Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Great Peter Green

Peter Green, co-founder of Fleetwood Mac and legendary guitarist and songwriter, died today, July 25 2020, at the age of 73.

Peter Green was born Peter Allen Greenbaum in Bethel Green, London on October 29 1946. By the time Peter Green was eleven, his older brother Mike had taught him some guitar chords. Peter Green progressed so quickly that he was able to teach himself guitar. By age fifteen he was playing professionally. He played bass guitar for a band called Bobby Dennis and the Dominoes and then a rhythm and blues band called The Muskrats and another band called The Tridents. In October 1965 Peter Green substituted for Eric Clapton John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers for four performance dates. In late 1965 the joined Peter Bardens's band Peter B's Looners, where he met drummer Mick Fleetwood. It was while Peter Green was with Peter B's Looners that he first appeared on a recording, Peter B's Looners' instumental cover of the Jimmy Soul song "If You Wanna Be Happy." The single was released in 1966.

It was in July 1966 that Peter Green permanently took Eric Clapton's place as lead guitarist in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. He appeared on the John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers album  A Hard Road (1967), which featured two of his original compositions: "The Same Way" and "The Supernatural." He also appeared on their albums Crusade (1967) and Bare Wires (1968). It was in 1967 that he left John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers to form his own band.

In July 1967 Peter Green founded Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac featuring Jeremy Spencer with Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and Jeremy Spencer. The name was soon shortened to Fleetwood Mac. Their self-titled, debut album was released on February 24 1968. While none of their initial singles charted, their first album, Fleetwood Mac, went to no. 4 on the UK album chart. With Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green soon established himself as a songwriter as well as a guitarist. His song "Black Magic Woman" went to no. 37 on the UK singles chart and was later covered by Santana. The instrumental "Albatross" went to no. 1 on the UK singles chart and charted in other countries as well. His song "Man of the World" went to no. 2 on the UK singles chart and also charted in other countries. The single "Green Manalishi (with the Two-Pronged Crown)" went to no. 10 on the UK singles chart and went to no. 16 in Germany, no 14 in Ireland, and no. 6 in the Netherlands. It would later be covered by Judas Priest.

Fleetwood Mac's albums with Peter Green also did very well. Mr. Wonderful went to no. 10 on the UK album chart. English Rose was a compilation album released only in the United States and became the first to chart in the US, peaking at no. 184 on the Billboard pop album chart. Then Play On went to no. 6 on the UK album chart and no. 109 on the Billboard album chart.

Unfortunately, while Fleetwood Mac was experiencing a good deal of success, Peter Green's mental state began to degenerate. He ultimately left the band after one last performance on May 20 1970. His first solo album, The End of the Game, was released in December 1970. He would fill in for Jeremy Spencer with Fleetwood Mac after the had left the band, performing under the name "Peter Blue" and allowing them to complete a 1971 tour of the US. Unfortunately, Peter Green's mental health also continued to decline. Eventually he was diagnosed as having schizophrenia and spent time in various mental hospitals. It was not until the end of the decade that Peter Green would begin to re-emerge professionally.

His second solo album, In the Skies, was released in May 1979. It would be followed by the solo albums Little Dreamer (1980), Whatcha Gonna Do? (1981), White Sky (1982), and Kolors (1983). He contributed to Katmandu's album A Case for the Blues (1984). In the mid to late Eighties Peter Green once more faded back into semi-obscurity.

He re-emerged in the late Nineties when he formed The Peter Green Splinter Group. Their first, self-titled album was released in 1997. It would be followed by seven more albums from 1998 to 2003. He took another break, but resumed touring in 2009, performing as Peter Green and Friends.

Although he might not be as well known as some of his contemporaries today, Peter Green ranks among the greatest guitarists of all time. His style was informed by such blues legends as Robert Johnson and Elmore James. He often used minor chords, that not only gave his music an ominous sound, but also set him apart from such guitarist as Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. Peter Green was also known for his use of vibrato and string bending. B. B. King himself once said of Mr. Green, "He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats."

