PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Sunday Evening Videos: Messed Up Christmas

For the second year in a row we bring you a collection of Christmas-themed short films that are, shall we say, “less traditional” than those you might normally watch to get into the holiday spirit. That makes this a new tradition! Some of these you may have seen before here in PopCult, while some are new to our readers. All of them, are pretty messed up, in their own ways. These are our olive branch to those of us who have more of a “Bah, Humbug” attitude toward the holiday on this Christmas season.

First up we add to our line-up a five-year-old parody of the 30th Anniversary of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by the comedy crew of 22 Minutes…

We continue with a newish one, a short film from 2017 called “Sleigh,” starring Matt Berry and Nigel Planer…

Next up we have Christmas with The Aquabats…

Let’s go on Christmas Break at Crystal Lake, with The Renfields…

Finally we bring you Ken Russell’s heartwarming holiday classic, “A Kitten For Hitler”…

In the spirit of the holiday season, I say, “There, that oughtta hold the little buggers.”

The RFC Flashback: MINI SHOW number Fifteen

This week we go back to March, 2014, for an RFC MINI SHOW that featured the very first public performance by Lovejoy and The Killjoys, the band that quickly transmogrified into That High Country Revival.

When I recorded the band, Lovejoy and The Killjoys was Chris Lovejoy on guitar and vocals, Matt Spade on mandolin and vocals and Stan Bumgardner playing fiddle. I had just met Chris and Matt briefly at Third Eye Cabaret the previous week, while Stan had appeared on RFC in the past with Elektro Biscuit and The Poor Taters. With the addition of a few other musicians the band became That High Country Revival, and they still play in Charleston to this day.

 

 

The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide Master List

The PopCulteer
December 13, 2019

Well, this turned out to be a beast and a half.

My oriignal plan for The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide was to have everything wrapped up two weeks ago, with this master list being posted on Black Friday. Due to a combination of technical issues and blurry vision from overwork, plus pressing outside assignments, I made the decision to extend the list until today.

I have to be honest with you. The reason I wanted to wrap this up early is because I planned to spend a week in Chicago with my lovely wife for her birthday.

We still did that. We’ll be back in town by the time most of you read this, but everything you’ve been reading for the past nine days was written back on December 3. That was one long day.

As I do every year, I take a day to run the master list so that lazy PopCult readers who might not have been paying enough attention over the past six weeks can play catch up, use these gift ideas at the last minute, and make everybody think you’re a genius who really cares about people.

We’ll let the real source of your mighty gifting mojo remain our little secret.

Without any further flumbuggery, here is The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide Master List

BOOKS

The Chronicles of Don’t Be So Ridiculous Valley by Mike Batt
O, Mountaineers by Danny Kuhn
I’ll See You Again: The Bittersweet Love Story and Wartime Letters of Jeanette MacDonald and Gene Raymond by Maggie McCormick
Star Wars Memories: My Time In The (Death Star) Trenches by Craig Miller
Virginia Slavery and King Salt in Booker T. Washington’s Boyhood Home by Larry Linville Rowe
Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel
The Prom: A Novel Based on the Hit Broadway Musical
STARCHILDREN by Thomas Wheeler
Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus
A Is For Audra: Broadway’s Leading Ladies from A to Z
Me and the Sky: Captain Beverley Bass, Pioneering Pilot
Jellicle Cats: Old Possum Picture Books Written by T.S. Eliot,
Rise Up!: Broadway and American Society from ‘Angels in America’ to ‘Hamilton’ Written by Chris Jones
Ensemble: An Oral History of Chicago Theatre Written by Mark Larson
Strippers, Showgirls and Sharks: A Very Opinionated History of the Broadway Musicals That Did Not Win the Tony Award Written by Peter Filichia

COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS

Tonta (A Love & Rockets Graphic Novel)
All Star Comics: Only Legends Live Forever
Not Brand Echh: The Complete Collection
Marvel Comics #1 80th Anniversary Edition
Ink And Anguish: A Jay Lynch Anthology
Reincarnation Stories by Kim Deitch
The Flaming Carrot Omnibus by Bob Burden
Maria M. by Gilbert Hernandez
Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead
LIFE ON THE MOON by Robert Grossman
JUNGLE GIRLS edited by Mitch Maglio
THE UNKNOWN ANTI-WAR COMICS edited by Craig Yoe
Independent Comics

TOYS and GAMES

The 2019 HESS Toy Truck
JoJoMania Runs Wild!
Trogdor!! The Board Game – Deluxe Version (Burninator)
Bunch O’ Ballooons Party Pump
Rubber Chickens
SpongeBob Toys
The Young Bucks AEW Action Figures
The Lionel #1923020 NYC Flyer 0-8-0 LionChief Set w/ Bluetooth
Bachmann Rocket Freight HO Scale Ready-to-Run Electric Train Set
Kato #106-0017 Amtrak P42 Superliner Phase IVb Starter set
Auto World 13′ Stock Car Showdown X-Traction Slot Race Set HO Scale HO Scale
Boppi The Booty Shakin’ Llama
MEGO Action Figures
GRRRUMBALL

MUSIC

The Dukes Of Stratsphear
Eddie Jobson
Andy Partridge and Robyn Hitchcock “Planet England”
YES “From A Page”
Frenchy And The Punk
Hadestown Original Cast Recording
Beetlejuice Original Cast Recording
Oklahoma! 2019 Cast Recording
McGear
Beggars Clan
Emmalea Deal “Queen”
David Synn “The Mirror”
The Big Bad “After Dark”
Time And Distance “Gravity”
Fletcher’s Grove
The Abbey Road 50th Anniversary Boxed Set
The Beatles Singles Collection
Jack’s Cats “State of Swing”
SpongeBob Squarepants The Musical Original Cast Recording
Ringo Starr “What’s My Name”
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies “Bigger Life”

VIDEO

A Hard Day’s Night
Rick Wakeman’s Gastank
All That Jazz
Matewan
Pick It Up-Ska In The 90s
Shazam TV Series on Blu Ray
Jonny Quest: The Complete Original Series on Blu Ray
SpongeBob’s Best 200 Episodes Ever
Disney+

COOL STUFF

A Patch And Song From Ann Magnuson
Blackwing Palamino Pencil Starter Set
Art by Mitch O’Connell
Art by Glen Brogan
Art by Robert Jiminez
SpongeBob Popcorn Maker
SpongeBob Slow Cooker
SpongeBob Apparel and Make Up
Lights of Broadway Show Cards
Local Restaurants
Remind Magazine
RetroFan

And with that, The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide is done, finito, expired, deceased, and the rest of the Dead Parrot sketch that I can’t remember right now. As has become an annual tradition, I vow that next year I will wrap this thing up in  less than two weeks.

Thanks for reading. Check back for all our regular features and please, have a very merry Christmas, or holiday of your choice.

Gift Guide: Nostalgia Magazines

The final pick in The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide is a suggestion that you give a magazine subscription or two to the person on your holiday shopping list who seems to be afflicted with nostalgia for those good old days of pop culture when everything was better than it is today and everyone felt great.

If you know someone of that certain age where magazines are still a thing and they still want to read about what was cool when they were growing up, then you can get them a gift subscrption to Remind Magazine, or Retro Fan. Both are fun, refreshing looks at the stuff that was cool back when the people who read magazines were still cool.

Remind Magazine
published by NTVB
general newsstand distribution
cover price: $4.99

Remind is a great little magazine that is published by the folks who currently publish TV Guide, and it’s well-steeped in the days of yore.

The key to Remind is pure nostalgia. They claim to cover each decade from the 1960s to the 1990s, but since nostalgia was already such a huge part of pop culture by then, they have also delved into pre-1960’s pop culture icons like the Universal Monsters, Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe and the earlier stars of Hollywood.

