Rocks In The Attic #1087: Burt Bacharach – ‘What’s New Pussycat? (O.S.T.)’ (1965)

I knew there would be a problem when, two minutes in, Peter O’Toole walked on screen with one hairstyle (a side-parting), it cut to a close up and he had a slightly different hairstyle (a fringe).

Terrible continuity problems aside, while this wasn’t anywhere nearly as hopeless as CASINO ROYALE, the multi-director dumpster fire released two years later, it was still pretty bad.

The Woody Allen screenplay is its saving grace and works hard to make up for the rest of the film’s sins. It’s incredible that he went from writing this, his first screenplay, to winning Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for ANNIE HALL in just over a decade.

Hit: What’s New Pussycat? – Tom Jones

Hidden Gem: Marriage, French Style – Here I Am (Medley)

Rocks In The Attic #1086: The Doobie Brothers – ‘Livin’ On The Fault Line’ (1977)

It was great to hear founding Doobs Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons interviewed on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast a couple of weeks ago. For me, it sounded like one of those interviews where Maron doesn’t start off in reverence of his guest, in this case ridiculing the band for their many line-up changes, but by the end of their discussion he had convinced himself of their worth.

LIVIN’ ON THE FAULT LINE is the band’s second release in the Michael McDonald era. Tom Johnston left the band early in the sessions due to health problems, although he’s still credited (and pictured) in the album’s inner sleeve.

I’m usually the first to grumble about the core sound of the band changing when McDonald came onboard, but I have to admit this record has a great low-key feel. His piano playing, which drives most of the songs, is superbly funky. It’s his one-note singing voice which I think causes the most harm.

The album also feels like the beginning of an artistic slump of sorts, with the lead single – Little Darling (I Need You) – being a cover of a Marvin Gaye song, and only managing to peak just inside the top 50 on the US Billboard. It’s the first of the band’s albums outside of their 1971 debut not to generate a top 40 single.

If it were not for the absolute banger What A Fool Believes on the next record MINUTE BY MINUTE, you wouldn’t be blamed for writing the band off at this point. Their core songwriter had left the group, and it was suddenly starting to look like the pot was going off the boil.

Maybe the cover art – a bleak, photoshopped image of San Fransisco’s Transamerica Pyramid skyscraper standing in the ocean, recalling both PLANET OF THE APES and Led Zeppelin’s PRESENCE from the prior year – wasn’t the best idea to illustrate a band that, in Michael McDonald, had received an injection of soul, funk and R&B?

Hit: Little Darling (I Need You)

Hidden Gem: You’re Made That Way

Rocks In The Attic #1085: Noel Edmonds – ‘Noel’s Funny Phone Calls 2’ (1982)

Given that Noel Edmonds takes great pleasure in coming clean at the end of his prank phone calls (“It’s Noel Edmonds from Radio 1”), I’m surprised that after listening to this record, my turntable doesn’t suddenly turn into Noel Edmonds, like some naff version of the Transformers.

In 2020s, the collective social paranoia is that anything and everything could be cake. In the 1980s, the comparable fear was that anything and everything could be Noel Edmonds.

Hit: The Ceiling

Hidden Gem: The Shocking Telephone

Rocks In The Attic #1084: Angelo Badalamenti – ‘Blue Velvet (O.S.T.)’ (1986)

Having finally caught this on the big screen, a 35mm screening at Auckland’s glorious Hollywood Avondale, I think I can now safely say that David Lynch is not the director for me.

It’s not the just the preoccupation with everything being weird – I like that to a degree – I’m just immediately turned off by the awful, stilted dialogue and the terrible acting. This is the year after her standout performance in SMOOTH TALK, yet Laura Dern is acting here as though she’s never seen a movie camera before. And as for Kyle MacLachlan, he feels more human a year later in THE HIDDEN, where he plays an extra-terrestrial lawman.

I always laugh when I think of Lars Von Trier’s NYMPHOMANIAC, and that horrible, unnatural dialogue that Charlotte Gainsbourg delivers throughout the film. You can sort of understand this with a screenplay written by a Dane, delivered by a half-French actress. In BLUE VELVET, you have English dialogue spoken by a mainly American cast, and it sounds like the kind of syntax you might hear on Neptune.

This soundtrack was a pick-up from Record Store Day earlier in the year – an expanded double-disc version of the original 1986 soundtrack with additional cues and needle-drops. As much as I dislike the film itself, I really like the knockabout feel of Badalamenti’s score and all of the additional music.

Hit: Blue Velvet – Bobby Vinton

Hidden Gem: Mysteries Of Love (French Horn Solo)

Rocks In The Attic #1083: Vangelis – ‘Blade Runner (O.S.T.)’ (1982)

In what is turning out to be a stellar year in cinema-going, I recently saw a wonderful screening of the 2007 Final Cut of BLADE RUNNER at Auckland’s beautiful Capitol Theatre (a double-bill with CASABLANCA).

