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2013/09/29

65th Primetime Emmy Awards

By Jess Fitzi


Ahh, award shows. That wonderful three hours on a Sunday night when we all realize just how much we care about the lives of celebrities. Really, it is completely insane how much the world cares about what dress Jennifer Lawrence wore to the Academy Awards, yet most seem to care less about her feelings on actually winning one of the most prestigious awards of the evening. I’m not here to talk about the Oscars though, as I am currently more interested in the 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards, which aired Sunday, the 22nd of September. All in all, the show passed much as it does every year: the host made inappropriate jokes, celebrities looked lovely, awards were presented, and interviews were conducted. I am less interested in all of that, however, and much more interested in how nominees reacted to winning in their specific categories. Many give your typically excited, “Thank you, I am so honored!” acceptance speeches, while some are quite noteworthy.

Merritt Wever, who appears in "Nurse Jackie" and "New Girl", definitely had one of those noteworthy reactions. The actress was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. This was her first ever Emmy win and she did not try to hide her shock and nervousness. The look on her face as her name was read really said it all as she shakily made her way on stage. Merritt was handed her award and then, predictably, was expected to say something to the crowd, as well as the more than 30,000 viewers at home. “Thank you so much. Uhm... I gotta go, bye" were her exact words. While I cannot possibly imagine how it feels to stand up in front of all of those incredibly talented actors, actresses, directors, writers, etcetera and then be expected to give a profound speech, Merritt definitely displays how most Emmy Award Winners probably feel in that same incredible moment. When asked about the interesting and very short speech backstage, Wever admitted that she wanted to thank so many people, but was scared, and became unable to get the words out. Don’t worry, Merritt; we all would have choked up, too!

Tina Fey, always a hilarious asset to any live show, started off the evening right, by wearing 3D glasses and teaming up with fellow actress/comedian, Amy Poehler, to try convincing the host, Neil Patrick Harris, to take off his pants. Tina was a well deserving nominee for Outstanding Writing in Comedy for "30 Rock", alongside Tracy Wigfield. The two lovely ladies had a similar surprised and excited reaction, but the win did not render them speechless. Tina appeared slightly more calm than Tracy, cracking a joke when the latter finished her speech, shooing her out of the way and saying “Yeah, no one said you could talk, Tracy.” Tina turned on a more serious note then, thanking her longtime partner, Robert Carlock, claiming that there are few people who make her feel lazy and stupid, but that he does it daily, by comparison. It seems that even in a state of overwhelming disbelief and pure joy, Tina always has to make a crowd laugh. For that, we thank you, Ms. Tina Fey.

As an avid watcher of "The Big Bang Theory", it was no secret that I was thrilled for Jim Parsons and his Outstanding Lead Actor in Comedy win. Upon hearing his name, Jim did not move right away, seemingly at a loss for what to do with the news. When he did stand, making his way to the stage, he appeared to walk on shaky legs. He began his heartwarming acceptance by taking a deep breath and saying “Oh, my heart. My heart! Oh no.” His speech was actually pretty typical. With his awkward and adorable demeanor, he thanked the creators and crew, claiming to know how fortunate he was. It turned out to be the reactions of Jim’s cast mates, Kaley Couco and Mayim Bialik, that caught my attention. Both ladies had tears in their eyes as their friend and cast member very graciously accepted his Emmy. It is evident by those genuine emotional reactions of people he works with daily, that this is a man who deserves every second on camera and is truly thankful for the world of show business that he is a part of. In his speech, Jim started getting a bit teary himself, pausing to laugh a bit, saying, “Oh, it’s so silly to be emotional, isn’t it?” It was evident in the actor’s response that he did not expect to win and became increasingly more overwhelmed, the more it sunk in that he had. Sheldon may drive us all a bit insane with his snarky and strenuous personality, but Jim definitely saves his endearing and emotional characteristics for his out-of-character performances.

