Thursday, February 25, 2010

35 Years Ago Today

Barry's mention of "I Want to Be Somebody's Baby" got me thinking.
I ran across an almost-lost gem that was recorded for King Biscuit Flower Hour.
Brace yourself for....

Barry Live at the Troubadour February 25, 1975

You have to register, but it's free and they don't bother you (much) with email.

"...Somebody's Baby" is the second song in the set.

He also debuts "Tryin' to Get the Feeling" with the story about how he came across it, and includes that rare extra bridge you almost never hear.

There are some songs in Barry's catalogue that have that stereotypical mid-'70s vibe that just grabs me. I don't want to hear the song any other way. The list includes "You Ought to Be Home With Me", "Leavin' in the Morning", and (suprise) "I Want to Be Somebody's Baby".

I'm the first to admit I'm no expert; I just know what I like. The above performance of "...Somebody's Baby" is the best. It doesn't need anything, no tweaking, no remastering, nothing. If it gets included in the show, do it just like that. Don't over-choreograph it, over-produce it, or over-think it. Don't fuck with it. Just sit your ass in front of the piano, put your face on the mike, and belt it out with the same clear, uncomplicated sincerity that you did in '75. Even the brain-dead civilians will be bopping their heads.

Enjoy, everybody (as long as TPTB allow it to stand) while we wait for the new show at the Paris!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Barry's Note 2/23

Emphases added. My comments in red.
Hi Everyone!

Well, we’re in the thick of it!

Rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals. Twelve hour days of playing new arrangements, new songs, new choreography, new costumes, new scenery, new lights and most of all a new showroom.

We’re all very, very excited about this new show. As I’ve said before, this show will be the most beautiful one I’ve ever done.

Jeffery Hornaday and his team have helped me to create a new and exciting production and we can’t wait to put it on its feet.

Of course all the hits will be in the show, but I’ve decided to pull out some of the songs we hardly ever do. How about “No Other Love”? Or “I Wanna Be Somebody’s Baby”? HELL YES!!!! While you're on the topic, how about "If I Should Love Again", "Fools Get Lucky", maybe dust off "Riders to the Stars", reinstate "Sandra" (heard it fit right in with the Mayflower theme ), "It's A Long Way Up", "Big Fun" and dealers' choice from Barry Manilow (1989) and Swing Street.

We’ve been rehearsing a handful of songs from my gorgeous “Love Songs” CD and we’ve blown up some of the songs we’ve been doing for years and they sound fresh and very contemporary.

Muffy Hendricks has joined our team! It’s so wonderful to have her back with us. Muffy and I just look at each other and burst into tears! She sounds better than ever and looks amazing.
(Wasn't she working for Tom Jones for a while? Does she have any underwear war stories? Is it going to be a break for her coming back to work for you? As in the stage doesn't look like a clearance sale in Macy's lingerie department halfway through the set?)

We’ve had one full run-through so far and it was great. Next week we get to work on the stage of the Paris so wish us luck.

Hope we see all of you in Vegas.

Love, Barry
Break a leg, gang. I know you'll knock it out of the park.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

First Eureka Moment of 2010

Remember how Barry made an entire musical out of "Copacabana"?

How about doing something similar with Here at the Mayflower? Musical movie or stage musical maybe? All he would need is the libretto, just include all of the songs, including the ones on the bonus discs.

Bonus Eureka:
Not that my opinion on set lists matters but for the new Paris show, how about "I Was A Fool (to Let You Go)" from Even Now... BUT - do it Paradise Cafe style. Dump the horn section, replace it with a single sax. No one could do it like Mulligan (may he RIP) but Barry's buddy Koz could do it well.

Whadaya think? Too far "out there"?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"I can't smile....are those cows over there?" Manilow TV from Rodeo Houston

There is so much more to the show currently on Manilow TV than just Barry's performance. Rodeo Houston isn't just a sports event, or a concert series. It's a cultural affirmation and anyone is welcome. If anyone is tempted to bitch about how short the clip is this month, don't. Everyone who plays Rodeo Houston gets one hour, including the ride in the pickup (used to be a chuck wagon) to and from the stage through the bull chute. The evening's music is just a drop in the bucket.

As far as the public is concerned, you know when Rodeo is coming when the local news reporters start appearing on camera in traditional western dress on horseback. That's not a typo. Local rodeo clubs will re-enact trail rides from the 19th century, when cattlemen would drive their stock to feeding grounds along the coast, then into Houston for sale. News crews will follow along on their own horses.

