Category Archives: 1976

Rocks In The Attic #555: Bob Hope – ‘The Bob Hope Radio Show’ (1976)

rita555The hit rate for Bob Hope’s material – joke after joke after joke – is relentless. You could get tired from this kind of assault on your sense of humour, but Hope’s show is interspersed with musical numbers which act as a palette-cleanser for the next barrage of jokes.

The two shows on this record were broadcast around the world to America G.I.s in late 1945, and much of the material is not only army-centric, but deals with the premise of leaving the forces now that the war is over. Of course, this provides ample subject material for Hope to riff on, and the audiences (at military separation centres in California) lap up every gag.

You can almost taste the palpable sense of relief in these radio shows. The audience have not only reached the end of the war, they’ve also reached the end of their military career and presumably are about to re-enter normal life. If I was in their shoes I’d be laughing at anything, a cathartic release, but the strength of Hope’s material gives them more than enough to find funny.

Hit: “A discharge? That’s a little piece of paper that changes a Lieutenant’s name from Sir to Stinky”

Hidden Gem: “Not everybody flies inside the plane with their parachute open! Well, I didn’t know the pilot was being personal when he said ‘Jerk!’”

Rocks In The Attic #532: Bill Conti – ‘Rocky (O.S.T.)’ (1976)

rita532I love the Rocky films, particularly the first one. As with everything, it’s a case of ever-decreasing circles with the sequels. I haven’t caught Creed yet, the sixth sequel-cum-spinoff-cum-reboot, which I hear is supposed to be pretty decent (and earned Sylvester Stallone a Best Supporting Actor nod – the loss of which his brother didn’t take to kindly to).

I recently re-watched the first couple of films in the series, I and II, followed by Rocky Balboa (number six in the series). Comparing the original with the sequels, it really hits home that it would really have been better off all round had they not followed the first film. It was a Best Picture and Best Director winner remember, but its strength has been diminished over successive years with a string of lesser sequels.

Stallone is probably to blame. He deserves the credit for writing the original film, earning a Best Screenplay nomination as well as a Best Actor nod in the process. But he also wrote the next four films in the series, and seemed happy to portray the character and receive a bigger pay-check each time.

Even though I love the first film, it isn’t without its flaws. There’s one particularly cringeworthy scene where to show Rocky as a man of the neighbourhood, he’s seen running down the street playing with the local kids. The over-acting in this short moment unfortunately makes him look like a retarded man-child.

Aside from the rousing main title, Gonna Fly Now, this soundtrack is full of nice grooves. It officially comes under the banner of Philly Soul, but instrumental cuts like Reflections could easily have come out of Memphis’ Stax studios, particularly from Isaac Hayes’ superb Shaft soundtrack.

Hit: Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)

Hidden Gem: Reflections

Rocks In The Attic #530: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – ‘Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ (1976)

rita530It’s a shame that the songwriting of Tom Petty hasn’t earned him a personalised adjective like other famous rockers. You could throw a couple of chords together and somebody might say it sounds Dylanesque, or if your song has a melodic walking bassline it could be accused of sounding McCartneyesque. But unfortunately if you write a song that has all the hallmarks of a Heartbreakers song, nobody says that it sounds a bit Petty. Maybe this does happen and all the recording studio bust-ups are over a simple misunderstanding.

I recently had a week off work. I caught a horrible virus from my four-year old, and felt like death for a few days. During that week – and you need that amount of time to set aside – I watched Peter Bogdanovich’s four-hour Tom Petty documentary Runnin’ Down A Dream. I would probably have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been ill, but it was a really great watch regardless.

It’s become de rigueur for an all-encapsulating documentary to be directed by a big-name director. As well as Bogdanovich’s Petty-thon, there’s Scorsese’s doco on George Harrison, and Cameron Crowe’s Pearl Jam film. Concert films attract big names too – Jonathan Demme’s work with Talking Heads and Neil Young, Scorsese’s Last Waltz with the Band, Wim Wenders foray into Cuban music, Taylor Hackford’s profile of Chuck Berry, Scorsese’s and Hal Ashby’s work with the Stones. The list is endless, and probably driven by the fact that most film directors are big fans of music to begin with.

