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November 01, 1977 - Image 14

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1977-11-01
Note:
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The Michigan Daily-Tuesday,
4

Page 4-Tuesday, November 1, 19
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977-The Michigan Daily
Lily T
By JEFFREY SELBST
Lily Tomlin is a brilliant, wonder-
ful performer and an effusive person-
ality. On stage. Since her heralded
beginning on the old Laugh-In show,
she has kept people giggling with her
characterizations of Ernestine (the
operator) and, less so, Edith Ann.
.Her new album on Arista, a bit of
fluff called On Stage, shows that the
essential Tomlin doesn't make the
transition from a comic presence to
being a disembodied comic voice the
way Bette Midler does, for example,
or Woody Allen on his few extant
recordings.
It is fun to hear Ernestine's latest
outrage, to be sure, but even this is
presented in the context of the made-
for-television "commercial." More-
over, I've seen this commercial per-
formed on Saturday Night Live, and
this is a pale imitation at best. There
is so much to Tomlin's stance, her
gesture, that words simply fail to
convey.
There are two comic routines that
are simply wonderful. One, entitled
Tell Miss Sweeny Goodbye, is the
retelling of a painful anecdote (and
I'm sure, a true one) in Lily's early
life. It centers about her relation-
ship with an idolized teacher, and her
reaction when she pushed the teacher
too far and was scolded. Amusing,
but only in the deepest way - I didn't

omlin 's latest

Welcome

back,

The Michigan Daily-Tuesday,
.e a

By M. EILEEN DALEY
"Summer in the City!" a voice
shouted from the audience. John
Sebastian smiled, the first few
chords of the tune answered by
enthusiastic applause from the
crowd. Though nearly eight years
have passed s i n c e Sebastian
launched his solo career, it is still the
old Lovin' Spoonful songs they want
to hear.
The audience at Bowen Field
House last month was no different
from any other. They wanted the old
songs, and undaunted, Sebastian
played them all.
The truth is, you see, he enjoys
them as much as anyone else.
"They are, after all, just early
John Sebastian songs," he explained
with a smile. "It's very easy to sing
anything somebody wants to hear,
because it's a foot in the door. You
play something they want to hear,
and now they've heardit, and they
can't yell for that anymore, and
while they're thinking of another one,
you can play them something new."
Sebastian's show at Bowen was
over, and comedian Steve Martin,
with whom he had been touring for
the past month had taken the stage.
Sebastian relaxed with a cold bottle
of beer in what was called his
dressing room, but was in reality the
coach's locker room; stark white and
dingy, foam rubber puffing out from
holes in the tacky vinyl couch he sat
on.
His career has survived continual
ups and downs during the past 15
years. He rose from an unknown
local sideman in Greenwich Village
to the idol of screaming frenzied
teenagers in the mid-sixties when he
led the Lovin' Spoonful through a
string of hits including Do You

Believe in Magic?, Daydream and
Younger Girl.
When band member Zally Yanov-
sky fingered a drug source, their
popularity hit rock bottom, and the
band dissolved. The other Spoonful
member's musical careers were
finished, (Yanovsky now runs a
restaurant in Kingston, Ontario), but
Sebastian managed to bounce back, a
tie-dyed hero of the Woodstock
generation.
But Sebastian soon seemed to fade
into obscurity as he skidded through
five years of unsuccessful albums,
without a single hit.
Though Sebastian wasn't gone, he
was somewhat forgotten until he hit
the charts again last year with
Welcome Back", the theme song he
wrote for the television series, Wel-
come Back, Kotter. He knew from
the moment he finished the song,
which took him 15 minutes to com-
pose, that it was going to put him
back on top.
"I won't be modest," he laughed.
"I listened to it and decided it was a
monster. I know when I've got one.
I've always known when I've had
one. You don't know when you're
going to get one, but you know once
you've got one."
Out of the shadows now, Sebas-
tian's career seems ready to blossom
again. He is now working on an
album to be released this winter,
from which a single, Don't You Run
with Him, will be out soon. He is also
writing the score for an animated
film The Devil and Daniel Mouse,
which is the story of two folk sing-
ing mice who become enormously
successful rock stars. He also hopes
to record an album with his father,
classical harmonicist John Sebastian
Sr.

Lily Tomlin

John Sebasti

material recorded here It isn't
simply that the Ernestine routine
(which I dearly love) was less
amusing on record than in person, or
that there wasn't an Edith Ann or
Tasteful Lady routine, but that the
great majority of material wasn't
funny - they were stories, told with
an almost Midler-like nasal affecta-
tion. God save me, I thought upon
first hearing, from a Lily Tomlin who
thinks she's Bette Midler.
I would hope that someone with
Tomlin's monster, demonstrated tal-
ent, would find some writers and
producers to collaborate with next
time, and perhaps she might come up
with a better bit of work.

laugh through most of the piece, I
squirmed. Hard.
But by far, the most touching, tell-
ing, and discomfiting routine on the
record is a quite lengthy selection,
called simply Glenna - a child of the
64s.
The piece compresses time into ex-
changes, snatches of half-forgotten
conversation in a manner reminis-
cent of Thornton Wilder - and tells
of the growing up of Glenna. I found
the first hearing absolutely nerve-
wracking; the second, wonderful.
But all in all, the album seems
empty - there is an essence missing,
perhaps of not having heard enough,
though there is a great deal of

He will still continue to be the
"wing" member of Crosby, Stills,
and Nash. Sebastian had been asked,
early in the course of their fame, to
join CS&N.
"It just wasn't a good idea at the
time," he said. "I was launching my
own solo career, and just getting it
going."

Stev
an ar
group
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clean
fine!"
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161.

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SUPPLEMENT STAFF
Editor Jeffrey Selbst.
Asst. Editor Ken.Parsigian
Staff Writers: Mike Baadke, Nancy Bent, Mark Beyer, M. Eileen
Daley, Owen Gleiberman, Mark Johansson, Rod Kosann, Anne Sharp,
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