The winner for Outstanding Lead Actress in Comedy deservingly went to Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The actress initially looked quite pleased with the announecment of her win, but quickly composed herself enough to put on an act as her character, Vice President of the United States, on "Veep". Pausing on her way to the stage, she summoned Tony Hale, who plays her assistant on the HBO series, and who also took home the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in Comedy. The two hysterically kept up the facade of their characters throughout the speech, with Tony giving Julia reminders (as any great assistant would) of who she needed to thank for the award. The actress, jokingly of course, forgot to mention Tony when she thanked the cast of the show, to which he appeared sad, but gave her an encouraging thumbs-up, nonetheless. The duo clearly has wonderful chemistry and cherish their roles on the show. Acceptance speeches such as this keep the show humorous and fun, bringing the series to life.

Every win was ultimately deserved, with the speeches ranging from Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ hysterical skit and Tina Fey’s jokes, to Jim Parsons and Merritt Wever’s endearing nervousness. While the reactions of celebrities upon winning an award from any show, whether it be an Emmy, an Academy Award, a Grammy, etcetera, are generally overlooked or passed off as fake, I tend to view it as genuine and personal. What some do not realize is that for an actor or whoever may be winning such a prestigious honor, this is their career and their passion. The very talented artists that win these awards are often brought to tears because after all of the hard work they put into their art, in whatever form it may be, that work is being recognized and appreciated. It means more than some would think to an artist, to finally be taken seriously and given a small moment to shine and be proud of their accomplishments.


You can view the full list of Primetime Emmy Award winners of 2013 here: www.emmys.com

2013/09/22

The Last Temptation of Christ

by John Bloner, Jr.


"My whole life has been movies and religion. That's it. Nothing else."  Martin Scorsese

When I think of film director Martin Scorsese, I think of New York, guns and fists, misfits and malcontents, mean streets and music--always, great music.  I've spent many hours soaking up the heat of the city by watching Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Good Fellas.

When Scorsese released The Last Temptation of Christ, based on Niko Kazantzakis' novel, I didn't see the connection between the picture--a fictional drama of Jesus' life --and the director's oeuvre to date. I'd already felt that Scorsese had lost his film-making mojo since Raging Bull was released in 1980, and only took an interest in Last Temptation  because it had elicited a storm of protest from TV televangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell, who called it "utter blasphemy of the worst degree."

Willem Dafoe as Jesus retreats to the desert to face his demons
"I said to the almond tree, 'Sister, speak to me of God.' And the almond tree blossomed." Nikos Kazantzakis

The film was based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, who's also author of Zorba The Greek and many other fiction and non-fiction publications. While revisiting Last Temptation, over twenty-five years after its release, I read the novel for the first time, captivated by the means that Kazantzakis uses in order to allow this reader to look at a character named Jesus, who is similar but also contrary to the figure in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.  Kazantzakis' Jesus is conflicted between his earthly desires and his calling to become Christ.

In the book and in the film, Jesus is unable to accept the profundity of being divine. As screenwriter Paul Schrader says, "God is a vicious headache that won't go away." He's at war with his body's yearnings for a domestic life, including sexual relations, just as he battles God who knows his every step.

To drive away the desire for the flesh, he wraps a nail-studded belt around his bare waist. To drive away God, he constructs crosses for the Romans.


Willem Dafoe plays the role of Jesus. The filmmaker intentionally cast an actor who could resemble the man seen in paintings and in films such as King of Kings, in order to upend the viewer's assumptions. This depiction is contrary to Kazantzakis' description, who describes the son of Mary as having "a curly coal-black beard. His nose was hooked, his lips thick, and since they were slightly parted, his teeth gleamed brilliantly white in the light."  His eyes are "large and black, full of light, full of darkness, they stared at you from beneath the long lashes, and your head reeled."

He appears somewhat like the illustration at left, taken from a Popular Mechanics article of 2002, in which Richard Neave, a retired medical artist, deployed methods of forensic anthropology to create an image of a Galilean Semite of the early 1st century in order to posit what Jesus might have looked like.

In the Judaean Wilderness
The Last Temptation of Christ tells its story across wide vistas of desert. The landscape serves an important role in the story, as Jesus retreats to it to cleanse himself of his human desires and become the Christ as a leader of men, ready to overturn the common practices of the day, including the tables of the money changers in the temple.

