Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Richie Unterberger presents "The Rolling Stones, England's Newest Hitmakers"
It was fifty years ago this month -- on June 7, 1963, to be precise -- that the Rolling Stones released their first record. The band is still, um, wheezing along, in the midst of a 50th anniversary tour.

To commemorate this half-century mark, rock historian Richie Unterberger will present two hours of rare clips of the Rolling Stones on Saturday, June 29 from 2pm-4pm in Koret Auditorium at the Main branch of the San Francisco Public Library.

Spanning the first decade of their recording career (through 1972), most of the material is unavailable on commercial video. While some clips show up on official releases, these were often shown in only short excerpts in that format. This presentation features the most complete filmed versions of those songs and performances available.

While the Rolling Stones are still active forty years after the final clip in the program, virtually everyone would agree that the lion's share of their greatest music was made in the 1960s and early 1970s.  The program emphasizes clips of the group performing live, which is the best way to appreciate their charisma, and affords us a chance to hear them doing material in somewhat different form than we hear on the studio recordings.

Some notable songs are only represented by mimed performances or promotional films (i.e. music videos, though they didn't call them that then) when the clips are enjoyable or the songs are not available in other formats. These are still interesting to see as they do illustrate the evolution of their music and image.

The program also features more clips from the Stones' earliest mid-'60s years than any other phase of this period. Although some famous hits are missing from the presentation, this does allow the inclusion of quite a few songs that are not so famous, especially from their earliest years.

From early blues covers like "I Just Want to Make Love to You" through breakthrough mid-'60s smashes like "Satisfaction" and later classics such as "Ruby Tuesday," "Honky Tonk Women," and "Brown Sugar," many highlights of their repertoire will dot this survey of their peak years as musicians, songwriters, and performers.

All programs at the Library are free.  This program is supported by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

State of the Arts in San Francisco (1986)

Twenty seven years ago a State of the Arts in San Francisco was published as a "special series" by the San Francisco Chronicle.  In the introduction, Rosalie Muller Wright, the editor of the collection, wrote that she and her colleagues sought to better understand the major artistic institutions of the City.  They posed the questions like "How did they get started? Who makes the artistic decisions? How do they raise funds? How do they stack up artistically against similar groups in other cities?"  The final questions seemed to have been pressing to them, as they and these organizations yearned to assert San Francisco's status as a significant cultural center.

Various critics and columnists for the paper at that time, such as Jerry Carroll, Blake Green, Jesse Hamlin, Michael Harris, Pat Steger, Sylvia Rubin, and Ruthe Stein, contributed to this survey.  There were also concluding essays by the Chronicle's renowned architecture critic Allen Temko and beloved columnist Herb Caen.

State of the Arts in San Francisco devoted its attention exclusively to eight organizations - the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Art Institute, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the San Francisco Ballet, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Opera, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the American Conservatory Theatre.

Throughout this book there are tables showing the expenses and income of many of the organizations, sometimes comparing them to similar institutions around the country.  Another chart lists the major donors to the San Francisco Opera.  The society columnist Pat Steger provides some of the most interesting information in articles entitled "The People Who Control the Money," "Breeding Grounds for Trustees" and "Getting onto the 'Big' Boards" that all concern the super rich who give to the arts and about the make up the boards of these organizations.

At the book's end Herb Caen wrote an article entitled "The Non-Stop S.F. Culture" that is a typical feel-good cheerleading piece. Allan Temko wrote a more sober article entitled "A Raggedly Uneven Cultural Scene" where he surveys the arts in the city and still finds them wanting in many respects.

State of the Arts in San Francisco includes many photographs, some of which document the City's museums before they were renovated or replaced.  In short, this book provides a look at the some major artistic institutions that have endured and continue to endure.  It traces their development and gives a clear sense of their achievements and challenges up to that time. 

State of the Arts in San Francisco, Rosalie Muller Wright, editor; Dennis Gallagher, design (Chronicle Publishing Co., 1986).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Animated TV Specials: The Complete Directory to the First Twenty-Five Years

a still from It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, from the ABC website

It's easy to assume nowadays that all of one's information needs can be met through the internet and other online resources.  In the areas of film and television two resources, the Internet Movie Database and The Wikipedia, have made mountains of information available to fans and researchers  -- information that was once very difficult to locate.  However, there are still reference books that provide detail and context not yet available through online sources.

Animated TV Specials by George W. Woolery from 1989 is an encyclopedia of American broadcast TV specials from 1962 to 1987, a period of time that could, in retrospect, be viewed as a sort of golden age of the form.

He traces the origin of this type of programming to the December 18, 1962 broadcast of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.  Later animated TV specials that have made a lasting mark on American popular culture include Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer (broadcast December 6, 1964) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (broadcast December 9, 1965).  The former generated two sequels, while the latter had generated 31 sequels through the beginning of 1987.

This reference book covers 434 titles, providing a summary of each program.  It also details the date of the broadcast premiere, the broadcast time, network, and the sponsor.  Additionally there is information about repeat broadcasts, and later syndication.  Finally the producers, directors, music and lyrics creators, company and distributors are also given.  There are also excellent credits for characters and voice actors.  In a few cases I found more detailed credits in this reference than were given in online sources.

The appendix includes a compilation of the most frequently aired animated specials (through 1986-7).  There is also a listing of animated TV specials using stop-motion animation, a listing of holiday and topical animated TV specials, and a list of specials by series. 

Very importantly for a reference book there are also indexes of producers, directors, and filmmakers, writers, musicians and lyricists, and voice actors.

There is one listing for the composer and music producer Quincy Jones.  He created the music for an animated special by the important husband and wife team of John and Faith Hubley entitled Dig.  Woolery describes Dig as a "fantasy trip through the layers of the earth and millions of years of history."

Jones' music alternates between cool jazz, electronic sounds and songs sung by his musical associates like Harry "Sweets" Edison, Don Elliott, and Ruth Price.

Famed soundtrack composer Danny Elfman has one listing in this book.  Family Dog appears to be the only animated program in Stephen Spielberg's Amazing Stories series.  This program was directed by Brad Bird.  Stan Freberg and Mercedes McCambridge are the principle voice actors.

There appears to have only ever been one Doonesbury animated film -- unsurprisingly entitled A Doonesbury Special.


This appears to be the only instance of voices being attached to the familiar characters of the long-running comic strip. Woolery's book provides complete credits and a summary of the show (not available through the Internet Movie Database).

It used to be very difficult to see the majority of these programs.  But with the advent of the hundreds of available cable and satellite channels and on demand viewing through the worldwide web, many of these programs are today very readily viewable. It's fascinating to skim this book and search for these films online.

Animated TV Specials: The Complete Directory to the First Twenty-Five Years, 1962-1987 by George W. Woolery (Scarecrow Press, 1989).

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Searching for Images

The Art and Music Center is sponsoring an image search class in the Sycip Conference Room on June 5th at 6pm. The instructor will go over the resources and searching strategies in the library catalog and on the web. Whether you're looking for a stock photo of a business meeting that includes a chart,


 or women's costume from the 1860's, you'll find some information to help you.