Author Archives: mrjohnnyandrews

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

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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

Rocks In The Attic #644: Ocean Colour Scene – ‘Moseley Shoals’ (1996)

RITA#644When you go and see a band that you haven’t seen since your youth, there’s a brief moment when you have to suspend disbelief. The group walking out on stage are twenty years older than when you last saw them. Hairlines may have receded slightly, waistlines may have expanded slightly. But in general, you can recognise them as older, wiser versions of the young men (or ladies) you knew from your teenage years.

When Ocean Colour Scene walked out on stage last week at Auckland’s Powerstation, I recognised guitarist Steve Craddock immediately. Still of slight build, his receding hairline further illuminating his light-bulb head was the only sign of aging. I recognised the drummer – Oscar Harrison – too. The bass player had changed into a completely different person though.

Where’s the singer, I thought, as one of the big, burly roadies walked up to the mic just as Craddock ripped into The Riverboat Song. “I see double, up ahead…” the man spat into the mic. He sounded enough like Simon Fowler, but it couldn’t be him. I’ve let my subscription to the Ocean Colour Scene monthly newsletter lapse a long time ago, but maybe Fowler died and they got this guy in from one of their tribute bands, like how INXS replaced Michael Hutchence.

He did sound like Simon Fowler though, this guy. He might look like a butcher, but he had exactly the same soulful voice I remembered from Moseley Shoals. I resisted the urge to get my phone out to check if he had the same face as the young man I remembered from twenty years ago.

By the time The Riverboat Song had finished, to a long, sustained round of applause, I was convinced it was actually him. I felt slightly ashamed for thinking any different, but I was just taken aback at how different he looked. In the ‘90s I remember him being a lithe, Jagger-esque frontman. But in the space of twenty years, as a friend pointed out, he had gone the way of Van Morrison.

RITA#644fA couple of songs in, Fowler announced he was gay – “I used to be quite camp when I was younger, I prefer to call myself gay now” – something you don’t usually hear at a gig. A brave move, I thought, considering the ignorant, numbskull mindset of your average Britpop fan. As might be expected, a drunken idiot behind me made a homophobic comment.

Perhaps Craddock looked the same because he’s been in regular employment, another friend suggested, with the implication that Fowler has spent the intervening years reminiscing about TFI Friday over a box of Jaffa Cakes. But Ocean Colour Scene haven’t been out of work – they’ve been releasing studio albums regularly since the ‘90s, averaging one every three years up to 2013’s Painting. Admittedly they haven’t bothered the charts since their Britpop heyday, so it’s hardly a surprise that they feel like returning heroes.

RITA#644gWhat a great show the band put on, once I was sure of who I was watching. Starting their set with The Riverboat Song? What a banger! And what balls! A lesser band would have saved it to their encore (in fact, I was hoping they would have played it a second time at the end of the show). Oasis and Blur may have been the kings of Britpop, but this single is as strong as anything those bands produced in their prime.

They played through most of Moseley Shoals – a record I have very fond memories of, from University – plus a handful of songs from third album Marchin’ Already. There wasn’t too much I didn’t recognise, so I’m guessing they had wisely avoided much of the material from those post-1990s records.

One of my favourite Britpop-era singles, the bonkers Hundred Mile High City, was wheeled out towards the end of their set, before they encored with The Day We Caught The Train. I used to love this band. I still do.

Hit: The Riverboat Song

Hidden Gem: 40 Past Midnight

Rocks In The Attic #643: The Commodores – ‘Nightshift’ (1985)

RITA#643I work in an office. My colleagues and I are all early starters, so we tend to arrive early and leave early. For some reason, the powers that be have decided that this isn’t good enough, and that we need to have some sort of physical presence in the pod between 4pm and 5pm, just in case somebody needs to ask us a question.

It’s such a pointless directive; the rest of the building seems to start leaving for the day around 4pm. To point out the preposterousness of the situation, one of my colleagues, tasked with putting a rota together to cover this timeframe, has labelled it ‘The Night Shift’.

“It’s like that ‘80s jam, Nightshift, by the Commodores” he laughed.

That same weekend, at the Auckland record fair, I came across the album in the racks. I just had to buy it. As far as Commodores records go, it falls into the post-Lionel Richie years, and so his incredible songwriting is clearly missing. Give me Machine Gun any day over this smooth shit.

I’ve added a themed ‘80s playlist to the Night Shift rota, just to help my colleagues get into the right frame of mind. Alongside the Commodore’s song is Lionel Richie’s All Night Long and Running With The Night, and Iron Maiden’s 2 Minutes To Midnight. It’s a work in progress.

I did my first stint on the night shift last week. Nobody asked me any questions. Listened to some great songs though.

Hit: Nightshift

Hidden Gem: Slip Of The Tongue