Marrying Music to Art

As promised, first-time contributor came Kate came up with an outstanding piece which I highly recommend to everyone…

Jimmy

Hopper Paintings as Songs

Edward Hopper- an American icon. Known best for pieces like Automat and Nighthawks, Hopper did not simply create doodles, he curated detailed, specific depictions of American life- sometimes lonely and melancholy, but always beautiful. I’ve been studying his pieces these past few weeks, and I’ve noticed that for some, certain songs would come to my mind, all on their own. After much consideration, I have cultivated a list of 10 Hopper paintings and 10 coordinating songs that I associate with them; however, I want you to consider what you think, and perhaps make a mental playlist of your own.

 

The goal here is not to come across as a fake-woke art connoisseur or to flex my music taste; it’s to offer imagery for these songs, or, alternatively, offer a new story to the paintings. I suggest you play these songs while reading or analyzing the pieces themselves to enhance the experience.

 

  1. Automat- The Sad Cafe (The Eagles)

Say hello to the painting/song combo that inspired this entire adventure into the rest of Hopper’s gamut; Automat and “The Sad Cafe”. While we know the woman is at an automat thanks to the title, it’s easy to imagine her in a cafe, as I would like you to do in order to fully understand how “The Sad Cafe” applies. Both pieces of art discuss themes of loneliness, like many other combinations you’ll soon read about. The lyrics that I feel best fit Automat is, “We thought we could change this world/ With words like “love” and “freedom”/ We were part of the lonely crowd/ inside the Sad Cafe”. The song references loss of wide-eyed innocence, which isn’t hard to imagine the lady in the painting could be thinking about, considering her solemn expression.

  1. Cape Cod Morning- Light of A Clear Blue Morning (Dolly Parton)

“Light of A Clear Blue Morning” is a paean celebrating hope of the promise of a new day- a mood that is reflected in Hopper’s Cape Cod Morning. As you can see, lots of light is provided in the painting. The symbolism of light and dark is something Hopper often toys with, so it is helpful to consider this when analyzing his works. To put it simply, light=hope, happiness, life. Dark=loneliness, depression, longing. The light in this painting is shining directly on the woman’s face, so it might be correct to assume that this image is meant to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, like “Light of A Clear Blue Morning” does. For example, look at this lyric; “It’s been a long dark night/ And I’ve been a waitin’ for the morning/ It’s been a long hard fight/ But I see a brand new day a dawning”. It’s a human universal to seek out hope and make it through the day, which may be why Hopper painted this in the first place, and it is definitely why I decided to pair the two works together.

  1. Room in New York- We All Fall in Love Sometimes (Elton John)

I’m not entirely sure why, but upon looking at this painting, I instantly imagined it to be a rainy day. This led me to my choice of song, “We All Fall in Love Sometimes” by Elton John, as its first lyric is, “Wise men say/ It looks like rain today”. Not to mention, both pieces share moody, somber tones. When I really looked at the piece, something caught my attention. Hopper knew that people would assume that a man and woman sharing a home together are married. So, what’s the point of painting a married couple when they are not even recognizing each other’s existence? To answer my own question, it seems he did this to demonstrate the fault in many relationships- estrangement. Elton John writes about a similar topic in “We All Fall in Love Sometimes” with the lyric, “We wrote it and I played it/ Something happened it’s so strange this feeling/ Naive notions that were childish/ Simple tunes that tried to hide it”. What’s more, the fact that the woman in Room in New York is playing a piano- John’s preferred instrument- makes the match of painting and song all the more perfect.

  1. Nighthawks- Heroes (David Bowie)

This song choice is one of the most unique because I chose it solely because of how iconic Nighthawks is. While though those depicted in the painting seem painfully average, their faces became American heroes- everyone knows Nighthawks. The extreme fame of a painting as seemingly simple as this with equally as basic looking characters let everyday Americans believe that even they could be heroes. This point is reflected in the lyrics, “We can be heroes just for one day/ We can be us just for one day”. This is the piece that launched Hopper into superfame, it made him a hero– exactly what Bowie sings about.

