Monday, June 27, 2011

15 Minutes - The Faustian Bargain

During Piers Morgan's interview with Barry last week, he asked (while discussing Spears' issues with the papparazzi) "How much of this did she bring on herself?"  It's an elephant-in-the-room question because "celebrities" rely on exposure via the news media - including freelance papparazzi - for their sales.  Morgan is of the opinion that if one is going to benefit from the enterntainment news media, one needs to pay the piper in some way.  Like in revealing personal details, etc. 

I was flipping through some DVDs in the TV room the other day and ran across a favorite:  the 2001 remake of "Bedazzled" with Elizabeth Hurley as the Devil.  It's not exactly "From Here to Eternity", but it was a fun date-movie with my then-fiance.  New retelling of an old version of the story:  Lead Sap is obsessed with one thing (usually a girl), Mephistopheles slides up to him at exactly the right time, tells him everything he wants to hear, but nothing he needs to hear, Lead Sap gets what he wants, hates it, and risks eternal damnation.

There's a million retellings of this.  First one I remember is Gounod's Faust which has been done to death at Lincoln Center.  (In fact, I think it's been banned!)  There's the original Bedazzled with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, the one that was remade about 10 years ago.  Even the Christian redemption story runs parallel to it:  humanity went its own way, apart from the one that was planned, and a price had to be paid to redeem them.  One in pop culture that is almost buried is the third in the "Oh God!" movie series, Oh God, You Devil, with George Burns in both parts.  That last one is different.  Lead Sap already has the girl.  He's a struggling musician who states out loud that he's willing to sell his soul to be successful.

Sound familiar?

That's me within a blaze of glory / I'd sell my soul in order to succeed

Good thing you brought that forward.  Because that's exactly what's going to happen.

Every tale about someone so driven to success or otherwise gaining something for themselves follows this same tack and all have a few things in common:
  • They're inherently unhappy with their lives.
  • They feel if they just get That. One. More. Thing. their lives will become suddenly perfect.
  • They are self centered to some degree
  • They're vulnerable to suggestion and easily manipulated.
  • It isn't until they achieve what they want that they realize how much work isn involved.  More often than not, they can't handle it. 
  • When the world they've created falls apart, they find themselves in their own personal idea of Hell. 
Whether you believe in the Devil as a real person (albeit a spiritual one) or a symbolic idea, the real-life story often mimics Faust.  Although it's not quite so obvious as George Burns or Elizabeth Hurley offering you your dreams on a platter.  The person whose priorities are out of whack are their own worst enemy.

I don't think these parallels were intentional here.  As usual I could be wrong but that's how it looks from my chair.

In 15 Minutes, the character thinks that fame is everything, the one thing that will make his life satisfactory.  ("15 Minutes") All that matters is being famous - his own wants, no one else is as important.  The people he's auditioning for don't even have names.  ("Work the Room")  The wife isn't mentioned until the 3rd number and only after he's had his first stage of success.  Just enough reward to lure him into the trap ("Bring on Tomorrow")   He gets off to a good start but when he thinks everything is fine, he gets derailed by the usual traps ("Wine Song")

Now that the drugs, groupies, and whatever trinkets and beads his handlers have thrown him have tilted reality, the payment is due.  He gets trapped in a spiral, practically an addiction of needing applause and approval, and feeling lost without it.   ("He's a Star") His friends are gone and the one person in his life he should have been paying attention to has also drifted away.  ("Written in Stone").  He's paid for his fame with his soul.

Next comes Hell.   ("Letter From a Fan/So Heavy, So High")  If it's not bad enough that he can't give any more of himself and his owners keep trying to take from him, you have the fans who have absolutely NO idea what his reality is like.  Even their innocent letters and reaching out is a thorn in the side.   He's surrendered his immortal soul, now he's going to experience damnation. ("Everybodys Leavin")  It was there all along, disguised as a party ("Wine Song").   

Even though he offered to sell his soul, he wants to renegotiate.  He wants some control back.  ("Who Needs You")  But it's hopeless - he can't control anything of what was created in response to his wish.  ("Winner Go Down")  That's how deals with the Devil always work out. 

Rock bottom.  He's given up and admits his failures and his fate.  ("Slept Through the End of the World") 

At the last minute, he is offered salvation. ("Reflection", "Trainwreck")  He gets to start over and if he has a brain cell left, he'll not make the same mistakes again.  ("15 Minutes - Reprise")  Maybe he's figured out that the price of fame doesn't have to be so high.  He doesn't have to offer as much as his soul in exchange.  Negotiate a little this time.  Offer so much but not one bit more.  That and getting his priorities in life straight and it might just work out better.  ("Everything's Gonna Be Alright")

Or, just like in the CD player in my car, the cycle will repeat....

Like I said in an earlier post, there's enough going on in this album to talk about for years.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

15 Minutes - The YBA POV Part 2

What can I tell you, life intervenes.  We wore out the kids so I'd have time to work.  So the deadlines are met and the fires are put out, the bills are collected and I can get back to what's important.

