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Dead reckoning at Merriweather Post

Tony Sclafani, the author of The Grateful Dead FAQ, wrote this article for the Baltimore Sun in advance of this week’s Dead concert in Baltimore!

00333698Will Columbia be ready for another Deadhead invasion when four of the surviving members of the Grateful Dead come to town May 14 to play a sold-out show at Merriweather Post Pavilion?

Longtime Columbia residents are unlikely to forget when the Grateful Dead performed in town for three summers in a row back in the 1980s. Throngs of the band’s followers trucked into town clad in headbands and colorful tie-dye shirts and skirts. They then proceeded to camp out in Symphony Woods and bathe in the fountains at the Mall in Columbia.

To use a Deadhead expression, this “freaked out” a lot of locals. After one too many weird Deadhead sightings, disgruntled residents held meetings with local police, reporters wrote news stories, and opposing opinions flew back and forth in the pages of the Columbia Flier.

Talk of all this controversy still goes on in places like the Facebook page “You know you grew up in Columbia Md when…” where it’s rumored the Dead were eventually banned from Merriweather.

All of which begs the question — Is the band back because the ban was lifted?

No, because “there was never a ban,” says Jean Parker, Merriweather’s longtime general manager. “That is not accurate.”

Part of the reason the rumor has been kept alive all these years is because when people Google the topic, what comes up is a Los Angeles Times article from June 6, 1990, titled “Pavilion bans Grateful Dead.” But that article was factually incorrect, says Times’ historian, Ralph Drew, by email. “On Friday, June 8, 1990, the Los Angeles Times printed a correction,” he notes.

A Pavilion official first dispelled this rumor in a letter after being queried by Columbia resident John Sybert in 1994. “Merriweather has never banned any acts from performing at its venue and, to my knowledge, neither has the community,” wrote customer relations manager Julie M. Kershner.

The reason the band didn’t return to Merriweather after 1985 (save for a 1989 solo Garcia appearance) was because they had outgrown the venue.

Click here to read the rest of the article!

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“Pro Wrestling FAQ” Trailer

Now available from Backbeat Books: Pro Wrestling FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the World’s Most Entertaining Spectacle

Sport? Entertainment? Art form? Perhaps a bit of all three, with a certain intangible extra something thrown in for good measure, making professional wrestling a truly unique entity unto itself. From its origins in carnivals and sideshow attractions of the 19th century, right up to the multimillion-dollar, multimedia industry of the present day, and all the bizarre, wild, and woolly points in between, Pro Wrestling FAQ delves into the entire history and broad scope of one of popular culture’s most enduring yet ever-changing spectacles.

With chapters devoted to the many fascinating eras in the history of the business, as well as capsule biographies of some its most memorable and important figures, this book will serve as the ultimate one-volume reference guide for both long-time wrestling nuts and initiates to the grappling phenomenon.

Revisit the legendary 1911 “Match of the Century” pitting World Champion Frank Gotch against archrival George Hackenschmidt, “the Russian Lion”; experience wrestling’s TV golden age in the 1950s, a time of such colorful personages as Gorgeous George and Antonino Rocca; relive the glory days of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, when WWF impresario Vince McMahon took the business mainstream; and get the lowdown on recent favorites, such as John Cena, CM Punk, and others who have taken the business boldly into the 21st century.

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Dale Sherman: Quentin Tarantino FAQ

Quentin Tarantino FAQ has arrived! In honor of the book’s recent release, Dale Sherman has released a blog post exploring Samuel L. Jackson’s involvement in Quentin Tarantino films.

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Samuel L. Jackson and his Journey through the Quentin Tarantino Universe

It is not uncommon for certain directors to gather a group of actors around him or herself to be used again and again in their films. Some of Hitchcock’s best films star either Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant, for example. Martin Scorsese used Robert DeNiro in several films before switching over to Leonardo DiCaprio in more recent  years. An Ingmar Bergman movie is bound to have either Max von Sydow or Liv Ullmann, or both, turn up in it. It’s certainly no different with Quentin Tarantino, who has kept a number of people working with him over the years both in front of and behind the camera. 