  1. Summer Evening- Jack and Diane (John Mellencamp)

“Jack and Diane” is a song that details the dramatic highs and lows of teenage life, and I like to think that Summer Evening has the same effect- it uses Hopper’s common motifs of dark/light and the theme of daily life, from the lens of teenagers. I always got summer vibes from “Jack and Diane”, so it felt most appropriate to pair it with Summer Evening. To be honest, picking just a few lines of lyric was very difficult because Hopper gives us a lot to work with and it is very to easy visualize these two characters as Jack and Diane themselves. With that said, I’ve concluded that the most potent lyric is, “Jack he sits back, collects his thoughts for a moment/ Scratches his head, and does his best James Dean/ Well, now then, there, Diane, we ought to run off to the city/ Diane says: ‘Baby, you ain’t missing nothing’”. Out of the entire song, this is the one part that I can actually imagine happening right in the painting, therefore, I’d say it is the most important lyric of the song in reference of Summer Evening.

  1. New York Restaurant- Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (Billy Joel)

Joel is a lyrical pundit- he paints a clear picture with his music, which was why I was so drawn to “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and the story it told- and how it was so easy to pair with New York Restaurant. Again, Hopper gives us a lot to work with, as most of the people in the painting don’t have visible faces, and those who do are fairly expressionless. This isn’t to say they are miserable, and if we look at the lyrics from “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, I think it would be valid to say that they could be perfectly content with life in that moment; “A bottle of white, a bottle of red/ Perhaps a bottle of rose instead/ We’ll get a table near the street/ In our old familiar place/ You and I, face to face”. The song continues to detail the history of Brenda and Eddie, their relationship, their fallout, and now, the reconnection. Two former young lovers meeting again, for old times sake, and nothing more. Art doesn’t always have to have some deep, metaphorical meaning- it can simply be enjoyed.

I think it is also important to note that Billy Joel himself is from New York City and often writes about the city. This is a very interesting instance of life imitating art, which is the entire point of this essay; to see how to vastly different mediums comment on extremely cognate topics in their own ways.

  1. Gas- Drive (Bobby McFerrin)

I’ll admit it- this essay is, on some level, just a tendentious attempt to get everyone- anyone– on the Bobby McFerrin train, as I believe he is grossly underrated in our current musical society. Though I could write a whole nother paper on McFerrin himself, this is not the time to preach. I digress.

A maladroit viewer of Gas may just suggest this is a man getting gas- however, if you’d like to give the painting a deeper connotation, you could suggest that the man is running away from something or somewhere. Why do I make this assumption? Hopper would take months or even years to deliberate exactly what he wanted to paint and how he wanted to do it- therefore, I’d say it is essential to study the symbolism in his pieces. For example, what may a gas station symbolize? Certainly not stationary living. This is why I associate “Drive” with Gas– specifically the lyric, “Gonna get in the car/ Drive away/ Drive so far/ No one’s gonna find me”. McFerrin sings about another theme Hopper often paints about- longing. Longing for love, change, or in this instance, escape. We could also talk about how this painting is purely symbolic, as it doesn’t even feature a car, perhaps to suggest that the man in the painting wants to escape, but doesn’t have the resources to do so? As always, it’s up to you to interpret what you think of art, which is why I love this piece so much.

  1. Early Sunday Morning- My Hometown (Bruce Springsteen)

When you think of the word hometown, do you think of the words “small”, “quiet”, or “boring”? I know I do. And while by no means do I think Early Sunday Morning itself fits those descriptors, the subject (an aged, seemingly vacant set of street-side stores) certainly does. This is the one painting I chose to feature that does not have any characters, so it was hard to find a song where the main subject is not a person, yet I prevailed with one of my favorites. I feel like I’ve seen this scene in so many places in and around my hometown that I simply had to write about “My Hometown” by Bruce Springsteen. A lyric that sticks out to me is, “Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores/ Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more”. This is an (almost) completely accurate descriptor of what Hopper paints, so I was very pleased to again see life imitating art!

