Shit

Ok, maybe none of you bastards care about this, but you may find it interesting anyway.  Leon Fleisher died of cancer two days ago at age 83.  By age 30, maybe earlier, he was arguably the best pianist the U.S. has ever produced if you consider overall musicianship as well as technical perfection (he had both, but others have equaled or come close in the latter).  As a pupil of Artur Schnabel, he was in a direct student/teacher line to Beethoven.

Unfortunately the 1950’s, when he came of age, was a real pressure cooker for a group of young American pianists who were given the acronym, OYAPS (Outstaning Young American Pianists).  This was the height of the cold war, and there was huge pressure on them to be cultural ambassadors.  They were expected to be powerful and precise,  like Vladimir Horowitz, and to show uppity Europeans and especially Russia, a land of super-human pianists, that the U.S. was artistically on par with anyone (never mind we’d already proved that with jazz and emerging rock & roll, but those were treated as an embarrassent).  As a result,  Fleisher and the other OYAPS pushed themselves to the point of serious physical injury or emotional distress.  By his mid-thirties, Fleisher’s right hand was useless for the piano due to an insane practice and performance schedule.   After recovering from serious depression, he had a second career as a conductor, a much idolized teacher and an occasional performer of the limited one-handed repertoire.  Miraculously, in the 90’s he underwent experimental botox injections which returned his hand to service.  By the early 2000’s he was back in action, maybe not as much of a techincal powerhouse, but as good or maybe better artistically.

I was lucky to see him in a stunning recital in ’09.  I also got to meet him briefly and get an autograph.  For someone so lionized, he was very approachable and seemed down-to-earth.  Resquiescat in pace.

Shit

Ennio Morricone, age 91.  One new fact I learned in an obit is that Stanley Kubrick had approached him to compose music for A Clockwork Orange.  EM wanted to work with him but had a prior commitment to Sergio Leone.

May 20, 1987

As some of our kids are rounding the bases on their senior year of high school, I thought I’d share a journal entry from 33 years ago. By the way, I don’t journal with any consistency, this was just something I did specifically for that school year. Sorry if this is lame, I’ll try to leave the boring parts out. But I often find myself trying to remember if we did the same stupid shit my son and his friends do now. Of course we did.

Friday, I turned in my English paper, went to Wendy’s for lunch with Mike and Jeff, then headed to Target for battery operated water guns. Afterwards, we went to graduation practice till about 3:15, then had the water fight to end all water fights. It started with water guns and balloons, then people started pulling out big buckets and coolers. David hit Mr. Phillips (our principal, who was a total dick) in the side of the head with a water balloon from about 35 to 40 feet. It was truly beautiful.

We did that until about 4:30 and then I squishily drove home to take a shower and get ready for our last high school dance ever. Eric’s band played but not many people showed up. They’d just started “Blister in the Sun” when this security guard came from nowhere and stopped the band mid-song. She said she had to end the dance because of all the “bad apples” getting in fights and drinking.

So the dance was over by about 10:30. Doug, Jeff, Mike, David and I met at my house and we decided to head Downtown. That was lame, and we ended up at a convenience store where I bought a bag of cookies and Coke. The highlight of the evening was seeing some guy laying out on some steps, possibly dead.

Sunday, I went to baccalaureate and then lunch with the family. I rented three movies from Blockbuster while we were out: Maniac, which I didn’t get to see, Westworld, and Shock Treatment, the sequel to RHPS. Bryan, Jay, and Mon came over to watch some of Shock Treatment with me before we went to the park to hang out with a bunch of people. When we first got there, Eric and Scott were racing around a parking lot median, in a Mercedes and Toyota Supra, respectively. Then Eric threw a log through the windshield of a car that appeared to be abandoned and took off. Everyone else (besides me, even then I knew this was idiotic) put dents in the sides and busted out the headlights for some strange reason. We made a fire at the pavilion while Katy, David, Doug, and Jay went to get s’mores fixings, Cokes, and chips. After they came back we told ghost stories.

The next day I went with Chris to alumni brunch, which had great cinnamon rolls. Later at graduation, Wade pulled out a long, red scarf as he walked across the stage. Mr. Phillips told him he would pay for that and tried to take away his diploma. I haven’t talked to Leigh Anne (a girlfriend I was ghosting) except on graduation night. She congratulated me. Today I wrote thank you notes and cleaned out my car. I’m thrilled to be graduated and can’t wait for summer – Florida is just around the corner. I’m getting scared of college (the unknown factor fear) but am excited all the same.

The Best Memphis Punk Band You’ve Never Heard Of

Happy Friday, you bastards, you.

In 2012, the documentary I directed about the Antenna club and the vibrant music scene which sprang up around it premiered at the Indie Memphis Film Festival. It had a successful festival run, but a commercial release of Antenna has been repeatedly delayed by music rights issues. With the help of J.D. Reager, we managed to convince Bob Holmes, who had become something of a recluse, to do an interview for the film. For three hours, he regaled us with some of the wildest Memphis music stories I have ever had the good fortune to hear. In order to honor the passing of a Memphis musical genius, I have uploaded the Modifiers segments from Antenna to YouTube and present it here for the first time since 2012.

Thus speaketh documentary director Chris McCoy.