Category Archives: Television

Like Manna From Heaven For Springsteen Fans Today

How long have we been waiting for something/anything in the form of official news from the Springsteen camp on the release of a Darkness Box Set. It was a little like Christmas morning when I got up and read this on the Backstreets website:

from the Backstreets.com News page….
DARKNESS BOX WATCH
Package nearing completion, its documentary to premiere next month
Just announced this morning, the documentary that Thom Zimny has been working on for the impending Darkness box will premiere at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival as a Gala screening in September. Zimny created the Wings For Wheels doc for the Born to Run 30th Anniversary box; his new film is titled The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Speaking to IndieWIRE, festival documentary programmer Thom Powers says that The Promise draws on “a treasure trove of footage from the 1970s. You see all the twists and turns of the making of this album. And we’re the first people to announce that this film even existed… It’s been in the works for a couple years now in total secrecy. And we’re very proud to be presenting it.”

The description of the film from TIFF.net: “The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town takes us into the studio with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for the recording of their fourth album. Grammy and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Thom Zimny has collaborated with Springsteen on this documentary, gaining access to never before seen footage shot between 1976-1978, capturing home rehearsals and recording sessions that allow us to see Springsteen’s creative process at work.”

TIFF runs from September 9 – 19. According to the festival website, a confirmed schedule will be posted August 24. Tickets are available now.

Update: A Shore Fire press release confirms that “Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau Management, and Columbia Records are working on completing a new package related to Darkness on the Edge of Town, which will include the new Thom Zimny film The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. Further details will be announced when they are finalized.” The statement also gives the date for the TIFF premiere as September 14.

Toronto Star movie critic Peter Howell writes that “The pick of the The Promise as a Gala selection almost guarantees that Springsteen will come to Toronto to introduce it to the TIFF audience.”

After the 300 plus pages of speculation, finally this huge news. And not only is it confirmation that a box set is coming, it is news that there will be a SPECIAL DOCUMENTARY ala: Wings For Wheels, produced by Springsteen’s video wonderkind Thom Zimny and featuring rare, never seen before footage of Bruce in the recording studio between 1976 and 1978.

And all to be premiered in the lovely and beautiful city of Toronto, where Janet and I have been talking about going for some time now.

Holy Guacamole! What else could we hope for. Well, that’s an easy one. A full live show from the Darkness tour. Which might send many of us over the edge in anticipation.

All I can say is that it’s going to be a very exciting 50th birthday on December 7, 2010 and it’s going to be one hell of a birthday. Counting down the days now.

Can anybody say….ROAD TRIP!!!!

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How The American West Was Really Stolen

When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, my Dad took me to see a movie called “How The West Was Won.” It was full of bogus stories about mountain men and pioneers, cowboys and Indians, gold rush “49ers”, and all kinds of prospectors. It was in living Technicolor, had more than my usual allowed quotient of “bad words” and violence and though I didn’t realize it then, it was complete bull. Unfiltered and unadulterated lies and manipulations.

Lately, I’ve been watching old episodes of the short-lived HBO series “Deadwood,” which ran for just three seasons, from 2004 to 2006, and which for some unknown reason I completely missed when it first aired. I decided to go back and watch “Deadwood” after I watched an excellent documentary series produced in part by Ken Burns and titled simply “The West,” which originally also aired in 2006 and features eight episodes.

I’m partial to documentaries, so I give the edge to “The West” but both series, dramatic and documentary, are outstanding and enlightening. While “Deadwood” takes some minor liberties with the truth, many of its characters are based on real people like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane who lived for a short time in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota. While “The West” is more arid in its presentation of the facts, “Deadwood,” created by NYPD brainchild David Milch is more colorful and may hold the record for most profanities and vulgarities per minute of any television series in history.

I’m not done watching the series, so I can’t comment completely on either one, but because the American West has been on my mind a great deal lately, I thought I’d share some thoughts. I’m struck by how treacherous and difficult it was for any person to journey into the West, and at the same time I’m shocked by how that experience seems to have impacted the way these people treated the West’s true inhabitants, not to mention their attitudes toward life and death. It seems you had to be more than just a little lucky to complete the journey from New England or Pennsylvania or any place east of the Mississippi to outposts in the West. There was always the risk of attack by the Native Americans, who were considered savages and heathens in the propaganda of the day. And you weren’t killed by the bow and arrow, or later the rifle, chances are you’d find your body being laid to rest the victim of cholera, or dysentery of smallpox or any number of diseases that came and went.

