Search This Blog


Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Class of '95 Reunion...and Films About Reunions

April 24, 2014

Okay, so this blog entry is going to be a little bit of a combination of a Monday Matinee and Thursday Diary entry.  Part of the reason why I did this is because I cancelled the actual movie discussion that was planned for this past Monday as I had something that I needed to get off of my chest.

But here's the thing.  I still wanted to do a diary entry because for whatever reason, April has been one of those months in which I have done a lot of sharing.  I don't really quite understand what the motivation is behind it, but I would wager a guess that this sharing is setting the stage for a big move.  What that big move is, I have absolutely no idea, but I think it's a bit of a precursor.

So, I decided to come up with the idea to combine a diary entry with a series of like-themed movies so that the movie discussion for this week wouldn't be a total loss.

Again, I'm not sure how this is going to work out because I'm basically flying by the seat of my pants as I type this...but hey, you know me.  I LOVE a challenge.

Okay, so the subject of the diary/movie discussion is all about class reunions.  And if you've been keeping up with the blog over the last few weeks, you might know that I have a bit of a reunion coming up within the next couple of months.

Sometime in June, a group of us from my grade school's graduating class (Class of '95, might I add) will be reuniting with each other for an afternoon of fun, reminiscing, and good times.  And, I'll readily admit that I did sign up to attend this reunion because I wanted to see how my elementary school buds were doing.

(Well, that, plus I am more open to attending an elementary school reunion than a high school reunion.  For obvious reasons.)

But it's funny how time can sometimes play tricks with your mind because quite recently, I was having second thoughts about going.

It wasn't because of the fact that there might be people who used to hate me back then and who still might have an axe to grind with me some 19, 20 years later.  Chances are, half of them wouldn't even know who I even was, and those who did know probably wouldn't even waste their time looking back on bad memories.  Admittedly, I did have a little bit of fear regarding that, but I quickly got over it.  After all, they were the ones with the problem...not me.

And, it certainly wasn't the fact that I absolutely hated my time in school that I didn't want to relive it.  Certainly there were some moments in which I did hate being at that school (pretty much all of 1987 and most of 1988) remains one of those periods), but for the most part, it wasn't all that bad.

No, the reason behind my sudden apprehension over the upcoming reunion?  Well, admittedly it has to do with my own insecurities.  I mean, I see pictures and read stories from my former classmates, and how they all have great career opportunities, and have gotten married and have had children.  While I am very interested in seeing how their lives have changed since we left eighth grade, it does kind of make me feel a little bit insecure, only because I really don't feel as though I have any interesting stories to share myself. 

I seems silly.  I do charity work, I have kept a blog going for three years, and have secured a full-time job in times in which full-time jobs seem to be dying a slow and painful death.  I have quite a bit going for me at this time.  I only wish I had more to share.

And, it got me thinking...what kind of an impression would I ultimately leave at this reunion.  When I graduated eighth grade, I was the fat and nerdy kid whose feelings got hurt too easily.  And, well...I'm still fat and nerdy - and my feelings sometimes still get hurt.  So, how could I make the best possible impression on people who I have not seen in almost two decades? 

What if I consult the world of film?  Surely there have been lots of films that have had to do with class reunions!  Maybe one of them will inspire me, and make me realize that reuniting with old classmates can feel so good!

No, wait.  That was Peaches and Herb.  Nevermind.

But seriously...there's lots of movies that showcase some wonderful class reunions.  How about the 1983 film "The Big Chill" in which a group of college classmates reunite with each other after fifteen years?  The movie itself was fantastic with a wonderful soundtrack of favourites from the late 1960s, and the entire film is a beautiful example of friends picking up where they last left off...and certainly, there are some touching moments, as well as some funny moments.

Of course, the only thing about "The Big Chill" is that the reunion takes place after the funeral of one of their classmates who actually committed suicide (TRUE FACT:  The friend was played by Kevin Costner, but his scenes were cut from the final version).  And, well, it wouldn't work, because the reunion I'm going to is built on a happier foundation.  So, yeah, we'll leave that alone.  Still, it's a fantastic movie.  Check it out., maybe "The Big Chill" is not the way to approach this reunion.  What about the 1986 film "Peggy Sue Got Married"?  You know, the one with Kathleen Turner going to her high school reunion, married to Nicolas Cage, and something happened in which she fainted and woke up in the year she graduated high school and is forced to relive that year...all...over...

