Popdose Exclusive Video Premiere: Rebecca Loebe, “Tattoo”

Popdose is pleased to present to you this lyric video from singer-songwriter Rebecca Loebe, “Tattoo” – a piece about what we leave behind when relationships end.  It’s one of the standout tracks from her forthcoming album, Give Up Your Ghosts

She’s earned over 50,000 fans across social media platforms over a decade of hitting the road and only now has signed to a label, Blue Corn (home to 3x Grammy-nominee Ruthie Foster). She’s a remarkable talent, a killer singer and an insightful, melodic songwriter who also gets to the core of life. She has a gift for melody so you think you’re listening to some lightweight pop songs but then the words kick in and whoa!

Give this a listen and find a place in your heads (and hearts) for it.

Give Up Your Ghosts will be released on Friday. February 8th, 2019.

https://www.rebeccaloebe.com/

 

 

(Not So) Famous Firsts: Alfonso Cuarón’s “Sólo con Tu Pareja”

It’s been five years since Alfonso Cuarón released Gravity and won the Best Director Oscar. But with the release of Roma he’s once again the front runner at the Oscars and has caused every single film critic to spill some ink over his winning streak. Yet Roma could not be a more different film than Gravity. It’s a black and white foreign language drama about a middle-class family in Mexico City. The only glimpse audiences get of Cuarón’s previous interests is the scene where the family goes to watch 1969’s Marooned.

But there have always been two Cuaróns working in the film industry. The Hollywood Cuarón is interested in high concept fantasy films that require enormous budgets to be properly realized. The independent filmmaker Cuarón is forever stuck in the 1990s indie film boom and focuses on very specific events in Mexican history that the average Hollywood audience wouldn’t know about.

Both create equally interesting and engaging movies. But it’s hard to determine why Cuarón creates such different films that focus on such different interests. How can a director who is interested in the story of a woman in her late twenties deflowering two teenagers also spend five years making a James Cameron-esque space epic?

The answer, according to Cuarón’s debut Sólo con Tu Pareja, is very easily. The movie is a combination of Cuarón’s interest in high fantasy and his interest in intimate stories taking place in Mexico City. I started “Not-So Famous Firsts” to see if I could figure out how filmmakers treat their storytelling techniques in their first film. And surprisingly, under those guidelines, Pareja may be the best example of a directorial debut, because it’s very easy to trace the line between directing this film and directing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Sólo con Tu Pareja follows a womanizer with the Nabokovian name Tomás Tomás. He is having an affair with his boss as well as his nurse. He also is obsessed with his flight attendant neighbor. When his nurse finds out that he’s sleeping around, she falsifies a blood test to make Tomás think he has AIDS.

The premise sounds like a straightforward screwball comedy and it many ways, it is. There are scenes of Tomás sneaking between apartments so he can sleep with two women in one night – only for him to be caught on the ledge the next morning, naked as the day he was born.  Tomás also makes it a habit of running down his apartment building to fetch his paper in the nude and must hide when a woman and her child interrupt his daily ritual.

The film is, at its core, a combination of Cuarón’s two types of films. Sólo con Tu Pareja is shot in the same way Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet shot their films – Delicatessen was released the same year as this film. Pareja is about daily life in a universe that doesn’t resemble our reality. It’s shot in a Mexico City that is built on primary colors and exists in a world Tomás Tomás created for himself. Every woman is beautiful, his apartment is large, and his ritual of running down the stairs naked is completely normal.

The film also makes references to Mexico’s past, the way not only Cuarón does in later films but the way Gabriel Garcia Marquez referenced phony South American history in his novels.  Tomás works for an advertising agency and has been tasked with creating a new slogan for Gomez Home Style Jalapenos. The commercials feature a man dressed as a conquistador eating them. Later, another character talks about how those peppers are “the worst” and invents her own slogans to sell them. Cuarón is thumbing his nose at his country’s history. The point of the Sólo con Tu Pareja is to discuss how people create their own identities through their own experience and not through what’s in textbooks. Trusting history to shape you is no better than an advertising executive selling a product with a slogan.