On the Friday before Rodeo starts, the trail rides all arrive in town. On the streets. Sometimes during morning rush hour. TV and radio warn drivers to leave extra time, give the animals some room and lay off the horn, and everyone will be happy. Hundreds of cows and horses rest for the night in a major park.

This Friday is officially designated Go Texan/Go Tejano day. Western dress is encouraged at work. Hats and boots included. This translates into everything from honkey-tonk nightclub wear to fuzzy chaps to 1950s Roy Rogers atrocities. Many companies will have mock "arrests" for those who don't get into the Texan spirit and wear their usual clothing. "Bail" becomes contribution to the Livestock Show scholarship fund.

This same night is a massive BBQ cook-off that almost fills the parking lot around the Astrodome. Every major and minor corporation in the county has a tent of some kind. Some will brag that there is no road kill to be found within 3 miles. Western dress is all but required for admission. News crews won't get an interview if they're not in hats.

The kickoff parade through the middle of downtown is the event of the year. EVERY dignitary in town is on a horse, including the Mayor, City Council, Board of Ed. Everybody. Western tack, no wimpy English riding saddles. The trail rides make their final trek and some well-sedated authentic Longhorns are pulling chuck wagons past the old Enron building.

Anyone planning to come to town on business, or to visit a hospital, etc get warned repeatedly - FOR MONTHS - to double check their lodging reservations over and over. There is NOT a hotel room to be found in five counties. People in larger houses will rent rooms or garage apartments for ridiculous amounts. And people WILL pay them. Even some of the competing cowboys crash on someone's sofa to save cash.

If you've seen rodeos, this one is no different in terms of the professional events. Maybe the purses are bigger at this world-class stage but you've seen one guy pray to stay on the back of a pissed-off, 2,000-lb bull for 8 seconds, you've seen them all.

Rodeo Houston is officially called the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. This is about raising money so kids can get an education in Texas. Over the past 50-odd years they've handed out almost $150 million. The money is where the mouth is. This rodeo pays special attention to agricultural education with the 4-H Club and Future Farmers of America (FFA) whose members are showing their animals in competition, then selling them at auction. There's even kids rodeo events!

Hush, it's not what you think. For the 5-year-old tykes, there's Mutton Bustin'. Grown men (sometimes women) ride untamed horses. The kids ride a big sheep. They wear protective gear, they're close to the ground if they fall, there's lots of wool to hold on to, it's hilarious.

For the teenagers, it's the Calf Scramble. 30 kids, each with a piece of rope. 15 calves. All turned loose in the main arena. The goal is to catch a calf. Bare-handed. Tie a halter on the calf with the rope. Drag the animal across a finish line. For the fifteen that accomplish this, the calf is theirs. They raise it and show it in the next year or two at the Livestock Show. Selling it at auction earns them money for college. If their animal is judged a Champion, the auction price goes up. Some Grand Champion winners get a free ride to college this way.

Finally, there's AG-venture Plaza. Do you realize how many kids don't know that chickens hatch from eggs? Or where eggs come from? Or that think meat just comes wrapped in plastic in a supermarket? This is where the public ed takes place. Kids go crazy for the egg hatching incubator.

The concert at the end of the night is only icing on the cake. Some purists insist that there should only be country or Tejano music but that's never been the case. Take a look at the past history of performers and you'll see that Barry is far from the only one to ask "What's that smell?" while trying not to think about the answer. Texas was a nation at one time built by people from all over just making their way in life. Nothing's changed, except for the technology and population density. Everyone's a Texan for these few weeks so all kinds of music gets showcased.

And THIS is what Barry performed in the middle of. This is what is going on for weeks around this month's episode on Manilow TV.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"All of us looked like idiots back then" - Barry on Jimmy

As far as American talk shows go, Jimmy Kimmel always gets the best interviews of Barry. Bar none. Kimmel approaches anyone in front of him with the same relaxed ease that my husband does when talking with his buddy about the golf course conditions. The interview is a conversation, something that just "is", nothing to stress about. At the same time, he has some fun and just tosses out what's on his mind. (Ask Jay Leno about that one.)

That isn't true of everyone with a talk or news show. The interviews were totally different on Rachel Ray and even The Today Show. The women interviewing him were fans and were having trouble at times putting that aside to do their job and it showed.

