Paul McCartney Sgt. Pepper: “It Was A Risk!”

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Paul McCartney helps MOJO celebrate 50 years of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with an exclusive interview in the magazine that hits UK shops on Tuesday, April 25. He recalls the circumstances surrounding the group’s most groundbreaking album and gives his verdict on the new stereo mix designed to add legs to one of popular music’s key benchmarks.

But as McCartney reminds MOJO, before Sgt. Pepper became an icon, there was a period of critical bemusement. How dare Beatles band go all weird?

“We were always being told, ‘You’re gonna lose all your fans with this one.’” McCartney tells MOJO. “And we’d say, ‘Well, we’ll lose some but we’ll gain some.’ We’ve gotta advance.”

In 1967 The Beatles ran the gauntlet of a media gripped in a moral panic over the younger generation’s embrace of drugs, and others who regarded Pepper’s stylistic smorgasbord and hints of thematic coherence as evincing ideas above the group’s station. The Lovable Moptops stereotype died hard.

Sgt. Pepper did actually get a terrible review in the New York Times,” recalls McCartney. “The critic [Richard Goldstein] said he hated it, thought it was a terrible mess, and then he was on the streets all week and heard the talk, heard what people were saying, and he took it back [in a subsequent Village Voice piece], recanted after a week: ‘Er… maybe it’s not so bad.’ But we were used to that. She Loves You was ‘banal’. But if we liked it and thought it was cool, we would go for it.

“…I mean, George doing Within You Without You,” continues McCartney, “a completely Indian record – it was nothing anyone had heard before, at least in this context. It was a risk, and we were aware of that.”

But even given Sgt. Pepper’s subsequent rise to peerless status, there’s one aspect of the record that has consistently drawn flak, even (perhaps especially) from fans.

“The original stereo mix is a bit of a period piece,” McCartney concedes. “You’ve got the drums in one corner. You’ve got the vocals in another corner. We would be at listening parties, have some mates around and I’d go, ‘Listen to the drums on this, man!’ …and you couldn’t hear ’em. Oh! They’re over there in the other corner of the room.”

That’s been addressed in the reissue of Sgt. Pepper that’s due on the streets on May 26. A muscular new Giles Martin stereo mix returns the Beatles’ drums and vocals to central positions reminiscent of the original mono mix, and gets McCartney’s seal of approval.

“‘Muscular’ is a good word,” he agrees. “It sounds more like us playing in the room and more like we intended it.”

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Mark Hamill Wishes Luke And Han Had Final Scene Together

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Mark Hamill has one critique about Star Wars: The Force Awakens: He wishes Han and Luke had one final scene together.

Hamill made the revelation during an interview with Fandango’s Erik Davis while appearing at the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando over the weekend.

As we all know, Han met his demise at the hands of his son, Ben, a.k.a Kylo Ren, when he made an attempt to save his boy from the clutches of the Dark Side.

Hamill had an idea of how Luke — who only got a few moments of silent screentime — could have been put to good use.

“When I was reading it, I thought if Leia is trying to mentally contact me and she is unsuccessful, she’ll rush to his [Han’s] aid and get into some dire situation, and that’s when I show up,” Hamill said. “I save her life, and then we rush to Han, and then we are in the same position that Rey and Finn and Chewie are — too late to save him, but witnesses.”

Hamill called it, in his opinion, a “missed opportunity,” but added he has a lot of “terrible ideas”; he just likes to share them in case there is something the filmmakers like.

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Bette Midler Charging For Seats At Own Broadway Show!

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Bette Midler may be the new queen of Broadway, but don’t expect a free ride!

The Divine Miss M is starring in a wildly popular revival of the musical “Hello, Dolly!”

But so many friends are clamoring for seats for the hot-ticket show that Bette’s begun charging them!

“Bette has six house seats to every show. They are reserved for her to buy.

If she doesn’t want them, then they are released 24 hours before her performance,” a show insider told Radar.

“Tons of friends have been begging her to get them tickets, but what they don’t realize is Bette has to pay $209 for each of her reserved seats, and she isn’t willing to eat the expense.

If you ask for tickets, you better be prepared to write a check — although cash is also accepted.”

