She and Him and Yo La Tengo and Conan

A lot of ink has already been donated to the rarity of quality when it comes to actors\actresses-turned-musicians. I think most people tune out when there is that crossover because more often than not, it doesn’t feel legitimate.

In a great AV Club blog post they assert that in the music industry where there are so many hard working bands and artists out there who never seem to make it big, having an outsider use their fame as a means to suddenly undertake a music career, without the process of starting from scratch, it essentially leaves a foul taste with music fans. I would tend to agree, considering that the track record is less than great.

All of this is just a roundabout way of saying that She and Him — the duo of M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel — feels to me like the beginnings of something much more real.

The origins are well documented elsewhere (see every recent music magazine (real or web), blog or public radio outlet), but their debut Volume 1 is a relative success, more so if compared to the efforts of other former actors’ albums (looking at you Russell Crowe, Eddie Murphy and Shaq).

The other night (last night maybe?), Ward and Deschanel appeared on Conan O’Brien backed by none other than Yo La Tengo. The performance is short and she comes off a little nervous, but having listened to the album quite a bit, it’s nice to see the two of them making such endearing music, not to mention Ward getting some greater success and attention. Check it out below.

Old Things That Are New To Me — All the Young Dudes

Mott the Hoople's All the Young DudesFor years, this is one of those songs that I have heard a million times that I have always loved when it popped up on the radio, but I never knew what it was called, or for that matter who wrote it. After hearing it in a trailer for the upcoming quirky indie comedy Juno, I decided now’s the time to look it up.

It wasn’t hard, and in hindsight it’s a little embarrassing I didn’t know considering that “All the Young Dudes” is a Mott the Hoople song and written originally by David Bowie (it makes SO much sense now). Ironically I even have the albums it appears on — Mott the Hoople’s on the creatively titled All the Young Dudes and Bowie’s as a quick interlude on the film soundtrack to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Whoops.

As the rock folk lore goes, Mott the Hoople was on the verge of breaking up in the early 70s due to poor sales and disappointing previous albums. That’s when Bowie contacted them and offered to produce their next album. He also delivered the song “All the Young Dudes,” which soon became a long overdue huge commercial hit for the band. It’s a great mixture of post-Beatles pop and pre-disco\pre-glam rock bombast with an insanely catchy anthemic refrain that will get stuck in your head forever.

Though Mott never quite reached the huge success of the Beatles, Bowie or T Rex, this is a classic album worthy of pulling out from time to time.

Take a listen to\watch these videos (via YouTube)…



Mott the Hoople:


Old Things That Are New to Me — Zachariah

While doing some research today on the new Bill Frisell\Matt Chamberlain project Floratone (more on that in a few days perhaps), I came across this video on Chamberlain’s MySpace page under his ‘influences.’ At first I thought it was a straight forward old Western film, until the gunman turn out to be none other than drummer Elvin Jones.

The apparently very surreal gunslinger film, called Zachariah was released in 1971 and featured the Jones as ‘Job Cain.’ While made in the early ’70s, it certainly seems to hearken back to the 50’s style hokey Western genre, starring mostly no-name actors. Well, except for Dick Van Patten who played a character named ‘The Dude.’ All I can say is that I’m amazed that jazz-funk and explosive drum solos even co-existed in the days of the Wild West.


Sonny Rollins' Way Out West cashed in on the imagery of Wild West nostalgia of the '50s.One additional random thought… What’s the story on the 1950’s pop cultural love and goofy nostalgia for all things Western? Was there a reason it reached such a pinnacle in this era? Much like jazz, the Western genre has never quite reached the heights of mainstream popularity since those days of Gunsmoke, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and all the various Saturday matinée serials.

Even the imagery of Sonny Rollins’ great album Way Out West jumped on that bandwagon. The album, for those interested, is something of a ‘lesser’ work by the ‘saxophone colossus’ (if you can say that about anything Rollins released) but is still a great jazz record.

Old Things That Are New To Me — Whole Wide World

This past Thanksgiving when in Kansas City I took in a movie with my family; a surprisingly good and quirky romantic comedy of sorts with Will Ferrell called “Stranger Than Fiction.” The offbeat, Charlie Kauffman-esque, fourth wall-breaking plot told the story of a straight-laced and boring man (Will Ferrell) who began to hear a voice narrating his very ordinary and uninspiring life. As he slowly began to realize the narrator was an author writing his story he begins to unravel and find ways to instill new things into his plot line to prevent his ultimate fate.

In one particular scene, Ferrell sits nervously on the couch of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s apartment trying to show his romantic sincerity. Revealing that a secret dream of his was to play guitar, he picks up an all-too-coincidentally placed acoustic next to him and plays the one song he knows.


The whole film up to that point was backed by the music of the boozy indie-pop of Spoon, so I figured this song was by them. Eventually Ferrell’s version fades out and a Clash-like version (the original) fades in. It was such a catchy, simple pop punk perfection I left the theatre humming the song so I wouldn’t forget.

Afterwards I spent a good part of the afternoon figuring out the song was titled “Whole Wide World” by an artist named Wreckless Eric, something of a 70s Brit Punk outfit that had a few albums and faded away.

You know how it seems that once you find something, it then becomes more apparent that that it was in front of your eyes the entire time? The other day I found an old live performance of Elvis Costello and the Attractions from 1977. Buried about eight songs deep into the setlist? “Whole Wide World.”

Take a listen to that great performance:


I always love when a film introduces me to some old obscure song or artist I had previously overlooked and use it in a great cinematic way. So treat this as a lesson in romance… to impress, pull out old your rickety acoustic guitar and strum out that long lost classic tune and their hearts will melt.

UPDATE: Here is the Wreckless Eric’s version of the song:


Old Things That Are New(ish) To Me — I’ve Got a Feeling

I’ve heard this song a million times. It’s of course the Beatles from Let It Be. I once rented the movie when I was in middle school but haven’t seen it in years. Somehow a new song I’ve been writing has a bit of this vibe and I found myself humming the melody to it over the instrumental tracks.

Catching this one brief clip put me in the mood to watch this groundbreaking behind the scenes film of the Beatles working on the record (and subsequently bickering and breaking up in the process.) This kind of drama would give Wilco a run for their money. But behind all that drama is some amazing music played live on a rooftop, back when playing on a rooftop was still novel.  Still can’t top the Beatles.