I’m not complaining, because Remind employs a light, informed and fun approach to their articles. You won’t find deep, probing analysis here, just the highlights and some great photos. It’s fun, and that’s really something we need more of these days. The articles serve their purpose to remind us of the cool stuff from the history of pop culture. Hence the name.

Remind also has trivia, crossword puzzles, word search, and one of my favorite features, reprints of vintage comic strips from the various decades. This is the kind of magazine that, by law, should be required in all waiting rooms.  It’s a bit like Highlights Magazine for grown-ups.

Another part of the charm of Remind is that it’s a hybrid magazine, with part of it printed on slick paper, and the rest on newprint. Hardly anybody prints on newsprint anymore, and to be honest, I sort of miss it. You can find your way to ordering gift subscriptions right HERE.

RetroFan Magazine
published by TwoMorrows
available at comic shops and select newsstands
cover price: $8.95

RetroFan is the brainchild of Michael Eury, who edits Back Issue Magazine (devoted to bronze-age comics) and TwoMorrows, who publish a variety of magazines and books that cover comics, pop culture and toys. RetroFan is a natural extension of the throroughly-researched nostalgia that Eury employs with Back Issue, only applied to pop culture in general.

With an all-star roster of writers, including Martin Pasko, Ernest D. Farino, Scott Shaw! Will Murray and others, RetroFan is a pure delight that dives head-first into topics like Charlie’s Angels, Captain Action Toys, Horror Movie hosts, The Andy Griffith Show, Space Toys, lunch boxes, classic TV shows and cartoons, pop music and anything else that made life more fun in our youth.

RetroFan has been successful enough to be bumped up to bi-monthly status from the quarterly schedule it began with and it’s clear that they have no shortage of topics that will punch the nostalgia buttons of any Baby Boomers, Sub-Boomers, Gen Xers or even Millenials with great taste on your holiday shopping list.

You can subscribe to RetroFan HERE, and I’m sure they can work out gift subscriptions for you as well. What could be more nostalgic than reading a magazine of any sort, let alone one that covers cool stuff from decades ago?

Gift Guide: More Books About Broadway

It’s time for our final guest pick in The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide, so once again we remind you that you can hear Mel Larch host Curtain Call, the musical theatre program, on The AIR, every Wednesday at 3 PM at The AIR website, or on this embedded radio player…

The reminder is because it’s the final time we turn The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide over to Mrs. PopCulteer, Mel Larch. Mel’s got more great book picks about the theatre, this time for the official aficianado. This is a particularly intriguing batch for the true dyed-in-the-wool theatre buff who loves the stage.

Every week Mel brings you the best of musical theatre, from Broadway, off-Broadway, The West End, and all around the world on Curtain Call. You can tune in each Wednesday on The AIR, and listen to an evening marathon Sunday from 6 PM to Midnight, and an overnight marathon from Midnight Wednesday to 9 AM Thursday morning.

And with that explanation of my lovely wife’s theatre cred, we turn it over to Mel…

Our final Curtain Call book recommendations are aimed at the serious theatre fan on your holiday gift list.

Rise Up!: Broadway and American Society from ‘Angels in America’ to ‘Hamilton’
Written by Chris Jones
Methuen Drama
ISBN 978-1350071933
$16.39 at Amazon

I’ve been a fan of Chris Jones, the long-time chief theatre critic and Sunday culture columnist of the venerable Chicago Tribune, for several years and am delighted to include Rise Up!: Broadway and American Society from ‘Angels in America’ to ‘Hamilton,’ as one of my picks for the serious theatre fan on your gift list. It’s a story of how, over the course of more than twenty years, Broadway achieved a renaissance by addressing and mirroring the colossal changes of American society, such as AIDS, race, and politics.

