The making of Sympathy for the Devil

If you are of my generation, you would very likely have heard this song by the Rolling Stones. Apart from simply being a terrific song in its own right, it made a sensation when it was released in 1968 because it featured Mick Jagger singing in the first person as the devil. This was at a time when people were pretty uptight about religious themes being used in pop culture and the band was accused of being satanists. If you have never heard the song, below is a live performance from that year with the master showman Mick Jagger doing his thing. It is amazing that he could keep this up for more than fifty years. As a bonus, you get to see John Lennon and Yoko One among the dancers.


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The madness of US gun policies

We have yet another mass shooting in which a young man killed eight people, six of them young Asian women at three different massage parlors in Georgia. He was apprehended that same day because his parents identified him from surveillance footage after the first shooting and told police that his vehicle had a tracking device and how they could track him down. He seemed to be on his way to Florida to commit more murders.
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Once again I am reminded that I am really old!

I was watching the new series on Netflix titled The Queen’s Gambit that deals with a female chess prodigy entering that world that is even now highly male-dominated but was even more so in the 1960s, the period in which the show is set.

In one episode, we see her walking though a college campus and the soundtrack plays the instrumental Classical Gas by guitarist Mason Williams. It is a great piece that I know well and as soon as I heard it, I said to myself “Ha! The writers made a mistake because that music came long after the time represented in the film.” But later I looked it up and it is from 1968. I had no idea so much time had passed since I first heard it,

Here’s the tune. It is really good.

Opera short takes

I have not recently been providing any opera musings. This is not because I have not been watching them. During this period, I watched Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, Verdi’s Tosca, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, and Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman. But I did not write about them because none of them really enthused me enough to write about them at any length, so here are a few short impressions of them all.
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Verdi’s Aida (2018)

I watched this streaming by the New York Metropolitan Opera company two nights ago and found it to be excellent.

Set in ancient Egypt, the story begins with Aida, an Ethiopian who had been captured in an earlier war between her country and Egypt, who is now a slave in the service of Amneris, the daughter of the pharaoh. She keeps secret from everyone that she is really the daughter of the Ethiopian king Amonasro. She and an Egyptian soldier Radames fall in love but then he is appointed commander of the Egyptian forces to challenge the Ethiopian forces who have regrouped and are invading Egypt. Aida is torn between her love for Radames and her desire to have her own nation not be defeated in war.
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Music nostalgia

One of the reasons we remember certain songs so fondly is because they kindle old memories, if not of specific events then of certain periods in our lives. There were plenty of songs that I enjoyed, especially in my teens and twenties when popular music played such a big part of my life. But one can never remember them at will though sometimes all it takes are the opening bars of a song to have the memory of that song come flooding back.

So I was delighted when I was sent this website called The Nostalgia Machine. Pick a year and then click on the ‘Hit Me’ button and it brings up some of the hit songs from that year. I just randomly chose 1967 and I found so many songs that I used to love that I had forgotten, such as Something Stupid by Frank and Nancy Sinatra.
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Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers (2017)

I watched this 2017 production by the New York City Metropolitan Opera company two nights ago and really enjoyed it. I thought that it was a superb production, well sung. I learned that the only other time that the New York Met had put on this little-performed opera was way back in 1918 featuring opera legend Enrico Caruso.

The story is set in a pearl diving fishing village in ancient Sri Lanka, though this production had people in modern dress, seemingly in the 1950s. It tells of two close friends Zurga and Nadir who both fall in love with the same woman Leila. They agree to preserve their friendship by not pursuing her any further. She in turn becomes a priestess that requires a promise to keep her face veiled from everyone and remain a virgin. Leila later becomes the priestess of the village where Zurga is the leader but he does not recognize the veiled woman. But Zurga becomes intensely jealous when he discovers that Leila and Nadir had indeed secretly pursued their love before their earlier parting, and that on meeting again after she became a priestess in the village, they still loved each other. When it is discovered that they met secretly, it causes a major uproar.
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Andrew Lloyd Webber to stream his musicals for free

Andrew Lloyd Webber will be streaming, free-of charge, one of his musicals for 48 hours every weekend, starting each Friday night. The first one, currently streaming, is a 2000 production of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond, Joan Collins, and Richard Attenborough.

It will be available to watch on the YouTube channel The Show Must Go On for 48 hours, starting on Friday at 7pm GMT. The series will continue every Friday for the next few weeks.

Next weekend’s musical will be Lloyd Webber’s 2012 production of Jesus Christ Superstar, starring Tim Minchin, Mel C. and Chris Moyles.

(Note that the time given is GMT (or UTC), which is one hour earlier than the current daylight savings time in the UK.)

I am not a huge fan of Webber but I did love the 1973 film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. This was perhaps because his some-time lyricist Tim Rice did a superb job with the lyrics for that show. I don’t know how well this version will compare musically with that film. But I do know that Webber is immensely popular and so I pass this information on for those who like his work and would like to see more.