Saturday, January 31, 2009

Buddy Holly

This coming Tuesday 3 February 2009 will be the 50th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly.

Charles Hardin Holley, known professionally as Buddy Holly (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959)was an American singer-songwriter and a pioneer of rock and roll. The change of spelling of "Holley" to "Holly" came about because of an error in a contract he was asked to sign, listing him as Buddy Holly. That spelling was then adopted for his professional career.

Although his success lasted only a year and a half before his death in an airplane crash, Holly is described by critic Bruce Eder as "the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll." His works and innovations were copied by his contemporaries and later musicians, notably The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and exerted a profound influence on popular music.

In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Holly #13 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Fifty years after Buddy Holly's death, a leading critic argues that the influence of the man who created rock music is as great as ever.

On the basis of simply counting heads, rock music surpasses even film as the 20th century's most influential art form. By that reckoning, there is a case for calling Buddy Holly, who died in a plane crash 50 years ago next Tuesday, the century's most influential musician.

Holly and Elvis Presley are the two seminal figures of 1950s rock 'n' roll, the place where modern rock culture began. Virtually everything we hear on CD or see on film or the concert stage can be traced back to those twin towering icons – Elvis with his drape jacket and swivelling hips and Buddy in big black glasses, brooding over the fretboard of his Fender Stratocaster guitar.

But Presley's contribution to original, visceral rock 'n' roll was little more than that of a gorgeous transient; having unleashed the world-shaking new sound, he soon forsook it for slow ballads, schlock movie musicals and Las Vegas cabarets. Holly, by contrast, was a pioneer and a revolutionary.

His was a multidimensional talent which seemed to arrive fully formed in a medium still largely populated by fumbling amateurs. The songs he co-wrote and performed with his backing band the Crickets remain as fresh and potent today as when recorded on primitive equipment in New Mexico half a century ago: That'll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Oh Boy, Not Fade Away.

To call someone who died at 22 "the father of rock" is not as fanciful as it seems. As a songwriter, performer and musician, Holly is the progenitor of virtually every world-class talent to emerge in the Sixties and Seventies. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend and Bruce Springsteen all freely admit they began to play only after Buddy taught them how. Though normal-sighted as a teenager, Elton John donned spectacles in imitation of the famous Holly horn-rims and ruined his eyesight as a result.

Holly's voice is the most imitated, and inimitable, in rock. Hundreds of singers have borrowed its eccentric pronunciation and phrasing. None (except perhaps John Lennon) has exactly caught the curious lustre of its tone, its erratic swings from dark to light, from exuberant snarl to tender sigh, nor brought off the "Holly hiccough" which could fracture even the word "well" into eight syllables.

Unlike Presley and other guitar-toting idols of the mid-Fifties, Holly was a gifted instrumentalist who had grown up playing country music in his native West Texas. His playing style became as influential as his voice – the moody drama he could conjure from a shifting sequence of four basic chords, his incisive downstrokes and echoey descants. The deification of the rock guitarist, the sex appeal of the solid-body guitar, the glamour of the Fender brand: all were set in train by Buddy and his sunburst Strat.

Pop music has become an endless recycling, each new generation believing they are the first to discover its repertoire of "cool" and limited palette of sentiments and chords. In the genes of almost every band, Buddy Holly has been there, either by conscious assimilation or via his disciples. "Listen to any new release," says Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, whose first killer riff was on the 1964 cover of Not Fade Away. "Buddy will be in it somewhere. His stuff just works."

Holly's time on the world stage was pitifully short, lasting only from September 1957, when That'll Be The Day became an international hit, to February 3, 1959, when he and two fellow performers, Ritchie Valens and J P "The Big Bopper" Richardson, fatally decided to fly from Clear Lake, Iowa, to Fargo, North Dakota, to avoid a freezing night on a tour bus. The crash of their chartered aircraft into a snowy field has become rock's most famous tragedy, enshrined by Don McLean's American Pie as ''the day the music died''.

In 16 crowded months, Holly had created a blueprint for enlightened rock stardom that every newcomer with any pretence at self-respect still aspires to follow. He was the first rock 'n' roller both talented and strong-minded enough to insist on the artistic control his musical heirs now take for granted. He was the first not only to write his own songs but also to arrange them, directing his backup musicians to his own exacting standards. He was the first to understand and experiment with studio technology, achieving effects with echo, double-tracking and overdubbing on primitive Ampex recorders which have never been bettered.

