Monthly Archives: December 2017

Rocks In The Attic #653: Various Artists – ‘Trainspotting (O.S.T.)’ (1996)

RITA#653V/O:      Choose life. Choose scoring tickets to the New Zealand premiere of T2: TRAINSPOTTING, with Danny Boyle in attendance. Choose taking along your Trainspotting soundtrack in the hope that you *just might* get it signed. Choose being in the right fucking place at the right fucking time. Choose having a chat with Danny and telling him you’re so glad he didn’t film the second Trainspotting novel (‘Porno’). Choose Danny replying “Yeah, it’s not one of his best novels at the end of the day”. Choose mentioning that Hollywood has done that story since anyway. Choose him catching your drift and saying “Yeah, you’re right, a couple of years ago there was a glut of films with a similar premise, like ‘We Made A Porno'”. Choose a firm handshake. Choose walking away a very happy man. Choose it all!

My favourite moment of 2017 was meeting director Danny Boyle at the New Zealand premiere of T2: Trainspotting. I’ve come a long way in twenty or so years of record collecting, from having nothing autographed aside from a Clint Boon LP, to having a couple of early ZZ Top records fully signed by the band, the soundtrack to The Hateful Eight signed by Quentin Tarantino and Zoe Bell, the soundtrack to Death Proof also signed by Zoe Bell, and now this – the soundtrack to Boyle’s 1996 breakthrough, Trainspotting.

I’m not 100% sure how Newmarket’s Broadway cinema manages to attract these big-name Hollywood directors – it was the same venue at which I met Tarantino a year earlier – but I hope they continue the trend.

The Tarantino event was advertised as a meet and greet, so getting something signed was almost guaranteed, but the T2: Trainspotting event was only supposed to be a showing of the film introduced by Boyle. I took my copy of the soundtrack along, just in case.

When we arrived at the cinema, Boyle was being interviewed by the local TV station at the entrance to the foyer. The place was packed, with people making good use of the free drinks and food that were being offered by hospitality staff. Our small group – myself, my wife, my brother and a friend from work – found a spot among the crowd.

I glanced over at Boyle – now being interviewed by a different TV station – and thought that the chance of getting an autograph was slim. But then I saw him autographing something for somebody, and I took my chance.

I approached with my soundtrack and Sharpie in hand, expecting to be shooed away. A member of his team turned to greet me.

“Hi there, would you like Danny to sign that for you?”

This was going to be easier than expected.

“Yes, please!”

She tapped him on the shoulder just as he was wrapping up an interview with Kate Rodger, the TV3 film critic who pronounces Gal Godot as ‘Gal Gad-eau’ as though she’s French (Rodger is seemingly incapable of doing any basic research, let alone use the fucking internet).

RITA#653bDanny turns around.

“Hi there,” he says in his soft northern drawl.

We have our quick chat and he signs my record. The best thing about being with friends is that they all got their phones out and so I have a good photographic document of the moment.

Of course, in my nervousness, I forgot to tell Danny I was from Oldham, just a dozen miles away from his native Radciffe. I also forgot to tell him how much I appreciated him for reinventing the zombie genre with 28 Days Later, or how if you watch 127 Hours in reverse it turns into a lovely film about an amputee who finds his missing arm in the desert.

Most importantly, I didn’t tell him that his opening ceremony to the 2012 London Olympics was one of the few things that has made my heart truly ache with homesickness.

Hit: Lust For Life – Iggy Pop

Hidden Gem: Deep Blue Day – Brian Eno

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Rocks In The Attic #652: Bing Crosby – ‘I Wish You A Merry Christmas’ (1962)

RITA#652As might be expected from a Christmas album, the music on this record was recorded in a hot Hollywood recording studio in July 1962. Bing waited a little closer to the time, laying down his vocals during the following October.

In fact, on the very day he recorded this album – October 5th 1962 – a teen revolution was starting on the other side of the Atlantic, something that would have ramifications for artists of his generation.

The date marks both the release of the Beatles’ first single, Love Me Do, and the release of the first James Bond film to hit cinemas, Dr. No. From this date forward, the older generation and their wholesome brand of family-friendly entertainment started to become outdated.

It’s a cracking Christmas record regardless.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Hit: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Hidden Gem: O Holy Night

Rocks In The Attic #651: David Bowie – ‘1966’ (2016)

RITA#651.jpgIt’s interesting that Bowie emerged from such run-of-the-mill ‘60s beat-pop into something so relevant and unique. For me, aside from standout singles Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold The World, he doesn’t really become interesting until Hunky Dory – and then all of a sudden he’s very interesting.

