Category Archives: 1968

Rocks In The Attic #630: Krzysztof Komeda – ‘Rosemary’s Baby (O.S.T.)’ (1968)

tp0004c_SP_DPGate_CoverThere’s a moment in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby where, during what we’re initially led to believe is a dream sequence, Mia Farrow’s Rosemary is raped by an unseen person while the residents of her apartment complex look on, naked. As the camera pans across the small crowd, from left to right, we spot Rosemary’s husband, Guy.

‘She’s awake, she sees,’ he says to their neighbour Minnie.

‘She don’t see,’ Minnie replies.

‘THIS IS NO DREAM! THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!’ shouts Rosemary.

This small exchange is one of the most horrifying moments in American cinema. The prospect of being targeted by a Satanic cult is one thing; the realisation that your husband and protector might be part of the conspiracy is even more shocking.

RITA#630b.jpgIt provokes the same gut-wrenching sense of doom as the final moments of Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982), in which Tom Atkins’ character screams down the phone to the television company, pleading with them to not play the commercial that is going to cause so much carnage.

This is when horror really connects; when it really matters. Hollywood loves jump-scare horror, because it sells tickets, but psychological horror is far more effective. The truly disturbing thing about Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) isn’t the shower scene, it’s the thought that one day you might stay at the seemingly benign Bates Motel; and no matter what precautions you take, that nice motel manager you just met always has a key to your room.

RITA#630aSpielberg’s Jaws (1975) – often derided when labelled as a horror film – is just as shocking as Polanski and Hitchcock’s work. What could be more horrific than the thought, just the lingering idea, that a killer shark might be circling in the gloomy darkness beneath you as you swim? It plants a seed, just like the prospect of Norman Bates making plans behind closed doors.

Released in June 1968, Rosemary’s Baby is an oddity for the horror genre. It’s an urban horror, taking part in a metropolitan area (New York) as opposed to the conventional rural- or suburban-set horror. The lighting of the film also goes against type. This isn’t a film of shadow and darkness; much of the picture takes place during the daytime, and in the scenes that do take place after the sun has set, most shots are well lit. This isn’t the kind of film where evil lurks in the shadows; instead it exists in plain sight where you’d least expect it.

Komeda’s score is the strongest indicator that the film rightfully belongs in the horror genre. The location, the cast and the script might all scream drama – or at most, thriller – but the music is right out of a haunted house. Most unnerving is Mia Farrow’s lullaby over the waltzing opening titles; an ominous foreboding of innocence corrupted.

The film left a sour taste in popular culture. Not only are there the obvious parallels with the murder of Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, a year later at the hands of the satanic Manson cult, but the final shot foreshadows yet another tragedy.

RITA#630c.jpgThe film’s end credits roll over a high crane shot looking down at Rosemary’s apartment complex, the Bramford. In reality, the location is the Dakota complex in Manhattan, which was used for external shots only. Well-known as the residence of John Lennon and Yoko Ono from 1973 onwards, the Dakota’s architecture looks well-suited as the location of a film about devil worship in New York City. As the camera pans down, the final frame of the film shows two people walking into the building’s south entrance, the same archway through which Lennon was walking as he was gunned down by his assassin, Mark Chapman, in December 1980.

Hit: Main Title

Hidden Gem: Furnishing The Apartment

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Rocks In The Attic #623: The Band – ‘Music From Big Pink’ (1968)

RITA#623I recently saw The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese’s film of the final Band performance in 1976. I don’t know why I had avoided this for so long; perhaps it was the feeling that when you’ve seen one classic rock superstar concert line-up, you’ve seen them all. “Get Eric Clapton on the phone, we’re having a get-together.” Or perhaps it was the suspicion that Scorsese’s presence might taint the Band, just like his sycophancy for the Rolling Stones has left that band a little less dangerous.

Watching the film – which I enjoyed immensely – I was struck by the feeling of how inadequate my collection of Band records is. I have this, their classic debut, and I also have their self-titled follow-up, but that’s it. No more. Zilch.

Of course, I’ve been operating under the illusion that that’s all I needed, and that if I made the effort to check out their later recordings then I’d be disappointed. But watching the 1976 version of the group perform in The Last Waltz, it seems like the Band couldn’t write a bad song if they tried.

My favourite guest star in The Waltz was Joni Mitchell – another artist seriously under-represented in my record collection. I have Ladies Of The Canyon, Blue and The Hissing Of Summer Lawns, but I need more, so much more. I might grow my hair and start wearing flares this summer.

Hit: The Weight

Hidden Gem: Chest Fever

Rocks In The Attic #586: Walter Carlos – ‘Switched On Bach’ (1968)

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I’ve been hearing a lot about this record recently, as I make my way through the Beatles Anthology Revisited – a sublime 28-hour ‘unofficial’ podcast I managed to hunt down online (despite it being continually taken down at the behest of Apple).

An influence on the Beatles’ swansong Abbey Road – if only a technical inspiration – Switched On Bach pointed to the way that a Moog synthesiser could be employed on record. I’m sure the Beatles would have been paying close attention to this album before they utilised George’s Moog on Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Here Comes The Sun, Because and I Want You (She’s So Heavy).

