Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Hello, I'm John"

Simon and.....
A lot of people are down on the Internet these days, for many good reasons. (Myself included, in this space.)

I have weaned myself from online Scrabble, at least, but when I see my 13-year-old daughter enmeshed in building her new Facebook page, in my head I start to hear the song "Cat's in the Cradle."

Tonight, however, after a long workweek, I came home to one of those wonderful free-association web experiences that led me to an amazing video, which, while hardly obscure -- it's closing in on a million views -- I had never seen before.

And which, more than all the produced tributes to John Lennon around the occasion of his birthday a few weeks ago, bracingly reminded me of the one-of-a-kind way he wore his icon-hood, like a shaggy bathrobe.

I found it thanks to a Facebook "friend" (i.e., someone I've never met) who posted a video from the recent autism benefit hosted by Jon Stewart.

In the clip [below], Chris Rock and a bewigged Tracy Morgan (who I keep calling Tracy Jordan -- I mean, at this point the line is pretty blurry) sit on stools, classic folksinger style, and start earnestly warbling ye olde English ballad "Scarborough Fair."

Then on to the stage wanders Paul Simon, who, of course, with the naturally bewigged Art Garfunkel, recorded the version everyone knows, back before Tracy was born. Simon shows his Saturday Night Live comedy chops, and they banter raucously as the younger comedians mangle the song.

Then Simon -- who turned 69 last week, folks -- segues into Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice." An inspiring mash-up.

When I clicked through to the YouTube posting of the video, there in the right-hand suggested column -- thank you Lord Google -- was a clip from the 1975 Grammys, the presentation of "Record of the Year."

It's an amazing artifact in many ways. Like the above clip, it deftly blends the old establishment with the new. But in the older clip, it's Simon who's the younger veteran -- 35 years younger, with vintage 70's grooming -- alongside a guy I never would have guessed participated in Grammy Awards -- John Lennon.

This was just before Lennon went into his recluse-daddy phase, and he is loose and ironic, but game, in that inimitable way the world had enjoyed for more than a decade.

Awards shows haven't evolved very far since then; the  overblown sets, the dated topical humor (Claudine Longet[right] Perez Prado!). The self-deprecation and mutual needling. The celebrities not quite fully owning the cue-card writing, but going along with it as a hoot, and then actually enjoying it, despite themselves.

Most of all, of course, there's the timeless truism that, against enduring, classic nominated songs -- Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Making Love," Joni Mitchell's "Help Me," Maria Muldaur's "Midnight at the Oasis"......the victor is Olivia Newton John's "I Honestly Love You," which these days is mostly listened to with irony, as it was in the summer-camp production of Xanadu in which my Facebooking 13-year-old performed.

But there's also a surprise guest who accepts the award.
It's worth the wait. Thanks, Facebook. Thanks, You Tube.
And thank you John.  You are missed.


Sal Nunziato said...

Unreal! I must have seen this when it was first aired, as every award show ever broadcast since the invention of the TV tube was on in my house. Of course I don't remember it.

"Still writing, Paul?"

Is there a modern day equivalent of those 4..I'm including Andy...who can stand on one stage and keep you completely riveted?

Watching the Yankees a few months ago, the camera caught Paul & Art sitting together. They were calmly chatting, enjoying the game. Art was eating popcorn. I could have watched that for hours.

David Handelman said...

"Is there a modern day equivalent" is exactly the right question. In terms of superstardom, it would be like, Bono, Springsteen, Tony Bennett, and...who, Kanye?

But I don't picture those guys being as loose with each other. (On the other hand, the Stewart benefit clip, while more scripted, has a similar kind of unlikely pairing fizz).

Robert said...

But John's joke at end---"Where's Linda?" was priceless.

Biffles said...

Yes! Unbelievable 70s mashup in every way...I must have seen that, too, but I don't remember it.

John's sense of humor was priceless. "Which one of you's Ringo?" and the zinger, "Where's Linda?"

You know, Paul and John and Art are sending the show up while participating in it...yet there's a sweetness to their jokes, even with John. Sendups now have that super-meta-ultra-ironic edge that takes both the sweetness and the power out of them.

Am I becoming a fuddy-duddy?

Peter Ames Carlin said...

Love that clip. You're exactly right, DH, John wore his icon-ness with a real lightness. One of the great shames of his murder is not having him around to call bullshit on all the idolatry dished onto his shoulders, and the Fabs in gen'l. Imagine having him actually alive and well in the 'Anthology,' commenting on the willful mythologizing going on. Or maybe he would have been all in for that. Who knows? Lots of things can change in 20 years. But in '75 he was full of vim. And a lot of what we hear about the so-called 'lost weekend' is less than right on. The boy produced three or four records during those 18 months, Nilsson's, two of his own, plus hit singles with Bowie, Elton.

Listening to his voice on the 'Double Fantasy' mixdown is jaw-dropping. His voice alone is so much more powerful than all the overdubbed choirs, layers of hoo-ha, and etc. John alone was more than enough.

Anyway, thanks for the blog entry, and for laying it out there again. Terrific.

Leonie Glen said...

I have watched this a couple of times before, but every time I'm bummed all over again when ONJ wins for that dog. I love John and Paul, but ...

LP Steve said...

Did they really bring Paul Simon and John Lennon on stage to the tune of the "Love Boat" theme?