It’s understandable, especially in cases where directors such as Quentin Tarantino guide the entire production and steer the scripting themselves. They have a vision of how the film should look, and with that comes how they want the actors to perform and sound. Anyone that can’t do that certainly would have little chance of returning, while those that do will have already established a working relationship with the director. As for Tarantino, he and others have made clear over the years that he likes an actor who understands the rhythm of his writing, and who can propel that dialogue to another level with their performance. Some can at least fake it well enough to pass his judgment, while a small handful seem to be in sync with what Tarantino has in his head. 

There have been performers that have been used here and there – in fact, the cast for The Hateful Eight has enough returning actors to Tarantino’s movie universe (Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, James Parks, a handful of actors that appeared in his previous movie, Django Unchained) that it’s almost a class reunion. Yet one of the most prolific of these actors has been Samuel L. Jackson, with seven appearances in Tarantino-related movies. Nearly eight, in fact. And even a couple of times where the parts originally written for Jackson ended up not being the parts he ultimately played. 

The Quentin Tarantino FAQ book goes into more details about the various movies with which the writer/director has been involved over the years, as well as other aspects of Tarantino’s career. Such as exactly how Samuel Jackson has continued to thread his acting career through Tarantino’s films over the years.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Reservoir_posterReservoir Dogs does not feature Jackson, although he did try out for the film. The assumption for years by way too many people was that he must have tried out for the part of Holdaway, Mr. Orange’s police contact and played by Randy Brooks in the film. Rumors also flew around that Jackson had tried out for the part of Mr. White – a part pretty much a done-deal for Harvey Keitel long before auditions began, as explained in the book.

However, in 2013, Jackson stated at a special screening of Pulp Fiction that he had actually auditioned for the role of Mr. Orange (played by Tim Roth in the film), only to leave the audition not sure if he even wanted to be in the resulting film if he had won the part. As he told Deadline: Hollywood after auditioning with Tarantino himself (“Samuel L. Jackson Lets Loose on Django, Tarantino, Slavery, Oscars and Gold Globes,” by Pete Hammon), “I thought he was just a really bad actor. I was like ‘Damn, these dudes are horrible.’ I look like I was overacting or hey have no judgment of what’s good and what’s not.”

After the film was released, Jackson congratulated Tarantino on the film’s success, which began the ball rolling for Tarantino to write a part in his next film specifically for the actor. But one film connected to Tarantino would introduce Jackson to Tarantino’s realm before that could happen.

True Romance (1993)

To make a long story short (but covered in more details in the Quentin Tarantino FAQ book), in the very earlyTrue-Romance-poster 1990s Tarantino had two scripts floating around Hollywood that he spent quite some time to sell – one was Natural Born Killers (1994) and the other was True Romance. It would be the money Tarantino made on the sale of the True Romance script that would help lead to the making of Reservoir Dogs, and the success of that film led straight to Pulp Fiction (1994). In the meantime, however, Tony Scott took over the reins on True Romance and hired Samuel Jackson for the short, but memorable, role of Big Don. Big Don is one of the criminals seen near the beginning of the film with Drexl (played by Gary Oldman) who argues in favor of a certain sex act before Drexl decides to end the party early by blowing Big Don and his associate away with a gun.

Jackson was already making a name for himself in Hollywood, thanks to roles in films by Spike Lee (a main reason why Jackson almost always gets interviewed by reporters when the feud between Lee and Tarantino is discussed), as well as co-star and smaller roles in movies like Jurassic Park and Patriot Games, so it’s no surprise he would turn up in a film like True Romance. Ironically, his first Tarantino-related film is the one not directed by the man, but that would soon change.

Check out the rest of Dale Sherman’s blog post here!

Dale Sherman: Armageddon Films FAQ Update

00122479With the upcoming release of Dale Sherman’s latest FAQ book (Coming in March!), Quentin Tarantino FAQ, Dale is celebrating by going back to his previous books in the series to pull up some new details for readers! This week, he has provided additional information on Armageddon Films FAQ!

