Tuesday, January 17, 2012

“IS THAT A SIREN OR A SAXOPHONE?”

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[This “Blog Bit” is dedicated to (Tom Waits fan) EVE of the blog ‘LITTLE THINGS…']

Lyrically speaking, the greatest song ever written is “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” by Bob Dylan.

Ya wanna argue it with me? Fine. No problem. I wholeheartedly welcome your challenge.

But before you even try to contend with the words, you’ll need to contend with the rhyming scheme. Click HERE, then take a pencil ‘n’ paper and write out the rhyming pattern that Dylan used.

F-in’ amazing, ain’t it?
Well, Shakespeare himself, with his pointed shoes and his bells, wouldn’t have tried topping it!

OK, now that you’re ready to match the rhyming scheme, you can go on ahead and try matching the lyrical content.

What? Admitting defeat so soon?

Well, that’s to your credit.

Lyrically speaking, the greatest song ever written - “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” - belongs to Bob Dylan, but as gifted a songwriter as Dylan was, he wasn’t the best that planet-E has ever produced.

From 1973 through 1982, Tom Waits proved himself to be the greatest lyricist this world has ever known.

But then Tom met this woman named Kathleen and she convinced him to throw his God-given talent away. As Edgar Cayce said: "When the devil can't get a man any other way, he sends a woman for him.”

Oops. Was that politically incorrect? If so, I most sincerely apologize to . . . EVERYONE! (Lord knows I never mean to swim against the mainstream!)

Anyway... tonight, Brother Napoleon and I watched the 1982 Francis Ford Coppola movie “One From The Heart”. I saw it with my acting buddy, Marty Brumer, in a Los Angeles theatre the year it came out.



Pay close attention and you’ll notice that the story begins with a stray dog running from right to left, and concludes with that same stray dog running from left to right. But in between that stray dog’s roaming from side-to-side, there is a tremendous amount of color and beauty.

Story-wise, “One From The Heart” is “wafer thin”.

But cinematically and musically, it is gorgeous beyond description! And there is an abundance of humor in this movie, but it is humor of the subtle variety; some viewers might not even catch all of it.

We’re talking about character-driven humor, not over-the-top joke-telling or physical humor. (If Hank’s pick-up lines used on Leila don’t make you laugh-out-loud, you, my friend, are deficient in the Sense O’ Humor department.)

And character-actor Harry Dean Stanton as Moe (“Moe me, Moe you, Moe life, Moe love!”) almost steals the movie - watch and listen to him closely! Moe cracks me up!

The thin story killed the movie at the box office and drove Coppola to bankruptcy, but regardless, I consider “One From The Heart” to be nothing less than ‘visual poetry’ and one of my Top 25 all-time favorite movies.

The only movies I can think of from that era that are in the same league with “One From The Heart” from a cinematography standpoint are “Koyaanisqatsi” and “The Black Stallion”.

“One From The Heart” is unquestionably a visual masterpiece! I mean, we’re talking diabetic eyeballism here, and equaled only by its musical score, composed by Tom Waits.

This might be the only movie based entirely on a song. Francis Ford Coppala’s son, Gian-Carlo, played his dad the Tom Waits/Bette Midler duet “I Never Talk To Strangers” from Tom’s ‘Foreign Affairs’ album, and Coppola was knocked out by it.

I Never Talk to Strangers-Tom Waits



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gav3IgeBbec

Later, Coppola got to thinking that a love story shown from two different viewpoints – his and hers (as in the “I Never Talk To Strangers” song) – might make a pretty interesting movie.

Well, the movie was pretty alright – that much is certain.

Coppola later said the movie symbolized Greek mythology pertaining to Zeus and Hera. Whatever! The bottom line is: “One From The Heart” lost millions of dollars – every shot having been filmed indoors, on sound stages, which made it a financial albatross – and Coppola spent about a decade trying to regain his lost money and his lost reputation.

