Category Archives: Music

Happy birthday, Queen Victoria!

Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, was born on 24 May 1819, 200 years ago today.

That was “Victoria” by the Kinks, from the album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). Queen Victoria had been dead for 68 years when the Kinks recorded the song in 1969. Another couple of decades, and “Victoria” will be closer in time to the Victorian Age than to our own brave new world. Boats against the current….

“Canada to India
Australia to Cornwall
Singapore to Hong Kong
From the West to the East
From to the rich to the poor
Victoria loved them all.”

If you pay close attention to the lyrics, you might catch hints of the band’s signature working-class rage peeking through all the exaltation, but we’ll ignore that for now. Victoria’s bicentennial gives good Anglophiles everywhere a reason to celebrate, from the West to the East.


Home Again

In lesser news, I’m back from beautifully gloomy Budapest, and ready to resume posting.

I dined well, and you’re gonna hear all about it.

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New Tales of the City

“When I first got off the bus years ago, I had the strangest feeling that I’d come home.”
—Laura Linney as Mary Ann Singleton in Tales of the City

Oh, yes, Mary Ann, in this you are not unique. The first time I was in San Francisco, I had exactly the same feeling.*

And now, thanks to Netflix, we’re going home again.

“inspired by the books of Armistead Maupin, the new Netflix Limited Series Tales of the City begins a new chapter in the beloved story. Mary Ann (Laura Linney) returns to present-day San Francisco and is reunited with her daughter Shawna (Ellen Page) and ex-husband Brian (Paul Gross), twenty years after leaving them behind to pursue her career. Fleeing the midlife crisis that her picture-perfect Connecticut life created, Mary Ann is quickly drawn back into the orbit of Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis), her chosen family and a new generation of queer young residents living at 28 Barbary Lane.”

Tales of the City had its start as a three-times-a-week serial in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Author Armistead Maupin mixed real and (mainly) fictional characters to capture the essence of San Francisco in the 1970s.  Maupin succeeded in doing for The City what Tom Wolfe failed to do for New York in Bonfire of the Vanities, probably the most overrated novel of the late 20th century. The column became must-read material, and a cult was born.

The first novelization of the serial was published in 1978, followed by five more volumes published at two-year intervals, with three more books released after a 20-year gap.

In 1993, Channel 4 (UK) turned the first book into a superb miniseries, which was shown on PBS in the US in early 1994. Here’s the trailer:

Good news! That original series is currently streaming on Acorn.

The new series will be released on Netflix on 7  June  2019.


Bonus Track

The great Laura Linney makes an uncredited appearance in this video for the also-great Aimee Mann. Watch closely, and see if you can spot her.


* Granted, I also had exactly the same feeling the first time I was in London, and the first time I was in Paris. Never had it in my own hometown,  though, for some reason….

Florence + the Machine — “Jenny of Oldstones”

Here’s Florence + the Machine’s full-length version of “Jenny of Oldstones”, the song that played during the end credits of “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”, Sunday night’s somber episode of Game of Thrones. The opening lyrics are by George R. R. Martin.

Spoilers, if you haven’t yet seen S08 E02. But of course you have, by now.

Brienne of Tarth

Brienne of Tarth

Beach Blanket Babylon Closing in San Francisco After a 45-Year Run

Those hats! Those huge, wonderful, silly hats, each larger than the last.

Beach Blanket Babylon, the world’s longest-running musical review, is as much a part of the San Francisco mythos as cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, and beautifully painted Victorian houses. But after 45 years and 17,216 performances, the show will close with 2019’s New Year’s Eve finale.

The ever-evolving show uses modified lyrics from popular songs to poke mildly racy fun at celebrities and politicians, many of whom, like Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in the picture below, turn up in the audience sooner or later. (Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had already seen an abbreviated performance of the review in 1983.)

The show could probably have run forever, since it had become a sure-fire way for San Franciscans to entertain out-of-town visitors.

Every performance ended with the audience joining the cast in singing a rousing and joyous rendition of “San Francisco”—the real, Jeanette MacDonald “San Francisco”, from the 1936 movie of the same name.


New Year’s Eve at Beach Blanket Babylon

The Beach Blanket Babylon website has an excellent collection of pictures from the show, including one gallery dedicated exclusively to those giant hats. It also includes videos of selections from the show’s New Year’s Eve performances. Here’s the one from 2018:

(All photos found on the Web.)

Little Big — New and Improved Video for “Skibidi”

Inspired silliness.

Little Big is a Russian band known for bizarre and sometimes NSFW videos, and “Skibidi” is their best-known song. This new video, which they call the “Romantic Edition”, was released last month. It has about 21 million views.

The band, which describes itself as “a satirical art collaboration”, has just finished the American leg of its current tour, and will be playing to sold-out shows in Europe for the next six weeks.

“Skibidi” went viral when it was released last Fall. Here’s the earlier official video of the song. This one has 206 million views.

I like the new one better.


An Unavoidable Comparison

You can’t listen to “Skibidi” without being reminded of YouTube’s top trending video of 2013, that glorious Norwegian masterpiece, “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)”.

It’s unlikely that “Skibidi” will ever beat the Fox’s 838 million views.

The Dead Don’t Die — First Trailer

So, is the slogan correct? Does The Dead Don’t Die really have “The Greatest Zombie Cast Ever Disassembled”?

It may well be. Look who’s in it:

Chloë Sevigny, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Selena Gomez, Bill Murray, Austin Butler, Tom Waits, Caleb Landry Jones, Carol Kane, Danny Glover, Rosie Perez, and Iggy Pop. Tilda Swinton* or Steve Buscemi alone would be enough to get me out of the kitchen and into a theatre.

And even if the presence of some of my favourite actors wasn’t enough, there’s also this: During the trailer, I heard a brief segment from a song, and it stopped me dead, so to speak. I immediately recognized it as “Seven and Seven Is”, by the 1960s band Love, creators of the achingly beautiful Forever Changes album. Love + Iggy Pop + Tom Waits — I’d see this one just for the soundtrack.

I’ve never been a huge fan of writer/director Jim Jarmusch, although I did like Only Lovers Left Alive, his lush 2013 vampire film with Tom Hiddleston, Anton Yelchin, and, of course, the divine Tilda. (Hmmm. First vampires, now zombies. Can a Jim Jarmusch werewolf movie be far away?)

The Dead Don’t Die is scheduled for a 14 June 2019 release.


*In a description of the movie for Esquire, Tyler Coates wrote that “Driver, Murray, and Sevigny play a trio of befuddled police officers who must prepare to do battle against the undead, while Swinton is an inexplicably Scottish and sword-wielding mortician who joins the cause.”

Inexplicably? Of course she plays a Scottish sword-wielding mortician. This is Tilda Swinton he’s writing about. What else would he expect?