Yet there’s more. One of my favorite scenes involves Tomás having a nightmare in which he’s on an airplane and tries to escape after the people from his past come to confront him. It features Mexican stereotypes like luchadores and mariachi bands and blurs the line between fantasy and reality – only when the scene is over do we realize that it’s a dream sequence. It also foreshadows the final scene of the film where Tomás on an airplane hoping that he’s finally discovered the key to his happiness that involves abandoning his preconceived notions of the world.

Also, while Y Tu Mamá También is shot like a documentary, Sólo con Tu Pareja looks more fantastic. Practically every location is green, a reference to the e e cummings quote at the start of the movie. The film is divided into different chapters with different literary quotes, making Tomás’s story seem more like a parable than like a real memory. Cuarón’s doesn’t want to portray real life. He wants to portray a folk tale. At a time when even Saturday morning cartoons used AIDS as a plot point, the AIDS subplot in this movie is almost forgotten until much later in the film and leads to a surreal scene with Tomás trying to commit suicide via microwave. And Cuarón takes time to deconstruct screwball comedy tropes. One scene late in the film involves the gag of a child pressing every button in the elevator to prevent the characters from getting where they need to go. After a while, they push the kid out of their way and run up the stairs. Cuarón is interested in the fantastical elements of the story. He certainly abandoned some of those fantasy elements for his later Spanish language films, but these elements reinforce his Hollywood films.

Cuarón’s directorial debut is one of the more famous debuts I’ve reviewed for this series. After all, it’s in the Criterion Collection. But most people who watch Roma on Netflix still don’t know about Sólo con Tu Pareja. That’s a shame because this film sets the template for everything else in Cuarón’s filmography. If you really want to understand Cuarón’s artistic intentions, you need to watch this movie. You’ll not only see a hilarious comedy but a deeper understanding of one of modern filmmaking’s most exciting directors.  

Soul Serenade: Lavern Baker, “Tweedlee Dee”

There is no doubt that Atlantic Records played a huge role in exposing a wider audience to the sound of Rhythm & Blues. The label, which was founded by jazz lovers Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson in 1947, boasted a roster of artists that at one time or another included Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Sam & Dave. But in the beginning, there were pioneers at the label. They included artists like Ray Charles, Sticks McGhee, Ruth Brown, Joe Morris, the Clovers, the Clyde McPhatter-led Drifters, and Lavern Baker.

She was born in Chicago in 1929. Her given name was Delores Baker and she was the niece of not one but two singers — jazz vocalist Merline Johnson, who was primarily responsible for raising Baker, and the legendary blues singer Memphis Minnie. By the age of 12, Baker was not only singing in her church choir but she was leading soloist. It was just five years later, having attained legal status, that Baker began performing in the South Side clubs under the stage name “The Little Sharecropper.” Her rustic schtick proved popular with the record number of black people who were migrating to Chicago from the south as well as the hip city people.

At the time, Detroit had a growing reputation as a center for R&B so Baker headed there. She landed a gig at The Flame Show Bar. The club’s owner, a guy named Al Green, became her manager. Baker’s first recordings were released by RCQ in 1949 with Baker fronting Sugarman Penigar’s band. “I Wonder Baby” and “Easy Baby” proved very popular in the clubs where Baker was performing. But the winds of change were blowing and by the early 1950s big band music was on its way out and R&B was rising. 1952 was a big year for Baker. She dumped the “Little Sharecropper” thing, joined the Todd Rhodes Orchestra, changed her stage name to Lavern Baker, released an R&B ballad called “Trying,” and toured nearly non-stop.

The momentum continued in 1953. Baker quit the band and successfully toured Europe as a solo act. That was also the year that she signed with Atlantic Records and released her first single for the label, the classic “Soul On Fire.” Her true breakthrough was still ahead and it took place with a single that Baker recorded in October 1954. “Tweedlee Dee” was a huge hit all through 1955. The Winfield Scott song, written specifically for Baker, rose to #4 on the R&B chart and #14 on the pop chart. The problem was that there was a despicable practice known as “whitewashing” going on at the time. Many radio stations and record stores would only push records by white artists. So white artists like Georgia Gibbs made whole careers out of covering black hits and getting substantial airplay and sales. The Gibbs cover or “Tweedlee Dee” sold over a million copies and she subsequently cover the Baker hits “Jim Dandy” and “Tra La La.”

