All posts by billwhite1951

About billwhite1951

Bill White was a film reviewer for the Seattle Post Intelligencer from 1999-2009. Since then he has written a novel, The Goners, and a memoir, Cinema Penitentiary. He is currently working on a new novel, The Mayor is a Gringo. Born in Seattle, WA, he spent the years 1981-1997 in Boston, MA, where he worked as a disk jockey and a theater director, He also has an obscure place in the history of Northwest Rock Music.

A Musical Timeline 1955-69

Three versions of The Ballad of Davy Crockett were released in 1955. It was probably the Fess Parker version that I first heard, since it was likely I heard the song on the Walt Disney’s television program rather than on the radio.  But it may well have been Bill Hayes’ version that stuck with me, as it received the most radio play. It surely wasn’t Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version,or it would have stayed with me, as Ford’s Sixteen Tons, which was released at the end of that year,” was the third song I remember. Hayes’ “Davy Crockett” came out three months before Rock Around the Clock, the second song I remember hearing on the radio, and the official beginning of rock and roll. I was four years old, which means that i was born four years before rock and roll.

Elvis hit big in 1956,   buy I wasn’t all that aware of him, having just started kindergarten so not being home with the radio playing all day.  I do remember Johnny Ray’s Just Walkin in the Rain and Teresa Brewer singing The Boll Weevil Song. Those”Davy Crockett’type folk songs were becoming more popular in 1957, and i ran around the house singing stuff like “Tom Dooley” and “The Banana Boat Song.”   The soft rock ballad also appealed to me, with songs like “Tammy,” and “Love Letters in the Sand” getting under my skin.  i also liked the country sound of Jimmy Rodgers’ “Honeycomb.”

I discovered the novelty song with 1958’s “Purple People Eater,” and the songs from that year that caught my ear often contained an element of  novelty.  I laughed along to songs like Bird Dog, Yakety Yak, and Lollipop.”  The radio really grabbed hold of my ears in 1959, when I was eight years old and started interacting with the world outside my home and the schoolhouse.  The songs that buzzed around my head included The Battle of New Orleans, Personality, Dream Lover,Mack the Knife, Charlie Brown, Teenager in Love, Put Your head on My Shoulder, Tiger, and Poison Ivy. For some reason, Elvis still hadn’t made an impression on me.

In 1960, I was singing along with just about every song in the top 20.  My older sister was already 12, and she was winning contests on the radio, so 45’s started littering up the house, and I would play them when she wasn’t around. saw my first Elvis movie, “Flaming Star,” and started listening to my sister’s collection of his earlier hits.   By 1961, I had heard enough music to develop a critical sense.  I wondered what a boring song like “Michael Row The Boat Ashore” was doing at #1, knowing nothing about the folk music revival that was storming the colleges.  For the most part, top 40 radio offered  a rich variety of music, and the songs started to imprint themselves on me. . A Hundred Pounds of Clay, Runaway, Hit the Road jack, Who Put the bomp,  Runaround Sue,  I Like it Like That, Big Bad John, Sad Movies, and The Mountain’s High.” I even tried winning a record on the radio, sitting there for hours waiting for someone to sneeze so I could call in and say “Bless You.” When I finally heard the sneeze, and got through to the DJ, he asked me why I called.  Nobody had sneezed.  So I never won that copy of “Bless You” by Tony Orlando.That Christmas, my sister got a guitar and a copy of the soundtrack to Elvis’ movie, Blue Hawaii. She started crying when she saw that record cover.  The only thing she ever learned to play on the guitar was the opening riff to the Peter Gunn theme. I got some bongos and played along to the Blue Hawaii soundtrack and learned to sing like Elvis.

Up until 1962, all I knew of music was the radio and the stacks of my mom and dad’s records In 1962 I discovered Columbia House Record Club, which offered a dozen albums for a penny, if you promised to buy another 12 at regular prices within a year.  The fantastic thing about the record club ads was the way they presented the available records. Jazz, country, rock, pop, classical, folk, and spoken word were all mixed together in one gigantic potpourri of artists and styles.  I took advantage of the offer and introduced myself to the world of broadway musicals and motion picture soundtracks. Radio was not, however, abandoned, and dozens of new songs entered my lifetime playlist, including  Town Without Pity and The Wanderer, both of which I never stopped singing.  Johnny Angel,Duke of Earl, Peppermint Twist, Sherry, Crying in the Rain, Patches, Walk on the Wild Side, and Johnny Get Angry also got stuck in my head.

