Tales of Rock: ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Rocketman’ are pop-music fantasias that never touch the greatness of their subjects

Lily James and Himesh Patel in a scene from “Yesterday.” (Jonathan Prime/Universal Pictures via AP)

Of all the here’s-a-cool-way-to-make-a-pop-biopic! ideas floating around in “Rocketman” that work better in theory than they do onscreen, one of the most pivotal was the decision to have Taron Egerton do his own singing. That almost never happens in music biopics (Rami Malek lip-synched in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Jamie Foxx lip-synched in “Ray,” Marion Cotillard lip-synched in “La Vie en Rose”). Media voices have cooed over Egerton’s vocalizing as if they were the proud parents of a kid vying for championship of a karaoke competition. “Look, he’s really doing it! And he sounds just like Elton John!”

Except that he doesn’t. In the ’70s, the fluky flavor (and power) of Elton John’s voice was connected to the contrast between the way he spoke — incredibly posh and rounded English tones — and the bluesy down-home American idiom that he infused into nearly every sung syllable. (Even in a song as mellow as “Your Song,” he would sing, “And you can tell everybod-eh.”) What you hear, in almost every line of his phrasing, is the ebullient theatrical muscle it took to make that reach. Taron Egerton can sing, but it’s exactly that aspect that his voice doesn’t have. The songs in “Rocketman” sound “good” as far as it goes, but they’re stripped of Elton’s distinct vocal personality. According to the film’s topsy-turvy logic, though, this somehow renders them old but new again. To put it bluntly: They can now be resold.

Everybody knows, because it’s a cornerstone of modern movie mythology, that two fabled films of the 1970s created the blockbuster mentality: “Jaws” (1975) and “Star Wars” (1977). Actually, I’ve always thought that two additional movies were part of that story: “The Exorcist” (1973), which tapped and shaped the up-and-coming appetite for overexplicit sensationalism, and “Rocky” (1976), which brought back the feel-good ideology of happy endings and, in doing so, helped to usher in the age of Reagan.

Yet even if you include those two, what isn’t nearly as remembered now — thought it marked a fundamental change in the aesthetics, and business, of movies — was the revolution wrought by “Saturday Night Fever” (1977). The movie’s soundtrack, one of the greatest ever, was beyond huge — it was a disco volcano that kept erupting. “American Graffiti,” or the films of Elvis Presley, might have paved the way, but what kicked off with “Saturday Night Fever,” in the corporate Hollywood that was coming into being, was the perception that the movie and music industries could effectively merge. Movies could be vehicles for creating and marketing pop soundtracks, and pop soundtracks could be vehicles for creating and marketing movies. This led directly to the age of “Flashdance,” “Footloose,” “Top Gun,” and a thousand lesser titles, from “Thank God It’s Friday” to “D.C. Cab,” that were conceived and packaged to piggyback on their MTV-and-radio-friendly soundtracks. Films and music would now be tails wagging each other, which created a new form: the movie as synergistic tie-in musical.

The Beatles and Elton John are hardly typical subjects for a pop-music film. They are gods among giants. As such, they deserve — I would say demand — a kind of big-screen treatment that exudes transcendence. Yet “Yesterday” and “Rocketman” aren’t jukebox musicals that send you out on a cloud of rapture. They’re synergistic tie-in musicals that are out to rebrand the Beatles and Elton John for a new generation. Maybe that’s why neither movie comes close to touching the greatness of its subject.

In recent weeks, I’ve had more than a few conversations about “Rocketman,” the biography-in-a-blender Elton John musical that, I confess, absolutely drove me up a wall. On the surface, at least, the film couldn’t be more different from “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was a conventionally middlebrow push-your-buttons biopic. That one really was a Bryan Singer film, though it was finished by Dexter Fletcher, who directs “Rocketman” as if it were a Baz Luhrmann movie staged as a badly lit, thinly scripted Netflix throwaway. Yet when people talk about “Rocketman,” they sound a lot like they do when they talk about “Bohemian Rhapsody.” There’s a fan-service reductionism to the whole megillah, and to the way that the chief sentiment you hear always comes down to the same thing: “I loved hearing those songs!” Well, yes. Who doesn’t?

Early on in “Rocketman,” when Egerton’s Elton, having stalked offstage in his outsize orange devil costume, is sitting there in a support group, looking back on the life that brought him to this moment, the line “I was justified when I was five” is used to spin the action back to his childhood and the film’s first musical number, “The Bitch Is Back.” I watched the sequence that follows never having the faintest idea of why this song would apply to thissituation. Like everyone else, though, I enjoyed hearing the killer hooks of “The Bitch Is Back.”

