Paul McCartney & Bruce Springsteen: “I Saw Her Standing There”

On Friday, September 15, 2017, Paul McCartney welcomed Bruce Springsteen on stage.  The two then ripped into the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There.”  McCartney performed at Madison Square Garden in the midst of a run of eight shows in four different locations in the New York area.

E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt also joined the pair on stage, providing a stellar guitar solo.  McCartney had so much fun on the song, he then had everyone play “I Saw Her Standing There” a second time.

Below, check out Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen on the Beatles classic.

What Beatles song would you like Springsteen to sing with Paul McCartney? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    The Unsatisfying Ending of Scorsese’s “Silence” That Is Still Perfect

    Martin Scorsese’s movie Silence (2016) received some of the most mixed reviews of the director’s career.  Adam Graham of The Detroit News called it “a slog,” while Calvin Williams of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch called it Scorsese’s “most impassioned” film.  In the middle were reviews like the one from The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane, calling the movie “strained.”

    The ratings on Rotten Tomatoes shows even more of a divide between critics and regular viewers.  While the movie has a respectable 84% rating from critics, the audience member rating is much lower at 69%.  One of the reasons for the divide may be that audience members were disappointed by the ending.  [Warning: This post contains spoilers about the ending of Silence.]

    I initially felt disappointment at the ending, but the movie stayed with me much longer than most recent movies.  Many decent films like this summer’s Spider Man: Homecoming (2017) provide enjoyment during your viewing.  And then you immediately stop thinking about the movie once it ends.  But Silence lingered in my consciousness.

    The Story

    Silence is based upon 1966 novel Silence by Shūsaku Endō.  Although the book is a novel, it is based on real-life persecution by Christians in Japan in the Seventeenth Century.  The story is loosely inspired by the lives of Cristóvão Ferreira (1580-1650) and Italian Jesuit missionary Giuseppe Chiara (1610-1685).

    For decades, Martin Scorsese wanted to bring the book to the screen, finally achieving that goal in a film he wrote with Jay Cocks.  The movie stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano and Ciarán Hinds.

    In the film, two Jesuit priests, Father Rodrigues (Garfield) and Father Garrupe (Driver) leave Portugal in the 1640s to go to Japan to seek their teacher Father Ferreira (Neeson).  Amidst word of persecution of Christians in Japan, they have heard that Father Ferreira has apostasized, i.e., forsaken his faith.

    Thus begins their journey, which ultimately ends up focusing more on Father Rodrigues.  With him, we see horrible acts done by the Japanese to get Christians to reject their faith by trampling (stepping upon) religious images.

    The film is enthralling, for its illustration of some of the horrors of torture, both physical and mental.  While much of the focus remains on Rodrigues, we are surprised by the intelligence of the Japanese characters trying to do what they think necessary to protect their country.  Thus, even while the film focuses on a personal journey of faith, the movie also raises questions about colonialism, with the white priests going to a foreign country to impose their beliefs.

    Without spoiling more of the movie than necessary for this discussion, the movie raises questions about faith.  Does one maintain their faith if they believe they must surrender that faith to preserve the teachings of that faith?

    Ultimately, we see some who have given up that faith to save other lives.  There is no flicker of hope, except for a final scene of one of the characters, years in the future, dying and being cremated.  At his cremation, hidden from the view of everyone, his hands hold a small cross that his wife put there (Scorsese added this scene, which was not in the book).

    Why the Ending is Unsatisfying to Many of Us

    We are not used to seeing movies featuring a main character who is so utterly defeated.  The American Biblical scholar Walter Wink wrote about how movies and TV shows follow a traditional trajectory to teach us to embrace violence. Generally, we see the “hero” beaten repeatedly to the point where we root for the hero to rise and use violence against the enemy.  When the hero does, we feel satisfaction in the Myth of Redemptive Violence. (For more on Wink’s argument, see our posts on redemptive violence in Westerns.)

