Monthly Archives: November 2019

Rocks In The Attic #809: Eric Clapton – ‘August’ (1986)

RITA#809After a lacklustre start to the decade, Eric Clapton really picked up the pace on this and its follow-up, Journeyman. Both covers feature photography by the recently departed Terry O’Neill, depicting a stylish, more mature Clapton. This maturity can also be heard in the songwriting, which finds a plaintive Clapton in a new spot, looking back at his life. The instrumentation is also similar across the two records, utilising the same band of Michael Jackson sideman Greg Phillinganes on keyboards, Nathan East on bass and Phil Collins on drums.

The album kicks off with It’s In The Way That You Use It, featured in The Color Of Money, the 1986 sequel to The Hustler, starring Tom Cruise and Paul Newman. But as commercial as that song is, there’s far stronger material to be found throughout the album.

RITA#809aTearing Us Apart features a vocal duet with Tina Turner, who returns to provide backing vocals on Hold On. The real highpoint though is Behind The Mask, the album’s closer and its only Top 20 single. Starting life as a song by Yellow Magic Orchestra, Quincy Jones heard the song and had Michael Jackson write new lyrics for it, eventually recording it during the Thriller sessions. Unreleased on the eventual album, Greg Phillinganes then recorded a version of it for his 1984 solo album, Pulse, before Clapton covered it on August.

My favourite track though is Miss You – a slow burning electric blues, with a soaring lead guitar from Clapton. It’s a fantastic taster of the kind of material and production that makes Journeyman such a joy to listen to. August is a great start, but Journeyman is clearly the better album.

Hit: Behind The Mask

Hidden Gem: Miss You

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Above Us Only Sky Movies

AUOSM-01Sky TV began broadcasting in the UK in February 1989. My parents signed up to it almost straight away, which I’ve always considered to be strange. They’re by no means what I’d call early-adopters, but for some reason they were at the front of queue on this occasion. We had a big overseas trip to the USA in 1988, and then we were the first household we knew to get Sky, so maybe things were just really good financially around then.

As well as watching The Simpsons from the very first week it aired, Sky also introduced me to WWF when it broadcast Wrestlemania VI in April 1990. But the biggest effect Sky had on me was through its movie channels.

Prior to Sky there was only the four terrestrial TV channels and the local video shop (the most magical of which was Azad Video at the bottom end of Yorkshire Street in Oldham). Nothing else. No internet, no streaming services, just a barren wasteland of entertainment. If you missed a film on TV, or couldn’t find it in the video shop, you just didn’t see it. Full stop. VHS cassettes seemed to be this mystical thing that somehow brought the magic of Hollywood into your living room. I can’t even remember people owning films on VHS. We had a couple – The Sands Of Iwo-Jima and It’s A Wonderful Life – but these didn’t interest me at the time.

AUOSM-02Enter Sky Movies. First included for free as part of the initial subscription, the channel then became encrypted in February 1990. From memory, I seem to remember us getting the decoder before we paid for Sky Movies, and so there was a period of time when I would land on the channel and just hear the audio with no image. The magic was there, but it was behind a curtain, just out of reach. The scrambled image was a strange, new version of white noise, unlike anything you could normally see through the TV aerial if you landed on any channels other than 1, 2, 3 or 4.

When we finally got the smart card, which decrypted the channel, it was like the floodgates opening. I watched films all the time. And when I wasn’t watching them, I’d tape them to watch later. Blank VHS cassettes quickly became an expensive commodity; gold-dust when you had to decide between which film to keep and which to tape over: Sophie’s Choice or Rambo III. My parents even bought some of those tacky cassette covers that made them look like hardback novels on your bookshelf. Hmm, is that a first edition of Nicholas Nickleby? Oh, no it’s Three Amigos followed by Spies Like Us.

I’d get home from school, and watch films I’d taped over the weekend. I have a strong memory of sitting at my parents’ awful wagon-wheel coffee table, watching Lethal Weapon while I dunked McVitie’s digestives into a massive mug of coffee. That’s the thing you really need when you’re 11 or 12 years old: caffeine and the best of the current action movie genre. Who needs sleep?

AUOSM-03Another time, I remember getting up early one morning to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando. My older brother had watched it the prior night, but way past my bedtime. But it was taped for some reason, so I simply woke up at 7am on Saturday morning and watched it. My Mum walked in during the family-friendly scenes when Schwarzenegger is eating peanut-butter sandwiches with his daughter, and so she didn’t seem to care that I was watching a film well above my age. Thankfully she missed the opening credits when the bad guys, posing as garbage men, assassinate one of Schwarzenegger’s old army buddies with Uzis.

