Friday, June 5, 2020

Godspeed Sweet Bassist Steve Priest

Steve Priest, the long time bassist for glam rock/power pop band Sweet, died yesterday, June 4 2020, at the age of 72. No cause of death has been given.

Steve Priest was born on February 23 1948 in Hayes, Middlesex. He was a fan of such groups as The Shadows, The Rolling Stones, and The Who. He was still a teenager when he built his own bass guitar. He played for time with The Countdowns. In the mid-Sixties he joined the band The Army. Mr. Priest was still with The Army when he formed The Sweetshop with vocalist Brian Connolly, guitarist Frank Torpey, and drummer Mick Taylor. In 1969 Frank Torpey was replaced by Mick Stewart. It after Mick Taylor left that Andy Scott took over on guitar in 1970. With the addition of Andy Scott, the classic line-up of Sweet was formed.

The Sweetshop's name would be shortened to The Sweet and it was under that name that their first album, Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be was released in 1971. It was that same year that The Sweet had their first hit with "Funny Funny", which went to no. 13 on the UK singles chart. Their following single "Co-Co" would perform even better, reaching no. 2 on the chart. The Sweet would have several more hits on the UK singles chart from 1972 to 1973, including "Little Willy," "Wig Wam Bam," "Blockbuster!," and "Hell Raiser." "Little Willy" would be their first in the United States, going to no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Perhaps their best known song and their biggest hit in the United States, "The Ballroom Blitz," was released in September 1973 in Europe and in July 1975 in the United States. It went to no. 2 on the UK singles chart and no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

It was with their second album, Sweet Fanny Adams, that the band's name was shortened to "Sweet." Originally performing near bubblegum in their early days before shifting to a glam rock/power pop song, with Sweet Fanny Adams Sweet moved to a harder power pop sound. They would continue to have hits in the United Kingdom and the United States, including "Teenage Rampage," "Fox on the Run," and "Action." Both "Fox on the Run" and "Action" would reach the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States as well.

Unfortunately, Sweet's popularity would decline in 1976. Their single "Lies in Your Eyes" only went to no. 35 in the United Kingdom. Following singles did not chart at all. A tour of the United States in 1976 to increase their popularity there was not financially successful. Their 1977 album Off the Record failed to chart in the UK and only reached no. 151 in the United States. Their following album, Level Headed would give Sweet one last hit. "Love Is Like Oxygen" reached no. 9 on the UK singles chart and no. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1978 lead vocalist Brian Connolly left Sweet. The band continued as a trio, with Steve Priest assuming most of the vocals. While Steve Priest would prove to be a good vocalist, Sweet would continued to struggle. Two more albums (Cut Above the Rest, Waters Edge) failed to chart in the United Kingdom and did poorly elsewhere as well. Sweet broke up in 1981 and their final album, Identity Crisis, was released only in Mexico and Germany in 1982.

In the wake of Sweet's break up, Steve Priest formed the band Allies, but the group proved to be short-lived. In 1985 he was invited by Andy Scott to join a reformed Sweet, but Mr. Priest declined. In 1988 the classic line-up of Sweet, including Steve Priest, held a demo session in Los Angeles to possibly reform and release a new album. The project fell through when the band members could not come to an agreement.

In 1994 Steve Priest published his autobiography, Are You Ready Steve?. His album, Priest's Precious Poems, was released in 2006. Owning the rights to the name "Sweet" in the United States, in 2008 Steve Priest formed his own version of Sweet. Steve Priest's Sweet recorded a cover of The Beatles' "Ticket to Ride" for Cleopatra Records' tribute record Abbey Road, released in 2009. A live album, Live in America, was released that same year.

In his tribute to him, guitarist Andy Scott referred to Steve Priest as "...the best bass player I ever played with." Certainly, Mr. Priest was among the best bassists in rock music. Few bassists ever played with the power that Steve Priest did. He would inspire future generations of bassists. Steve Priest was also a fairly good vocalist, sharing vocals on "The Ballroom Blitz" and some other songs. He was certainly responsible for much of Sweet's success and their continued popularity.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The 16th Anniversary of A Shroud of Thoughts

If A Shroud of Thoughts was a human being, it would now be old enough to drive. It was sixteen years ago that I launched this blog. At the time I did not realize I would be writing this blog so long. In fact, I have been writing A Shroud of Thoughts longer than any job I have held outside of writing. In some ways this blog has become my life's work.