This LP – a collection of his 1966 singles recorded for the Pye label – could have been recorded by any number of London-based mod singers from the mid-‘60s. It’s not a million miles from the likes of the Kinks, except that it’s a million miles from them at the same time. You can hear that it’s Bowie – that strange, almost pained delivery of vocals is hard to miss – but the material is second-rate. Where Ray Davies made ordinary sound interesting, here Bowie makes ordinary sound, well, ordinary.

Still, it’s a nice little time-capsule of where he started, and at least it’s not as bad as The Laughing Gnome.

Hit: I’m Not Losing Sleep

Hidden Gem: Do Anything You Say

Rocks In The Attic #650: Pantera – ‘Far Beyond Bootleg – Live From Donington ’94’ (2014)

RITA#650If there was ever a music festival that I wish I had attended, it’s this one – Monsters Of Rock, Donington on Saturday 4th June 1994. It’s the first festival I remember really wanting to go to, but it was out of the question – I was only 15, I couldn’t afford it and even if I could, my parents wouldn’t have let me go just in case I consequently became addicted to heroin. Or, even worse, became a fan of the band Extreme.

What a line-up though. Two stages. The main stage headlined by Aerosmith, with the rest of the bill including Extreme, Sepultura, Pantera, Therapy? and Pride & Glory. The second stage appealed to me even more – headlined by the Wildhearts, this also featured Terrorvision, Skin, Biohazard, Cry Of Love and Headswim.

I think up to this weekend, my head was firmly planted in classic rock. I just listened to Aerosmith and pretty much nothing else. But then MTV aired an hour-long special on the Monsters Of Rock festival, presented by Vanessa Warwick and featuring past performances and music videos of the acts playing that year. As I did with everything else at the time, I recorded it on VHS.

RITA#650aThat tape ended up being one of my favourite recordings, and I’d watch it repeatedly. Most importantly, it introduced me to AC/DC via the AC/DC Live cut of For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) from Donington ’91. It also introduced me to the Wildhearts, by way of the Suckerpunch video. Those two bands became my next obsession after Aerosmith.

The MTV special also introduced me to Iron Maiden with their Fear Of The Dark performance at Donington’92, and Zakk Wylde’s Pride & Glory via their Losin’ Your Mind´ video. I might still have the video somewhere.  The ’94 line-up also justified a couple of bands that I was already interested in, and would go on to see live many times over the next couple of years – Headswim, Terrorvision, Skin and Therapy?.

I’ve picked up a couple of bootlegs from the festival over the years – Aerosmith and the Wildheart’s headlining sets, but sadly only on CD. So it was a welcome sight to see Pantera’s set see an official release. Listening to it now, I so wish I was there, drinking warm beer in the sun.

Hit: Walk

Hidden Gem: Fucking Hostile

Rocks In The Attic #649: Bryan Ferry – ‘Let’s Stick Together’ (1976)

The one good thing about your wonderful wife bringing home a box of LPs that she picked up at a local car-boot sale is the potential to add something new to your collection; something that you might not have arrived at otherwise. I like everything I’ve ever heard from Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry, but I’ve just never got around to buying anything by them. Shame on me.

Three Bryan Ferry solo albums later, and I can finally hear what I’ve been missing out on. This is his third solo album, but his first following the split of Roxy Music. It’s an odd album – comprised of five remakes of existing Roxy Music songs, complimented by six covers – so not a straightforward studio album by any means.

I love the sax-blast of Let’s Stick Together, I always have. Ferry seems to straddle the line between new wave and cabaret, without ever sounding like a product of either genre.

Hit: Let’s Stick Together

Hidden Gem: Casanova

Rocks In The Attic #648: Rod Stewart – ‘Greatest Hits’ (1979)

RITA#648A couple of weekends ago, my wife left the house to go the supermarket. She phoned me five minutes later, with a degree of urgency in her voice. On her way to the supermarket, she spotted a car-boot sale in a church car-park. She had found a man selling three boxes of records. Her call was to see if I wanted any of the classic rock LPs he was selling at the princely sum of a dollar each.

“Have you got Green River by Creedence Clearwater?”

“No, get it.”

“Rod Stewart – Greatest Hits?”

“No, get it”

“The Travelling Wilburys?”

