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


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,
Statue by Charles Sargeant Jagger.