Wednesday, 29 December 2010

British Statue Number Twenty

















King John (1167-1216)
Church Road,
Egham, Surrey
Sculpture by David Parfitt.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The bells of Heaven



Nearly ten minutes of Pentangle at their jazziest and most tangential. You lucky people.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The hunt is cast and ready



Pentangle were such a superb band in their time, probably the jazziest, grooviest folk group of all. When a group has Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox in it, it's hard to single anyone out, but Jacqui McShee, with her wiggly lips, witchy face and clear as a mountain stream voice effortlessly steals the show here, all without ever getting off her stool.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Living out a technicolor dream

In 1982, 70 year old May Booker appeared on 'Jim'll Fix It' with her favourite group, Thin Lizzy. She ROCKED.



As spotted and suggested by our old pal, Mr. D.Unmann.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Primitive Film, Sophisticated Music



Two of the things I love most in this stupid world are Trunk Records and the music of Basil Kirchin so you can imagine my excitement when Trunk Records release another album of Basil Kirchin music.

Just out is the previously unreleased music to 'Primitive London', backed with the score for the obscure but rather good 1971 Ian McShane thriller  'Freelance'.

Basil really was a musical genius, and every track on the LP thrills the ear with its odd noises, beautiful melodies and startling arrangements, so you need to go and get the LP (if there are any left) or CD from Ye Olde New Trunk Shoppe here.

Here's a little sampler of tracks from 'Primitive London' to give you a feel for what you're currently missing.

Saturday Night Out

‘Saturday Night Out’ is a remarkably frank film for 1964, although fairly restrained by Robert Hartford-Davis standards. It starts with a ship docking at London, and the crew and passengers disembarking for a night in the city. Over the course of the next ninety minutes, we follow the mixed fortunes of five sailors and a tourist as they pass the time in the capitol that was just starting to swing.

Serious minded Lee has tickets for the Royal Festival Hall, but somehow falls in love with kooky suicidal beatnik Penny (Heather Sears, also in ‘The Black Torment’). Worldly Arthur (Hartford-Davis favourite David Lodge) visits his ‘Mum’ (sexy Margaret Nolan, who lent her gilded body to the ‘Goldfinger’ title sequence) for a twenty four hour bunk up; Paddy just wants to get pissed, and succeeds, admirably; obnoxious Harry wants sex, at any cost; sensitive Jamie meets a homeless girl teetering on the edge of prostitution, and crusty old Bernard Lee finds himself embroiled in a blackmail scandal when he hooks up with French seductress Wanda.

Generally praised at the time for its uncompromising portrayal of adult relationships and the seamier side of the city, ‘Saturday Night Out’ seems fairly tame today, but stays interesting in the way it interweaves the plot lines of the six principal characters, as well as the glimpses of a very different London to the one we know today, a city still pockmarked with bomb sites and packed with old time pubs and people in flat caps.

Ultimately, it’s a solid but unspectacular effort from Hartford-Davis, but quite tastefully done considering the subject matter and the propensities of the director.

Here’s a clip featuring Inigo Jones as Harry in which, already half cut and desperate, he makes a decision that will very shortly leave him skint and beaten up.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

British Statue Number Nineteen















Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770),
Millennium Square,
Bristol, Avon.
Statue by Lawrence Holofcener.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Leave it!



It's 1978 and British Evel Knievel Eddie Kidd is at the height of his fame, and signed to Decca Records, despite not having any musical ability or stage presence whatsoever. Musically awful, sartorially unforgivable, I especially like the bits when Eddie's not singing and you can see him thinking 'why did I agree to this'?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Flexible, Malleable, Accommodating

‘Bend Me, Shape Me’ was written by Scott English and Larry Weiss and was first released in 1966 as a track on an album by Chicago garage rockers The Outsiders. Shortly afterwards, a bizarre girl group / musique concrete hybrid version appeared on single, credited to The Models and produced like mad by Tom Wilson for MGM records.

Not a massive amount is known about The Models, but it is believed they were, well, models, dragged into the studios to record a single, which might explain the occasionally wayward vocals. Wilson, of course, would later go on to produce The Velvet Underground’s first two LP's, and it’s tempting to draw a direct line between the superbly discordant sonic experimentation here and on those seminal albums, but I won’t, I’ll just leave it hanging in the air for you.

The single was not a hit, leaving the field clear for The American Breed (in the US) and The Amen Corner (in the UK) to have big hits with it in early 1968.