The truth, however, is that “One From The Heart” is a visual and aural feast of Thanksgiving Day-proportions! And it includes a number of dialogue gems that I have regularly used in my every-day smart-aleckness ever since.

Speaking solely for myself (and every other person of good taste), I'm prepared to claim that the soundtrack song “Broken Bicycles” features the best lyrics Tom Waits ever penned (unless it was “San Diego Serenade” instead). "Broken Bicycles" was also probably my good friend Martin Brumer’s all-time favorite song. (Marty was constantly singing it to no one in particular; singing it just because it deserved to be heard by others!)

In 1990 or '91, I had the tremendous good fortune to see world-class musician Jack Sheldon - who provided all of the mournful trumpet-playing on the "One From The Heart" soundtrack, as well as on other Tom Waits recordings - performing on the 4 Queens Hotel/Casino stage in downtown Las Vegas. (Yeah, overall, God has been good to me.)

Anyway, to conclude this blog bit o’ nuttin’, I just wanna tell ya . . .

If you love visual poetry and top o’ da line song lyrics, you must NOT miss “One From The Heart” – it’s Hollywood’s all-time greatest bomb! (Uh... that is... I mean, excluding “Dr. Strangelove”, of course!)

one from the heart_intro



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAiJqFhylDQ

One From The Heart 1982 Trailer



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6aYLIn9zXs

one from the heart



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rdqw5irMX7A

Broken Bicycles - Tom Waits



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YroQxUyg6k

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.
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15 comments:

Eve said...

Hey Stephen! Thanks for the dedication!..I do love Tom Waits, but I had never heard of 'One From the Heart'...or maybe I heard of it long ago, and then forgot it. I don't think I'll actually watch it, although the cinematography and the music do look really awesome!
One of my favourite movies in that genre, and from the '80's is 'Moonstruck', with Cher and Nicolas Cage.
As for the Dylan lyrics..yeah they're really super good,..I do have to be in a certain mood to listen to Dylan..I do like him, but in small doses..I'm not gonna try to find any lyrics that top those, although I think Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen are the ones that could maybe do it! I don't know, I think that most good performers/artists are excellent in their own right..you know what I mean? They are all different and their work stems from their own experiences and journeys and cannot really be compared to someone elses experience...sometimes it comes down to taste too, like, if someone likes music that I don't like, it doesn't mean that what they like is garbage, it just means that I don't like it..I guess some have more talent than others when it comes to putting it all down on paper though! Sometimes it's like comparing a Harlequin Romance novelist to Tolstoy, or Chekov..there's no contest!..Dylan was/is a genius..it must be hard for his son to always be compared to him!
It's weird you quoted Edgar Cayce, my Dad was major into him and had just about everything he ever wrote...excellent thought provoking post Stephen! Thanks again!

Karen Peterson said...

I've never even heard of this movie.

However, since I'm really not a fan of any of the singers you've mentioned in this post, I think I'm probably going to pass...

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

EVE ~
I'm glad ya enjoyed it. Because, heck, it was your recent comment about Tom Waits that really inspired me to watch “One From The Heart” again.

And, yes, trying to compare and rank artists is actually a silly and fruitless endeavor. But I will sometimes make bold statements just to get a rise out of people, I am a big teaser, and I do sometimes like to see what sorts of things get various reactions from others. Always been a people-watcher and a student of human nature.

What I wrote here about lyricists, however, really is quite true from my own perspective. Dylan was certainly a great lyricist, and if one spends the necessary time to truly examine in detail “It’s Alright, Ma” they will find that the structure and the content of it is rather awe-inspiring.

Overall though, to my mind, Tom Waits was so outrageously creative (partcularly pre-'83) that I just find myself shaking my head and thinking: How could one person have such a gift as that?

One of the songs you mentioned in your earlier comment was “Step Right Up”. That is one of the two songs I would immediately point to if someone asked me to explain why I believe Tom Waits possesses true genius when it comes to composing lyrics. Another one would be “Emotional Weather Report”. Just the idea behind those two songs alone is mind-bogglingly original to me. And then, of course, the words, the phrases, the humor...