Thankfully, the Beatles’ use of the synthesiser was relatively subtle and not as plinky-plonky as Walter – now Wendy – Carlos’ homage to Bach. It really sounds like music conceived inside a computer – which of course, it is – and it’s not hard to imagine this sounding so futuristic back in the late ‘60s. It still sounds futuristic!

Carlos would repeat the formula in 1971 on the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, this time playing the Moog to reproduce a couple of Ludwig Van’s big hits.

Hit: Air On A G String

Hidden Gem: Sinfonia To Cantata No. 29

Rocks In The Attic #553: Al Martino – ‘Love Is Blue’ (1968)

RITA#553.jpgAl Martino is probably best known for his portrayal of Johnny Fontane in the Godfather films. He plays the Godson of Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone, and appears at Connie’s wedding at the start of the film to rapturous screams from the girls present. Johnny’s career has gone onto bigger and better things since they last saw him, with more than a little help from his Godfather early on in his career.

I often wonder, with his character being based on unsavoury rumours concerning Frank Sinatra’s early career, what repercussions Martino felt in his day job as a singer.  The horse head scene in the Godfather, designed to intimidate producer Jack Woltz into giving Fontane a part in a war film, is supposedly influenced by Sinatra’s casting in From Here To Eternity. It would have made for one interesting atmosphere if Martino ever ran into Sinatra backstage somewhere in Vegas. I fear that the Rat Pack would have driven him out of the business – his recording output slowed down considerably following the release of The Godfather in 1972.

Love Is Blue is a collection of quite syrupy ballads from 1968. Martino has a great voice, but the overblown orchestral instrumentation on the record stands him apart from the likes of Sinatra and his like. As a result the record strays too near to the likes of easy listening to be taken serious. It isn’t surprising then that Martino was chosen to sing such a syrupy ballad to Connie Corleone (If Have But One Heart) at her wedding…

Hit: Call Me

Hidden Gem: Goin’ Out Of My Head

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Rocks In The Attic #469: José Feliciano – ‘Feliciano!’ (1968)

RITA#469Feliciano!, José’s 1968 collection of rock and pop covers, in great condition, for the princely sum of fifty cents? Yes please!

There’s not much I can say about this record other than how good it is. But you probably already know that. It’s one of those records that could very easily stray into the nursing home stratosphere of easy listening, but there’s an element of cool that you just can’t argue with.

Even if you just take his instrumental cuts – the Beatles’ And I Love Her and Here, There And Everywhere for example – it’s just marvellous. His voice on the other tracks is just the cherry on the top.

Feliciano! is actually his fourth English album in as many years, but that didn’t stop the Grammys giving him the Best New Artist award in 1969. He was also nominated for Album Of The Year, but lost out to Glen Campbell for By The Time I Get To Phoenix.

Hit: Light My Fire

Hidden Gem: And I Love Her

Rocks In The Attic #413: Cilla Black – ‘The Best Of Cilla Black’ (1968)

RITA#413Dear old Cilla died last week – a week that also cost us my favourite wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper, as well as George ‘Arthur Daley’ Cole from the TV show Minder. They say that things like this always come in threes.

As I get older, it seems to affect me more when celebrities die. It’s like something from my childhood dying. I can’t say I was ever a big fan of Cilla when I was growing up though. She seemed to embody trash television – either on Surprise Surprise or hosting the ever-woeful Blind Date. Her days as a number one solo artist from Brian Epstein’s stable, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Lennon and McCartney were a thing of the past by then. Her lot in life really was entertaining prime time audiences on Saturday and Sunday nights.

When I was growing up I remember that whenever he saw her on TV my Dad used to say that Cilla got to where she is with a mattress strapped to her back. I’m not entirely sure I agree with that. I mean, it’s clear to see that she’s talented, with a soaring singing voice, so she had no reason to sleep her way to the top. And if you’re talking about the first person to give her a break, I’m not sure Brian Epstein would even know what to do with her vagina.

There are four Lennon and McCartney songs on this album, three of which were never recorded by the Beatles. That makes this essential listening for any fan of the fab four.

Hit: Alfie

Hidden Gem: Sing A Rainbow

Rocks In The Attic #399: Bill Cosby – ‘To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With’ (1968)

RITA#399I bought this simply for the title, which I find greatly amusing, but ended up enjoying the record – especially the long second-side where Cosby talks about sharing his childhood bed with his brother.

I’ve always been a fan of Bill Cosby, ever since The Cosby Show was part of the fabric of 1980s after-school television. In the 1990s, that baton was passed in spirit to The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, which had a similar mix of family friendly comedy filmed in front of a live studio audience.

At the time of writing, Cosby’s in a spot of bother with numerous historic rape allegations by women – yet to see the light of day in a courtroom. Who knows what’s going to happen with that, but it doesn’t look very good for him given the number of accusations.

Will the shadow of a conviction – which looks likely at this point – mean this album won’t be funny anymore?

Hit: To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With

Hidden Gem: Conflict