The film hijacked into accompanying the track is by Bruce Conner and was originally called ‘Breakaway’. The acrobatic young star is Antonia Basilotta, who would later change her name to Toni Basil and get on everyone’s tits with the mega hit ‘Mickey’ in the early eighties. Antonia is occasionally topless / nude in this short film, so please don’t watch if you are under the age of 18 or just don’t like to watch nude people enjoying themselves to music.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

I'm sick and weary of being alone

I'm not glad that Richard & Linda Thompson had an unhappy marriage, but the melancholic, yearning songs inspired by their complex relationship are some of the most beautiful ever made.

Here's a stripped down version of 'A Heart Needs A Home' from their third album 'Hokey Pokey '. It has a slightly abrupt ending, but you take what you can get when it's not your stuff.

Two confessions to make: when I originally saw this clip, I unconsciously reached out to touch Linda's face during the second verse because she looked so vulnerable and I loved her and wanted to make it right. Secondly, this basic performance, one guitar, two voices, makes me realise once and for all that even if I lived forever, I could never make a second of music as real and moving and heart-rending as this, and all my bleeps and samples and conceptual sound sketches are just fluff in the cosmos. &, guess what? That's actually a pretty important thing to know.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Friday, 26 November 2010

Nobody ordered oblivion

There are two Robert Hartford-Davis films that I'm unlikely to be watching and emoting about any time soon, as both are missing, presumed lost and, perhaps surprisingly, on the BFI's '75 Most Wanted List' alongside such legends as Hitchcock's 'The Mountain Eagle' and long-gone Michael Powell quota quickies. 

'Crosstrap' (1962) was Hartford-Davis' film debut, and is, apparently, an hour long b-movie about a couple who inadvertently stumble across a criminal gang's hideout. Supposedly pretty graphic for its time (good old Bob) it was last seen in 1967 as a supporting feature to 'Night Of The Big Heat' but has subsequently disappeared from the face of the earth.

'Nobody Ordered Love' (1971) was Hartford-Davis' last British film and hasn't been seen since its very limited release. Time Out's review is short and fairly uncompromising: "dreadful 'exposé' of the movie scene, involving a hustling opportunist (Tony Selby!) who wheels and lays his way through a completely phony version of the British film industry. The film in production that all the fuss is about, a challenging anti-war epic that supposedly ends up as a big success ('The Somme', pictured), looks every bit as abysmal as the rest".

Stung by reviews like this and pissed off at the lack of support from the studio executives, Hartford-Davis apparently snatched up all the negatives, stormed out of the lot and flounced off to Hollywood. After his sudden death in 1977, his wife had a clear out and the film cans went into Californian landfill.

Long term readers may wonder quite what my fascination with Robert Hartford-Davis is: I mean, I take every opportunity to slag him off, yet I persist in watching his work. The fact is, he fascinates me because of how close he sometimes gets to making a really good film but never, ever really gets there. I occasionally feel like the little boy who is horrible to a girl not because he hates her, but he secretly really fancies her. It's a shame these two examples of his work aren't available for me to use to help resolve my conflict...

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

British Statue Number Eighteen















Les Dawson (1933-1993)
St. Annes Pier,
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire.
Statue by Graham Ibbeson.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Ingoushka Petrov

















Ingrid Pitt (1937-2010).

What things look like



"There isn't a woman living who wouldn't sacrifice health for appearance..."

From 'London In The Raw'. The clip really picks up at 1m 47s with some great imagery and some rather odd music from either Synchro or Brull, the two library labels that provided the music (thanks to VG+ for the clarification). I particularly like the ladies sporty outfits: short sleeved jumpers and black tights, and that they are all clearly at the start of the get fit process.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Thumbs aloft




I'm not a massive Paul McCartney fan, but neither am I someone that crosses through his face in the Encyclopedia Of Pop & Rock with a red marker pen just because he did that song with frogs on it.

A couple of years ago, there was a discussion on Very Good Plus about whether the post-Beatles McCartney had anything to offer the world and a number of tracks were put forward as evidence that although the last forty years of Macca may not have been consistently brilliant, they were far from wasted.

So, since then, I've been pottering about trying to buy McCartney and Wings LP's and singles really cheaply, in the hope of eventually accumulating enough to make a decent compilation. In August, in Leigh On Sea, I completed my quest in a British Heart Foundation shop, snagging virtually unplayed copies of 'London Town' and 'Back To The Egg' for the princely sum of £1.00 each.

Here, dear reader, is the finished article, a one hour and 17 minute mix of the best bits from a long career that's often assumed to be mostly chaff. I call it 'Pukka Macca', and you can download it here. Tracklisting in comments.

The original artwork is by the very talented (and fantastically moustachioed) Joseph Blakey, aka Pencilface. I think it's marvellous, especially the deck shoes.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Toot toot, etc.




