Monday, August 20, 2012

The Next World and Welcome to It

This may mean nothing except to those of a certain age, but William Windom has passed. He was the star of one of my favorite 60s sitcoms, My World and Welcome To It. A rare slice of erudition among a torrent of sitcom silliness, it lasted two seasons, won two Emmies (one of them for Windom's acting), and was summarily cancelled. The show was based on the stories and cartoons of the great James Thurber, and featured animated segments mixed with the live action.

60s sitcoms were famously pitched to appeal to the 12-year-old mind, but I turned 12 in 1969, the year MW&WTI debuted, and I loved it more than any other  –with the possible exception of The Addams Family (1964-66) also based on the work of a New Yorker cartoonist. Windom's show led me to Thurber's writings, which I gobbled up forthwith, along with those of our other great American humorists, Twain and Vonnegut.

Mr. Windom had a successful career, with many other TV roles (including Commodore Decker on Star Trek), and a one-man stage show based on Thurber's work. Condolences to friends and family.

Condolences likewise go out today for director Tony Scott, who helmed True Romance, one of my all-time favorite movies.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Happy Ringoversary!

As reported here, among other places, today marks the 50th anniversary of Richard Starkey's first gig with the Beatles. A lot of attention was paid to the Stones recently having hit the half-century mark, and due commemoration was paid to that band's first-ever gig. But according to Keith Richards, that date does't really count; the Stones weren't really the Stones for him until Charlie Watts became their drummer (on an unknown date in January of 1963).

Likewise, while history was made the day John met Paul, the Beatles weren't really the Beatles as we know them until Ringo sat behind them at the drum kit that 18th of August in 1962. Ringo's personality, his affable singing voice, and his studied avoidance of instrumental ostentation helped cement the Beatles sound and laid the foundations for their success.

According to Mark Lewisohn's definitive Complete Beatles Chronicle, the gig began shortly after 10pm, (afetr a two-hour rehearsal) at Hulme Hall in Birkenhead, in celebration of the local Horticultural Society's 17th anniversary. And according to John Lennon, while the Beatles might have made it without Ringo, it's also probable that Ringo would have made it without the Baetles (though maybe not quite so far):
Ringo was a star in his own right in Liverpool before we even met. He was a professional drummer who sang and performed and had Ringo Starr-time and he was in one of the top groups in Britain but especially in Liverpool before we even had a drummer. So Ringo's talent would have come out one way or the other as something or other. I don't know what he would have ended up as, but whatever that spark is in Ringo that we all know but can't put our finger on — whether it is acting, drumming or singing I don't know — there is something in him that is projectable and he would have surfaced with or without the Beatles. Ringo is a damn good drummer.
Ringo's drumming is often underrated and occasionally denigrated, but listen to his work on "Rain" and "Tomorrow Never Knows," to cite a couple out of many outstanding examples. Moreover, most Beatles songs didn't call for the kind of drumming that Watts or Keith Moon excelled at. It's true that Ringo's solo career served up a number of cringe-worthy moments (as did his colleagues', in smaller ratios), along with some nice pop ear candy. But since sobering up, Ringo has taken his songwriting and recording work more seriously, and has delivered credible efforts in the latter years. So, for instance, give a try to this collaboration with Eric Clapton, a tribute to their mutual pal George. And a happy Ringoversary to you!