Not every film I saw in those days was a winner. There were plenty of turkeys, and the number of films they showed at any one time was pretty limited. So films would be premiered and then repeated often. But what a problem to have: your own private video shop. Happy days!

The films weren’t all blockbusters, and some of my favourites were the smaller productions that Sky had obviously picked up on the cheap: yes you can have *Batteries Not Included and Innerspace, but you have to take The Manhattan Project, Supergirl and Howard The Duck. I’m just annoyed I somehow missed 1989 duffer Collision Course, starring Jay Leno and The Karate Kid’s Pat Morita, until I caught it recently with a big smile on my face.

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Of course, I watched all the Schwarzeneggers and the Stallones, but I also watched the lesser-known Chuck Norris and Rutger Hauers. In no particular order, here are ten early Sky favourites that resonated with an 11-year old finally able to feed his addiction to film:

AUOSM-051. Three Men And A Baby (Leonard Nimoy, 1987)

It’s probably the biggest hit on this list, and not particularly a favourite, but it’s one of my earliest Sky memories where I can recall hearing the audio over the encrypted white noise picture. How cruel, being able to hear Steve Guttenberg, Ted Danson and Tom Selleck trade wisecracks, but not being able to see the horrific pastel colour-scheme of their apartment. It’s a nice little film, and the irony of the film being directed by Mr. Spock, on the subject of babies – usually the field of Dr. Spock – is not lost on me.

AUOSM-062. Feds (Daniel Goldberg, 1988)

Former U.S. Marine Rebecca De Mornay turns up to FBI training academy to find her roommate is the bookish wimp Mary Gross. The pair help each other out in their attempt to become FBI agents, until they eventually outwit the privileged male chauvinists in their class. I recently showed this film to my wife, and she really enjoyed it. It’s aged quite well, genuinely funny and doesn’t feel steeped in the 1980s too much.

AUOSM-073. License To Drive (Greg Beeman, 1988)

In the greatest film starring both Corey Haim and Corey Feldman (yes, I’m looking at you, The Lost Boys), Corey Haim fails to get his driving licence, which he was counting on to impress a girl at school. He decides to take her out for a date anyway, in his Granfather’s classic car, and hilarity ensues. It’s not the greatest film in the world, but the two Coreys have such a chemistry, it’s hard not to like them. Craving mashed potatoes while pregnant, and driving to the hospital in reverse gear are both deserving of a mention.

AUOSM-084. Men At Work (1990, Emilio Estevez)

Another one that got a recent re-watch, to an enthusiastic reception from the wife, who had been oblivious to its charms. Emilio Estevez writes and directs himself and brother Charlie Sheen in a dark comedy about two Californian garbage men who get into trouble with a local gangster. Excellent performances all round, not only from the two leads, but from Keith David in a role that is tailor-made for his angry, anti-establishment attitude. This, for me, has the same hit-rate of one-liners as classic comedies like Some Like It Hot and This Is Spinal Tap, and the small-town plotting provides an enjoyable rollercoaster ride with a similar feel to Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery.

AUOSM-095. Invasion USA (1985, Joseph Zito)

After the Missing In Action films, Chuck Norris seemed to carve out a niche for himself in the 1980’s action hero market. Unlike Stallone and Schwarzenegger, he’s not a massive bodybuilder, instead possessing the kind of body you might expect to see on a friend of your Dad’s. In Invasion USA he, you guessed it, single-handedly prevents an invasion of the USA from Communist Latin-American guerrillas. This, to me, is the archetypal Chuck Norris film, leading to bigger productions like The Delta Force, Braddock: Missing In Action 3 and Delta Force 2: The Columbian Connection. And given the state of the world these days, and the ongoing threat of terrorism, it’s a wonder that this film hasn’t been remade in the post-9/11 world.

AUOSM-106. Runaway (1984, Michael Chrichton)

Tom Selleck’s the good guy, Gene Simmons from Kiss is the bad guy. There’s loads of scary robot spiders, and bullets that can now follow you around corners. Ropey sci-fi films were ten a penny throughout the 1980s, but this one always seemed to have a bit more charm than others. Set in a near future where cops track down runaway robots (sound familiar?), Tom Selleck and his moustache must battle their fear of heights in a finale that takes place on a skyscraper construction site!