Lavern Baker

But Baker didn’t let racism stop her. She continued releasing hits like “Play It Fair” and “Bop-Ting-A-Ling” and made an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1955. As rock and roll began to eclipse R&B, Baker adapted again, releasing rock and roll-styled hits like “Jim Dandy,” “Jim Dandy Got Married,” and “Humpty Dumpty Heart.” Her greatest success, however, came in 1958 with an epic single “I Cried a Tear.” Baker’s string of hits continued into the 1960s with songs like “So High, So Low,” “Saved,” and “See See Rider.” But the river of time kept flowing and the rise of Motown and the appearance of the Beatles on these shores relegated artists like Baker to “oldies” status. By 1965, Baker had decamped from Atlantic and landed at Brunswick records. She had a couple of small hits for the label, “Think Twice,” and “Wrapped, Tied, and Tangled.”

While entertaining troops in Vietnam on a USO tour in 1966, Baker fell ill with pneumonia. She was airlifted to Thailand for treatment and by the time she recovered, the tour had ended and she was left alone in southeast Asia.

“I didn’t know what to do, who to go to,” Baker told biography.com. “The tour was gone and I was in a strange country where telephone service was practically nonexistent. I hitched with farmers on wagons to Bangkok. I’d had to slog through rice paddies in water up to my shoulders in some places to get to Bangkok, so by the time the Marines got me to the base I’d had a relapse.”

Baker was then airlifted to the Philippines where she spent four more months recovering. Her then-husband, comedian Slappy White, used the lack of communication (Baker insisted that she made numerous attempts to contact him) from Baker to have her declared dead and assumed ownership of her catalog.

“For all I know he heard my voice and hung up. Probably did, the no-good &%@S#!!,” Baker said.

Baker decided to make the best of a bad situation. She stayed in the Philippines, running a nightclub for 21 years, before returning to the U.S. in 1988. She got back in time to win acclaim with her performances at the Atlantic Records 40th-anniversary show at Madison Square Garden and in the Broadway production of Black and Blue. In 1991, Baker was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She continued to tour until her death from heart failure in 1997.

Pioneer. Trailblazer. These are terms that we tend to toss around but they fit Lavern Baker like a glove. She’s not called the Empress of Rock and Roll for nothing and if her life had a tragic tinge to it as a result of losing millions of dollars because of the covers of her hits by white artists and being an exile from the country of her birth for more than 20 years, she lived with dignity and unshaken optimism.

“I just did what I had to do,” she said. “Don’t we all?”

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Ninety-Eight

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross:  Episode Ninety Eight

The boys come roaring back with a highly spirited and 100 m.p.h. conversation that will leave you thinking and wanting to join in the festivities.  Listen in as Rob and Jon talk about the current political climate, sports, music and, of course, everybody’s favorite segment, “In Our Heads”.

Sit down, get comfortable and buckle up for a wild ride with Jon and Rob on this 98th episode of Radio City…!

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Ninety Eight


The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.

Popdose Exclusive Single Premiere: Mark Wilkinson, “Thought You’d Be Around”

 

From a quiet cafe to a calming coast, acclaimed Aussie singer-songwriter Mark Wilkinson is searching nearly everywhere for healing – from the heartbreak of lost love on his melancholic new single, “Thought You’d Be Around”, set for digital release on January 25th, 2019.   The first track from his forthcoming album, Blue Eyed Girls, “Thought You’d Be Around” delivers a warm yet subtle sentimentality.  Popdose is pleased to present to you this exclusive listen.

 Blue Eyed Girls comes on the heels of Wilkinson’s 2018 Wasted Hours, which hit #1 on the Australian independent album chart and iTunes singer-songwriter chart. Wilkinson’s previous E.P., Lost in a Dream, debuted at #1 on the  iTunes singer-songwriter chart in Australia, in May, 2017.