As a critic for Variety during the nineties, Jones found himself “in the room where it happened,” from the moment an angel crashed (quite literally) through the ceiling of predjuice and religious intolerance at the end of Tony Kushner’s Angels In America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches, to the massive triumph of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.

In Rise Up!, Jones offers a thoughtful, chronological, and critical analysis of shows dealing with the AIDS crisis (the aforementioned Angels in America,) gentrification (Rent), race (King Hedley, II, the works of August Wilson, and the 2014 revival of A Raisin In The Sun), and politics (Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, American Idiot). Rise Up! also looks at the rise of Disney Theatricals (The Lion King), various productions in the post-9/11 recovery days (Urinetown, Metamorphoses), artistic responses to the global recession of the late 2000’s (August: Osage County), and the effect of the Obama and Trump administrations on artists and the artistic community at large.

Framed by the phenomenon of Hamilton, Rise Up! is an engaging and thoroughly entertaining book which would be a great addition to the library of any theatre lover who realizes that the willingness to take risks can lead to works which are both commercially successful and-hopefully-forces of change.

Ensemble: An Oral History of Chicago Theatre
Written by Mark Larson
Agate Midway
ISBN 978-1572842342
$23.97 at Amazon

Serious theatre fans (like your humble author and host of Curtain Call here) know that Chicago is a bona fide theatre town. It’s home to five Tony Award winning theatre companies (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Lookinglass Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre Company). It’s fed every sector of the entertainment industry from the small screen (Chicago P.D.) to Hollywood to Broadway to Studio 8H (Saturday Night Live) and delighted local, national, and even international audiences for decades. Now it’s the subject of Ensemble: An Oral History of Chicago Theatre by award winning educator, Mark Larson.

Ensemble explores a variety of topics, such as the early days of the Compass Players and the now legendary Second City during the 1950’s and 60’s; the rise of ensembles like the critically acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre Company and their “in your face,” rock ‘n roll style of performance during the 1970’s; the growth of storefront and neighborhood theatre companies during the 1980’s, and the global influence of Chicago as a center of improv training and performance, which continues to this day.

Spanning a 65 year time period, Larson draws from more than 300 interviews with the people who made Chicago theatre history happen. Readers will find themselves captivated by stories from actors including Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou Grant), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, Veep), Michael Shannon (Bug, Boardwalk Empire), David Schwimmer (Friends, The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story), Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne, Lady Bird); actor/playwright Tracy Letts (The Sinner, Ford vs Ferrari); playwright Ike Holter (Hit The Wall, Exit Strategy) and award winning director Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphoses), along with a host of designers, composers, and others too numerous to list here.

Ensemble: An Oral History of Chicago Theatre is a must have for the theatre fan on your list who has an especially warm spot in their heart for the work of Chicago’s theatre and improv companies.

Strippers, Showgirls and Sharks: A Very Opinionated History of the Broadway Musicals That Did Not Win the Tony Award
Written by Peter Filichia
St. Martin’s Press
ISBN 978-1250018434
$11.99 at Amazon

Full disclosure before revealing my final pick. Peter Filichia and I have been friends going back to the days of the now defunct Theatre Week magazine. I contributed material to his book Let’s Put On A Musical!: How to Choose The Right Show for Your Theatre. I didn’t feel comfortable putting that on the list, so instead, I’m recommending a great book of his that was first published in 2013: Strippers, Showgirls and Sharks: A Very Opinionated History of the Broadway Musicals That Did Not Win the Tony Award.

It happens every year in early June. The American Theatre Wing hands out their Tony Awards to shows which have made it to Broadway and been fortunate enough to be nominated. There are a number of categories, but the universally acknowledged biggest prize in the bunch is the Tony that goes to the season’s Best Musical.

The envelope is opened. The winner is announced. And the inevitable screeching/Tweeting/Facebooking begins. “THAT won Best Musical?” (Insert expletives or emojis of choice.)

