Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Mystery of The Phantom of the Paradise

I have loved Paul Williams and his masterpiece, "The Phantom of the Paradise" since I was a kid growing up in Illinois.  I loved them so much, I created my own version of "The Phantom" in the early '80s called "Acceptance" and assembled a group of musicians and dancers to perform many of the songs from the film.  What I didn't know was that the movie and award-winning music that changed my life forever was only a hit in three places in the world: Paris, Chicago and mostly Winnipeg.

It wasn't until recently that I learned a lot about this phenomenon from a group on Facebook called The Phantom of the Paradise Fanatics, many of whom gather once a year in October for Phantompalooza at the Met in Winnipeg. This year, Paul Williams, himself, performed

Back to my original question: Why Winnipeg?  The PHAN-atics replied:

"I thought because of the Winnipeg fan base the original soundtrack actually reached Gold in Canada. I read that Winnipeg alone accounted for about half of the 500,000 album sales needed to be certified Gold."

"For me, in Toronto, CityTV would show it at least twice, year on late great movies not long after its release. That's what got me hooked. I lived in NJ for a long time. No one had ever heard of it."

"Tell that to the all the people at the sold out show in Hollywood last Sunday. Paul Williams was there too."

"It was because of POTP playing in Paris that the two guys from Daft Punk met over their shared love of the film."

"I think at the time we Winnipegers were the only ones to admit it. It took the rest of you a while to catch up. That's no longer just a Winnipeg thing, it's bigger than that now."

"Indeed. The upcoming fest in Pasadena was sold out in minutes!"

"Winnipeg or Paris are your two best bets with the edge going to Winnipeg."

"But in reality it’s not the whole of Winnipeg either, is it? The population of Winnipeg is listed as around 700,000. How many people attend Phantom fest that are from Winnipeg? And how many all together?"

"It's not! We here in Dallas, Tx (home of the Majestic {Paradise} Theater) loves PotP as well!"'

"Winnipeg is among the few places that understand the genius of Paul Williams."

"A bunch of people, including myself, from Omaha Nebraska are huge fans of the movie and the soundtrack. Williams is from Omaha, and I only learned of that recently. I believe it's not a coincidence that Winnipeg is directly north of Omaha. There's a mysterious latitudinal connection."

"We love the phantom here in Kansas we're only 3 hours from Omaha."

"Upon its release, a trade ad for Phantom gave it healthy receipts for its Los Angeles run. It got pulled and the publicity retooled because it wasn't earning from a market they wanted it to get - actual adults and not just kids. This couldn't help but hurt its total take in its release period (74-75), and history calls it a financial failure when it was really a studio approach failure. Like everyone else here I was a teenager on its release and at the risk of offending people I think the studio reacted as if we were bubblegum rock fans and unable to financially support it, so they showed a lack of faith in their own product. Time has vindicated us of course."

" It was pulled because those movie houses that had booked it came to the end of the run that they had signed the initial agreement for (starting November 1, 1974) and they were bound by contract to begin running the next film 20th Century Fox was releasing (YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN released on Dec 15th, 1974). 
Publicity for Phantom was only retooled because it had received a nomination for Best Soundtrack in The Academy Awards, which is not unusual at all when nominees are announced. During this renewed release, it opened in a little more than twice the amount of theaters as it did in it's prestige "premiere" run, which in itself is witness that the film was already gaining an audience."

"If you were in Winnipeg, maybe you only thought it was happening in Winnipeg, but it was happening all over. I recall a huge convention of several thousand fans giving a screening of the film a standing ovation at Equicon 1975 / Filmcon 3 - A Science Fiction & Fantasy Film Convention in California - May 24-26, 1975."

"The two places Phantom of the Paradise was a hit was Paris and Winnipeg. Everywhere else in Canada the movie flopped and it lasted a week in the theatres, but it lasted 50 weeks in the theatres in Winnipeg. Winnipegers loved they movie when the rest of the world hated it. Now that the movie is a cult classic, people are catching up to what Winnipeg knew all along, Phantom of the Paradise is the greatest movie ever!!"

For more info, go to:

The Many Lives of Eric Burdon

Everyone remembers The Animals and The House of the Rising Sun... but I wonder how many people - especially musicians' musicians - have listened to the terrific American funk group from California, known for many great hits like "Low Rider" and "The World is a Ghetto."  Eric Burdon was the lead singer of the group known as Eric Burdon and War from 1969 through the mid-to-late '70s.

They had a gifted flutist/saxophonist named Charles Miller who was, unfortunately murdered in 1980 in LA during a botched street robbery.  And there was the infamous Lee Oskar, a Danish harmonica player whose contributions to rock-funk fusion are immeasurable.

There are fabulous jam sessions on YouTube that have transported me back to my roots in rock & roll and funk:

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Steel in My Soul

My latest recording...  "Steel in My Soul" is my ode to the struggle between my Christ and Hitler.  John Lennon once said, "We're all Christ and we're all Hitler; we want Christ to win."  The God in me fights the devil.  Written 24 years ago, having the chance to record it properly with great musicians and my wonderful producer is such a privilege.  Music is the greatest expression of my soul and I wrote back then that "Passion and truth is all we need... God is the greatest dramatist... that I resist the better angel and I am a bitter stranger... that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  And then it ends with Paul Williams's great line from "Phantom of the Paradise," which says it all.

Steel in My Soul

There is laughter in the air; there’s a voice on the wing.
God’s the greatest dramatist in everything–
Resist the better angel, ’cause it’s a bitter stranger.
What doesn’t kill you keeps you out of danger.

Saints alive! Saints alive!
In the hidden heart.

I don’t know where I come from,
Don’t know where I’ve been.
But I’ve got steel in my soul.
Ain’t no luck in the air….
I know all that I need is passion and truth.
Give me back my youth
and I’ll give it to you.

Running like mad in the waking dream,
(I) can’t get back to the living connection.
I can’t find shelter for my own protection.

I’ve got steel in my soul, steel in my soul, steel in my soul –Ain’t stealin’ my soul.

Won’t make the Faustian bargain, gotta retract the deal.
Mephistopheles will have to find another soul to steal.

And a mysterious comfort puts its arms around you
and holds you close and tells you,
“It’s alright. It’s alright.”
“Sleep tonight. Sleep tonight.”

[Alternate ending: tribute to Paul Williams/”Phantom of the Paradise”:
"All the devils that disturbed me and the angels that defeated them somehow...
come together in me now..."]