Monthly Archives: January 2020

Rocks In The Attic #826: Collective Soul – ‘Hints Allegations & Things Left Unsaid’ (1994)

RITA#826One of my favourite singles of the ‘90s was Shine by Collective Soul; a single edit and an album version, together with b-sides Love Lifted Me and Burning Bridges. There was something about those three songs that really worked together, as a sort of mini-EP of material. It came out in 1994, very much my Year Zero in music.

Twenty-five years later and I’ve finally got my hands on the debut studio album Shine was taken from, released for the first time on vinyl for Record Store Day’s Black Friday even in 2018. I’m happy to report that the two other songs from the single are present and correct also.

The album was recorded in a basement across 1992 and 1993 but was not intended for public release. Songwriter and frontman Ed Roland, sounding like a portmanteau of the Chemical Brothers’ Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands, put the songs together as a demo to sell to a publishing company. Shine quickly became a favourite on college radio, and the band were subsequently picked up by Atlantic Records who put the album out to maintain momentum until they could record a follow-up.

RITA#826aRoland, unhappy with the quality of the recording, asked to re-record the material as it wasn’t a true band recording, but Atlantic were adamant. As a result, the band would regard their self-titled 1995 follow-up as their true debut.

For me, the simplistic nature of Hints Allegations & Things Left Unsaid is part of its charm. It sounds like grunge meets AOR. You can hear how it’s been put together, overdub by overdub, in much the same way that Dave Grohl assembled the following year’s Foo Fighters debut. I’m sorry to say that Collective Soul disappeared from my radar after the Shine single, but I’m looking forward to catching up with the rest of their catalogue if this is the start of a reissue campaign.

Hit: Shine

Hidden Gem: Breathe

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Rocks In The Attic #825: Harry Manfredini – ‘Friday The 13th Part III’ (1982)

RITA#825Jason’s back for another round of killing. We’re well into the series now; it’s the third installment and the second with Voorhees Jr. as the man with the machete. After the first two parts, it’s a step-down in terms of quality – the acting is terrible, and the sets look very cheap. It’s worth a watch though, if only to see the few new things added to the mix that would become iconic to the franchise.

First, we open on another recap: “Previously, on Friday The 13th” it might say, if it was a TV show made in the early 2000s. Do we need another recap? Well, yes and no. In the age of home video and streaming, it’d be easy to do without this, but back in 1982 and before any such luxury was commonplace, it was probably the only thing to serve as a reminder of what’s happened so far. Plus, it helps to make sense of the Lady In The Lake dream sequence at the end of the film.

RITA#825aAt the end of the recap, we see a top-down view of the aftermath inside Jason’s makeshift cabin from the end of Friday The 13th Part II. We see Jason crawl away, ready to kill again – something that would often be repeated at the start of each film going forward. Then we get some eye-popping credits.

WOAH! The titles are flying out into my eyeballs. We’re in 3-D! And there’s some crazily funky disco music playing over the credits. It’s exciting! It seems to do for Jason what Marvin Hamlisch’s Bond ’77 failed to do for James Bond five years earlier in The Spy Who Loved Me. Hamlisch’s efforts to be hip and trendy are eye-roll-inducing; Manfredini’s funky little jam, on the other hand, sounds great. The rest of the score is textbook Friday The 13th, and this reissue of Waxwork Records’ 2016 pressing with a 3-D effect lenticular cover, artwork by Ghoulish Gary Pullin and pressed on ‘3-D Glasses’ red with blue splatter double vinyl is absolutely gorgeous.

RITA#825bWe open in the aftermath of Part II – giving the franchise an opportunity to catch-up somewhat to that crazy ‘5 years later’ timeline blunder that the earlier film makes. In the first scene, we see one of a multitude of camera ticks employed throughout the film to make full use of the 3-D. A mis-cast 20-something/going-on-50 housewife badgers her long-suffering husband for knocking over the washing-line prop. POINT IT AT THE FUCKING CAMERA! It isn’t long until these shots start to feel gimmicky. More than anything, the scene serves as an opportunity for Jason to change out of his Part II dungarees, and into the more generic everyman worker clothes he dons for the rest of the series.

The film blunders on. It isn’t well-made in any respect. As well as the sub-standard acting, we also glimpse the reflection of the camera-crew in the window of the VW Beetle. It’s also the first of the Friday The 13thfilms where the audience can really start rooting for Jason, as the Final Girl Chris is just so annoying.

We see Jason stumbling around in Chris’ painful-to-endure flashback moments, with his bald head completely rewriting the scraggly long hair we see him with in the final shots of Part II. Discounting that scene as a dream-sequence makes some sense; seeing Jason in Chris’ flashbacks, dressed in the clothes we see him start to wear in Part III, makes no sense. There should be a caption at the foot of the screen, reading ‘DON’T THINK TOO HARD ABOUT THE FINER DETAILS!’.

