Monthly Archives: April 2019

Rocks In The Attic #751: Eurythmics – ‘1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother) (O.S.T.)’ (1984)

RITA#751Nineteen Eighty-Four is my favourite George Orwell novel, and probably one of my top five books of the twentieth century. It means so much to me, that I consciously avoided the film for a very long time. Adaptations can be a strange thing, and I wasn’t willing to let my memory of the book be tainted by cinema like so many of my other favourite books have been – Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita to name but two.

In fact, for most of my life, I’ve known a John Hurt quote from the film more than anything else associated with the adaptation. Used as a sample in the intro to the Manic Street Preacher’s Faster, from 1995’s The Holy Bible, Hurt says ‘I hate purity. Hate goodness. I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt.’ Wonderful.

I finally watched the film a year or so ago. It’s okay. Not fantastic, but not terrible either. More than anything, I found it unmemorable. This, I guess, is a blessing. It neither adds nor subtracts anything from my love for the novel.

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The soundtrack however, by Eurythmics, is strangely alluring. On paper, pairing the duo with a fantastically dystopian novel doesn’t sound like a great combination, almost like Pet Shop Boys composing the score to Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982), but it works. Part synth-pop, part ominous moody score, it really flows well and stands up well with the synth-wave revival of the last decade.

Hit: Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)

Hidden Gem: I Did It Just The Same

Rocks In The Attic #750: Aretha Franklin – ‘I Never Loved A Man Like I Love You’ (1967)

RITA#750This is far from being Aretha Franklin’s debut album, but it feels like the start of something. Released in 1967, as the first album of her contract with Atlantic Records, it’s actually her tenth studio album following her true debut on Columbia back in 1961.

Jerry Wexler, co-partner of Atlantic alongside Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün, must have been rubbing his hands with glee as he produced the title track with Aretha and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section at FAME studios in Alabama. That song would be strong enough to carry a record of lesser material – as seemed to be the norm throughout much of the 1960s, particularly with regard to soul and R&B releases – but Aretha was only just getting started.

The album kicks off with Respect, her cover of Otis Redding’s song from 1965’s Otis Blue. I seldom believe that a cover version can better the original, but Aretha’s version of the song completely eclipses Redding’s original. It’s so good, it makes his version sound like the weaker cover song.

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Having recorded the song at Atlantic Records’ New York studios (but retaining the Muscle Shoals studio musicians), co-producer Arif Mardin is credited with overseeing Aretha’s rearranged version of the song. It’s clear that magic was being captured during the session. “I’ve been in many studios in my life, but there was never a day like that,” Mardin says. “It was like a festival. Everything worked just right.”

Fifty years on, the song has been diluted somewhat by its overuse in advertising commercials, films and TV shows, but I like to think that some of its original impact remains as an anthem for both the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements.

Hit: Respect

Hidden Gem: Save Me

Rocks In The Attic #749: Alice Cooper – ‘Live At The Whiskey A-Go-Go 1969’ (1969)

RITA#749This live set, recorded in 1969 at Los Angeles’ famed Whiskey-A-Go-Go, represents one of Alice Cooper’s earliest live recordings. Compared to the classic rock of 1970s Alice Cooper, it sounds terrible, but still makes for an interesting listen.

At this point, the band were very much protégés of Frank Zappa, who co-produced their first album Pretties For You (1969). As a result, the style of music on this live album sits somewhere in the middle of Zappa-esque avant-gard rock and roll and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. Side one closer Levity Ball even includes a descending passage, with howling vocals, lifted directly from Interstellar Overdrive.

RITA#749aThere isn’t a great deal of promise on this record. I expect every acid-influenced band on the Sunset Strip sounded this bad.

Hit: No Longer Umpire

Hidden Gem: Levity Ball

Rocks In The Attic #748: The Eagles – ‘Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975’ (1976)

RITA#748I’ve never been too much of a fan of pre-Joe Walsh Eagles. It’s all a bit too country, too many jangling guitars. I prefer the edgier twin-guitar RAWK of Don Felder and Joe Walsh, rather than this singer-songwriter stuff.

I’ll still love Hotel California to the day I die, but there’s a reason this greatest hits set has sold so many copies. For a very long time, it was the best-selling album of the twentieth century in the USA, until it was finally surpassed by Michael Jackson’s Thriller following his death in 2009.

Seeing the Eagles live recently – or what is left of the band, having lost Glenn Frey a couple of years ago – I was reminded just how good this earlier material is. When you’re listening to six guys blast out a wall of harmonies, it sounds unbelievable.