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‘Norman’ Review: Richard Gere’s Political Fixer – Career High

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The subtitle for this compulsively watchable film is The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer. It’s a mouthful. But Norman, written and directed by American-born Israeli Joseph Cedar (Footnote) in his first English-language film, is a spellbinder that features Richard Gere in one of his best performances ever.

The actor talks about experiencing first-hand what it feels like to be homeless for his new drama ‘Time Out of Mind’

The American Gigolo star alters his movie-star looks to play Norman Oppenheimer, a schlubby loser who’s termed a “generous Jew” by the people he helps. Roaming the streets of New York in the same cap and ratty camel-coat (he doesn’t seem to live anywhere), Norman offers to connect people. He lives to do them favors – but what’s he after? Cedar forcefully rejects the grasping, anti-Semitic stereotypes represented by Shakespeare’s Shylock and Dickens’ Fagin. The character is a liar, a manipulator and often a pain in the ass. He’s described as “a drowning man trying to wave at an ocean liner.” But his desire to belong is as genuine as his loneliness.

Norman sees his way in when he befriends Israeli politician Micha Eshel (the outstanding Lior Ashkenazi) by buying him an expensive pair of shoes while the dignitary is visiting New York. Three years later, Eshel is elected Prime Minister; waiting in a receiving line, the makeshift macher waits for a few heart-poundingly suspenseful minutes to see if the great man remembers him. When he does, Norman suddenly earns his place at the table. A whole cast of characters – an ambitious nephew (Michael Sheen), a rabbi (Steve Buscemi), a tycoon (Harris Yulin), his assistant (Dan Stevens) and an embassy official (Charlotte Gainsbourg) – are suddenly interested in connecting with the mover and shaker. And just in case you think Gere’s hustling rung-climber is the only “Norman” in the world, Cedar introduces Hank Azaria as another street-level fixer on the streets.

Then the movie blows it, courtesy of a clumsy plot twist involving a political scandal and an act of desperation that has no place in a movie this savvy, this close to the bone. The spell is broken. Gere, however, never makes a false move. Cedar has said that he cast the star because he wanted “to see the character with fresh eyes,” and Gere responds with a revelatory portrayal of inner anguish and Chaplinesque poignance. For the actor, Norman is a personal triumph.

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‘Sgt. Pepper’ Deluxe 50th-Anniversary Edition

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The most ambitious reissue yet of an individual album from the Beatles’ catalog is coming May 26 with an expanded and newly remixed edition of the Fab Four’s 1967 pop masterpiece, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Consistently ranked by critics and fans among the most influential rock albums of all time, “Sgt. Pepper” is being reissued in multiple formats and editions, including new stereo and surround-sound audio mixes along with nearly three dozen previously unreleased recordings from the same sessions.

“It’s crazy to think that 50 years later we are looking back on this project with such fondness and a little bit of amazement at how four guys, a great producer and his engineers could make such a lasting piece of art,” Paul McCartney writes in a new introduction for the anniversary edition of a project that started out as his baby.

In a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, John Lennon said, “It was a peak. Paul and I were definitely working together.”

Ringo Starr, the quartet’s other surviving member, writes in his introductory remarks to the new edition that “‘Sgt. Pepper’ seemed to capture the mood of that year, and it also allowed a lot of other people to kick off from there and to really go for it.”

Indeed, the Doors’ drummer, John Densmore, told The Times recently, “We were working on our second album, ‘Strange Days’ [in 1967] and while we were working on it, we got an early copy of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and we just died. That made us experiment more, inspired us to try the Moog synthesizer, made us generally be wild and just say ‘What the hell?’”

Purists still love to debate whether “Rubber Soul,” “Revolver” or “Abbey Road” are more consistently creative works than “Sgt. Pepper,” and McCartney has often said there are days he leans toward any of those four as his favorite of the band’s studio works during its relatively short but astonishingly fertile seven-year career as a recording unit.

But dozens of musicians, producers, record executives, music writers and others polled by Rolling Stone magazine in 2012 place “Sgt. Pepper” at the pinnacle of the publication’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” lauding it as “simply the best of everything the Beatles ever did as musicians, pioneers and pop stars, all in one place.”