Yet if hearing those songs were all it took to make a good musical, then the legendary 1978 Robert Stigwood debacle “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” starring (yes, starring!) the Bee Gees in their post-“Fever” prime, might be a spectacle of high-kitsch joy, instead of one of the most atrocious movie musicals ever created. “Rocketman,” with its slipshod staging and “stylized” chronology (i.e., the events of Elton John’s life seem not just out of sequence but seriously out of whack), is a bubbleheaded travesty of the musical biopic that Elton John should have had. (And had that movie been made, it would have been twice the hit.)

That said, I’m seriously shocked that more people aren’t more disappointed by what a botched opportunity “Rocketman” represents. The movie has been hyped in such a way to make it sound stodgy if you complain about its iPod-random chronology. But when Elton shows up for his fabled American debut at the Troubadour in L.A. in 1970 and plays “Crocodile Rock,” I’m sorry, that’s the equivalent of making a biopic about the Beatles in which they launch their Shea Stadium concert in 1965 with a cut off the White Album.

Elton John’s music and image developed radically over the first half of the ’70s, but the way “Rocketman” tells it, he simply touched down in the world as this nerd glam prince with a hundred pairs of glasses churning out sublime synthesizer earworms. In the movie, we almost never see Elton discovering who he is — as a musician, or as an image of pansexual flamboyance. Maybe that’s why the movie, in its greatest-hits-ripped-out-of-context way, wobbles around the kicky splendor of the songs. It uses them as musical bullet points, but there’s scarcely a moment when it figures out how to sit back and catch the lightning majesty of what Elton John created.

If “Rocketman” is at least guilty of a certain operatic overreach, “Yesterday” revives the Fab Four by reducing them. The movie, which opened Friday, is a what-if? trifle, an attempt to turn a world without the Beatles into a happy-face “Twilight Zone” episode that becomes a fantasy of rebooting the Beatles. As I said in my review, the most telling aspect of “Yesterday” is that it presents the Kate McKinnon character as a music-business manager of snarky corruption, yet her master plan to market the Beatles is treated less as satire than as the film’s own fantasy of selling the “ultimate” supergroup. You could say, “No, the movie isn’t really on the side of that.” But I would suggest that the pop commodity fetishism of “Yesterday” is wound right into the movie’s blandly iconic, number-one-with-a-bullet song choices (“Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Help!,” “All You Need Is Love”). It’s as if the PR department had nixed the notion of doing anything more adventurous or offbeat.

One could argue that we live in the real world, and that it’s impossible to make an expensive movie about the Beatles or Elton John without treating those songs as marketing hooks. Fair enough. Yet the problem with “Yesterday” and “Rocketman” isn’t that they sell the Beatles or Elton John out. It’s that, in devoting so much of themselves to imagining how these incandescent artists might appeal to audiences today, the movies never fully remember — or capture — how they appealed to audiences back then, when all that selling seemed so far away.

 

 

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Tales of Rock: Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards’ life in photos in new ‘Keith, Unfiltered’ show

The Rolling Stones recently announced rescheduled dates for their “No Filter” tour after lead singer Mick Jagger underwent successful heart surgery. But for those who don’t want to wait for the Stones to hit the stage, guitarist Keith Richards, legendary for both his iconic rock riffs and his imperviousness to drugs and alcohol, has his own “Keith, Unfiltered” show up right now.

The Morrison Hotel Gallery is featuring five decades of iconic photographs of Richards at all three of its locations: New York City, Los Angeles and Maui.

“Keith, Unfiltered” shows Richards in classic portraits at work and at play, which in his case often involves cigarettes and a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Following are a selection of shots from the show, along with the photographers’ vivid memories of hanging out with perhaps the greatest rock ‘n’ roll guitarist of all time.

Keith Richards. “Patience Please” during The Stones tour of America – STP Tour, 1972

(Ethan Russell/Morrison Hotel Gallery)

Ethan Russell: “… I was traveling with the Rolling Stones, watching from the sidelines, when I noticed the sign. I called Keith over and took two quick snaps. The customs officer threatened to confiscate the film, so I retired quickly. I knew what I had.”

Keith Richards, The Third Eye. Industria Studios, New York City

(Stephanie Pfriender Stylander/Morrison Hotel Gallery)

Stephanie Pfriender Stylander: “Black set, hot lights, smoke, drink, music, film, rock and roll, Nikons, ashes, Dolce & Gabbana, ‘how are you doin’ love’, as Keith gets out of the dark limo walking into the studio, we start in this atmosphere, intimate, moving, cinematic and real.”