So here's where I left off....

Letter From a Fan/So Heavy, So High is one of the songs that's going to get its own post in due time.  The character is in WAY over his head, he can't handle the push and pull of his new life anymore and he has fewer and fewer outlets to vent and people to lean on. 

Everybody's Leavin'
Genius recording strategy on this one.  All echo - like he's talking up an empty well.  He's completely separated from reality, especially himself.  He wanted to spend all his time, energy and attention on himself, and now that's all he's got left.  Except for the "enemies and slaves".  Got a little problem there, pal - they're not the slaves.  You are.  The ones you think are "slaves" are really your caretakers and owners.  And no, they won't leave you alone until you've worn out your usefulness to them.

Who Needs You
Ten feet tall and bullet-proof! And more straight-ahead pop but more of a rockabilly slant a la The Fabulous Thunderbirds, or even Jerry Lee Lewis.  Methinks Barry took notes when he was working with Reba McIntire a couple of years back.  The character seems to be in between completely believing his own publicity (I know where I'm headed / I know what they like) and salvaging the last vestiges of his self-esteem (In tight with me - right / you come when I call).  My children have tantrums like this.  Especially the two-year-old who has the most legendary temper.  Sure I come when she calls - she can't change her diaper by herself.  She may want what she wants but I put her toy on the top shelf and close the gate to the stairs so she doesn't tumble on them.  But she's in charge, by God, in her own mind.  Like at bedtime tonight, she threw a fit because she didn't think she was tired.  Five minutes in her crib she's unconscious.  Yeah, she really knows what she wants.  Same thing.

He's so wound up he can't even believe in the sincerity of a friend (concerned as a friend / yeah I know what you mean / I'm nobody's friend / I'm your money machine)  so if he wants to lean on someone for support, he can't.

Best line in the song:  I'm everywhere 'cause I'm God!

Oh yeah, he's gone.

Next best line in the song:  I can stop when I want to

Who's he trying to convince?

Winner Go Down
Another single-post-worthy song.  Anderson packed a lot into these lyrics - there's a lot to think and write and talk about and he's getting these ideas across in only a few words.
How much of the thoughts in this song are "in the moment, as they happen" and how much are retrospective, after the fact? 

"They love to see a winner go down"

Who exactly, is "they"?  The network news media?  The audience?  The fans?  The non-fans who don't like his music? The girl in yellow down front?  The record company execs?  iTunes?  Amazon?  Half-assed self-important critics from Rolling Stone?  Someone else?

I'm going with the news media since (simulated? real?) news clips are layered over the fadeout.  But the single post would come with exploring the other "theys".

The visual I have with this song is someone bitterly watching Entertainment Tonight or something like it with a story about himself.  The editors focused on something outrageous, got most of the facts wrong, exaggerated what little they got right, and used the result to boost their ratings.  At the character's expense.  And there's nothing he or anyone can do if they want.  Unless the story is completely fabricated and he can prove it in court (like Carol Burnett in 1981)  it can't be fought.  The news media will wrap themselves in the First Amendment all the way to the bank.  If he didn't realize before that he was a piece of meat, it's impossible to avoid now.

Slept Through the End of the World
Strong contender for the most profound song on the record.  All of the character's defense mechanisms, tantrums, rationalizing, avoidance, and sheer denial are useless.  He has no choice but to look himself in the mirror and see what he has become.  It's the key turning point of the story:  he can either go to further lengths to avoid the truth (which is where people drink or drug themselves to death), he can literally lose his mind and go insane.  Or he can choose to build himself up.  You can't really tell at this point what his choice will be.  He's wallowing in the stench of reality.  Focusing on himself not only did not improve his life, it ruined it.  (I'm tellin the shadows and echoes  / shoulda told you / but I was wrapped up in me)  You can't help but feel how exhausted he is - like he barely has the strength to strum the guitar. 

Acceptance.  His mind has made the choice.  He's going to acknowledge the mistakes he's made and put himself together because no one is going to do it for him.  From a mental health standpoint, the healthiest thing he can do, but also the hardest.  Now he's looking back at the mistakes he made and seeing them as mistakes (Maybe I played too hard / maybe I ran too fast)  For once, his pride is going to be his strength rather than his undoing, if he stays in control of his life in the future (something to prove now / they say you're through).

15 Minutes (Reprise)
The work ethic is back.  The sleeves get rolled up again and he gets back to work.  But is he really going to plan his life better?  Or is he suffering from the "smartest guy in the room" phase again?  What is he going to do differently this time around?  What choices are different?  Do those changes make that much of a difference in the long run?  Has he really changed his attitude about pursuing fame with lines like "been there once / I know the road to glory / watch me fly!"  Hmmmmm......

