It’s been ‘a hard day’s night’ — for sixty years!

Film · Music
working like a dog: paul, john, george & ringo

What’s amusing about that funny-yet-familiar song title, “A Hard Day’s Night,” is its disingenuity. When the song hit Planet Earth with a sonic boom, the four moptop Beatles, John, Paul, George, and Ringo, delivered their “woooo”s as though they’ve never had a hard day’s anything in their lives.

And talk about “hummable.” A full encyclopedia of Beatles tunes and lyrics were imprinted in my prepubescent brain at the rollout of their magnificent canon in real time. This song among scores of others.

band on the run, the beatles, ‘a hard day’s night (1964)’

But this one formed the kernel of a movie — which, as we know, is an entirely different matter. This honey of a Beatles movie will get full appreciation in sixtieth-anniversary screening of A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964), starring the Beatles at the height of Beatlemania. Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present the rock ‘n’ roll movie classic directed by Richard Lester from an Oscar-nominated original screenplay by Alun Owen, the milestone film was also nominated for musical scoring.

A Hard Day’s Night, portrays 36 hours in the life of the band as it prepares for a televised variety show concert. Directing it, Lester utilizes several techniques in a semi-documentary style, reinforced by Gilbert Taylor’s black-and-white cinematography, all on dazzling display in the high energy musical comedy.

Lester’s approach was fully embraced by film critic Andrew Sarris, who wrote in the Village Voice, “A Hard Day’s Night (is)… the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals, the brilliant crystallization of such diverse cultural particles as pop music, rock ‘n’ roll, cinema-verite, the nouvelle vague, free cinema, and studied spontaneity.” Well that’s a pull-quote never to be replicated!

The film was highly influential, spawning numerous imitators including the pop group the Monkees‘ television series later in the decade, and the advent of music videos in the 1980s. Lester went onto a long career, helming the second Beatles’ film Help, The Knack, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Petulia, and The Three (and Four) Musketeers among others. A Hard Day’s Night showcases the Beatles’ dynamic music early in their careers, and, their madcap humor and behavior as London ruled global Sixties roost, for global export.

Steve Farber’s guest, Domenic Priore is an author, pop music historian, and pop culture commentator. He has contributed to several books and is the co-author of “Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood.” Importantly, Dom Priore is a F.O.A.M. (Friend of Arts Meme).

text courtesy of laemmle anniversary classics via artsmeme

A Hard Day’s Night | Royal Theatre in its centennial year | June 25, 7:30 pm

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Lyrics of love, loss, longing in Mark Sebastian’s new ‘A Trick of the Light’

Music · Reviews

From time to time, singer/songwriter Mark Sebastian’s well-meaning comperes have cautioned him about the lyrical content of some of his songs. Sebastian’s literate and sophisticated songs explore the romantic battleground between men and women.

He crafts exceedingly poetic evocations of love, loss and longing. The title track contains some of the best contemporary writing you’re liable to hear for some time: “A little comfort, a little pain, a little hunger, and a handful of rain. Oh, baby, can we bring it back again?”   

Sometimes Sebastian hints at love as blood sport, as though life doesn’t hold enough disappointment. In art, as in life, things can get rough. But Sebastian leaves room for cock-eyed optimism; it’s not all body-blocks and sharp elbows. The hopeful subject in “A Voice In The Forest” wants nothing more than for this time to work out with the only other person who hears that same distant voice.  

This perfect number of nine songs is Sebastian’s latest collection. “I had to get these songs out,” he discloses. “This album is the most important piece of work I’ve done.” The array of different musical styles comprise a thumbnail resume: folk, blues, East and West Coat pop, and Soul among them. The twelve-string guitar, Sebastian’s primary instrument since his teen years on the Greenwich Village folk scene, instrumentally drives them with authority. 

Choose your own favorite, but “Riverrun” is a real gem. The singer sifts through mementoes from a relationship in flux, and they underscore his longing for a time when “the world seemed simpler then,  by the riverrun.”  The log drum punctuation and vocal harmony interlude is a hat-tip to Sebastian’s erstwhile writing partner, Brian Wilson, and it adds to the poignancy of the nostalgic introspection.  

These songs are lyrically and musically layered. Listen closely and pick up on the clever cultural references as they come winging by. Whether it’s an Easter egg of an arcane reference or a chord that has you scratching your head, those Sebastianisms invite repeated scrutiny. The more you hear, they more you’ll discern. 

Perhaps Sebastian’s most emotionally-charged vocal here, “A Trick Of The Light,” reveals the timbral similarity with the singing of his celebrated older brother, John Sebastian, of The Lovin’ Spoonful. Mark was, of course, a meaningful junior partner to the band, contributing their only Number One hit, “Summer in the City,” to the Spoonful canon.

“Get Up and Move,” a dance floor jam, is no anomaly. For a time, Sebastian was a staff writer for Earth, Wind and Fire. When he opened for Doors guitarist Robby Krieger’s band, it featured Motown Funk Brother guitarist, Wah Wah Watson (1950-2018). Sebastian and Watson collaborated in the studio, where Wah Wah played all the instruments, and Mark sang lyrics he improvised. The cassette lay untouched until Sebastian recently rediscovered it, and subtly polished it.  

Taken as a whole, the repertoire on this album is the voice of a man who’s won some and lost some. Sebastian still believes in love, as we all should. Very few of us, however, do it so evocatively and musically. 

Kirk Silsbee publishes promiscuously on jazz and culture.

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Critic’s notes: In Pasadena, Jammin’ with Jelly Roll Morton

Dance · Theater
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Architecture & Design · Dance
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Architecture & Design · Dance
Over an unsually chilly weekend in Los Angeles, a large posse of creatives — Blue13 Dance Company — lived up to its colorful name, staging a site-specific work masterminded by choreographer Achinta McDaniel, a large snippet of which we enjoyed in dress rehearsal. In a small city comprised of eight Victorian homes of Heritage Square ...

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Film · Reviews
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Dear Academy Museum, please stop trying to divide us

Film · Ideas & Opinion
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Real, fake, honest, or corrupt? UCLA Film & Television Archive’s clever ‘Quiz Show’ program

Film · Ideas & Opinion
An exceptional double bill this Saturday night, June 1, at UCLA Film & Television Archive, where film programs are screened at the Billy Wilder Theater of the Hammer Museum. This one bears particular tongue in cheek, as part of the Archive’s “Small Screen/Big Screen” series. It’s a clever pairing of a feature film, QUIZ SHOW ...

Rauschenberg a pawn in Cold War politics, asserts new doc TAKING VENICE

Dance · Visual arts
A new documentary that addresses a seminal moment in which the art world came mano-a-mano with political intrigue is director Amei Wallach’s TAKING VENICE , from Zeitgeist Films, which opens tonight at the Laemmle Royal theatre in West Los Angeles, followed by a Q/A with the director. The doc examines the rumors that the 1964 Venice ...