Keith Richards, England, 1966

(Gered Mankowitz/Morrison Hotel Gallery)

Gered Mankowitz: “In 1966, I photographed each individual member of the Rolling Stones at home so as to create a stock library of these more personal and individual images for press use. By this time there was an increasing demand for such images and the band hated the idea of having unknown photographers coming to their homes. Keith is photographed here at his glorious home Redlands in West Sussex with his beloved Bentley motor car, which he called Blue Lena after the great singer Lena Horne. By this time, Keith and I had become pretty close, and the entire day was a joy of picture taking and giggling with Keith showing his own particular take of this rather cheesy ‘at home’ format!”

Keith Richards, New York City, 1988

(Timothy White/Morrison Hotel Gallery)

Timothy White: “It was a major coming-of-age moment for me. No publicists or bodyguards, just a rising photographer and this legend I’d grown up listening to. Between rounds of pool and drinks at an otherwise vacant dive bar in Tribeca this is among the few shots we managed to get before heading over to the Hudson to catch the sunset. Crossing Greenwich Avenue, we were stopped by an NYPD office asking Keith to sign his violation book. Moments later, a few more showed up. I tried to rush things along as the sun began to sink, but when a female officer opened her bulletproof vest to reveal the Rolling Stones shirt she wore under her uniform, Keith couldn’t refuse signing just one more autograph. I may not have gotten that moment on film but we did manage to get the shots we were looking for and then some. Turning away from New York’s finest, he told me, ‘I could run for mayor of this town.’ After that day, I’m convinced he could, and win, too.”

Keith Richards, Midwest Airport, 1979

(Henry Diltz/Morrison Hotel Gallery)

Henry Diltz: “I spent three weeks on the road in 1979 with the New Barbarians; Ronnie Wood’s solo album touring band, which was like the Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger. We traveled on a huge jet plane from city to city. Each time we landed, eight limos would appear on the runway around the plane, and the band members would descend the steps and look for their own private limo and driver. Here, Keith is getting off of the place in St, Louis, looking for his limo and driver and carrying the thing that mattered most… his bottle of Jack Daniels.”

All images are for sale online as well as at each Morrison Hotel gallery.

 

More Love for Legs

I love women’s legs. I remember intentionally dropping my crayon on the floor in 2nd grade, just so I could check out my teacher’s legs as she dangled one shoe off her foot while sitting there reading us all a story. I can’t learn that. It’s just something in me that I love about women.

This subject is actually a bit complex, I think, because there are both biological and cultural factors involved. Yes, from the standpoint of evolutionary biology, we could definitely point to strong, shapely legs as an indicator of fitness, and no doubt human legs have evolved in terms of both length and shape because of both natural and sexual selection. However, I tend to think that various cultural factors overlaying all this are probably even more important for “leg men,” who imprint on their particular focus within a specific cultural context.

The accidents of personal experience play a very significant part. If you come to associate women’s legs with sex during puberty, that will probably stick with you for your whole life. And it could be for various reasons: seeing sexy pantyhose commercials on TV, noting a particular girl’s legs in school (because of how she’s dressed), talking about women’s legs with friends at the time, etc. And then perhaps this association becomes even more strongly reinforced by envisioning and dreaming about women’s legs (including images from the media and real life) while you masturbate.

Our culture definitely tends to treat women’s legs as sexy, so there’s also a very potent trans-personal cultural dynamic at work. Personal experience hooks into that quite readily, because it’s out there in various forms in the media and everyday life. Just seeing, say, a dance by a “leg goddess” such as Cyd Charisse in an old musical might imprint on your mind for life.

A culture doesn’t have to grant women’s legs this particular sexual emphasis, and not all do, but it’s a non-arbitrary association, because their legs lead directly to the obvious.

And this association is enhanced by cultural norms in various ways. First, in our culture, women shave their legs, making them smooth and even sexier and also yet more different from the legs of men. (They’re already naturally much less hairy, more rounded, and more shapely.) Women also often exercise them specifically in order to improve their tone and shape and perhaps tan them as well. And use skin softeners and so forth. Further, they wear stockings or pantyhose, which gives them an even smoother, sheerer texture and conceals minor blemishes, suggesting physical perfection. They also wear high-heeled shoes, which flex the muscles of the legs with each step, emphasizing shapeliness and fitness. And they sometimes wear short skirts or slit dresses or whatever that draw the eyes to the legs and emphasize them. A male who grows up surrounded by all this can be forgiven for developing an obsession with women’s legs.