Everything's Gonna Be All Right
It looks like success is back but life is better this time around.  Besides, ever since "Copacabana", you just have to have a dance number, no matter how serious the record is.  (Just like "They Dance" on Mayflower.)  I'd still like to know what it takes to go headlong into fame - 2nd, 3rd, whatever time around - and avoid the pitfalls. 

Congrats Barry ( and Enoch and everybody else who made this record)  There's so much here, and yet so many open doors we're going to be talking about this for years.  And congrats all around (again) for the Top Ten debut.  No one else deserves it more.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Defying Gravity

According to TPTB on the newsgroup, 15 Minutes debuted at #7 on the Top 100 chart.  That's not a typo.  Not 70.  Not 17.  **SEVEN**

So everyone who thought that Barry couldn't make a successful new record of all new material in this day and age, please take a moment to suck it.

Barry--we knew all along you could do it!  That's why we were all over your case when you were announcing more compilation and covers records.  You're better than that, we always knew that.  Do you believe us now??

By the way, belated Happy Birthday!



But they're not putting it on the website.  AAARRGGGHH.  That's what DVRs are for.
There's some other clips but we'll have to stalk YouTube for the entire episode.
It was great, even if he did sing the chorus to deflect a question...   ;-)

There are so many videos and clips and interviews in the past couple of weeks and they come up so fast I can't get to them all (not right away, anyway).  So the best place to find out about the latest interview, etc, is on the alt newsgroup - link is to the right toward the bottom.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

15 Minutes - Piers Morgan

So I have work to do last Friday (Happy Birthday, Barry!!) and I set my DVR to catch Piers Morgan Tonight thinking I would follow up on Barry's interview at my leisure.

Well color me pissed.  It's going to air on June 23.  At least I didn't miss it.

If you're like me you can't wait so as soon as I heard about a clip on Morgan's blog, I had to snag it.

Major kudos to Morgan for this quote when Barry talks about Britney Spears and her run ins with papparazzi:  "How much of this has she brought on herself?"  Piers, I want to kiss you on the mouth and make a scene.  I have an epic post on that topic coming up.  Funny that no one is talking about it, rather they're focusing on Barry's last quote of the clip.  ;-)

So enjoy the clip and stick around the last 20 seconds or so, especially.

Direct Link

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

15 Minutes - the YBA POV

A few things....
First, this is going to take more than one post.
Second, some songs are going to get their own post.  (Give you 3 guesses which one and the first 2 guesses don't count.)
Third, thank God Barry was finally willing to try something (else) new and different and outside the safe little stereotype box that he's been put in all these years.  In every case those projects have been incredible.
Fourth, this is the first time anyone has created a concept record dedicated to the concept of fame that also tells the story of how someone experiences it, first-hand, seemingly as it happens.  There have been other records or songs that convey similar messages but always in an objective, retrospective approach.  15 Minutes is shown through the eyes of the main character, as events happen to him and how he feels at the time.  Makes it easier for those of us "great unwashed" to understand.

Let's get down to it....

15 Minutes
Nice use of the harmonica in the beginning.  Gives you a feel of manual labor, almost like a chain gang, feeling trapped.  Funny how a musician who's been working for years at his craft is still blinded by an artificial vision of glory where everything is blissful and wonderful and achieving that height of fame will make his life wonderful and solve all his problems.  You would think that after that much time, at that low a level in the industry would open your eyes to a thing or two.  Or maybe he just thinks it will be different, and he knows better so he can work the system in a way everyone else can't.  Anyone else see any parallels with Katy Perry's "Firework" in the imagery?

Work the Room
For someone who focuses more on melody than rythms, Barry does a great job of knocking out a highly-rythmic song with a more simplistic melody to it.  When the clip was released my head popped up when I heard it the first time, thinking "Wow!!  It's about time he let this type of song out!"  Anybody who's ever had to meet a group and sell themselves cold can relate to this.  The song style paints the picture of thinking fast, being nervous, one face after another, wondering if you're saying the right thing to the right person at any given time.  Anderson has obviously worked with a lot of musicians going through these motions because the subtle details that would be overlooked by a layman are crystal clear.  ("Suit 1 shakes my hand but it takes him a beat to recall my name.")  Intentional or not, there's a foreshadowing of the character's relationships as a musician later on; he wants everyone to know his name, but he doesn't take the time to know anyone else's.  The people he wants to impress and hire him are delegated "Suit 1", "Suit 2", and "Big Suit". 

Bring on Tomorrow
Even Barry has said in interviews (Gayle King, this morning) that he wanted to put one of his more typical ballads on the album.  He did, and most of all, it works beautifully with the theme.  When anyone makes a breakthrough, or achieves a goal, it doesn't dawn on you and you don't "feel" the relief until all of the sounds and sights have faded and you've got some time with your own thoughts.  It always seems to happen and night when the world has retired until morning.  This is one of the few songs on the record that can be a single - because even though it fits with the concept/theme, the lyrics stand on their own as their own story.  Not an easy feat on a concept album. 