Watching the film on the big screen so shortly after hearing about the ‘Deckard has been implanted with Gaff’s memories’ theory really changes things; it kind of explains why Gaff is just so weird around Deckard, because wouldn’t *you* be if you had to speak to a clone of yourself?

BLADE RUNNER is a perennial favourite of me and my wife. It’s one of only a handful of big famous films we agree on, but we came to it in much different ways. Initially turned off by its melancholy (which I now lean into with both feet), I had eventually studied the film at University, going so far as writing an essay on the narrative differences between the 1982 Theatrical Cut of the film and the 1992 Director’s Cut.

When I met my wife, she had grown up with the theatrical cut of the film and nothing else. She didn’t even know about the Director’s Cut, and so all of the implications that Deckard is a replicant – which is really only implied in that version (and the Final Cut) – was lost on her. I even remember arguing with her about whether or not he’s a replicant. Turns out we were both right, and both wrong.

Thankfully the Director’s Cut and the Final Cut both remove that godawful ‘aw shucks’ narration by Harrison Ford. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind watching that version of it just to remind myself of how bad it is. I seem to remember owning the Blu-Ray that has all four or five cuts on it, so I might have to try and dig that out. I’ve just checked the 4K version I recently bought and that’s just got the Final Cut on it.

I’ve avoided buying Vangelis’ beautiful soundtrack for so long, as I thought one of the big soundtrack labels might eventually put out an extended version of the score, but couldn’t resist picking this up when I had a $50 record store voucher burning a hole in my pocket (won by posting a photo of two of my daughters with my Record Store Day purchases earlier last month).

Hit: Blade Runner (End Titles)

Hidden Gem: Memories Of Green

Rocks In The Attic #1082: Noel Edmonds – ‘Noel’s Funny Phone Calls’ (1981)

To give credit where credit’s due, Noel Edmond’s ability to put on an assortment of voices when he’s pranking the everyday normal folk of 1980s Britain is very, very good. I actually thought it was done by a voice actor when I started listening to this.

A decent laugh, as good-natured prank calls always are.

Hit: The Telephone Engineer

Hidden Gem: Mickey Mouse Phone

Rocks In The Attic #1081: James Horner – ‘Aliens (O.S.T.)’ (1986)

After the previous weekend’s brilliant double-bill of MAD MAX and ALIEN at Auckland’s beautiful Capitol cinema, I went back seven days later for a double-bill of the sequels. The 14-year-old me would have exploded if he knew the week I had at the cinema when I saw this – MAD MAX 2, ALIENS and THE THING in the space of four days.

ALIENS is just perfect.

A couple of years after I found myself on a zoom call with James Cameron, I’ve *finally* got to see his masterpiece on the big screen; the famed ‘Special Edition’ too.

I’ve never noticed before that there’s an attempt on what should be a great match-cut, but it doesn’t quite work: the legs of the facehugger on Newt’s father’s face, cut with Ripley’s long fingers as she smokes a cigarette in her apartment.

Another thing I noticed seeing it on the big screen was that Sgt. Apone jumps ever so slightly when the hibernation beds start opening.

I also spotted a bit of visual symmetry with the first film – the shot of Hicks peering up through the ceiling tile is very similar to the great shot of Ripley coming up through the duct at the end of ALIEN.

I also want to call out the video game ALIENS: FIRETEAM ELITE, which I’ve been playing on the PS5 recently. It does for James Cameron’s sequel what the great ALIEN: ISOLATIONdid for the Ridley Scott original. There’s nothing like picking off some xenomorphs with the minigun that Vasquez and Drake use in the film. It’s a great game but the sound-effects are just perfect: the xenomorphs scream as you hit them, and the pulse rifles have that awesome phased sound when fired, just like in the movie.

The ALIENS score, by James Horner – not usually one of my favourite composers – is such a great fit. It’s definitely more gung-ho than Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the first film, but matches the on-screen exploits of the Colonial Marines perfectly. This variant, a Varèse Sarabande reissue on Acid Blood colour vinyl released for Record Store Day 2021, is beautiful. My eternal thanks go out to my good friend Joe in Iowa who helped me pick it up.

It’s such a perfect action film; it really should be given the same kind of reverence the original STAR WARS trilogy enjoys with its seemingly endless reissues and retro screenings.

Hit: Aliens Main Title

Hidden Gem: Dark Discovery

Rocks In The Attic #1080: Brian May – ‘Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (O.S.T.)’ (1981)

After the previous weekend’s brilliant double-bill of MAD MAX and ALIEN at Auckland’s beautiful Capitol cinema, I went back seven days later for a double-bill of the sequels.