In their book, The Negev: The Challenges of a Desert, authors Michael Evenari, Leslie Shanan and Naphtali Tadmor write, "It is no whim of history that the birth of the first monotheistic faith took place in a desert, or that it was followed there by the other two great religions, Christianity and Islam. The prophets of Israel repeatedly sought and found inspiration in the desert. Christian hermits fled to it to escape the pollution of the work and to commune with God."

The desert challenges Jesus. It makes him vulnerable, cut off from society, from sustenance, and forced to face real or imagined demons, conjured from his own troubled soul. A tree with rotten fruit grows up in front of him. A snake with the voice of Mary Magdalene beckons him.

Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene, Willem Dafoe as Jesus and Harvey Keitel as Judas
Barbara Hershey
In 1972, Scorsese directed the film, Boxcar Bertha, featuring Barbara Hershey. During the shooting of that picture, she gave the a copy of Kazantzakis' novel to the director and told him that if he should ever make a feature film from it, she would like to play the role of Mary Magdalene.

Over a decade later, Scorsese offered her this role of the enigmatic, elusive figure of the woman from Magdala.

In Last Temptation, men wait in her chamber, watching as she fornicates with each customer. Jesus joins them, not to press his flesh against hers--although the tension between them suggests the desire--but to ask her for forgiveness. As a hired hand of the Romans, he has betrayed his own people and himself. He has fallen farther than anyone, even farther than Mary Magdalene has fallen.

Kazantzakis' novel provides a backstory to Jesus and Mary's relationship. As cousins, they had grown up together. At an age when he is able to choose a bride, he rejected her. Without the love of one man, she gave herself to the lust of all men.

Judas (Harvey Keitel) and Saul/Paul (Harry Dean Stanton)
The novel often refers to him only as "redbeard". He is Judas Iscariot, whose name is synonymous with "betrayal." Kazantzakis and Scorsese present a different Judas. He is a rough man, a villain tempted to kill Jesus for his acts against his people, yet he follows him, reluctantly at first, and becomes his most loyal disciple. His loyalty is so strong, he obeys Jesus' request to betray him by turning him over to the Romans and thereby aid him in meeting his destiny: death as a means to spread salvation to all people.



Is there anyone else who could play the role of John The Baptist other than Andre Gregory?  Only a few years removed from his participation in the film, My Dinner with Andre, Gregory brings the same wide-eyed, tent-revival intensity, to the man crying out in the wilderness. I revisited the screenplay to the Louis Malle film just to wrap myself in Gregory's visions once more.

"I remember being in the woods," he tells his friend, Wallace Shawn, "and I would look at a leaf, and I would actually see that thing that was alive in that leaf, and then I remember not just running through the woods as fast as I could, with this incredible laugh coming out of me, and really being in that state, you know, where laughter and tears seem to merge."

Scorsese could have set his cameras on that river for two hours, allowing Andre Gregory to revel even further in his role as the holy man on the east bank of the Jordan. 

Perhaps Peter Gabriel's greatest achievement, the recording, "Passion", released  in 1989
Movie soundtracks may precede the release of a film, giving the picture a boost at the box office. Former lead singer of the progressive rock band Genesis and a solo star ("Solsbury Hill", "Biko") on the charts, Peter Gabriel created the music to The Last Temptation, but it took him two years after the film was in theaters to share it with the public.  It was worth the long wait.

Peter Gabriel brings haunting sounds to "Passion", the film's soundtrack
Titled, "Passion", the soundtrack is more like a soundscape, weaving a tapestry of tablas, tambourine and Tibetan finger cymbals through chants, the bowing of a double violin, and a drone like desert wind.

Jason Ankeny of Allmusic.com writes of the record, "Remarkably dramatic, even visual, it is not only Gabriel's best film work but deserving of serious consideration as his finest music of any kind." 

Please give your ears the opportunity to be caressed by the haunting vibrations of "Passion", as performed by the Francesco Albano Open Ensemble, in this video.



"I am a weak, ephemeral creature made of mud and dream. But I feel all the powers of the universe whirling within me."  Nikos Kazantzakis

The Last Temptation does not deliver an alternate story of Jesus to rankle believers. It is a personal statement by its author and director, reflecting their own struggles. Carol Iannone, in her article, "The Last Temptation Reconsidered", indicates that Scorsese learned that the novel has been used in seminaries "not as a substitute for the Gospels, but as a parable that is fresh and alive." The director had considered the priesthood as a young man, but his religious meditations delivered images of women's ankles. 