    Having been conditioned by movies about retribution, a viewer watching Silence and the horrors it portrays expects that one of the characters will fine a way to defeat his tormentors.  We expect a heroic act to solve the dilemma.  Instead, we only see a failed heroic act by another character.

    So, we wait for something.  Even after the main character has apostasized, we wait for some resolution, at least an escape from a life without one’s core beliefs.  But it does not come.  We only get a flicker of rebellion after death, and that flicker is far from satisfying.

    Why the Ending is Perfect

    Yet, it is that unsatisfying ending that is perfect.  Had the story ended with a happy victory, we might forget the underlying questions the film asks.

    Like the characters in the film, we are asked to struggle with the definition of faith in an unwinnable situation.  Is it better to be a martyr (or to make others become martyrs in your place) or to surrender?  It is like Star Trek‘s Kobayashi Maru no-win situation training exercise, but without a loophole for James T. Kirk to find.

    Others have written more eloquently about the questions asked by the movie and novel.  For example, Amy Welborn in The Catholic World Report notes that the story “is not only [about] the struggle to come to an understanding of faith and ourselves, but what happens after that. How do we live?”

    The movie’s spiritual advisor Reverend James Martin has explained, “This isn’t the fake spirituality of ‘If you believe in God, everything turns out great.’ This movie says you can believe in God but bad things might still happen. And then it asks, what do you do with that faith?”

    So ultimately, it is in the unsatisfactory ending that the movie gives us the gift of questions to ponder.  If one of the main characters were a super hero who saved everyone and themselves, the movie would spend less time in our consciousness than the popcorn stays in our stomach.  So, we continue to ponder the questions Scorsese wants us to consider.  Why was God silent? What would I have done?  How do you make such choices?


    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Dion’s Lost “Kickin’ Child” (Album Review)

    Dion DiMucci remains one of the most underappreciated great early rock and rollers.  Yes, everyone knows his work with the Belmonts and later on classic songs like “Runaround Sue.”  But fans and critics often unjustly overlook other phases of Dion’s career.

    Such is the case with his folk-rock work from the 1960s (as well as his blues music).  Fortunately, Dion – Kickin’ Child 1965 Columbia Recordings — an album that would have been at the forefront of the folk-rock movement had it been released in 1965 when it was recorded in the Spring and Fall of that year — has finally been released.

    The 15 songs on the album produced by Tom Wilson include ten written or co-written by Dion, as well as three Bob Dylan songs. One of the Dylan covers is a wonderful bluesy version of “Baby I’m in the Mood For You.”

    Some of the songs would later appear on compilations, but the album never saw the light of day until now because Columbia refused to release it.  Listening to the album now, it is impossible to understand that decision.  But I am glad we can enjoy it now.

    For example, one may easily imagine an alternate universe where the album was released in 1965.  In that universe, “My Child” became a hit that forms the soundtrack of our memories of the 1960s.

    Dion recently explained to Billboard how he left the record label after they refused to release Kickin’ Child. For decades, the experience gave Dion bad memories.

    But when Dion recently listened to the remastered album, “The cloud lifted like vapor. It just lifted right out of my head. And I heard the music loud and clear like it was present to me. It wasn’t a novelty. It was rich. It was artistic, it was heartfelt. It was live. It was the real deal. And I said, ‘Man, this stuff is good.’ And I was proud of it.’”

    One of my favorite tracks on the album is Dion’s cover of Tom Paxton’s “I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound.”

    The liner notes explain how Dion’s work at this time influenced others, even without the release of Kickin’ Child.  For example, he suggested to Wilson to add an electric band to Bob Dylan’s “House of the Rising Sun” (Dylan loved it).

    Critics are now giving the album some of the attention it should have received more than fifty years ago.  For example, Allmusic understandably calls Kickin’ Child “absolutely one of the greatest folk-rock records ever.” American Songwriter gives the album four out of five stars.

    Dion’s voice is in fine form. And the band from the Fall 1965 recording sessions — The Wanderers — has a great sound. The group included included The Belmonts’ Carlo Mastrangelo on drums.

