August 27, 2009

Let's discuss this album title and cover art from 1968.

Quick. Before I freak out.

Here's the Amazon link for the album, which I encountered after random breakfast-table conversation led inexorably to the singing of "Indian Lake."

NOTE: 1968 was the pre-mime-hating time. AND: Damn! The clip from the end of Michelangelo Antonioni's highly respected film "Blow-Up" no longer works. Take my word for it. It's full of mimes, and mimes are deep:
[A]ttention to the visual dimensions of perception underscores the subtext represented by the mime troupe. If words are indeed superficial to the photographer, they are totally superfluous to (and consequently discarded by) the mimes. The mimes are presented to us as a framing device—they open and close the film. At the beginning, they are seen gadding about the bustling streets panhandling; at the end, the same troupe engages in a mock tennis match. At the beginning, the photographer simply finds them a momentary amusement; by the ending, however, he actually shares their experience. It is, in fact, the mime troupe that serves as the spiritual barometer by which we measure the photographer's transformation. The act of miming is crucial for Antonioni and Blow-Up because it is the mime who brings our attention to objects by their absence. For the mime, the imaginary tennis ball is every bit as "real" as the evidential photograph is "illusory."

It is of course, significant that the tennis match takes place at the end. It is less a conclusion than a speculation. The photographer, an outer-directed man in the beginning, would never have retrieved the tennis ball and thrown it back at the outset of the film. He is only able to perform this act of assistance to the players because of what has happened to him in the interim. However, Antonioni does not have him abandon his camera as he fetches the ball; rather, he carries it with him. What the photographer has learned is that the camera and the tennis ball can (and do) exist in the same plane of perception—reality, illusion and appearance do not fall into neat and convenient categories.
Nothing is taken that seriously anymore!


kent said...

The Obama administration, in perfect miniature.

MadisonMan said...

Sort of related: I was sad to read that Ellie Greenwich died.

DADvocate said...

The Cowsills are generally a group I try to forget. I'd forgotten how the album cover looked.

I'm glad they heve the mime in the picture because a mime is a terrible thing to waste.

kent said...

The Cowsills are generally a group I try to forget.

Could be worse.

Think: "Starland Vocal Band."

LarsPorsena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LarsPorsena said...

"The Cowsills are generally a group I try to forget.

Could be worse.

Think: "Starland Vocal Band."

Somebody is obviously not getting any afternoon delight.

Ann Althouse said...

@MM Hang on. I'm about to put up a post about that.

traditionalguy said...

The Cowsills' music was light hearted in a time of trauma from assasinations and the Viet Nam quagmire rebellion among the young. But today it sounds like a joke being played upon us. The mime theme was a reality/perception trick too. Maybe Teddy was playing the Cowsills music on the radio at Chapaquidic that night and it made him lose touch with the dangerous reality of driving drunk down a dark road.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Think: "Starland Vocal Band."

Oh Kent. You mean you don't like skyrockets in flight? A little afternoon delight?

Aaaaaaaaa-aaaaaafternoon delight.

Now admit it, when that comes on the radio you start humming and toe tapping. Its ok, you're among friends.

Widmerpool said...

From allmusic:

