Music Features

Remembering John Lennon 40 Years After His Death

The world lost a legend on December 8, 1980

John Lennon released the song Imagine in May of 1971.

I was born less than six months later in that same year, the third child of a couple hippies who had no business having kids. But they had truth - and so did John.

He had love and truth and he was the BEATLES, same as Mick Jagger is The Rolling Stones, and Shane MacGowan is The Pogues. And Chuck Berry is... Chuck fg Berry.

And then consider these inventors of all that we listen to, those who create the sountrack for our lives: Buddy Bolden, Robert Johnson, Professor Longhair, David Bowie, Fats Domino, Kendrick Lamar, and Van Morrison.

In an alternate universe they would be seen as Joyce, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Frederick Douglas, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Walter Mosley, Seamus Heaney - the beacons of truth through the dark and dimly-lit tunnel of sociological change and evolution.

IMAGINE. (Ultimate Mix, 2020) - John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band (with the Flux Fiddlers) HD

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Instead, Lennon was feared by parents for being a "rock-n-roll" musician, for playing "black" music. Imagine that. Wow.

"People have always been trying to stamp out rock 'n' roll since it started, I always thought that it's because it came from black music and the words had a lot of double entendre in the early days. It was all this 'our nice white kids are gonna go crazy moving their bodies', y'now the music got to your body and The Beatles just carried it a bit further, made it a bit more white, even more than Elvis did because we were English." - John Lennon.

We miss you, John, and thank you for inspiring people to learn to love truth and for honoring the invention of our African American brothers and sisters. You stayed true. You will be missed.

WORKING CLASS HERO. (Ultimate Mix, 2020) - John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (official music video HD)

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Below I lay some flowers at your grave - the track my brother Joey wrote - inspired in large part by your style and sound, your truth.

Joey was part of a Dublin band that charted in the UK, trying to model your mojo. He wrote this song when he got back to the States, but continues to busk in front of the Dakota with his band mate, Nigel Williams, on the date of your birth - whenever possible.

You are missed and remembered, John. Slainte.

by Kevin Fortuna


Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast Spins Indie Songs Into Music Video Gold

The musician directed the video for Charly Bliss's new single Capacity, the latest in a string of gorgeous videos helping to solidify her reputation as a star in multiple mediums.

"I was watching a lot of heist movies at the time," said director Michelle Zauner of her work on the music video for indie pop up-and-comers Charly Bliss's new single Capacity, released today. With its dizzying series of shots featuring neon cacti, speeding cars, blurry TV screens, and plenty of cash, the video plays on all the best tropes of kitschy-crime 80's shows and films like Twin Peaks and Badlands in a display of what's becoming its director's signature style: dreamy slow-motion sequences and vaguely cultish imagery that both leans into and laughs at vintage pop culture's most extravagant excesses.

Charly Bliss - Capacity [Official Music Video]

The video is another installment in the growing body of directorial work for which Zauner, most famous for her excellent solo work as psychedelic-indie-rock musician Japanese Breakfast, is becoming increasingly noted. Alongside frequent collaborator Adam Kolodny, she directed the videos for Jay Som's "The Bus Song," which captures a blissfully homey Californian summer, and Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers' new project Better Oblivion Community Center's "Dylan Thomas," which transports the viewer to headquarters of a mysterious, quasi-religious cult.

Jay Som - The Bus Song [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO] (Amazon Original)

Better Oblivion Community Center - Dylan Thomas

She's also directed most of the visual counterparts to her own songs. " Boyish," from her excellent 2018 LP Soft Sounds from Another Planet, is a dismally gorgeous interpretation of a high school prom. Zauner dons a suit, slips into her characteristic bath of ethereal pink and purple lights, and soundtracks one girl's shift from pining over a boy to taking the stage and shredding on her guitar.

Japanese Breakfast - Boyish (Official Video)

It's a similar narrative to the story told by Mitski's Your Best American Girl video, in which the protagonist exchanges her unrequited desire for an archetypical, all-American guy for a much more satisfying love affair with her bass. Japanese Breakfast joined Mitski and Jay Som on tour in 2016, a lineup of all Asian American women that—although musically very different—were unified by a sense of creative ambition, talent, and a knack for crafting lyrics that cut through all bullshit.

