Kevin's blog

Piano Rock: From Elton John to Jack's Mannequin

The album cover for Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

The piano was a commonly used instrument in the days of rock and roll. When musicians started upping the volume, the result was rock, which favored electronic keyboards over the traditional piano. Nevertheless, Elton John and Billy Joel showed what could be done with a rockin' attitude and a baby grand. Although few followed their lead intially, since the nineties, a number of musicians have chosen the classic instrument over its electronic offspring.

British TV: It's a Mystery to Me!

The CD cover for the British TV series Sherlock, Season 2.

At one quarter English, it's barely enough to claim as part of my heritage. Not surprisingly, much of British culture and life is a mystery to me. My friends and colleagues, however, tell me that mysteries are what they do best. Alas, they were referring to British mystery TV series. OK, let's take a look!

Lovin' Lerner & Loewe

DVD cover of the 1958 movie Gigi.

Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick “Fritz” Loewe were a highly successful mid-twentieth century songwriting team that wrote lovely, romantic musicals for Broadway and Hollywood. Among their best-known shows are Paint Your Wagon, Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, Gigi, and Camelot.

Spies: In, Out, and About

The DVD cover for the TV series Chuck, The Complete First SeasonChyck

In recent years, spy shows have been a staple of series television. That followed a long period of their near absence. The last era to feature a major concentration of spy series was the sixties, though many of those shows have never completely gone away!

Grunge: The Seattle Sound

The CD cover for Nirvana's album "Nevermind."

The rise of grunge music from the Seattle scene to the rest of the country was sudden and unexpected. Nirvana led the way, but they were neither the first, nor the last grunge band that the city helped produce. The grunge era proved short-lived, but for a time it was very potent.

The Queens of Comedy: Lucy & Julia

The DVD cover for the TV series Veep, The Complete First Season

For decades, Lucille Ball has held the title "The Queen of Comedy." She certainly earned it. Originally a mid-level movie star, Ball immediately became a fixture in the new medium of television. She starred in several immensely popular sitcoms (including the top-rated I Love Lucy) in a nearly uninterrupted run of twenty-three years. In the present day, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has also accumulated stellar credentials. Like Ball, she has starred in several popular sitcoms (including the top-rated Seinfeld) and her television career now spans a period of over thirty years. Ball's impressive and long-standing Emmy award records have now been surpassed by Louis-Dreyfus. Hmm, maybe it's time to crown a new queen.

Bubblegum Pop: That Sweet, Sweet Music

The CD cover for the The Monkees' self-titled album.

Bubblegum pop is a term often applied to a certain style of music with simple melodies and lyrics, but with ultra-catchy hooks. These days, when you hear the term used, it's usually in a disparaging manner. The origins of bubblegum pop were in the offices of record companies, not some kid's garage. It was a calculated attempt to create music that would appeal to a broad audience demographic, while maximizing profits for the producers. The original bubblegum era was from 1967-74 and the surprising thing is how often the producers actually succeeded in their attempts to create ear candy.

Time Is of the Essence, Really

One of the most popular action series of recent years was 24, starring Kiefer Sutherland. What set the Fox show apart from other programs was that the action took place in real time, that is, the events shown onscreen represented the same amount of time that it took to watch them. Real time is an interesting narrative strategy. It hasn't been used a lot in TV or film, but several great TV episodes and movies have employed the device expertly.

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