  1. Office in a Small City- The Day Before You Came (ABBA)

I’ll admit it- I’m an ABBA aficionado (you can blame Mamma Mia for that!) For that reason, I knew this playlist would not be complete without the hauntingly brilliant “The Day Before You Came”. It tells the tale of an average day of working person, that I predict to be in their 30s, telling us about how boring and simple their life was before their soulmate entered it. Now looking at Office in a Small City, we see a comparable story- an everyman with a likely basic job and a plain, maybe even bored, expression on his face. The part of “The Day Before You Came” that is most interesting in regards to Office in a Small City is, “I must have kept on dragging through the business of the day/ Without really knowing anything, I hid a part of me away/ At five I must have left, there’s no exception to the rule”. A dull, meaningless, 9-5 life…remind you of anyone? Maybe the man in the painting? Maybe someone you know? Maybe you?

  1. Girl at a Sewing Machine- Solitaire (Marina and the Diamonds)

Like most of Hopper’s characters, the woman fulfills a lonesome persona- however, I chose to see her as someone who is content with her loneliness- she’s keeping busy and appears healthy, who’s to say she doesn’t enjoy her independence? Thanks to Marina Diamandis’ vivid lyrics, it was not hard to imagine the “Solitaire” could’ve been written by Girl at the sewing machine. Let’s take a look: “I see buildings and bars from the window/ And I listen to the wind blow/ I see people and cars covered in gold/ And I’m happy to be on my own”. What’s unique about this song is that it’s the freshest on our little playlist here. I mention this because Hopper likely didn’t intend to serve us a happy, fulfilled, independent single woman, but by using other pieces of art (that were cultivated in a very different social climate) to build a story with, that’s what we got.

As you can tell, the stories told in Hopper’s paintings are exclusive to modern America; that’s what makes them so iconic. Far more famous painters from across the globe like Picasso and Dali could never paint the way Hopper could due to their lack of the American experience . What makes him so great is his ability to portray the everyman, aka the middle class, aka the 99%, aka most of America. He taught us the magic of seeing ourselves as art.

You may say these paintings or songs are outdated and irrelevant- that’s your prerogative. Speaking as a deconstructionist, the beauty of art is that you can give it any meaning you so desire, and I encourage you to do so.

Kate

 

They Called Him Flipper

I saw a story this morning about a wounded dolphin that was rescued and nursed back to health under high scrutiny by his/her handlers.  This is what humanity likes about itself insomuch as one dolphin can be saved while 5,000 are caught and die in fishing nets each year seeing as they’re suddenly denied the privilege of surfacing for air. What’s the term for that again? I think it’s called “collateral damage” where the dolphins are considered expendable for the sake of our seafood dining.

But I digress. The wounded dolphin was immediately dubbed “Flipper”. I for one think this reflects poorly on our species in as much as we can’t improve on the badly overused, stereotypical moniker already employed by the old TV show and the Miami Dolphins mascot.  I wonder what the actual wild, free-roaming porpoises think about this every time one is caught. (BTW-Are dolphins the same thing as porpoises?) Imagine this conversation:

Amy the Friendly Dolphin (halting her frolicking for a moment): “Omigod, This is a disaster! Gus just caught by the humans! What’re we gonna do?”

Stan the Dolphin: “Damn straight it’s a disaster. He owes me fifty bucks.  Well, I guess he’s ‘Flipper’ from now on.”