Frey’s death at the age of 67 left a gaping hole in the band. Don Henley’s voice is too smooth, too AOR in comparison, and Walsh’s voice is too weird, too out there. Would they get somebody else in to stand in for Frey?

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The answer is yes…and no. Established singer-songwriter Vince Gill was brought into the band to fill the gap left by Frey’s absence. His guitar playing and singing – particularly a standout performance on Take It To The Limit – more than earned his place alongside Felder and Walsh.

The band’s secret weapon though was a clone of Glenn Frey, in the form of his 25-year old son, Deacon Frey. Young and handsome (next to the old men he shared a stage with), his vocals and acoustic guitar on the songs his father used to tackle – Take It Easy, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Already Gone – was uncanny. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And good on him – apparently his first show with the band was at Dodger Stadium, so very much launched into life in the fast lane.

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The big question though was how the guitar solos on Hotel California were going to be handled. Lead-guitarist Steuart Smith was clearly the replacement for Don Felder, but I was curious whether he would play the song on a double-necked guitar as per his predecessor. Worry not, a blast of Mexican trumpet led into the opening 12-string acoustic section of the song, with a solitary spotlight on Smith playing a double-neck. My favourite guitar solo/s didn’t disappoint.

RITA#748cI expected the Eagles greatest hits – and got it! – but what I didn’t expect was the various solo songs by Joe Walsh and Don Henley. This was just as good – Walsh’s In The City, Walk Away, Life’s Been Good, Funk #49 and Rocky Mountain Way, and weirdly as a closer to the night (much to the chagrin of the man sat next to me), Don Henley’s The Boys Of Summer.

I wasn’t sure about seeing the band with so few original members, and not only were the wife and I both sick with head-colds, but we were also sat about 50 seats in from the aisles, which made getting out for refreshments virtually impossible. Despite all of this, it was still fantastic.

Hit: Take It Easy

Hidden Gem: Already Gone

Rocks In The Attic #747: Various Artists – ‘Sharky’s Machine (O.S.T.)’ (1981)

RITA#747Thank God I had a video recorder in my room, growing up. It might have been a top-loader – much to the amusement of anybody who saw it – but it did the job. It meant that I could tape films in the middle of the night, rather than staying up and propping my eyelids open. When a teacher asks you why you’re so tired in class, it’s never a good idea to say that you stayed up to watch The Eiger Sanction.

I would record anything that sounded exciting: anything starring Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Bruce Willis, Rutger Hauer, Harrison Ford, Chuck Norris, and so on. Thankfully, the action genre is a little more racially diverse these days; I essentially grew up on a diet of white dude action heroes.

An old favourite was always Sharky’s Machine, directed by and starring Burt Reynolds, very much at the top of his game. Reynolds plays Tom Sharky, a tough Atlanta cop who gets transferred to the vice department. There, he discovers a high-class prostitution ring, and slowly falls in love with one of the girls as he stakes out her apartment.

On a recent re-watch, I admit it’s not a great film. But there’s just something about American cop thrillers from the ‘70s and ‘80s that I adore: the cityscapes, the grittiness, and the endless banks of lit-up office blocks against the night sky. For me, a weak script and a few hammy acting performances can usually be overlooked, purely on the strength of the filming locations.

RITA#747bReynolds also oversaw the soundtrack, alongside producer Snuff Garrett. This move – with Reynolds directing and overseeing the soundtrack – almost makes him a proto-Tarantino character, with Reynold’s only real contribution to that universe being his appearance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Tarantino-esque Boogie Nights in 1997. The other connection, of course, being the inclusion of Randy Crawford’s Street Life on both the Sharky’s Machine soundtrack, and the soundtrack to Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.

Originally the opening track on the Crusaders’ 1979 album of the same name, Street Life was originally a slower, 11-minute song featuring a guest vocal by Randy Crawford. The version recorded for the Sharky’s Machine soundtrack was recorded by Doc Severinson, who also composed the original score for the film, and is credited only to Randy Crawford. This shorter version of Street Life is far punchier and more direct than the Crusaders’ original, and is a stone-cold funk / soul gem.

The inner gatefold of the record shows a wonderful photo collage of the recording sessions, alongside publicity stills from the film. The liner notes read: For Sharky’s Machine, Burt Reynolds and Snuff Garrett have brought together some of the greatest jazz talents in history. This is followed by a detailed list of all the participants, most of which are unrecognisable to my uncultured eyes.

Hit: Street Life – Randy Crawford

Hidden Gem: Sexercise – Doc Severinsen

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