For those of you who may have forgotten or are simply too young to remember, between 2002 and 2005 blogging was something of a fad at the time. Blogs had actually been around for a while. Jorn Barger coined the term weblog in December 1997 and Peter Merholz shortened weblog to blog in the spring of 1999. It was in the years between 2002 and 2005 that the media really began to take notice of blogging. Eventually it seemed as if everyone and their brother had a blog.

Among the people who had a blog at the time was a lady friend of mine. It looked like fun so I decided to start my own blog. At the time the fashion in blog titles was to have some variation of the word thought in them. I took the phrase A Shroud of Thoughts from a line in Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage canto iii stanza 113 (I won't quote here, as over the years I think I have quoted it enough). If I had it all over to do again I would have settled on a name more fitting for a blog dedicated to pop culture and nostalgia. Had I known of the word retrophilia at the time (which Collins Dictionary defines as "a strong liking for things from the past"), I probably would have named it that. While I would eventually consider changing the blog's name, by that time A Shroud of Thoughts had something of a readership and I worried it would confuse people if I changed the name.

Of course, here I must point out that A Shroud of Thoughts is not the only blog that has been around for years.  Immortal Ephemera is older than this blog, going back to 2002. Inner Toob is about a month and a half older, starting in April 2004. Both The Stop Button and Laura's Miscellaneous Musings date to 2005. The Rap Sheet dates to 2006. My friend Raquel started Out of the Past in 2007.  Blogs older than a decade are hardly common, but they are not as uncommon as some people might think!  By the way, I strongly recommend that you visit all of these fine blogs (they've lasted so long for a reason).

A good deal has happened in my life the past year. It was in July that I travelled to Los Angeles to scatter the ashes of my dearest Vanessa Marquez with her mother Delia and a few friends. While there I also attended a screening of Stand and Deliver (1988).  In September, Turner Classic Movies held their TCM in Your Hometown event in St. Louis, with a special showing of Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) at the Tivoli Theatre there. I got to attend a Meet and Greet at the Moonrise Hotel where I met Margaret O'Brien herself and Ben Mankiewicz in person. I also got to meet Diana Bosch of TCM and Yacov Freedman of TCM Backlot. Of course, I also finally got to meet some of my fellow TCM fans in person, including Annette of Hometowns to Hollywood and Jeff, who is another TCMParty member. In December I was featured in TCM Backlot's Member Spotlight. Sadly, not all of my memories of the past year are happy. In March (curiously, the day before the Los Angeles District Attorney election) the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office released their report on Vanessa's death. To say that I was angered and upset by the report would be an understatement. There are many things about the report that do not make sense to me and for me it creates more questions than it offers answers. It certainly contradicts some of what I know to be true. As a freelance writer and an introvert, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had little impact on me other than being unable to get Dr Pepper for a month. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's TCM Classic Film Festival was cancelled, but Turner Classic Movies scheduled a TCM Classic Film Festival: Special Home Edition from April 16 to April 19 2020. I enjoyed that immensely, particularly as I got to host the TCMParty for A Hard Day's Night (1964). I figure it will be as close as I will get to hosting the screening of a film at the TCM Classic Film Festival!

Anyway, each year I pick my favourite posts from the past year. Here are my favourites for this year.

