Page 8 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 25, 1991
Rock along with Mitch Ryder
by Andrew J Cahn
H e has not had a top 40 hit in
nearly 20 years. Currently, he does
not even have a domestic record
deal, and he is trying to shop
around a demo tape as if he were a
struggling new artist. It therefore
seems ironic for the ads promoting
his show at the Blind Pig this
Saturday to emphasize that he is
the "legendary Mitch Ryder."
Ryder says that he "always
considered that the word 'legend'
means that someone is dead,".so
he obviously does not like the title.
It also seems that to be a legend,
you must have personally made a
great contribution to your field, but
Ryder feels that what he has
introduced into the world of pop
music is no different than what
anyone needs to survive in the
music business. Ryder says he has
always had "dedication to the
proposition that he was going to be
a singer." r
When he began his career
playing in bars around Detroit,
Ryder fronted a band for which he
both sang and wrote songs. He
signed with New Voice records in
the mid-'60s, where his producer,
Bob Crewe, prohibited Ryder from
introducing his own original
material. Instead, the. songs
recorded were either covers or
written by staff writers or Crewe
himself. Occasionally, tunes
written by Ryder (credited to his
real name, Henry Levise, Jr.), did
show up on B-sides. Surprisingly,
this did not bother Ryder, for he
says that he has always been an,
"interpreter of written words," and
even though he did not write the
songs himself, he and his band, the
Detroit Wheels, could reconstruct
them as if they were originals.
With the songs he enjoyed
covering when he played live,
Ryder says he found that it was
"vital to come up with medleys,"
because the individual numbers,
when originally recorded, were
very short. His band could have
made them longer, but they were
not formed as a free-form
improvisational band. They were
an R&B band playing tunes heavy
on grooves and centered around
Ryder's singing. So instead, he
mixed numbers which have a
similar theme, like in "Too Many
Fish In the Sea & Three Little
Fishes," or he would combine
unrelated tunes which simply
melded together nicely. An ex-
ample of this is his segue from an
obscure, Detroit-only hit called
"Devil With a Blue Dress" into
the Little Richard classic "Good
Golly Miss Molly."
After his split with Crewe and
New Voice in the late '60s,
Ryder's recording career did not go
as well as it had in the past, with
the exception of his remake of the
Velvet Underground's "Rock 'N'
Roll." He says that is because
there is a preset notion of what a
Mitch Ryder song should sound
like," and that the labels were
always expecting him to recreate
"Devil With a Blue Dress." In the
early '80s, he recorded an ex-
tremely interesting dance version
of "Like a Rolling Stone,"
produced by Don Was, but it was
absolutely ignored. What should
have been his big comeback
album, recorded with John Cougar
Mellencamp, also failed because
of PolyGram's "lack of support,"
Fortunately for us, Ryder
doesn't let this get him down, and
he still enjoys performing sets
which contain his past hits, covers
as well as new material. His
records have only been released in
Europe in recent years, and
through the shows, he is once
again trying to be discovered by
some label that would not mind
taking a chance on him.
Besides, if Rhino records can
immortalize him with a 20 track
"best of" CD, and if he continues
to sell out venues, there must be
some audience out there for him.
Even if Ryder does not regain the
stardom and financial success he
once had, he is certain to receive
some sort of reward for his lifetime
of dedication. As he explains, "If
you're true to (rock and roll), it'll
be true to you." Maybe Mitch has
misunderstood the meaning of
"legend," and the Blind Pig ads
are right on target.
MITCH RYDER AND THE DE-
TROIT WHEELS jam at the Blind
Pig for 2 shows on Saturday, 8 p.m.
and 11 p.m. Tickets are $10 in ad-
vance, available at TicketMaster.
At the door, cover is $12.
Sock it to me, baby!!! Good Golly, Miss Molly!!! It was all right!!! Rock 'n' roll!!!
Video killed the famous film star
by Mike Kuniavsky
Video goes for the jugular. More
than any other medium - save
performance - video is an
attack on viewers.
As an artistic medium, though,
it has mostly been ignored. Maybe
the omnipresence of The Box
gives the medium its "it's not
really art, it's video" image, or
maybe it's just that, unlike
painting, sculpture or photography,
the production of the' video image
requires a mess of really
expensive, heavy and highly
Fortunately, though, this picture
of video is changing. With the
advent of high-quality, light and
relatively cheap camcorders, the
medium is leaving the hands of the
privileged and entering the
mainstream (notice the success of
America's Funniest Home Videos
- was there ever an America's
Funniest Home Sculptures?) Of
course, even with its new popular-
ity, the presence of the video
image is nothing new. The ubiquity
of the TV in every household since
the '60s has long been observed
and criticized, but whether this
pervasiveness has been good or
bad is irrelevant. The fact is that
it's there and it's inescapable and,
frankly, it's pretty much necessary
for intellectual survival.