Mitski - Your Best American Girl (Official Video)

Zauner is also signed to Mitski's label, Dead Oceans. The label's interest and that subsequent 2016 tour with Mitski was a marked surprise for her, for earlier that year she had been working at a "soul-leeching" ad job while quietly dealing with her mother's death by writing what would become Psychopomp, an album that explores many dimensions of grief through waves of reverb-heavy electric guitar and lyrics, sung in her distinctive wail.

A psychopomp, in Greek mythology, is a nonjudgmental tour guide who carries the soul from life to death; and the eponymous album's composition served this purpose for Zauner, providing catharsis in the midst of a storm.

Image via Rolling Stone

Since then, she hasn't stopped creating. Her first published essay won Glamour's nonfiction contest, and she hopes to turn a lauded essay about Korean food and grief published in the New Yorker into a full-length food memoir about her childhood growing up Jewish-Korean in a predominantly white town.

In the midst of it all, she's found time to turn her knowledge of heist movies and crime dramas into Charly Bliss's newest visual. Judging by the quality and the sheer breadth of the output she's been gifting the world with over the past few years, "a lot of heist movies" probably means endless numbers of films watched at all hours of the night. Zauner seems like the kind of person who's constantly uncovering new conspiracy theories, always knee-deep in a rabbit hole of pop science and personal reflection.


Certainly her own music videos belie a huge variety of filmic and cultural influences. 2016's " Jane Cum" is hypnotic and haunting, following Zauner on a journey through misty woods to a fiery ritual. Directed with Kolodny and House of Nod Productions, the video borrows from vintage movies, mostly riffing on the 90's horror flick The Craft. 2018's "Road Head" continues this tradition of using occult themes to express the complexities of human feelings.

Japanese Breakfast - Jane Cum (Official Video)

Japanese Breakfast - Road Head (Official Video)

"Machinist," also from Soft Sounds, is a nod to sci-fi, inspired by Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and takes inspiration from the Mars Project, an initiative meant to eventually make Mars habitable. It's a trip through a subterranean laboratory that finds Zauner writing love letters and dancing beneath glowing wires and flashing TV screens, using a vocoder and autotune to tell a cyborgian love story; throughout, she almost seems to be laughing at the surreality of our modern technology-saturated world while relishing in its aesthetic beauty.

Japanese Breakfast - Machinist (Official Video)

"The Body is a Blade," of the same album, is also a tribute to 80s nostalgia, as well as to her mother's memory. It shuffles grainy, faded shots of summertime fields and beaches with family photos as Zauner sings about the body's persistent will to live in spite of all odds. It's classic Zauner: aesthetically beautiful and effortlessly dreamy, a tradition that Capacity dutifully follows, its lurid celebration perfectly framing the song's sonic buoyancy and moody lyrics. Maybe soon enough we'll be getting our own full-length feature film from her, but until then, it seems a safe bet that there are more cyborgs and redemptive senior proms to come.

Japanese Breakfast - The Body Is A Blade (Official Video)

Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @edenarielmusic.

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Star Wars - It's a Map!

A San Francisco designer retold The Original Trilogy in the style of the London Tube Map.

Not many people sit down and watch George Lucas's classic trilogy and then think to themselves: What if this was a public transit map? What if we viewed every destination the various characters encounter on their journey as subway stubs? Luckily, Jacob Berman not only had that thought but spent several weeks acting on it. It should be mentioned that he has made numerous maps in the past, so he clearly sees the world and its culture in terms of cartography.

Fifthythreestudio, Jacob Berman

Now, of course there is no better way to incur the rage of internet geeks than by remastering anything Star Wars-related. So Mr. Berman attempted to reduce the rage by posting a drafted version in the place with the most concentrated rage: Reddit.

In his own words, he was "torn apart by people who were quite passionate about the subject." If you want to see a classic Reddit explosion, checkout the whole post here. It has some important facts about the original film, including the fact that "C3-PO was throwing dead Jawas into a fire." I, for one, didn't know that.

Fifthythreestudio, Jacob Berman

Also, the Reddit post led to some amazingly specific jokes about Star Wars and the New York City Subway system, including parodies of its delays such as, "THIS SAIL BARGE IS CURRENTLY RUNNING EXPRESS. EXPRESS EXPRESS EXPRESS EXPRESS. WE WILL NOT BE MAKING STOPS BETWEEN 59TH STREET-JABBA'S THRONE ROOM AND 125TH STREET-SHUTTLE TYDIRIUM."



