Lovely Day
38. Linda Ronstadt – It’s So Easy
39. Maze ft. Frank Beverly – Workin’ Together
40. Cerrone – Supernature
41. Buzzcocks – What Do I Get?
42. Van Halen – Runnin’ with the Devil
43. The Only Ones – Another Girl, Another Planet
44. Bruce Springsteen – Badlands

Weekly Roundup 5/30

Bob Dylan wrote and sang bad songs too, you know.

Terence Davies releases his long deferred adaptation of Sunset Song.

I didn’t think the documentary Weiner was anything but a reprise of headlines.

On the other hand, Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship is a triumph of style and tone.

Reviews of three items in my Soto musical canon.

Marco Rubio shocks Hialeah with his endorsement of Donald Trump.

A ticket on the last train home tonight: Best songs of 1979

New York Disco, 1979 (4)

In the first half of 1979, disco still ruled. The phenomenon had a salutary effect: even Neil Diamond thought about four on the floor arrangements. As usual I wouldn’t take the ranking too seriously.

1. Chic – My Feet Keep Dancing
2. Donna Summer – Hot Stuff
3. Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
4. The Isley Brothers – I Wanna Be With You (Part 1)
5 Roxy Music – Dance Away
6. Funkadelic – (Not Just) Knee Deep
7. John Stewart – Gold
8. Tubeway Army – Are ‘Friends’ Electric?
9. Doobie Brothers – What a Fool Believes
10. Earth Wind & Fire – September
11. The Cars – Let’s Go
12. Prince – I Wanna Be Your Lover
13. Graham Parker – Discovering Japan
14. ABBA – Voulez-Vous
15. Wings – Arrow Through Me
16. Stevie Wonder – Send One Your Love
17. Merle Haggard – Red Bandana
18. Pointer Sisters – Fire
19. Raydio – You Can’t Change That
20. Van Morrison – Wavelength
21. The Knack – My Sharona
22. George Harrison – Blow Away
23. Pretenders – Kid
24. Blondie – Dreaming
25. Van Halen – Dance the Night Away
26. Ashford & Simpson – Stay Free
27. The Clash – Groovy Times
28. David Bowie – DJ
29. Dolly Parton – Baby I’m Burnin’
30. Foreigner – Head Games
31. The Police – Walking on the Moon
32. Al Stewart – Time Passages
33. Cher – Take Me Home
34. Buzzcocks – Everybody’s Happy Nowadays
35. Talking Heads – Take Me to the River
36. Sister Sledge – He’s the Greatest Dancer
37. Nick Lowe – Cruel to Be Kind
38. Eddie Rabbit – Suspicions
39. Bee Gees – Tragedy
40. Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight
41. Rickie Lee Jones – Chuck E’s in Love
42. Rod Stewart – Da Ya Think I’m Sexy
43. Electric Light Orchestra – Don’t Bring Me Down
44. Dionne Warwick – Déjà Vu
45. Donna Summer – Heaven Knows
46. Smokey Robinson – Cruisin’
47. Public Image Ltd – Death Disco
48. Machine – There But For the Grace of God Go I
49. The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry
50. Elvis Costello – Oliver’s Army

‘Sunset Song’ an uneven retread


I know devotees of Terence Davies who lament his choices in the last twenty-five years. Instead of creating original material that might compete with a film as singular as The Long Day Closes, the English director has turned to adaptations: the muddled The Neon Bible (1995), his excellent take on Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (2000), a radio adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, a vital restaging of Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea (2012). Call it a retreat. Or a recalibration. A project he has tried to film more than once, Sunset Song finally arrives in theaters. He loved Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s novel to distraction. This meticulous depiction of rural Scotland in the early twentieth century is a most enjoyable picture that suffers from an uneven rhythm.