 Wilkinson will support the release of the album with a 30+ date world tour.  Past tours have included sold-out shows across the world, including in London, New York and Sydney. Wilkinson has opened for some of music’s biggest stars, including Seal, Peter Frampton, and Brian Wilson.

 Sit back and absorb this – you may find it to be a tonic for your own soul.

Blue Eyed Girls will be released on Friday, March 8th, 2019.

https://www.markwilkinsonmusic.com/home


Popdose Single Premiere: The Lines Between Beth // James Get “Blurry”

Beth // James is an indie folk pop duo from Austin, Texas, a city where one can imagine 70 percent of the population is a member of an indie folk pop duo or group. Popdose first introduced loyal readers to the heavenly harmonies of Mikaela Beth Kahn (vocals, piano) and Jordan James Burchill (vocals, guitar) in early 2017 when we featured their ‘Lion Eyes’ single in our round up of the year’s most promising new artists. We caught up with them at the end of the year to take a preview of their 2018 plans.

Well, life didn’t turn out exactly as they planned. A full-length album didn’t (yet) pan out, but the duo started plotting out a much more important album – one for their upcoming wedding. Yes, the “will they or won’t they?” sexual tension that electrified their stage show finally reached a crescendo when they announced their engagement to fans on social media late last year.

Next month, the duo will deliver triplets (fraternal, not identical) in the form of a 3-song EP, Falling, available February 1, 2019 on all streaming services and download stores. In honor of the world premiere of their new single, ‘Blurry’, Popdose caught up with the lovebirds on the eve of their show tonight at the legendary Hotel Café in Hollywood. An official EP premiere party is scheduled for February 1 at the Cactus Café in Austin.

POPDOSE: Usually when bands get off the road, they need some time alone–you two got engaged. How did the proposal go down and what steps do you take to keep the romance and the music fresh? Then again, Buckingham Nicks turned their heartache into multi-platinum sales…. 

JORDAN JAMES BURCHILL: Yes! We got engaged in New York at Washington Square Park. It’s one of our favorite places to go whenever we’re in the city. Mikaela was totally surprised. It was awesome. We do spend a lot of time together but we never really get sick of each other. When we’re not playing shows or writing music, we’re out seeing friend’s shows in Austin or watching our TV programs (currently binging The New Girl on Netflix and True Detective on HBO). We do like our alone time though and definitely make time for writing and practicing separately. Whenever we have a night off, Mikaela’s trying out new recipes in the kitchen, and Jordan’s out playing music with friends. On the road we try to have a mix of work (playing shows, networking) and having fun. We always save up some money and go to a nice dinner together in whatever city we’re visiting.

How did ‘Lion Eyes’ make its way into the Spike Lee film, BlacKkKlansman? For people who will be catching it on VOD, where in the film can they hear it?

JORDAN: Sometime last year Mikaela saw an open call for independent music submissions on Spike Lee’s Instagram looking for music for his Netflix show She’s Gotta Have It. ‘Lion Eyes’ was the second song we ever wrote together. We got a call a few months later from Spike’s music director telling us that Spike passed on our song for the TV show but had been holding onto it for his new movie. We had completely forgotten about the submission and were shocked! We are so excited to have a small part in such an amazing and important movie. Our song is in a pretty tough scene to watch. It’s about halfway through the movie where a Klan member and his wife are talking in bed saying some really horrible things.

With two EPs behind you, and some big gigs ahead (like tonight’s Hotel Cafe show in LA and your official premiere gig in Austin), what songs do you add to flesh out the headliner set?

MIKAELA BETH KAHN: We’re definitely playing songs from our last EP and the new one, but we’ve also added some brand-new songs to the set. We’ve been writing a lot for our next record and some of the songs we’ll be playing will actually be on that. We’ve also really been digging Lennon Stella’s new EP (Love, me) lately and we cover one of her songs in our set. We made an Instagram video of it a few weeks back.