Breaking from a long-standing tradition of avoiding fanfare over significant anniversaries since the group disbanded in 1970, McCartney, Starr, Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison’s widow, Olivia, this time gave approval for the grand-scale look back at “Sgt. Pepper.”

Giles Martin, the son of the Beatles’ original producer, George Martin, has collaborated again with veteran Abbey Road studios engineer Sam Okell on the new stereo and 5.1 multi-channel mixes of the album.

Perhaps the most tantalizing element for Beatles aficionados is the word that Giles Martin and Okell created the new stereo mix with direct transfers from the original four-track tapes, rather than the two-track master that has been the basis of all previous stereo versions of “Sgt. Pepper” for the last 50 years.

Why so much attention to a new stereo version of an album that has been available in stereo for five decades?

In 1967, George Martin and the Beatles spent the vast majority of their time focused on the monaural mix, which was still the dominant playback format in England at that time. The group members by and large were not even present during mixing of the stereo version of the album.

Hence the new anniversary edition is an attempt to create a mix closer to what the world might have heard if the Beatles and George Martin had cared about stereo at that point.

Among other facets of the new version, it restores the original playback speed of the ballad “She’s Leaving Home” rather than using the slowed-down version most listeners have heard on the existing stereo mix.

The “Anniversary Editions” of “Sgt. Pepper” will include a single CD version with the new stereo mix (priced at $18.98 on Amazon) and a deluxe two-CD and digital version ($24.98) containing 13 alternate takes of all the “Sgt. Pepper” songs in the original sequence plus five additional takes.

Those five takes are two previously unreleased versions of “Penny Lane” and three of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” songs recorded at the beginning of the “Sgt. Pepper” sessions but issued as a double-sided single four months before the album came out to help satiate fans’ demands for new Beatles music.

The two-LP vinyl deluxe version ($38.98) will have everything on the double CD and digital versions except the “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” mixes.

There also will be a six-disc “super deluxe” edition ($149.98), housed in a 12-by-12-inch box with lenticular artwork of pop artist Peter Blake’s iconic cover image of the Beatles surrounded by more than 60 figures from then-contemporary pop culture to ancient history.

That set includes the new stereo mix on one CD and two CDs with 33 more recordings from the “Sgt. Pepper” sessions, most previously unreleased. A fourth CD contains direct transfers of the original mono mix of the full album and the extra “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” tracks, a U.S. promotional mono mix of “Penny Lane” and early mono mixes of “She’s Leaving Home,” “A Day in the Life” and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.”

The latter had been thought lost but was discovered during the research process for the anniversary edition.

The set’s fifth and sixth discs are a Blu-ray and DVD with the new high-resolution surround-sound mixes of the album, high-res audio versions of the new stereo mix and “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” and various video features including a newly restored 25th anniversary documentary about the making of the album that aired in 1992 but was never released on home video.

After its release, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” spent 15 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s U.S. album sales chart, the longest reign in the top spot of any of the group’s albums. It was No. 1 for 27 weeks on the British sales ranking and has sold more than 11 million copies in the U.S. alone over the ensuing half a century, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America. It won Grammy Awards for overall album and pop album of the year and was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

As Rolling Stone put it in its assessment five years ago, “Sgt. Pepper” is “the most important rock ’n’ roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock ’n’ roll group of all time.”

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Van Morrison Details ‘Authorized Bang Collection’

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Recordings Van Morrison made for Bang Records in 1967, including an entire disc of tracks seeing official release for the first time, will feature on the upcoming reissue The Authorized Bang Collection. The compilation gathers songs the Irish singer-songwriter laid down during his brief period on legendary producer Bert Berns’ label.

The collection, due out April 28th, features three discs of music that Morrison recorded alongside Berns: The first disc focuses on the original masters from Morrison’s Bang sessions – including original mixes of songs like “Brown Eyed Girl,” “T.B. Sheets” and “Madame George” – while the second boasts rarities from the sessions.

The third disc – dubbed the Contractual Obligation Session, as it closed Morrison’s tenure with the label – contains 32 short, stripped-down and less-refined songs that were oft-bootlegged over the years but presented here in its best sound quality to date.

