On Producing Spectacle
Of all the possibilities in front of us when we started making Spectacle, I’m not sure Elvis covering Steely Dan would have been on my most likely list – but it turned out to be one of my favorite musical performances that our host delivered in the series.
The occasion was the opening of this week’s program, which was, loosely, a theme show, that theme being “show biz kids”. Ours is not exactly the tabloid take on fallen child stars – from sitcom fame and fortune to life on the streets as a drug-crazed has-been to rehabilitation and redemption (and the inevitable memoir) – but rather a good excuse to bring together an interesting collection of young musicians who hail from families in or connected to the entertainment business.
Zooey Deschanel’s probably best known to most people as an actress, especially for her role in “Elf” with Will Farrell and more recently “The Happening” and “Yes Man” (with Jim Carrey). But the lovely and talented Zoeey also sings real nice and plays several instruments and in the last couple of years teamed up with the talented (and in his own way lovely) M. Ward. He’s a gifted guitarist, songwriter and producer. In fact, he co-produced an album by one of our other guests this week, Jenny Lewis. Anyway, under the name She+Him, Zoeey and Matt made an album. It’s called “Volume One”. (Also, if I’m not mistaken, he has a new solo album out this very week in America.)
Jenny Lewis is a show biz kid from Las Vegas. Her folks had a lounge act and young Jenny became a child actress, working with everyone from the late Lucille Ball to Shelley Long (look for a dancing and singing Jenny in Ms. Long’s starring vehicle “Troop Beverly Hills”). Jenny gave up the acting thing a while back to focus on music – and a damn good musician and songwriter she is. You might have heard of her band Rilo Kiley – damn good band. And now the Jenny Lewis solo career is blooming. Her most recent album is “Acid Tongue” and it’s highly recommended. As is the raucous duet she does with Elvis, and if you pay attention you’ll see and hear (and I dare say enjoy) it on this week’s Spectacle.
Elvis’s other guest is Jakob Dylan – also born into the business in a way. Dad’s a singer-songwriter of some repute apparently. Jakob’s actually been at it for a while now, and enjoyed his biggest mainstream success with his band the Wallflowers. He kindly offers up a solo acoustic version of one of their biggest hits for us, and he and Elvis duet on a newer song from Jakob’s really fine solo album, “Seeing Things”, released last year. Later on, Jakob and Elvis cover the Clash, and the whole cast assemble for a rollicking take on one of Elvis’s biggest and best hits (though not actually a Costello composition).
It’s all good fun, even if the task of editing all this talent into an hour of television was akin to fitting the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive unit into a phone booth. (Anyone remember phone booths?)
Thanks for watching.
Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…