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It Was a Very Good Year... | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

It Was a Very Good Year...

We've got a new Think Again column called "Scarborough's Fare" here and my new Nation column, "Gaza Agonistes" is here. I contributed to the Brennan Center's symposium on suggestions for President Obama here.

I need to let you know that I've been planning to run the letters, perusual, but the first week's batch were lost somewhere in cyberspace.So if they are still relevant, please resend to Altercationmail@gmail.comIn the meantime, the rest of today's Altercation is about music andmovies, etc, which is the way things are going to be sometimes, fornow. And away we go....

Robert Gordon, and the Fab Faux, live:

Aging is funny sometimes (but mostly not). Not funny in a good way,obviously, but in a way that makes people feel, and act dumb. Take mefor instance. (Please.) Last week, I went down to BB King's in TimesSquare to catch a show in honor of the King's birthday by Robert Gordonand Chris Spedding. I used to see Robert all the time, back in highschool, when he was singing "Fire" and had just released the greatalbums "Fresh Fish Special"--named in hnor of Elvi's prison haircut in"Jailhouse Rock" and "Rockabilly Boogie." He wore wife-beaterundershirts and spouted a massive pompadour and this greaser-style stuckme as rather silly, but his voice was magnificent. And the music, whilea throwback, was not imitative. It was original within the narrowcontext of 1950s rock, which, I need remind you, "will never die."

Anyway, while I did pick up the albums on cd, I hadn't given Robert muchthought until I noticed the show, and when he came out, well damn, Ithought it was the guy's old man. I had forgotten, alas, that I wasthirty years old too. Shit. And here's the cool part. He soundedgreat--90 percent as good as ever. And it didn't seem to bother him atall that he was so much older. Rock and roll may not age gracefully, butit does age. And Robert Gordon's tribute to the king was not the kind oftribute you'd see if Elvis had not actually inspired people. It was aguy who took what Elvis gave us and made it his own, and then ours.While not exactly "red hot"--and Gordon avoided the mostadolescence--associated songs of his oeuvre, it was plenty hot enough.The whole thing gave me some hope in my increasing advanced age.

Also on the topic of tribute bands, just before the new year, I saw theFab Faux perform "The White Album" at Terminal 6. (They did "Let it Be"and "Abbey Road" the night before.) Again, like Robert Gordon and ChrisSpedding, these terrific musicians manage the difficult trick ofavoiding the kitsch typically associated with the genre by putting theirown stamp on the music, (It helps that the Beatles never played any ofthese songs live.) It's amazing how rich this music sounds when properlypaid--and it took the Fabs, as many as fifteen or sixteen musicians topull it off on occasion, but how rewarding to hear it as close to theway it meant to be played as we are ever likely to. Don't be put off by"Beatlemania"-style tributes if they come to town. This is somethingmuch more musical--and on occasion, almost magical. I could have livedwithout "Revolution #9," though.

Breakfast at Tiffany and Funny Face, on DVD

You've never had the chance to fall in love with Audrey Hepburn, well,your time has come. Paramount Home Entertainment is giving usdouble-disc dvd versions of both Breakfast at Tiffany's--which shouldbe called Breakfast at Tiffany, unless they deliberately making fun ofHolly on purpose--doing more than justice to Truman Capote'ssurprisingly charming novella. Aside from George Peppard, it's got agreat cast of winner of two Oscars®, here's the romantic comedy thatsparkles like diamonds! From the opening strains of Patricia Neal,Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam and a crazed Mickey Rooney. Great Manciniscore, too. Funny Face, which was originally a 1927 George GershwinBroadway musical gives us one of Fred Astaire's most wondrousperformances and a fantasy-view of the New York magazine world that isas irrestable as it is unbelievable. The songs include: "S'wonderful","How Long Has This Been Going On" and "He Loves and She Loves"; and thecrazy opener, Kay Thompson's "Think Pink".

Both come with complete discs of extras including lots of documentaries,trailers, and other stuff if you've got a lot of time on your hands. Look it up...

Dexter's First Season on DVD:

I'm also planning to give another shot to Showtime's Dexter whose firstseason just came out on blu-ray. I'm not sure I can handle asympathetic serial killer and I didn't think I could when the show wasfirst broadcast but it's been getting great reviews and this is onlytwelve episodes, and everything's better on bluray so what the hell. Itcomes with a bunch of extras, too, including the first two episodes ofthe third season and of The United States of Tara. Its ratings are asfollows: "US Rating: Not Rated; Canadian Rating: 14A (Gory Scenes/ Brutal Violence/Disturbing Content)"

This Week on Moyers:

Bill Moyers speaks with historian Simon Schama, who spent monthstraveling across America in the run-up to an historic election todiscover what events in our nation's past can tell us about how we livetoday and what's in store for the future. In his four-part BBC series TheAmerican Future: A History, Schama looks at how conflicts in the pastresonate in political life today, addressing such issues as landresources, war, faith and immigration. Simon Schama is professor of arthistory and history at Columbia University in New York, and he has alsowritten and presented more than thirty documentaries for the BBC.

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