Musicals. I like to joke around and say that my favorite musical is Rocky IV, because I once took the time to work out how much of the movie involved musical interludes and how much involved actual acting. It turns out there’s more music than of the other. If that doesn’t make it a musical, then what is it?
But that’s pretty much beside the point. Musicals are musicals and Rocky IV is just a mediocre movie influenced too heavily by MTV. If I had to pick my favorite musical seriously, rather than goofing around, I’d say it was Once. Great movie, great musical and well worth your time to seek out and at least listen to.
Anyway, we are not here to talk about Rocky IV, or even Once. We are here to talk about Rock of Ages, a very popular (onstage) “jukebox musical” that’s probably touring in your area right this very moment. Check your local listings. I’ve heard about this musical for years, and though it seemed like the sort of thing I would like, I never did check it out until now.
Rock of Ages the movie, as with the stage show, is a celebration of the music of the 1980s. Mostly rock, though its definition of the term is slightly loose. It involves the meeting of a small town girl (Julianne Hough) living in a lonely world, and a city boy (Diego Boneta), born and raised in south Detroit, who come together in the sleazy, glitzy world of late-’80s Los Angeles and try to live out their musical dreams. The primary setting is the Bourbon Room, modeled after a legendary club in LA called Whisky A Go Go, where such glam metal luminaries as Mötley Crüe made their bones. Owned by an aging rocker played by Alec Baldwin, who is assisted by a much younger rock devotee portrayed by Russell Brand, the Bourbon is in danger of closing because of an enormous unpaid tax bill. The only way it can be saved is if mega-popular rockstar Stacee Jax (Tom Cruise) plays a show there.
You may recall that a couple of months back I commented on a documentary I’d just seen called God Bless Ozzy Osbourne. In that entry, which could probably double as a mini-review, I expressed my misgivings about Ozzy in the wake of watching it, and I must reveal now that my feelings have not changed much in the interim. I was very much bothered by God Bless Ozzy Osbourne and will attempt over the next few hundred words to explain exactly why.
I must say at the outset that God Bless Ozzy Osbourne is not a bad documentary at all. In fact, it’s about as good of a documentary about the life and career of Ozzy Osbourne as you are ever likely to get. Delving into all corners of his life, it tells the tale from beginning to now with thoughtfulness and care. It should receive full credit for doing this, especially since it’s because of this thorough approach to the subject matter that leads one to the almost inescapable conclusion that, whatever else Ozzy Osbourne might be, he is not a particularly good person.
The film begins with Ozzy as a child, talking about his family and his hardworking parents, especially his father. Ozzy’s relationship with his father was contentious, largely because Ozzy was such an inveterate ne’er-do-well. When the police came for a teenaged Ozzy in connection with a robbery he’d pulled off with some friends, his father told the cops to take his son away and put him in prison. They did.
You can’t really blame Ozzy’s father for feeling the way he did. Ozzy seemed destined to be an eternal screw-up, a drain on society. For a man dedicated to his career and family, Ozzy must have seemed like some kind of alien being. Certainly he did not share any of his father’s upstanding traits.
It was only when Ozzy fell into music that things began to change for him. He got into the band that would eventually become Black Sabbath on the strength of having his own amp. That he had a unique singing voice didn’t hurt, and the band proceeded to develop a signature sound that would later catapult them to mega-stardom. As of this writing Black Sabbath has sold over 100 million records. Yes, you read that number right.
I will do a full review of God Bless Ozzy Osbourne at some point, as it’s gone at the bottom of my review backlog along with my most recent views, but I have a few thoughts to share ahead of time that I believe are worth discussion. Hopefully you’ll agree.
Before I say anything else, let me reiterate for those who have not been reading this blog for very long that I am a huge Ozzy fan. I saw Ozzy for the first time in concert two years ago last month, and I expect that my fandom had a big impact on how much I enjoyed the show. Ozzy is well past his prime musically, and his vocal performance was fairly middling, but I found I didn’t care too, too much for the simple fact that there I was, watching Ozzy, in fulfillment of a dream I’d had for thirty years. My biggest wish coming away from that night was that I had seen him earlier: 1) because he would have been able to handle the singing duties more effectively, and 2) because my hearing would have been more resilient. We are both older gentlemen now.
Anyway, we were talking about God Bless Ozzy Osbourne. The documentary came out in 2010 on the fortieth anniversary of Black Sabbath’s first album and it reached all the way back to his childhood to tell the story of this guy’s unlikely rise to fame.
I knew most of this story already. Ozzy was from an extremely poor, working-class family in Birmingham and he was a screw-up almost from the very beginning. He served time in prison. He couldn’t hold down a job. He seemed destined to live on the dole for his whole life, contributing nothing to society, until he finally died and saved anyone further trouble. I think he would have been the first one to tell you that he did not expect the way his life turned out.
On the one hand, this is a very inspiring tale, so I didn’t mind hearing it again. It was the stuff I hadn’t paid much mind to that bothered me.
Every year for the past five (or six?) years it has been my tradition to put together a CD of Christmas music to share with family and friends. If our Christmas cards are big enough, I slip the CD in with our holiday greetings, and if not I try to get the CD into people’s hands somehow. Maybe it’s listened to and maybe not, but I like doing it nonetheless and will continue doing it until iTunes finally takes away the ability to make playlists altogether.
Because I can’t share music with everybody out there in internet-land, I usually make a track list right here on the blog, so that you can reconstruct the mix at home, should you so desire. I’m going to do that again right… now.
- “Mele Kalikimaka,” by Jimmy Buffett
- “Joy to the World,” by Willie Nelson
- “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” by Norah Jones
- “O Come All Ye Faithful,” by Weezer
- “River,” by Sarah McLachlan
- “Deck the Halls,” by Ukulele Christmas
- “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” by Los Straitjackets
- “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane),” by Elvis Presley
- “Blue Christmas,” by Johnny Cash
- “¿Dondé Está Santa Claus?,” by Augie Rios
- “Feliz Navidad,” by José Feliciano
- “Mambo Santa Mambo,” by The Enchanters
- “A Cold, Cold Christmas,” by Stephen Colbert
- “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” by Alan Jackson
- “Peace on Earth,” by Brian Wilson
- “Journey of the Angels,” by Enya
- “Last Christmas,” by Taylor Swift
- “O Holy Night,” by Leigh Nash
- “The Lights and Buzz,” by Jack’s Mannequin
- “Deck the Halls,” by Twisted Sister