Category Archives: 1974

Rocks In The Attic #719: Elton John- ‘Greatest Hits’ (1974)

RITA#719Another year, another Christmas, and another Christmas advert from John Lewis. This year it’s a journey back through the life of Elton John. The montage of performances of Your Song goes further and further back we until we discover the source of his tantrums and tiaras was a Christmas present of an upright piano back in the 1950s.

In any other year, I would have quite enjoyed this. It looks great, and the message is as wholesome as the likes of John Lewis ads in prior years. But with the timing so close to the upcoming Elton John biopic starring Taron Egerton, and Elton’s own farewell tour, I wonder if he has more to gain from this than the department store he’s shilling.

The Guardian offered an alternative version of the commercial. As amusing as this warts-and-all version sounds, I would have also thrown in that moment from when he fell off his chair at the tennis and writhed around on his back like a shell-suited tortoise.

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I can take or leave Elton. He’s put out far more lead than gold, but his golden moments are very, very good. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, in particular, is a masterpiece, and his early Americana-tinged records (Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across The Water and Honky Château) are interesting. I’ve even started to warm to his ‘80s output – something I thought I’d never hear myself saying. I’m Still Standing is a banger for the ages.

This first greatest hits collection was released in 1974, after that wave of success following Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, of which it takes three songs, and its follow-up, Caribou. I expect it will be available at John Lewis this Christmas, on a special display stand next to the Christmas jumpers and party crackers.

Hit: Your Song

Hidden Gem: Border Song

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Rocks In The Attic #701: Genesis – ‘Selling England By The Pound’ (1973)

RITA#701After a World Cup break with far too many early mornings and far too much bacon and eggs, it’s time to get back to my record collection. Four years after the disappointment of Brazil, where England failed to win a game in the group stages, surely we were to expect more of the same in Russia. Right?

Things started off strangely with an opening game seeing Russia wallop an unsuspecting Saudi Arabia 5-0. Was this the home advantage coming into play, or just a simple case of the Saudis being served radioactive falafel in their hotel the night before? The scoreline betrayed the alarming levels of mediocrity on display, but at least President Putin looked satisfied. I watched through tired eyes; the game having kicked off at 3am NZ-time.

RITA#701cThe opening weekend saw the first big game of the tournament – Portugal versus Spain – at a slightly more acceptable 6am. As much as I love to hate Ronaldo and his supersized ego, his hat-trick, and Spain’s answers from Costa and Nacho, made for a bloody entertaining 3-3 draw.

On the Monday morning, I called into the Fox Sports Bar on my way into work. A new job in the city has put me much closer to options like this, and so the idea of watching Brazil play Switzerland, over a cooked breakfast just sounded great. A 6am kick-off meant catching the first train into the city – filled with construction workers in hard-hats and hi-viz – but it was worth the early start.

I ended up sat in an empty bar, watching that Brazil game, but the coffee and bacon and eggs made it worthwhile. I expected a similar turnout the following morning for the England vs. Tunisia game, but when I arrived ten minutes before kick-off, it was already packed out. Harry Kane’s injury time header gave us the first World Cup Finals win in eight years – talk about scraping through.

Tunisia v England: Group G - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
As soon as the referee blew his whistle, the bar played Three Lions at maximum volume to a pub full of relieved England fans. A bit early, I thought, to be playing that. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Over the next couple of weeks, my body clock took a hammering as I woke at 4:30am to get into the city to watch the 6am game each morning at the Fox. I slowly made my way through their breakfast menu, and made new friends. I sniggered with a Brazil fan as we watched Argentina get murdered 3-0 by Croatia. Schadenfreude should have been invented to describe the pleasure of watching Argentinians, with tears in their eyes, sat at the next table. They still qualified out of the group stage though, the bastards.

RITA#701eA gave up on the Fox when they got a liquor license to serve alcohol at the 6am games. Watching Uruguay eliminate Portugal in the round of 16 was slightly dampened by a trio of morons who were only there to continue their Saturday night drinking.

Quarter-final weekend clashed with my 40th birthday, and I spent the Friday night consuming pitchers of cider with friends from work. I then stayed up all night watching the first two quarter-finals. It was hard work but I pushed through the hangover, feeling like a pig had shat in my brain.

As a result, the next night I ended up sleeping through three alarms to wake me up for the England vs. Sweden quarter-final. Back home, the English celebrated by showering themselves with beer at outdoor screenings, and in a new form of middle-aged vandalism, threw some cushions around in a branch of Ikea.

The semi-final performance against Croatia showed an England team for what they were – bloody lucky to have progressed so far in the first place.