In Strippers, Showgirls and Sharks, Peter Filichia looks at many of the previous nominees for Best Musical which didn’t take home the much coveted Best Musical prize, including such shows as Gypsy (which lost in a tie between The Sound of Music and Fiorello!), Stephen Sondheim’s Follies (which was bested by a rock re-tuning of The Two Gentlemen of Verona), and West Side Story, where the Jets and Sharks got rolled over by the Wells Fargo Wagon that brought those Seventy-Six Trombones to the original cast of The Music Man.

Filichia, a former theatre critic and four time president of the Drama Desk, is a wealth of knowledge on the subject of musical theare and it is on full display here. If you have a die-hard lover of the Broadway musical on your list who finds themselves scratching their head on Tony Awards night or wondering to this day why the show they despise walked away with the coveted Best Musical award, this is the book for them.

In addition to the original cast recordings, books, and Lights of Broadway Show Cards previously mentioned in this year’s PopCult Gift Guide, you can also find a variety of great theatre gifts online at Playbill Magazine‘s online store, including t-shirts, snow globes, plush, and more! And if tickets to Hadestown or many of the other current Broadway hits aren’t in your budget, consider treating your theatre loving friend or family member to a local production by one of the many theatre companies in our area. They would love to see you in the audience not just at the holidays, but the whole year through.

That’s it for this year’s Curtain Call entries in The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide. Be sure to tune in to The AIR at 3 PM Wednesdays for the best of musical theatre, old and new. Happy holidays–and break a leg!

Gift Guide: Cherry Poppin’ Daddies Plus Radio Notes

While The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide is winding down this week The AIR is in holiday mode. We’re offering up Special Christmas episodes of Radio Free Charleston and The Swing Shift, plus a brand-new episode of NOISE BRIGADE with Steven Allen Adams. You may point your cursor over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay on this page, and  listen to this happy little embedded radio player…

Because we’re playing Ska and Swing on The AIR today, we’re going to interject our next pick in The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide here. The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies manage to straddle the worlds of retro Swing and Third Wave Ska, and because of that, we’re going to suggest that you get their new album, Bigger Life. This new collection of songs has Ska Tunes, Swing Tunes, and some that defy catagorization. I swear I even heard a bagpipe on one song. You can watch a couple of music videos from the album at this PopCult post.

As the band transitions away from the “Cherry Poppin'” aspect of their name, go buy the new album as a download, autographed CD or vinyl record, and give it to the Ska/Swing loving goofball on your holiday shopping list. It’s available any way you want it at their website.

We’ve played tracks from this album on The Swing Shift, Radio Free Charleston International and NOISE BRIGADE already. Come see what the fuss is all about.

And speaking of NOISE BRIGADE, it’s new at 2 PM Tuesday. See what Steven has in store for us…

NOISE BRIGADE 003

Bite me Bambi “Holiday Cheer”
Bite me Bambi “Crazy”
Big D and the Kids Table “Yellin’ in My Ear”
The Planet Smashers “Hookie”
The Forces of Evil “Angry Anthem”
J-Mi and Midi-D “Ghostbusters (The Real Og Mix)”
Call me Malcolm “All My Nameless Friends Keep Flying “Reason”
Hawthorne Heights “Hard to Breathe”
Masked Intruder “25 to Life”
Rancid “Xmas Eve (She Got Up and Left Me”
Hepcat “I Can’t Wait”
Deer Tick “Let’s All Go To The Bar”
Goldfinger “King For A Day”
Stacked Like Pancakes “Planetary”
Dance Hall Crashers “Just Like That”
No Doubt “Open the Gate”
No Doubt “Oi to the World”

NOISE BRIGADE will alternate weeks with Psychedelic Shack Tuesday’s at 2 PM, with replays Wednesday at 11 AM, Thursday at 8 AM and 10 PM, Friday at Noon, Saturday at 10 AM, Sunday at 4 PM and Monday at 7 PM.