...nah, forget about it.  1995 wasn't the greatest year to relive.  The clothes were bad, the music was bad, "Melrose Place" and "Roseanne" jumped the shark.  Yeah, who needs to relive 1995?

And, I think it's a safe bet to say that I probably shouldn't go into this reunion with the "National Lampoon's Class Reunion" film from '82 stuck in my mind.  With my luck, I'd transform into a younger version of Walter Baylor and end up stalking my former classmates one by one.

DISCLAIMER:  I would NEVER wish harm on any of my former classmates.  Not even the ones who bullied me.  Not even the abusive teacher I had from first grade...well, aside from a paper cut.  Paper cuts really hurt.

1997's "Grosse Pointe Blank" is another reunion movie that wouldn't quite fit with the mood that I wish to showcase at this reunion either.  After all, I'm not a former hitman, and I'm pretty sure that if I had a therapist, they wouldn't advise me to go to a high school reunion to ease my murderous rages.  Because as I previously established, I don't have these rages.

Sigh...what's left?

Oh, goody..."Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" from 1997.  Wonderful.  A movie that features two women who don't exactly have the greatest sense of self, and who seem to have about as much brain power as a Christmas tree bulb.  Surely I can't find anything to relate to in this film...can I?

Hmmm...actually, yes.  I can.

Romy and Michele are a lot like me in the sense that neither one of them felt like they accomplished anything meaningful in their lives.  Sure, they worked at a boutique and had an immaculate (if not unique) sense of style, but they always compared themselves to the people who were in the A-group...successful, pretty, gorgeous women who were destined to make it in the world.

Funny thing is, they got to the reunion and found that while they have changed and matured, the girls in the A-group were still as snotty and catty as ever.  And funnily enough, none of them seemed to be all that happy with their lives.  I still cheer over Romy and Michele's speech to the most vapid, vicious girl of the group, letting her know exactly what they thought of her.  In fact, let's see if I can find that moment.

And, you know...I should try to emulate Romy and Michele.  No, I won't put on a shiny short dress (trust me, nobody wants to see THAT).  But I will just try to have as much fun as I can at the reunion, and if anyone does come at me, trying to make me feel inferior...well, I really don't give a flying @#$% what they think!

Well, at least I SHOULDN'T anyway.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Breaker High

Do you want to know how long it has been since I actually did a "Whatever Wednesday" entry?  Too long!

Truth be told, this month has been kind of a wacky and weird one as far as keeping up with the regular schedule of the blog.  I've done a lot of personal reflecting and I've had some really rough days lately which have induced a lot of stress-induced headaches.  Of course, now that I've pinpointed where my stress levels are coming from, I can begin to try and find a way to fix them and move on from it.  But, like anything else in the world, things aren't always so simple.

Of course, the fact that I'm allowing myself to be more flexible in this blog makes me realize that nothing is set in stone...and maybe after nearly three years, it's time to shake things up.  All I can say about that statement is stay tuned next month.

For now, while it lasts, let's enjoy this edition of the Whatever Wednesday entry.  And, for today's entry, we're going to be taking a look at a television series, as I drew the MRS. PEACOCK card.

But here's the thing.  I have never really been the type of person who has the best timing. 

By now, I'm sure that you've heard about the devastating ferry boat crash near South Korea in which hundreds of people are still missing and feared dead.  It's such an unimaginable thing to think about, and from all reports coming out of the media, it appears as though the crew didn't exactly act in their passengers best interests.  My heart definitely goes out to the victims and their families who must be going through so, so much.

So, when I came up with the idea to do a television feature on a show that largely took place on a gigantic boat, I thought to myself...should I even be doing a blog on a show like that given the circumstances?

