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October 22, 1978 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1978-10-22

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All Michael Cooney is saying,
is give folk a chance

The Michigan Daily-Sunday, October 22, 1978-Page ;
Live.!It's Second City

To start his second set at the Ark on
Friday night, Michael Cooney in-
troduced himself as the man about
whom Bob Dylan once said "Who?" It's
ture that the thirty-four year old
troubador has been touring and per-
forming for years, delighting audiences
wherever he goes, and still only a han-
dful of people seem to know who he'is.
"I could be much more famous," he
says confidently, "but I really don't
want it that way. I am terribly uncom-
fortable with the idea of cutting recor-
ds: The artificial link with the audience
bothers me because I like to sing to
AND, NOT surprisingly, 'the people
like to have Michael Cooney sing to
them. His concerts are always uplifting
affairs filled with humourous songs,
rare folk melodies, and powerfully
played instrumentals. He's been en-
chanting music lovers at the Ark for
nine years now, and there's not much
fresh that can be said about Friday's
performance. As he tells off-the-cuff
stories about his friends or tangles his
fingers through solos on the banjo,
guitar, ukelele, or concertina, you can
read the joy in his face. He loves his
music intensely and handles himself
well in front of an audience.
"I really want people to like what I'm
doing, 'cause it's my job to make 'em
enjoy themselves," he said between
sets. "I think of myself as bridging a
gap between the songs and performers
that I like and those that the people in
the audience like. Some of my favorite
musicians are people you've never
heard of. They don't play music for a
living, and that gives them artistic
freedom. Many people in this country
hve a very narrow set of criteria for
what they enjoy in music, and I try to
give them some new ideas. In that way,
folk's a bit like opera. It takes a lot of
listening to get so you like or can
pretend you like opera, because very
few people appreciate it the first time
"I CAN understand the immediate
reaction to old time traditional music
that a lot of people have because it was
that way with me too," Cooney says, as
he dips his hands into the popcorn bowl.
"Like so many people, I got,started off
liking the Kingston Trio. Then I went to
the library where I got records out of
the folk music bin where they had all
these really weird records. Wow! Old
guys with terrible voices singing dumb
songs! It took me a long time to realize
that it was my system of values which
was off, because those old guys were
great. Sure they had scratchy voices,
but they hit the notes they had to hit and
sang with an authority and feeling
which of course would have been lost if
they crooned like Mel Torme.
"There is a problem also with the
definition of folk music today. Walk
down the street and ask people what
they think folk music is, and you'll get
incredibly different answers. In fact,
these days, almost every artist who
plays as a single and writes his own
songs gets called folk. I heard on the
radio 'Carole King, folksinger,' the
other day, and realized that we need
more labels."
CONNEY USED to call himself a
folksinger, but now it's "singer of old
songs." He said, "I was going to call
myself a traditional musician until I
heard a girl say 'I wrote a traditonal
song the other day,' and realized I still
wasn't safe.
"What I believe and want to com-
municate is that all types of music are
beautiful if only we'll take the time to
listen. Folklorists will go over to
Ireland and record gypsy women out in
the fields singing songs generations and
generations old, and then put out a
record. What they don't tell you is that
between ethnic ballads, these women
sing pop music, show tunes, and
American songs. It's important to

realize the many different ways which
music can give great pleasure. It's sort
of sad that people won't give more
things a chance."
THOUGH, IN A WAY, it's good for
Cooney that more people haven't given
his kind of music a chance. "Folk music
at its best is kitchen music, performers
and small audiences sitting around
together," he says. "I have a running
struggle with the managements at
places where I play to keep the house
lights up so I can see the people I'm'
singing to. To me a big audience means
a more shallow operation."
Though he prefers the smaller
crowds, Cooney performs often enough
I A / j 1.1z (2n

that he makes a very handsome living.
"If I didn't have seven kids, I'd be a
rich man," he says, admitting that he's
gotten the breaks when other perfor-
mers with great talent have labored in
relative obscurity.
Cooney had a few problems
throughout the evening keeping his in-
struments in tune, and didn't always
allow himself the time to get everything
just right before beginning. There was
also a depressing series of gaffs on the
concertina, a tricky instrument which
Cooney candidly admitted he "should
have practiced." However, once a per-
former has the audience on his side the
way Cooney did on Friday night and,
indeed, always seems to, the smaller
mistakes scarcely detract at all from
the mood of the evening.
THE YOUTHFUL looking Cooney
will no doubt keep right on stopping at
coffeehouses, bars, and small concert
halls across the country, playing
"songs so bad they're good," and
ballads which are "ludicrous versions
of what were once beautiful stories."
Bob Dylan no doubt will continue to say

"Who?" at the mention of Michael's
name, even if he hears the wicked
parody Cooney played of Dylan on
Friday. "It'll keep coming back to the
Ark, because the Ark is what folk is all
about," Cooney claims. "When we
move out of this kind of environment,
we're moving away from my music.
For me, concerts here in Ann Arbor are
very special, and I'm not just sayng
that. Come wake me up in the dead of
night sometime and ask me where my
favorite place to play is, and I'll tell you
'The Ark."'