Rock and roll had been fading since Elvis came out of the Army acting like a grown up, but the pap that had taken its place was pretty catchy stuff, and I loved all of it. 1963 boasted One Fine Day, Blue Velvet, The End of the world, He’s so fine, Busted, Hello Stranger, Surfer girl, Walk Right In, Heat Wave, I Will follow Him, It’s My Party, Fingertips, Hey Paula, and Puff the Magic Dragon. Then came 1964, Motown and the British Invasion.  Almost every song on the radio for the next five  years was great, and pop music was falling from industry domains into the hands of the common people.

Rather than a  making lists of all the songs I remember from those days, I’ll try for a top ten for each year.  And although this was the dawn of album oriented rock Ill start by limiting myself to top 40 singles.

1964:  Do Wah Diddy, House of the Rising Sun, Memphis, Dont Let the Sun Catch You Crying , Leader of the Pack, You Really Got Me, Louie Louie, I Saw Her Standing There, The Girl From Ipanema,  Wishin’ and Hopin’

1965: Like a Rolling Stone, Mr. Tambourine Man, My Girl, Downtown, Eve of Destruction, Goldfinger, For Your Love, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, Tell Her No, Tracks of my Tears

1966: Paint it Black, When a Man Loves a Woman, 96 Tears, Walk Away Renee, You Dont have to Say You Love Me, Sounds of Silence, Shapes of Things,  Bus Stop, Kicks, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted

1967: Light My Fire, Whiter Shade of pale, For What it’s Worth, To Sir With Love, Happy Together, Ruby Tuesday, Georgy girl, We Aint got Nothin Yet, Alfie, Penny Lane

1968: Sunshine of Your Love, Dock of the Bay, Angel of the Morning, Jumpin Jack Flash, Hurdy gurdy Man, White room, Look of Love, Piece of my Heart, Good Band and the Ugly,  I Wish it Would Rain

I realize this reads like a classic rock playlist, and doesnt come close to representing the music of this era.  So to alleviate that shortcoming, I’ll try to choose the best 10 albums of these years. The exception is 1967,perhaps the most creative year in pop music, and I was forced to raise the ante to 30 albums. Also,I carried on to include 1969.

1964: Crescent (John Coltrane)  Another Side (Bob Dylan) Dusty (Dusty Springfield) Out to Lunch (Eric Dolphy) Hard Day’s Night (Beatles) I Walk the Line (Johnny Cash) Getz/Gilberto (Stan Getz) Folk singer (Muddy Waters) Together (Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells)  Tom Jones (Motion Picture Soundtrack)

1965: A Love Supreme (John Coltrane)  Bringing it all Back Home (Bob Dylan) My Funny Valentine (Miles Davis) Mr. Tambourine Man (The Byrds) Fairytale (Donovan)  Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan) December’s Children (Rolling Stones) Rubber Soul (Beatles) Heliocentric Worlds (Sun Ra) I Aint marchin Anymore (Phil Ochs)

1966: Blonde on Blonde (Bob Dylan) Freak Out (Mothers of Invention) Revolver (Beatles) Sounds of Silence (Simon and Garfunkle) Aftermath (Rolling Stones) The Fugs (Fugs) In Concert (Phil Ochs) Fresh Cream (Cream) Wild is the Wind (Nina Simone) Boom (the Sonics)

1967: The Doors (The Doors) Absolutely Free (Mothers of Invention) John Wesley Harding (Bob Dylan) Surrealistic Pillow (Jefferson Airplane) A Gift from a Flower to the Garden (Donovan)  Velvet Underground and Nico (Velvet Underground and Nico) Mellow Yellow (Donovan) Are You Experienced (Jimi Hendrix) Electric Music for the Mind and Body (Country Joe and the Fish) Sgt Peppers (Beatles) 5,000 Spirits or Layers of the Onion (Incredible String Band) Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Pink Floyd) Goodbye and Hello (Tim Buckley) Strange Days (Doors) Axis Bold as Love (Jimi Hendrix) Alice’s Restaurant (Arlo Guthrie) Procol Harum (Procol Harum) Chelsea Girl (Nico) Pleasures of the harbor (Phil Ochs) One Nation Underground (Pearls Before Swine) Wildflowers (Judy Collins) Disraeli Gears (Cream) Forever Changes (Love) Dear Mr.Fantasy (Traffic) Songs of (Leonard Cohen) Mixed Bag (Richie Havens) Straight No chaser (Thelonious Monk)  Blues is King (BB King) Something Else (The Kinks) A Hard Road )John Mayall)