Now it's For Real
Every serious fan of Barry's knew that he could, if he wanted to, knock out good pop/rock four-on-the-floor, syncopated hits.  The key is wanting to.  Now it's For Real is the "getting down to business" number.  You can feel the sleeves being rolled up and smell the midwestern work ethic.  He got the job (corner office with windows, for those of us in the corporate world) so he can do what he's always wanted to do.  It's a relief even as it's a challenge. 

Wine Song
Drugs and groupies.  They go along with a successful musician just like Swiss cheese goes along with a ham on rye. I've met a number of musicians over the years and Every. Single. One. Of. Them. has fallen into this trap to some degree.  Some just smoked a joint here and there and moved on.  Some had hideous drug addictions that took years to overcome if they survived.  Some had a one-night stand followed by a "Come to Jesus" session with their spouse.  Others have had more wives/girlfriends/one-night-stands in the few years of their careers than most men have in a lifetime.  How does everyone fall into this trap?  (And it is a trap, not a benefit like everyone seems to think it is.)  Either the noob rolls into town on a truckload of turnips and doesn't know any better, or the city slicker thinks he's seen it all and can "handle it" better than anyone else.  Either way once the threshold is crossed, he's on his way down.  It's only a matter of time and how far he's going to fall.   You'll notice the distinct absence of "Without you it's nothing/why else would I climb/together forever/Hearts beating in time."  In its place is a "warped" sound in the music - the character's world is becoming surreal; fantasy and reality are blurring.  More foreshadowing. 

He's a Star
The only song that takes a 3rd-person objective view of the character, as opposed to 1st person.  Probably because Barry wrote it years ago for another project.  In spite of our hero's experience and probably learning from other musicians, he's figured out that being a star or being famous isn't the life panacea he thought it would be.  Instead of all of his problems being solved, he's got more piled on.  The fantasy life of the stage, the story he's selling to the fans is nothing like real life and his brain hasn't clarified those boundaries, or isn't able to yet.  "He's left with no companions / only enemies and slaves."  Will he figure out before the end of the record that the biggest slave in the story is himself?

Written in Stone
Oh, right - the wife.  He didn't forget, really.  Yeah, that's the ticket. 
Every once in a while he remembers his other half (I'm using the word "wife" for simplicity here, but it could be a girlfriend, partner, other kind of SO, etc.)  He doesn't understand why she's not having a good time and enjoying his new life along with him. "It's your party too, babe / come on for the ride" Because he can't see that he's only focused on himself and any relationship requires paying attention to the partner.  I just celebrated my 10th anniversary and my husband and I lasted that long (so far!) because a day doesn't go by that we each don't do something to build our friendship, make the other's life easier, or continue the love affair.  The image of water wearing away stone is brilliant.  Nothing lasts forever if you just leave it and don't take care of it, no matter how solid it seems.  The married artists I've met over the years who kept their families intact by ensuring their other half had a place in "the life".  Some brought families on the road with them.  Some had spouses playing a managerial role (No "Spinal Tap" jokes, please.)  Others had spouses with enough backbone to set boundaries and followed their lead when they said, "That's enough.  You've got to come off the road."  Without that role, the marriage/partnership inevitably died. 
Interesting ending with a refrain of "Bring on Tomorrow" - not hopeful this time but sad, even regretful.

Letter From a Fan/So Heavy, So High
We all know this is creepy as hell, so I'll just get that statement out of the way and we can move on with the analysis.  But I will say after hearing this song all the way through the first time, I wanted to sleep with the lights on last night.
There is no way Barry could have performed this song himself.  The point of the record is seeing these experiences through the character's eyes.  If he had done "Letter" himself it would have been a 3rd person retrospective.  Nataly Dawn captured the innocence of the fan's intentions beautifully.  Even as the 3rd verse gets disturbing - for reasons that deserve their own post - the intentions and emotions are still innocent.  They have no idea they've crossed the line because they don't know where the line is.  Or even that there is a line.  Or even that if they communicate these thoughts to the object of their affection that they will scare the living shit out of him.  The scariest part of all is, we've all encountered someone like this.  Many fans have even experienced some of these emotions to lesser degrees.  No one can tell by looking who's just honestly enthusiastic and whose soul has been touched by the music, and who's going over the edge and is potentially dangerous. 
What makes this track particularly brilliant is that it is merged in almost a medly with So Heavy, So High.  Each of the songs on its own is just OK.  But together they display the dichotomy that is the character's life.  He's cracking under the pressure.  He was able to handle the public scrutiny for a time but it wore him down.  He's so innundated with the mental noise of being a public star that he can't even hear the little girl and her innocent letters. 

This song needs its own post so I'll pause it there and pick it up when the rest of the main review gets out of my system.

I'll be back later tonight - enjoy for now!

15 Minutes - Really, I'm working on it

Passed out from exhaustion last night before I got back to the 'puter.