On stage, they are a bubbly,
energized improvisational troupe doing
crazy skits with zest. Off stage, they are
professionals working rigorously at a
craft - the art of comedy - and their
performances evidence their under-
standing of the potential of im-
provisation. They are called Second
City, a Chicago-based ensemble of
comic writer-actors that has spawned
such talents as Nichols and May, Avery
Schreiber, and Saturday Night Live's
Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, John
Belushi, and Bill Murray.
The Second City company has three
subgroups: one producees the syn-
dicated TV show; one resides in
Chicago; and ,one works the national
touring circuit. The last of these is in
Manchester this weekend, performing
at the Black Sheep Repertory Theater,
and Friday night, the seven member
unit put on a tight and well-organized
Comedy became a meaningful social
statement as the troupe examined some
prominent social issues: the middle
class ethic, organized religion,
homosexuality, and, of course,
television news.

David Byrne,

Qu 'est-ce que

THEY PRESENTED a group of an-.
noncers on the evening news in a man-
ner not unlike the Saturday Night crew.
One reports that the sun has a super-
nova-ed, and the earth will be blown up
in 81/2 minutes. They are all emotionally
destroyed by this news, revealing per-
sonal secrets to the TV audience. It is
not until after the report is re-read, at
the show's closing, that we discover the
truth: the Earth was not planning to
self-destruct for 8 /milleniums!
The group has a sharp eye for irony
and satire, and hits close to home on a
number of topics. Middle America gets
jabbed at in a variety of situations. The
players present "a sunny balcony in
Greece," then the contrast - two mid-
dle-aged American tourists thoroughly
bored with all the pleasures of the
foreign country. Looking out the win-
dow of the Greek Holiday Inn, the
audience swept into their imaginary
world. This is the trip of a lifetime and
with the familiar green striped towels
the tourists can't go wrong - these
motels are a chain."
THIS couple detests the authentic food,,
("why, can you believe-they even put the
lamb on the Egg McMuffin?"). They sit
bored, complaining that the Greeks "don't
know enough to keep up their
buildings ... just look at the Par-
IT IS the ability to stretch our
imagination by each gesture and word
that makes this improvisation so suc-
cessful. Our perception of the incidents
is free to change and widen as we
willingly accept the unconventional
behavior and believe it as well. It is all
illusion, but each member of the
audience makes it real in hisown mind.
Second -City's players manage to shift
and manipulate our emotions by first
removing our defenses and then letting
us laugh.
THE MEMBERS of Second City's
touring company are Colleen Maloney,
Sandra Bogan, Michael Hagerty, John
Kepelos, Lance Kinsey, Joseph Doyle
and piano accompaniest Ruby Streak.
They introduce a variety of charac-
ters - a taxidermist, several
psychistrists and a sex therapist, post-
office employees just too good to be
true, a marriage counselor, the captain
of the cheerleading squad; and a foot-
ball player who delights in curling up
with a Harlequin Romance novel after
a long game.
The musical numbers comprise a
particularly biting satire of the Middle
American world. Second City gives us a
ragtime musical rendition of "Benny,
the Denny's chef," who dances and
cooks his way into the hearts and

stomachs of his customers. For country
lovers, a songstress at the Grand Ole
Opry croons the familiar lyric, "there's
too much sex and violence on TV - and
not enough at home."
BACKSTAGE, these seeming crazies
transform themselves into 7 serious'
craftsmen. The actors speak of the en
joyment of improvisational theatre is
just now finding itself," remarks John
Kapelos, Second City performer and
spokesperson. Kapelos, a graduate of
Carleton University in Toronto, got into
the troupe at an opportune time. He fin-
ds the audience participation a plus for
this type of theatre.
In one part, members of the troupe:
start a skit, then freeze the action for
a moment and ask the audience for the
next line of dialogue. Individuals shout'
out their own bizarre responses en-'
thusistically. The players ingeniously-
work in the lines, modifying the plot to!
the audiences' specifications. They en-
d up with a unique but hopelessly
strange story, such as about a plastic
surgeon and his unusually marred;
patient. Then the action is stopped
again. This kind of invention is possible
only with a skillful blend of actors who
can anticipate the responses of the
other company members.
SECOND CITY presents a marvelous
night full of imagination, irony ands
humor. They use the form of im-
provisation as a kind of social platfrm,
and the humor disarms us, prepares us
fr the poignancy and understandings of
each imaginative moment. This
becomes, if only for a short time, a very
real and truly powerful experience, for
the audience is able to work with the'
players. We too have to let the
imaginative juices flow.