He was the first rock 'n' roller not to be a scowling pretty boy like Elvis – to be, in fact, angular and geeky-looking, with bad skin, discoloured teeth and glasses that did not acquire their stylish black frames until the last months of his life. He was the first to make it on sheer ability, energy and personality, appealing to a male audience as much as a female one, redefining the perception of good looks and style much as John Lennon and Mick Jagger would in the next decade.

The years since 1959 have seen many other great talents prematurely snuffed out. But Holly's death has a special poignancy. This was no rock 'n' roll roughneck, hell-bent on self-annihilation, but an amiable (and deeply religious) young Texan whose life had not the least taint of scandal, discredit or unkindness; who had recently married and was about to become a father; who went on tour through the snowy Midwest only because his ex-manager, Norman Petty, refused to pay his royalties; who took that fatal flight with his two colleagues only to snatch a few hours sleep in a hotel and get his laundry done.

His fans are numbered in the millions, and grow in number with each passing year. And dying so young, and so pure, as he did, he left them an extra gift. They can never be disillusioned.

Update 04/02/09

My buddy Hassan Peter Brown responded to my post on Buddy Holly with the following email, which I’m reproducing here verbatim because I feel that what he has to say is true.

Hi Dave

Thanks for finally putting us back on your mail-out list.

I visited your blog and read your speil about Buddy Holly which is very good and says it all. Do you think you could send me a copy because I can't copy it from the blog without copying everything else

As a result of someone I was at school with who later became extremely famous in the annals of Rock music insisting to me that BH was special and different (I was a jazz snob and disdained rock n roll at that time (1959)) I began to get into his music which was so influential that it started me writing my own songs.

My only criticism is that I can't accept that "Holly and Elvis Presley are the two seminal figures of 1950s rock 'n' roll, the place where modern rock culture began". I feel if you don't mind that it is a bit racial to write that. I would mention 3 other names, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Sam Cooke.

I also remember that it was Buddy Holly's voice that was so exceptional - no-one else had that characteristic "edge". He also turned to ballads as well, like "True Love Ways" which is sung so expressively in a way that is so totally impossible to imitate.

Anyway your blog is good, very titilating as well

Hope we'll meet up one day

All the best

Peter Hassan Brown

For more about Peter Hassan Brown and his music, visit or hit the link to "soft touch" on my blogroll on the right. Better still, sign up for his free informative and interesting mailer.

For another interesting story on Buddy Holly, read the comment posted by Johnny Hughes, author of the book "Texas Poker Wisdom" in the comments section below.

Friday, January 30, 2009

We Are The Number 1 Blog

Spanking DA Monkey is the world’s number 1 site to bring you the latest number 1 trend in Malaysian advertising. Click on the pictures to get a better view if you really must.

No longer are we just content to make outrageous claims on breaking dubious records.

The world’s stickest dodol. The longest popiah. The largest wooden chair.

Puhleese. Give me a break.

Now we have taken this desperate need to gain worldwide recognition to the next irritating level.

It seems that advertising companies have finally run out of ideas, so every company in Malaysia is number 1.

As my friend Veronica likes to ask "Here’s an interesting question – if every bloody body is number 1, who’s number 2?"

Sigh...I love my country but it just drives me mad most of the time.

Zhang Ziyi Getting Jiggy With It

It all started when one of the best known Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi and her Israeli venture capitalist boyfriend Aviv “Vivi” Nevo were caught topless by paparazzi in St Barth, French West Indies earlier this weekend. Ziyi and Nevo got a little carried away on the beach, Aviv was seen with his face in Zhang's ass and then with his fingers in her.

Some people are saying she is nothing but a cheap slut for her exhibitionist and sexual activities. And now people on Chinese forums are alleging that she has forgotten her Chinese roots and should be blacklisted. And NO, Aviv is not sniffing her ass. He ate her pussy from behind and then she lay there while he was fingering her. More than 80 pictures of China's top actress Zhang Ziyi sunbathing topless and frolicking on a beach have appeared on the Internet.
Zhang Ziyi (Chinese: 章子怡), born February 9, 1979, in Beijing, China is one of the best-known Chinese film actresses, with a string of Chinese and international hits to her name. Zhang has been named one of the four most promising young film actresses China. She has worked with renowned directors such as Zhang Yimou, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, Chen Kaige, Seijun Suzuki and Rob Marshall.

At the age of 19, Zhang was offered her first role in Zhang Yimou's The Road Home, which won the Silver Bear award in the 2000 Berlin Film Festival.