After leaving Them for a solo career in 1967, Morrison aligned with Berns’ Bang Records; Berns, who wrote tracks like “Twist and Shout,” “Piece of My Heart” and “Cry to Me,” produced Them’s 1965 hit “Here Comes the Night.” However, after the recording sessions, Morrison and Berns’ partnership fizzled. After Berns died unexpectedly in December 1967, Morrison entered a legal battle with the producer’s widow over his creative independence.
“Bert Berns was a genius,” Morrison said in a statement. “He was a brilliant songwriter and he had a lot of soul, which you don’t find nowadays.”

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The Authorized Bang Collection Track List

Disc One – The Original Masters

1. Brown Eyed Girl [original stereo mix]
2. He Ain’t Give You None [original stereo mix]
3. T.B. Sheets [original stereo mix]
4. Spanish Rose [original stereo mix]
5. Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye) [original stereo mix]
6. Ro Ro Rosey [original stereo mix]
7. Who Drove The Red Sports Car [original stereo mix]
8. Midnight Special [original stereo mix]
9. It’s All Right [original stereo mix]
10. Send Your Mind [original stereo mix]
11. The Smile You Smile [original stereo mix]
12. The Back Room [original stereo mix]
13. Joe Harper Saturday Morning [original stereo mix]
14. Beside You [original mono mix]
15. Madame George [original mono mix]
16. Chick-A-Boom [original mono mix]
17. The Smile You Smile [demo]

Disc Two – Bang Sessions & Rarities

1. Brown Eyed Girl [original edited mono single mix]
2. Ro Ro Rosey [original mono single mix with backing vocals]
3. T.B. Sheets [Take 2] *
4. Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye) [Takes 10 & 11] *
5. Send Your Mind [Take 3] *
6. Midnight Special [Take 7]
7. He Ain’t Give You None (Take 4)
8. Ro Ro Rosey [Take 2] *
9. Who Drove The Red Sports Car (Take 6)
10. Beside You [Take 2] *
11. Joe Harper Saturday Morning [Take 2] *
12. Beside You [Take 5] *
13. Spanish Rose [Take 14] (4:23) *
14. Brown Eyed Girl [Takes 1-6] *
15. Brown Eyed Girl [Takes 7-11] *

* Previously unissued

Disc Three – Contractual Obligation Session

1. Twist And Shake *
2. Shake And Roll *
3. Stomp And Scream *
4. Scream And Holler *
5. Jump And Thump *
6. Drivin’ Wheel *
7. Just Ball *
8. Shake It Mable *
9. Hold On George *
10. The Big Royalty Check *
11. Ring Worm *
12. Savoy Hollywood *
13. Freaky If You Got This Far *
14. Up Your Mind *
15. Thirty Two *
16. All The Bits *
17. You Say France And I Whistle *
18. Blowin’ Your Nose *
19. Nose In Your Blow *
20. La Mambo *
21. Go For Yourself *
22. Want A Danish *
23. Here Comes Dumb George *
24. Chickee Coo *
25. Do It *
26. Hang On Groovy *
27. Goodbye George *
28. Dum Dum George *
29. Walk And Talk *
30. The Wobble *
31. Wobble And Ball *

‘Prison Break’ Reboot Cast Explains Why The Reboot Makes Sense

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FOX’s popular drama “Prison Break” ended its run in 2009. But seven years later, given the industry’s fascination with reboots, the series is back with the original cast. Show creator Paul Scheuring returns as well, working with executive producers Vaun Wilmott and Michael Horowitz to craft the nine-hour story. The cast and creatives appeared at a special premiere event at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills on Wednesday. The panel featured cast members Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Robert Knepper, Rockmond Dunbar, Mark Feuerstein, Inbar Lavi, Augustus Prew and Paul Adelstein, and focused on why the reboot makes sense now.

Purcell recalled how the reboot got off the ground. “Wentworth and I started reminiscing about the good old days on ‘Prison Break,’” he said. “And [we] talked about the Netflix generation discovering shows there.”

Scheuring chimed in, “There’s no version of recreating the show without Dominic and Wentworth. We found tent pole points we could use to make a modern version of the show, then went to FOX.”

Asked how it felt to slip back into T-Bag’s fake hand, Knepper offered, “All of us felt like we wanted to create, not recreate. It felt like it was time to do it. Paul listened to us and gave us something new.”