Of course, beyond being a virtuoso at guitar, Peter Green was also an incredible songwriter. His songs would be covered multiple times by other artists. "Black Magic Woman" was covered by Santana. "The Green Manalishi (with a Two-Pronged Crown)" was covered by Judas Priest. Both Justin Hayward and Ian Anderson would later cover "Man of the World." His song "Oh Well" would be covered multiple times, by artists ranging from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to Ratt. Peter Green's songs were always distinctive, featuring not only sophisticated music, but sophisticated lyrics as well. He would have a lasting impact on rock music, and there is every reason he should be better known.

Friday, July 24, 2020

"Let Me" by Paul Revere & The Raiders

This week has been a long and trying one for me, so tonight I don't find myself up to a full blog post. This Wednesday I rewatched Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood (2019). The movie makes extensive use of the music of Paul Revere & The Raiders, so naturally I have Paul Revere & The Raiders songs stuck in my head. The song "Let Me" does not appear in the movie, although given it was released in 1969 (the year when most of Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood is mostly set), it could have. The song was released on April 22 1969 and entered the Billboard Hot 100 on May 17 1969.  It peaked at no. 20 on July 5 1969.

Here is clip of Paul Revere & The Raiders from 1969 performing "Let Me" on the German show Beat Club.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Alternate Reality of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Anyone who has seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood knows that it is set in an alternate reality and that it is set in the same universe as Quentin Tarantino's other movies. There is one big event in the film that makes it clear that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set a universe other than our own, but even before that event is clear that it is not our reality. Furthermore, the differences between our reality and the one in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood go well beyond the fact that a show named Bounty Law starring an actor named Rick Dalton never aired here. Anyway, if you haven't seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I have to warn you: there will be some minor spoilers here.

Some Shows Had Longer Runs in the Reality of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Than They Did Here: Early in the film, actor Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) meets with his new agent, Marvin Schwarz (played by Al Pacino) in February 1969. In discussing the state of Rick's career, Schwarz brings up many of the actor's guest appearances on television shows on which Rick played the heavy. Of course, because he plays the heavy Rick is always defeated at the end of the episode. Schwarz then references various shows on which Rick could also play the heavy and get his butt kicked.

Curiously, of the shows Schwarz references, only two actually aired in the 1968-1969 season in our reality. One of these is The Wild Wild West. Now The Wild Wild West was cancelled by CBS in mid-February 1969 as a scapegoat in the then current outcry over television violence. That having been said, the meeting may have taken place before Rick and Schwarz's meeting or Schwarz may not have heard the show had been cancelled. The other show that was still on the air in our reality was Mannix. Mannix was then in its second season and doing respectably well. It ranked no. 30 in the Nielsen ratings for the season.

Beyond The Wild Wild West and Mannix, Schwarz names one show that never aired in our reality (more on that later) and several shows that had ended their network runs well before February 1969. Now Marvin Schwarz may not be the best agent in Hollywood, but he is probably well aware of what TV shows are still in production. It would seem that some shows that ended their runs in our world before the 1968-1969 season continued in Tarantino's universe. The first of these is Tarzan, on which Ron Ely played the title role. Tarzan debuted  in 1966 on NBC and ran two seasons. It aired it last new episode on April 5 1968. Never particularly a hit in the ratings, one can only assume it did better in the ratings in the Quentin Tarantino universe.

The second show that Schwarz mentions that did not air in the 1968-1969 season in our reality is The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It had been the smash hit of the 1964-1965 and something of a cult phenomenon. Unfortunately, in its third season The Man From U.N.C.L.E. took a turn towards camp that was probably responsible for a dramatic drop in its ratings. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. then ended its run on January 15 1968. In Quentin Tarantino's reality once can only assume that The Man From U.N.C.L.E. never took a turn towards camp in its third season and so it continued to get solid ratings or somehow it recovered in the ratings with its fourth season. Either way, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. apparently had a fifth season in the Tarantino universe. Schwarz also mentions The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s spinoff The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. Never a hit in our reality, it apparently did better in Tarantino's reality.