"The 75th Anniversary of D-Day," June 6 2019
"The 50th Anniversary of Judy Garland's Death," June 22 2019
"The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)," July 1 2019
"The Radio Show Revival of the Seventies," July 19 2019
"Genevieve (1953)," August 3 2019
"The 50th Anniversary of Sharon Tate's Death," August 9 2019
"The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)," August 15 2019
"The Phantom of the Opera (1925)," August 24 2019
"One Year Later," August 30 2019
"The Count of Monte Cristo," September 7 2019
"The 60th Anniversary of Bonanza," September 12 2019
"ER Turns 25," September 19 2019
"Border Incident (1949)," September 22 2019
"The 60th Anniversary of Dobie Gillis,"  September 29 2019
"The 60th Anniversary of The Untouchables," October 15 2019
"Horror Hosts," October 26 2019
"The Crow (1994), Putting the Wrong Things Right," October 28 2019
"Aniki Bóbó (1942)," November 12 2019
"The 60th Anniversary of Rocky and Bullwinkle," November 19 2019
"The 70th Anniversary of Holiday Affair (1949)," December 17 2019
"The 51st Birthday of My Beloved Vanessa Marquez," December 21 2019
"A Charlie Brown Christmas," December 23 2019
"Marvel Comics Westerns Part One: The Beginning," January 8 2020
"Marvel Comics Westerns Part Two: The Fifties," January 9 2020
"Marvel Comics Westerns Part Three: Riding Off into the Sunset," January 10 2020
"The 70th Anniversary of What's My Line?," February 2 2020
"Maverick: 'Shady Deal at Sunny Acres," February 3 2010
"A Brief History of the Fantastic Comedies of the Sixties Part One," February 21 2020
"A Brief History of the Fantastic Comedies of the Sixties Part Two," February 22 2020
"A Brief History of Fantastic Comedies of the Sixties Part Three," February 23 2020
"In Defence of Vanessa Marquez," March 6 2020
"The 30th Anniversary of Twin Peaks," April 8 2020
"The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)," April 16 2020
"The Ziegfeld Follies (1946)," May 15 2020
"The 40th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back," May 21 2020

Monday, June 1, 2020

For the Victims of Police Violence

A photo by Gordon Parks of a protest in Harlem in 1963

 "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid any more." Cesar Chavez

The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, who knelt on Mr. Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, has brought attention to the often unjustified killings of minorities by police officers. Unfortunately, the unjustified killing of minorities by police officers is nothing new and has been going on for literally decades. What is more, it is not simply a matter of concern for the African American community. Latinos and Native Americans are also killed in disproportionate numbers when compared to white people. It is a subject with which I am all too familiar, having lost the person dearest to me to police violence.  As someone who is part Cherokee and has paid an all too high price because of police violence, I then stand with the African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans who are affected by such brutality.

What follows is a list of African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans who were the victims of police violence. There are around 100 names, but it is important to remember that the actual number of minorities killed unjustifiably by police officers is much, much greater.

Matthew Ajibade - Edgar Alvarado - Tanisha Anderson
Anthony Ashford - Julio Bald Eagle -Sandra Bland - Freddie Blue
Jamie Lee Brave Heart - Rumman Brison - Michael Brown
Robert Carillo- Paul Castaway - Philando Castille
William Chapman III - Miguel Chavez-Angles - Alexia Christian
Jamar Clark - Stephon Clark - Terence Crutcher
Anthony Jose Vega Cruz - Michelle Cusseaux - Albert Joseph Davis
Renee Davis - Rolando Delgado - Manuel De La Cruz - Manuel Diaz
Jordan Edwards - Salvado Ellswood - Andrew Esquivel
Joseph Finley Jr. - George Floyd - Ezell Ford - Peter Gaines
Eric Garner - Brendon Glenn - Vincente Gonzalez - Akai Gurley
Mya Hall - Eric Harris - Richard Herrera Jr. - Osmon Hernandez
Anthony Hill - Sherrisa Homer - Corey L. Jones - India Kager
Corey Kanosh- Victor Manuel Larosa - Chassady LeClair
Allen Locke - Andy Lopez - Guzman Lopez - Marcelo Luna
George Mann -  Joseph Mann - Vanessa Marquez
Laguan McDonald - Natasha McKenna - Lance McIntire - Carolos Mehia
Gustavo Nujera - Anthony Nunez - Paul O'Neal -
Abraham Ortiz  - Dante Parker - Jaso Pero - Nathaniel Harris Pickett
Baltazar Ramos - Michael Ramos -  Eric Reason
Jerame Reid - Danny Rendon - Tamir Rice
Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull) - Tony Robinson - Jesse Romero
Michael Sabbie - Phillip Salazar - Jacquline Salyers - Magdiel Sanchez
Nicolas Sanchez - Jonathan Sanders - Frank Smart - Walter Scott
Alvin Silversmythe - Alozno Smith -  Syville Smith - Alton Sterling
Breonna Taylor - Terrill Thomas - Willie Tillman - Mario Torres
Mary Truxillo - Loreal Tsingine - Carlos Valencia - Phillip White
Alteria Woods - Antonio Zambrano-Montes - George Zapata
Ricardo Diaz Zeferino