Here's a fairly obscure track which has, nevertheless, occasionally haunted my auditory cortex in the 32 years since it shot to number 60 in the charts. It's an odd little song, and it's an odd little video, especially the long shot of people just standing around. Credited solely to Wings, it's still clear who's calling the shots in the band: when Paul dances, Denny & Linda dance, Linda moving in the stiff but utterly guileless way that always outed her as someone without a musical bone in her body. Why Macca? Why now? Drop back at midnight and you'll find out.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Delia, My Dear

Shown on Monday in the Midlands, this short piece about Dame Delia Derbyshire is surely worthy of a wider audience. It's the first colour footage I've ever seen of her. Shame there's no sound, and she's clearly not well, but I like her hat.

  

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

We cannot rule out the possibility of some physical brain malfunction



A little clip that shows Freddie at work in 'The Man Who Haunted Himself'. What presence! Please watch for his trademark twitching head as he essays a wonderful character study in under three minutes. Is his accent a nod to R.D Laing, perhaps? Only Freddie knows.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

F*** me, it's Freddie!












I LOVE Freddie Jones. I particularly love the way he 'crops up' in films and television shows when you least expect him. This new series is dedicated to those moments when he appears suddenly and all you can say is 'fuck me, it's Freddie'.

To kick off, here he is as Dr. Harris in 'The Man Who Haunted Himself' (1970)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Unbelievable



I'm not a big action film fan at all, but, occasionally, I see something that blows my mind.

'Undefeatable' was made in 1994, and stars Cynthia Rothrock. The climactic fight scene is terrible, and ridiculously entertaining. Everyone about it is wrong / perfect, from the ripped shirts, the bizarre assault with a wet towel and the dual pay off lines.

Be warned: just because it's ridiculous, doesn't mean the squeamish or easily offended won't be upset by its violence.

Kinky Bolero



The first part of a new little film from Unmann-Wittering the group (the brand?). The soundtrack isn't finished, but you get the idea.

Everybody Walkie Talkie


After tooling around in various bands since the early 1970's, Swindon boys Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding formed XTC in 1976. Signing to Virgin, they released their debut album 'White Music' in January 1977.

It's a great album, full of energy, a lightning fast mish mash of new wave, punk, pub rock, prog rock, art rock, you name it, characterised by angular guitars, funny chords, queasy, quirky keyboards and strong but surprising lyrics and melodies. It's one of my favourite ways to spend 36 and a half minutes that doesn't involve slipping into something more comfortable.

'Radios In Motion' opens the LP, and sets out their stall with a burst of propulsive bass, interesting drums, some jagged chords and Andy Partridge's nasal, mannered voice, a bark he described as 'calculated to overcome crappy PAs'. It occasionally sounds a bit like Talking Heads playing Beach Boys songs on a jerky escalator which, incidentally, is a very good thing indeed.

'This Is Pop' was only a minor hit when released as a single, but deserved to make a bigger impact. Rubbery, shimmery verses abut a footstomping, hand clapping chorus, achieving the difficult task of writing a great pop song about great pop music. The end of the song, when the chorus is repeated three times, each time becoming louder and dumber and more wonderful, is one of the great moments of the UK 70's music scene.

'Neon Shuffle' is a hyperactive ska tune with some intriguing scat vocal paradiddles. It's a fairly daft song with nonsensical lyrics about being run through with bamboo that, melodically, could have been recorded by any number of pub bands of the era, but is saved from sounding ordinary by sheer adrenalin. One could pogo all day to it, if it weren't 1,436 minutes too short.

XTC went on to have a long and critically acclaimed career, of course, never quite reaching their early potential in terms of sales and influence in their lifetime, even though their later records were always of a high-standard and a big influence on bands like Franz Ferdinand and The Futureheads and lots of others that I'm simply too out of touch to name.

Partridge's nervous breakdown (on stage) in 1982 and subsequent crippling stage fright led to the end of the band as a live entity, and, ultimately, to the dissolution of the band as the time between albums increased, the time spent together decreased and the non-songwriting members got bored and poor and drifted off to other things. The group officially split in 2005, and have, so far, resisted the temptation to reform, a decison perhaps made easier for them by the fact that Moulding moved house and didn't give Partridge his new address or phone number for several years...these Wiltshire types, what are they like?

XTC Factoid: The band originally wanted to call the LP 'Black Music', but Virgin vetoed, saying that punters might think it was a soul record.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

British Statue Number Seventeen















Royal Artillery Memorial (1925).
Hyde Park Corner,
London.
Statue by Charles Sargeant Jagger.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

HORROR WEEK: He's behind you

















This sequence from 'The Innocents' is the most genuinely frightening thing I have seen in over 30 years of watching horror films. The still pictures only slightly neutralise the worst of the effect. Happy Halloween.