I cracked it open at the same time the Gayle King interview came on.

Everyone interviewing Barry (Gayle King included) decries the paparazzi and how they hound these poor innocent people (but only the ones we find sympathetic.....) and how they invade entertainers' privacy...  then launch into DOING THE EXACT SAME THING!  Right after she goes in to how she doesn't have to deal with being hounded as much as her buddy Oprah, and how terrible it is that stars are being hounded, she starts asking Barry all of the personal questions that even an orangutan knows he isn't going to answer.

She asks how he's able to keep out of the public eye, then comments on how much research she's done, and makes Barry tell her "No, I'm not answering that."

Either these interviewers are really really stupid, or they're staging their questions deliberately to underscore the theme of the record.  I still think it would be a great selling point to use Barry's own interviews about the record to promote the theme of it.  The entertainment "news" industry is making it too easy.

This interview is definitely getting the Lightman Treatment from Pete when he gets home.

OK, getting to work on the real POV.

Monday, June 13, 2011

15 Minutes - POV in Progress

Work has picked up, the kids are, well ... kids, and I would pay anything to get a day of quiet with the piles of paper on my desk magically squared away.

But instead, I got my preorder of 15 Minutes!  That'll do!!!

But not just the new CD.  When I opened the package, hidden behind the packing slip was an additional CD booklet - with Barry's autograph on it.  So Barry, Chris, Garry and whoever else might have had a hand in that little surprise, thank you!!  You made my day just as much as getting the CD itself.

There's pictures from today's CD signing at Radio City Music Hall too - check out Suzanne's blog at

I'm taking a break from a project due tomorrow at lunch time to put together my "to do" list before I can sit and listen to this record in peace and do some serious (and sincere) mental gymnastics with it.
  • Cook dinner and deal w/ the dishes and kitchen (done)
  • Get the kids outside to play for a while (done)
  • Get toddler to bed (done)
  • Hand eldest and baby off to their father for him to deal with (done)
  • Pay bills and balance the checkbook (as done as it's going to get tonight)
  • Catch up on email, especially client questions (avoiding it like the plague, need to get the blog post off my chest first)
  • Put a big dent in and possibly finish the task on the group project due tomorrow (tools booted up, ready to rock)
Checklist for optimum appreciate of 15 Minutes
(Don't laugh, you only get a first listen once and we've all waited so long for Barry to create new music I want to make this one count)

Get that autograph behind glass so the kids don't get their grubby little mits on it.
Finish up as much work/housework/laundry as possible so my wonderful husband doesn't have anything to bitch about and thus, interrupt
Bottle of pinot noir (La Crema, Sonoma Valley, 2009)
Chocolate (Lindt 70% cacao, to go w/ the wine)
Extra pillows on the floor next to the fireplace in the bedroom
Candleabra lit in said fireplace.
Make sure the lock on the door works  (I don't care if the baby is finally crawling, or how many times the toddler takes her diaper off, or if the eldest calculated the square root of pi.  If get interrupted during this CD, someone had better be dying.)
Rip CD to iTunes, transfer to iPod, break out the good speakers.

Will see you back here soon....

Friday, June 10, 2011

Barry on "Extra"

Direct Link

Missed this one because it didn't show up on my grid.  Damn.

Stick around, there's a parade of videos coming from all of these appearances once my desk is clean(er) and I track them all down.


Interview w/ Mario Lopez

"I've been up, I've been down...." Barry on George Lopez

Direct link:

The TV appearances just keep getting better and better.  What this video doesn't show is the opening monologue where Lopez used a twitter question to sequence his guests via a ticket counter at a deli (or the DMV).  Barry got into the act by holding the next ticket and having to wait in line.  It was obvious everyone had a REALLY great time and it was worth it to me to lose an hour of desperately needed sleep to watch this live.  Great performance of "Bring on Tomorrow" and Barry wasn't shoehorned into the last 5 minutes plus credits.

Never been a Lopez fan per se, but this was one great episode.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

15 Minutes - Get Famous

The Powers That Be just posted an update to the contest.  You can enter from anywhere in the world (not just the US anymore).  Get it in gear because you only have until 6/14 to enter.

Post a comment to troll for votes.  A few submissions are already up so you can check out the competition.  I'll come up with my own endorsement after some more victims entries appear.

In response to about a dozen emails, the answer is NO, I am not entering in the contest.  I was tolerated in high school chorus and drama club.  Today I only sing in church on Sunday because there, they have to forgive you.  No one needs to hear that. 

Who's next?

(Update from TPTB on Wednesday:  ONE vote per person.  No Chicago-style voting.  Choose wisely!)

THE final update - you can vote more than once, up to 100 times per hour.  Robo-voting will be of limited value, use your fingers.  It's Chicago-style voting, full throttle.

Monday, June 6, 2011

CONTEST: Submit your video and win time onstage with Barry!

This is going to be hilarious!!!  I was going to post that I hope to see all the submissions somewhere but that was already taken care of.  You can view and vote on the candidates.

Make sure when you sign up to use a legit email - you have to confirm your subscription before you can log in to the site.
So - who has the guts and (lack of?) pride to enter??  Leave a comment if you want loyal YBA-ers to vote on you.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Sunday Conversation: Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow's first album of original songs in a decade, "15 Minutes," hits stores June 14. The 67-year-old crooner is based in Las Vegas, where he's the resident headliner at the Paris Las Vegas.

Your new album, "15 Minutes" — everyone knows the reference, but what inspired it?

First of all, I've been having a wonderful run of luck with cover albums, songs I didn't write. I had five pop cover albums and two Christmas albums, and they were all very successful. But I did miss writing. So I looked around, and what I saw was a lot of young people becoming famous very quickly, overnight. I've done three "American Idols," and it was an amazing thing to watch these young talented people becoming household names within months. And I remember when I got hit with it, with "Mandy," that I was an adult. And yet when "Mandy" hit, it knocked me for a loop. It turned me into a person I didn't like.

Read the rest at The Los Angeles Times online

Friday, June 3, 2011


From Barry's Facebook page today

Get 15 MINUTES, Meet Barry, AND See Him in Concert at Radio City!
by Barry Manilow on Friday, June 3, 2011 at 12:16pm

Mark your calendar!

Barry will be at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Monday,
June 13 for an exclusive 15 MINUTES album signing! And, we want to
see you there!

The signing goes from 6 – 8 PM on the 13th. Upon arrival, you will be
able to purchase 15 MINUTES one day before the release day and have it signed in person by Barry!

Then, after Barry signs your album, you can walk (or crawl) over to
the Radio City box office. Why? Because they will be offering you
tickets to Barry’s upcoming shows on February 10, 11, and 12, 2012 at
Radio City! That’s right…….this is a sneak announcement about
upcoming concerts at Radio City…….and you’ll be the first ones able to get tickets……once you’ve had your CD signed…..and only at the Radio City Box Office.

So…you will leave with (1) a signed copy of 15 MINUTES and be able to have it before anyone else AND (2) you will leave with tickets in hand
to the February concerts…before anyone else! How cool is that?

In order for us to ensure that Barry has enough Sharpies and Radio
City has enough tickets printed, please let us know if you are going
to be attending. Shoot us a quick email at

See you at Radio City!!!!!!!!

P.S. The BMIFC on-sale date will be after the 13th and will be
announced soon. Please stay tuned to the Hotline and
barrymanilow for the on-sale date.

If you go, post stories and pictures for those of us NOT making out of state trips any time soon.  We have to live vicariously through you down here!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"One bathhouse. We played one bathhouse." Barry's Interview with Vanity Fair

One of Barry's best interviews in a looooong time!  I would LOVE to hear the audio of this interview.

Here are three things I didn’t know about Barry Manilow prior to conducting this interview: First, his fans are called “Fanilows,” and each and every one has beautifully feathered hair. (1)  Only by you dweebs in the media and not by choice.  (2)  I gave up my "jersey mall hair" before I was married.  Second, he didn’t write the song “I Write the Songs,” which makes it the third-least- accurate song title of all time, after Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” And third, Manilow’s new album, 15 Minutes—available everywhere (literally everywhere) on June 14—is his first original material in a decade. I honestly can’t say whether it’s more surprising that he took 10 years to make an album, Chinese Democracy–style, or that he isn’t churning out more Lite FM standard covers, Rod Stewart–style. I called Manilow to talk about 15 Minutes, and he picked up the phone in mid-laugh. His raspy chortle sounds eerily like a Bill Clinton impression. He began our conversation by asking what he’d have to do to get on the cover of Vanity Fair, and exactly how shirtless he’d have to be. (I'll bet this would involve a definition of "media slut" not previously signed off on by Stiletto's client.  But just for grins you could always use that old 8x10 from the Bell records days that Jimmy Kimmel likes to have on hand)

Eric Spitznagel: This is your first album since 2001. What took you so long? Were you locked in your bedroom obsessing over every song like Brian Wilson?

Barry Manilow: No, I was just on a good roll with the cover albums. We started with the greatest songs of the 50s and then we did the 60s and the 70s and the 80s. My last one was the greatest love songs of all time. I got a Grammy nomination for it. So I didn’t want to stop it. It was an honor to sing those classic songs, but I missed writing my own material. I missed that part of making a record.

15 Minutes is a concept album based on Andy Warhol’s over-referenced quote about fleeting fame. Are any of these songs autobiographical?

I started out writing about a fictional character who wanted fame, got it, blew it—like so many of these young people do—and is starting over.
But as I wrote it, I realized that I had lived every experience in these songs, except I never went down as far as this guy does. I never had to pull myself up and start over. I actually got the idea for this record back when Britney Spears was being attacked by the paparazzi. Remember that year when they were driving her crazy?

The year she stopped wearing panties?