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The final between France and Croatia – another great game, albeit slightly hampered by a debatable VAR decision – was notable for something that happened after the final whistle. As the French team queued to receive their winner’s medals from Putin, the French President Emmanuel Macron and the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, a heavy rainstorm came down. With an alarming lack of hospitability, Putin took the first umbrella for himself, leaving Macron and Grabar-Kitarović – a lady! – to get drenched.

RITA#701aI include a photo of Grabar-Kitarović purely for reference. I’ve never been so interested in Croatian politics as I am right now.

What has all of this got to do with Genesis’ Selling England By The Pound, you might ask? Is it a half-hearted reference to Brexit? Your guess is as good as mine, but looking at the Croatian President, I’m pretty sure you don’t get many of those for a pound.

Still, Harry Kane’s six goals won him the Golden Boot (yes, they were all tap-ins, and yes, they were mostly against Tunisia and Panama – but four of Eusebio’s 1966 Golden Boot goals were against bloody North Korea!).

Football’s still coming home. It might just take another four years. Or eight. Or twelve. Or sixteen. Or twenty…

Hit: I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)

Hidden Gem: Firth Of Fifth

Rocks In The Attic #692: Elton John – ‘Caribou’ (1974)

RITA#692One of the highlights of last weekend’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – aside from watching Idris Elba accompany Oprah Winfrey through the doors of the chapel – was Elton John’s fabulous pink glasses. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I think he might be one of those homosexuals that we’ve been hearing so much about.

You can always rely on Elton to look fabulous. The pink spectacles reminded me of his portrait on the inner sleeve to this, his eighth studio album. Coming off the back of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a step down after such a big seller, but there’s still a lot to love here. Opener The Bitch Is Back sounds like the tag-team partner of Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, and Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me would be a moderate hit (#16 UK, #2 US) before being recorded as a duet with George Michael in 1991, topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

I just love the outrageousness of Elton singing a love letter to Grimsby – Take me back you rustic town / I miss your magic charm / Just to smell your candy floss / Or drink in the Skinners Arms.

Hit: Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me

Hidden Gem: Grimsby

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Rocks In The Attic #662: Brian Gascoigne – ‘Phase IV (O.S.T.)’ (1974)

RITA#662.jpgIf I walk into my local branch of the Warehouse (a general merchandise superstore chain in New Zealand), I can find practically anything. High-end TVs, underwear, plants, shoes, deodorant, children’s toys – there’s practically no limit to what they range.

In the last decade, they’ve started to stock LPs. I’ve had a few good deals from there over the years, but mostly they deal with common denominator titles. As soon as I approach the racks – usually very poorly displayed – I know what I’m going to see. Brothers In Arms sits next to every AC/DC studio album under the sun, three corner-dinged copies of Dark Side Of The Moon will be there, sat behind the latest overpriced Ed Sheeran record, but if I’m lucky there will be something that takes me completely by surprise (Aerosmith’s awesome 1973 Paul’s Mall bootleg being my greatest find so far).

In fact, I’ve seen so many copies of AC/DC records there, I actually think it might explain why Back In Black is one of the best-selling records of all time – the Warehouse made a stocktake error, and there are still eight million copies sat on their shelves.

It just goes to show that while the big chain stores try to get on the vinyl revival bandwagon, they’ll nearly always miss the needs of the niche record collector.

At the other end of the spectrum exists a boutique record label – Waxwork Records – founded by Kevin Bergeron in New Orleans in 2013. Their primary focus is the preservation and release of horror soundtracks – particularly cult films from the ‘70s and ‘80s – but their output so far has ranged from soundtracks as diverse as Bernard Herrmann’s Taxi Driver, Éric Serra’s Leon: The Professional, and Barry Devorzon’s The Warriors, to original music like PILOTPRIEST’s Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (currently glued to my turntable).

RITA#662aTheir specialty however is sourcing out-of-print soundtracks or, in some cases, music from films that never had a soundtrack release in any format upon release. There’s a detective element to their work then (more information on which can be found here); a level of research that you would usually only see from archivists and historians on the behalf of major-label acts (the nth Beatle Mark Lewisohn, for example).

1974’s Phase IV is one such film that never had a soundtrack commercially released in any format. The score was therefore considered lost until Bergeron and team tracked it down and issued it as catalogue number WW008.

The film is probably best known for being the sole directorial work of legendary graphic designer Saul Bass – the man behind the artwork and title sequences of films by Otto Preminger, Alfred Hitchock, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese. It’s a little-known science-fiction horror, concerning the work of two scientists as they attempt to prevent the spread of killer ants.

What sets the film apart from other sci-fi and horror films are the sections showing the behaviour of the ants. Filmed in extreme close-up, the shots of these real ants are more natural history documentary than what you’d expect to see from a film in either genre, but the impact is more effective than any special effect could muster. In such close detail, the ants are as terrifying and horrific as any alien or movie monster could be.