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It’s good to see Crazy Ralph replaced by a similar Greek chorus doomsayer, and we even get to see one of the characters read an issue of Fangoria magazine – surely a great meta moment, featuring a magazine that the film would ultimately appear in once released. The most notable thing about the film though is the introduction of the hockey mask.

The mask would become the icon of not only the character of Jason, but of the Friday The 13th series in general. It’s probably one of the most iconic movie-props in the history of cinema. It’s almost magical when he takes it from practical joker Shelly, and we see him use it for the first time to murder Vera.

Mask, clothes, machete. Jason’s ready.

Hit: Theme From Friday The 13th Part 3

Hidden Gem: Part 2 Flashback

Body Count: 12

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Rocks In The Attic #824: George Harrison – ‘Somewhere In England’ (1981)

RITA#824What happens when George Harrison walks on stage, and the band breaks into the wrong version of With A Little Help From My Friends?

I recently read a beautiful story about George Harrison in Steve Lukather’s autobiography. Following the untimely death of Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro in 1992 –  the man who popularised the headband a long time before Mark Knopfler – his former band members organised a tribute concert.

Unfortunately, Porcaro’s death is the closest that real life has ever come to the Spinal Tap drummer who died in a ‘bizarre gardening accident.’ He was spraying pesticides in his garden, without wearing a mask. Somehow the pesticide got into his system, and he was supposedly dead before he hit the floor. Terrible.

The benefit concert sounds like one of the best shows ever. Toto hosted all of their musician friends and colleagues – a long list, considering their session-band credentials (they comprised most of the session band on Michael Jackson’s Thriller among many, many other hits). Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, Don Henley, David Crosby, the film composer James Newton Howard, Eddie Van Halen and Donald Fagen all took part.

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The cover of the 2004 reissue, originally rejected by Warner Bros. in 1980.

Around this time, Lukather also met one of his earliest musical heroes, George Harrison. He spotted him at a club in a private area and begged a bouncer to be allowed to speak to him. ‘George’s guitar is the reason I breathe and I wanted to thank him for inspiring me to play,’ he writes.

George sent word to let him through. ‘He stood and shook my hand, and was so gracious and welcoming. I told him that he was the reason that I played music, but also that my band had recently suffered a tremendous loss and that I understood that he of all people would know what that felt like.’

After getting on well due to their mutual connections, Lukather mentioned the upcoming benefit concert for Porcaro, and that the last song of the night was going to be With A Little Help From My Friends. ‘“I know this is a long shot and no pressure,” I told him, “but I’ll have a couple of tickets left for you at the back door.’”

Midway through the show, one of the crew guys tapped Lukather on the shoulder and said ‘Someone from Liverpool is here to see you.’ After a brief catch-up (‘You didn’t think I was going to turn up, did you?’), George agreed to sit in on the night’s closer, playing Lukather’s ’59 Les Paul.

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Eddie Van Halen onstage with George Harrison at the Jeff Porcaro tribute

‘I had asked George to wait in the wings so I could bring him on in my own words. “As if this wasn’t the most amazing night ever, we have one last surprise for you. This guy doesn’t need an introduction, but, ladies and gentlemen…George Harrison”!’

They played the rocked-up Joe Cocker version of the song, because that was the version that Porcaro used to play in his high-school band. When they kicked it off – a far different arrangement of the song to the Beatles’ original – George shouted over to Lukather ‘Well, me and the lads didn’t do it like this!’

Lukather ended up becoming friends with Harrison. The next time he saw him, George invited him for dinner in Los Angeles. Lukather turned up, and Bob Dylan was also sat at the table. ‘I’m now sat between George and Bob, but I don’t know what the fuck to say to Bob Dylan.’ Racking his brains, he struck up a conversation about Sammy Davis Jr. and Harrison leaned over and reassured Lukather. ‘He looks at me, smiles and says “I haven’t seen him this animated in years.”’

The With A Little Help From My Friends story seems to illustrate a theory I’ve always had about the occasional gaps in the musical knowledge of all four Beatles. In their own bubble, they didn’t have to learn the craft after the fact like a lot of other professional musicians. They were superb songwriters, arrangers and performers, but I wonder how they would have fared in, say, the early ‘70s, performing covers of contemporary artists.

Of course, they were an expert covers band – starting off covering ‘50s rock and roll – but it seems that the music that they influenced was always of a different level. Not better, or worse, just different. Even McCartney – arguably the most prolific of the four – can be seen making the odd error of judgement. In the documentary of the 9/11 tribute concert, he can be seen explaining to Eric Clapton which scales he could solo with on a song in the key of G (G Major or E Minor, if you’re playing along at home). Clapton looks back, with a poker face suppressing a massive internal eye-roll.

