Category Archives: 1972

Rocks In The Attic #589: Nino Rota – ‘The Godfather (O.S.T.)’ (1972)

RITA#589.jpgAll hail the greatest cinema in Auckland – the Event cinema on Broadway in Newmarket. Not only was this the location where I met both Quentin Tarantino and Danny Boyle, but last Friday night they played The Godfather.

For a long time, The Godfather has been among my favourite films. I first saw it around the age of 17 or 18, and was immediately obsessed with it. It was probably the first film I was obsessed with as an adult. Prior obsessions as a teenager included the likes of Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Aliens, so The Godfather was definitely a step-up, being such a decorated film and a more serious one at that.

I don’t know why the film struck such a chord with me, but it’s something I’ve never become tired with. I have a number of books on the film – Peter Cowie’s The Godfather Book and Mario Puzo’s original novel being early targets, and Harlan Lebo’s The Godfather Legacy being a happy find in more recent year. The soundtrack of Nino Rota’s score sits on my record shelves – a strange Australian pressing with a murky green cover – and of course, I have the Coppola Restoration of the trilogy on blu-ray. At University, I remember walking through a field to the supermarket with my housemates, feeling like Michael walking through Sicily accompanied by his bodyguards.

Seeing a film on the big screen is always a different prospect than watching at home though. You notice things that you would never have noticed in hundreds of home viewings – a character’s glance, a line of dialogue, the way the light falls on an object outside of the immediate foreground of a shot. It’s also nice to see it in a room full of people. The screening I saw was almost sold out, and full of much younger people than I was expecting.

As a film, it shouldn’t be so good. It goes against so many cinematic rules. The lead protagonist is clearly Michael, yet we don’t see him until a good five or ten minutes into the film, and even then he is introduced as a supporting character. Vito is initially offered as the film’s hero – or anti-hero – but his gunning down towards the end of the first act provides the film’s first challenge, a shake-up to decide not only who is going to become the patriarch of the Corleone family, but also the film’s lead protagonist.

By the end of the film, Michael’s actions have transferred him from protagonist to antagonist, and the stone-cold denoument where Michael’s study door is slowly closed on Kay, is matched only by the ending of The Godfather Part II where he sits alone to contemplate the terrible things he has done to his family.

Speaking of which, I’ll be seeing a screening of The Godfather Part II this Friday night. Same cinema, same seat probably. Leave the gun; take the cannoli.

Hit: Main Title

Hidden Gem: The Pickup

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Rocks In The Attic #535: Various Artists – ‘Six Presidents Speak – A Profile Of The Presidency’ (1972)

rita535This record seemed apt, given what happened last Wednesday. Donald Trump winning the U.S. election feels like some kind of bad dream – like an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, or the alternate-1985 Biff Tannen from Back To The Future Part II writ large. Surely we’ll all wake up from our collective nightmare soon…

A couple of friends and I were in Auckland city attending a show when Wednesday’s results were coming to a conclusion. We were watching A Conversation On Making A Murderer, with Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, the lawyers of Steven Avery from the Netflix show. What an odd thing to be at, while the western world was slowly falling apart.

Not surprisingly, the conversation regularly switched from the specifics of the Avery case and the documentary, to a wider discussion on justice and the present state of America. Strang and Buting made many a reference to the election, and it almost seemed to make some kind of sense when they suggested that any country where an innocent man like Avery can languish in prison all his life can elect a man like Trump.

My friend Justin had a quick surreptitious check of the results on his phone during the show, but despite expecting the big comeback from Clinton – because surely, surely, Trump can’t win – we turned our phones back on at the show’s conclusion to the horror that it had been called in Trump’s favour.

Who knows what’s to going to happen now? It’s scary enough that a Republican is in the White House, but Trump isn’t even a Republican, despite what it says on the ticket. He’s not even a politician; he’s a businessman. Half of the Republican party seems to have turned their back on him in the run-up to the election. I wonder if they’ll greet him with open arms now.

I picked up this record from a charity shop for a dollar. It features soundbites from each of the six presidents between 1933 and 1974 – Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S .Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon.