For the year ahead, are you eying a touring bus or is it still the two of you in the car? 

JORDAN: Definitely no tour bus but we’d love to get the full band to do a Texas tour sometime this year!

Do you sing to stay entertained on the highway? What albums do you bring with you (or stream)? 

MIKAELA: In the car we’ve been listening to a lot of Kacey Musgraves and Ruston Kelly – a power couple we look up to. We also love podcasts so we listen to a lot of Bill Simmons sports podcasts and true crime podcasts. We don’t really sing in the car unless we’re making up weird songs when we get bored (laughs).

Falling is available for preorder. Their debut EP, All in Life (featuring ‘Lion Eyes’) is available now.  

Soul Serenade: The Capitols, “Cool Jerk”

 

The summer of 1966. I spent it on the beach and Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Incredible music poured out of tinny sounding transistor radio speakers everywhere I went. The songs of that summer included “Paint It, Black” by the Rolling Stones, “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells, “Sunny” by Bobby Hebb, “Sweet Talkin’ Guy” by the Chiffons, “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge, and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by the Temptations.” But the Tempts and their Motown colleagues were not the only ones pushing great music out of the Motor City. Because 1966 was also the summer of the Capitols.

They got together in 1962 as an actual band, as opposed to a vocal group, called the Caps. The original lineup included drummer Samuel George who was also the lead singer. Don Storball played guitar and sang backup vocals, and Richard Mitchell was the keyboard player who also sang backup. At the time, an Ann Arbor DJ named Ollie McLaughlin owned a label called Karen Records. When the Caps opened for Barbara Lewis, McLaughlin caught their act and signed them to his label. In 1963, they released their first single “Dog and Cat” b/w “The Kick.” The record had plenty of energy, just like their later singles would, but the lyrics were pretty childish and the Caps failed to find an audience for it. As a result, the group fell apart and the members went their own ways.

The 1960s were known for a number of dance crazes. There was the twist, the watusi, the frug, and many others. One of the biggest was a dance called the jerk. The jerk was more sexually suggestive than some of the others, so much so that in some Detroit clubs it was known as the “pimp jerk.” Storball could sense which way the wind was blowing and he wrote a song hoping to capitalize on the jerk craze. He was smart enough to worry that such a song might end up being banned on the radio so instead of calling it “Pimp Jerk” he called it “Cool Jerk.”

The other Capitols saw the potential in Storball’s song and decided to get back together. They got in touch with McLaughlin to give him the good news and to book some studio time. On March 14, 1966, they went into the studio and although “Cool Jerk” was not technically a Motown record, the backing group that day was none other than Motown’s legendary Funk Brothers. McLaughlin served as producer. There were supposed to be horn players on the record but perhaps fearful of the wrath of Berry Gordy, Jr. they failed to show up for the sessions. The session went on without them, the horn parts simply left out of the mix.

The Capitols

The “Cool Jerk” single was released two weeks later on Karen Records (it was eventually picked up by Atlantic for distribution) and it rose to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 while reaching the #2 spot on the R&B chart. Not content to rest on their laurels, the Capitols released two albums in 1966 hoping to capitalize on the success of the “Cool Jerk” single. Both albums, Dance the Cool Jerk and We Got a Thing, were primarily made up of Motown and other soul covers. Neither album did very well although Dance the Cool Jerk managed to scrape into the Top 100 for a week.

The Capitols released eight more singles in the wake of their “Cool Jerk” smash. Only two of them charted and none higher than #65. As a result, the Capitols will always wear the one-hit wonder tag. In 1969, they broke up for good. Don Storball became a cop and still lives in Detroit. Samuel George died in 1982, and Richard Mitchell died two years later.

The Capitols may have only had the one hit but it’s a hit that has been covered many times over the years and one that has influenced generations of musicians. Among the artists doing their own versions of “Cool Jerk” were Todd Rundgren, the Tremeloes, the Coasters, the Outsiders, and the Go-Gos. The song has also been featured in numerous films including a memorable version that had Bootsy Collins performing the song backed by the Funk Brothers in Standing in the Shadows of Motown.