I stand in awe of Tom Waits’ creativity. “Broken Bicycles”, “San Diego Serenade”, and so many others, just display such an artistic view of the world, an ability to imagine unique, A-list analogies, clever phrases, and to express emotion in such powerfully creative ways, that in my opinion, he really has no peers as a lyricist.

“Is that a siren or a saxophone?”
“I never saw the morning ‘til I stayed up all night.”
“Two dead-ends and you’ve still got to choose.”

“I like to sleep until the crack of noon
Midnight howlin’ at the moon.”

“Using parking meters as walking sticks on the inebriated stroll.”

“She’s a moving violation from her conk down to her shoes
But it’s just an invitation to the Blues.”

“You got it, buddy:
The large print giveth
And the small print taketh away.”

“She was sharp as a razor and soft as a prayer.”
“The cruel and unusual punishment of her smile.”
“She took out her barrettes and her hair spilled out like root beer.”
“I was born in a taxi cab, I’m never goin’ home.”

“So abracadabra, now she disappeared
Everything’s Canada Dry
So watch your behavior and rattle your cage
With a bottle of bourbon, goodbye
(...)
Whenever it rains, the umbrellas complain
They always get played for a chump”

“There was no severe weather well into the afternoon
Except for a kind of lone gust of wind in the bedroom.”
[Ha!-Ha! Only Tom Waits could make passed gas that funny!]

And I could go on and on, quoting lyrics like these, that Tom Waits seemingly just tossed off as if they were nuttin’. Hell, I’d kill to have been able to write any one of those lines above! How could any one person have THAT MUCH talent?

The “genius” label is way overused, but when it comes to Tom Waits, no other word will do.

Thanks again, my friend, for coming by and checking this out (after having inspired it).

~ D-FensDogg
‘Loyal American Underground’

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

KAREN ~
Well, you ain't missin' a thing anyway. It's a pretty lousy movie.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

julie fedderson said...

First of all, who says the devil isn't a woman in the first place?

I have only superficially listened to Tom Waits, but now I will have to investigate further. Especially since a friend of mine just sent me the Cookie Monster/Tom Waits mash up of of God's Away on Business. Eerie you should post this, by the way.

And even if it is a cinematic tragedy, if it has snarky one liners worthy of years of use, I think I may have to rent that show.

mousiemarc said...

You know I loves me Dylan and Mr. Waits. How could I hate this Blog? I can't

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

JULIE ~
I'm not even sure what a Cookie Monster/Tom Waits mash up is.

And, actually, I probably inadvertently misled you. It's not so much that there are a number of snarky one-liners in the movie, it's more the way I have personally integrated some of the lines into certain situations.

But there are definitely some humorous moments, all of them subtle and involving the supporting cast members (e.g., watch for how Raul Julia attempts to regain a modicum of his dignity by pretending he had really only exited his apartment for a bucket of ice, after his half-naked girlfriend gets carried off by Frederic Forrest).

It's all the little details I like so much. Plus, Harry Dean Stanton makes me laugh in pretty much every scene he's in.


BR'ER ~
You've given me an idea for a Jekyll and Hyde music parody titled "Doctor Dylan And Mister Waits".

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

farawayeyes said...

It's working!

Nice post-more tunes. I had never heard Broken Bicycles. I like it.

Favorite Tom Waits- I Hope I Don't Fall in Love with You Tonight

Arlee Bird said...

I guess I missed this film, but it doesn't matter I guess since it seems like I don't remember most of the films that I see. So maybe I saw it and forgot.

The song clips you offer here are quite nice. Sometimes Waits' voice can annoy me--I have to be in the right mood for it--but no doubt that the musicianship on his albums is always top notch.


Lee
A Faraway View

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

FARAWAYEYES ~
Looks like! I'll have to go to your blog in a few minutes and see if it's reciprocal.

Yeah, I like that song too. It's from his debut album. Some other good stuffs on that one also. Although his second release, "The Heart Of Saturday Night", is my overall favorite. Believe it or not, his soundtrack to "One From The Heart" would be my second choice.