Tricky Dicky almost sounds like a saint now, compared to you know who…

Hit: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country – John F. Kennedy

Hidden Gem: The fact that Nixon’s middle name was Milhous – I’d forgotten this!

Rocks In The Attic #496: Barclay James Harvest – ‘Early Morning Harvest’ (1972)

RITA#496I should like this band – they’re from Oldham! One of the founding members went to my school. They’re probably Oldham’s most famous musical exports, except for the Inspiral Carpets perhaps. And those N-Trance guys. And Mark Owen from Take That. And Darren Wharton, the keyboard player from Thin Lizzy. Wow, Oldham was really a melting pot of talent!

I’m not au fait with Barclay James Harvest’s music though. I’m very familiar with the Barclays bank in Oldham – just on the corner of High Street. I don’t think that counts though. I might send in a fake CV to the branch, using the name James Harvest, and crowbarring all of their song titles into the cover letter – you know, just for shits and giggles. Given the average intelligence level in Oldham – about as low as the number of teenage pregnancies is high – and the general lack of interest in the town’s history by its inhabitants, it would just get thrown in a bin by the HR manager. Oh well, it’s an idea. Maybe I’ll do it when I’m retired, if Barclay’s still exist by then. The bank can’t be doing well; I’d bet most Oldhamers (Oldhamites?) keep their money under the mattress, next to their stockpile of Woodbines.

Barclay James Harvest write melodic folk rock, not a million miles away from the likes of America. The band America, that is, not the country. Although the country is about a million miles away from the town of Oldham, recently named the most deprived town in England. In fact, that might make it more similar to some places in America – Oldham, twinned with the Bronx!

Hit: Mockingbird

Hidden Gem: Taking Some Time On

Rocks In The Attic #495: Neil Young – ‘Harvest’ (1972)

RITA#495If ever I could pick a perfect album, this is one of the ones I would pick. Yes, it might not be to everybody’s taste, but in terms of a record that has a consistent level of quality songwriting from start to finish, it’s up there with the likes of Revolver, Dark Side Of The Moon and Led Zeppelin IV.

I shouldn’t like it either. It’s got both feet firmly steeped in the country tradition, and I’m somewhat allergic to that most inbred of musical genres. It was recorded in Nashville too, so it’s the real deal. Young went down there and recorded the album with a pick-up band, writing out the charts for them using the Nashville number system they would have been very familiar with.

Of all the 33⅓ books I’ve read, the one on Harvest, by Sam Inglis has been my favourite so far. It’s one of the earliest ones in the series – the third one to be published – and is well recommended if you wish to know more about the recording of the record. Some of those 33⅓ books can be a bit hit and miss, but that one seems to stand out from that early bunch of titles.

I probably need a new copy of this record. I picked up a second-hand copy a few years ago that has definitely seen better days. The cover looks like it’s been under somebody’s pillow for 12 months, and there’s a fair bit of surface noise on the actual disc. Either that or Neil Young employed somebody to fry some eggs in the studio as they were recording.

Hit: Heart Of Gold

Hidden Gem: The Needle And The Damage Done

Rocks In The Attic #331: The JBs – ‘Food For Thought’ (1972)

RITA#331My sole purchase (so far) from this year’s Record Store Day releases – a re-release of the 1972 debut album from the JBs (James Brown’s backing band, for the uninitiated).

This is as good as anything James Brown was releasing around this time (he’s listed as not only the producer, but also ‘the creator’). Still, even though it’s (mainly) instrumental, you still get the odd cry or whelp from James in the background (after the opening chant of ‘Pass the peas, like they used to say’, that’s clearly him shouting ‘Pass them then!”).

I was lucky enough to see Fred Wesley play in Auckland last year, and highlights of the show were definitely Pass The Peas and Gimme Some More, from this album. It’s shows like that which restore my faith in Auckland society. I can go for months (years sometimes!), thinking there’s no culture in this city, or anybody close to having the same interests as me, and then I find hundreds all at once in the same place.