AUOSM-117. Stakeout (1987, John Badham)

Quite a few of the films we watched in the early days of Sky were chosen by my Dad. And he seemed to enjoy this action comedy, where two cops (Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez) stakeout a pretty girl’s apartment, a bit too much. There are plenty of hi-jinks between the pair, and with their police colleagues, and the threat of ex-con Aidan Quinn to Madeleine Stowe provides the dangerous element of the film. The concept of pairing a mature star with a younger actor was very popular around this time (The Colour Of Money, 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon), and the success of the film led to a less-celebrated sequel in 1993.

AUOSM-128. F/X2: The Deadly Art Of Illusion (1991, Richard Franklin)

Another wildcard action hero in the ‘80s was likable Aussie Bryan Brown. Finding worldwide fame in 1986 as Tom Cruise’s mentor in Cocktail, followed by another key supporting role in Gorillas In The Mist led to Orion Pictures investing in a sequel to 1986’s slow-burner F/X. Brown plays Rollie Tyler, a special-effects artist, who uses his creations to outwit bad guys with his cop buddy Brian Dennehy. It’s the perfect action film fodder for an 11-year old. Special effects in films at that time were heralded as an art-form in themselves, and the concept of including these effects as weapons in an action film seemed very clever at the time.

AUOSM-139. Deadly Pursuit (1988, Roger Spottiswoode)

Known in North America as Shoot To Kill, this is a film we first rented on video and then watched many times when we got Sky. Tom Berenger, riding high from his cold-blooded turn in Platoon, partners with Sidney Poitier’s FBI agent to track a killer hiding amongst a group of fishermen in the forests of Washington state. The film currently has a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (from 14 reviews) and is deserving of a rewatch. I remember showing this to the wife about ten years ago and it didn’t land with any weight, but I’ll give it another go.

AUOSM-1410. Adventures In Babysitting (1988, Chris Columbus)

Another film with an alternate title (A Night On The Town), this might have been the film I watched the most on Sky Movies. It seemed to be playing around the clock and so its combination of hi-jinks and mild peril made for an accessible film for young and old. In Chris Columbus’ directorial debut, Elisabeth Shue plays the titular babysitter, trying to keep everything together as she takes her adolescent charges into downtown Chicago to pick up her best friend. There are a few parallels between this film and Columbus’ eventual masterpiece, Home Alone – both films have a similar tone with children operating in an adult world, and both feature those children foiling bumbling criminals. Home Alone is easily the superior film but this one’s worth checking out.

Rocks In The Attic #808: The Cure – ‘Pornography’ (1982)

RITA#808I’m usually a big fan of pornography, but not this time. Being fairly allergic to all things goth, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my first Cure purchase. But at only $13NZD ($8USD / £6GBP) for a shiny, new 2016 reissue from our country’s biggest general merchandiser, I couldn’t say no.

The first line of album opener One Hundred Years – ‘It doesn’t matter if we all die’ – sets the tone of what’s to follow. Sixth-form poetry set to doomy, repetitive dirges. Robert Smith’s unique voice and clear enunciation is clearly the highlight of the band.

It’s not for me, but I admit it’s sounding much better on its second listen. I’ll keep it in case we ever adopt a goth.

Hit: The Hanging Garden

Hidden Gem: A Short Term Effect

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Rocks In The Attic #807: Michael Hoenig – ‘The Blob (O.S.T.)’ (1988)

RITA#807I’m not usually a fan of remakes. They’re either a cynical attempt to recreate the magic of the original (see 2003’s The Italian Job, 2006’s The Wicker Man, 2016’s Ghostbusters) or a remake of a foreign-language film to placate lazy American audiences who don’t like to read subtitles (see 2006’s The Departed, 2011’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 2013’s Oldboy). Sometimes, remakes are just offensive. I remember seeing Gus Van Sant’s 1998 shot-for-shot remake of Psycho, and people were laughing out loud in the cinema. It wasn’t intended to be one of the year’s best comedies.

There are exceptions, of course. Batman Begins (2005) and Casino Royale (2006) proved that reboots could provide a new perspective on a tired franchise, and some remakes – Philip Kaufman’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978), John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) – offer enough innovation to justify the new version.

I’m not sure we needed two different versions of the Spider-Man origin story (2002, 2012) only ten years apart though. I’m just glad Andrew ‘mouth-breather’ Garfield isn’t the webbed-wonder anymore.