Nonetheless, Berman used the exchange as constructive criticism and integrated the helpful feedback into his final products. Check them out and stay tuned to see if he is going to validate the prequels by incorporating them into his next designs! Or, god forbid, see if he draws inspiration from the new films.

Fiftythreestudio, Jacob Berman


Banksy's Shredded Painting: Publicity Stunt or Subversive Act?

After selling for $1.4 million, Girl with a Red Balloon self destructed.

Even Banksy is sick of Banksy.

Everyone's favorite laptop decal designer has been up to more mischief, this time destroying his own painting at a London auction on Friday. In a seemingly coordinated stunt with Sotheby's, one of Banksy's trademark paintings self-destructed after being auctioned off for $1.4 million. The anonymous artist posted a video of the painting passing through a shredder built into the frame. Sotheby's denied having any prior knowledge of the incident.

One thing's for sure, in a world where the definition of art is becoming looser and looser, that torn Pulp Fiction poster you never bothered to take off your wall? A commentary. That pizza sauce stain you can't get off your white sofa? Expressionism.

"The urge to destroy is also a creative urge," Banksy captioned a second Instagram post about the incident, quoting Picasso.

The New York Times reports that it seems unlikely that no one found the shredder, supposedly built into the frame twelve years ago, before the auction. Indeed, "Detailed condition reports are routinely requested by the would-be buyers of high-value artworks. Unusually, this relatively small Banksy had been hung on a wall, rather than placed by porters on a podium for the moment of sale. And the artwork was also the last lot in the auction."

So if Sotheby's was in on the stunt, is it still the moment of anti-establishment rebellion we all want it to be?

Sotheby's senior director Alex Branczik said in a statement that is difficult not to picture him practicing in the mirror the night before, "It appears we just got Banksy-ed."

This is not the first "subversive" act of Banksy's to make headlines. In 2005, the artist hung one of his "modified canvases," showing a woman wearing a gas mask, for two hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Similar to the Sotheby's incident, the 2005 stunt—and subsequent similar stunts at other museums—seemed unlikely to have reached fruition without collaboration by the very establishment Banksy claimed to be condemning. In 2005, Banksy told NPR that he'd read biographies of Harry Houdini to learn how to sneak into the museums with his artworks, some of which were large and heavy.


The Independent reported Saturday that the work has "doubled in value" since its partial destruction. Whatever Banksy was trying to prove with the stunt, consumers ate it up.

But still, there's something about it all that seems a little, well, Disney. If Banksy's intention were to criticize the commodification of his art — originally intended to be street art belonging to no one — doesn't the uptick in the piece's value only cement Banksy as a consumable, commercial artist?

Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.

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'Almost Famous' Coming to Broadway!

The popular 2000 film is returning for a live rendition

It has been 18 (yes 18!) years since Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous became an instant classic.

The semi-autographical film was beloved (and still is) by movie and music fans who love the idea of passion and performance lived out by young people determined to make their dreams come true, through riveting rock-and-roll-led lives.

If you've never seen the movie, W Magazine sums it up: "Almost Famous follows the journey of a 15-year-old boy who lands a once-in-a-lifetime assignment from Rolling Stone to write about a rising rock band. The assignment leads to a life-changing experience for the main character as he navigates professionalism and being swept up in the rock scene himself. The story was, in fact, a fictional version of Crowe's experience working for the publication in the 1970s." Sounds like Broadway gold, and that's exactly what is in the works.

As Deadline reports, "The project was confirmed by producers Lia Vollack on behalf of Columbia Live Stage, Joey Parnes, Sue Wagner and John Johnson. The new musical will feature a book by Crowe based on his Academy Award-winning screenplay, music by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), lyrics by Kitt and Crowe, and directed by Jeremy Herrin (People, Places and Things)."

The cast of the movie was a "cool crowd" collection of up-and-comers and seasoned actors who had chemistry and charisma, making the people on screen as fascinating as the plot. From Billy Crudup to Kate Hudson to Philip Seymour Hoffman to Frances McDormand, the all-star line up made this film one to watch, and still holds its own nearly two decades later.