And what’s not to like? Legs appeal to multiple senses: sight and touch. There’s a superb shape and line as well as an enticing texture (enhanced, of course, by shaving and perhaps nylons). At the sight of a woman’s legs, a man might well dream of running his hands over them and coming between them. And that smoothness in turn suggests and evokes what? Well, the vagina itself. So it’s no “accident” at all that shaving and wearing nylons are cultural enhancements that even more strongly allow legs to evoke feminine sexuality and enhance female sexual power.

With clothing, legs can also very handily be both revealed and concealed, which makes them almost uniquely empowered to allow women to tease and seduce men and inflame their imaginations. Legs being long, a little can be revealed, then a little more, then …. and so on, all the way up. It all depends on how much she wants to show. And sometimes less can be more. In addition, the momentary flash of legs through a slit skirt while a woman is in stride or crossing her legs can burn a potent image into a receptive man’s mind, both because they are beautiful in and of themselves and also because they suggest sexual availability. And if they are subsequently concealed, you yearn to see them again and also to see more. Dresses and skirts are all about advertising accessibility while also concealing and withholding.

 

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14 of the Weirdest, Craziest, Philly-est Stories from 2018

Greased poles, profane potholes, farm animals roaming the city. Just another year in Philadelphia.

https://billypenn.com/2018/12/27/14-of-the-weirdest-craziest-philly-est-stories-from-2018/

 

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Tales of Rock – Kris Kristofferson

This is one of my all time favorite Tales of Rock posts. It’s just such a great story! I love it!

 

Among all of the thousands of rock artists who have recorded a song, talented Kris Kristofferson probably has the most impressive background.

 

Kris is the son of a retired U.S. Air Force Major General. In high school Kris was Class President, honor student, and football star. He was a Rhodes Scholar and attended Oxford University. He has authored several books and won first prize in a collegiate short-story contest sponsored by the Atlantic Monthly. In school he played football and was a Golden Gloves boxer.

In Vietnam he was a helicopter pilot. He was an Army Captain and attended flight school. As a civilian, he flew helicopters and served as a janitor at the Nashville Recording Studio. He is a Grammy winner and has appeared in numerous movies, including A Star is Born, playing opposite Barbara Streisand.

He has also composed such hit songs as Me and Bobby McGee and Help Me Make It Through The Night.

Now that, is an impressive resume and a fantastic life!

 

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5 Good International Cities to Meet Women

Websites like Swoop the world are solely focused on the subject of meeting girls in an international and global context. I am also one of those who pushes for so-called love tourism, although equally or more concerned about politics, culture, fitness, and philosophy.

Much has been said about this, and there are definitely several locations that are worth going to in East Asia, South America, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Perhaps even more regions if they become more Westernized and reach a certain level of material and economic development.

For a man who has limited time, however, there are five cities that are particularly good to focus on if you want the odds to be more in your favor. Perhaps in the end he has only time and opportunity to visit one of them, hence choose wisely.

The reason for these being the most appropriate is that in all of these locations the respective local culture is modern enough to “encourage” casual sex, the obesity rates are low, a large share of women are average to good-looking (partly because they often are thin), male competition is low to moderate, and the populations are large (10 million or more), leading to a near-endless pool of females. To visit so-called emerging markets comes with several downsides, such as poverty, higher crime rates (Latin America) and bad infrastructure, but since the main object is to get laid you have to ignore that.

1. Manila (Philippines)

The capital of the Philippines offers a lot of young and petite females that you can meet online, at bars and clubs, and occasionally through day game and fleeting social circles.

If you are a fairly good-looking guy (preferably of European, North American or Northeast Asian origin) with normal conversation abilities and level of confidence, rent an AirBnb, apartment or at least stay at a hotel for the short time being. You should have no problem finding a significant number of average to good-looking girls, although seldom prettier than SMV 8. Generally you can talk about all kinds of things with girls but make sure to keep frame and avoid contentious and complicated issues.

Make sure to pipeline a bit through dating apps/websites just before you go and create an abundance of opportunities. Look out for prostitutes and city gangs and don’t cause any trouble. Drugs should likewise be avoided. You may have heard about Rodrigo Duterte’s tough drug policies, which involve killings of dealers, even users.

You will do well with just English here.