I’m writing this while semi-watching the Golden Globe awards wherein it seems that suddenly famous people who built their careers based on taking chances are so averse to doing so now. Just a thought, but Bill Murray, Dave Chapelle and Daniel Tosh r still out there folks. Whoa! Hold the proverbial phone here but not only one yet two award recipients (the second being Christian Bale) just got bleeped (was the first Ben Stiller?) in an unexpected development.  I was mostly expecting preachy, self-serving speeches (one so far) about various issues that I coulda made fun of but won’t cuz I’m admittedly starting to change my tune so as to fall in with our brainwashed Hollywood elite. (Being seen not applauding during a celebrity’s self-righteous, indignant speech can really bring trouble to the uncooperative actor.) Not falling for that trap, my friends!

Turning to another point, I’m getting a little sick of my local news channel suddenly interrupting your “regular programming” with “breaking news” that ultimately winds up being a big pile of nuthin’. I don’t mind waiting ’til five o’clock to hear this stuff, man.

If you haven’t already noticed this is a placeholder column until (proud to say our third writer) Kate’s music column is up and ready to go. On this site, anything goes. (Anybody a cartoonist? I’d love to have one man, even if other people think u stink.)

Stay tuned.

Jimmy

 

 

Bohemian Rhapsody-Redux

Chuck came up with some great commentary on the Queen/Freddy Mercury movie in response to the film and my own recent review.  Check it out.

Jimmy

Here’s Chuck’s slant…

I haven’t had a chance to write up a full review for the blog, but my take on it was that it was decent. Not great, but not horrible. On the plus side, Rami Malek was fantastic as Freddie Mercury. He elevated the entire film. He didn’t so much “play” Mercury. He became him. It was a marvel to watch. Another huge plus was the dead on recreation of their set at Live Aid. Everything about that scene was so authentic. My favorite part of the film. And of course, the music was stellar. Some of the greatest stuff ever recorded.

On the down side, the dialogue was hackey in places. The pace was too slow in some places. The timeline of their music was off in some places. (IE. Fat Bottomed Girls didn’t come out until 3 years after their first American tour).  They got a ton of facts wrong. ( IE. He didn’t tell them he was HIV positive until 2 years after Live Aid).  The other actors were bland. (Which, maybe, was the point in comparison to Freddie’s personality). The guy playing Roger Taylor drove me crazy. Taylor has a very (very!) high pitched speaking voice. This guy, um, did not. I cringed every time he spoke. Mike Myers was a little unnecessary. (We get that he used Bohemian Rhapsody in Wayne’s World).

I do get your point about them not focusing on May and Taylor and Deacon more. You and I are rock music nerds and would have loved to have seen a deeper dive into the 3 of them. But most of the movie ticket buying populace aren’t rock music nerds. No way this film makes half a billion dollars if it dove deeply into the life of Brian May. (It likely doesn’t even get made). Freddie is who people wanted to see.

Overall, in terms of stars, I’m right there with you, but for different reasons. 2 ½ out of 4.

Chuck

 

Bohemian Rhapsody-A Movie Review

Queen.  (The band, not the monarch.) Tailors of the triumphantly sonic rock sound stemming from their inception in the early seventies that so many of the second-stringers coming behind them found to be a band not only uncopiable but still mythical in many ways.  Subtle yet dynamic, alternatively humble and bold, honest but still occasionally playful in their sound they used their jazz/blues/classical and God knows whatever other musical roots to bring rock to it’s theatrical zenith.

But this isn’t an assessment of the band but rather the recent movie so let’s go…

I was initially stunned by the resemblance between the actors and the original Queen members (Hey! That guy looks just like Brian May!) for instance. This really helped supply the effect that I was now immersed in Queen-World but the movie as a whole has an annoying tendency to skip this initial platform of credibility and throw away a beautiful opportunity to establish and recognize the tightness the members of the group used to establish themselves as one thing, irreversible and continuous.

When I plunked myself in my seat I was happily expecting a flick about Queen but it quickly became apparent that I was watching a biopic centered around lead singer Freddie Mercury with only occasional references to why we listened to Queen in the first place.