RITA#807aGiven the three good examples, it seems that 50s sci-fi films generally offer rich material to base a remake on. This could be due to the 30-year gap between original and remake, but we’re seeing remakes of ‘80s and ‘90s films nowadays, and the hit-rate isn’t good. It’s more likely that the advent of new technology enhanced the films and their special effects. I suspect the evolution of film in that specific 30-year period – from B-movies in the ‘50s, to New Hollywood at the end of the ‘60s, and the film-school generation of the ‘70s – is the main culprit.

And so we arrive at Chuck Russell’s The Blob, another ‘50s sci-fi b-movie remake. The original film was directed by Irvin Yeaworth and starred Steve McQueen in his leading-man debut. The remake’s co-writer Frank Darabont is the biggest clue of what lies ahead, as the film has a small-town setting and small-town mentality as his later works (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Majestic, The Mist).

First, we’re treated to the classic Tri-Star studio ident, an evergreen favourite. A white stallion runs in slow-motion toward the screen. It sprouts wings and flies above the Tri-Star logo. Everything is going to be alright! Until Michael Hoenig’s ominous synth score over the opening credits tells us otherwise.

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The Blob
was an early favourite when my family first got Sky Movies, and for some reason I’ve been placing Matt Dillon in this film for the last thirty years. It’s actually older brother Kevin Dillon who plays the lead role of Brian – Brian! – but the two look so similar it’s not hard to mix them up. Looking back, it now looks more like Ethan Hawke playing the part of Matt Dillon, with the worst wig ever, in a biopic of his young life as a greaser.

RITA#807bThe Blob itself looks like the genesis for the slime in the following year’s Ghostbusters II. It looks lovely. Nice and pink, but not that threatening when you think about it. And if you thought the Blob was slow, you should have seen Slugs, another slow-moving horror which crawled into cinemas six months before The Blob. It was so non-threatening, I watched it with my Mum!

And yet, despite its beauty and slow pace, the Blob is threatening as a malevolent force. At least in the first half of the picture, before it becomes too big for the screen and the filmmakers resort to rear-screen projection to show its scale. The special effects by Tony Gardner are awesome: wonderful practical effects, akin to the groundbreaking effects by Rob Bottin in John Carpenter’s The Thing; all the more terrifying because they look and feel real.

My favourite effects shot is in the hospital when the Blob takes its second victim, the football-player Paul. His date Meg hears his scream from another room, and races in to find him screaming from within the Blob, as he tries to escape its clutches. That one shot is genuinely terrifying. Another fantastic sequence takes place in the diner, when the short-order cook is sucked head-first through a plughole. Mamma mia!

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I always chuckle at the finale in which the townsfolk figure out that the Blob’s weakness is cold temperatures. Brian’s solution is to go and steal the town’s snow-maker truck, and use its tanks of liquid nitrogen to freeze it to death. Now, you may ask yourself why a small town has a snow-making truck. It’s not like they explicitly state that the town is a ski-resort. As a plot-point, this is problematic.

The performances are mostly great and the script isn’t too bad. At least it doesn’t try to be anything that it isn’t. In fact, the film’s major weakness is Michael Hoenig’s score. I usually love synth soundtracks, but not this one. I’d expect better from a member of Tangerine Dream. Apart from the main title theme and a couple of other cues, it mostly sounds tacky and melodramatic; like the High School AV club got use of the school’s cheap Casio keyboard.

Hit: Main Title

Hidden Gem: Into The Sewer

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Rocks In The Attic #806: Various Artists – ‘Inside Llewyn Davis (O.S.T.)’ (2013)

RITA#806“What does the ‘N’ stand for?”

Inside Llewyn Davis is another latter day gem from the Coen brothers. Coming straight off the success of 2010 western remake True Grit, this film finds them exploring the pre-folk explosion music scene in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s.

Oscar Isaac plays the titular character, a down-on-his-luck folk singer earning just enough to keep him going from couch to couch, while he chases a lucky break. The Coens paint a painfully bleak picture of New York heading into winter, as life and responsibility begin to take their toll on Llewyn.

RITA#806aThe soundtrack, produced by the Coens with T. Bone Burnett, is, as usual, superb. The starting point for the character of Llewyn Davis is Dave Van Ronk, a contemporary of Bob Dylan, and so the soundtrack features several songs associated with Van Ronk, many of which are performed by Isaac. The cover of Davis’ poorly selling solo album, the Inside Llewyn Davis from the title, is a direct replica of Van Ronk’s album Inside Dave Van Ronk, minus the peeking cat, and the film strikes just the right balance of Davis just missing out on stardom as Van Ronk did. Right place, wrong time.