From the pages of ARMAGEDDON FILMS FAQ: Childhood’s End – the Greatest Apocalyptic Movie Never Made

The first chapter in my book about end-of-the-world movies, Armageddon Films FAQ, deals with ten classic apocalyptic novels that had never been turned into movies. To show why such books have remained landmarks in science fiction and horror, as well as why they keep getting passed over by Hollywood, the chapter takes on the voices of those arguing such points at a studio – with a reader giving details about the book, an agent pushing the project, and a studio bean-counter attempting to find all the reasons to avoid it. As mentioned in the chapter, although passed over, many of the novels had been cannibalized left and right over the years for various other apocalyptic movies, with Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End being a prime example for such usage. 

In September 2014, the cable network SyFy Channel announced that they planned to finally take Clarke’s 00333849novel out of that list, with a miniseries adaptation to be filmed in 2015. Having Matthew Graham, co-creator of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, on board sounds intriguing (he also wrote the Doctor Who episode “Fear Her” but … well, he created Life on Mars, so let’s not hold it against him). However, the plot-points given by the cable channel seem to play the miniseries up as rather like a variation of V (what appear to be friendly aliens are anything but, and now humanity must fight the same alien race they once welcomed), but let’s hope that this is just shorthand for more than chase-scenes with aliens for six hours.

No doubt, when reviewing the book, the studio – in this case Universal – brought up several of the same issues as seen in this excerpt from Armageddon Films FAQ. As readers will see, my own conclusions are not quite what has come about, but time will tell if I’m closer to be right than they are.

Script Reader’s Analysis: For many years Arthur C. Clarke was considered one of the “Big Three” in Science Fiction, along with Robert Heinlein (Starship Troopers) and Isaac Asimov (pretty much everything else … okay, that’s a rare joke from this reader, but Asimov was prolific as a science author and Science Fiction writer, including I, Robot, which was adapted as a hit movie for Will Smith). Clarke (1917-2008) may not have been quite as busy as Asimov, but certainly contributed in abundance to the printed page, with written pieces on scientific advances as well as his short stories, novellas, and novels over the years. Best known is his collaboration with Stanley Kubrick on the movie and novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was originally pitched between the two as an adaptation of his short story, “The Sentinel,” although there are certainly aspects of Childhood’s End in the finish work as well. Besides 2001Childhood’s End and “The Sentinel,” Clark created some of the better known short stories and novels in the genre, from Rendezvous with Rama to “The Nine Billion Names of God” (an apocalyptic short story) to The Sands of MarsChildhood’s End has been seen as written by Clarke when he still had some aspects of wonder pertaining to the paranormal (beliefs he discarded later in life, although they led to his use of telekinesis as a plot-device in the novel), but namely his early conviction in the wonders of science and how advancements in the field can deem mostly positive instead of negative results. Although aspects of Childhood’s End could be seen as being gloomy, Clarke champions that such treks into the future could be of amazement and for the positive.

Check out the rest of Dale Sherman’s blog post here!

 

Q & A with Mike Eder

Mike Eder, author of Elvis Music FAQ, answers some questions about his book on Elvis Information Network.

Mike, thanks for agreeing to an interview, I’m really looking forward to the book finally getting published. How long have you been working on your book ‘Elvis Music FAQ’ ?

Mike Eder: I have been working on it since the fall of 2011. I did the initial chapter for the proposal and then wrote most of it in from June to December 2012. Editing has gone on pretty constantly since then, ending only about one month ago. I had input on pretty much every aspect of the book. Backbeat has a great team who came up with a lot of great ideas, but they were very respectful of me as the author at all times. It is a nice feeling.

It must be hard to gather so much information and then distil it down to a publishable size!

Mike Eder: It is because I am a completest by nature. I basically used my Elvis record collection to write this book. I have read over 300 Elvis books myself so I knew what really had NOT been said. Or at least I didn’t feel it was said in the same way. I do cover every song and make some sort of comment on each one. I did draw the line on home recordings as they weren’t really meant for public consumption and truthfully there is too much we just don’t know about to cover them as definitively as I like to generally. Every tour is mentioned and given a review of sorts, all the films, and every major record, LP, EP, or 45, released during Elvis’ lifetime.