Davies’ use of 360 degree tracking shots and a combination of digital and anamorphic 65mm photography gives Sunset Song its pantheistic splendor. As cruel as the land can be, as merciless the weather on the Guthrie farm, Blawearie, Chris (Agnyess Deyn) has deep attachments anyway. This in spite of the malice shown by her father (Peter Mullan, crowning a career of playing tyrants), who whips her brother with a crop for cursing. The actor, Jack Greenless, faces the camera for the whipping, removing his shirt slowly as if in a strip tease; it’s one of the few moments in Sunset Song in which Davies reverts to his reflexive homoeroticism. Otherwise life is grim stuff for the Guthries. Chris goes to school and learns Latin while her mother endures another agonizing pregnancy, her screams filling the home. A hired hand, catching her alone in the barn, ravishes her ankles as if they were bare breasts. She has enough: later she and her baby twins will swallow poison. Chris’ aunt and uncle take her while Guthrie falls apart. He will suffer a stroke. In the novel, Guthrie will try to seduce his daughter. Davies instead shows Guthrie falling out of bed screaming her name while Chris silently locks the door behind her. When her stern aunt insists that she kiss him goodbye at the funeral, Chris is unmoved.

A good thing too, for Sunset Song‘s pace and mood change from this point. Established as a woman of modest means according to the terms of her father’s will, Chris moves into Blawearie herself. The voice-over gets more pronounced, the hills mistier. Then Ewan (Kevin Guthrie, as charming as Emory Cohen playing a similar role in last year’s Brooklyn) enters the picture. They are not in love so much as trying to turn their mutual lust into love; after their wedding party, there’s a suggestive shot of Ewan walking through an open doorway into a delicate snowfall, and it’s possible to imagine his body heat repelling the flakes. A childbirth as painful as her mother’s interrupts their Blawearie idyll, auguring the shots fired a continent away at a Serbian archduke. A reluctant Ewan enlists after enduring the suggestion from the village pastor and neighbors that he’s a coward. When he returns from France his gentle spirit is gone, deformed by war.

Sunset Song deserves plaudits for positing a marriage as a commingling of sex and labor that rebukes the idea of gender divisions. Chris, with her androgynous name, is clearly in charge. Ewan looks content to be the supporting actor. In the fields she does as much heavy lifting as he (the reissue of Jan Troell’s The New Land makes for a perfect study of complements: toil and hardships don’t slacken the intensity of Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann’s erotic bond). One of the more realistic depictions of sex happens on the wedding night. Starting with a closeup of clenched bare feet, the camera tracks up the bed to Chris and Ewan, nude and nubile and out of shape in that recognizably pre-modern way, in a passionate clinch. Until the war years they can’t stop making out. Without the appeal of Guthrie and Deyn these scenes would look callow.

With its glops of the aforementioned voice-over, cutaways to the Scottish terrain (shot in New Zealand), and scenes of a beautiful couple using horse plows, Sunset Song evokes The New Land and Roman Polanski’s Tess, but it’s closer to Days of Heaven; Davies is a less wooly-headed Terrence Malick. But the film, both over- and underplotted, can’t decide what it wants to linger on. So enraptured with Gibbon’s prose is Davies that for once in his career he distrusts his camera; Michael McDonough’s work here is the kind that gets Oscar nominations for pretty pictures. More troubling, Sunset Song aestheticizes some of the novel’s horrors. I refer to a scene in which Davies glides over the evil mud of the Marne for what it seems like minutes while a robust male voice croons a hymn. The best of Sunset Song doesn’t try so hard. My favorite moment, as they often do in Davies films, happens to include a song, another hymn: old Guthrie, in an infrequent gentle mood, with his young family, teasing out the words. Recall Tom Hiddleston coaxing Rachel Weisz into singing “You Belong to Me” in The Deep Blue Sea; recall The Long Day Closes‘ Leigh McCormack swept up by Debbie Reynolds’ “Tammy.” Struggling to play a conception who’s closer to a figure in a parable than a human being, Deyn looks walloped, dazed. A film about a woman using her education to cultivate her fields and her sense of interiority would be a rare thing, and this material was in the novel, awaiting the shaping hands of an imaginative director.

To love Sunset Song is to accede to Davies. In a career spent delineating the intersection of remembered happiness, the potency of retired lusts, and our urge to fictionalize, Davies is too comfortable with Gibbon. He fusses over the familiar. It has the feel of a production he needed out of his system. And it worked: he’ll be back later this year with a film about another woman and her own deepening interiority.

The cowardice of Marco Rubio

My twelve-step program allows for relapses. Here’s what happened this weekend re: Marco Rubio:

Meditating on everything from Trump’s rise to his fractious relationship with Jeb Bush, Rubio revisited nearly every turn of his presidential run in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that aired Sunday on “State of the Union.” The former presidential candidate, who has grudgingly said he will support Trump in November, also admitted a series of mistakes that he says eventually bedeviled his campaign.