Well, I thought about it, and in the end, I decided to go through with my original plan.  For one, I think it should be stressed that while the boat tragedy in South Korea was a horrible incident, this is not the norm.  Boat travel is still very safe, and in fact, I've always wanted to know what it would be like to take a cruise.  An extended cruise.

I mean, just think about it for a second.  Part of the reason why I've thought about going on some sort of cruise is because of the fact that I could spend a week or two just enjoying myself not having to worry about anything or anyone...well, aside from having the boat crash into something and tipping over that is.  But I think that risk factors aside, I think it would be something that I would probably enjoy.  It doesn't even have to be one of those singles cruises or anything like that - although I would admittedly feel "singled out" if I were the only one on the boat without a significant other.  Alas, that's another issue altogether that I won't discuss.

Of course, that's just for a couple of weeks.  Could you imagine spending a total of nine months on a cruise ship?  For instance, if you were a high school student who was chosen to attend a year of school on a cruise ship going around the world, docking at ports all over the world every other week where you would get a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience, would you jump at the chance?  I know I certainly would.  Heck, given my own experiences in secondary school, I'd board that cruise ship in a heartbeat and not come back until graduation!

Anyway, the reason why I bring up this scenario is because there was once a show that aired on television that featured this very plot.  Imagine watching eight teenagers cruising along the oceans of the world learning about cultures, life lessons, and a smattering of algebra, geometry, history, and biology in between.

Well, for a brief period between 1997 and 1998, we could.  In fact, I seem to recall that during that time, it aired literally twenty-two times a day!

I'm not exaggerating on that either.  With the show airing on UPN (now the CW), YTV, and countless other channels, it was all over the place.  I think it may have even aired in the same time block on five different channels at the peak of its popularity, making channel surfing a challenge.

The show is "Breaker High", and although it only technically ran for six months between September 1997 and March 1998, it seemed like much longer.

As I said before, it aired twenty-two times a day at its peak.  Not to mention that reruns of the show aired for almost ten years after its last original episode aired.  It was as if the teens in the show spent a whole decade on that damned boat!

(Of course...only three of the eight actors on the show were actually teenagers at the time this show was filmed, so I suppose that it only SEEMED like it.)

So, the basic premise of the show is what exactly would happen if you combined "Saved By The Bell" and "The Love Boat".  We follow the lives of eight teens who are studying in a school program aboard a cruise ship.  It's basically the entire plot of "The Suite Life On Deck" only set in the 1990s.

Who are these teens?  Well, here's a picture of the lot of them below.  Don't worry.  I'll introduce you to them below.

Okay, so from left to right, we have Ashley (Terri Conn), Alex (Kyle Alisharan), Max (Scott Vickaryous), Jimmy (Tyler Labine), Tamira (Rachel Wilson), Cassidy (Wendi Kenya), Denise (Persia White), and Sean (Ryan Gosling).  Some of these names, you may know...others you probably don't.  Don't worry...I'll do one of those "Where Are They Now" features at the end of this entry.

Now, if every single student at "Breaker High" looked the same, acted the same, and dressed the same, it would make for a very boring experience.  Each student admittedly represented a different stereotype that you might see in a standard high school setting.

Ashley, for instance was a spoiled, Southern belle who never left her room without her hair properly coiffed, her nails perfectly done, and wearing only the finest clothing that money could buy.  She could be completely annoying, but had a good heart.  Alex was the token jock and always could be found in storylines that featured his athletic ability.  Sean was the wannabe player who tried his best to charm the ladies, but in actuality was a nerd, while his sidekick Jimmy was the class clown who always seemed to stir up mischief.

Cassidy was similar to Alex in that she was also very athletic, and she certainly played the role of tomboy very convincingly.  Every teen show has to have a brainiac bookworm type character, and Denise was absolutely the school's grade grind.  Tamira was just happy spreading sunshine and rainbows all throughout the ship, and I suppose if Breaker High needed a "hippie", Tamira would epitomize that definition completely.