The final show that Schwarz mentions that went off the air in the 1968-1969 season in our reality was one of the biggest hits not only of the Sixties, but of all time. Batman debuted on ABC on January 12 1966 and immediately became a phenomenon. Stores could not keep Batman merchandise in stock. Unfortunately, its ratings dipped in its second season. Batman was renewed for a third season, but with some changes to the show. Originally airing twice a week, ABC cut the show back to once a week. The character of Batgirl (played by Yvonne Craig) was also added to the show. Unfortunately its ratings did not recover and ABC ultimately cancelled the show. It last aired on ABC on March 14 1968.

Now, unlike Tarzan and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., there was a possibility that Batman could have continued in our universe. Following its cancellation on ABC, NBC offered to pick up Batman for a fourth season. Unfortunately, the extremely expensive Batcave set had already been torn down and as a result NBC decided not to pick the show up. It seems likely that in Quentin Tarantino's universe that NBC made the offer to pick Batman up before sets had been torn down and as a result the show had a fourth season.

There Was Another Show Besides Bounty Law That Did Not Air in Our Reality: Central to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the fact that Rick Dalton played bounty hunter Jake Cahill on the hit TV show Bounty Law. While people in our reality have compared Bounty Law to the hit show Wanted Dead or Alive, there is one significant difference between the two shows beyond the fact that Bounty Law was a Screen Gems production aired on NBC and Wanted Dead or Alive was Four Star Television production that aired on CBS. Quite simply, while Josh Randall on Wanted Dead or Alive tried to bring his bounties in alive, Jake Cahill simply killed them (in a clip from the show, Jake says, "Amateurs try to bring men in alive. Amateurs usually don't make it.").  We can be assured that Wanted Dead or Alive aired in Quentin Tarantino's universe by the fact that Steve McQueen is a major star there.

That having been said, in his meeting with Rick Dalton, Marvin Schwarz mentions a show that aired in Quentin Tarantino's reality that starred an actor who doesn't exist in our reality. The show is Bingo Martin, which starred "new guy" Scott Brown. Unfortunately, we don't know much more about Bingo Martin beyond the fact that it starred Scott Brown and Rick guest starred on the show as a villain. From the filmography Quentin Tarantino created for Rick Dalton, we do know the show debuted in 1967. Given the 1967-1968 season saw the debut of several Westerns (The High Chaparral, The Guns of Will Sonnett, and so on) and crime shows (Ironside, Mannix), it seems possible that Bingo Martin was either a Western or a detective show.

Some Shows That Aired Here May Not Have Aired in the Tarantino Reality or, At Least, in Different Time Slots: Promos for Bounty Law establish that it aired at 8:30 PM Eastern on Thursday on NBC. Of course, it is possible it aired in different time slots during its run, as NBC had a habit of moving its shows around in the Fifties and Sixties. That having been said, both a promo at the start of the show and a later material in the movie seem to hint that Bounty Law occupied that time slot during its entire run.

According to the filmography Quentin Tarantino created for the show, it ran from 1959 to 1963, and ended its run only because Rick Dalton wanted a film career. Of course, different shows aired in that time slot in our reality, meaning these shows did not air in Tarantino's reality or aired in a different time slot, perhaps even on a different network. The first of these was Johnny Staccato, starring John Cassavetes. It was a detective show which made extensive use of jazz music. It debuted on September 10 1959 and ran only one season.