At my old job, we had high profile people in all the time. Not just musicians and folks from the entertainment industry - athletes, politicians, you name it. Any time you had to interact with someone this public at work, you had to suck it up and "not react" either positively or negatively. It's hard! A patient was a patient with all of the same fears and vulnerabilities as those who didn't live their lives in public. Now if it was someone you didn't like, as long as you could refrain from spitting in their face you were fine. Any distance could be written off as "clinical detachment." But if it was someone you did have a positive emotional attachment to, well, your job just got a lot harder. Indulging in that, even if it was paying a compliment, was taking away from their care and focusing on your thoughts and feelings. Then at times they had to take their clothes off for an exam. I know some nurses that asked to beg off if their favorite athlete was in their clinic and they were required to take vital signs.

The point is, Kimmel doesn't seem to have this kind of problem with Barry or anyone on his show. Which brings out the best in Barry (and any other guest) which means everyone is having more fun. And this is why Kimmel has one of the top shows on late night and he got away with the schtick in The Man Show. But any time Barry gets to sit and talk in addition to singing makes for a great appearance.

My own tidbits:
Anyone notice the performance stage was surrounded by Budweiser ads? Anyone else think that would have been the perfect setting for the "beer truck story"? The sponsor would have been fine with it, Barry worked for a different brand. 8^D

If the original Bell Records promo 8 x 10 was the only gag that Kimmel pulled, Barry got off VERY easy. Kimmel was right about the shoes. There should have been a law that anyone 6-foot or taller would be barred from wearing heels like that. You look back at your fashion plate 20-plus years later and wonder what the hell you were thinking. Everybody out there looking for new and unusual ways to puncture body parts, or add artwork, or wear jeans so that your boxers or g-string shows, your future awaits you.

Twitter was jumping with questions about whether Barry was lip syncing either of the performances on this show. Personally, I don't buy it. I do believe that he may give that impression because of botox use.

The following will be my one and only comment on this subject: It is time to knock it the fuck off with that useless and potentially dangerous garbage. Barry. Doesn't. Need. It.

Next stop - follow up with the charts to see how the record moves. With V-day and some home-run-out-of-the-park TV appearances, I won't be suprised if #5 improves this week.

Friday, February 5, 2010

When You Were Sweet Sixteen

You can't imagine how many times I started this post. Greatest Love Songs of All Time has all kinds of good stuff from all eras - many of which I could never connect with. At all. Not for lack of trying. So how can I do the Standard Operational YBA POV on it? I couldn't.

The final track is the sum-total of the album. The "Greatest" anything is what stands the test of time without sounding "dated" or "old" or otherwise out of place. Barry has been saying in every interview that this song is over 100 years old, written by a composer that no one today has ever heard of. Doesn't matter who created it originally, because now it belongs to Barry. I had hoped he would take this approach when doing "another covers record" (Look at the last comment at the bottom of the post.)

The rest of GLSOAT seems to lead up to this track. Which makes it perfect. The other songs on the record "grab" me on TV or video. Especially the Today Show performances when he was reeeeeallllllly playing to the camera. I know he can't do "Sweet Sixteen" on a standard talk show because of the usual commercial PR: it has to be something reasonably familiar or people get bored, blah blah blah. But something tells me Barry's heart is in this song so it would be the best performance of all.

I'm not the only one who thinks so because it debuted at #5 on Billboard!! Congrats, Barry and Crew!!! Another top 10!!! ("Another" - can you imagine how many musicians would be happy with just one???)

The promotion of this record is better this time around too. Two words: Couch Time. On most American talk shows, Barry and his one number are shoehorned into the last five minutes of the show, often while the credits are running. Every show he's on now, the host actually chats for a while. (Twice on The Today Show.) Even if it's routine info that all serious fans know, it's probably new to a lot of people in the audience.

Rachel Ray was a very pleasant surprise. Never been a RR fan. Just annoyed the living hell outta me. But her use of Barry on this last episode was a perfect sequence: Get some couch (ok, kitchen table) time, have a nice chat, and get the audience involved. Plus, the questions from the audience were reasonably well-stated; ute but harmless anecdotes. Everyone seemed to be balanced between the ears. That could have been completely scripted but what the hell - it looked great. THEN put his performance on at the end. Teaser interview, then the goods.

Tonight Barry is booked for Jimmy Kimmel. He's on with Ozzy Osbourne.