Zhang further rose to fame due to her role as the headstrong Jen in the phenomenally successful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, for which she won the Independent Spirit's Best Supporting Actress Award and the Toronto Film Critics' Best Supporting Actress Award.
Zhang's first appearance in an American movie was in Rush Hour 2, but because she didn't speak English at the time, Jackie Chan had to interpret everything the director said to her.

Zhang then appeared in Hero, with her early mentor Yimou, which was a huge success in the English-speaking world and an Oscar and a Golden Globe contender. Her next film was the avant-garde drama Purple Butterfly by Lou Ye, which competed at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.

Zhang went back to the martial arts genre with House of Flying Daggers which earned her a Best Actress nomination from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
Showing her whimsical musical tap-dancing side, Zhang starred in Princess Raccoon, directed by Japanese legend Seijun Suzuki, who was honored at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

In 2005, Zhang landed the lead role of Sayuri in the film adaptation of the international bestseller Memoirs of a Geisha. For the film, she reunited with her co-star Gong Li and with her Crouching Tiger co-star Michelle Yeoh. For the role, Zhang received a 2006 Golden Globe Award nomination, a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination and a BAFTA nomination.

Zhang has also been known to sing, and was featured on the House of Flying Daggers soundtrack with her own musical rendition of the ancient Chinese poem, Jia Rén Qu (The Beauty Song). The song was also featured in two scenes in the film.
On June 27, 2005, it was announced that Zhang had accepted an invitation to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), placing her among the ranks of those able to vote on the Academy Awards.

In May 2006, Zhang became the youngest member to sit on the jury of the Cannes Film Festival. In the fall of 2006, Zhang played Empress Wan in The Banquet, a film set in the Tang Dynasty.

Aviv "Vivi" Nevo (born 1965 in Romania) is an Israeli venture capitalist who is a major shareholder in Time Warner. His venture capital firm, NV Investments, is believed to invest in technology companies worldwide, and is said to have been an early backer of The Weinstein Company, and the largest individual shareholder in Time Warner.
Nevo was born in Romania and moved to Tel Aviv, Israel as a baby, with his father a chemical engineer and his mother an anesthesiologist. It is believed he built his fortune up from his initial $10 million inheritance.

Nevo is averse to publicity, and hires a public relations firm to maintain a low public profile. In July, 2008 Nevo confirmed long-running rumors of an engagement to Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi.

Best in the world Char Kuey Teow

Spanking DA Monkey has found the best Char Kuay Keow in the world. No, we’re not kidding you. Just follow these 3 easy steps:

1. Find your way to the Say Huat restaurant in the old Sentosa area of Section 17

in Petaling Jaya.

2. Look for Robert’s Char Kuey Teow stall located on the right hand side and

order a plate.

3. Enjoy. It’s better than sex.

About Bloody Time

Now here’s a practical idea that is long overdue. Spanking DA Monkey found these pillars marked “help” in the basement parking of Mid Valley. Great for females who suspect that they are being stalked or may be victims of hand bag snatching or worse, kidnapping and rape.

Kudos to Mid Valley Megamall for initiating this practical idea.

If only these had been in place at Bangsar Shopping Center much earlier perhaps Canny Ong would still be alive. Many other victims and their families would have been spared the anguish and pain. Still, its a good start. Better late than never.

Ricardo Montalban

Turning Fantasy into reality

Actor Ricardo Montalban, best known as the debonair and mysterious Mr. Roarke on the popular television series "Fantasy Island," died on 14 January 2009 at the age of 88.

"Fantasy Island" debuted on ABC in 1978 and quickly became one of the most-watched dramas on television, featuring Montalban as the enigmatic owner of a tropical paradise who made the dreams of his guests come true, often in unexpected or fanciful ways. Montalban and his co-star Herve Villechaize, who played the diminutive Tattoo, became unlikely pop culture icons during the show's run, which ended in 1984.

Born Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalban Merino in Mexico City on November 25, 1920, he got his start in show business in Mexican theater, television and film. He broke into Hollywood in the 1940s, becoming one of the few Latino stars in the industry at the time with his leading role in 1949's "Border Incident."