ARLEE BOIDMAN ~
The story IS fairly "forgettable", so that would be understandable. The cinematography, however, is so lush that it's quite memorable. The look and the sound of it are really something.

Totally agree with you about Tom's voice. Beginning with his third album, he started to deliberately "lay the croaking on thick" - it's an affectation that I don't like and that he never got away from... EXCEPT for on the "One From The Heart" soundtrack.

It's obvious that he toned down all the delibrate croaking for the soundtrack. Probably because this music was meant to accompany a "mainstream" movie release, and so he needed to try pleasing more than just his usual oddball, "avant-garde" fans.

All of the Tom Waits songs that I like from 1975 up to 1982, I like DESPITE his voice, not because of it. Some of them are so brilliantly conceived that I'm willing to tolerate a voice that I wouldn't listen to for a moment if it was singing lyrics that were much less creative.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Pooh Lynth said...

You forgot "I've got a bad liver and a broken hear." Nice stuffs Stephen! Interesting they used the Empire Diner for that I Never Talk to Strangers clip. I been had been there, drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I'm a sucker for chrome, stale beer, and a good cup of coffee. Not necessarily in that order.
JW,
Pooooooooooooooooh

Sheboyganboy 6 said...

I am traveling and just took a moment to check in, finding that I am behind in my McCarthy blog reading.

I've not seen this movie, and probably avoided it at the time because I was never a fan of Waits' voice. That probably prevented my noticing his superior abilities as a lyricist.

The thing that pops out at me from this blog is your comment:
"it’s Hollywood’s all-time greatest bomb! (Uh... that is... I mean, excluding “Dr. Strangelove”, of course!)"

So: you don't like Strangelove? Or are you punning something because of the subtitle "Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb?"

Also: was Kubrick bumped off because he made Eyes Wide Shut, or did he die of natural causes?

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

POOHREGARD ~
Yeah, "I got a bad liver and a broken heart" - a totally classic line. But there are just so many others I could have also quoted and spent the better part of three days doing so. He had a well of creativity to tap that was pretty much unfathomable.

And don't think I have ever forgotten that it was YOU and your copy of "Small Change" that turned me on to Waits! (Unarguably one of the most drinkinest albums ever.) I had no idea who he was until you put that LP on, poured us some Southern Comfort, and ordered us a pizza. (Did I ever pay you back?)


SHEBOYGANBOY SIX ~
I can certainly understand how you might have avoided the movie because of Waits' vocals. But truthfully, when it comes to that, there are 3 very distinctly different Waits vocal qualities:

#1: His first two albums ("Closing Time" & "The Heart Of Saturday Night") in which he was using his natural singing voice - a rough-edged baritone, but also perfectly suited to the Blues/Jazz/Folk song stylings. I have no problem with it - finding it masculine and musical and easy on the ears.

#2: Beginning with his third album ("Nighthawks At The Diner") there's an obviously put-on voice in which he's trying to be the White Louis Armstrong Xtreme. It's hard on the ears but worth enduring because his songs were SO GREAT. Then in his post-'82 stuffs, when he decided to go from being an artist to an avant-garde "artiste", he totally loses me. Other than a few recordings (e.g., "Clap Hands", "Frank's Wild Years"), I pretty much hate it.

#1.5: In '82 he recorded the brilliant soundtrack for "One From The Heart", and although he was still using the "put-on" voice, he had obviously toned it down considerably for a more mainstream presentation (falling somewhere between #1 & #2). It works great with this material, especially since it is being counterbalanced by Crystal Gayle's sweet, feminine vocals.

I don't think anyone can go wrong in buying "Closing Time", "The Heart Of Saturday Night" and "One From The Heart".

Oh, man, that was definitely a punnin'. I LOVE "Dr. Strangelove"! That is one of the all-time greatest Black Comedies! Slim Pickens riding the A-Bomb down to a Russian city, Yee-Haawing all the way to World War III? Are you kidding me? Could anything possibly be more "American"?