Now, Max...Max is a different sort of character altogether.  I think Max is the only character who temporarily dropped out of "Breaker High" only to come back again.  The reason?  Well, when your father happens to be the captain of the whole ship (played by Andrew Airlie), it tended to make for some interesting conflict.  I don't even know if the father-son relationship ever became close as I don't even remember a single episode plotline, but from what I do recall, it did seem to be a focal point of the series.

Other cast members were the staff of the actual ship who made cameo appearances.  Anne Openshaw played the school teacher of the boat, Ms. Mitchell.  In the role of the ship's activities director was Richard Ian Cox, who played the role of the manic Tony Gifford.  And of course, every ship has to have a this case, actor Bernard Cuffling stepped into the role.

Now, many of the adventures on "Breaker High" took place on the ship itself, but there were some instances in which the boat would dock at certain places, leaving the kids to explore various countries such as Italy and Scotland. 

(Of course, since the budget for "Breaker High" was very small, they didn't actually film in those countries.  They didn't even film on a boat!  All the episodes were taped on a soundstage in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.)

Still, it was an interesting idea for a show.  And, just to refresh your memory about this program, here's a couple of episodes that I found of the program.  Just click the links below (which are actually divided into two parts.  For part one, click the episode number, part two, click the title).


Okay, so now comes the fun part.  What have the teen cast members of "Breaker High" done since?  I'll start from low profile to high profile.

Kyle Alisharan:  His last credit is as an extra in the 2006 film "Snakes on a Plane".

Scott Vickaryous:  Aside from doing guest roles on television projects, he hasn't really had any breakout parts.

Wendi Kenya:  Had a starring role in the Peter Engel produced "Malibu, CA", and has appeared in some films in bit parts.

Rachel Wilson:  Has done voice work for cartoons such as "Total Drama", and is a star on Canadian television, working on "Bomb Girls" and "Republic of Doyle"

Terri Conn:  She's mostly been acting on soap operas since leaving "Breaker High".  She was on "As The World Turns" for ten years playing Katie Peretti, and spent another year on "One Life To Live" playing the role of Aubrey Wentworth.

Persia White:  She most recently appeared in "The Vampire Diaries" in the role of Abby Bennett Wilson, and also enjoyed an eight year run on the sitcom "Girlfriends" playing Lynn Ann Searcy.

Tyler Labine:  He's had his string of successes over the years, appearing in "Sons of Tucson", "Mad Love", and "Animal Practice".  He has also filmed several movies, and performed a voice on "Monsters University".

Ryan Gosling:  Do I even NEED to explain the success he's had since "Breaker High"?  Let's see..."The Notebook", "Half Nelson", "Crazy, Stupid, Love", "The Place Beyond The Pines", etc, etc, etc...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April 22, 1970

It's time for another edition of the Tuesday Timeline, and this week, we're going back in time to a pivotal day in history.  A day that many people have celebrated and continue to celebrate years after its creation.

But before we go ahead with that discussion, I think that it's time that we look back on other happenings on this, the twenty-second day of April.

So, let's start with notable events!

1519 - Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez establishes a settlement at Veracruz, Mexico

1864 - U.S. Congress passes the Coinage Act of 1864 which mandates the inclusion of "In God We Trust" on every piece of American currency

1876 - The first ever National League baseball game is played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1889 - Thousands of people rush to claim land in the Land Run of 1889 which swells the populations of Guthrie and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to 10,000 people

1906 - Actor Eddie Albert (d. 2005) is born in Rock Island, Illinois

1912 - The official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union - "Pravda" - begins publication

1923 - Two legends are born on this date; film actress Bettie Page (d. 2008), and television producer Aaron Spelling (d. 2006)

1930 - The London Navel Treaty is signed by the United Kingdom, United States, and Japan

1945 - A revolt takes place at Jasenovac concentration camp which sees 520 people killed and 80 escape, while elsewhere Adolf Hitler admits defeat in his underground bunker after learning that Soviet Forces took control of Eberswalde

1954 - Live coverage of the Army-McCarthy Hearings

1969 - British yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston becomes the first sailor to make a solo non-stop circumnavigation of the world

1972 - Increased use of bombing by American forces during the Vietnam War sparks protest rallies in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City