Juliet Caton as an angel walks with Jesus away from the Crucifixion to his wedding
The Last Temptation provides a Jesus whose joys and anxieties are ageless. He laughs and dances, shares conversation with friends, and is a member of the working class, moving among the poor who earn their living through physical labor. He is often unsure of himself, speaks in a mild voice, and when the time arrives that he is able to perform a miracle of raising a man from the dead, the result astonishes him as much as it astounds the man's family.

Jesus (Willem Dafoe) as an old man
In his novel, Fifth Business, Robertson Davies considers a Jesus who was able to live out his life. "Am I at fault for wanting a Christ who will show me how to be an old man," he writes. "All Christ's teaching is put forward with the dogmatism, the certainty, and the strength of youth: I need something that takes account of the accretion of experience, the sense of paradox and ambiguity that comes with years!"

The latter part of The Last Temptation gives the audience a look into the life of a aged, domestic Jesus, who has loved and felt pain like any mortal being. In the novel, an old woman has told Jesus that "God is not found in monasteries but in the homes of men!" She adds, "Wherever you find husband and wife, that's where you find God . . . Leave the other to those lazy, sterile idiots in the desert!"  

From Scorsese's film, "Mean Streets": Charlie (Harvey Keitel) is torn between his devotion and  mob ties
"You don't make up for your sins in church; you do it on the streets."  from Mean Streets directed by Martin Scorsese

In 1987, I couldn't see how an alternative story on the life of Christ could have come from the same man who had brought the fictional tale of Travis Bickle and real-life drama of Jake LaMotta to the screen. Over twenty-five years later, I can see in hindsight that Scorsese's work leading up to The Last Temptation were rehearsals to this film.

Emmanuel Levy calls it a "typical Scorsese film, dealing with sin, guilt and redemption. " David Frank, writing for "Rope of Silicon", speaks of the "themes of derangement, contrition and redemption of broken human beings" in Scorsese pictures that feature the screenwriting talents of Paul Schrader.  He calls The Last Temptation, "the best Jesus movie ever made. In fact, it's the best religious movie ever made."

Learn more about The Last Temptation of Christ at imdb.com.  Click HERE to visit this website.

2013/09/08

An Interview With Artist Katy Jade Dobson

By Jav Rivera

There are rare moments when I feel like an artist. I stand back at something I've created and I think to myself, "Good job, ole boy." But then, usually not long after I pat myself on the back, I see a true artist's work and become quickly and completely deflated. Looking past my ego though, I just look in awe at the artist's work.

When I first saw Ms. Katy Jade Dobson's work I found myself in that same awe. And it was all just by chance since she had just followed me on Twitter. I then decided to look into her work and the awe continued with every piece I viewed.

Katy Jade Dobson
Ms. Dobson was born in 1988 and grew up in the northeast of England. She currently lives in Lincoln, UK where she initially studied art at a degree level. As her work progresses she learns to paint as she goes along. Her fine arts course became more of a contemporary art course to which she wasn't overly interested in. She has always loved the classic idea of a painting on canvas. Her work focuses mainly on wildlife, portraitures, and landscapes. She also dabbles in photography and writing. And if that wasn't enough, she is currently learning the art of tattooing to which she says, "It's another form of expression, only different media and the essential patience of mastering a completely new skill."

I was fortunate enough to communicate with Ms. Dobson about her art. Below is an interview about her work, style, and influences.


What was your first finished piece? How did it feel to complete it? 
My first finished piece was a very large-scale mixed media piece of two birds in flight. It was the first time I had ever sat in front of a blank canvas with means to paint a painting or a piece of art work that was original and mine. I remember very clearly it was a strange process, very much unlike what it is for me to paint now as I feel so much assurity and conviction when I start my work. I remember it being an uncomfortable and strange process. I worked in sessions, adding parts and taking sections away. I then stopped for a while as it stood in the corner of my bedroom for a few weeks. After some time away from it but remaining in my peripheral vision I could see it was finished. I realized that art was instinctive and surprising; I learnt that when you stop for whatever reason you maybe know subliminally that you should not go further with it. This painting was the first piece I sold, I am very fond of it!

When did art become a profession for you?
Art became a profession for me just 8 months ago. I had been working in a job I was not overly happy in, and selling paintings on the side every now and then. When January 2013 came around I found myself in a situation where I was coming out of a bad patch. It had been pointed out to me that my artwork was going nowhere and this rang around my head for a few months. I found that a bad situation I had been in was a blessing in disguise, I took what I felt was a rock bottom and made a solid foundation of work that would be the starting point and portfolio that I needed. I then used my own money and resources available to me to get my work seen by as many people as possible.

"Tawny Owl In Flight"
What attracted you to using oil paints? 
Using oil paints had been something I aspired to do for a while but I believed they would be too expensive and my work was too fluid and loose to be able to merge the two together. The first set of oil paints I bought were very memorable to me as I had earned the money through selling my artwork. The first paintings I used oil paints for was a large-scale owl in flight (pictured right) and ever since I have fallen madly in love with them. The draw of oil paints was the rich quality they seem to have, the tonal depth they provide and the expressive and textured brush strokes.

What other types of materials do you typically use?
At the moment I haven’t used anything other than oils! I have continued to learn new ways to use them and I am still getting used to them. I believe it could be just oils for a while as there are so many different styles and appliqué to try!

"King Fishers"
What other kinds of projects would you like to work on? 
Other projects I would love to work on are definitely with music (album artwork, etc.) as I have already been involved with a few projects that combine music and art; music plays such a strong part in my painting process. I would like to broaden my work to clothing items and/or bags. I think very laterally about where I would like to see my artwork and some ideas are rather abstract but my work is quite commercial and relatable so it could work on many different things. 

Who are your influences? 
My main influence is Odilon Redon, when I was at college I worked on a project that was based around his use of colour. This manifested in my mind for years and years, it was only when I bought oils that this came to life. His work is incredibly ethereal and that’s the sort of image I see of my work before I start painting. It is not an exact reflection of life as you see it, but as suggestions and representative of power, movement and feeling.

Do you have any upcoming shows or gallery events? 
I am currently working on a series of portraits of Iconic/Influential Women in which I intend to exhibit in 3 different places. I am not fully sure and confirmed with the venues as of yet however! The series sees £100 of each painting sale go to Women's Aid Charity and is a celebration of women throughout history that have made an impact in many different ways.


Ms. Dobson is a perfect example of accidental discovery. She is proof that inspiration comes from anywhere, and of course that there artists hiding all around the world. It's a great reason to keep your eyes open. 


To see Katy Jade Dobson's development process, lifestyle, and all different kinds of work from finished paintings through to basic sketchbook work visit the links listed below:


TRIVIA: The color palette for one of her paintings (below) was inspired by a restaurant menu. She loved the way the colors worked together and applied it to her work. She states, "It's how inspiration works!"


"Stag with Blue Tones"

2013/09/01

Top 40 Radio

by Dave Gourdoux

1960s vintage AM transistor radio - who needs an iPhone?
Okay, there's no getting around it.  I'm old.  I'm old enough to remember when the Beatles were still together, I'm old enough to remember the Jolly Green Giant commercials that came on during "Green Acres."  I'm old enough to remember "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Bewitched," and Ed Sullivan and his "really big shoe" (other old people will understand this).

One of my earliest memories is watching television with my mom on a Sunday morning when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald.  I remember, too, almost four years later, staying up late one June night when Robert Kennedy was assassinated.  I remember Martin Luther King's assassination, I remember watching cities burn on television in race riots, and I remember Walter Cronkite at 5:30 every day, while we ate our dinner, giving casualty totals from Vietnam.

I was just a kid, born in 1958, so I didn't know any different.  I didn't appreciate what tumultuous and historic times I was living in.  I was too busy being a kid, playing baseball, hanging out with my friends, and listening to WLS out of Chicago and WOKY out of Milwaukee--1960s top forty radio.

