Column: Penny Lane Records now giving Upland a spin

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Remember Penny Lane Records? I do: I used to visit its Colorado Boulevard store back when Old Town Pasadena was interesting, and it had a bunch of other stores around L.A. I thought it was out of business until a couple of years ago, when a reader alerted me Penny Lane had a small store and Internet business in, of all places, an Upland industrial park. It took me until now to visit, but that’s okay, as Saturday, Penny Lane is participating in its first Record Store Day.

Steve Bicksler, pictured above and below, founded the store in 1985 and, three decades later, is still hanging in there, now as the sole employee. The tenacious store’s new and old lives are explored in Friday’s column.

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Favorite films of 2014

I saw 32 new or new-ish movies last year, which puts me somewhere in between diehard moviegoers and dabblers. I have movie-loving friends who see nearly everything that comes out and others who are Netflix-only.

So, take my list with a grain of salt as always. I produce them anyway, since 2010 (here’s last year’s), because they’re fun to do, they might turn you on to a movie you hadn’t known of or seen, and you can chime in with your own likes and dislikes.

I’ve listed every movie I saw, so if you don’t see a title listed below, I didn’t see it. So much for the December releases Selma, American Sniper, A Most Violent Year (which came out Dec. 31), Inherent Vice or Imitation Game, or for that matter Chef and Get on Up from earlier in the year. A couple of the titles (Her, 20 Feet From Stardom) officially came out in 2013, but almost nobody saw them until 2014.

Lastly, I rank them based on how much pleasure they gave me at the time, and how much of them I can remember as I think back on them. A couple of rankings from 11 to 20 may surprise you, but all I can say is, I enjoyed the heck out of them.

In roughly descending order, here’s my Top 10: Calvary, Boyhood, The Trip to Italy, Edge of Tomorrow, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Lunchbox, Nightcrawler, A Summer’s Tale, Fading Gigolo and Whiplash.

The next 10 would run as follows: Top Five, Wild, Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, Interstellar, Gloria, St. Vincent, Grand Budapest Hotel, Hercules, The Equalizer, Foxcatcher.

Here are the bottom 12. The first two are worth your time, and starting with Birdman they get increasingly iffy: Force Majeure, Guardians of the Galaxy, Birdman, 20 Feet From Stardom, Gone Girl, A Most Wanted Man, Under the Skin, Her, Love is Strange, Dancing in Jaffa, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Tim’s Vermeer.

What did you see and like, or hate?

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Favorite music of 2014

Does anyone still buy CDs? Some of us do. You can find my Top 10 CDs of the year — my Top 15, actually, as I added five runnerups — at our IE Music Now blog, along with the picks of my newsroom colleagues Liset Marquez and Wes Woods, both of whom are hipper than me (even though they still buy CDs too).

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Column: For Ray Bradbury fans, overlapping events this way come

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Claremont has a Bradbury film, “Fahrenheit 451,” at 2 p.m. Sunday; meanwhile, Pomona has a Bradbury film, “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit,” at 3 p.m. Sunday. Awkward! Wednesday’s column delves into both events, either of which promises entertainment for the Bradbury fan. Pomona’s is more star-studded (Edward James Olmos! Joe Mantegna!) but there’s a fee to get in, as it’s a fundraiser to benefit the Pomona Public Library. Claremont’s is cheaper (free!). Also, I’ll be there, introducing the film, moderating a discussion afterward and, if you like, selling you a copy of “Pomona A to Z.”

Above, there’s a neat display this week of Bradbury items at the Pomona Library (625 S. Garey), with books, photos and memorabilia, and DVDs of the two films this weekend happened to be placed side by side.

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Column: Millard Sheets’ rainbow murals return to Honolulu Hilton

Friday’s column starts with the (admittedly belated) news of a massive mural by Millard Sheets on the 31-story Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort that has been restored. I’d been meaning to write about this for weeks but decided to wait for a chance to talk to Sheets’ son at the Fair. Have you ever seen the mural? Personally, I’ve never even been to Hawaii. But the mural looks cool.

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Wussy!

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Above, from left, Joe Klug, Lisa Walker, Chuck Cleaver and Mark Messerly; off-camera, John Erhardt.

This has nothing to do with the Inland Valley, but it’s a chance to put in a plug for my favorite band, Cincinnati’s Wussy. They say they’re “bridging the gap between The Band and Sonic Youth,” and the band X is another point of comparison. Two friends and I saw them at the Silverlake Lounge on Friday night and we stood just feet away. What a thrill.

Also, I ran into co-lead singer Chuck Cleaver on the sidewalk before the show and he signed one of my CDs, took it into the tour van for everyone else to sign, and posed with me for a photo (see below). Try getting U2 to do any of that.