1977 - The first use of optical fiber is used to carry live telephone traffic

1980 - American actress/singer Jane Froman passes away at the age of 72

1992 - Fifteen thousand are left homeless and 206 people are killed following a massive explosion in Guadalajara, Mexico

1994 - Former President of the United States, Richard Milhous Nixon, dies at the age of 81

1996 - Journalist/author Erma Bombeck dies at the age of 69

1998 - Disney's Animal Kingdom opens its doors at Walt Disney World

2000 - Federal agents seize six-year-old Elian Gonzalez from his relative's home in Miami, Florida in a pre-dawn raid

2002 - Former porn actress Linda Lovelace dies from injuries sustained in an automobile accident at the age of 53

2004 - Two fuel trains collide with each other in Ryongchon, North Korea, killing at least 150 people

I also want to take the opportunity to bestow birthday wishes to the following famous faces; William Jay Smith, Charlotte Rae, Jack Nicholson, Mel Carter, Ann Mitchell, Janet Evanovich, John Waters, Larry Groce, Peter Frampton, Paul Carrack, Tom Griswold, Ken Olandt, Catherine Mary Stewart, Ryan Stiles, Sean Lock, Chris Makepeace, Lauri Hendler, Dana Barron, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Sheryl Lee, Sherri Shepherd, Ingo Rademacher, Willie Robertson, Dan Cloutier, Daniel Johns, Cassidy Freeman, Francis Capra, Michelle Ryan, Amber Heard, and Cherise Donovan.

My, my...what a lot of celebrity birthdays!

And, well...I guess in some ways you could consider today's Tuesday Timeline date a day that also celebrates life. 

We're taking a trip back to April 22, 1970.

I see some of you nodding your heads (well, not really, but just go with it) because you probably know exactly what I am going to be talking about in this blog entry.  But for those of you who don't, what I can reveal is that 43 years ago, an event took place that has since become a global phenomenon.  Since the very first event in 1970, a reported 192 countries all over the world take part in it, and over the last 44 years, people and organizations have really made it a mission to preserve the planet so that generations can continue to enjoy it.

And, the fact that I've highlighted several pieces in this blog in green may serve as a bit of a hint.

Today happens to be "Earth Day".  And April 22, 1970 marked the very first time that "Earth Day" was observed.  Would you believe that there's even an anthem devoted to Earth Day?  Here's the video lyrics below...and I'll incorporate the lyrics to the anthem underneath - just to get us all in the mood.

Joyful joyful we adore our Earth in all its wonderment
Simple gifts of nature that all join into a paradise
Now we must resolve to protect her
Show her our love throughout all time
With our gentle hand and touch
We make our home a newborn world
Now we must resolve to protect her
Show her our love throughout all time
With our gentle hand and touch
We make our home a newborn world

How's that for interesting?  So, how did Earth Day come to be a thing?

Well, as you already know, the first Earth Day was held in 1970.  And, you can thank peace activist John McConnell for getting the ball rolling!

In 1969, McConnell was attending the UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) Conference in San Francisco, California, and he proposed the idea for what would come to be known as Earth Day.  He suggested a day in which people honoured the Earth, and promoted peace within nations, and UNESCO certainly felt that the idea was a good one.  And McConnell even had a date in which this day was to take place.  March 21, 1970 - coinciding with the first day of Spring.  It was sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell, and was signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations.

So, why is it that we celebrate Earth Day on April 22?

Well, as it turned out, a separate day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in...which was scheduled on April 22, 1970.  This caused Nelson to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, and marked April 22 as the official Earth Day in the United States.

Other countries would soon follow in their own separate observances of Earth Day, and at first, they were all held on different days other than April.  Canada's first Earth Day, for example, was held on September 11, 1980 - nearly ten and a half years after the first Earth Day held in the United States.

But it really wasn't until the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day that it really became a global concept.

And, I definitely remember there being a huge interest in environmental protection right around 1990 - the twentieth year of Earth Day.  I was just about winding down third grade, and it seemed to me that every week, we would have some sort of lesson on environmental protection.  Our town's recycling program kicked off in 1990 with the blue box program, and I remember attending a series of workshops the following year that focused entirely on environmental protection and ways we can fight pollution. 

