In 1967, as many as 700 million people worldwide watched Our World, the first ever live international satellite broadcast. The show featured segments by 14 different countries, presenting scenes of their choice (Japan showed the construction of the Tokyo subway system, while Canada showed a rancher herding cattle).
The United Kingdom won the night by offering up The Beatles, at the height of their popularity, debuting a new song. John Lennon wrote ‘All You Need Is Love’ for the occasion, deliberately penning a tune so simple that anybody in the world could easily sing along.
‘9-9’ (pronounced “nine to nine,” according to bassist Mike Mills) is a deep cut on R.E.M.’s debut album, 1983’s Murmur.
Murmur is a fascinating album because it not only introduced the jangly pop and soulful folk rock that R.E.M. would perfect, but also weird, discordant, soft-punk songs like this one that pointed to some of the odd detours the band would take throughout their career.
In this very non-traditional movie year, the best film I’ve seen so far is Spike Lee’s presentation of American Utopia, a Broadway performance by David Byrne that ran between October of last year and February of 2020. The concert film is currently available for streaming on HBO Max.
Byrne’s show features a handful of tracks from his American Utopia album, released in 2018, but also cuts from the rest of his solo career and his time with Talking Heads. In between songs, Byrne opines on the state of America, offering an expansive and hopeful vision that couldn’t feel more welcome in this dark year.
When Tom Petty died three years ago at just 66, he seemed to have a lot more in the tank. In the ’10s, he had already released two strong albums with the Heartbreakers (Mojo and Hypnotic Eye) and one with his old band, Mudcrutch.
In a career that spanned 40 years, Petty released some incredible albums, and the greatest of them all was arguably 1994’s Wildflowers. That sprawling set skipped between genres, from country grunge to acoustic folk, and found Petty at his most emotionally raw and creatively open.
In terms of longevity and output, Bob Dylan is the standout among this week’s group of old men. The 79-year-old released his 39th studio album earlier this year, as he nears his 60th year of recording.
Rough and Rowdy Ways is Dylan’s first album of original material since 2012’s Tempest. He spent the time in-between releasing three albums of standards (including the three-disc Triplicate), but clearly playing Frank Sinatra was not going to be Dylan’s final creative act.