Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lyrics Not Required: 10 of the Grooviest Instrumental Grooves of the 1960s

When was the last time an instrumental song became a hit? It seems like no one is writing or playing them these days, and that's a shame. I have a soft spot for instrumentals and perhaps no other decade spawned as many, and with such musical variety, as the 1960s. These ten are my personal favorites. Although certainly not the only instrumentals from the decade, some of them proved that often a song can be a greater hit when the vocals are sweetly absent. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

GoRetroPam's Year in Review

The headlines read, ‘these are the worst of times’
I do believe it's true
I feel so helpless, like a boat against the tide
I wish the summer winds could bring back paradise

Styx, “The Best of Times”

My readers know that it isn't that often I venture away from the retro pop culture musings to talk about what's going on in my personal life, but it does happen on occasion and as it turns out, today is one of those occasions. Just like what Austin Powers went through in Goldfinger, I lost my mojo this past year. Maybe it's because 2014 just happened to be one of the worst years of my life (second only to when my father and a really good friend both died within 5 months of each other) and I am more than happy to kick it to the curb. Reviewing the year here also seems like a good way of cleansing it from my psyche--it'll get the bad stuff off my chest and out of the way and help me stay positive as I head into 2015. And, as it turned out, the year wasn't completely horrible--there were some good things that came my way in 2014, and I'll get to those in a minute. So, where to begin?

*I'm still job hunting

Well, I think some of you read my Labor Day post about checking in with my job search. On that front I'm still hitting the pavement, so to speak. Some days it hasn't been easy, and I wonder if I should be taking a temp or retail job that I loathe just to make some cash until I am offered the ideal full-time job. I keep reminding myself that my unemployed status does not define me as a person and I am definitely not alone.

But, there is a silver lining. Since I wrote that post I started to get interviews for jobs that I could actually envision myself doing--and even more importantly, enjoying--that focused on writing, social media marketing, or both, which happen to be my fortes. In the last quarter of 2014 I interviewed for a marketing writing position, a copywriter opening, and a social media manager job. I felt that the manager for the marketing job really liked me and was going to make me an offer, but the company and some other things about the position were not the right fit. At the time I worried that maybe I was making a mistake, but my gut felt strongly it wasn't the best match. I was turned down for the copywriter role and I have yet to hear back on the social media position. If anything, at least I'm getting interviews and this means my revamped resume is definitely getting positive attention. Also, each position and company I've met with has been a better prospect than the previous one. If I continue to focus on exactly what I want and how I want to feel in a job, then I'm bound to manifest it in 2015. Plus I made a New Year's resolution to read/watch an article, tip, tutorial, webinar, etc. every day to learn something new to improve my copywriting and social media management skills. 

*You know that modeling thing I wanted to do? Yeah, it didn't work out. 

Namely because I got stuck first with a psycho photographer, then another one who took very bad pictures. The first photographer offered to take them for free if I was willing to drive almost an hour to a studio that she often rents. I agreed, and the pictures were beautiful. I loved them. But she took barely any full-length shots, which I had told her beforehand I needed. When I asked her via email if there happened to be any on her camera that didn't get uploaded to the site, her ego inflated and she suddenly got very insulted. She said since she did the session for free, she didn't understand how there could be ANY disappointment on my end and she didn't return my phone call (where I said I wanted to purchase the pictures.) She did, however, continue to argue with me over email. I ended up telling her I wasn't to fork over any money to anyone who could be so unprofessional over an innocent question, and that she was lucky I wasn't rehashing the whole surreal experience on Yelp. 

The second photographer and his makeup assistant were just plain terrible. I didn't recognize myself in the photos and didn't think any of them authentically represented me. He took lots of photos crouched on the ground angled up at me that were unflattering, and the makeup girl didn't use enough makeup for one outfit, then made me look like a drag queen for my final change. And this is coming from a guy that supposedly photographs for the modeling industry. I regret parting with over $500 for that experience. 

In the end I ended up submitting a few good photos I already had to some agencies and not surprisingly, never heard back. And I also discovered that I don't care. Both times that I had my photos done, I quickly got bored during each session. Turns out modeling is really boring work, folks. I only wanted to explore it with the hopes of getting a commercial job here and there to pocket a few bucks. I'd much rather have a full-time job with benefits where I actually get to use my brains. 

*A psychotic woman with a drinking problem hijacked my Meetup group for a while.

OK, she didn't exactly hijack it. I stepped down late in the year as organizer temporarily because I didn't want to pay Meetup for another 6 months of fees that were due soon, and I just needed a break from dealing with no-shows and late cancellations. A woman who called herself Barbi stepped in and took over the group so it wouldn't be shut down...initially I was referring to her as "Good News Barbi" but it soon became evident that she was "Bad News Barbi." After a movie and dinner event I planned the day after Christmas (I was still an assistant organizer) she stepped down and told me that everything about the event was a disaster (because her friend, who showed up at the restaurant more than a half hour late, was "left out of the conversation.") She also went on my Facebook page and publicly chastised me and other women who came for ordering non-alcoholic drinks and peppered the Meetup event page with non-sensical comments. Fortunately, I've gotten pretty good at dealing with crazy people and not adding to their drama, so I took my group back over and quietly but promptly removed her, saying I was sure she knew the reasons why. Needless to say, I unfriended her from Facebook as well.  