Well, on April 22, 1990, an estimated 200 million people across 141 different countries got together and brought Earth Day awareness on a global stage for the day's twentieth year.  As it turns out, my town wasn't the only place to kick off a recycling program in 1990.  1990 was the year in which millions of people began abiding by the three NEW R's.  Reduce.  Reuse.  Recycle.  The 20th anniversary of the day was also a success in part to stronger marketing tools, more access to television and radio, and corporations all doing their part to reduce waste in an effort to protect the planet.

By the time that Earth Day celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in April 2000, the Internet was firmly in place, and Earth Day activities could be accessed by even more people than before. 

TRIVIA:  One of the largest celebrations of Earth Day to date was on the day's thirty-seventh anniversary on April 22, 2007.  Some of the larger cities that joined together to promote planet sustainability included London, New York City, Madrid, Manila, Kiev, and Caracas.

These days, Earth Day is still considered to be an important day on the calendar for world preservation.  After all, without a planet, we have no home, right?  And, granted, while I am not exactly the most environmentally conscious person in the world (at least not as much as Jessie Spano from "Saved By The Bell", who actually spent Cut Day launching a protest against styrofoam cups), I do feel that Earth Day is a day that still needs to be celebrated.  After all, while I think we've come a long way in trying to protect our world, there's still a lot more that can be done.

That's why I decided to make the Tuesday Timeline all about Earth Day.  It's this blogger's way of raising awareness for a worthy cause.

Happy Earth Day, everyone.  And, remember, you can practice Earth Day customs any day of the year - not just April 22!

Monday, April 21, 2014

In Between The Generations...A Special Monday Vlog

SPECIAL BULLETIN:  We interrupt this scheduled Monday Matinee entry for today so that we can bring you this totally unexpected, spur of the moment video blog instead.  Mind you, you don't HAVE to watch this video blog if you don't want to.  If you'd rather watch this episode of "Mrs. Brown's Boys" instead, by all means, click below.

Ah...still here, are we?  Cool.  I'll readily admit that this edition of the video blog will also have some written components to it, and it's also a deeply personal piece.

However, I want to stress one thing here before I continue.  I don't really blame anyone for the words that I am about to type/speak.  If anyone is to blame, I am.  But let's just say that when it comes down to how I feel about myself, I've been sort of in a funk lately.  And, ultimately while I know that I am the only one who can really help myself...I also find it one of the most challenging things to do.

April 21, 2014

Here's a little self-biographical sketch about myself that I think you should know about me before I post this edition of the special Monday Video Blog.  I know some of you were expecting a discussion about movies today, but I've decided to switch things up a bit and will post a movie entry later on in the week.  I explain part of the reason why within the video blog that accompanies this diary entry. 

But anyway, on with the sketch. 

I am what you consider to be in between generations.  I'm too young to be part of Generation X, but a little too old to be a part of the Millennial Generation.  I am what you consider to be a part of a "lost generation" of sorts.  Which would be fine if I had the opportunity to hang around people who are of like age.

But then again, as you'll see in this video...I kind of missed the boat on that.  I'll explain what I mean after the video.  I kind of got cut off towards the end.

Okay, so basically as I was saying, in between the years 1975 and 1986, we basically had only one baby born within my immediate family and extended family.

That baby was myself.

And, I gotta tell you, I didn't like it at all.  I always felt as though the timing of my birth was completely off.  Not that 1981 wasn't a great year to be was.  I just kind of wish that there were other people who were close to my age in my family that I could have hung around.  It certainly would have made adjusting to kids my own age a lot easier, and I may not have had such a hard time dealing with bullying in school had I had someone who was related to me in school at the same time as I attended. 

And certainly, it would have made the attending of family functions seem a lot easier.  Because there was nobody my own age around, I always found it really hard to relate to everyone else in the room.  They were either too old or too young.  So, as a result, I guess I spent a lot of time by myself because I felt as though I couldn't initiate a conversation with people, even though they were members of my own family.