Here’s where I started losing interest.

If your interested in Freddy Mercury himself then your in business. This film dives into his personal life highlighting his personal, conflicted relationships eventually leading to the near destruction of the thing he loved most, writing songs and performing them with the guys who took him in as a brother and stood by Freddy even when his ego got the better of him. While this movie runs two hours and fifteen minutes, plenty of time to give you a sense of Queen’s overall talent, little of that time was used to establish the most critical portion of Freddy’s life.  While I admit that Elvis Presley would have been a famous talent without the benefit of the innovative guitarist Scotty Moore, it sure didn’t hurt to have him around. Would Freddy’s superb talent ever been known if it wasn’t for the utterly unique sound of Brian May’s laser-like guitar, Roger Taylor’s huge pioneering drum effect and Fred Deacon’s whizbang bass (as well as songwriting from these three)?

That’s what I was expecting and got nothing but a few glimpses as to why Queen worked at all. Where I was expecting light, I got darkness, I don’t mean that metaphorically though. It seemed that half this venture was deliberately filmed in dimly lit locations like an Orson Welles picture.

The final scene of the movie actually delivers the sound and power that Queen is famous for but why did I have to wait two hours for delivery? Given that the musical advisors were original members Roger Taylor and Brian May, it’s mystifying they’d let this great music be tamped down, volumeless where volume was needed and unspectactular when spectactulerness was so easily within grasp. When I mentioned this to my daughter she agreed speculating that putting Queen’s stunning sound out there at the movie’s early points would’ve lessened the effect at the end. She’s probably right but she’s also seventeen years old and wasn’t available to hear this group in it’s proper time.

I was. We both gave Bohemian Rhapsody 2 1/2 stars out of four. Here’s two original promo videos that Queen provided in the seventies.  I’ll ask you to please watch so you can see what I’m driving at here and don’t forget to hit on MAMEMAGAZINE.COM for more music-oriented content and as always, thanks for reading…

Jimmy

 

 

 

 

All the News That’s Unfit to Print

Hey, hey and Ho, Ho Dear readers! Lotsa stuff to get to today so let’s dispense with the niceities and proceed right to the usual buffoonery…

I saw in the news recently where there was a lady who had the power go out in her house and sensibly fumbled her way into the cellar to find and subsequently light a candle in order to gain some light thus enabling her to see where she was going and generally provide light to her now very small world.  Sound thinking, right? Well, these apparently simple tasks sometimes come with an unforeseen downside as we all know and this case is especially noteworthy as the “candle” she was trying to light was in reality a stick of dynamite.

Don’t get me wrong here, as a fellow citizen who also tucks my candles into the same type of drawers and in the same normally sensible proximity to dynamite I see this is as a triumph of the American Will. I ask you my fellow Americans, in what other country is it OK to accidently risk blowing your block to kingdom come while inciting references to Bugs Bunny and The Three Stooges?  No country that I wanna live in and that’s for damn sure.  (To our friends at the NSA who’re obviously reading this now that I used the word “dynamite”, I’m just goofin’ around here man)

Speaking of The Three Stooges, I normally refrain from commenting on people’s personal appearance because I’m a fine one to talk but I recently came across a guy who’s toupee reminded me of Moe Howard’s hairdo (“Hey Moe! It’s a tarantula!!)

Next up, why do people who had a sufficient amount of dozing say that they “slept like a baby”?  What’re u trying to tell me, that you woke up screaming every three hours?