It has been reported that the Coens view the music of Inside Llewyn Davis as a direct descendant of the music in O Brother, Where Art Thou? It’s not hard to hear this connection: there’s definitely a country folk / travelling tale ethos in the songwriting; pure folk from the well, before folk-rock muddied the water. The music is so beautiful, and well performed, that it’s almost heartbreaking to see a despondent Davis catch a glimpse of Dylan in the film’s closing scene. The folk music world is about to turn on its axis, and Llewyn Davis, like Dave Van Ronk, is not going to be at the forefront of the charge.

I’m a huge fan of True Grit and The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs, but Inside Llewyn Davis is definitely my favourite of the Coens’ output from this decade. Hail, Caesar! didn’t do anything for me, and we’re unlikely to see another film from them until their adaption of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Coen-alumn / spouse Frances McDormand, which is only in pre-production at the time of writing.

RITA#806bIt is the bleak and gloomy atmosphere of Inside Llewyn Davis that resonates with me the most. This onslaught of misery only lets up for a brief couple of minutes when Davis is contracted to play and sing on a studio session – the side-splitting novelty song Please Mr. Kennedy – alongside Justin Timberlake’s effervescent Jim Berkey and Adam Driver’s no-nonsense Al Cody. It’s the film’s rare moment of illumination, and potentially a lucky break for our protagonist, but his circumstances dictate that he takes a one-off payment for the work, thereby writing off any chances of receiving any of the song’s eventual royalties.

Like a lot of the Coens’ work, the film has a weird streak running through it: the elusive ginger cat echoes the peeling wallpaper of Barton Fink or the pencil-strewn anxiety of Jerry Lundegaard’s falsified loan form in Fargo; a small obsession that ultimately means nothing. And perhaps most interesting of all, the Coens’ mastery of character and narrative expertly maneuvers an unseen character in the film: the cruel hand of fate that leads Llewyn Davis in one direction and opens the door to somebody else.

Hit: Hang Me, Oh Hang Me – Oscar Isaac

Hidden Gem: Please Mr. Kennedy – Justin Timberlake, Oscar Isaac & Adam Driver

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Rocks In The Attic #805: John Lennon & Yoko Ono – ‘Some Time In New York City’ (1972)

RITA#805After John and Yoko’s 1972 promotional film Imagine and 1988’s wider-focused Imagine: John Lennon, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the 1971 album had been well and truly covered. But, as seems to happen when you least expect it, somebody stumbled on some unreleased footage and now we have another documentary to entertain us.

John And Yoko: Above Us Only Sky is a 90-minute film by director Michael Epstein, featuring documentary footage, both seen and unseen, from the recording of Imagine and the events that surrounded it. Unlike John and Yoko’s 1972 ‘home-movie’, Epstein’s documentary has the power of hindsight, plus a heap of talking heads, including Yoko Ono and Julian Lennon, to make sense of it all.

RITA#805aRight out of the bat, the highlight of the unseen footage is of Lennon and band recording with George ‘Double-Denim’ Harrison on Oh My Love, and audio outtakes of Lennon coaching King Curtis through his saxophone parts on It’s So Hard. George also lends some advice to Lennon recording the album’s penultimate song, How?, a collaboration that isn’t credited on the album and has never been alluded to.

An intimate and revealing documentary, for sure, but I’m still waiting for a documentary centred on the next stage in his career. The later sections of John And Yoko: Above Us Only Sky scratches the surface of their move from Tittenhurst to NYC, but it’s this phase of his career that’s always been of the most interest to me.

There’s a great quote of John’s I first saw in the John Lennon Anthology box-set, illustrated by a photo of him listening to the beat of the city with a stethoscope: ‘If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Today, America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself.’ This logic has always stuck with me, and perhaps because I devoured that box-set before I actually listened to the individual albums themselves, it’s this weird third record named after his favourite city that I’ve always gravitated towards.

RITA#805bYes, Plastic Ono Band is a belter, Imagine is the big, famous hit, and he still had a number of great albums after this one, but this one sticks out for being the most exciting – definitely until the newfound excitement of the duo’s return with Double Fantasy. It’s the hodge-podge feel of Some Time In New York City that I love the most, almost each song on the studio half of the record is a protest song in itself, on whatever cause the couple were fighting at the time of recording. Hearing these songs nearly fifty years later, it’s not hard to understand why the FBI had opened a file on the Lennons earlier that year and had begun intense surveillance on them. The fear was that John and Yoko were mobilising young people to vote, which could have endangered Richard Nixon’s chances of a second term in 1972. History speaks for itself as to who the real crook was.