And again, it's not their fault.  They couldn't help when they were born.

At the same time, I suppose it makes me understand why I somehow have developed a sense of why I have become a loner.  Well, that, plus I am the only single person in my whole family...which is another issue altogether, but sort of related in a way.  But again...that's not anyone else's fault but my own.

I don't know...I guess somewhere along the way, I tried so hard to carve my own identity within my family that I kind of became incapable of initiating conversation with not just family members, but anyone.  It was just too easy to close off the world and retreat in my own little cocoon.

Problem is...cocoons can be lonely little places.  And, I'm having trouble finding my inner butterfly.

Yeah, that didn't sound lame...did it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Sweet Lord, He's So Fine...or Maybe Not...

First things first.

I want to take the opportunity to wish everybody out there in the world who celebrates it a very happy Easter Sunday!  Whether you're at church observing the religious aspects of the holiday, or whether you're outside hunting for brightly coloured eggs hidden all over your backyard, I hope you have a wonderful day.  And more importantly, I am hoping that you spend the holiday with the people who love you and understand you.  After all, sharing a two pound chocolate bunny is much more fun when you split it with someone you love.

Well...okay, I suppose you COULD share it with someone you don't love.  Just break it apart in a way that nets you the bigger piece.

Anyway, whatever you do, I hope you have a lot of fun, and that you spend the day safely.

Unfortunately, I don't have a Sunday Jukebox song to present that has anything to do with Easter.  I really have my doubts that Cher believed in life after Cadbury Creme Eggs, nor do I believe that the Smashing Pumpkins ever wrote a song about Marshmallow Peeps.  Though, I concur that if such a song did exist, it would be awesome.

No, instead we're going to be talking about a song that topped the Billboard charts over FIFTY years ago.  It's a song by an all-girl group from The Bronx.  It's a song that was not only the group's first number one hit, but also their very first single overall!  And it's also a song that became part of a plagiarism investigation - though to make it absolutely clear, this group was not the one who did the plagiarizing.

Oh, I bet you're wondering what this song is, aren't you?  Well, here it is...a song that topped the charts some fifty-one years ago!

ARTIST: The Chiffons
SONG:  He's So Fine
ALBUM:  He's So Fine
DATE RELEASED:  December 1962

Now, before we go ahead with the plagiarism controversy that surrounded this song, why don't we talk a little bit about the band that called themselves The Chiffons, shall we?

When The Chiffons first formed in 1960, they were originally a trio of high school friends from The Bronx's James Monroe High School - Judy Craig, Patricia Bennett, and Barbara Lee.  The group would sing together for two years before adding a fourth member to their line-up, Sylvia Peterson.

TRIVIA:  Peterson was hired at the suggestion of Ronald Mack, a songwriter who would be credited for many of The Chiffons' earliest hits.  It ended up being a good decision.  After all, Peterson had been in the business since her early teens, singing with Little Jimmy and the Tops.

And since I brought up Ronald Mack already, I figure that I should probably mention that Mack was the man responsible for penning The Chiffons' first hit, "He's So Fine".

As it so happened, Mack became acquainted with the group after hearing the group singing inside their school cafeteria and with the group's blessings not only became The Chiffons' songwriter, but their manager as well.

With assistance from another band, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" singers The Tokens (they provided the background music for "He's So Fine"), The Chiffons managed to record two singles..."He's So Fine", and "Oh, My Lover".

Now would you believe that originally the single "Oh, My Lover" was believed to be the bigger hit of the two songs and almost became the band's first release?  Had it not been for the catchy "doo-lang, doo-lang, doo-lang" ditty that were recorded as backing vocals for the chorus, it's entirely possible that "He's So Fine" could have been completely overlooked.  Nevertheless, the band made the decision that they would release "He's So Fine" first.  And that decision almost caused the band to never become heard in the first place.

Would you believe that a total of ten record labels rejected the single?  Ten record labels stating that the song was "too trite" and "too simple".  It wasn't until Laurie Records expressed interest in the single that the eleventh time became the charm.