Top 40 radio was obnoxious, loud and in your face, playing the same commercials and songs over and over again.  When the commercials weren't yelling at you (the ads for Great Lakes Dragway in Union Grove come to mind:  Sunday, SUNDAY, SUNNNDAYYY!!!) the disc jockeys were, and every few seconds the little jingle with the station's call letters would remind you of who you were listening to.   Then they'd play whatever awful song was popular at the time over and over again (a couple of examples come to mind:  "Because love grows, where my Rosemary goes ...." and "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo").  Much of it was just terrible, and we understood that, even when we were eight to ten years old. But we'd listen anyway, through tiny and tinny sounding transistor radios, because we  knew that, eventually, the DJ would get to a good song, and the good songs were often great, and made up for all of the crap.

My days as a Top 40 radio junkie went from about 1966 to 1972.   Despite, or maybe because of, the turmoil and trauma we were going through as a country, pop music has never been as sweet and innocent as it was in those days.  Top 40 songs were generally short, usually about three minutes in length, and relied on musical hooks and catchy melodies to grab your attention.  Most of it was crass commercialization, but the best songs transcended the medium, even while being faithful to its rules. 

So here are twenty or so songs from that era that I loved as a child, in no particular order, with what I remember liking about them then and what I think about them now:

The Beatles
Hey Jude
Like everyone else, I was a big fan of the Beatles.  I remember watching them on Ed Sullivan in 1964.  By 1968, when Hey Jude was released, they had transformed from lovable mop tops to full blown hippies who embraced the drug culture.   Hey Jude was in many ways a return to their simpler, more innocent sound.  What I liked about it then, and still do, was the aching that the song so simply and elegantly articulated--the key lyric is "take a sad song, and make it better"--the "na na nas" that are repeated at the end are filled with such feeling and meaning, and Paul McCartney's vocals, especially his James Brown-ish screeching over the chorus, are incredibly moving.  Hey Jude blatantly violated the three minute length rule, clocking in at more than seven minutes, but it still remains a great AM radio hit.  This is one recording I like as much, if not more, than I did when I first heard it.



Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
The Tracks of My Tears and Tears of a Clown
Like every kid ever, I grew up feeling that I was misunderstood and a little bit lonely.  Being almost a year younger than most of my classmates, I was smaller and less mature, and felt like I didn't fit in.  Smokey Robinson was the Shakespeare  of misfits; he articulated our angst like no one else.  Sure, he wrote catchy melodies with clever rhymes, but it was his voice more than anything.  Nothing is as eloquent or elegant as when he sings "oh yeah, baby" over Stevie Wonder's melody on Tears of a Clown.  Smokey Robinson was the heart of Motown, and with its parade of sweet and innocent melodies, Motown was hope in dark times; it was a light at the end of the tunnel of violence and mayhem.

Elvis Presley
In the Ghetto
A big part of Presley's comeback, In the Ghetto was written by a young country singer who would go on to success of his own, Mac Davis.  In the Ghetto is a showcase for what a beautiful and emotive voice Presley had, and even though the lyrics and the arrangement are over the top, his voice delivers the emotional goods.  I was nine years old when the song came out, and I remember holding back tears every time I heard it. 



Peter, Paul and Mary
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Written by an unknown folk singer named John Denver, this is another song that reaches into your chest and rips your heart out.  A favorite among soldiers being sent to fight in Vietnam.

Frankie Valli
Can't Take My Eyes Off of You 
Because the sound quality of most transistor radios and the AM band was so bad, most hit songs had to rely on melody and tempo.  Few songs have ever had as gorgeous a melody as Can't Take My Eyes Off of You, and when the horns kick in with the "ba-da,ba-da, ba-ba-ba-ba da" and lead to the "I love you, baby, and if it's quite all right" lyric, well, that, my friends, is just about the most effective change of tempo ever.

Herman's Hermits
There's a Kind of Hush
The best example I can give of how quickly things changed in the sixties was that in 1965, Herman's Hermits, with hits like Something Good and Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovey Daughter was my oldest brother Mike's favorite band; two years later, he was a disciple of Jim Morrison and the Doors.  To me, There's a Kind of Hush was the perfect love song for a little kid who didn't know anything about love except that it was as intimate as a whisper.  Today when I hear the song I recognize it for the pure bubblegum it is--and then I go around humming the melody for a week.