Population: 12 million

Apps: Tinder, FilipinoCupid, Pinalove

2. Jakarta (Indonesia)

Although Jakarta is partly a Muslim city in an Islamic country, it is also – only beaten by Bali in that regard –  a rather liberal and secular such with many horny young girls who want a piece of the white flesh. Although some of the hijab-wearing women might be open for sex, look for those who don’t wear them since it may save you some time and trouble. It is more likely that they are open for casual sex.

A combination of online game, night game, and a little bit of day game should do you good. Make sure to rent a place since only a few hotels allow guests to bring girls to their rooms.

Some nice clubs are Jenja, Immigrant, and Empirica. Be aware of hookers and semi-pros there, although there are even more of them at Firefly. Keep frame and don’t pay. There are plenty of normal girls, of about the same level of attractiveness as in the Philippines, to choose from. Talk abut this or that, have fun, and have balance between being fairly serious and fun and outgoing.

English will take you far most of the time, but try to learn some Indonesian before you go. That will help you connect with local females, even if it’s just a couple of words and phrases here and there.

Population: 30 million

Apps: Tinder, IndonesiaCupid

3. Bangkok (Thailand)

Bangkok is associated with crazy nightlife and lots of prostitutes, much like Thailand overall is. Another downside is the massive amount of tourists. Still there are plenty of normal girls in Bangkok who are eager to meet foreign men. Both in public and online, be aware of the large share and number of pros and keep frame.

Use proper apps, especially ThaiCupid, and visit bars and clubs that lean towards a higher percentage of non-pros (i.e. normal girls). Like in other major Southeast Asian cities you can expect to do well if you look average or better and have normal conversation skills. Still the better pictures and looks, and the more confidence and determined mindset, the more you will likely increase your notch count. You are not the only one who is looking for an attractive girl to sleep with.

As for conversational topics it is wise to know about Thai culture and bring up such subjects, plus being friendly and having fun. Be a lover, not a provider, although it might be positive to showcase some form of social and monetary status. Unless girls ask there is no reason to talk about complicated subjects or even your home country. Focus on Thailand, fun, and travel.

English will take you far most of the time, but try to learn some Thai before you go. That will help you connect with local females, even if it’s just 100 words/phrases.

Population: 15 million

Apps: Tinder, ThaiCupid, ThaiFriendly

4. Rio De Janeiro (Brazil)

Rio De Janeiro is one of few cities in the world where girls approach guys, and as such often in a very direct fashion. Although it is often easy to kiss some of these mulatto girls, often from lower classes and even favelas, it is a bit harder to get laid in comparison. Sometimes kissing is just kissing and nothing more. Still it is often fairly easy to score. Forget about Catholic virtues: many live for the moment, like the day was the last on earth.

Like in Southeast Asia you should use a combination of different types of game, but online game and night game are often more than enough. However, you should be slightly more aggressive and confident in comparison – show that you have balls, both literally and metaphorically speaking. Most girls are between 5-7, like in Southeast Asia, but some have better bodies and can reach 8 or 8.5 mark. Those you bring to your hotel or Airbnb, preferably in some appropriate area, like downtown Rio or near Copacabana.

Research a bit online regarding appropriate bars and clubs, since that may differ from one year to another. Stay away from shady areas, take a cab rather than to risk anything, and don’t flash jewelry and such.

English will not take you far most of the time, so try to learn some Portuguese before you go. That will help you connect with local females, even if it’s just a couple of words and phrases here and there.

Population: 12 million

Apps: Tinder, BrazilianCupid

5. Bogota (Colombia)

If you look into a dating website/app like ColombianCupid, you realize that there are girls which are really attractive in Colombia, and since the bodies are sometimes so hot they can peak at 8 or even 9. These girls are spread out in different cities like Medellin, Barranquilla, Cali and so on why it would be wise to check out some them if you can, but if time is limited the capital Bogota is more than enough.

If you solely focus on getting laid you should do well with just online game, but for a variety of reasons you should check out the nightlife as well.

English will often not take you far. Thus try to learn some Spanish before you go. That will help you connect with women, both online and in real life. Since Spanish is valuable to learn in general you may regard it is a small life project, at least for a certain part of it.

Population: 10 million

Apps: Tinder, ColombianCupid

Conclusion

I have provided five examples of cities that are appropriate to visit if you want to meet girls, as well as the methods and tools that will enable you to maximize your results. Needless to say you could also do a lot of other things while there, such as to enjoy food and other aspects of the local cultures, but this post mainly concerns dating.

 

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