Okay, sure, it's not absolutely
necessary - you can read or listen
to the radio or talk to someone and
get the same information - but
video's concentration has
significantly more informational
capacity and impact than any
other medium, so whether you like
it or not, it's more efficient.
Thus, by being so popular,
video has assured itself a position
as the most influential medium in
existence for a long time to come,
or even, one can argue, forever,
since every new medium since the
beginning of TV has been based on
TV and reflects the impact of TV.
But the inherent problem re-
mains: almost no one takes video
(the artsy name for TV) seriously.
The glass teat (as Harlan Ellison
puts .it) has been sucked on for a
long time, but people don't really
bother to look beyond the nipple.
Now, fortunately, the medium is
entering the first stages of
maturity, when it is no longer a
plaything and no longer fascinating
just for its existence. Now video
can finally criticize not only the
reality of its creators, but of itself.
This was exemplified in the last
45 minutes of the live CNN broad-
cast from Baghdad. The three
correspondents there, either from a
lack of sleep or a lack of news,
began discussing the roles of
television and journalism in the
context of information transaction.
They began to realize that they
were no longer just observers, but
that their statements (and, more
importantly, their very presence)
were affecting that which they
were supposed to be reporting. In
short, as much as they were cov-
ering the politics, they were the
politics. Regrettably, this train of
thought did not last long, as the
newsfeed was quickly shut off and
the network - obviously not want-
ing to draw attention to itself,
since it purports to be an objective
entity - never took up the subject
again. But this was an important
moment in TV, as it was one of
the first times that TV realized and
admitted its nature.
In response to the newly found
self-consciousness of the medium,
the University's Program in
Film/Video Studies (those people
See VIDEO, Page 9
Tears for Fears
Going to California
The past 16 months have
proven Tears for Fears' Roland
Orzabal to be exactly what many
may have long suspected, but been
too hip to admit: this guy is
perhaps the first true pop-genius
songwriter to grow out of the new-
In the four years after 1985's
hit-packed Songs from the Big
Chair went multi-platinum, the
head Tear had disappeared into
studio limbo, enlisting an unknown.
cocktail singer to realize the
credible degree of soulfulness
exhibited on 1989's The Seeds of
Love - a record which justified
the long absence with lyrics as
ambitious and music as
purposefully experimental as
anything attempted by David
Sylvian or Peter Gabriel.
1990 saw the release of an
Orzabal-produced debut album by
that major "discovery," Kansas
City piano-bar veteran Oleta
Adams, and she was immediately
hailed by critics as perhaps the
nation's definitive female vocalist.
The record became a surprise chart
hit, too, in no small part due to an
Orzabal-penned single and the
surprising sense for '70s soul
displayed in the Brit's tasteful
But one thing Orzabal has not
yet mastered is the art of
showmanship. And Going to
California, already Tears for
Fears' third live video (they've
only put out three albums !), points
up this weakness in unflattering
technicolor. An 86-minute video
documenting the generally dis-
appointing results of the group's
1990 Seeds concert set, California
reads like a textbook on missed
opportunities - one glaring
mistake or another manges to
cancel out every good stage idea
Orzabal has to offer.
Like a studio Wizard of Oz put
before an audience, Orzabal
shrinks in the role of frontman,
handling between-song patter in a
self-conscious mumble. On certain
occasions he is able to fall back
on his sidekick, the more relaxed,
photogenic bassist, Curt Smith,
who sings lead on some of the pre-
Seeds songs. But Orzabal's secret
weapon is Adams, singing from a
central piano riser located right
behind the main Tears.
She opens the concert with a
strong version of "I Believe" from
Songs from the Big Chair, and her
considerable authority validates a
song which five years ago must
have seemed a pretentiously
testimonial ballad. This keynote
sets up Orzabal at the outset to
assert The Seeds of Love's newly
soulful quality. But his set
selection instead slights the recent
material by following with three
more oldies before the languid,
seven-minute "Woman in Chains,"
which, not surprisingly, has a tran-
quilizer-like effect on the show's
Orzabal attempts to build
anticipation and surprise through
juxtaposing certain songs, but with
mixed results. A performance of
Adams' own gospel manifesto,
"I've Got to Sing My Song,"
elicits a rousing ovation and sets
the stage for the cathartic "Bad
Man's Song," from The Seeds of
Love. The frankly apocalyptic
"Famous Last Words" is followed-
up by an unexpectedly jazzy blast
of "When the Saints Go Marching
In." But the band's rendition of
The Beatles' "All You Need Is"
Love" right after the blockbuster.