1968: We’re Only In it for the Money (Mothers of Invention) Astral Weeks (Van Morrison) Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (Incredible String Band) Odyssey and oracle (The Zombies) Wee tam and the Big Huge (Incredible String Band) Music from Big Pink (The Band) Wheels of Fire (Cream) Tape from California (Phil Ochs) Truth (Jeff Beck Group) At Folsom Prison (Johnny Cash)

1969: Rehearsals for Retirement (Phil Ochs) Blue Afternoon (Tim Buckley) Dusty in Memphis (Dusty Springfield) With a Little help from my Friends (Joe Cocker) Clouds (Joni Mitchell) In  a Silent Way (Miles Davis) The Band (The Band) Let it Bleed (Rolling Stones) Led Zeppelin 2 (Led Zeppelin) Everybody Knows this is Nowhere (Neil Young and Crazy Horse)


Advance Listen to the first five Songs from Bill Whites new Album, The Human Conditional

Bill White Music Archive Top Ten Jan 20-Feb 5
This month I am writing and recording a new album entitled The Human conditional. The tracks are being posted on Bandcamp as they are produced. the top 5 songs this week happen to be the first five songs from the album, which will be officially released in March. Listen free to the songs now as they are written by clicking on the links.
2. The Toymaker

Movie Review The Disaster Artist

During the years that The Room was a weekly fixture on the schedule of a jerryrigged excuse for a movie theatre, the kind of place where thirty or forty smart alecks would gather to jeer at Showgirls or sing along with The Sound of Music, I had not the slightest interest in attending a screening.  Now, several years later, after having seen The Disaster Artist, a fictionalized account of the making of that cult phenomenon, seeing that movie became a  necessity.  Was it possible that these two characters as portrayed in The Disaster Artist had succeeded in executing even a watchable shot, let alone scene, let alone feature film?  Well, since I never saw The Room in its original theatrical form, it is impossible to know how that movie looked or played, but the BluRay gives it the air of a professional production.  For all I know, the millions made by the cult screenings may have gone into a total post production reboot. or maybe the director, writer, star Tommy Wiseau is not the total retard that director/actor  James Franco, makes him out to be in The Disaster Artist.

I’m not claiming that The Room is a good movie.  Had it been made as a porno film in the seventies, thugh, it would have been showered with accolades as a breakthrough adult film,  But it is not a porno, and it wasnt made in the seventies.   Its contemporaries are not Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones, but the flood of 21st century mumblecore movies that have reach a low-horizon zenith with writer/director Greta Gerwig’s highly praised disaster of a movie, Lady Bird, which has netted five Oscar nominations , including Best Picture, Best director, Best original Screenplay, and best actress for both leading and supporting roles.  Now, I’m not saying that The Room is a better film that Lady Bird, but it is not too much its inferior, and is certainly more honest.  Yet the Room is being touted as the worst film of all time and Lady Bird as the Best of 2017.  Something is seriously wrong here.

But back to The Disaster Artist.  It is  highly original, intensively funny look inside the conundrum of untalented and unskilled people failing to make it in a competitive industry, and how they create an alternative reality for themselves in which they are the alpha people.  Franco has done an excellent job of exaggerating the flaws of his protagonist to the point of hysterical disbelief.  The only precedent I can think of is American Movie, Chris Smith’s  1999 documentary of the making of Mark Borchardt\s horror short, Coven.  In both films, the audience is invited to both ridicule and empathize with a wannabe film-maker whose dreams exceed his capabilities.   There is something cruel in these films, but there is also a lot of affection for the misguided, deluded protagonist, one who beats the odds and the other who is defeated by them.



click on link to listen


Full Moon Night

from The Country Side of Bill White by Bill White

Down from Missouri Drivin a truck full of illegal beer
Outran the troopers across the Missippippi bridge
I tried to leave you after we made the split
But the wind was cutting through the trees and you wouldn’t let go of my wrist

Baby Im sorry Nothing ever comes out right
Yeah its hopeless even on a full moon night

We shacked up in Memphis near the Mississippi bridge
Stayed drunk all winter Cant remember all the things that we did
Sundays in Shakerag with a guitar on my knee
Got a call from Nashville and I wasn’t taking you with me

repeat chorus

Next time I saw you you were going through some heavy times
You cried on my shoulder all I could d was pour you another glass of wine
I said I cant help you but Ill stay till youre on your feet
But before we even finished making love I had my bags out in the street