HORROR WEEK: Sounds horrible

Not much to say on the BBC's 'Death & Horror Sound Effects' apart from that a cassette version of it was one of my first ever pocket money purchases and I was absolutely obsessed with it.

What my parents must have thought hearing the sounds of screaming, sawing, snuffling and endless torture coming from my room night after night I can only guess at, but I grew up to be a fairly balanced and reasonable adult who only occasionally succumbs to the urge to KILL.

Two more volumes followed, and they have many merits, but this is definitely the holy grail for the horror sound afficiando.

I am particularly pleased to say that parts of this are still on a continuous loop in the chamber of horrors at Louis Tussaud's in Great Yarmouth, and have been since the early eighties. Long may they roll.

Here is a selection of horrible things from Side 2 of this seminal recording.

HORROR WEEK: Can this thing really protect me?



Thomas Carnacki is the most famous creation of Edwardian writer William Hope-Hodgson. Essentially a supernatural detective, or ‘ghost finder’, Carnacki specialises in the arcane, and his cases are fascinating in the way they mix science and the supernatural, the paranormal with the more common place.

In some stories, for example, Carnacki battles with ageless, malevolent forces from other dimensions; in others, his adversaries are gangs of thieves, or unbalanced young men who fake hauntings to divert attention from their own nefarious activities.

Carnacki’s main defences against evil are ancient rituals from ‘The Sigsand Manuscript’ and the use of his patented ‘Electric Pentacle’, a Heath Robinson jumble of valves and bulbs that keeps otherworldly entities out, or in, until they can be banished back to whence they came. In a later story, the pentacle is retooled to project the spectrum as, apparently, manifestations can be combated using the correct combination of colours.

Genuinely chilling at times, always interesting, the stories have always remained in print and are easy to find wherever books are sold. In recent years, Carnacki has been revived, both in serious and satirical stories, and has appeared as a member of Alan Moore’s ‘League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ as well as a companion to the second Dr. Who in one of the hundreds of spin off books that the series has inspired.
Sadly, Cranacki has only appeared on screen once, to my knowledge, in a single episode of the excellent early seventies show ‘The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes’.

‘Rivals….’, which has recently been released in two DVD sets, presented a series of cases from the raft of Victorian and Edwardian detectives who would have been contemporaries to Arthur Conan Doyle’s deathless creation. It’s a great programme, and I will return to it here in the future. For now, here’s a clip from the Carnacki episode, ‘The Horse Of The Invisible’, where Carnacki (underplayed nicely by Donald Pleasence) demonstrates to Betty Spencer the three key attributes needed to combat the spooky equine apparition that threatens her and her fiancee: patience, the electric pentacle and a sense of humour.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

HORROR WEEK: Bat Flap


As the late John Lennon never said: "so, this is Halloween, and what have we done?"

Well, I don't know about you, but we've what we usually do: a musical horror mix for you all. 'Bat Flap' is very seventies and can make any shopping trip seem even more like 'Dawn Of The Dead' than it does normally.

As a last desperate attempt to sell out, this will be available over at Found Objects, VG Plus, Timothy Whites, Martins the Newsagents, Woolworths, Woolco and Mister flipping J's. There is no difference in the mixes available, it's just a scattergun response borne out of creeping desperation for attention.

It will also be broadcast on November 5th over at the reliably excellent The Garden Of Earthly Delights.

Download here. Tracklisting in comments.

Friday, 29 October 2010

HORROR WEEK: Wax works



Previously posted over at Found Objects, where it was met with silence. I like it, but then I done it.

Now you know what I did last Summer.

HORROR WEEK: Fair warning

This means you, Unmann.

HORROR WEEK: Hammer Time - Blood from The Mummy's Tomb (1971)







HORROR WEEK: It's midnight...

The Doomwatch Beatles were formed in 1985 whilst the key members were studying at the University of Avoncaster. Living communally, the band never performed the same composition twice, and rarely recorded their performances: what archive material remains is very rare and often unfocussed and of poor audio quality.

Effectively dissolved on band leader Milton Zigo’s defection to the fledgling Unmann-Wittering group (then known as Unmann-Wittering Overdrive) in 1986. Derek Root and Colin Terhew achieved success in partnership as research scientists specialising in simian psychology. Malcolm Trimble is a successful author and media personality, writing both popular science books (‘What Do You Know?’, also a successful TV show) and horror novels (‘Monolith’, ‘The Moths’, the Bernice Van Helsing series). Milton Zigo left U-W after a poisonous few months and ultimately disappeared on a scientific expedition to Belize, and has been missing, presumed dead, since March 1998.