Lukather points to another example of this in his book, when he was invited to a jam with Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Kim Keltner. ‘I start playing George’s song I Want To Tell You off Revolver. I’m playing the piano part of the B section – a flat-9 – on the guitar while holding the low E open. George says “Stop. How are you doing that?”
“It’s a flat-9,” I say.
“I didn’t know you could that on the guitar as it’s the piano on the record.”’

RITA#824cSomewhere In England is George’s ninth studio album, release in 1981 on his own Dark Horse records label. Co-produced with ace studio-percussionist Ray Cooper, it was recorded in his home-studio FPSHOT (Friar Park Studio, Henley-On-Thames) and features a host of contributors including Keltner, Ringo Starr, Herbie Flowers, and Al Kooper.

The album starts off with the Dylan-tinged Blood From A Clone, but it is the fourth song on side A that stands out from the rest. All Those Years Ago, a song originally written for Ringo’s Stop And Smell The Roses album, was rewritten in light of John Lennon’s assassination and features Starr’s drums alongside backing vocals by Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney and their Wings bandmate Denny Laine.

Clearly affected by Lennon’s death – they parted on bad terms, with Lennon disappointed about his lack of mention in Harrison’s I Me Mine autobiography – Harrison offers a quote on the liner notes in tribute to his former bandmate:

Sri Krishna says in Bhagavadgita:
“There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you. Nor will there be any future when we cease to be.”

J.O.L. 1940-1980

Hit: All Those Years Ago

Hidden Gem: Blood From A Clone

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Rocks In The Attic #823: Creedence Clearwater Revival – ‘Live At Woodstock’ (1969)

RITA#823One of my favourite moments of 2019 was tuning into an American radio station that was broadcasting the original Woodstock festival in real-time, fifty years to the day. And of course, one of the highlights of that weekend was hearing Creedence’s Saturday night set.

The documentary film Woodstock, directed by Michael Wadleigh, is slightly misleading in its portrayal of the festival. Several key acts are omitted from the film – The Band, The Grateful Dead, Creedence and Blood, Sweat & Tears – and so it’s easy to forget that these bands took part at all.

RITA#823aHearing Creedence’s incendiary 55-minute performance, finally released on vinyl by Fantasy Records in 2019, it’s incredible that the band didn’t appear in the film because John Fogerty thought their performance was sub-par. It’s definitely a no-nonsense set, filled with the highlights of their first three albums, but it’s a blazing performance. Fogerty later claimed that the Grateful Dead, who played immediately before them, sent the audience to sleep. Bloody hippies.

This marks the seventh individual performance in my Woodstock collection. I’m hoping for more releases in 2020, as there are still some big names missing. It can only be a matter of time before CSNY, The Band and The Who, are released, but I’d like to see some of the smaller names get some attention. I have my fingers crossed to get my hands on the sets by Canned Heat, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Joe Cocker.

Hit: Proud Mary

Hidden Gem: Bootleg

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Rocks In The Attic #822: The La’s – ‘The La’s’ (1990)

RITA#822I might not have much to say about this record, except for my unbridled love for it and everything it stands for.

Released at the height of Manchester’s renaissance as the centre of the music word, the La’s 1990 debut reminded everybody that Manchester’s time in the sun owed a lot to Liverpool. The jangling guitars may have a debt to pay to the Smiths, but the songwriting felt like a natural extension of where Lennon and McCartney – and George Harrison for that matter – left off twenty years earlier. Were these harmonies just floating around Merseyside all that time, waiting for a voice?

I first came aware of them in the early ‘90s, when I heard There She Goes in the Mike Myers film, So I Married An Axe Murderer. While the soundtrack does eventually feature the La’s original version, it’s a watered-down cover by the permanently watered-down Boo Radleys that takes centre-stage. At the time I was stocking shelves at my local Tesco, and somehow got onto the subject of the song with our pretentious assistant store manager, a middle-aged, middle-class prat by the name of Lawrence.

RITA#822aI can’t remember why we were talking about it, but Lawrence wouldn’t believe that There She Goes was a song by a current, contemporary band. He was adamant that it was by a ‘60s band. Weird, right? Pre-internet, there was no way to convince him otherwise, and so he went uncorrected. The really patronising thing was that, as a way to end the argument with the sixteen year-old me, he enlisted the final word from the store’s “expert” on pop music – roll up Barbara off checkouts – who agreed with him (out of sycophancy, more than anything approaching knowledge). That’s Oldham mentality, right there. Pure, unchecked ignorance.  Fuck off, Barbara!

Stubborn morons aside, I think one of the reasons I love this album so much is that it flies under the radar. It should be a hit with those casual music fans from the North West who idolise the first Stone Roses record and the first Oasis record. But for the most part, the La’s debut tends to exist without that level of Ben Sherman fandom. Whether this is due to the record only having one clear pop single (There She Goes), or whether it’s due to the rest of the album’s sometimes muddy production, remains unknown.