The Bobby Fuller Four
I Fought the Law 
The classic hit from the classic one hit wonder band.  I Fought the Law hit the charts in 1965.  It was written by Sonny Curtis of the Crickets in 1959, who sang vocals on the original recording, replacing the late Buddy Holly.  The Bobby Fuller version sounds just like a Holly song.  Six months after it hit the charts, Fuller was found dead under mysterious circumstances, ruled a suicide, while some still believe he was murdered.  The song has been covered countless times, most famously by the Clash, while John Mellencamp ripped it off with his hit, "Authority Song."  This song was a favorite of my brother Don and I in the bunk bed days of our youth.

Wilson Pickett
In the Midnight Hour
I'm proud that I liked this song as a kid, because as an adult, I recognize it for its incredible groove, and the greatest horn arrangement on any song ever.

Steam
Nah Nah Hey Kiss Him Goodbye
I immediately fell in love with this song, but I never knew anything about the band that recorded it 'til just now.   That's because the band didn't exist, and the song was written and recorded by a couple of studio musicians who thought it was so bad they didn't want their names associated with it.  So the fictitious band Steam was assigned to the song, and Mercury Records released it, and when it went to number one, a real band was hastily put together; suffice to say this was another one hit wonder.  It doesn't change the fact that I still love the song.  (The video I've attached shows what a stage presence this make-shift conglomeration of a band had, especially that lead singer, and answers any questions about why they never had another hit.)



Norman Greenbaum
Spirit in the Sky
Another one hit wonder, Spirit in the Sky features some great guitar work and a nifty combining of psychedelic and gospel.   One of the songs that to this day, if it comes on while I'm flipping through the channels, always makes me stop.

Bobby Gentry
Ode to Billie Joe
A southern Gothic novel in four minutes and fifteen seconds.  As atmospheric as any song ever recorded.  It used to send a chill down my spine whenever I heard it; all I knew, it was about someone jumping off of a bridge near "Choctaw ridge," and was sung in an eerie, husky voice, with a simple acoustic guitar riff offset by a creepy string arrangement.  An outstanding example of voice, melody, rhythm, and lyrics combining to tell a story.



Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
This Guy's in Love With You 
I now recognize this as schmaltzy, but as a nine or ten year old, it struck me as very sophisticated and romantic.   Its only redeeming feature is the distinctive trumpet solo.

The Staple Singers
I'll Take You There
I liked this instantly and still love it, which makes up for my bad taste as a kid in liking This Guy's in Love With You.  However, I'll Take You There has such an infectious groove that everybody likes it, so I can't claim any special insight.

Stevie Wonder
Superstition
With the best rhythm guitar riff ever and horns that spin around and off of the rhythm section, Superstition is confirmation of Wonder's musical genius. That such a rich and layered and complex arrangement was able to get through clearly on the mono AM band is an incredible achievement.   It sounds even better today than it did when it was released more than forty years ago.



Petula Clark
Downtown
The song that I remember everybody, meaning parents and kids, liked equally.  I even remember my mom humming it.  Talk about hooks; this song is loaded with them, and Petula knew how to phrase them.  Listening to the song it was easy to "forget all your troubles, forget all your cares" for at least three minutes and six seconds.  Such a big hit in 1965, it hasn't aged well, and sounds rather ho-hum today.

The Temptations
Just My Imagination 
Another sweet Motown release that spoke directly to us lonely and shy misfits who lived lives in our head that we were too frightened to live in reality.  The Temptations were disintegrating by the time this song was released, but it remains the greatest recording by what was arguably the greatest vocal group in pop music history.  The string arrangement is just right, sweet and gooey, teetering on the edge of excess but never tipping over.


Those are just a few of the songs I remember loving when I was a kid, during the golden age of AM radio.  I know I've left a lot of great stuff out; off the cuff, I notice I didn't list any tracks from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jackie DeShannon, or the Supremes--all great artists who thrived on the AM band.  If anyone reading this is also old enough to remember this era, I'd be interested in hearing what songs or artists you loved.