Chief among those, Rubio has said, was belittling Trump for the size of his hands in the leadup to Super Tuesday, which he has publicly said he regrets. But Rubio went further when speaking with Tapper.

“I actually told Donald — one of the debates, I forget which one — I apologized to him for that,” Rubio said. “I said, ‘You know, I’m sorry that I said that. It’s not who I am and I shouldn’t have done it.’ I didn’t say it in front of the cameras, I didn’t want any political benefit.”

Rubio, who told Tapper that he would be willing to speak on Trump’s behalf at the convention, did signal some respect for the man he has sharply criticized, praising him as “the ultimate change agent” and that he may be developing “perhaps a more comprehensive approach” on some policy questions.

The junior senator from Florida must either want to run for governor or retake his senate seat. Otherwise I must assume that he’s a coward and an adolescent who for all his youth couldn’t think of a single intelligent riposte to ‘Little Marco.’ I can imagine few more abject scenarios than explaining why he had to apologize.

‘What their sexual persuasion is does not enter into it’

A little over twenty-five years ago, the last raid on a gay club happened in South Florida:

In a Friday night show of force, 100 armed officers masked drug agents and the U.S. Border Patrol raided the gay bars.

Sheriff Nick Navarro, his wife Sharron and a visiting Soviet military man showed up to watch.

Officers flashed pictures, recorded the scenes with a video camera, sought out illegal aliens, ran criminal checks on customers and asked people where they work.

The law enforcement team made six arrests — and with its timing and tactics, infuriated members of South Florida’s gay community.

“It’s the most outrageous and unjustifiable exercise of police power that I’ve ever heard of, ” said Greg Baldwin, chairman of the Dade Action PAC, a gay rights group.

Besides making the arrests, authorities suspended the liquor licenses of both establishments, Club 21 in Pembroke Park and Copa Cabaret near Port Everglades.

“They are not licensed to sell cocaine. And we did find cocaine all over the floor after we got in there, ” said Maj. Ralph Page, a spokesman for the Broward Sheriff’s Office. “What their sexual persuasion is does not enter into it. This to me is a bum rap.”

Owners of the Copa declined comment Monday. Club 21’s lawyer, Norman Kent, said the raid was “a made-for-TV bust. They’re targeting a gay establishment for being too gay.”

Responded Page: “This is not gay bashing. This is enforcement of narcotics laws.”

The investigation began with a tip earlier this year to the sheriff’s South Broward substation. Accompanied by confidential informants, a sheriff’s detective and an investigator from the state Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco began frequenting the clubs in February.

They had no trouble finding drugs, state records show: Investigators made deals with disc jockeys, bartenders and patrons, handing over $20, $30 or $40 for bags of cocaine and $50 for marijuana. Detectives witnessed live sex acts between paid dancers and customers at Club 21, they wrote.

Nick Navarro, for those who don’t know, declared war on 2 Live Crew in 1989, arresting record store clerks who sold As Nasty As They Wanna Be. The claim about finding coke on the floor is a delicious touch — no one has to prove it’s true to float the claim. I mention the story to remind younger readers that this happened not so long ago. If we weren’t dealing with HIV, we had to fend off cops zealous about enforcing Leviticus.

Singles 5/26


* I hope Paul Simon’s forthcoming album has songs livelier than “Wristband,” whose mild groove and polite agitation match its okay conceit.

* I hope the solidness of “In Common” doesn’t mean I have to listen to Alicia Keys with fresh ears. It used to be I’d play Dawn Richard to escape her; now she is Dawn Richard.

* In the next couple of weeks, I’ll write a review explaining why Chance the Rapper’s mixtape leaves me unmoved. I can’t listen to him for more than a line at a time before I start thinking about dinner or paring my fingernails.

* Blink-182 as the week’s highest ranking song surprised me too.

Click on links for full reviews.

Blink-182 – Bored to Death (7)
Jana Hermann – Kults (7)
Chance the Rapper ft. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne – No Problem (5)
Nite Jewel – Kiss the Screen (6)
Paul Simon – Wristband (6)
Alicia Keys – In Common (6)
Madeintyo – Uber Everywhere (6)
Twice – Cheer Up (6)
Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners – This Girl (5)
Calibre 50 – Préstamela a Mí (5)
The Stone Roses – All for One (1)