It also occurs to me that the earliest prospectors and adventurers into the West were much more apt to try and make friends with the indigenous people, the many tribes that existed alongside their brother, the buffalo. But once gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in California in 1849, the rush was on and all bets were off as to the chance for peace among the white men and the Native Americans. In short, what ensued was a greed rush; a lust for riches and a money grab that turned many good men bad. And in the aftermath came the obliteration of whole people and cultures, violence between once-friendly prospectors fighting for their share of gold and, ultimately a kind of American nightmare that either wiped out or forced onto reservations a majority of the Native Americans and killed nearly all of the buffalo, which was their chief source of furs and food, not to mention their connections to the spiritual world.

Sure there were heroes, men who had good intentions and sought to bring law and order and peace to
the West, but they were few and far between. What history now shows us that the development and occupation of the West, and its inclusion in the United States is a sad sorry story reeking with blood and outright murder.

Sting once wrote, “History reeks with the wrongs we have done,” and this has never been more evident than in the American West.

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MTV’s Birth -When Revolution Was On The Air

It was 29 years ago yesterday, when MTV first began broadcasting. MTV, a new creation that was heralded as “a perfect blend of music and pictures” that many believed would change the entire way we experienced music. Do you remember watching? This was a major cultural change and many people stayed home from school or work or whatever they were doing to watch MTV’s liftoff:

The concept was simple, but it seemed so appropriate and cool. Use the image of an Apollo launch, the first steps on the moon,(apparently MTV wanted to use the first words uttered by Neil Armstrong (“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” but were not allowed to because of copyright issues.) But MTV did use video of the planting of a flag on the moon, followed by the color-changing MTV Flag (which seemed to go on for a bit too long). But it was a symbol on a claim on brand new territory, and they let their freak flag fly proudly, displaying in big bold letters, MTV, Music Television. Simple yet effective.

And then the first-ever MTV video. Quick Trivia.
Q: What was the first video played on MTV?
A: The Buggles’ cult hit, “Video Killed The Radio Star”

The perfect opening video. A strange, barely known song at the time, with plenty of distortion to the vocals, and a series of odd changes to a perfect melody, with harmonies and that soon-to-be familiar synth sound which would eventually define the entire decade of music and launch a hundred thousand bands.

After that, some technical difficulties in the form of a blurry image for about 20 seconds (apparently they only had a limited amount of VCRs to play all those videos). Then they aired a very funny little documentary meant to cover the history of how people enjoyed music. (If I was watching I completely forgot about that.)

And next up, the second official video on MTV; Pat Benatar’s, “You Better Run” asking that age-old question, “Whatcha trying to do to my heart?” Perhaps not the coolest performer at that time, but some nice eye candy for the male viewers. And then an introduction of the VJ’s (video jocks) who would be our hosts each and every day.

The handsome, regular-guy Alan Hunter; the cute, tomboyish girl next door Martha Quinn; the friendly and knowledgable and veteran VJ, JJ. Jackson; the spacy and sexy, late-night diva Nina Blackwood; and finally the guy who would become the quarterback of the MTV team, weeknight good-looking, romeo Mark Goodman.

They would be the people who would pilot this new medium into our lives and in doing so, become, in some ways, our best friends and even family members. We idolized them and were envious of their cool jobs. But most of all it was, as the VJs constantly reminded us, about the music. And we ate it up. (Remember the slightly irritating, “I want my MTV.” MTV would keep this format for many years, before changes turned the focus away from the music and into new areas like special programming and, of all things, nostalgia and reality shows.

But for a moment in time, MTV was the hippest, smartest television you could find. I’m sure next year there will be even more hoopla to mark the 30th anniversary, and we’ll look back again to a time when we were much more innocent and some of the music was rockin’ and some was, let’s admit it, really awful.

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