“Yes, but get it anyway.”

And so on. She eventually brought back a box of forty six records, which the seller only took thirty dollars for. Result. I would have paid close to that for the Creedence record alone.

Nine of the records are Rod Stewart albums, and a further four are Faces albums with Rod singing on them. That’s a twenty-eight per cent Stewart penetration rate. Maximum Rod.

Hit: Maggie May

Hidden Gem: Hot Legs

Rocks In The Attic #647: The Guess Who – ‘The Best of The Guess Who Volume II’ (1973)

RITA#647Idea for music festival.

Opening band, to get everybody in the right frame of mind: The The.

Lots of audience participation between performances, with things like cryptic crossword clues that are so illogical they only make the vaguest bit of sense to the LSD-addled stage announcer who makes them up on the spot.

Mid-afternoon sets by Camper Van Beethoven, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Kathleen Turner Overdrive.

Early-evening set by The Guess Who, playing an hour long rendition of American Woman that includes a 27-minute instrumental intro section just as the sun is setting.

Headliners: The Who. Not to be outdone by the Guess Who, the Who pull out all the stops with a 4-hour set including a 53-minute opening section of Who Are You.

Festival name: Wordstock.

Potential crowd-funding opportunity.

Requires further thought.

Hit: Broken

Hidden Gem: Rain Dance

Rocks In The Attic #646: John Williams – ‘Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom’ (1984)

RITA#646The other night, after a hard week at work, I sat down to watch Kingsman: The Golden Circle with my wife. I wasn’t expecting much – I hadn’t heard good things – but I wasn’t prepared for how stunningly average it was. Would I say it is a bad film? No, not really. It was technically well made, by a more than competent director (Matthew Vaughn), but it was instantly forgettable.

When I grew up through the 1980s, there seemed to be fantastic genre films coming out all the time, dotted with the occasional howler (Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, Jaws IV: The Revenge – possibly anything with “IV” in the title, although Rocky IV was a banger). These days, the howlers are relatively easy to avoid. Production of big marquee films tends to be spread across multiple studios sharing the risk of a multi-million dollar budget, and as a result they don’t seem to let a franchise die at the hands of a bad script or a deluded director.

Hollywood’s destructive habit in the last decade is movie-making by numbers; a manifesto of mediocrity. The sheer amount of unremarkable genre films it has produced is testament to the absence of risk that directors and producers are willing to take in order to make something that stands out.

I remember reading an interview with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige back in 2009, where he outlined his plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). His strategy of an overloaded release schedule – 4 or 5 films a year – seemed too good to be true. That’ll never happen, I thought. But it now feels like there’s a new Marvel film out every other month.

The other unbelievable aspect of his strategy was talk of bringing Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk together for an Avengers movie. That will definitely never happen, I thought. The Hulk and Iron Man had been revitalised in film by Marvel already, and I just couldn’t see Robert Downey Jr. and Ed Norton sharing a film together with whatever big names they had lined up to play Captain America and Thor. In a way I was right, as they eventually replaced Norton with a different (cheaper?) actor in Mark Ruffalo, but Feige’s vision ultimately proved true. Ensemble genre films are a dime a dozen these days, and it’s rare for a superhero film to be limited to only one or two key roles. This week saw the release of the trailer for the third (?) Avengers film, introducing the Guardians Of The Galaxy into the earth-bound world of the Avengers. Around and around it goes. Pop will eat itself.

But when Feige sits down in his old age – in his superhero-sized mansion – and tells his privileged grandchildren about his life’s work, how will he feel? For the – by my count – seventeen (!) MCU films that have seen the light of day since 2008, I can really only put my finger on one or two that I would hold up as being great films. Iron Man (2008) and The Avengers (2012) stand head and shoulders above the rest, and while there have been great moments among the others, in general they’re all junk; popcorn escapism for the masses.

The rot set in early on, with 2010’s Iron Man 2. How could they get the sequel so wrong, when they got the first Iron Man so right? I spoke to a fan of the series upon its release, and he couldn’t see any difference between the two. That’s the problem with casual film viewers. They just want what they expect, and they’ll happily visit the cinema every time for that hit of familiarity – Coca-cola in their veins, popcorn in their arteries, and the anticipation of safe storytelling that’s not going to push any boundaries and make them feel uncomfortable. Narrative left-turns in cinema these days are met with whispered conversations in the dark as couples explain to each other what is happening on screen.