Having seen the two previous posts, my daughter is trying to straighten me out on the state of modern music in apparent hopes that I’ll embrace some of the newer bands. If u consider her as Lisa Simpson and me as Homer you’ll get the idea that she’s usually right about alotta stuff and this time I want in on the ground floor. In this, the first case she confronted me with will be a band called “Cage the Elephant”. Having listened to their “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”, they appear to me to be a cross between Run DMC and Paul Revere and the Raiders but form your own impressions with the video supplied below…

Jimmy  

American Vacation

Summer!! Yep, time to fly kites, explore beaches, mountains, enjoy concerts and over- order at local seaside restaurants to the point where Donald Trump would have to go scrambling through his pockets to pay the bill. ‘Tis the season where shark attacks, excessive mosquito activity, trying to mentally nullify fireworks while dead asleep at 3 o’clock in the morning and daydreaming that yer kid’s ballgame doesn’t go into overtime before your eyes melt in their sockets.

As u can tell, I can be a bit of a pessimist from time to time so let’s here a Jersey report from the sunnier, more optimistic Chuck who loves summer and would never do anything to traumatize his kids…

Jimmy

“On one of the days of our recent vacation, I took the family out for a nice breakfast.  After breakfast, we all got back to the house and my three daughters (ages 19, 13 and 7) all piled out of the back of our minivan. As the last one got out and closed the sliding door on the van, I looked at Diane, smiled, and punched the gas as hard as I could. Diane and I go, tires spinning, ripping away from the house like we were fleeing a bank robbery. The sight of the completely stunned girls getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror was, well, let’s just say it was pretty great. And before anyone calls Child Services on us, we just went around the block and went right back to the house where they were all still standing. And laughing.”

Chuck

I hadda complimentary response to Chuck’s fine tale all ready to go and that I was gonna post until I saw an item in the mail today from a place called “AA”.  Thinking quickly (as I naturally assumed that Alcoholics Anonymous had finally caught up to me all these decades later), I packed my bags and got ready to “get the hell outta Dodge” so to speak. As it turns out, “AA” in this case means the “AA-Vehicle Notification Department” out of Plano, TX who kindly advised me (and I quote) “Our records indicate that you have not contacted us to have the vehicle service contract for your vehicle uploaded”.  Further, “Your file on this vehicle will be deleted and you may no longer be eligible for this offer regarding service coverage after 8/20/18.”

Which raises a few questions…

How can these characters go around using the term “AA”? I thought it was copyrighted by the aforementioned Alcoholics Anonymous. Is this a subliminal message to all the perceived miscreants on planet to sign up for this buffoonery? (If it is then I want in on this racket cuz there’s a miscreant born every minute.)

Even tho I’ve been strictly warned that my “coverage” MAY expire on 8/20/18 their willing to be a big-hearted buncha guys and swindle me outta my money at a later date, if need be.

The part that pisses me off most is that if their willing to send a piece of mail (not an e-mail or text, mind you) then they’ve gotta be trolling for older folks who might actually take this s@&t seriously.

I didn’t intend to follow up a Lynyrd Skynyrd (at what point will that band name not require a spell check?) number with another but I was bummed to hear that Ed King had died in the last day or two. An astonishingly good guitarist most noted for coming up with the opening riff on “Sweet Home Alabama” and it’s subsequent and outstanding lead guitar techniques, he not only changed rock and roll but an entire state’s perception of itself.

Try topping that. The guy was f&%$@ing brilliant. Here’s a video featuring Ed King in some early, raw footage and thanks for readin’.

(Ed’s the heavier-set fella in the white shirt who plays the intro and sings as well)

Jimmy

 

Gimme Back My Bullets

Still a little hazy from the family get-together last weekend but not so much so that I don’t remember this outstanding performance by Cheap Trick as they covered Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Back My Bullets” during an AXS TV (“One More the Fans”) airing of various and tremendously talented performers doing Skynyrd tunes. While the other bands did their songs by the numbers (and sounded awesome doing it) Robin Zander and Cheap Trick topped that by bringing me back to that era just by NOT playing by the numbers and attacking the song with sheer attitude. Given that Cheap Trick and Skynyrd were contemporaries in the seventies, maybe my new “it takes one to know one” theory applies. Here’s a copy of that performance…

 

Jimmy