I’m just happy that these anorak-wearing, lager-drinking louts don’t spoil the La’s like they have the Roses and Oasis. I was lucky enough to see the La’s play the majority of this, their only studio album, at Glastonbury 2005. The performance was remarkably undersubscribed, considering how momentous the occasion was: just a couple of thousand people watching them on the Other Stage as the sun set. Beautiful.

Hit: There She Goes

Hidden Gem: Every other song on the record!

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Rocks In The Attic #821: Various Artists – ‘Lost In Translation (O.S.T.)’ (2003)

RITA#821I recently watched Sofia Coppola’s fourth feature Somewhere, from 2010. The film stars Stephen Dorff as a movie star bumming around the Chateau Marmont, where he lives between acting roles and promotional responsibilities.

It’s a film that’s as aimless as its central character, and as aimless as Coppola’s career so far. She was thrust into the limelight, unfairly, as the ill-fated daughter of Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III, after Winona Ryder dropped out of the film. Nepotism is one thing but for her father, Francis Ford Coppolam to give her such a pivotal role was setting her up to fail.

She reinvented herself as an indie director, with the slow-burning The Virgin Suicides in 1999. It showed promise but I haven’t liked anything she’s done since. If she came from nowhere, I might not be so disappointed in her career, but her father’s status as the Oscar-winning director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now seems to have opened many, many doors to her. Even with this opportunity, her output can be best described with the shrug-emoji. I haven’t seen her recent remake of Don Siegel’s The Beguiled yet, but I’m not expecting to be blown away. Frankly, she lost me with Lost In Translation.

RITA#821aThere were a couple of films in the 2000s which served as lazy armchair tourism for uncultured Americans. First we had Coppola’s Lost In Translation (subtext: aren’t Japanese people funny?), followed by Wes Anderson four years later with The Darjeeling Limited (subtext: aren’t Indian people funny?). These films feel shallow and exploitative, with too much importance given to location and foreignness of the culture, rather than character. Danny Boyle’s Best Picture-winning Slumdog Millionaire from 2008 is a superb example of a film that does the opposite – it celebrates the Indian culture from within, not from the perspective of a patronising outsider.

Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird from 2017 is the kind of character-piece that Coppola could be making. While Gerwig may have been heavily influenced by her partner, the director Noah Baumbach, Lady Bird still feels fresh, unique and personal. I haven’t seen Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women yet, but I’m looking forward to it after such an impressive debut.

But no matter what my reservations about Lost In Translation are as a film, I’ll always love the soundtrack. It feels like a perfectly put-together mood piece by Coppola and music-supervisor Brian Reitzell, and was accurately described by Consequence Of Sound as the third star of the picture.

Unfortunately, this vinyl edition of the soundtrack, finally released for last year’s Record Store Day, excludes Bill Murray’s karaoke version of Roxy Music’s More Than This. The rear cover of the record lists the credits for the song though, which feels like a disappointing oversight when they brought over the artwork from prior versions of the soundtrack, where it exists as a hidden track.

Hit: City Girl – Kevin Shields

Hidden Gem: Alone In Kyoto – Air

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Rocks In The Attic #820: Basement Jaxx – ‘The Singles’ (2005)

RITA#820I took a punt on this in the run-up to Christmas. I saw it on sale when I was online shopping, and figured I’d put something else in my cart other than chocolate: family-size tubs of Cadbury’s Roses and Cadbury’s Heroes, a Terry’s Chocolate Orange…and a Basement Jaxx LP please.

Basement Jaxx are one of those bands I’d hear all the time in the UK, but for the life of me I couldn’t name one of their songs. Well, except Where’s Your Head At, which I love the music video for.

Listening to this collection, it turns out I know pretty much every single the band released from 1999 to 2005. I’m guessing it’s from working on the road during that period, and these singles have got ‘Radio 1 playlist’ written all over them. Before being able to plug your phone into the car stereo, radio seemed far more important. I’d listen to Ken Bruce (and Popmaster!) in the mornings on Radio 2, followed by Jeremy Vine at midday, but the rest of the time would be spent listening to Radio 1.

RITA#820bI don’t think I ever saw Basement Jaxx play at a festival, although I’ve definitely heard them play. They were a last-minute replacement for Kylie Minogue at Glastonbury in 2005 after her breast cancer diagnosis, and ended up headlining on the Sunday night in her place. I was all music-ed out by that point, so I listened to them in my tent.

They’re a hit-machine, that’s for sure. This compilation, just like their set at Glastonbury, is banger after banger.

Hit: Romeo

Hidden Gem: U Don’t Know Me

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