Sadly, while Record Store Day gave me Food For Thought this year, it also provided some figurative food for thought. I think this year’s Record Store Day will be the last year I attend at opening time. Last year was bad enough at Real Groovy in Auckland at 9am. This year it was even worse – double the amount of people as 2013, all clambering over each other to get records on one small double-sided rack. What should be a happy, joyous occasion is just turning nastier and nastier every year. This year, it even smelt bad – it’s poorly attended by chicks, so all you get is overweight, bearded men reeking of body odour.

Both years I’ve then gone onto Southbound Records in Mt Eden around 10am, and it’s been much nicer – on Record Store Day, they have a couple of helpers walking around asking if you’d like (free) coffee. Still, I reckon Southbound at 9am on RSD would be just as unpleasant at Real Groovy at the same time. It’s so small, there’s hardly any room to move when 10 people are in there, I can’t imagine what it’d be like with 20 or 30 people (or more).

I’ll take my chances later in the day, and maybe from next year, take the kids along – who knows, they might enjoy the festive mood. Surely that’s the point of the day, not the early doors, every-man-for-himself, display of music-industry capitalism at its worst.

Hit: Pass The Peas

Hidden Gem: Wine Spot

Rocks In The Attic #231: David Bowie – ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ (1972)

RITA#231I used to rehearse with my band in Sankey’s Soap in Manchester on the same weeknight that a David Bowie covers band would rehearse in the room underneath ours. I never saw them in person, but it was always nice to listen to them through the floor when we were packing up. I remember one time listening to them do a rendition of Five Years, the slow-burning opener from this album, and it sounded very, very good. As though a 1970’s David Bowie was in the same building.

This album remains a firm favourite of mine, and depending on my mood, I’ll choose either this or Hunky Dory as my favourite Bowie album. I think the songwriting is better on that earlier album, but the different dynamics that this album delivers is mind-blowing – one of the defining albums where ‘60s rock n’ roll turned into ‘70s rock.

In 2000, I was at Glastonbury on Sunday night awaiting David Bowie to walk on the Pyramid stage. It was one of the best gigs I’ve seen, mainly because Bowie isn’t a proficient tourer, so it was always unlikely that I’d have the chance to catch him again (and to this day, I still haven’t).

All through that show, Vini and I were wondering whether he would play the song Ziggy Stardust. Covering this had sort of become my signature song in my band at the time, and to see him play this would have been a moment to remember. He played most of his hits (he has too many to fit into a 2-hour show), and by his last song – a version of Under Pressure – I had given up hope.

After a short break, Bowie walked back on stage for his encore, and the guitarist crashed into the opening chords of Ziggy Stardust. Vini and I erupted in cheers – a great festival moment.

Hit: Starman

Hidden Gem: Five Years

Rocks In The Attic #222: Stevie Wonder – ‘Talking Book’ (1972)

RITA#222This is my favourite Stevie Wonder album, because it has Superstition on it, and that song is for me the pinnacle of Stevie’s career; and I like that song so much, I’m prepared to put up with a lot of the slower material which otherwise blights this album.

If Stevie Wonder only wrote funky, upbeat, melodic music (a la Superstition, Higher Ground, Sir Duke, etc) I’d be the happiest man in the world. But he compliments these types of songs with slower ballads – the kind of which always sound like he’s writing them for lesser talents. The perfect example of this type of song is You And I (We Can Conquer The World), from Talking Book. A nice song, if that’s your sort of thing – but for me it holds no interest. It’s a million miles away from the likes of Superstition, and there’s a very bare melody, so it also stands out from his better slower songs like You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.

Songs In The Key Of Life is usually held up as his greatest achievement, and although there’s a lot of great material on there, like most double albums it’s filled with a fair but of fluff too.

I love how this album starts, almost like a freeform jam. Stevie’s the third person to sing a line of You Are The Sunshine Of My Life – and in this current climate where corporate record companies dictate everything, I can’t imagine a record that would come out in the 21st century by a well known singer, where the vocals on the opening track would start by someone other than that particular artist.

Hit: Superstition

Hidden Gem: I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)