The sound’s not so hot, but I recorded two short videos on my phone: “Maglite” and “Yellow Cotton Dress.” Of course, Maglite flashlights are made in Ontario, so there’s your local connection if you need one.

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Jack White at the Fox

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The ex-White Stripe performed Thursday night at the Pomona Fox, one of the highest-profile concerts the venue has seen. (Green Day, Morrissey and a few more were bigger.)

After a set by the Cold War Kids, White — looking stylish in a black and white checked suit and a fedora — rocked the house for nearly an hour with 11 songs, took a short break and then returned for another 40 minutes and nine songs. Here’s the setlist. Either this was a really long encore or a full second set.

White was energetic, jumping around the stage, playing a lot of lead guitar (and, on a couple of tunes, piano) and moving quickly from one song to the next. We ate it up. Here’s my colleague Wes Woods’ review, with a video.

An announcement before the old-school White came on asked that people “enjoy the moment” rather than take photos. This got a cheer of approval, surprisingly. Professional photos would be taken, posted on White’s website and available for download for anyone who wanted mementos, we were told. While some around me on the floor did take photos anyway, there were a lot fewer than is typical at a concert these days.

So, that explains the two high-quality images with this blog post. You can find more on White’s site.

White has performed three previous times in Pomona, all at the Glass House: with the Stripes in 2002 and 2005 and with another band, Dead Weather, in 2009. He made joking references to past appearances at one point. His fabulist spiel went something like this (I pulled out a piece of paper and pen about halfway through):

“In 1993 my band the Rabble Rousers played the Glass House. In 1995 I played the Glass House with my new band Jerry’s Kids. In 2001 I played the bar next to the Glass House with my band Deeper Purple. In 2003 we played Pomona again. But it was Pomona, Montana. It was a scheduling mishap. A promoter booked us on a tour from San Diego to Montana. We had 10 hours between gigs.”

Ha ha! What a kidder.

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Remembering Casey Kasem

I spent the late 1970s and early 1980s listening fervently to “America’s Top 40,” the syndicated weekly show hosted by the smooth-voiced Casey Kasem, who died Sunday at 82. And I spent the early to mid 1970s watching various Saturday morning cartoons that used Kasem’s voice talents. His characterization of lovable hippie Shaggy on “Scooby Doo” was classic, but there were others.

From the top 40 show, “a long-distance dedication,” “and now, back to the countdown” and “keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars” were staples, delivered in Kasem’s warm, earnest cadence. Here’s an appreciation from NPR.

Did you listen, and if so, what do you recall?

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Berlin at Rhino Records!

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Berlin performed a six-song set Saturday at Claremont’s Rhino Records, a thrill for some 100 people who packed into the LP aisles to hear the band play on the small stage. They heard the band’s ’80s songs “Masquerade,” “Metro” and “Sex (I’m a …),” the new tracks “Mom” and “Animal,” and the obligatory “Take My Breath Away.”

(Here’s a short Daily Bulletin story with a couple of nice photos by James Carbone, who was standing just behind me.)

“Can I tell you how great it is to be in a record store?” singer Terri Nunn said at one point. Her parents owned a small record shop in Reseda in the early 1970s “until Tower and Wherehouse killed us off.” She added: “It was such a hub of community and neighbors and fellow music lovers.”

Nunn is a passionate performer, as people who’ve seen the band at the L.A. County Fair and other venues can attest, and that even translates to an intimate free show at a record store. She moved sinuously, and after “Mom,” a touching song about her mother, Nunn actually cried. It was a sweet moment. A fan handed her a tissue. Then she went directly into “Animal,” whose first line is “Looking up my little dress…”

For the finale, Nunn left the stage and waded into the aisle, where we parted like the Red Sea as she sang with her handheld microphone. One of those moments you won’t forget. (I do wonder what Nunn thinks of gazing at people aiming a phone at her rather than actually looking at her. I’m guilty too, but then, I’m a journalist.)

Afterward, she and the band lined up at the counter to sign people’s CDs, mostly the new one. I introduced myself as the fellow who interviewed her by phone the previous week for a column, and while I’m not sure she remembered, they probably all blend together at some point. It was cool to meet her, and she posed for photos with everyone, including me.

Here are two one-minute videos I shot: “Metro” and “Take My Breath Away.”

Photo below by Catherine Caporale and at bottom by Allison Evans.

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Column: Berlin’s Terri Nunn finds there’s life after the ’80s

Wednesday’s column is a rarity for me: a celebrity interview. I chatted by phone with Terri Nunn, frontwoman of the band Berlin, with some trepidation. Would this work as a column, or would it end up being merely a promotional piece? (She’s performing and signing CDs Saturday in Claremont.) I think it works as a column — if not, it’s not Nunn’s fault, as she was engaging, relaxed and funny — but you can be the judge.

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