Yeah, all of that. I said to Nick, my co-writer, “Is that the price of fame? Is this what it’s become? They won’t leave you alone and you can’t have a life?” It was a lot different when I was coming up. There was no TMZ, and the paparazzi weren’t everywhere. You could have some privacy.

But in your defense, you never shaved your head or spent time in a psychiatric ward. That’s like chum in the water for tabloids.

Yeah, but fame got to me in other ways. I turned into a person that I didn’t like. These days, with American Idol and all the other reality shows, young people become famous overnight, and that can be very difficult to handle, the way photographers follow you around and study your every move. You say something stupid and the next morning you’re in the headlines. That never happened to me, but it happens all the time now.

You debuted the new album last week on QVC. That seems like a curious choice. Is it because the people who love “Weekend in New England” also love wholesale jewelry?

I never thought of it that way.

When I buy your album, will I also get a juicer?

[Laughs.] I don’t think so. QVC has been very good to me. They did the same thing for my last three albums. They let me come on the show and talk with the gal and sing a few songs off the new album. Then the public calls in and buys it if they like it, and if they don’t, the phone doesn’t ring. We’ve had very good fortune and we’ve broken a few sales records. I like doing it this way because really, how the hell do you sell a record these days anyway? There aren’t any more record stores! Where’s Virgin? Where’s Tower? Where are they?

I’m pretty sure they went out of business. You have heard about iTunes and Amazon, right?

I try to keep out of that. We’re releasing this album on my own label but we’re signed up with Universal, and they’ve got a lot of young people working for them. All those young people know the Internet. They live and breath the Internet. That’s how you sell a record these days, so I just trust them. I do what I can do. I’ll go on the morning shows and sing wherever I can. But that’s as much as I know how to do. I don’t know how to sell a record anymore.

Most artists work out the kinks on their new songs by playing them in concert. Will your audience let you get away with that, or do they start rioting if you don’t sing the hits?

I try to slip in one or two songs from the new album. It was easy with the last few, when we were doing the greatest hits of the 50s and 60s. The fans knew most of those songs anyway, so they weren’t as resistant.
On this album, I’m been playing the single “Bring On Tomorrow,” and it’s going over very well. They’re really loving it. If I keep getting this reaction, I may drop in another one from this album. But I have to respect the fact that they are there to hear the old hits. I don’t want them running down the aisles in the middle of a tune, heading to the lobby to get some orange juice from the concession. “Just give me two minutes!”

Are you sick of singing “Mandy” yet?

Noooo! Noooo!

Come on, Barry. It’s just you and me. Admit it, you hate that song.

Never! Never!

Well, what’s your least favorite song, the one you wish could be burned from our collective memories? “Copacabana,” maybe? “I Made It Through the Rain”?

I must say, now and again, something like “Looks Like We Made It” feels a little stale to me. When that happens, I take the song out of the show and give it about six months. Sure enough, when I sing it again, it feels fresh.

Do you ever mix it up with different arrangements or completely different lyrics? Maybe “Mandy” becomes a song about a transgendered man named Randy?

I can’t do it. I changed arrangements around and audiences hated it. They want to hear the original arrangement on the record that they bought when it was a hit. Don’t fuck with it now! Leave it alone!

I was shocked to find out you didn’t write “I Write the Songs.” When you sing it, do you ever think, I’m living a lie?  (Every time someone says this I remember Barry joking around about it back in the first TV special in 1975 (76?)  Better late than never catching up on the basics.)

No, because the song isn’t about me or anybody else. It’s about the spirit of music. The first line says, “I’ve been alive forever,” so it can’t be about me.

Or a vampire songwriter who’s lived for several centuries and drinks the blood of the innocent to fuel his muse.

That’s one interpretation. It’s not mine.

You may not have written “I Write the Songs,” but you have written dozens of commercial jingles, everything from “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Is There” to “I Am Stuck on Band-Aids.” Is that a creative muscle that disappears, or can you still knock off a jingle in your sleep?

It was never easy. Writing jingles was a very competitive field. You had to write the catchiest melody in 30 seconds or less and make it better than the other guy’s. I learned a lot about orchestration, about song structure and arrangement. I think State Farm still uses my jingle.

Have you heard the Weezer version of “Like a Good Neighbor”?

I haven’t. What’s their name? Weezer?

I had no clue the song had more verses than the “Like a good neighbor” part.

Oh yeah, I wrote a whole song. I really got into it. They only used a small part of it for the commercial, but it was a proper song.

Some of the lyrics are weirdly poignant. “We all hope the good times never leave us behind / We face our tomorrow with some peace of mind / No man has a promise of a life without care.”

That’s the one. I haven’t heard those lyrics in ages. That was nice.

You did the “You Deserve a Break Today” jingle for McDonald’s back in the 70s. If they asked, would you write a new commercial jingle for them?