Gift Guide: Indie Comics

Next up The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide recommends to you, independent comic books. These are for the more daring comic book reader on your list who may be looking for something a little less homongenous than what DC or Marvel are publishing these days, here’s a list of some fun comics that aren’t distributed through traditional means.

Of course, before we dive in, I need to remind you that you can still get great stuff from The Charlton Neo folks, whom we have plugged in previous years. Go check ’em out HERE.

The Charlton Arrow is one of the books that made me turn back to independent comics after years of not really paying enough attention. Growing up, while I was mainly a DC Comics guy, I loved finding cool, offbeat stuff like the Undergrounds, Star Reach, Atlas Comics, the original Charltons, Canada’s Comely Comics (which somehow wound up in Dunbar, West Virginia) and other cool independent stuff.

I was even lucky enough to find Steve Ditko’s Mr. A at Paperback Mart once. I love the variety of unbridled creativity when it’s not filtered through a corporate marketing machine.

That’s why I like telling my faithful readers about new independent comics, so you can get that rush of experiencing new stories told by new creators. Self-publishing and Kickstarter have been real game-changers over the past few years. Here’s some gems to get you started on your journey.

Atomic Pulp has some cool-looking comics out via Indy Planet. Space Crusaders looks like great old-school sci-fi fun, and head writer Christopher Mills has teamed up with some fantastic talents on books like Gravedigger. Check out his website HERE.

You may notice that Space Crusaders is reviving some classic characters, like Basil Wolverton’s Golden Age Spacehawk. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do with this.

Just as The Charlton Neo folks used Facebook to revive the spirit of Charlton Comics, so to the folks at the InDellAble Facebook Group have managed to revive the spirit of Dell Comics, with titles such as Popular Comics and Tales From The Tomb. These are loads of fun, and you can order them from Amazon. Titles available now are All-New Popular Comics #1, All-New Popular Comics #2, All-New Popular Comics #3, Cartoon Cuties #1, Cartoon Cuties #2, Tales From the Tomb #1 and InDELLiprose.

This is some great old-school comic bookery here. It’s loads of fun.

You can join the Facebook Group HERE for info on their upcoming projects.

Alterna Comics can be order through Diamond by any comic shop, and you can find them at Books a Million and other outlets, but I’m including them here because their comics have a wild spirit of funkiness behind them, and they’re cheap and printed on newsprint.

Finding Alterna Comics on a newstand is like, back in the day, when you’d go to get your DC and Marvel fix, and find Atlas Comics on the racks.

You can find out more about Alterna Comics by visiting their website.

That’s it for this gift suggestion. There is an entire world of indie comics out there, and in the coming year, with your PopCulteer’s eyes settling down a bit, I hope to tell you about many more of them.

 

Monday Morning Art: Churchy

 

Your PopCulteer has put his pencils aside temporarily (sort of), to bring you a digital impasto painting of a church in Charleston (I would tell you which, but I am incapable of ever remembering the name of a church). This started out as a still from my 2010 “Stark Charleston” animated film, but then I decided to try to draw it in pencil. However, my hands cramped up quick, so I scanned the unfinished piece and painted over that instead.  You do what you gotta do. It’s easier to push a mouse than hold a pencil, some days.

If you wish, you can click this image to see it bigger.

Meanwhile, over in radio-land, Monday on The AIR, our Monday Marathon presents eight hours more of holiday programming starting at 7 AM. You can expect to hear more blooks of holiday tunes over the coming weeks as we use the shortened Christmas season as an excuse to slack off and bring you special programming. At 3 PM we are expecting to bring you another encore episode of Prognosis from a couple of months ago with Herman Linte presenting quality progressive rock music. Then at 5 PM, it’s back to the holiday stuff.

You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

Also, some time after noon today you can expect one more entry in The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide. With our new plan for the gift guide, the plan is to continue to offer up a gift idea or three every day until this Friday. Wish me luck.