I don’t often listen to the live half of the record (or the Bonus Live Jam LP as it’s described on the cover). It’s a great document of the band playing live at that time, but it’s not as interesting as the studio sides of the album and as much as I love her, there’s only so much of Yoko’s screaming I can tolerate.

RITA#805cI do love the insert cover of the live LP though, a replica of Frank Zappa’s 1971 live album with John’s red scrawl across it. This is genius, and even when you consider Zappa’s involvement on the records, it’s so far from anything that would happen in today’s world of music attorneys, trademarks and lawsuits.

Hopefully we’ll get a decent documentary on this era, from the end of Imagine until the start of Mind Games. His every move in New York would have been documented, if not by the press then definitely by the authorities.

Hit: Woman Is The Nigger Of The World

Hidden Gem: John Sinclair

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Rocks In The Attic #804: The Band – ‘Moondog Matinee’ (1973)

RITA#804If The Band had been born thirty years later, and were from Southport, they’d be called Gomez. Stay with me here…

Not only is there a rootsy vibe going on in both bands, but they both feature multiple vocalists and occasionally swap instruments. The biggest difference, apart from time itself, is their nationality. The Band are Americana incarnate whereas Gomez couldn’t be more English. Members of The Band have strange North American names like Levon and Garth, while Gomez have middle-class English names like Tom, Ben and Olly.

I first saw Gomez when they were touring second album Liquid Skin, on the Other Stage at Glastonbury 1999. Last week, twenty years later, I finally saw them for the second time. They played at Auckland’s fantastic Powerstation, as part of their Liquid Skin 20th Anniversary tour, a full seven years after the last time they graced our shores. I missed the 2012 show for some reason, but really glad I caught this one: a full play-through of their 1998 debut Bring It On, followed by a full performance of Liquid Skin.

RITA#804aI’m glad to report the years have been kind. When I first saw them, I was as curious as everyone else at the voice of guitarist Ben Ottewell. In 1999, he was just a podgy twenty-something with a much bigger voice than himself. He’s now grown into his vocal chords, a genial bear of a man. Performing live, he was dependant on too much reverb, but you could still hear the magic in his soulful voice. It reminded me a bit of Simon Fowler from Ocean Colour Scene, another band I recently saw at the same venue.

The rest of the band were exactly the same as I remember them from ’99. The genial Tom Gray (vocals / guitar / keyboards) talked the most to the audience. Twenty years ago I remember him telling the Glastonbury crowd to turn around a look at the sunset. He hasn’t changed a bit. Neither has the other guitarist / vocalist Ian Ball. Still as scrawny as he was all those years ago, he’s the most cocky and aloof of the three frontmen. Drummer Olly Peacock hasn’t aged a day, and the only real casualty of the band is the hairline of bassist Paul Blackburn, now fully shaved.

Given the type of material of the three songwriters, it is Ball’s songs that seem the most normal – straightforward post-Oasis Britpop that you would hear in any band (including my own) from that time around the late ‘90s. It’s the mixture of Ottewell’s southern-fried soul and Gray’s jazzy melodies that gives Gomez their unique sound. If anything, it feels like Ball is the lucky one of the three, for finding other songwriters that would provide an interesting counterbalance to the ordinariness of his own material.

After they played through both albums, they returned to the stage for just one song – a frantic, AC/DC-inspired version of Whippin’ Picadilly, played ‘like we did when we were teenagers.’ A magical night, for sure, and I still made it home to watch the All Blacks beat Wales to take bronze in the World Cup.

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I’m serious about the comparison to The Band though. And of all the Band’s LPs, studio album number five, Moondog Matinee, is perhaps the most Gomez-ey. It’s one of the more kookier entries in the Band’s back catalogue, and finds them recording an entire album’s worth of cover songs.

The original idea was to replicate their mid-‘60s setlists, when they were known as Levon & The Hawks, but only one song – Share Your Love (With Me) – from this period appears. It sounds like a happy album, but the reality was a band starting to come apart at the seams. ‘That was all we could do at the time,’ Levon Helm later explained. ‘We couldn’t get along; we all knew that fairness was a bunch of shit. We all knew we were getting screwed, so we couldn’t sit down and create no more music. Up on Cripple Creek and all that stuff was over—all that collaboration was over, and that type of song was all we could do.’

Hit: Ain’t Got No Home

Hidden Gem: Mystery Train

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