The FAQ series of books tend to cover some quirky stuff and I also had fun doing chapters on “borrowed” songs, records made by imposters, etc (see below left). I always try to be accurate on my dates and most importantly to have a balanced perspective. I am hard on myself that way but the great thing about doing an FAQ book is that you can take your subject seriously without losing the reader. These aren’t dry reference books, but rather meant to be thought provoking and fun. I want there to be a degree of entertainment for the reader.

I know what I like as a fan of Elvis, and music books in general, so I try to make it a book people will want to thumb through again. At the same time I put basically as much information as a typical reference book might have. Whether you have one scratchy 45 and a Christmas comp CD, or every pressing known to man, I aimed to make it work for any kind of Elvis listener. I want it to be a different sort of project in that any sort of fan can take something away from it.

Do you have a favourite period 50’s, 60’s or 70s?

Mike Eder: Well my very favorite Presley recordings generally come from 1954-60 and then 1968-72. I like a lot of stuff from 1961-67, and bearing in mind his troubles at the time, I also find much to enjoy during the later years. Though from a live standpoint the pickings get slim by 1976. Still I think the two periods I mentioned are when Elvis was enjoying what were ultimately two different kind of peaks.

There is no secret that Elvis was a great artist who made some bad records. I try to make sense of those and maybe try to understand how many of them came about. Elvis must bear the blame for making some bad decisions, yet I have no anger or disgust at him for not always making the best choices.

Throughout his career Elvis performed so many different types of music, do you think that your reviews might reflect your own taste in music? 

Mike Eder: One thing I would like to point out is that I am a huge fan of most any sort of rock, folk, blues, country, and gospel from the early fifties to the early seventies. I tend to focus on that one period of music history, but my tastes within that time are quite wide. I think that has put me in the unique position in that I like most of the styles Elvis tried. I have no hang up about him doing pop songs, if they are good pop songs. I like hard rock and I like love songs. It all depends on what I get from it myself.

Aside from the kind of historical factual information that a responsible writer does not let their own feelings color, I ignore other critics and try to tell the story that I get from the music personally. My own take on the whole Elvis Presley story is different than those that have been published before and I hope that’s why I have been able to gain readers over the years. I don’t want to come off like my tastes are more definitive than anyone else’s, I only want to make a case for what moves or doesn’t move me.

Keep reading the interview on Elvis Information Network!

 

Elvis Music FAQ is for anyone who has been inspired by an Elvis Presley record. Following in the tradition of the FAQ series, in Elvis Music FAQ, a lot of rare information is woven together in one concise, entertaining package.

There are chapters about every year of Elvis’s career, including a look at his pioneering original record label Sun; insight on his management; the continued importance of television in his career; a summation of each Presley concert tour; the inside scoop about the role Elvis’s band members and songwriters played in his sound; stories about the amusing musical oddities created by those trying to ride on the Elvis success train; details about the contentious role drugs played in his career; and, finally, a full review of every record the King ever issued.

Film Noir FAQ Trivia

Test your knowledge of film noir! Be the first person to answer all three questions correctly (and tell us about your favorite noir film) and you’ll get a free copy of Film Noir FAQ by David Hogan. Don’t forget to include your email address so we can contact you in case you’re the winner.

1. Who played Norma Desmond’s butler Max in Sunset Boulevard?

2. Name three movies that Humphrey Bogart starred in.

3. Who wrote the original novel Psycho in 1959?

Bonus question – What is your favorite noir film?

Film Noir FAQ celebrates and reappraises some 200 noir thrillers representing 20 years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Noir pulls us close to brutal cops and scheming dames, desperate heist men and hardboiled private eyes, and the unlucky innocent citizens that get in their way. These are exciting movies with tough guys in trench coats and hot tomatoes in form-fitting gowns. The moon is a streetlamp and the narrow streets are prowled by squad cars and long black limousines. Lives are often small but people’s plans are big – sometimes too big. Robbery, murder, gambling; the gun and the fist; the grift and the con game; the hard kiss and the brutal brush-off.