It says a great deal about how pop records were made in the 1960s that the Cowsills' Captain Sad and His Ship of Fools was the third album the Rhode Island family band would cut within the space of just 12 months, and while most current bands would balk at the workload of cutting one album a year along with touring, 1968's Captain Sad suggests the Cowsills were handling their busy schedule very well indeed. Captain Sad doesn't feature as many hits as the Cowsills' first two long-players (though "Indian Lake" would chart high for the group), but the music is uniformly splendid, and for a group that featured members who were nine and 11, the material is mature, tuneful, and beautifully executed, with excellent harmonies from the siblings and imaginative production from Billy Cowsill and Bob Cowsill. The Cowsills only wrote four songs for Captain Sad, but they happen to be four of the album's standout tracks — "Newspaper Blanket" is a prescient and poignant tale of a homeless man asleep on a snowy bench, "Make the Music Flow" is a great slice of sunshine pop, "Meet Me at the Wishing Well" is superior folk-rock, and the title tune is a playful exercise in psychedelic-influenced pop with an arrangement that edges into baroque pop. Elsewhere, "Who Can Teach a Songbird How to Sing" (written in part by Graham Nash) is a great showcase for the group's harmonies, "The Fantasy World of Harry Faversham" is a silly but effective story of one man's Walter Mitty-style fantasies, "The Bridge" gives Barbara Cowsill a rare and lovely lead vocal, and if "Indian Lake" seems a bit lightweight in this context, it still sounds like the perfect hit single it was. Captain Sad and His Ship of Fools is a marvelous artifact from the golden age of pop record-making, and offers more evidence (as if it were needed) that the Cowsills were more than another bubblegum act of the era — they were one of the more gifted and ambitious groups to hit the charts in their day.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Windmerpool. The older I get the more I appreciate how wonderful the stuff we scorned as lightweight really was. Make a beautiful, memorable, happy, lightweight song. It's not easy.

chuck b. said...

"1968 was the pre-mime-hating time."

It's good for us to remember that.

EDH said...

Unexpectedly, by happenstance, I caught one of the Cowsills' last live performances.

In 2004 the Cowsills reunited to play at Fenway Park before a Red Sox-Yankees playoff game. They sang the national anthem and "Hair".

Then, tragedy struck:

BARRY COWSILL (1954 - 2005)

The body of Barry Cowsill, one of the singing Cowsills, the family band that inspired the Partridge Family, was discovered on December 28th on a wharf in New Orleans. Local authorities believe Cowsill, 51, died in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the city on August 29th. Cowsill reportedly left phone messages for his sister Susan on September 1st, and was not heard from again.

Bush's fault!

bagoh20 said...

"The older I get the more I appreciate how wonderful the stuff we scorned as lightweight really was. Make a beautiful, memorable, happy, lightweight song. It's not easy."

Not easy and I feel much more valuable and useful than an angry anti-something song.

Happy songs like The Cowsils_ "The Rain, The Park, & Other Things" did so much more for me then and now than all the high minded music of protest and angst.

When I listen now I am immediately lifted, lightened and I think I probably even look better. I certainly feel better. What a wonderful accomplishment to create such a thing for millions of other people to enjoy forever. Amazing things; humans.

bagoh20 said...

How come I can't insert links? I press ctrl+shft+a and nothing happens. I use Firefox. Any help?

Widmerpool said...

My sentiments exactly Ann. That's why I keep CDs like this one handy:

Bissage said...

NOTE: 1968 was the pre-mime-hating time.

Mime died somewhere between 1977 and 1978 during a broadcast of “The Shields and Yarnell Show.”

That incessant domestic-robot-couple skit was the last imaginary nail in the imaginary mime coffin.

It is a little known fact that Robert Shields and Lorene Yarnell met and fell in love while pretending to study neurosurgery at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

The rest, as they say, is simulated history.

Ann Althouse said...

Here my favorite lightweight happy song.

@bagoh20 Commands don't work. You have to type out the html. I used:

a href="" Here /a

I've left out the < and > marks.

Ann Althouse said...

Here my favorite lightweight happy song.

@bagoh20 Commands don't work. You have to type out the html. I used:

a href="" Here /a

I've left out the < and > marks.

CarmelaMotto said...

OMG Shields and Yarnell. Completely forgot about them. Thanks Bissage. My mother loved that show and them.

Me? I always hated mimes and clowns. Always creeped me out and the players usually had very bad body odor. Lots of miming and BO at the PAF Playhouse in Huntington in the 1970s (elementary class would go once or twice a year). P U!

David said...

Amazing that they knew just how an Obama administration would turn out.

Bruce Hayden said...

The Obama administration, in perfect miniature.

When I first saw this, before I read it more carefully, I thought that was exactly what it was, with the Obama/Joker picture.