Lavi is a new cast member who plays Sheba, a woman who helps Lincoln Burrows find his brother in the Middle East prison. Lavi said with a laugh, “I’m just the tour guide. Sheba is a Yemeni activist and freedom fighter.” Feuerstein is another newcomer to the show and he commented on playing Sarah’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) new husband, Jacob. “I may not be the most likable character,” he shared. “I’m going up against Michael for Sarah’s love.”

Prew is a new face in the prison, playing Michael Scofield’s cellmate. He couldn’t hide his delight when he realized his character was a part of the prison escape plan. “Michael and I going to break out of the prison together. What?!” he said.

Miller was tight-lipped when asked about how exactly Michael Scofield is alive. He hinted cryptically, “The Michael we knew died. The man we meet now is someone different. Michael’s always existed in the gray scale. There are lines he inches up to and crosses.”

Scheuring added, “I want Michael Scofield to feel like a mystery again, like he did in Season 1.” One holdover from the original series, Michael has new tattoos in the new episodes.

Finally, will this revival be the final chapter in the “Prison Break” story? Miller said, “These episodes feel like a satisfying way to fade to black. If they came up with something that stood up to what came before, I’d consider doing more.” His partner in crime, Purcell, said he’d do more: “If it paid homage to the ‘Prison Break’ legend.”

“Prison Break” returns April 4 to Fox.

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Sherry Lansing On Post-Studio Life

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The former Paramount chief, whose biography ‘Leading Lady’ hits shelves April 25, opens up about the pain of reliving her mother’s death, what TV she’s bingeing (‘The Young Pope’), friends Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson and the mantra of her movies: “If someone screws you over, you have the right to get even.”

For Leading Lady, the new biography of Sherry Lansing, the legendary film executive had to do something she never did during her 12 years running Paramount Pictures: relinquish control. Lansing, 72, participated in the biography but she and her husband, filmmaker William Friedkin, granted author Stephen Galloway full autonomy to research her life, talk to dozens of her closest friends (and not-so-close collaborators) and write the book as he saw fit. Having read the final product after four years of interviews, Lansing invited THR to her Century City office (overlooking the Fox lot, which she famously ran as the first female studio boss in 1980) to talk about being the subject of a biography, reliving her mother’s death from cancer, her hopes for Paramount today and her new life as a philanthropist (Stand Up to Cancer, which she co-founded, has raised about $500 million to fight the disease). Is Lansing scared what people will think of the book? “Terrified,” she says.

Which parts of Leading Lady were the most difficult to read?

Reliving my father’s death. Reliving my mother’s death was extraordinarily painful for me to talk about. To go back into when you were a child and to remember all the insecurities. Reliving my time as an actress and remembering what it was like to face those rejections and all the feelings of the lack of self-worth. To relive the making of a lot of the movies, because I was kind of surprised at how difficult everyone was and how many fights there were.

What is something in the book that will surprise your friends?

That I was so painfully insecure for so long and that I went into therapy. I never kept it a secret, but I think that will probably surprise people. It doesn’t go away. Suddenly you just have a loss of confidence (snaps fingers), and you don’t know where it came from. And then the tools that you learn through therapy get you through it. I’m 72 years old, and every once in a while that 12-year-old little girl who lost her father just (snaps) comes right back up.

Lansing’s mother, Margot. “Everything I do is in honor of her,” she says.What will women in Hollywood take away from your story?

Certainly, times are better. There are women running companies, studios. We almost had a woman president. I remember when none of that was there. You can either say the glass is half full or the glass is half empty. It’s not a perfect world; I know what the numbers are for women directors, and I know how far we still have to go, but we have made progress.

Is there one movie that got away?

I remember pictures, like Searching for Bobby Fischer, that I loved more than life itself and they never could find an audience. People outside of the business don’t know that you don’t want to get out of bed when you fail with a movie. It hurts you.

How often do you and Billy go to the movies?

I see almost everything that comes out — two or three movies a week. I love binge-watching TV, too. I watched Homeland and binged on The Young Pope. I’m curious because I haven’t seen This Is Us.

What film has impressed you recently?

La La Land blew me away. Damien Chazelle is one of the most gifted young filmmakers I’ve ever seen.

