HERE’S ELTON — The whole hour of Elton John’s Living Room concert on Fox Sunday night was just great, with real singers and musicians performing ad hoc from their homes. Ensconced in his Beverly Hills home, with husband-David Furnish behind the camera, he was just sensational.
Truth to be told – he could do a talk show down the line. But, wait, he actually did it behind the scenes with Spectacle with Elvis Costello as host in 2008. He was also a guest as well, if memory serves and was quite superb.
The Backstreet Boys somehow put together “I Want It That Way,” a song still no one knows what it means or what way they want it. In fact, the Boys’ presentation was so professional, you know they worked on it all afternoon. Alicia Keys was tremendous with “Underdog,” which soared to number 2 on iTunes Monday.
Also, Dave Grohl and Bille Joe Armstrong (Green Day) were spectacular. My only criticism was Billie Eilish, singing in such a low voice, you could hardly hear her.
But, make no mistake, the star was Elton himself, whose hosting was spot on. At the end, after claiming he didn’t have a piano in his house, it turned out he had a good enough keyboard, and sang a little impromptu “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.” We were thrilled! It was just a verse or two, but reminded me again what a tremendous song that was and still is.
Our colleague Roger Friedman (Showbiz 411) chimed in: They should do this again, with Elton and another group– Sting? Paul McCartney? Stevie Wonder? One thing they need, though, is black male artists. And I don’t mean just John Legend. Smokey Robinson? Sam Moore? Let’s get some vets in there.
JOHN PRINE — UPDATE: On Mar. 30, Fiona Whelan Prine, John’s wife who also contracted coronavirus, shared an update viaTwitter on the singer-songwriter’s condition. “I have recovered from Covid-19. We are humbled by the outpouring of love for me and John and our precious family. He is stable,” Whelan Prine wrote. “Please continue to send your amazing Love and prayers. Sing his songs. Stay home and wash hands. John loves you. I love you.”
MAR. 29 REPORT (since updated above): According to a post on his official Instagram, famed singer and songwriter John Prine has been hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms. “After a sudden onset of COVID-19 symptoms, John was hospitalized on Thursday (3/26),” it reads. “He was intubated Saturday evening and continues to receive care, but his situation is critical. This is hard news for us to share. But so many of you have loved and supported John over the years, we wanted to let you know, and give you a chance to send more of that love and support now. And know that we love you, and John loves you.”
Prine has battled health issues for some time, having postponed a number of shows this past summer due to an elevated risk of a stroke. He also battled squamous cell cancer in the late-90’s and lung cancer in 2013. This past November, he was honored with aLifetime Achievement award at the Grammys.
An actual national treasure. Stay strong John!
ZE BOOKS BOWS — English entrepreneur and ZE Records profounder Michael Zilkha has launched ZE Books, a new small press that will publish “literary mix-tapes from visionary writers, artists, and musicians.”
Joining Zilkha on the project is Lucas Wittmann, co-founder of the House of Speakeasy and an editor at large at Time magazine, as editor. Sarah Bumstead, formerly of Vroman’s bookstore, handling publicity, and Jimine Ha of With Projects is designing the book covers. ZE has entered a publishing partnership with Unnamed Press, and operates out of their Los Angeles office.
The publisher plans to release two to four titles per year, with print runs of 7,500 to 10,000 for each book to start. Each book will feature full color photography and illustrations throughout. Unnamed’s distributor, Publishers Group West, will also provide distribution for ZE.
The first announced titles include Intelligence for Dummies: A Portrait by the late Glenn O’Brien, GQ magazine’s “Style Guy,” which will be published on October 22, and Stay by poet and memoirist Nick Flynn, which is due to release early in 2020. Upcoming authors include Nan Goldin, Claudia Rankine, Bun B, and Lynn Hershman Leeson, and two collaborative books—by Fred Baldwin and Wendy Watriss, and by Roni Horn and Tacita Dean—are also planned.
“I started ZE Books to publish a definitive collection of my friend Glenn O’Brien’s writing so that his prescience and versatility could be appreciated by a wide audience,” Zilkha said in a statement, noting that he decided on publishing further works with the same design because he believed it would give the books a better chance of being noticed. He added: “The hope is that with timeZE Books is seen as a hip version of the Library of the Americas.”
For those that can remember, ZE Records was a fledging record label in the early 80’s. Part of the so-called No Wave movement in NYC; they released some terrific music by Kid Creole & The Coconuts; Suicide; The Waitresses; Cristina (who was Zilkha’s wife during those halcyon days and hare a daughter named Lulu); Lydia Lunch; Material; Was (not Was) and James White.
Their music was wonderful. Deb Caponetta; Andrew Furhman and David Salidor all worked there. Said one source: “Michael Zilkha was a trust-fund baby … so, there’s was quite a substantial budget to work with, but he did release some stunning work, that still lives to this day. I can’t wait to see these books!”
SHORT TAKES — Celebrity-author Mark Bego is finishing up his book on “Band of Gold” songstress Freda Payne; and, we’ll have some exciting news about that book’s release next column. Stay tuned …Great Deadline column by PR-man Keith Sherman Monday. Bravo! … A power-journalist of the first order told me Monday that he’s beginning again to be bombarded by calls from PR-agents. I guess we’ve turned a corner …Remember that cooking show we told you about a few columns ago? Two more cable-nets called about it. Timing is everything … Happy BDay to Eric Clapton!
NAMES IN NEWS — Jane Blunkell; Samantha Ryan; Anthony Pomes; Andrew Sandoval; Jodi Ritzen; Bruce Banner; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Radcliffe Joe; Lenny Beer; Marty Ostrow; Pete Bennett; May Pang; Alan Steckler; Helen Seaman; Zach Martin; Donnie Kehr; and, CHIP!