'Midnight In The Middle Ages' is a long improvisation inspired by paranoia inducing drugs, flickering lights and staying up for three days watching horror films and slowly beginning to think that they are real and the world is just a film set, yeah, and we're all actors but don't know it until they say 'cut', like, when we die, yeah?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

HORROR WEEK: What a howler


Like most rational, intelligent and good looking people I am slightly obsessed with 'The Twilight Zone'. Has any show ever delivered such quality and ingenuity for so long?

I can literally think of scores of the 156 episodes of the original series that stand as some of the most well-written, well-acted and well-executed pieces of drama ever to appear on TV. Of all of these memorable slices of television genius, the episode which particularly sticks with me and seems completely in keeping with this week's theme is 'The Howling Man'.

Written by Charles Beaumont, broadcast in November, 1960, and filmed with bags of gothic and at skewed, unsettling angles, the story concerns an intense American called David Ellington who becomes lost and sick whilst on a walking trip through Europe in the early twenties. Close to collapse he stumbles into a castle, and a hermetic order of monks reluctantly take him in.

As he recuperates he is disturbed by a blood curdling howl from the depths of the castle and, on investigating, discovers a man imprisoned there in a cell barred by a wooden staff . The man says that his crime was to kiss his sweetheart in public and that the religious order, headed up by the insane Brother Jerome, have imprisoned him out their own exaggerated sense of moral justice.

Ellington confronts Brother Jerome who explains that the howling man is not a man at all, but The Devil. He states that the Brotherhood caught him at the end of The Great War and have kept him a prisoner, using the holy power of 'The Staff Of Truth' to contain him. Brother Jerome points out that the world has experienced a period of relative peace and stability since The Devil's capture, a peace and stability that would be shattered if he were ever set free.

Naturally, Ellington frees him. And, as the howling man, makes his way to freedom, an awful change takes place --




















After this faux pas, Ellington devotes his life to recapturing Old Nick, but fails to do so before The Lord of the Flies has had the opportunity to start World War Two, The Korean War and to instigate the nuclear arms race (evil is obviously measured in relation to US involvement).

As the story closes, Ellington finally has the rubber Horned One trapped again, locked in a hotel room, escape route barred by mystical The Staff Of Truth. All Ellington has to do now is keep him there until he can contact Brother Jerome and hope that the nosy housekeeper doesn't let him out...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

HORROR WEEK: Cliff edge

HORROR WEEK: Who's laffing now?


















I used to collect these as a kid. I even, God help me, used to find them funny. It was a different time. I drew the line at the dusty slab of day glo coloured gum that came in the packet, however, even I wasn't that stupid.

Monday, 25 October 2010

HORROR WEEK: Sounds terrible

'Dr. Terror's House Of Horrors' was the first Amicus portmanteau film, released in 1965. It's not bad, but lacks the stand out story required to make it a classic.

Directed by shoestring horror maestro Freddie Francis, all the usual suspects are there: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough and, um, Roy Castle.

Castle stars in the dreaded comic episode that each of these films has to have by law, the sobering tale of jazz trumpeter Biff Bailey who, whilst on tour in the West Indies, steals some music from a voodoo ceremony and has to face some unamusing consequences.

Although I have recently warmed a little to Castle after reading he was a chronic agoraphobic who used to hide in a wicker basket between takes of 'Record Breakers', I've never had a lot of time for him, despite his numerous achievements (and world records): for me, he was always a bit too smarmy and eager to please and he gives a irritating performance here (apparently, Acker Bilk was originally due to play the part, but had a heart attack shortly before filming started). The saving grace of the segment is the appearance of the marvellous Tubby Hayes Quartet, who do a couple of rousing numbers and back the irrepressible Kenny Lynch on the song 'Give Me Love'.

To add insult to injury, however, it was Castle and not Tubby who got to release a single to promote the film. The A Side is an awful sub-Goons comedy track that bears no relation to the film except for a shared title. It's about two minutes too long and fails utterly as a promotional tie-in in that it must have actually put people off seeing the film, so I'm not going to subject you to it here.

The b-side, 'Voodoo Girl' is better but then it's basically a version of the number Tubby and the boys play in the film with a slightly squarer arrangement, some awkward lyrics ('the goat is now left to eternally dream') and Castle's fairly average vocal stylings. A squandered opportunity.



For an earful on how it should have sounded, here's the version that the marvellous Mr. Jonny Trunk released a couple of years ago in a limited edition of 666.



That's better. For those of you that haven't seen the film, it turns out they're all dead in the end.