Marvel’s now-misguided strategy to steady the ship was to deliver a third iteration in the Iron Man series (2013) which was so incredibly poor, that they should have developed a new category at the Academy Awards to recognise it. ‘And the ‘Best Mediocre Picture’ Oscar goes to…’

If Marvel’s attempts at serious filmmaking are to be laughed at, I’m not sure what we’re supposed to think of their rivals’ efforts at DC. Christopher Nolan reinvigorated the modern superhero film with Batman Begins in 2005, and so you’d think his successors might have learnt a thing or two from him. But as soon as he stepped away from the director’s chair, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) kicked off with one of the dullest superhero films ever committed to celluloid (Man Of Steel, 2013).

Where Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie (1978) was a glorious piece of wondrous entertainment, setting a high bar that wasn’t really challenged until Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel is a turgid mess. I seem to remember a fight sequence at the end that lasted around three hours. I didn’t care about any of the characters, and I secretly hoped that mankind would have been wiped off the screen just so that it would have put me out of my misery.

I might have watched Donner’s Superman and Richard Lester’s Superman II close to a hundred times each. I wouldn’t watch Man Of Steel again if my life depended on it.

Which brings me to Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. Now, Steven Spielberg knew how to make a good genre film back in the ‘80s. Easily the weakest of the original trilogy – although not according to my old buddy Quentin Tarantino, who sees it as the strongest of the three – it’s still an infinitely more enjoyable film than the unremarkable dross dealt out to us by Hollywood in the twenty-first century.

Hit: Anything Goes

Hidden Gem: Finale And End Credits

Rocks In The Attic #645: John Lennon & Yoko Ono – ‘Double Fantasy’ (1980)

RITA#645I enjoyed the recent Blade Runner sequel, Blade Runner 2049. When it was first mooted, I, like many others, expressed anger at why Hollywood was daring to mess with something so sacred. This type of revisionism generally ends poorly, but director Denis Villeneuve had a good track record, and the resulting film felt more like a genuine follow up to the 1982 original than I could possibly have imagined.

One thing I read online around the time of the film’s release was somebody claiming that Ryan Gosling is the new Nicolas Cage. Not in looks or acting style, but in his scene-stealing buffoonery that shines through in every film. I used to love Nic Cage – his turn as H.I. McDunnough in Raising Arizona is one of my favourite cinematic performances of all time – and while he occasionally redeems himself with a great role (Big Daddy in Kick Ass, for example), his performances are generally as woeful as the films he chooses.

But in no way is Ryan Gosling the new Nicolas Cage. Gosling may suffer sometimes from the same level of screen charisma as a vase of flowers, but at least he’s watchable, particularly when he turns his best attribute – moody silence – to brilliant effect in films such as Drive and the aforementioned Blade Runner 2049.

I posit another theory – that the new Nicolas Cage is none other than Gosling’s Blade Runner 2049 co-star, Jared Leto. To take the mantle of the silver screen’s new Nic Cage, his successor must be a recidivist over-actor. Luckily for us, Leto has this in spades.

Not only does he chew the scenery as Blade Runner 2049’s blind villain, Niander Wallace, but he comes across as so self-absorbed that one gets the feeling he’d be more at home performing the film as a one-man stage-play.

RITA#645aLast week I also watched Chapter 27, the film about the murder of John Lennon. Inspired by Won’t You Take Me Down, Jack Jones’ book of interviews with Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman, the film is a tough watch, as tough as Jones’ book is to read.

I’m not sure if it glamorises Chapman, but it definitely doesn’t seek to explain why he did what he did – something that he himself was so conflicted about (if Jones’ interviews are to be believed). As a result, the film has a horrible foreboding sense of resignation to it.

Of course, Chapter 27 gives Jared Leto the opportunity to pull out all the stops in his portrayal of Chapman, putting on a great deal of weight for the role and changing his voice to mimic the killer’s childlike whisper. I’m on the fence about whether it’s a great performance, as we really only have Leto’s interpretation to go by. Let’s just say that he definitely earned his salary. Chapman does come across as a creepy motherfucker, and I was quite happy when the film ended as I genuinely couldn’t bear any more time in his company.

It’s so heartbreaking to listen to this record when you consider what happened to Lennon just three weeks after its release. There’s a strong sense of optimism throughout both John and Yoko’s songs, as the couple looked ahead into the new decade.

Hit: Woman

Hidden Gem: I’m Losing You