    Another standout track is “Knowing I Won’t Go Back There.”  The song, written by Dion, previously appeared on the compilation album Road I’m On (another Dion album worth seeking out).

    Kickin Child is a wonderful album, and anyone who loves music from the 1960s folk and folk-rock scene should definitely check it out.

    Dion has mentioned that there exists other unreleased music from this era.  So, hopefully there will be more coming as we continue to reassess the great career of Dion.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Tom Russell Takes Us Into the “Folk Hotel”

    Tom Russell‘s upcoming album Folk Hotel features thirteen original songs and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” as a duet with Joe Ely.  One of my favorite albums of the last few years was Russell’s The Rose of Roscrae.  So I’m looking forward to his latest work.

    The album features one of Russell’s paintings on the cover.  And one may also buy a lyric book featuring essays, lyrics, and additional paintings.

    Uncut describes the new album as “folk-tinged songs about cowboys, Texas, Irish poets, and JFK.” A recent review on No Depression noted that the new album is “a very distinct shift of emphasis back to one man playing guitar and singing songs.”  Heck, Russell even asserts it is his best album to date.

    Below is Russell’s promotional video for Folk Hotel. Russell rambles around some stories and then there is a bit of music at the end. Check it out.

    Folk Hotel hits stores and the Internet on September 8, 2017.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    The Wizard of Oz Opens: August 25, 1939

    One of the most beloved movies of all time, The Wizard of Oz, opened in theaters on August 25, 1939.  Looking back, the film was not as big of a hit as you might expect.  The movie, which cost $2.8 million to make, at first made only around $3 million at the box office.

    The movie’s popularity started to soar after its initial television broadcast in November 1956 when around 45 million people tuned in to watch it.  Subsequently, from 1959 until 1991, TV showed the movie once a year.

    So, of course many of us of a certain age know the movie from television and annual viewings.  I still remember when we bought our first color television set.  My most lasting memory of that TV is when we watched The Wizard of Oz, a movie we’d already seen numerous times in black and white.  But the first year when we watched it on our color TV, we were shocked when the movie changed from black and white in the Kansas scenes to glorious Technicolor in the Oz scenes.

    Back in 1939, The Wizard of Oz was already on its way to becoming a classic.  The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, losing to another classic, Gone With the Wind.  Still, the movie with the munchkins won the Best Song Oscar for “Over the Rainbow.”  And Judy Garland won a special award at the Oscars for Best Juvenile Performer.

    Yet, back in 1939, viewers could not have foreseen how pervasive the movie would become in our lives, or the different ways we would be able to view it.  Other generations first saw The Wizard of Oz on videotape, on DVD, on Blu-ray, and streaming on the Internet.  The film has stood the test of time even as the technology has repeatedly changed.

    The movie works on a number of levels too.  On the one hand, it is a delightful musical fantasy for children.  But adults enjoy it too, both for nostalgia about their youths and to think about underlying meanings behind the story.

    Symbolism in The Wizard of Oz

    Of the many theories about the meaning of The Wizard of Oz, the most well-known is that L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a symbolic political story about the fall of the Populist Movement in the United States.  Under this reading, Dorothy represents the common folk, the Scarecrow represents the farmers, the Tin Man represents the industrial worker, and the Cowardly Lion represents politician William Jennings Bryan.  The Yellow Brick Road symbolizes the gold standard and the green of Oz represents the dollar.

    There are competing theories too.  These include theories about religious or atheist allegories.

    Additionally, author Salman Rushdie has surmised that the story is really about the inadequacies of adults.  In this delightful audio from a 2008 BBC Radio 4 program, Rushdie discusses the movie. Historian David Powell and The New Yorker theater critic John Lahr (the son of Burt Lahr who played the Cowardly Lion) join him.

    No matter theory you subscribe too, there is one certainty about The Wizard of Oz.  We will continue to watch the movie no matter how movie-viewing technology changes in the future.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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