"Sowing the Seeds of Love,
amounts to a limp anti-climax,,
something that might instead have,
worked as a clever intro.
Attempts to put a "live" fee.
into the group's difficult music ark
equally spotty. The powerfut4:
jazz/blues boogie of "Bad Man's
Song," tailor-cut for improvisation;
absorbs solos to the length of
eleven minutes without ever losing,
its edge. The regimented,
synthesizer figures of the Tears'
older songs, though, demand a
restrained tightness. "Change"is"-
retro-fitted as a kind of funk"'
revival, and snarling guitars drown
out the percussive marimba synth'
which was always the song's main.,
hook. Ersatz sax solos anoi d
drummer John Cushon, who seems
to be always putting an extra snare"
hit in the wrong place, add further
clutter. A final encore of "Shout"
is more egregiously marred by"
backup singer Biti Strauchn's.
Promo ace Nigel Dick's direc-,
tion - skipping capriciously be-" *
tween wobbly black-and-white
video and rich color film - doe
little to impose any coherence oq,,,
the undertakings. But most
aggravating of all is the way
Orzabal's incredibly improved}
voice, still not possessing the;
capacity for a real growl, breaks-
into a piercing shriek at certain
moments where he feels moved to
become "spontaneous." Despite
the great strides of his recent
studio exploits, Going to California
shows that Orzabal on stage may,,
ultimately have to earn his
soulfulness the hard way -
thr'ough experience rather than.
- Michael Paul Fischer
The University of Michigan
SCHOOL OF MUSIC
Mon. Jan. 28
Tues. Jan. 29
Thur. Jan. 31
Faculty Piano Recital
by Nina Lelchuk
Medtner: Sonata in a-minor, Op.38, "La
Liadov: Variations on a Theme by Glinka,
Op. 35 (Ann Arbor premiere)
Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit
Chopin: Nocturne No. 2 in D-flat Major
and Ballade No. 4 in f-minor
Rackham Lecture Hall, 4 p.m.
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane
Tickets $5 (763-5460)
Michigan Theatre, 8 p.m.
University Symphony and
Gustav Meier, Donald Schleicher, conductors
All Bernstein Concert: On the
Waterfront: Symphonic Suite; Hald
(Nocturne for Solo Flute), Keith Bryan,
soloist; Symphony No. 1 "Jeremiah";
Overture to Candide
Hill Auditorium, 8 p.m.
Faculty Piano Recital by
Mozart: Fantasy in c minor, K 396;
Sonata in F Major, K 280; Adagio in b
minor, K 540; Minuet in D Major, K 355;
Gigue in G Major, K 574; Rondo in D
Major, K 485
Schubert: Sonata in B-Flat, D 960
Rackham Lecture Hall, 8 p.m.
SUMMER CAMP STAFF
B'NAI B'RITH CAMPS
Mukwonago, Wisconsin or Starlight, Pennsylvania
Positions available for cabin counselors, unit leaders, program
specialists in music, ropes course, horseback riding, athletics,
waterfront, arts & crafts, campcraft, etc. Openings also avail-
able for cooks, drivers, nurses, etc.
EXCELLENT SALARY SCALES plus GRATUITIES
Enjoy a special summer while gaining skills in leadership and
Experience personal growth that will be appreciated by pro-
spective employers in post college years.
Unique and special lifestyles " Great social opportunities
" Great fun!
INTERVIEWING ON CAMPUS:
Date: January 28,1991
Time: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Place: Michigan Union-Michigan Room
or write or call:
What's-your opinion? The Daily wants to hear from you. Send or
bring letters'to the Student Publications Building at 420 Maynard
Street. Or, you can bring in letters on Macintosh disk or send
them via MTS to "Michigan Daily."
A smart funny
-ROGER EBERT/" SiSKEL & EBERT"
"'Alice' is a delight.
Allen & Co. make
us believe that
fairy tales can
-DAVID ANSEN INEWSWEEK
"'Alice' calls for
nember of the
cast is super."
THE NEW YORK TIMES
B'NAI B'RITH PERLMAN CAMP
B'NAI B'RITH BEBER CAMP
ALEC BALDWIN BLYTHE DANNER J DY DIS
MIA FARROW WILLIAM HURT KEYE LI KE JOE MANTEGNA