Do you think you gave up a lot for your career?

I don’t regret any of my choices, so the answer is no, because I didn’t give up a great love for my career. I got lucky: I met my husband when I was 47, and I was able at that point to not make sacrifices, just to adjust our life schedule to work with one another.

What do you miss most about Paramount?

I don’t miss anything about the movie business. Life is all about chapters, and when I left, I was done. I’d been involved in close to 200 films and the passion I had for making movies was gone. The dream was for creating a foundation dedicated to cancer research, education and now putting retired people back to work. I didn’t lose my old friends. I still see everybody, I keep up with what’s going on in the business. My world just got so much bigger. We can have a group of friends over, and there can be some scientist who is trying to find a cure for cancer and somebody who just directed a movie. There’s a fallacy that if you leave the business nobody talks to you.

Is cancer the aspect of your charity work you’d like to be remembered for?

Yes, in honor of my mother. She died when she was 64. And it was so painful to watch her suffer. Everything I do is in honor of my mother. My dream is that in my lifetime there will be a cure for cancer or that it’ll be a chronic disease.

Paramount is in a period of transition. Do you hope the Redstones keep it?

Oh, yes. I still see Sumner and Shari, and I’m crazy about both of them. He is like an older brother — one of the most supportive bosses anyone could ask for.

What did you learn from the book? My favorite anecdote was Bob Zemeckis sneaking away on weekends to shoot the running scenes for Forrest Gump.

I didn’t know that [happened].

Do you consider that movie your biggest success?

It’s too glib to say, “Oh, my favorite movies are Forrest Gump, Titanic and Braveheart” because they won the Academy Award.

They also made a zillion dollars.

Yes, but so did Mission: Impossible. You work just as hard and love the ones that aren’t successful.

There’s a lot in the book about your relationship with Tom Cruise.

I’ve known Tom since Taps. I knew his family. He was at that time one of the most gifted actors — you could see right away. He’s one of the kindest, most decent people I’ve ever worked with.

What about Scientology?

I know he’s a Scientologist, but I never saw him do anything that made anybody uncomfortable. I think everyone is entitled to their belief system.

You’ve been a big Mel Gibson supporter as well.

Very much. I loved Hacksaw Ridge. Mel is very hardworking, very much understands the problems of the studio system. I have only had positive experiences with him. In my experience, he has never been homophobic or anti-Semitic.

Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy — there’s a genre of movies people call the Sherry Lansing thriller. Are you proud of that?

Yes. Those movies were from my heart, from my desire not to be a victim, from my sense of justice. It was something in the way that I was raised: I watched my mother not be a victim after my father died. And revenge was good — I mean, that’s a terrible thing to say, but if someone screws you over, you have the right to get even.

Are you nervous about the book?

(Laughs.) Yes, very. I’m terrified of it because I don’t know how it will be perceived. How can you judge a book that’s about you?

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Robbie Robertson Remembers ‘Original Guitar God’ Chuck Berry

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One of the most indelible moments in Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, Taylor Hackford’s 1986 documentary on Chuck Berry, finds Robbie Robertson leafing through a scrapbook of various photos, ticket stubs and other Berry memorabilia and discussing the rock & roll pioneer’s process and legacy. “I tried to tell a story. It came from poetry,” Berry tells Robertson about his early lyrics. “Poetry portrays a scene or a story and that’s where my lyrics would originate from.”

Following Berry’s death Saturday, Robertson shared a poignant tribute to the singer-guitarist detailing the movie, corralling Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and Berry for a reunion show and a memorable visit to St. Louis to see his idol.

Through the years, I’ve had several classic rendezvous with the father of rock & roll. I was the original musical director and creative consultant for the Chuck Berry movie Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll. After a couple of meetings with Chuck, I realized that he didn’t like being structured or musically directed so I wisely asked Keith Richards to take on that responsibility.

I loved Chuck and had a deep appreciation for him being one of the originators of rock & roll guitar and a brilliant poet. We ended up doing a thing for the movie where he recited poetry and I accompanied him on guitar. It was beautiful and his memory for poems totally impressed me. We laughed about how in school you could get your butt kicked for liking poetry. He said what turned that around for him was the beat generation.