The music, from composer Brian Gascoigne, is a synth-laden slice of 1970’s futurism fused with more traditional instruments which give the film a whistful, rustic feel. Split into four tracks, named after each section of the film – Phase I, Phase II, Phase III and Phase IV – the soundtrack feels more like a prog record in its attempt to evoke an eerie tone, rather than the traditional soundtrack approach of individual music cues.

One interesting sidenote is that Phase IV features the first cinematic depiction of a geometric crop circle (built, in this case, by the killer ants). The initial release of the film came a full two years before any news reports of crop circles in the UK, and is therefore seen as a potential influencer on those who started the practice in the late ‘70s.

Hit: Phase I

Hidden Gem: Phase III

Rocks In The Attic #655: Richard Hayman & His Orchestra – ‘Marlon Brando’s Great Movie Themes’ (1974)

RITA#655Hey, STELLA!!! I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. Someday – and that day may never come – I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day. Get the butter!

Hit: Love Theme From The Godfather

Hidden Gem: Last Tango In Paris

Rocks In The Attic #526: Tony Hancock – ‘Golden Hour Of Tony Hancock’ (1974)

rita526Anything from the pen of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson is always worth a listen, and while I prefer the boiled-down pathos of Steptoe & Son over the broader comedy of Tony Hancock, I still love listening to this.

It’s also nice to hear Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques plying their trade in radio comedy before they became household names in the ubiquitous Carry On films.

Galton and Simpson’s liner notes from this record describe Hancock perfectly:

Mr. Hancock’s performance has been described by some critics as the epitomisation of the struggles, frustrations and disillusionments of a romantic in a materialistic society. It has been described by other critics as the epitomisation of the struggles, frustrations and disillusionments of a materialist in a romantic society. Mr. Sidney James, on the other hand, describes him as ‘a bit of a twit’ which is as good a definition as any.

A nice touch for this record is the reappearance of Hancock’s voice at the end of the first side. After the credits for The Wild Man Of The Woods, he reappears to say:

“Well, that’s it for this side. You’d better take the needle off now; otherwise it’ll hit that metal bit that sticks up through the hole in the middle.  We never used to have that trouble with the cylinders. Never had to turn them over either; all on the same side. Progress? Cor, dear. Well go on, turn it over.”

At the start of the second side, he appears again:

Done it? Good. Well hang on, they’re not ready to start yet. Otherwise we finish too far away from the label and it looks bad, you know. Well, you can’t charge these prices and finish up halfway across the record. I told them to put a bigger label on but they wouldn’t listen. I wonder if they had labels on the cylinders? No, I expect they used to put a little note inside them, like you do in milk bottles. Right, well I think we’re ready to go. We’ll just hang on for a few seconds for those who were a bit slow in turning it over. All ready? Right…

And then finally at the end of side two:

Well, there it is. Could have happened to anybody. Anyway, I’d just like to say thank you for buying the record. Or if you’re listening to it in a record shop, don’t mess about, buy it. Not for me, but think of the bloke who owns the shop, the poor devil. He’s got a living to make, the same as the rest of us. Well, thank you again, that’s all. When I count three, take the needle off.  1…2…3……………………There’s no more.

Hit: The Wild Man Of The Woods

Hidden Gem: A Sunday Afternoon At Home

Rocks In The Attic #497: Andrew Lloyd Webber – ‘The Odessa File (O.S.T.)’ (1974)

RITA#497I haven’t seen The Odessa File. The wife found me the soundtrack in the local charity shop, and I’m a sucker for soundtracks, so it was very much appreciated. Composed by a pre-world famous Andrew Lloyd Webber, it’s a mixed bag of material – a Perry Como Christmas tune, some rousing German choral marches and some very listenable instrumental incidental music.

Some of the instrumental music is so good in fact, it almost seems a shame that Lloyd Webber concentrated on musical theatre for the majority of his career. He might have been an outstanding soundtrack artist had he continued down this route instead.

Tracks like Solomon Tauber’s Diary or Music At Riga sound like they’ve been lifted off a blaxploitation soundtrack, maybe something from a label like Stax. They’re totally at odds with the rest of the record though, and very interesting especially as they were recorded by what was probably a very white band. A mention should go out to Vic Flick – the guitarist of Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme – who plays guitar on the soundtrack.

I’ll have to check out the film though. I’m a big fan of early Jon Voight, before he turned into a bit of a strange character. He’s probably more famous now for being the estranged father of Angelina Jolie, when he was obviously a very talented – and Oscar-winning – actor back in the day.

Hit: Main Title Music

Hidden Gem: Solomon Tauber’s Diary