Film Noir FAQ brings lively attention to story, mood, themes, and technical detail, plus behind-the-scenes stories of the production of individual films. Featuring numerous stills and posters – many never before published in book form – highlighting key moments of great noir movies. Film Noir FAQ serves up insights into many of the most popular and revered names in Hollywood history, including noir’s greatest stars, supporting players, directors, writers, and cinematographers.

Pour a Scotch, light up a smoke, and lean back with your private guide to film noir.

U2’s Controversies

In honor of Bono’s 53rd birthday today, we’re sharing some of U2’s more entertaining controversies, excerpted from the pages of U2 FAQ: Anything You’d Ever Want to Know About the Biggest Band in the World…And More! by John D. Luerssen (Backbeat Books).

1. Jamaica Mistake-a
On January 16, 1996, Bono and his family wound up on the receiving end of police gunfire when his plane landed in Negril, Jamaica. Planning to meet up with Adam Clayton on the island, somehow local police were of the belief that a plane loaded with drugs would be landing in the same area around the same time. When the gunfire finally stopped, the Hewsons, Chris Blackwell, and Jimmy Buffett were offered an apology by the local police, who had fired at the wrong plane.

2. Oasis Kiss
In March 1996, a photo of Bono and Liam Gallagher of Oasis sharing an open-mouthed kiss caused a stir. Taken backstage at the Point Depot in Dublin, fans of both bands quickly derived that it was an alcohol-fueled joke, but not before the media got a lot of mileage out of it. Bono confirmed this to Rolling Stone in 1999, saying, “Actually, what happened was he had a guitar pick in his mouth, and he dared me to take it off him while the paparazzi were standing around. I couldn’t resist.

3. Tabloid Trash
In September 1998, U.K. tabloid the Daily Star published photos of Bono’s bare ass. Bono had been changing his clothes on an Italian beach during a vacation with his wife Ali at the time the paparazzi snapped his bottom. The couple sued the paper for invasion of privacy.

4. Shut Up, Paul
In June 2008, after Paul McGuinness suggested that Radiohead’s 2007 pay-what-you-like download release of In Rainbows had backfired, Bono announced his disagreement with U2’s long running manager. Bono called the Thom Yorke-fronted band “courageous and imaginative in trying to figure out some new relationship with their audience,” in an open letter to the music weekly NME. Calling Radiohead a “sacred talent,” Bono added, “such imagination and courage are in short supply right now,” and explained that U2 “feel blessed to be around at the same time.”

In U2 FAQ, award-winning music journalist John D. Luerssen goes beyond the essential facts, delving into the legendary fables and unique anecdotes that make U2 FAQ an indispensable read for all U2 disciples. How did Bono recover his cherished suitcase of lyrics 23 years after its 1981 disappearance? What movie dialogue is sampled in the middle of “Seconds”? What effect did bull’s blood have on Larry’s drumming? How did Bono’s visit to Central America inform The Joshua Tree? What are the details of Adam’s 1989 marijuana bust? How did Mick Jagger wind up on All That You Can’t Leave Behind? These are just some of the topics U2 FAQ explores.

Onstage and Backstage Awards (100th Post!)

In honor of our 100th post, Onstage and Backstage blog is going to honor our top three most popular posts. (This is judging by how many people clicked on these posts, though we are unable to tell how many are read from the homepage.)

With the BRONZE medal:
Your FAQs Answered: The Story Behind the FAQ Series by Rob Rodriguez

With the SILVER medal:
Notes on the Lyrics of Spring Awakening, an excerpt of A Purple Summer by Steven Sater

With the GOLD medal: 
Stevie Ray Vaughan: 27 Years Since Carnegie Hall, an excerpt of Stevie Ray Vaughan: Day by Day, Night After Night by Craig Hopkins