c'est*?A Talking Head speaks

It is on rare occasions in these days of prefabricated
rock and roll that individuality and original talent
stand out from the overwhelming common vinyl
schlock. Once in a while, say yearly, one or two groups
emerge on record that blast through the mediocrity
that runs rampant on America's turntables and air-
waves. Such groups include Graham Parker and the
Rumour, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Roxy Music,
and David Bowie.
Last year two New York bands stood high above
other new units-Television and Talking Heads. Both
groups have an appealing sound based on spontaneity,
sparseness of orchestration, and an underlying
emotion unifying disparate elements of sound. After
two incredible records, Television broke up. Luckily,
Talking Heads, cohesion has increased almost as much
as their burgeoning popularity.
AS EVIDENCED by their Thursday night perfor-
mance in Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, Talking Heads
transmits a sound with no readily discernable roots.
They deliberately challenge listeners to understand
their musical statements, and not rely on radio
playlists to dictate musical tastes. So far, at least, this
formula appears to be working. Their debut album,
Talking Heads: 77, sold moderately well, and the new
More Songs About Buildings and Food is on the verge
of mass commercial appeal.
What is the group's reaction to their successes of the
past year? "I'm a little surprised, but in another way,
not really," says David Byrne, charismatic
singer/guitarist/songwriter of the group. "It means
that a lot of the music I hear on the radio is just
terrible. I might sound immodest, but I think we're
going to have some measure of success. "
Known for his eccentric and paroxysmal vocal
techniques-executed with a tinge of parnoia-Byrne
takes on a demeanor of docility offstage. "We're not as
phony as so much of the other stuff that goes down," he
continues, "and just with that alone we should do O.K."
TALKING HEADS were part of the Vanguard of New
Wave bands that originated in New York City during
1975-76. Starting as a trio, Byrne, along with drummer
Chriz Franz and bassist Tina Weymouth (also known
as Mrs. Chris Franz), performed at such notorious
clubs as CBGB's and Max's Kansas City, where they
gained a substantial cult following. Before going into
the studio to record their debut album, Jerry Harrison
joined the group. Harrison's credentials as a guitarist
and keyboard player need not be suspect, as he was a
member of the original Jonathan Richman and the

Modern Lovers, a Boston band that many look upon as
the forerunner of the present New Wave scene. After
teaching at Harvard, working for a computer firm, and
studying architecture, Harrison decided to return to
his real love, rock and roll.
Originally, Talking Heads were grouped with other
raw power punk groups such as the Ramones and
Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Time, however, has
changed such characterizations. Comments Byrne,
"We got all lumped together at first, but later on,
people listened to the other bands and now they see the
differences. It bothered us at first, being called punk,
but-'it doesn't matter any more. I'd rather be
associated with them than the other stuff going down,
so I don't complain about it."
BY VIRTUE of their incessant touring and word of
mouth publicity, Talking Heads' popularity is quickly
spreading. Their fans include twelve year olds who en-
joy the group's rousing danceability to Andy Warhol.
One of the major reasons for the increased popularity
of their new album, More Songs, must go its producer,
Brian Eno. Since his departure from Roxy Music five
years ago, Eno has made several critically acclaimed
solo discs, performed on several projects with Phil
Manzanera, Robert Fripp, and the German group
Cluster. Eno recently produced several well received
albums, such as Devo's debut effort.
His association with the band has been quite
beneificial, according to Byrne: "W orking with Brian
Eno was very comfortable. We knew him for about a
year beforehand. He was sort of encouraging ... He
was the kind of person who liked us and could see
things in us that other producers couldn't recognize. If
we had other ideas that, were a little offbeat, he would
go along with them, whereas another producer would
say, 'that's nutty, you can't do that."'
ONSTAGE, THE Heads are a study in obsession. Not
openly emotional, they concentrate on presenting each
individual instrument as clearly and concisely as
possible, and unifying each element for a group sound
that is neither muddled or distorted.
What can the future bring Talking Heads? One guess
is that a major confrontation might be now in its
seminal stages. By listening to their records and
viewing their live shows, it becomes clear that the
group is not very likely to compromise their musical
direction. This choice is a conscious one. If the band
continues to grow in popularity and record sales propel
them to "superstar" status, they will reach this fame
on their own terms.


University staff members discuss how Marx relates to
their work.
MONDAY, OCT. 23-8:00 p.m.
GUILD HOUSE, 802 Monroe
Series sponsored by: Guild House
Office of Ethics & Religion, P.A.C.
UAC-Musket Presents
the Musical Clasic
come join us in
Tickets on Sale at:
UAC Ticket Central,
Michigan Union.


UAC Mediatrics presents
(Oavid O. Selznick, 1939)
".. is more than the exposure of a vivid character, more than adventure,
romance, and spectacle. It is superior illustration of American legend and myth,
a grand illusion of imagined people living through a nostalgia drenched experi-
ence."-Boslgy Crowther.
From the delicate choreography of Cukor's opening scenes at Tara, through
the extravagent spectacle of the last third, GONE WITH THE WIND builds itself
up from movie to a national institution. With-CLARK GABLE, VIVIEN LEIGH,
LESLEY HOWARD, and OLIVIA DE HAVILAND. Winner of 10 Academy Awards.
2:00 & 7:00
Sun. 10/22 Admission $1.50 NAT. SCI. AUD.

Graduate fellow awards for study at
Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of
Government are available in the
areas of:
Science and Technology
Science and International
Fellows will be chosen from among
successful applicants to the Master
in Public Policy Program.
A representative from Harvard's
Kennedy School will be on campus
on Tuesday, October 24, to discuss
the Public Policy Program.
Please check with Career Planning
and Placement for further details.


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Final Performance
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