LarsPorsena said...

Saw Shields last week in the "Conversation"(1974) on TCM. He was annoying passers-by in several street scenes. Great movie. You can see Hackman, Duvall, Harrison Ford, Teri Garr, John Cazale (Fredo), and Frederic Forest.
Written and directed by F. F. Coppola.

Shields' miming was just as annoying in 1974 as it is perceived now.

Kevin Walsh said...

More mime rock: The Hello People.

Cedarford said...

"Blow-up" - Maybe the Mime stuff hasn't fared well, but that is still a stunning good film.

It fared better than Michael Henning. The most handsome lead guy in "Blow-up!" was completely unrecognizable 30 years later as the Stadium announcer in "Gladiator", and dead soon thereafter.

Not my era, but in hearing 60s stuff, you noticed some pretty good, catchy lightweight pop that stands out and makes you ask who sang it (Anne Murray, 3 Dog Night) and some really bad stuff that makes you ask "why were they popular?" "Why were people drawn to that dreck 40 years ago??"

The Cowsills are in the latter category.

bagoh20 said...

Thanks Ann.

This song instantly puts me barefoot, walking on a warm sidewalk to the city swimming pool on a summer day in 67 as girls first started getting my attention- Pure bliss. Ann you still are a "flower girl" and that's a very good thing.

Pogo said...

"The Rain, The Park, & Other Things" beats Eve of Destruction (Barry McGuire), any day.

bagoh20 said...

My favorite happy song Summer is glorious!

John said...

I totally sympathize with Ann's defense of pop music. Sadly, Ann has terrible taste in such music. Wonderful light pop music is the Beach Boys or the Mamas and the Pappas. It was not the Cowsills or the Archies or the worst pop song ever made "Hang on Sloopy".

Ann Althouse said...

"More mime rock: The Hello People."

I mention the Hello People at one of the links. They played at my high school. "Monday Kind of Tuesday" was a cool song.

As far as mime rock goes, KISS managed to fly under the anti-mime radar. How did that happen?

Ann Althouse said...

@John I think I've promoted the Beach Boys a lot on this blog. The M&P to a lesser extent, but still...

The Archies "Sugar Sugar" is a wonderful recording.

traditionalguy said...

John...How could you not like Sloopy, Hang On Sloopy? That was an all time great set of lyrics that had the art of the double entendre perfected when there were still censors hard at work.

SaysMeow said...

Wasn't it Camus who wrote:

Mimes shout at me
Ceaselessly through the night.
Don't you hear them, brother?

p.t. fogger said...

Maybe it's just me, but isn't "Afternoon Delight" about getting some nooky in the afternoon? I mean, that's all it's about, right?

Beth said...

Susan Cowsill has moved in some interesting circles since those bubble gum days. Her husband tours with the current Beach Boys incarnation, I think.

She ended up in New Orleans in the 90s with the Continental Drifters, which included Peter Holsapple and Vicki Peterson. That's how her brother came to be here as well. I think she has a current band, but also plays with different mixes of local and visiting musicians, and sometimes hosts a songwriter night at Carrollton Station, a great little music bar right down from the streetcar barn.

Her stuff is mostly not to my taste, but I like anyone who keeps local music thriving.

CareBear Caren said...

Sorry, I have to submit my correction regarding Susan Cowsill, it's actually her youngest brother, John Cowsill, who plays drums for current version of The Beach Boys. Further history, since someone mentioned Beach Boys as happy music? Eldest brother Bill Cowsill had been invited to join the Beach Boys during one of Brian Wilson's rough patches, to sing Brian's parts. Bob Dylan liked the Cowsills. So did Sir Paul.
The Cowsills, though scorned by many as 'bubblegum', had genuine & natural vocal talent. It's best to blame the recording companies of the 1960's-70's for the image that persists and the fact that the family ended up bankrupt. The Rain, the Park, and Other Things, continues to bring back happy memories to many people who lived through those turbulent times.