But like I said, the year wasn't a total wash.

*For starters, I got this (non-paying) gig y'all probably are aware of, writing for a groovy 'lil site called REBEAT.

*I ran my first 5K in just a hair over an half-hour, lost the spare tire around my waist, and toned up my abs. 

*I bought a new car (a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta, which I love.)

And uh, well, admittedly there's not much else. But there's also not much to complain about. I just have to keep my intention and attention pointed in the direction I want to go. 

And that kind of brings me to this blog. It needs a rejuvenation--a revised look and new banner, maybe a tweaked layout, and I'd sure like to post some giveaways on here again soon. The pitches and topic ideas being thrown around at REBEAT are definitely feeding me inspiration, and I should really get the site revamped before I end up returning to work full time.

This is the year I am getting my mojo back, baby!

How was your 2014, and how is your 2015 going so far?

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Who Is This Paul McCartney Person, Anyway?

You've probably seen or heard by now that Kanye West and Paul McCartney recently collaborated on a song called "Only One." But it wasn't the song itself that sparked a flurry in the media; it was that so many of West's fans apparently don't know who Paul McCartney is. (The bigger question everyone should be asking is why Macca decided to work professionally with West in the first place. Then again, this is a man who married Heather Mills. Some questions can just never be answered, folks. We just have to learn to deal with it and move on.) 

Yes, a lot of teens and 20-somethings took to Twitter after "Only One" was released to flex not only their grammatical muscles but show off their intelligence to give the public these tweeted gems that will live on for all social media eternity:

"This Paul McCartney guy gonna be huge."

"who tf is paul mccartney???!??! this is why i love kanye west for shining light on unknown artists"

"Who is Paul McCartney? He boutta blow up thanks to Kanyer!!!"

To quote Charlie Brown, good grief. This is what's known as parenting fail, moms and dads. If you never introduced your kids to the music of the Beatles, then you deserve a slap across the face. On the other hand, maybe this revelation stings because it means that I and others are more painfully aware now that we're no longer young nor immortal like we thought we had it pegged all these years. We have finally reached a moment in history where NOT EVERYONE KNOWS WHO PAUL MCCARTNEY IS. But, when the Beatles hit it big in 1964, no everyone knew who Benny Goodman was, either. Call it the circle of life in the music world. 

By the way, this failure of the younger crowd to recognize Paul is not exactly new. These sort of tweets were being squirted out a couple of years ago, when McCartney appeared at the 2012 Grammy awards. 

Also, it would be really unfair to stereotype every young 'un as ignorant of the Beatles. The Beatles still have lots of younger fans who are discovering them everyday...there are tons of video compilations on YouTube made by teenage girls, for example, that are dedicated to their favorite fab, most often accompanied by comments gushing about how sexy and cute said fab is, and how they're even cuter and more talented than Justin Bieber and One Direction (there's hope for us, after all!)

But just in case you're one of the people who has never heard of Paul McCartney or know anything about him, here's ten basics about Paul I think everyone should know (all together now--pun intended--"Thanks, GoRetroPam!")

1. He was one of four members of the Beatles, the biggest band of the 1960s. His bandmates were John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. They had tons of hits--"She Loves You", "I Want to Hold Your Hand", "Daytripper", "Here Comes the Sun", "Something", and "With A Little Help By My Friends" just to name a few. Understatement of the century. 

2. He was born in Liverpool, England in 1942 and his father was a trumpet and piano player who led a jazz band in the 1920s, which Paul surely inherited his musical talent from.

3. He mostly played bass while with the Beatles, but plays guitar and is left-handed. 

4. He came up with the concept for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album released in 1967 which is considered an epic, groundbreaking record for its psychedelic sound and experimentation with unusual instruments and audio engineering. 

5. He was nicknamed "the cute one (Beatle)" because well, he was cute. 

6. He married Linda Eastman in 1969 and had three children with her (you may have heard of the fashion designer, Stella McCartney--that's one of them) plus Linda's daughter from her first marriage. They remained married until Linda's death in 1998 from complications due to breast cancer and their relationship is considered one of the strongest in rock and roll history. 

7. After the Beatles broke up in 1970, McCartney started a new band with Linda as one of the members called Wings. Wings was very popular throughout the 1970s, with several hits. 

8. Paul was recently considered the richest musician in the world until it was revealed that Madonna overtook that title in 2014. 

9. Paul's songwriting has sold over 100 million albums and 100 million singles throughout the course of his entire career. 

10. Paul is a vegetarian, animal lover, and staunch supporter of animal rights (as was his first wife, Linda.) He was also knighted in 1997 for his musical contributions, making him officially Sir Paul McCartney. So you must bow down to him (just kidding.)

And that's not even the tip of the McCartney iceberg, but a good start. Seriously, go to Google if you need to know more. 

Now, who is Kanye West? 