I sure as hell would, man. I got two CLIO Awards a few years ago. You know what that is? The advertising awards? They found out that I’d written all those jingles so they gave me an award. I sat through their whole ceremony, and it doesn’t seem like people are making commercials with memorable melodies anymore. Some of them can be beautiful and very expensively produced, but they don’t have those jingles that you want to sing along with like they used to. I sat there and watched them pass out awards to all the new commercials, and there was nothing, at least nothing as catchy as “You Deserve a Break Today.”   (Probably because with the Internet this is a greater focus on visual communications rather than audio background.)

If McDonald’s were to pay you a large sum of money to write for a new commercial campaign, would you find a way to include the lyric “Sorry about the diabetes”?

You’re funny! Sure, I’ll try.

I read somewhere that when you met Bob Dylan, he hugged you and called you an inspiration. Are you sure he was being serious?

I wish I knew, but that’s what I remember him doing. We were at a Seder at Burt Bacharach’s place, and he walked right up to me and hugged me and said, “Don't stop what you’re doing, man. We're all inspired by you.” It was very important for me at the time, because those were the days when the critics were just killing me. They would have annihilated me if they had the chance.

I’m sorry, I’m still trying to digest the idea of you and Bob Dylan and Burt Bacharach at a Seder. (Why?  How is that hard to imagine?  Don't get it.  The string of Christmas albums and stuff is harder to digest.)

Isn’t that great? Frank Sinatra also said a kind thing about me around that same time. Somebody asked him about me and he said, “He’s next.” That meant a lot. Despite what the critics were saying, I did what I could do and I made the most beautiful music I knew how to make.

Speaking of legends, you’re about to tie an Elvis Presley record, aren’t you? Seven years of performing in Las Vegas?

How about that? I’ve been having a great time. I did five years at the Las Vegas Hilton and now I’m on my second year at the Paris.

Do you have your eye on any other Elvis Presley records? How many peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches can you eat in one sitting?

What are you talking about? I’ll stick with the Vegas record. I only did it because I wanted to get off the road. The road is a young person’s gig. Now when I’m out on tour, all I can think about is coming home. I wasn’t done performing. I wasn’t done with my band. And I didn’t want to leave my crew. I had just had it with the road. I wanted to get away from the room service and the planes and the noise. Even with the Vegas show, my life is so full of noise. There’s the band behind me and the audience is in front of me. When it’s all over, I need to go home, where it’s peaceful and quiet.

Do you never feel nostalgic for the bathhouses you played with Bette Midler in the 70s?

One bathhouse. We played one bathhouse.  (:::snicker:::)

Really? I thought you were touring bathhouses all over the country.

No, it was only ever that one bathhouse.

You’re starting to sound like a politician who got busted by his wife. “It was just one bathhouse, baby, I swear.”

[Laughs.] I played with Bette at the Continental Baths [in New York City]. They had a cabaret stage, and they hired me as the house piano player. They asked me, “Hey, do you want to play piano here full-time?” And I was like, “Sure, why not?” I played with all the acts that came through, all the singers. Bette was the best of them. She was the best one, so I stayed with her.

There’s an old show-business trick that if you ever get stage fright, just imagine that the audience is in their underwear. What do you do if your audience is dressed entirely in towels?   (Wait a couple of seconds and they'll take them off.  Next...?)

That’s a great question. Personally, I don’t really get stage fright. And in any case, I wasn’t really the focus of attention during those shows. It was all about Bette. She was fucking brilliant. I mean it. You never saw anything like it. It topped anything Lady Gaga is doing today. And she did it without any stage tricks or fancy effects. It was just Bette and me and a drummer.   (OK, I was thinking up until now that the "Lady Gaga" mentions were just a passing fancy but I'm beginning to think it's a set part of the schtick, all but required when an interview is scheduled.  I can just see Garry or Marc whispering into someone's ear or over the phone, "Look, if you want this scoop, you have to talk about Lady Gaga.  Don't ask why, just do it or the meeting is off!")

Since you mentioned Lady Gaga, I feel like I should ask you about her, but I feel weird about it.

What’s to feel weird about?

Why would you care about Lady Gaga? She’s so different from you aesthetically, and from a different generation. Asking you about her feels like asking my mom to explain how e-mail works. It’s just mean. (HA!)

I love Lady Gaga! I think I was the first guy on my block to discover her. You’d be surprised by what’s on my iPod.

Tell me what you like about Gaga. Are you a fan of the music, the alien-Egyptian-dominatrix costumes, the sacrilegious videos?

I think it’s the whole package that really impressed me. She has such an individualistic style. I was sold on that from the beginning. Later I realized that on top of everything, she’s a good musician and a great singer. That was it, that’s what sold me. This girl is the real deal.
During your show at the Paris in Las Vegas, do you, at any point, get hatched out of a gigantic egg?

It’s a little different. I come out of a Gefilte fish. (I double dog dare you!!!  Do you have a show on April 1 next year?  Work it in!)