Ricardo Montalban fought against Hollywood's racist depiction of Latinos and opened doors to a new generation of actors

Montalban was a Hollywood class act. His will truly be a hard act to follow. To those who only knew the Mexican-born actor as the mysterious Mr Roarke of TV's Fantasy Island it was just as well. But to those who recognise that the Emmy-winning icon was a talented but underused actor who persevered through decades of Hollywood bigotry and typecasting with elegance and grace, a trailblazer who jeopardised his own career by advocating for younger generations of Latino actors, it was a meagre send-off.

What we've lost, simply put, is one of the last remaining Hispanics who first busted through Hollywood's doors and then struggled not to pay for their audacity with their dignity and cultural identity. "My career has been the constancy of doing the best I could with the role I had," Montalban once said. "I persevered. That's the only quality that I recognise in myself."

Already a Latin American star when he hit Hollywood in the mid 1940s, Montalban could act, dance and sing and showed it off in his first American film, the Mexico-set musical Fiesta. Montalban, born in Mexico of Spanish parents, had style and phenomenal presence.

Hollywood, however, was a topsy-turvy world where Latinos – particularly Mexicans – were often portrayed onscreen as "bandits, gigolos, hot señoritas and indolent peons," as Montalban once put it. Lead Latino characters, such as they were, were often played by white actors.

Latino actors were mostly relegated to playing stereotypical ethnic bit roles – everything from filthy Mexican peasants to Japanese soldiers – even if they had the chops to do more. It's as if they were paying a never-ending string of dues for a reward that rarely came.

Hispanics who succeeded in old Hollywood did so by either passing as Anglos, as in the case of Rita Hayworth – a flamenco-dancer-turned-actress who became a leading lady only after dying her dark hair red and dropping her Spanish father's last name of Cansino – or by sheer will and the willingness to risk obscurity, as in the case of Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno.

By the time Moreno won a best supporting actress Oscar in 1962 for West Side Story, the actress had endured several demeaning Latin sex-pot roles and the scorn of racist directors who ignored her on set. After her win, Moreno refused to make a film for seven years. Despite the award, she continued to be offered infuriatingly one-dimensional roles.

Montalban chose another path. After a phenomenal start working alongside stars including Clark Gable, Lana Turner and Cyd Charisse, Montalban played small roles as Latin lovers and, bizarrely, as a Japanese Kabuki actor (Sayonara) and an Indian chief (TV's How the West Was Won, for which he won the Emmy).

Part of the reason was money – he was a married father of four. The other reason was simply because he wanted to act. "I never had the luxury of getting 10, five or even two scripts at a time," Montalban said in the interview. "As a Mexican actor, you got one, take it or leave it. I always tried to play people of different nationalities with the dignity that I wished Americans would show when they play Mexicans."

Montalban challenged studio executives on their portrayals of Latinos and later took the issue public by co-founding the non-profit Nosotros ("we" in Spanish), which pushes studios to give Latino actors more opportunities and present a more balanced portrayal of Latinos onscreen. That got the actor virtually blacklisted, and he was forced for years to make a living by hitting the road with a theatre troupe.

But two roles brought him acclaim and pop culture status late in his career: One was as the villain Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the other was as Mr Roarke on Fantasy Island. It's deliciously ironic that with Roarke, Montalban, so long at the mercy of the whims of studios, got to play someone who wields the power to make wishes come true.

In 1982, Montalban starred as arch-villain Khan Noonien Singh in "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan," reprising a role he had played on a single episode of the television show in 1967.

And watching his visceral portrayal of Khan, a superhuman banished to the far reaches of the universe by Captain Kirk who comes back seeking revenge, you can't help but wonder how much of the rage is real. Reality-based or not, the performance was ballsy and grand. Said legendary film critic Pauline Kael: "It was the only validation he has ever had of his power to command the big screen."

Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams performed a song together that became an Oscar winner, "Baby It's Cold Outside" which is still played from time to time around Christmas. There are other versions, but the original is a classic.

What's changed in Hollywood since Montalban's time? Not much – and a lot. While Latinos are still called on to play maids, sluts, criminals and random cops on TV and in films, Montalban – and actors like Moreno – helped make the careers of current luminaries possible: Edward James Olmos, Oscar-winners Javier Bardem and Benicio del Toro, Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek and America Ferrera.

"He was one of the true giants of arts and culture," Olmos told the Los Angeles Times. "He was a stellar artist and a consummate person and performer with a tremendous understanding of culture ... and the ability to express it in his work."

Montalban, whose wife of 63 years, Georgiana, died in 2007, is survived by his four children and by six grandchildren

Here's hoping Olmos is not the only one who remembers. Thanks, Ricardo Montalban, and RIP.