Matthew Muhl is a filmmaker and writer who has been keeping the Robot Monster flame alive with his script Man or Ro-Man, for which he was kind enough to ask me for input. Matthew has assembled a creative little short film that previews some of Man or Ro-Man, which I believe he’s working on presenting as a theatrical play. It’s now up on YouTube, so please check it out, give it a like, and spread the word!
From postpunk, the hobbit rock thread can be traced onward to later in the same decade. A mellow strain of alternative rock began to emerge in the mid-1980s, or so it seemed to some of us in America. I suspect that in Britain, funnily enough, much British music seemed mainstream. And this example, courtesy of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, fits the jangly guitar sound that was more and more common then.
I like this song, and the banter at the end is amusing, but I’ve got another reason to like this video. I can’t quite remember, yet I’m convinced that I owned Lloyd’s shirt in junior high school.
Bonus video: Back in 1968, Leonard Nimoy graced the world with this lighthearted ode to a hobbit. This is not postpunk or alt rock, but it is quite literally hobbit rock.
Another year, and blogging has been too infrequent around here. There will clearly be much more Hobbit Rock work to be done in 2022. In the meantime, here is an easy one.
As my previous Hobbit Rock post showed, all the Joy Division influence in northern England could not extinguish the Hobbit Rock flame. Like a stubborn Viking invader, it merely moved north to Scotland and never left the island. And here’s a further ‘80s Scottish example of Hobbit Rock to follow up “All About You” by Scars. This is one that everyone knows, but here in a fantastic live performance:
When I took a Renaissance lit class in the early 1990s, our instructor scoffed at least once at Renaissance Fairs. And while “Ren Fests” have experienced their share of derision, my teacher’s issue was more specific than any perceived dorkiness. For the festivals don’t always much distinguish between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, mixing elements of them together in a historically inaccurate mish-mash of time periods, some of it medieval.
But I’ll defend Ren Fests a bit. First, I’ve been to one years ago, and found it very enjoyable. Second, my favorite part of that lit class (besides writing a sonnet about Robot Monster) was learning that Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur was a little early for Renaissance, more like the very end of the Middle Ages. So if that ambiguity of historical eras is good enough for the Arthurian legend and John Boorman’s Excalibur, why, Ren Fests should get a little more respect.
What does this have to do with Hobbit Rock? Our next song is by a band called Renaissance. There is some folk here, some classical, woodwinds mixed with guitars, it’s the seventies, sort of a prog group, but this song is a very good pop song. Here is a longing-for-home sentimentality, very much in line with hobbits and their love of home, and there seemed to be more songs like this back then. What does this have to do with the Renaissance? I don’t know, but it’s a great song and a great performance.
Bonus video: This is Nightwish’s cover version of Gary Moore’s “Over the Hills and Far Away,” featured in the previous installment of Hobbit Rock.
What is Hobbit Rock?
I’ve seen a mention of this term online that pigeonholes the Hobbit Rock subgenre as part of the prog era that peaked in the ’70s. Myself, I believe that the term is more far-reaching than that definition, not that I can exactly define it.
Hobbit Rock seems to always have a vaguely Celtic feel, or be in some way similar to folk music of some part of the British Isles. And … that’s it. At least until enough examples can show a more definite pattern.
Anyhow, as part of this not very serious study, this month’s song for the appreciation of Hobbit Rock is Gary Moore’s “Over the Hills and Far Away,” not to be confused with the Led Zeppelin song of the same title. At one time a member of Thin Lizzy, Moore was an accomplished guitarist and no slouch as a vocalist either. And this video shows that he could lip sync to himself pretty well too.
“Star-Spangled Banner” films were a regular fixture of local TV stations, before infomercials gave them an excuse to broadcast 24-7. The ones I see on YouTube seem all recorded from the sign-off at the end of the day, but my strongest memory of them is from one that was played as a morning sign-on.
The video below is a sign-off from New York City, and I’m reasonably sure this is the same video we had in my corner of the Midwest when one of the local stations signed on at 6:00 in the morning on the Saturdays when I was up. The close-in on the flag at the end with that exciting high note (sounded like a pipe organ from a little TV speaker), followed by a whooshing rocket-into-space noise is the part I’ve always remembered.
But wait, there’s more. Notice that the entire video is a series of still photos with zooms and pans and fancy edits. This style is the true essence of the late ’70s and early ’80s, and it was everywhere. I’m continually amazed that anyone associates it so much with Ken Burns documentaries–remember the opening credits of The Rockford Files, Days of Heaven, anything on public television back then?
All right, even if you can’t stand 1980s alt-rock, this is amazing:
Capo’d at the 2nd fret, of course.
The music of Rush is supposed to be a love-it-or-hate-it thing, but somehow I managed to fall in the middle. Long-term, devoted fans don’t always love their early ‘80s material but I think the Permanent Waves-Moving Pictures-Signals era was magnificent. Alex Lifeson’s guitar had a lovely chorus pedal sound which meshed with the synthesizers that the band was experimenting with, and brought out the best in some of their best songs.
It’s thanks to Neil Peart that I learned something about music. A couple of high school jazz band friends had whatever the current Rush concert video was at the time, and could not say enough about Peart’s drumming. One of these guys was a drummer, and the other a serious Rush fan, and I realized that some folks like music not for any song by that artist, but because of the sheer musicianship.
And I hope Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson keep going in some form.
Rest in peace, Neil Peart.
I’m finally about to drop some new writing stuff, just been as busy as a Border Collie:
And I spent too much time away from the blog again. But there is much more writing stuff coming soon, novels and more.
In the meantime …
I love a catchy song. Also a clever music video. It’s even more cool when the two coincide, such as right here: