Bowie Meets Shakespeare

Hunky Dory (Marc Evans, 2013) movie poster

Hunky Dory, an indie drama featuring Minnie Driver, has music from David Bowie set within the context of a high school performance of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

 
 

The Marc Evans directed film is set in South Wales in 1976 and centers on Driver’s character, a teacher who updates the Bard’s text by setting it next to 70s and 60s music from Bowie (“The Man Who Sold the World,” “Life on Mars”) ELO (Strange Magic), Rush (Passage to Bangkok), the M.V.P.s(Turning My Heartbeat Up) and The Turtles (Elenore).

 
 

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Together Through Life

The thirty-third studio album by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on April 28, 2009 by Columbia Records.

 
 

This image from Brooklyn Gang series  by Bruce Davidson was used as the cover for Together Through Life

 
 

Bob Dylan wrote all but one of the album’s songs with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, with whom he had previously co-written two songs on his 1988 album Down in the Groove. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Dylan commented on the collaboration: “Hunter is an old buddy, we could probably write a hundred songs together if we thought it was important or the right reasons were there… He’s got a way with words and I do too. We both write a different type of song than what passes today for songwriting.”

Dylan produced the record under his pseudonym of Jack Frost, which he used for his previous two studio albums, Love and Theft and Modern Times. The album was rumored to contain “struggling love songs” and have little similarity to Modern Times.

 
 

My Own Love Song (Olivier Dahan, 2010) theatrical poster

 
 

In a conversation with music journalist Bill Flanagan, published on Bob Dylan’s official website, Flanagan suggested a similarity of the new record to the sound of Chess Records and Sun Records, which Dylan acknowledged as an effect of “the way the instruments were played.” He said that the genesis of the record was when French film director Olivier Dahan asked him to supply a song for his road movie, My Own Love Song, which became Life is Hard – indeed, ‘according to Dylan, Dahan was keen to get a whole soundtrack’s worth of songs from the man’ – and “then the record sort of took its own direction.”

As with some of Dylan’s albums before Together Through Life, Dylan has adapted lyrics from other songs and incorporated them into his own lyrics—if with perhaps a ‘slightly diminished use of the light-fingered lift’, compared with ‘Dylan’s lyrical approach from recent albums’. The phrase “If you ever go to Houston, you better walk right” is taken from the folk song Midnight Special : Dylan played harmonica on Harry Belafonte‘s 1962 recording of the song. ‘The one time he overtly used someone else’s song as a springboard for his own – Billy Joe Shaver‘s  Ain’t No God in Mexico, a clear template for I Feel a Change Comin’ On – he openly acknowledged the debt to historian Douglas Brinkley’. Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ is the opening track of this album. The title is a quote from the Ancient Roman poet Ovid: “Beyond here lies nothing but chillness, hostility, frozen waves of an ice-hard sea.” (Poems from Exile). It bears a very significant resemblance to the original 1958 song All Your Love (I Miss Loving) by Otis Rush.

They Sing The Body Electric

“…If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man, is the token of manhood untainted;
And in man or woman, a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is beautiful as the most beautiful face…”

I Sing The Body Electric

(Fragment)

 
 

I Sing the Body Electric is a poem by Walt Whitman from his 1855 collection Leaves of Grass. Its original publication, like the other poems in Leaves of Grass, did not have a title. In fact, the line “I sing the body electric” was not added until the 1867 edition. At the time, “electric” was not yet a commonly used term.

Whitman here explores the physical body at length. In other poems he has established the interconnectedness of the body and the soul; here he celebrates the primacy of the body and its importance in forging connections between people. This is yet another poem of lists, which again imply a democratizing force at work. Whitman’s egalitarianism is a particularly important aspect of this poem, for it allows him to argue against the kind of valorization of the body implicit in slavery.

The lists alternate with anecdotal and propositional sections, which allow Whitman to work out some of the issues surrounding the body. This makes “Body Electric” one of his more highly structured poems. Just as various organs and features come together in the greater structure of the human body, so too do the various bits and pieces of Whitman’s poetry come together in a greater whole.

 
 

In 1969, author Ray Bradbury published I Sing the Body Electric, a science fiction anthology named after the poem and including a short story by the same title. The short story was based on a 1962 Twilight Zone episode that Bradbury had also written.

 
 

“…The man’s body is sacred, and the woman’s body is sacred;
No matter who it is, it is sacred;
Is it a slave? Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf?
Each belongs here or anywhere, just as much as the well-off—just as much as you;
Each has his or her place in the procession…”

 
 

I Sing the Body Electric is the title and first line of a song from the 1980 musical film Fame (Alan Parker, 1980)

 
 

The Body Electric, a 1984 song by Rush off the album Grace Under Pressure

 
 

“…Have you ever loved the Body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the Body of a man?
Your father—where is your father?
Your mother—is she living? have you been much with her? and has she been much with you?
—Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all, in all nations and times, all over the earth?…”

 
 

The song, Body Electric by Lana Del Rey, alludes to Walt Whitman in the lyric, “Whitman is my daddy.” The song’s chorus of “I sing the body electric” is a direct reference to his poem. Del Rey has cited Whitman as an inspiration, recalling his chapbook Leaves of Grass as instrumental to her songwriting.