It has a weird opening in 4:3 (which I didn’t remember), to allow for the stock newsreel footage they use, but they use a few hero shots of Mel in the same ratio and it looks super strange. Thankfully it extended to the full widescreen format after a couple of minutes.

I could do without some of the cranked-up footage, but the stunt work across this entire film is superb. Even the use of dummies when people get run over or crash is great. My only gripe with the film is how easily Max loses his car, ‘the last of the V-8 Interceptors’, given that it’s already been set up that he’s such a total badass. It feels out of character.

The score by Brian May (not that one) is perfect for the film it soundtracks, an extension of his work on the first film, all blaring horns and doom on the horizon. This particular release for Record Store Day 2019, on Spilt Oil On Sand splatter vinyl is beautiful.

I haven’t seen the film in such a long time, and it’s crazy how much MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is just a big-budget redo of it. I remember thinking that at the time, but it’s still clear as day. Even more so now that FURY ROAD is endlessly held up as such a perfect action film.

MAD MAX 2 is another one of those 1980s sequels that builds so much on the richness of its original film, joining the likes of EVIL DEAD 2, ALIENS, SUPERMAN II, RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, and others.

*THIS* is perfect, 30-odd years before FURY ROAD.

Hit: Main Title (The Road Warrior)

Hidden Gem: Confrontation

Rocks In The Attic #1079: Quincy Jones – ‘$ (O.S.T.)’ (1971)

After GOLDFINGER, Gert Frobe became so typecast he could only get roles opposite actresses named Goldie…

A movie and soundtrack that has been on my watchlist for a long time, 1971’s $ (AKA DOLLARS, AKA THE HEIST) stars Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn and was directed by Richard Brooks. Beatty plays Joe Collins, an American bank security expert working in a Hamburg bank. While he’s advising the bank on their state-of-the-art security measures, he’s secretly conspiring with sex worker Dawn Devine (Goldie Hawn) to steal funds locked away in safety deposit boxes by several criminals.

I finally took the lunge and watched the film a couple of weeks ago. I then walked into one of my local record stores the morning after and found the soundtrack in the racks with $20 off. It was meant to be.

It’s not a particularly great film – which might explain why it’s relatively unknown – but it’s definitely worth a watch. Not only is the soundtrack fantastic, composed by Quincy Jones and featuring contributions by Little Richard and Roberta Flack, but there’s a chase sequence in the film that is an absolute beast. It goes on for about 20 minutes, and just as you think it’s going to end, it keeps going, doing for foot-chases what John Carpenter’s THEY LIVE did for back-alley street-fights.

The most painful thing about the film for me though, was hearing an element on the soundtrack which I knew as a sample on something, and couldn’t immediately place. I recognised the central riff and a one-note vamp in Little Richard’s Money Is from a breakbeat song I knew when I was DJing in the late ‘90s. After about an hour of painful remembering, trying to decide whether it was something by the Chemical Brothers or Fatboy Slim, I finally realised it’s the main sample in a track called Evil Knievel by Ceasefire Vs. Deadly Avenger, on the Wall Of Sound label.

It sounds like they took the elements from the track Money Runner, which soundtracks Warren Beatty’s long foot-chase away from the criminals who have realised he’s stolen their loot. Weirdly, the sample isn’t listed on WhoSampled.com, so I presume it must be a relatively rare sample.  

Hit: Money Is

Hidden Gem: Money Runner

Rocks In The Attic #1078: Jonathan Elias – ‘Children Of The Corn (O.S.T.)’ (1984)

OUTLANDER!!!

1984: a big year for Linda Hamilton!

Despite a plot hole the size of Nebraska (how could a town of children kill all the adults and get away with it for three years without anybody investigating?), I do like the atmosphere of this. It’s quite strange for a horror film to be set almost completely during daytime, and I think this greatly adds to its feel. I haven’t seen any of the sequels (and have no intention to do so in the near future) but I wonder if they stuck with this approach?

The soundtrack score is perhaps its strongest attribute: a great main theme by Jonathan Elias, blending ‘80s synths with a children’s choir, and a traditional orchestral score throughout the rest of the film. This recent reissue by 1984 Publishing is a work of art, with beautiful, erm, art by ‘Ghoulish’ Gary Pullin.

It’s in no way a perfect film though. The narration by the kid is really bad – it sounds like he’s reading it for the first time, and to say they’re all diehard lunatic religious kids, they start changing their minds way too quickly after Peter Horton’s 30-second speech.

And what about those ‘good’ kids they were with in the barn before the finale? Did they just drive off and leave them there?

The End Title is so random. No music, just the chirp of crickets, and then the theme music eventually starts. Really sloppy (rushed?) editing.

CORN KIDS…UNITE!

Hit: Main Title

Hidden Gem: Barn Run