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Weird World of Walter and Margaret Keane

The day after Christmas I went to see the new Tim Burton film Big Eyes starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz as Margaret and Walter Keane (you can read my full review here on REBEAT!) In case you're not familiar with the Keanes, they were an artistic phenomenon in the late 1950s and early '60s, churning out paintings of forlorn looking children with large, penetrating, extraterrestrial-type eyes. Sometimes the kids would also be holding a kitty cat or dog. Walter Keane became famous when he decided to mass produce the portraits onto prints, calendars, and postcards. There was just one problem: not a single "big eye" was actually painted by Walter himself but by his wife, Margaret.

Basically, Margaret was an artist while Walter was a con artist. He was a real estate agent who passed himself off as a struggling artist and wined, dined, and seduced Margaret with tales of artistic training in Paris. According to the movie, Walter didn't even paint a single canvas of the street scenes that bore his name--and he also never told Margaret when he married her that he was divorced and had a daughter with his first wife. While Margaret locked herself away in her studio producing the paintings, Walter took all of the credit and the glory. After he started to get even more controlling and abusive, Margaret summoned the courage one day to take her daughter and leave in much the same way she had to leave her first husband. 

A few years after the Keanes divorced, Margaret--who was living in Hawaii by then--revealed to a local DJ that she was the artist of the big eyes all along. A few years after that, Margaret had a showdown in court with her megalomaniac ex-husband to sue him for the rights to all of the work that she had done. Walter acted as his own attorney, cross-examining himself in a display of larger-than-life showmanship that had made him famous when he started promoting his wife's art. The judge decided that the only way to determine who was telling the truth was to give each party one hour to produce a big eye painting in the courtroom. Margaret had no problem. Walter stalled, saying he was waiting for his creative muse to show up, then pathetically faked a shoulder injury. Margaret still paints today, while Walter passed away some years ago "broke and penniless" according to the film. 

Margaret's work when the Keanes were married was alienating--people either loved it or hated it. Many celebrities actually wanted the Keanes to paint their portraits, while art critics and gallery owners despised the big eyed children and dismissed them as a gimmick. It's a funny thing, though--as tacky as I think the paintings are, I will admit they kind of grew on me as I did research before the movie was released. Margaret's heart is in the right place; while the children she painted during the time she was married to Walter look hopeless, the work she's been producing in recent years shows optimism with her little boys and girls set in paradise, surrounded by wild animals. 

Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in a scene from Big Eyes. Image via the
As for the movie itself, I really enjoyed it and thought it was more entertaining and deserving of compliments then many harsh critics made it out to be. Yes, as Walter Keane, Waltz is a little over-the-top and turns in a borderline hammy performance, but as Margaret Keane recently told People magazine, watching Waltz was, to her, like seeing Walter alive again and she found it a bit stunning. This latest film from Burton is pretty much devoid of his usual trademark weirdness, except for a scene where Margaret is grocery shopping and every person in the store sports the same big eyes as her paintings. (Burton has long been a fan and collector of Keane's artwork.) Visually, the movie is gorgeous to look at and drips with the colors of the time period, which is why I recommend seeing it in the theater if you can. 

Here's some of the big eyes paintings that celebrities commissioned from the Keanes...creepy, no?

Jerry Lewis and his family (and fur children) were immortalized by Margaret Keane. 

Dean Martin's is really unsettling to me. The kid lurking behind his shoulder looks like an alien. 

Joan Crawford's crazy Mommy Dearest eyes lend themselves naturally to a big eye painting. Crawford was so enamored with the rendition that she put it on the cover of her book, "My Way of Life." 

I like Natalie Wood's portrait the's extremely flattering and shows Margaret Keane's talent. 

What do you think about Margaret Keane's artwork? 

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Woody Guthrie's New Year's Rulins

Happy New Year! I know things have been a bit stagnant on Go Retro lately, but I am working on a longer post, I promise. I'd love to make it a New Year's resolution to post more on the blog but the thing is, I'm just not that into the holiday and even less into resolutions. Let's face it, there's nothing magic about the change of the calendar year that causes people to break bad habits. They can and should be done at any time of the year. But with that in mind, I thought I would post the New Year's resolutions (or rulin's as he calls them) of legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie. (Click the image to enlarge it.) These have been circulating the web for some time now, and I only just came across them a few years ago. But they have stuck with me because they are resolutions that anyone can stick to; a blueprint for common sense but fulfilling living, if you well. Heck, they even apply to me. Let's have a look at just the first ten...

1. Work More and Better

2. Work By a Schedule

3. Wash Teeth, If Any
A very good idea.

4. Shave

5. Take Bath
Another very good idea.

6. Eat Good - Fruit - Vegetables - Milk

7. Drink Very Scant If Any

8. Write A Song Every Day
That I can't do, but I can write something for the company I do social media work for or myself every day. 

9. Wear Clean Clothing - Look Good

10. Shine Shoes

Other notable ones include "Love Everybody" and "Keep Hoping Machine Running." From what I understand, Guthrie was 31 when he jotted these down. What I find the most charming are the little illustrations included with each resolution. 

Have you made any resolutions for 2015? I look forward to a grooving, prosperous year and wish the same for all of my readers!

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