Gift Guide/Sunday Evening Video: Ringo Starr

Above you see the music video for “What’s My Name,” which coincidentally is the title track of the next pick in The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide, the 20th solo album by none other than Ringo Starr. This is a great gift for anyone who loves The Beatles, Ringo, or good old rock n’ roll in general.

The record is the latest in a series of heartfelt and homespun records that Starr has produced in his home studio and a distinguished, ever-changing yet often repeating cast of musical characters and friends playing along with Ringo. Those friends include Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Edgar Winter, Dave Stewart, Benmont Tench, Steve Lukather, Nathan East, Colin Hay, Richard Page, Warren Ham, Windy Wagner, Kari Kimmel and more. Let’s dive into the press release for more details…

With the help of the many familiar faces appearing on the album and in the credits, as well as Bruce Sugar recording and mixing, What’s My Name reflects Ringo desire to keep his homemade music feeling fresh and vital, whether by introducing new collaborators, like songwriter Sam Hollander, or by being more open to recording songs he has not written, co-written or in one case, even produced. “Sam Hollander’s people got to Bruce Grakal, my lawyer, and said, “Sam would like to say hi to Ringo.” So I told Sam to come over. After we wrote a song together, “Thank God For Music.” Then Sam called and said, “I think I may have another song,” so I said, “Let me hear it.” He had written it all. He had written a song out of things I said in an interview in Rolling Stone.  I loved the sentiment of it – he had one verse about spending too much time in hospitals, but I didn’t want to even sing that verse – the pity verse. Sam came over and I put the vocals on, and said, `You produce this one,’ but Sam said, “Well, you’re going to do drums.” So, I went in and played it through twice.” I like two takes. And he took “Better Days” away and did it.”

The new album’s title track and first single — “What’s My Name” — is a rousing anthem written by a returning All-Starr Band member this past summer, Colin Hay, that turns a familiar chant from Ringo’s live shows into a rousing rocker sure to be a future crowd-pleaser. “This was Colin Hay’s fourth time in the All-Starr Band, and a friend told me that, unbeknownst to me, Colin wrote a song years ago called, “What’s My Name.” I said, “Bring it up to the house and let’s hear it.” Later I heard, Colin couldn’t find it! He’d written the song down six years ago and put it in this pile or that pile.  But it ended up at the bottom of the drawer. So, Colin came over and played it for me, and I LOVED it. I loved the verses. I loved the sentiment. In all honesty, there’s not a lot of people who could get away with asking, “What’s my name?” in a song. If you’ve been to the show, you already know the title. I’m blessed that most things coming my way are peace and love. There are still always trials and tribulations. But I just feel in life, the sun shines this way. I’m blessed. I always have the same talk – an audience can be tortured. We give them everything we’ve got. We give each other everything we’ve got. And sometimes it’s not enough. But most nights it’s everything. I’ll play the best I can for you. And you play the best you can for me. That’s all I can ask.”

Yet the emotional centerpiece of What’s My Name is Starr’s deeply felt version of “Grow Old With Me” by his late great friend John Lennon. This is a performance for the ages, one made all the more powerful and moving when we realize that Ringo is blessed to be still living the dream of growing older with the one he loves in a way that his beloved friend John was imagining with Yoko when he wrote this song in the years before his tragic death.  As Starr rightly notes with a warm smile, “I’m still living that dream.”

For Ringo, the inspiration to record “Grow Old With Me” now came when he ran into noted record producer Jack Douglas who had produced John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy album, among other classic recordings.

“Jack asked if I ever heard The Bermuda Tapes, John’s demos from that time,” Ringo recalls. “And I had never heard all this. The idea that John was talking about me in that time before he died, well, I’m an emotional person. And I just loved this song. I sang it the best that I could. I do well up when I think of John this deeply. And I’ve done my best. We’ve done our best. The other good thing is that I really wanted Paul to play on it, and he said yes. Paul came over and he played bass and sings a little bit on this with me. So John’s on it in a way. I’m on it and Paul’s on it. It’s not a publicity stunt. This is just what I wanted. And the strings that Jack arranged for this track, if you really listen, they do one line from “Here Comes The Sun.” So in a way, it’s the four of us.”