Kubrick and "Eyes Wide Shut"...
Hmmm... Good question. I don't know. I've never seen the movie, but I do know what the subject matter is, and I have heard the rumors tying his sudden death into the subject of the movie.

But I'm going to guess 'NO'. Only because I think logic probably dictates that if "they" were THAT upset with him for making the movie, "they" would have made sure it never got released. I mean, "they" do essentially control the media and entertainment, so it's not much of a stretch to assume "they" could have "killed" the movie rather than killing the "movie-maker" if they REALLY wanted to.

(See? I'm really not such an unreasonable, far-out wacko after all.)

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

farawayeyes said...

Finally saw 'One From the Heart' - it takes Netflix that long to catch up with me.

I'm surprised at you calling this movie 'fairly forgettable'. I thought the film was mesmerizing. A stylized version of Las Vegas - much more fun than the real thing. A stylized version of everything. I would guess that Baz Lhurman(sp?) was a student of this film.

The scene where Natasha is walking a wire at night in the 'junk yard' - absolutely beautiful. A metaphor maybe for that wire everyone walks.

And what n incredible love story. Hard to imagine a man's man like Hank dragging 'his' woman out of some other mans bed and begging her to come back. That type of love and forgiveness goes above and beyond just about anything else on film or in real life.

I could go on and on - a true hijacking this comment could be, but no matter, it's so far back in history, you probably won't even find it.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

FARAWAYEYES ~
That's kinda neat that when you finally got a chance to see 'One From The Heart' (OFTH) it was on "Valentine's Day". An appropriate day to watch that movie for the first time!

>>...I'm surprised at you calling this movie 'fairly forgettable'.

No, no, no! I did not say the movie was forgettable. The movie is amongst my all-time Top 25 favorites! How could I be calling it "forgettable"?

What is pretty much forgettable is the thin storyline. I mean, this is almost the most basic, simplistic storyline possible: "Boy gets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl back."

Well, 'OFTH' isn't even THAT complex! The movie starts after the boy has already gotten the girl, so 'OFTH' is simply: "Boy loses girl; boy gets girl back."

That's a "wafer thin" idea to build a movie around.

But the look of it, the sound of it, most of the performances in it, make the movie a Top 25 Winner in my book!

>>...A stylized version of Las Vegas - much more fun than the real thing.

That's only because you've never visited the real thing with me.

Very early in the movie there's a shot of a guy leaning up against a downtown Vegas building playing the trumpet. Did you notice that it was Tom Waits (pulling a "Hitchcock")?

>>...The scene where Natasha is walking a wire at night in the 'junk yard' - absolutely beautiful. A metaphor maybe for that wire everyone walks.

Yeah, probably. I have a theory about the Circus Girl character: she's not real.

Did you notice that at the moment we first see her, Moe turns to Hank and says something like: "Unbelievable".

Now, if we take that literally, and tie it in with the way she just disappears "like spit on a griddle", it makes me wonder if she was ever really there at all (despite the fact that Frannie mentions having seen Hank with her).

I dunno, just something I've thought and wondered about. And isn't a circus kind of a false front world? Lots of paint and makeup covering up... what?

>>...Hard to imagine a man's man like Hank dragging 'his' woman out of some other mans bed and begging her to come back.

Actually, that strikes me as being somewhat "in character" for a man's man. It's aggressive, asserting his Alpha Male status.

I'd say the genuine 180-degree turn from his man's man personality is when he attempts to sing to her, trying to woo her back in an airport full of people, even though he knows he can't sing worth a hoot.

>>...That type of love and forgiveness goes above and beyond just about anything else on film or in real life.

I'm glad you liked it so much. (See? I know my movies!)

>>...this comment...it's so far back in history, you probably won't even find it.

Just one of the reasons I use "Comment Moderation". It alerts me to new comments no matter where they get submitted on my blog. They can't get posted until I approve them, so the system tells me what's been submitted and where.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'