That’s when I told you something that you didn’t want to know
That I would never follow you to where you wanted to go
Just because your prison is put together with pretty nails
Doesn’t make it any different than any other stinkin jail

repeat chorus


Movie Review” Commandos Strike At Dawn…terrible title, excellent film

Commandos Strike At Dawn

Where did this movie come from anyway? An American civilian leads a team of British commandos against a Nazi stronghold in Norway?  In 1942, America had hardly entered the war against the Japs, let alone joined in the fight against the Nazis.  Yet Hollywood produced this thrilling, inspiring , sensitive tale of Norwegian resistance under the exploitive title, Commandos Strike At Dawn.  And the movie, directed by John Farrow and starring Paul Muni and Lillian Gish, with a screenplay by Irwin Shaw and  based on a story by CS Forrester, is right up there with Roberto Rosellinni’s  Paisan as a masterpiece of anti- Nazi resistance.  it is nothing like the corny pro-american world war two films that were produced in 1943, when the United States expanded their military involvement to add Germany to the list of enemies,  ten years after the rise of Hitler.  The only directors in Hollywood  who came close to making such superior films about the war against Hitler  were Fritz Lang with hangmen Also Die and Alfred Hitchcock with Lifeboat.  But these films didn’t come along until 1943, and both were made by immigrants  John Farrow, although Australian by birth, found his career in the movies in Hollywood, and in this same year, 1942, directed another excellent war film, Wake Island, which focused on the American victories against the Japanese in the Pacific.  Both films are of lasting value, but Commandos Strike at Dawn belongs in the hallowed hall of masterpieces.

Song of the Day Blankets of Sun, from the album Older Master Cute link for free streaming

The Suffering Earth


Song of the Day.

Click link to listen


Song of the Day.  Click Link to Listen

The Suffering Earth

from Ashes and Embers by Bill White

We used to have the guts
To steal the payroll of a train
Now we slink on home in silence
To fill up our veins
With dirt
Until we’re just another piece of the suffering earth

Things beyond imagination
You get used to pretty fast
What was sold as forever
Never had the time to last
Now it’s gonna hurt
but it’s just a wrinkle in the ripple of the suffering earth

Courtrooms filled with caskets
where the dead are put on trial
Rivers thick with sinful blood
Open with a smile
But they swallow you first
Then spit you back into the suffering earth

It’s the power of the nightmare
The glory of the year
That educates with ignorance
And manipulates with fear
As we die of thirst
Crawling across the suffering earth

I never went to see my mother
Until the day before she died
Then my sister was gone too
It was a long and tearful ride
And I was left in the lurch
As the rest of my family fell into the suffering earth

I am lying on a guerney
Pushed from room to room
The nurses think that I amdead
The doctor knows I’ll be dead soon
But the truth is worse
I was just a piece of the suffering eath

Do you ever get the feeling
Nothing is as it seems
That your life had ended long ago
Now you’re walking in a dream
Waiting for the birth
Of a brand new you in the same old suffering earth


from Ashes and Embers, released October 23, 2007
all rights reserved

The DVD Pile- Catching Up on Recent Releases


A tight little crime thriller not unlike the ones they used make for television in the mid-seventies. It might not stick around in your memory through the coming years, but you’ll not be wasting your evening by taking it in.  Somebody is killing prostitutes and a ex-cop who discovers one of the bodies takes a personal interest in finding and dispatching the killer.  I liked it because it neither played it metrosexually cute like LA Confidential, nor did it swim in the swill of Tarantino vulgarity. John Hawkes is excellent as the ex-cop, and the supporting cast, which includes Robert Forster and Octavia Spencer , is outstanding.  Brothers Eshom and Ian Nelms share both writing and directing credit, and are a team poised for success.  Keep your eye on them.


Even without the devil, this tale of a successful band in heavy metal Hollywood would be a keeper. It helps that the lead singer of the group is a lead singer in a real life group,   In fact, almost everybody in the movie has a decent grasp on what it meant to be in a Hollywood band in the mid 80’s, after the punks faded away and the big hair posers moved in.  Some of the satanic stuff is pretty corny, and Malcolm McDowell isn’t going to win any prizes for his interpretation of the Evil One, but the metaphor is as straight and as clean as it was when Goethe applied it.


Everybody in this movie, except perhaps Sam Rockwell who I kind of liked, is way too hip for the movie they are making.  Frances McDormand may have been a decent actress back when she caught everyone’s attention with Fargo, but its twenty years later and she is still doing the same bloody thing.  Woody Harrelson is another one who never grew out of the nineties.  We all know what happened in Missouri during Obama\s reign, and if you want to see a movie that addresses that murderous underside of America, I recommend seeing Detroit and passing over this hipper than thou obfuscation of the situation at hand.