What’s My Name is filled with other stand out collaborations and inspirations – starting with the opening track, the rocking “Gotta Get Up To Get Down”, which Starr co-wrote with his brother in law and long-time musical partner Joe Walsh. “I’ve been making music with Joe long before we became brothers, “Ringo said. “And we were having dinner with Klaus Voorman months ago, and for whatever, I said, “Well, you’ve got to get up to get down.” Joe and looked at each other and said, “We know that’s the title, so let’s write a song about it. “That’s how it is. Edgar Winter’s part on this track is just incredible. Edgar’s always incredible, but he out does himself in my book.” Additional tracks include: “It’s Not Love That You Want;” “Magic” co- written with his long time All-Starr Steve Lukather “I wrote that with Steve Lukather, who is magic. I made a mistake of telling Steve, “You’re my last best friend,” and so that how we’re live now. And he’s a beautiful guy. He sometimes puts out a hard shell, but he is so soulful. We work well together. And he’s even better when he’s not playing a thousand notes a minute – which he can. He’s the man. I love the man. Don’t tell him. Sometimes Steve’s so happy playing with me, I say, “You’re having too much fun.”

A cover of the classic “Money (That’s What I Want);” “Send Love, Spread Peace” and “Life Is Good,” which was inspired by the book written by the optimistic apparel company of the same name founded by Bert & John Jacobs. “I went to receive my honor at the Paley Center last year and I was wearing a hat that said, “Life is Good.” I liked the sentiment. And the guys from the Life is Good organization sent me t-shirts and a book, and Gary and I noticed that. And that’s how we wrote it. If we have a title, we just go.”

This is a fun album and a great gift idea for an old friend, from an old friend. Available in a variety of formats where ever music is sold.

I recommended this last year, but since Nickelodeon is debuting their live staging of it tonight (December 7) at 7 PM EST, The 2019 PopCult Gift Guide will once again recommend the Original Cast Recording of The SpongeBob Squarepants Musical. Much of the original cast will appear on tonight’s broadcast, so you’ll be able to bask in the glory of the music on the CD.

This CD came out in 2017, but I didn’t get to see the show until near the end of its Broadway run last year, so I am recommending this for any fan of the SpongeBob Squarepants cartoon, any fan of Broadway musicals, and any fan of just plain great music that happens to be a lot of fun.

SpongeBob Squarepants The Musical may well be the quintessential Broadway Musical experience. It has the perfect combination of music, cast, direction, art direction and story to make it stand head and shoulders above any of the classics of the stage. The only musical close to this in terms of over all quality is The Book of Mormon, and unlike that show, SpongeBob Squarepants is family-friendly.

Taking the familiar characters from the Nickledeon cartoon, and placing them in a compelling story about the potential end of the world works surprisingly well on stage, largely due to the efforts of the cast and the creative team.

The show is a spectacle in every sense of the word. The set design is brilliant, both figuratively and literally, and the costume design manages to perfectly capture the characters of the cartoon series without resorting to using mascot uniforms. However, on the album you can really focus on how amazing the music is.

The music is incredible and hangs together very well, despite being written, for the most part, by rock musicians with no prior stage experience. In addition to They Might Be Giants, composers include David Bowie and Brian Eno, Jonathan Coulton, Cyndi Lauper, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Yolanda Adams, Sara Bareilles, John Legend and members of Lady Antebellum, The Flaming Lips, Panic at the Disco, and The Plain White Ts.

SpongeBob Squarepants The Musical is a great way that you can experience this fantastic show. You ought to be able to find or order from any place that sells CDs, or you can order it from Amazon.

Check out a preview of what you’ll see tonight with this performance from the Kid’s Choice Awards…