And, boy, what charm that single had!

The song was released in the final few weeks of December 1962.  As the new year dawned, the single began to slowly climb the Billboard Charts.  By March of 1963, it had reached the Top 10, and on March 30, 1963, the single topped the charts for four weeks before being dethroned in late April by Little Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him".

And, this was by far not the only single to chart well for The Chiffons.  Other singles that the band had that were very successful included "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", "One Fine Day", "It's My Party", and "My Boyfriend's Back".  I'm sure that most of you have heard of at least one of these songs throughout your lives.  I think almost every song has been used in the soundtracks of at least one movie.

But now here's where the whole plagiarism scandal comes into play.  And it takes place approximately eight and a half years after "He's So Fine" was released on the charts.

In 1970, The Beatles famously split up after playing together as a band for nearly a decade.  And, naturally, all four Beatles released solo albums.  And George Harrison's very first solo hit happened to be this classic from late 1970.  Now, I really want you to listen to this song closely and compare it to The Chiffons smash from 1962.  Notice any similarities?

ARTIST:  George Harrison
SONG:  My Sweet Lord
ALBUM:  All Things Must Pass
DATE RELEASED:  November 23, 1970

Okay, so there's definitely one similarity that I can point out.  Both songs by The Chiffons and George Harrison reached #1, and both stayed at #1 for the same amount of time.  Four weeks.

Oh, and there's also the fact that both songs sounded extremely similar to each other.  I mean, George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" sounded quite a lot like "He's So Fine", only without the doo-lang, doo-lang, doo-lang.

According to The Chiffons and Bright Tunes Music Corporation, it sounded too similar for it to be a coincidence.

Despite Harrison's insistence that he never aimed to plagiarize any song by The Chiffons, a lawsuit was filed in January 1971 - around the same time that "My Sweet Lord" was topping the charts.  It would take another five years before the trial would commence, beginning in 1976...but before that trial began, both The Chiffons and George Harrison would take pot shots at each other through their gifts of music.

Now, depending on what you believe, you might think that The Chiffons delivered the first blow, as in 1975, they actually had the cojones to record their own version of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" as a way of sending a message of sorts.  And would you believe that I happened to find a copy of this release on YouTube?  Have a listen.

Okay, that was peculiar...and awkward.  And even more awkward was the fact that George Harrison got wind of The Chiffons' cover, and recorded an answer song of his own.

Dang.  Stuff just got real.

Anyway, George Harrison's "This Song" was released in late 1976, immediately after Harrison spent an entire week inside of a New York City courtroom pleading his case and defending himself against the allegations of plagiarism.  It was a valiant effort on Harrison's part, but unfortunately, it was all for naught.  He was found guilty of "subconscious plagiarism" and he was ordered to pay nearly $1.6 million in damages.  The lawsuit caused Harrison to nearly give up on songwriting entirely, as he had felt too paranoid to consider such a thing.  But of course, as we all well know, by the time the late 1980s came along he was involved in both solo projects and with his side project, "The Traveling Wilburys".  And even better news for Harrison.  Because George Harrison's one-time manager Allen Kline himself became a plaintiff by virtue by purchasing Bright Tunes - the company that held the rights to "He's So Fine" - in 1978.  Because of this, Harrison was no longer forced to pay the $1.6 million.  All he really had to do was buy Bright Tunes from Allen for the same amount that Allen paid for the company - a steal at just over half a million dollars - everything became hunky dory, though it would take another ten years of litigation before the conflict was finally dropped.

The epilogue?  Well, we know that Harrison continued to write and record music until his death from cancer in November 2001.  As for The Chiffons, the band line-up basically collapsed in the late 1960s following the departures of Judy Craig and Sylvia Peterson, but over the next two decades, various line-ups of one or more of the original Chiffons would perform.  In May 1992, Barbara Lee passed away from a heart attack, and soon after, Sylvia and Patricia Bennett would retire from the group, leaving Judy Craig and her daughter to carry on The Chiffons name.

And now you know the story behind the My Sweet Lord/He's So Fine scandal.  After reading the whole story, whose side are you on?