Is it we who are getting old, or rock music itself?

November marks the 50th anniversary of the release of two landmark rock albums, Eric Clapton’s Layla and other assorted love songs (released under the name Derek and the Dominos), released on November 9, and George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, released on November 27 (November 30 in the U.K.) These albums, and their creators, were inextricably linked in 1970, and have remained so via their legendary status in the half-century since.

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To put things in the context of that year for Clapton and Harrison, it was a tumultuous time for each. The story is well-known that Clapton was not only trying to shed the superstar status he had earned with the highly-praised but now defunct group Cream, but he was also going through the anguish of being in love with Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. His failed attempts to win her away from George — his best friend — was a major (but not only) factor in Clapton’s downward spiral into heavy drug use. …


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I’ve just had a book published, titled The Funniest Decade (Bearmanor Media)which celebrates American comedy throughout the decade of the1930s. Why was that the funniest decade, you may ask? After all, it was so long ago. There must have been funnier decades since then, right? Believe that if you will, but you would be…well…wrong.

It can be argued that the term “Golden Age,” in any context, has become an overused cliché, yet the entire decade of the 1930s proved to be the true Golden Decade of American comedy. This ten-year span produced the finest films, radio programs, and stage performances by the most talented comedians ever to make audiences laugh. There has never been quite a decade for comedy as there was throughout the 1930s — and what a joy it must have been not only for comedy mavens at the time, but for the nation as a whole, as Americans struggled through the disaster and heartbreak of the Great Depression. …


Many of us have been thinking about the Beatles lately, due mostly to the fact that we’ve recently marked what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday. Sadly, we will soon need to acknowledge the 40th anniversary of his tragic death.

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However, in addition to celebrating the Beatles unparalleled career by listening to their music, or by watching their films, concerts, and TV appearances, you may want to consider reading a work of fiction in which the Beatles play an enormous part, even if they remain in the background.

I co-wrote the comic novel From Me To You with Kelly Marie Thompson, who lives in England. We’ve been writing comedy scripts and screenplays together (via e-mails) since 2011. In 2013. we wrote six episodes of a sitcom we created, Barkers Upon Tyne, and published the scripts in book form (the pilot episode finished in the Top Ten of Writer’s Digest 85th Annal Script Writing Competition in 2016). …


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Andrea Motis, the source of the lightning strike.

It was exactly one year ago today when I was struck by musical lightning — perhaps the most powerful bolt I’ve felt in a long time. I’m certain most of us have had the experience: while going about your business, you hear, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, a song or piece of music that makes you stop what you’re doing and just listen, captivated, even enthralled by the sound. It has happened to me only a handful of times in my life, and it goes far beyond simply buying an album by a favorite or new artist, and enjoying it greatly with the first listen. That kind of moment is much more common, because there is a degree of anticipation involved. What I’m referring to here is that unmistakable musical lightning bolt that causes you to sit slack-jawed and say, “Wow!” — and then changes everything. With me, it usually leads me to look up the artist or group in question, and try to find out everything I can, in order to put that particular song or piece of music into some kind of context. …


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In the first two parts of this look at the history of The Odd Couple, we went back to the beginning, with the origins of Neil Simon’s 1965 hit play on Broadway, the 1968 film adaptation, and the 1970 TV series. That covers quite a bit of ground in just over five years, but even after the end of the sitcom version, the life of The Odd Couple as a treasured comedy entity had a long way to go, and its journey has not been without a number of ups and downs.

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Demond Wilson and Ron Glass.

The 1982–83 TV season was marred by a writer’s strike, forcing networks to scramble in a search to get new series on the air quickly, and cheaply. In this environment, The New Odd Couple premiered on October 29, with a largely all-black cast, starring Demond Wilson (formerly of Sanford and Son) as Oscar, and Ron Glass (formerly of Barney Miller) as Felix. Due to the strike, eight of the episodes used scripts from the original series, but even after the strike ended, ABC, seeing how the program had failed to gain an audience, cancelled it after 18 episodes. …


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Considering the enormous success The Odd Couple enjoyed onstage and on film in the late 1960s (as discussed in Part 1), it was inevitable that the play would further extend its life on television. Garry Marshall explained how he and writing partner Jerry Belson became involved:

“Paramount studios, who we had worked for on and off, decided to do The Odd Couple. Neil Simon didn’t have a good deal with Paramount, because they kept the television rights. So he didn’t want to do it, otherwise he would have wrote it himself. So they hired us to write the television version. ..We wrote as close to Neil as we could. And I remember handing in the script of the original pilot, and they said, ‘Well, this is what Neil Simon writes. This sounds like he wrote it.’ And we said, “that wasn’t the point? You want another version of what he wrote?’ And then somebody [of higher rank]than that person said, “No, no, that’s what we want. They didn’t steal it, they just made that same writing pattern.’ Neil had a certain pattern. We studied it. …


“How do you write a play funnier than The Odd Couple? I wouldn’t dare try to.” — Neil Simon, 1982

Brace yourself, baby-boomers: As difficult as it may be to believe, it has been 50 years since the premiere of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple sitcom on ABC — on September 24, 1970, to be exact. The series’ 114 episodes have been kept alive via reruns on various local TV stations around the country, and on nostalgia cable networks, ever since the show’s cancellation five years after its opening episode. …


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Anastasia Ivanova isn’t just your typical 19-year-old female Russian jazz trombonist/singer/dancer. Sure, there are plenty of those, but Anastasia is especially deserving to be our focus here — for her extraordinary musical talents, her joie de vivre, and her undeniable charm. Her energy, playful sense of humor, and genuine happiness make her someone well worth getting to know.

She’s no wallflower, to be sure, but rather a natural entertainer, as demonstrated in this video clip she recently recorded herself.

Along with everything else, she dances a mean Charleston.

Anastasia hails from the town of Snezhinsk, located nearly a thousand miles east of Moscow. “Music has always been an important part of my life,” she says. Her mother, Natalia Ivanova-Kaluzhnaya, is a classical pianist, so music has long been in the family. “She was my first musical teacher. I came to the music school when I was 4, and little by little started to learn piano.” But then she discovered the joys of singing, and, not long after, the world of jazz. She credits that discovery to her friends, pianists Gennady Pystin and Dmitry Karpov. “That’s when I really got a ‘jazz vaccine‘ and fell in love with improvisation!” emulating the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and contemporary Canadian singer Nikki Yanofsky. …


In January of 1970, Comsat executive Dan Karasik predicted that, at some point in the coming decade, “…I can’t think of an event of any importance that won’t be on television world-wide. We’ll see a world broadcasting union with operating centers going twenty-four hours a day, planning and sharing programs…Maybe we’ll see a daily or twice-daily world-news round-up, with live reports from many parts of the globe — wherever news is happening. The world will be one big mixing pot. And culturally, we’ll all be much richer people because of it.”

Karasik’s prediction proved to be remarkably accurate. Later that same year, a successful and flamboyant business tycoon named Ted Turner — president of an Atlanta area billboard company — purchased WRJR-TV, a small UHF station in the city. A decade later, On June 1, 1980, Turner launched his Cable News Network. …


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If only this were true. Antonio Carlos Jobim, the legendary Brazilian composer and musician who co-invented bossa nova, died in 1994, at the age of 67, from complications following heart surgery. However, Jobim’s music — which celebrates life, love, and nature — continues to inspire singers and musicians to this day. It says much about the lasting impact and influence of his work that subsequent generations of Brazilian musicians — and those elsewhere around the globe — have carried on the genre in the decades since the bossa nova craze peaked in the mid-1960s.

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Joan Chamorro (front row, third from left) and the Sant Andreu Jazz Band.

In that sense, Jobim and his music are still very much alive, and have found a somewhat unlikely “home” with Barcelona’s Sant Andreu Jazz Band, created in 2006 by Joan Chamorro, as a means to introduce the city’s young music students to the joys of playing jazz, primarily from legendary American jazz composers, musicians, and big bands, dating between the early 1930s and late ‘50s. The project has since produced a long line of extraordinary young talent. More about them shortly — but first, a bit of…

About

Garry Berman

Pop Culture historian, Freelance Writer, Author, specializing in American comedy history in films, radio, and TV. Beatles and jazz enthusiast, animal lover.

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