In the 1960-1961 the 8:30 Thursday night time slot on NBC was occupied by Bat Masterson in our reality. Bat Masterson would have then been in its third season. We can only assume that Bat Masterson was cancelled at the end of its second season or that NBC scheduled in a different time slot. In the 1959-1960 season Bat Masterson aired in the 8:00 PM Thursday slot, so it seems possibly that it could have remained there if it was not cancelled in Tarantino's reality. Of course, this would mean that the hour-long Western Outlaws would have to occupied a different time slot, if it aired at all in the reality of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

It is the 1961-1962 schedule that presents the biggest problem in terms of scheduling. In our reality the smash hit Dr. Klidare aired on NBC in the 8:30 Thursday night time slot. While it is possible that NBC did not pick up Dr. Kildare in the Tarantino reality, it seems likely that it simply aired in a different time slot. Of course, given Bounty Law was a half hour show and Dr. Kildare was an hour-long show, it begs the question as to what aired after Bounty Law.

For what was the final season of Bounty Law, the 1962-1963 season, Dr. Kildare once more occupied the 8:30 Thursday night time slot on NBC in our reality. Again, provided NBC had picked up Dr. Kildare and provided it was a hit, it seems likely it aired in another time slot.

Bruce Lee May Be Different in Tarantino's Reality: One of the big controversies over Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is its portrayal of Bruce Lee. On the set of The Green Hornet, Rick Dalton's sidekick and stuntman Cliff Booth faces off against Bruce Lee. In the scene Bruce Lee is portrayed as a pompous, arrogant egoist who believes that he can beat Cassius Clay (now known as Muhammed Ali). The scene upset not only Bruce Lee fans, but Mr. Lee's daughter Shannon as well. Although certainly confident, from all reports Bruce Lee was a man who deeply cared about people and did not go around picking fights.

Given what I know of Bruce Lee and having been a Bruce Lee fan since childhood, I must admit that initially I was put off by the scene. Like many, I thought it was disrespecting Mr. Lee. That having been said, after I had thought it out, I came to two conclusions. The first is the fact that the scene plays out as a memory/daydream that Cliff has while repairing the television antenna atop Rick Dalton's house The scene is then being told from Cliff's eyes. While Cliff is an easy going guy, he also seems a big overconfident at times. It seems possible then that Cliff was seeing something in Bruce Lee that just wasn't there. It seems possible that Cliff was projecting his own overconfidence onto Bruce Lee. This means that in Quentin Tarantino's reality, Bruce Lee may be the same nice guy that he was in our reality.

The second conclusion is that the reason the Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is different from the Bruce Lee of our reality is, quite simply, the movie is obviously set in an alternate reality. That people can vary from reality to reality has been well established in books, movies, and television shows. In It's a Wonderful Life, in the reality in which George Bailey was not born, his Uncle Billy is in an insane asylum and his mother is an old, bitter woman. In the mainstream reality of It's a Wonderful Life, Uncle Billy works at the Bailey Building and Loan while Mrs. Bailey is a relatively happy, well-adjusted woman. The differences between characters is even more pronounced in the Star Trek episode "Mirror Mirror." Quite simply, with the possible exception of Spock, every single character is evil. While Bruce Lee was a kind, gentle man in our reality, perhaps in the reality of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Bruce Lee was a pompous jerk.

Of course, here I want to stress that I can understand why Shannon Lee and Bruce Lee's many fans were offended by the scene. I was myself until I thought about it. Even now I wish Quentin Tarantino would have written the scene differently. It seems to me that Bruce Lee and Cliff Booth could have sparred without Mr. Lee looking like arrogant and overconfident. I don't think it would be too far from reality to simply have Bruce Lee and Cliff Booth engage in a bit of friendly sparring. In this way Cliff's fighting skills could have been established, while the reality of Bruce Lee as a nice guy would be maintained.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has been commended for its recreation of Hollywood in 1969, but it is also a movie in which Quentin Tarantino has built his own universe. More so than any of his other films, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a film with a rich reality that serves as a background for its plot. One of the things that I have no doubt that television and movie buffs enjoy about the movie is not just noticing the many pop culture references, but also the ways in which the reality of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood differs from our own.