Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Godspeed Gabriel Axel and Bob Casale

Gabriel Axel

Director Gabriel Axel died on 9 February 2014 at the age of 95.

Gabriel Axel was born Gabriel Axel Moerch on 18 April 1918 in Aarhus, Denmark. Much of his childhood was spent in Paris, where his father operated a factory. Upon turning 18 he returned to Denmark to pursue a career as a furniture carpenter. He became interested in acting and studied the craft at the Danish Royal Theatre. He later joined Louis Javet's acting troupe in Paris, at which time he dropped his last name and simply became "Gabriel Axel". It was in 1951 that he began directing programmes for Denmark's public television broadcaster,  Danmarks Radio. From 1951 to 1958 he directed several programmes for Danish television. He also continued acting, appearing in such films as Vi som går køkkenvejen (1953), Karen, Maren og Mette (1954), Bruden fra Dragstrup (1955), and Styrmand Karlsen (1958). The first feature film he directed was Altid ballade in 1955. In the Fifties Mr. Axel followed it with the films En kvinde er overflødig (1957), Guld og grønne skove (1958--English title The Girls are Willing), Helle for Helene (1959), and Flemming og Kvik (1960).

In the Sixties he directed the films Det tossede paradis (1962--in English, Crazy for Paradise), Oskar (1962), Vi har det jo dejligt (1963--English title We're Doing Alright), Tre piger i Paris (1963--English title Three Girls in Paris), Paradis retur (1964, in English Paradise ad Back), Den røde kappe (1967, English title Hagbard and Signe),  Det kære legetøj (1968, English title Sex and the Law), and Amour (1970, English title The Ways of Women). He also continued to act, appearing in such films as Peters baby (1961), Han, Hun, Dirch og Dario (1962), En ven i bolignøden (1965), and Jeg - en marki (1967).

In the Seventies Gabriel Axel directed the films Med kærlig hilsen (1971), Die Auto-Nummer - Sex auf Rädern (1972), Familien Gyldenkål (1975--the English title The Goldcabbage Family), Familien Gyldenkål sprænger banken (1976, English title--The Goldcabbage Family Breaks the Bank), and Alt på et bræt (1977--English title Going for Broke).  In the late Seventies and early Eighties he returned to directing television. As an actor he appeared in Med kærlig hilsen (1971) and Nu går den på Dagmar (1972).

It was in 1987 that his film Babettes gæstebud (English title, Babette's Feast) was released. The film was based on a story by Isak Dinesen (the pen name of Karen Blixen) and took Mr. Axel 14 years to complete. It received widespread acclaim, and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, the BAFTA Award for Best Film not in the English Language, the Cannes Film Festival Prize of the Ecumenical Jury - Special Mention, and many others. From the late Eighties to the Naughts he directed the films Christian (1989), Amled, prinsen af Jylland (1994--released in the States as Royal Deceit), and Leïla (2001).

Gabriel Axel was no small talent as a director. While many focus upon his masterpiece Babette's Feast, the fact is that he made a large array of various types of films. My personal favourites tend to be those based on Danish legends, such as Hagbard and Signe and Royal Deceit. Not only was he one of the few directors to ever develop films based on Danish legends, but the films themselves were very well done and fairly faithful to their source material. He also had a gift for comedy, as shown by the two "Gyldenkål" films. Although best known for Babette's Feast, his career consisted of so much more.

Bob Casale

Bob Casale, guitarist  for the band Devo, died on 17 February 2014 at the age of 61. The cause was heart failure.

Bob Casale was born on 14 July 1952 in Kent, Ohio. His older brother was Gerald Casale, who would found Devo with Bob Lewis and Mark Mothersbaugh. He was a medical radiation technologist when his brother recruited him into Devo. The band Devo had grown out of  Gerald Casale and Bob Lewis' idea of de-volution (the idea of a species regressing towards a more primitive form), which they developed as a joke while at Kent State University in the late Sixties. Their idea of devolution took on a more serious tone following the 4 May 1970 Kent State shootings, in which unarmed college students were gunned down by the Ohio National Guard.

Devo began to take shape around 1973, with Bob Casale on guitar alongside Gerald Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh, Bob Lewis, and others. In 1976 they filmed the video In The Beginning Was The End: The Truth About De-Evolution, which featured two songs: "Secret Agent Man" (their cover of the Johnny Rivers song) and "Jocko Homo". It won a a prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in 1977. It was in 1977 that Devo released their first single, "Mongoloid", backed with "Jocko Homo". That same year would see the release of their first EP, Be Stiff. By this time Devo had come to the attention of such artists as David Bowie and Iggy Pop. As a result they were signed to Warner Bros. Records.

Devo's first long play album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, was released in July 1978. The album performed well, peaking at #78 on the Billboard albums chart and #12 on the UK albums chart. It was followed in Duty Now for the Future in 1979, did not do quite as well as Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!. Fortunately their next album, Freedom of Choice (released in 1980), would prove to be their breakthrough. The album went to #22 on the Billboard albums chart and to #47 on the UK albums chart. The album also produced the singles "Girl U Want", which received a good deal of FM airplay, as well as "Whip It", which went all the way to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.

As a result of the success of Freedom of Choice the early Eighties would see Devo at the peak of their popularity. Their follow up, New Traditionalists was released in 1981 and performed fairly well. While its singles did not crack the Billboard Hot 100, they did receive a good deal of FM airplay. Unfortunately, Devo's success would be short lived. Their next album, Oh, No! It's Devo (1982), sold more poorly than Freedom of Choice, and did not even chart in the UK. Their next album, Shout (1984), sold even more poorly despite their cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced" ("R U Experienced") receiving some airplay. Bob Casale served as the sound engineer on Shout and would continue to do so for the rest of Devo's albums.

As a result of the failure of Shout Warner Bros.dropped Devo from the label. Bob Casale began working as a sound engineer, serving in that capacity on the first solo album of Andy Summers of The Police in 1986. Devo eventually reformed and released the album Total Devo on Enigma Records in 1988. It was followed by Smooth Noodle Maps in 1990. Devo broke not long after the release of Smooth Noodle Maps in the wake of poor ticket sales for a European tour and dissension in the band.

In 1992 with the TV special Frosty Returns, Bob Casale started working a music engineer and music mixer for various films and TV shows. He worked on such films as Four Rooms (1995), Happy Gilmore (1996), Rushmore (1998), Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999), The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Rugrats Go Wild (2003), Herbie Fully Loaded (2005), and Mama's Boy (2007).

In 1995 Devo regrouped. They appeared as part of the 1996 Lollapalooza tour and returned for the 1997 Lollapalooza tour. They recorded songs for various films. Bob Casale would be a part of his brother Gerald's solo project Jihad Jerry & the Evildoers and performed on the albums Army Girls Gone Wild (2005) and Mine Is Not a Holy War (2006). In 2010 Devo released their first studio album in years, Something for Everybody.

Bob Casale was with Devo for the entirety of it history, playing with the band from their earliest gigs to their final album. And while he stayed out of the spotlight centred upon his brother Gerald and band mate  Mark Mothersbaugh, there can be little doubt he was central to the band's success. Bob Casale not only played guitar in the band, but also did much of the band's production. It was in part due to Bob Casale that Devo did not sound like any other band. Indeed, it seems likely that Bob Casale gone that Devo will not continue. Indeed, it seems inconceivable for there to be Devo without him.

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