Rather than a reboot or a sequel, the story is sure to succeed on The Great White Way. While the cast will change, the storyline will be just as captivating, set in the '70s and wrapped up in the rock star way of life. The live music aspect of the Broadway version is sure to add even more authenticity as we watch the performers give their all to the "groupies" in the audience.

The screenplay for Almost Famous won an Oscar, giving the Broadway version a Tony to try for. But when can we get tickets? So far, there is "no official timeline for the project's release," as reported by W Magazine. But when the wheels are in motion, it won't be long until the seats cost hundreds and critics are all over the latest show of the moment.

Will Hudson have a cameo? As Vanity Fair notes, " No word yet on the cast, but expect plenty of attention around the casting for Penny Lane, the role that earned Kate Hudson an Oscar nomination and may still be the gold standard for cinematic dream girls." Can we expect new music or theatrical twists? Something special is sure to arise, making the Broadway rendition of Almost Famous fined-tuned and fresh.

Stay tuned 'till more news emerges about this highly-anticipated Broadway show. Rent the movie and watch it again and remember why you loved it so much back in 2000.

Melissa A. Kay is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. Follow her work on Popdust as well as sites including TopDust, Chase Bank, P&G,, The Richest, GearBrain, The Journiest, Bella, TrueSelf, Better Homes & Gardens, AMC Daycare, and more.

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Meshahnye, the Classic Gorky Play, Returns to New York

DoubleDeckerProductions Stages a New Revival of the Russian Classic at One of Off-Broadway's Most Hallowed Venues

DDP Production Team

Take a stroll down to the East Village this week and you may just end up in Russia...

DoubleDeckerProductions is presenting a brand new translation of Maxim Gorky's play "Meshahnye" (Мещане) starting this week. The play is directed by Jenny Sterlin (known for roles on Broadway opposite Alan Cumming) and debuted last night at the Cino Theater at Theater for the New City to positive reception.

The 1902 Russian play reflects the timeless human divide between generations, class status, revolt, and the never-ending struggle of duty, morality, and traditional values. It's story follows the household of Vasil Vasilyevich, and the gradual disintegration of his family unit. His children are depressed, his wife is harried, their friends either drunk or iconoclastic. All of this takes place against the stagnating backdrop of pre-revolutionary Russia. Previously translated as Philistines by Dusty Hughes, this new production began with a literal translation of Gorky's original words by Russian native Leo Grinberg and then modernized the language, with the help of Jenny Sterlin, in order to portray the shockingly relevant and culturally enlightening story for a contemporary audience.

Translator Leo Grinberg and director Jenny Sterlin

"Meshahnye" will be performed by a diverse group of actors of various ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. The principal Vasilyevich family will be played by John Lenartz, Isabella Knight, and Annie F. Nelson. Rounding out the complex cast of characters are Kenneth Cavett, Ninoshka De Leon Gill, Leo Grinberg, Kelli Maguire, Kassandra Perez, Fede Rangel, Aaron Wright, Zenon Zeleniuch, and Thomas Burns Scully. "Meshahnye" is being produced by Artistic Director Jenny Sterlin, Laurie Prose, General Manager, and Alex Duncker, Production Assistant.

DoubleDeckerProductions is a non-profit company that exists to advance the cause of human understanding by creating theatrical productions at the highest level of artistic excellence and making them affordable for the broadest community. DoubleDeckerProductions has a history of producing award-winning new works often focused on generational identity and character dynamics.

DDP Production Team

Their illustrious past includes readings of Haitian playwright Bernard Sterlin, productions of plays by Jimmy Kerr, successful entries at Origin Theatre's 1st Irish Theatre Festival (winning Audience Favorite in 2016 for Dorothy of Nowhere), and much, much more. With this track record, it's not surprising that their board consists of Tessa Thompson (Dear White People, Thor: Ragnarok), Judith Ivey (Tony and Drama Desk Award winner), Richard Martin, Susan Rothschild (NYC Department of Cultural Affairs), and stage and screen legend Alan Cumming (Macbeth, X-Men 2, GoldenEye).

"Meshahnye" will continue to play Thursday through Monday (with an additional performance on Wednesday the 26th) until September 30th. Tickets are $35 with student and senior discounts available. For reservations visit or email [email protected].

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