Rush to Exit… Stage Left

Hugh Syme is notably responsible for all of Rush’s album cover art since 1975’s Caress of Steel. He is also a musician and has appeared in some Rush songs as a keyboard player and he has contributed as a musician with Ian Thomas Band and Tiles.

 
 

(1975)

 
 

The album cover for Caress of Steel was intended to be printed in a silver colour to give it a “steel” appearance. A printing error resulted in giving the album cover a copper colour. The error was not corrected on subsequent printings of the album.

 
 

(1976)

 
 

The Starman emblem (also known as the ‘Man in the Star’ logo) was adopted by Rush fans as a logo since its first appearance on the back cover of 2112. Peart described the Starman in an interview with Creem magazine:

“All (the naked man) means is the abstract man against the masses. The red star symbolizes any collectivist mentality.”

In 1983 Hugh Syme told Jeffrey Morgan that he never imagined the band would use the Starman as their main logo.

 
 

(1976)

 
 

The title of this album alludes to William Shakespeare‘s play As You Like It.

 
 

(1978)

 
 

Permanent Waves (1980)

 
 

The cover art sparked some controversy because of the appearance of the “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline on the newspaper. Because of pressure from the Chicago Tribune, cover designer Hugh Syme changed the text to “Dewei Defeats Truman”. The billboards in the distance were changed from Coca-Cola (who objected to the use of their logo) to include each band member’s name in similar type style.

The background scene comes from a photo, taken by Flip Schulke, of the Galveston Seawall in Texas during Hurricane Carla on September 11, 1961. The woman pictured in the foreground is model Paula Turnbull. The waving man in the background is Hugh Syme.

 
 

(1981)

 
 

The title is from the signature catchphrase “Exit, stage left!” of the Hanna-Barbera pink mountain lion cartoon character Snagglepuss (coincidentally, Time Warner, former owners of Rush’s later label Atlantic Records, owns the H-B properties today). The term “stage left” is a stage direction used in blocking to identify the left side of a theater from the point of view of the performer, as opposed to the point of view of the audience.

An item from each of Rush’s previous eight studio album covers can be seen on the front and back cover of this live album, though each has been modified in some way. The owl from Fly by Night flies above Apollo, the man in the suit from Hemispheres, who stands next to the woman from Permanent Waves. The puppet king from A Farewell to Kings sits atop a box stenciled with the “Rush” logo from Rush. Next to him is a painting of the Caress of Steel album cover, held by one of the movers from Moving Pictures, with another mover standing behind. Next to this is Dionysus, the nude man from Hemispheres. Behind this scene, the starman from 2112 hangs in the background, next to an “EXIT” sign. This entire foreground scene, shot in Toronto’s then-abandoned Winter Garden Theatre, is on the left side of the stage (from the point of view of the artist), thus “Exit…Stage Left”.

 
 

(1982)

 
 

(1984)

 
 

(1985)

 
 

(1987)

 
 

(1989)

 
 

(1991)

 
 

“…The essence of these songs is: if there’s a chance, you might as well take it. So what if some parts of life are a crap shoot? Get out there and shoot the crap. A random universe doesn’t have to be futile; we can change the odds, load the dice, and roll again…. For anyone who hasn’t seen Groucho Marx’s game show You Bet Your Life, I mean that no one but Groucho knows the secret word, and one guess is as good as another… Anything can happen. That is called fate.

Neil Peart

 
 

Counterparts (1993)

 
 

(1996)

 
 

Retrospective I (1997)

 
 

Retrospective II (1997)

 
 

(1998)

 
 

Vapor Trails (2002)

 
 

(2003)

 
 

(2004)

 
 

The album features eight covers of songs that were influential for the band members during the 1960s.

 
 

(2006)

 
 

(2007)

 
 

According to drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, inspiration for the title of the album was conceived after considerable research from several sources; the 2000-year-old Buddhist game called  Leela, the Game of Self Knowledge, the related children’s game Snakes and Ladders (also known as Chutes and Ladders), and Hamlet‘s quote “slings and arrows.” This information helped convince bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson to adopt the original painting of the age old game board as the cover for the new album.

 
 

Alternative cover

 
 

(2009)

 
 

(2012)

 
 

The album’s cover depicts a clock marked with alchemical symbols instead of numbers. It displays the time as 9:12 (21:12 in 24-hour time),  in reference to the band’s 2112 album and its title suite. Other symbols are incorporated into the band name and album title.

Get a Grip and Draw the Line on a Milk Cow

Get a Grip (1993). Art direction: Michael Golob. Cover design: Hugh Syme. Photography: Edward Colver, William Hames. An animal rights group objected to the cover of a cow’s pierced udder, but it was confirmed by Aerosmith to have been computer-generated.

 
 

Alternative design cover

 
 

Get a Grip is the 11th studio album by American rock band Aerosmith. It was the band’s last studio album to be released by Geffen before they returned to Columbia Records. Get a Grip became Aerosmith’s best-selling studio album worldwide, achieving sales of over 20 million copies, and is tied with Pump for their second best-selling album in the United States, selling over 7 million copies as of 1995. This also made it their third consecutive album with US sales of at least five million. Two songs from the album won Grammy Awards for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, in 1993 and 1994. The album was voted Album of the Year by Metal Edge readers in the magazine’s 1993 Readers’ Choice Awards, while Livin’ on the Edge was voted Best Video.

Get a Grip featured guests including Don Henley (a founding member of The Eagles), who sang backup on Amazing, and Lenny Kravitz, who offered backup vocals and collaboration to Line Up.

Mark Coleman, for his Rolling Stone magazine review of Get a Grip, said he liked the title track and he compared the album’s introduction, titled Intro, to Steven Tyler and Joe Perry‘s collaboration with Run–D.M.C. on Walk This Way, but feels that most of the album lacks “adventure” and is too “somber”. In his interview he compared Livin’ on the Edge to a Bon Jovi song and feels that a problem with the album comes from the outside songwriters/collaborators.

Regarding songs that reflect on the band’s history with drug abuse such as Get a Grip and Amazing, Steven Tyler declared: “We were saying you can point it back to some of those old beliefs about the crossroads and signing up with the devil, that you can look at the drugs as that: It can be fun in the beginning but then it comes time to pay your debt, and if you’re not sharp enough to see that it’s taking you down, then it really will get you.”

 
 

Image from Rush’s Counterparts (1993) album design, also by Hugh Syme

 
 

Seeing is believe. Another computer-generated ilustration by Hugh Syme for an ad campaign, made almost fifteen years after Get a Grip was released.  

 
 

 
 

Milk Cow Blues is a blues song written and originally recorded by Kokomo Arnold. Elvis Presley, accompanied by Scotty Moore on guitar and Bill Black on bass, recorded a rockabilly version retitled Milk Cow Blues Boogie at Sun Records in November or December 1954.

Moving Pictures

Rush, Moving Pictures (1981). Artwork designed by Hugh Syme

 
 

The album cover was taken in front of the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park, Toronto. The pictures that are being moved are the starman logo featured on the reverse cover of the 2112 album, the famous Dogs Playing Poker painting by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge (a.k.a. Kash Koolidge), and a painting that appears to show a witch being burned at the stake, likely referring to the song Witch Hunt which appears on the album. The artwork is a monument to triple entendre. On the front cover there are movers who are moving pictures. On the side, people are shown crying because the pictures passing by are emotionally “moving”. Finally, the back cover has a film crew making a “moving picture” of the whole scene.

In an interview with Mike Dixon, easily recognizable as one of the movers on the Moving Pictures and Exit…Stage Left album covers, he discusses the various ‘actors’ on the Moving Pictures cover, beginning with the mover on the far left, his friend Bobby King. Bob King was on Hugh Syme‘s design team, and is credited for assisting Hugh on A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres and Archives. Dixon goes on to tell how Bob King is not only one of the movers, but is also the original Starman on 2112, as well as Dionysus on the Hemispheres cover (i.e., the naked guy). In addition, the mover holding the Starman painting is Kelly Jay, who sang for the Toronto band Crowbar (Crowbar performed with Rush at the Minkler Auditorium in 1973, an advertisement for this show is in the Different Stages linernotes collage). Dixon also confirms photographer Deborah Sammuels is the Joan of Arc character and that her relatives are the family on the right (this conflicts with information provided in the Rush biography Chemistry, which states “Hugh borrowed friends, neighbours and even his hairdresser’s parents”).

Rush, Tom Sawyer


First track from Moving Pictures (1981), the eighth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush. This song was named after Mark Twain‘s literary character. The song was written by Lee, Peart, and guitarist Alex Lifeson in collaboration with Canadian lyricist Pye Dubois (the lyricist of Max Webster), who also co-wrote other Rush songs such as Force Ten, Between Sun and Moon, and Test For Echo. According to the US radio show In the Studio with Redbeard (which devoted an entire episode to the making of Moving Pictures), Tom Sawyer came about during a summer rehearsal holiday that Rush spent at Ronnie Hawkins’ farm outside Toronto. Peart was presented with a poem by Dubois named Louis the Lawyer (often cited as Louis the Warrior) that he modified and expanded.