John McLaughlin: 1927-2016

John McLaughlin, longtime host of The McLaughlin Group, passed away earlier today at the age of 89. He was on every single episode of the show for 34 years until last weekend, when he was too sick from cancer to appear (though he did do one last voiceover).

Here are two very funny sketches from Saturday Night Live that spoofed the show:

Monday Random Links

J.G. Ballard on social media and the web

Writer J.G. Ballard wrote this in 1977:

All this, of course, will be mere electronic wallpaper, the background to the main programme in which each of us will be both star and supporting player. Every one of our actions during the day, across the entire spectrum of domestic life, will be instantly recorded on video-tape. In the evening we will sit back to scan the rushes, selected by a computer trained to pick out only our best profiles, our wittiest dialogue, our most affecting expressions filmed through the kindest filters, and then stitch these together into a heightened re-enactment of the day. Regardless of our place in the family pecking order, each of us within the privacy of our own rooms will be the star in a continually unfolding domestic saga, with parents, husbands, wives and children demoted to an appropriate supporting role.

And in an interview in 1987, he said this:

Every home will be transformed into its own TV studio. We’ll all be simultaneously actor, director and screenwriter in our own soap opera. People will start screening themselves. They will become their own TV programmes.

[via Open Culture]

Friday Random Links

Kevin Gilbert: 20 years later

I just realized that a few weeks ago marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Kevin Gilbert. I still remember opening up USA Today and seeing the short blurb about his death, at just 29, and actually gasping out loud.

You might not know the name Kevin Gilbert, but you know many of his songs. When people ask me to turn them on to someone who they might not know, there are a few names that spring to mind. I could say Marshall Crenshaw – my favorite in the rock/pop genre – but he’s well-known enough that you’ve probably heard several of his songs. I could say Tommy Keene, and David Wilcox too. You can’t go wrong with any of them. But for shear “You’ve probably never heard of him and more people should know him,” I’d have to go with Gilbert.

Kevin Gilbert was one of those guys who could do everything, a prodigy who could sing and write and play every instrument except the bagpipes (and he probably could have learned that if he wanted to). He won contests when he was young (though to be honest, he will always be young). He worked with people like Madonna and Michael Jackson and Eddie Money and Keith Emerson. He wrote music for TV shows and produced albums for other artists. He loved Genesis and was almost their lead singer, replacing Phil Collins, but that never came to be.

The songs from him you probably know were on Sheryl Crow’s first album, Tuesday Night Music Club. The Tuesday Night Music Club was a group of people who got together on Tuesday nights to write songs, including Gilbert, Crow, Bill Botrell, David Baerwald, and David Ricketts – the last two you might remember as David & David. (Crow was a keyboardist/backup singer in Toy Matinee and Gilbert’s girlfriend, but that ended when she not only went on Letterman’s show and took credit for writing “Leaving Las Vegas,” she told the group that most of them weren’t needed for her follow-up – it was a split that got nasty and sad and you can read all about it if you want to know the details). Gilbert co-wrote “All I Wanna Do,” “Strong Enough,” “Leaving Las Vegas,” and most of the other songs on the album. He plays on several of the songs, and was a big factor in fixing the album after the record company wasn’t thrilled with the first mix.

But let’s get to the music. Here’s a song from Toy Matinee. It’s a 1995 live version with his band Thud. It’s about another ex-girlfriend, who left him for an Elvis impersonator:

This is “Queen of Misery,” co-written with Patrick Leonard. Play close attention to the lyrics. It’s about Madonna:

This is “Goodness Gracious,” the song that introduced me to Gilbert. I remember hearing it on the radio driving down the highway. It’s from Thud:

“Tea For One” is from Thud too. This song means a lot to me, for many different reasons:

This is “The Best of Everything.” Andrew Gold did a cover of his song many years ago that sounded so much like Gilbert it was uncanny. Such a beautiful song, and I’m pretty sure it’s about Crow:

From The Shaming of the True, his posthumous rock opera. It’s “Staring Into Nothing.”

“When You Give Your Love To Me”

He could do any type of song. This is “Waiting For The Rain” with his band Giraffe:

I hope these samples whet your appetite for Gilbert. Go to his official site and buy all of his albums. He’s someone everyone should know about and remember. Someone whose name should be mentioned when you’re talking about great music from the ’90s.

Vanessa Bayer’s Sunday routine

The New York Times has a regular feature called Sunday Routine, where they follow around a celebrity to see what they do on Sundays. This week it’s Saturday Night Live’s Vanessa Bayer, and the profile is pretty funny. She doesn’t do anything on Sunday. She sleeps until three, sits on the couch, watches HBO, and orders food.

Basically, the piece works as both a Sunday Routine and a parody of a Sunday Routine.