Some years ago, I put together a gathering of the surviving founding fathers of rock & roll in New Orleans. We had Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and, of course, Chuck Berry. Just to see the four of them sitting there side by side was enough to take your breath away. This was IT! These four gentlemen made music that changed the world. I was so excited about this summit that I brought my son, Sebastian, to witness the event. ONCE IN A LIFETIME.

My friend Steve Bing flew us to pick up Jerry Lee in Memphis. Little Richard came in on his bus. Chuck insisted on traveling separately with his son Charles. Fats lives in NOLA so all we needed was a meeting place. I had convinced Jann Wenner, the chairman of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, that we needed to film this. So he put the production in motion. Peter Guralnick, the great music writer, came in to interview the four legends. It was hilarious, awkward, touching, sometimes competitive, paranoid and priceless. Proving once again you can’t wrangle cats. Especially the hippest, coolest cats like this group.

Just a few years ago, I had the opportunity to stop in St. Louis with some friends and visit Chuck. He was playing a gig that night at a club in town. Just to see him still taking the stage at his age was a momentous occasion. His daughter, Ingrid, and his son Charles were performing with him and had his back. In the dressing room, Ingrid said, “Oh dad, dad, you gotta hear Robbie’s song ‘Somewhere Down The Crazy River.'” Chuck smiled and said, “I like that title, you know why? Cuz that’s where I live, down the crazy river.” He laughed and patted me on the back.

I was so glad to see the original guitar god one more time. My son Sebastian had said to me, back in New Orleans, “Did you see his hands? Did you see those fingers? No wonder he can play like that. So much music came out of those hands. Wow!”

I heard that NASA had sent a copy of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” up into outer space. Probably in case aliens from another world heard it. That would tell them something about us earthlings. And maybe … all they needed to know.

Bless his soul.

With love, Robbie Robertson

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Dave Chappelle On Bill Cosby And Why Trump “Makes It Harder For Comedians”

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“If you talk about him, it’s almost like you’re part of the chorus and not a soloist,” the comedian told ‘The New York Times’ about President Donald Trump.

Dave Chappelle got candid about the problem with being a comedian in the Trump era in a recent wide-ranging interview with The New York Times.

The stand-up veteran, who has three specials headed to Netflix, told the publication, “The whole Trump thing makes it harder” because “he’s so skewed, it’s hard to find an angle that sounds fresh. If you talk about him, it’s almost like you’re part of the chorus and not a soloist.”

Chappelle recalled being given the difficult task of hosting Saturday Night Live in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. As President Donald Trump racked up more Electoral College votes in a stunning upset over Hillary Clinton, the writers’ room fell silent.

“Everyone was just staring at the TV. I saw people tear up sketches they were writing. They’d assumed Hillary was going to win. Now there was essentially no show on Saturday,” he recounted. “It was like the wind got knocked out of the writers’ room. I was really worried.”

Chappelle also opened up about his reaction to the untimely death of music icon Prince, whom he frequently impersonated on Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show, and the rape allegations against his childhood “hero” Bill Cosby.

“The Bill Cosby thing was tough for me. I’m not saying that to detract from his alleged victims at all. But he was a hero of mine,” he said. “So many bad things happened to our heroes: Muhammad Ali had Parkinson’s; Richard Pryor had M.S.; Prince died too young. And Bill just looked like one of the guys who was going to get to the finish line and just die of old age. And this happened. Jesus Christ. It’s awful.”

On Prince’s passing, he added, “I looked up to him like everybody did. … He fostered a community among artists. I think when he died, there was the icon dying, but then there was this pillar in the community of people dying.”

Over a decade since his abrupt exit from Chappelle’s Show, the comedian says quitting the show helped him reaffirm his love for stand-up, and he doesn’t see himself leaving the comedy world anytime soon.

“A lot of times when you’re a famous dude, you don’t really feel like a person is actually looking at you,” he told NYT. “I felt like after I quit my show, the crowds could actually see me. The audience recalibrated with me. They listened to me again. And it was great. … In the last few years, I’ve found an altitude I’m comfortable with.”

Two of Chappelle’s stand-up specials, Deep in the Heart of Texas and The Age of Spin, will begin streaming on Netflix March 21.

Presented by E.Cowan

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