I can’t make my mind up about Tom Petty. I love his earlier material, like this album and the unequalled  Damn The Torpedoes, but his later work in the ‘80s, ‘90s and beyond stray a little too close to the middle of the road for my liking. Maybe I’m just being a little Petty in saying that.

Hit: American Girl

Hidden Gem: Breakdown

Rocks In The Attic #515: Thin Lizzy – ‘Jailbreak’ (1976)

RITA#515I’ve been blasting Lizzy a lot recently. Their Wild One compilation, the CD that turned me onto them, is a favourite on my iPod. There’s nothing like a quick blast of Jailbreak to decompress on my drive home from work.

I saw the fantastic film Sing Street recently. Directed by John Carney, formerly of Irish band the Frames, it’s set in Dublin like his awesome 2007 film Once. That earlier film had a lovely moment when the film’s protagonists try to enlist the services of a couple of Grafton Street buskers to back him on a recording of his songs. They immediately ask him if they’ll be recording ‘any Lizzy’; the subtext implying that the city’s struggling musicians haven’t moved on from the successes of its black rocker son.

Everybody’s heard The Boys Are Back In Town. Advertisers love it, and it commonly adorns film soundtracks. The title-track Jailbreak is something else though. Its white-hot, guttural guitar riff is too vulgar to be a mainstream hit. It shouldn’t work; it’s too simple. Brian Downey’s drums turn it into something else though. In the hands of a lesser drummer, it would be a dirge, but Downey’s syncopation – man, those opening high-hats! – breathes life into the arrangement.

Jailbreak is the sixth studio album by the band, and proved to be the one that broke them in the U.S.; and with good reason. It’s the perfect mix of melodic heavy rock and Phil Lynnot’s soulful, romantic lyrics. The twin-guitar of American Scott Gorham and Scot Brian Robertson also feels much more natural here than it does on earlier albums. If anything, the guitars feel fat where on the last couple of Lizzy records, they lacked that ballsy sound.

This might be the most successful Lizzy album, their biggest seller, but I prefer its follow-up Johnny The Fox, released just seven months later. They’re both so good though – the Rubber Soul / Revolver of the band.

Hit: The Boys Are Back In Town

Hidden Gem: Running Back

Rocks In The Attic #505: Leo Sayer – ‘Endless Flight’ (1976)

RITA#505I know it’s tragically uncool to like this album, but who cares? You Make Me Feel Like Dancing is a great disco single, and I’m not afraid to say I love it. Disco is always looked at unfairly with shame and regret, and usually the only thing more artistically bankrupt than a disco act is a white disco act.

It’s a shame that Leo Sayer doesn’t get the benefit of a career reappraisal every couple of years like the Bee Gees might, for example. Endless Flight was a Top Ten record on both sides of the Atlantic (#4 in the UK, #10 in the USA), and You Make Me Feel Like Dancing hit the #1 spot in both countries.

Production-wise, the album sounds similar in feel to Elton John’s output in the mid-‘70s. The record features a who’s who of ‘70s rock talent – Earl Slick, Paul Buckmaster, Steve Gadd, Bobby Keys, Michael Omartian, Ray Parker Jr. and Jeff Porcaro amongst others. It’s difficult not to like it when it sounds this good.

When I was at University in Huddersfield, Leo Sayer did a performance at one of the nightclubs. It was our regular Tuesday night haunt so we would have been there anyway, but for some reason he was booked to come out onto the dancefloor in the middle of the night and sing a few songs. It sounds remarkable now that this happened, but as strange as it sounds, it worked really well.

I happened to be standing around between the door where he appeared, and the dancefloor, so I reached out and drunkenly patted him on the shoulder when he walked past. Man, he was small. I know he’s regarded as a diminutive little fellow, but he was absolutely tiny in real life. It’s quite possible in my stupor that I thought he was a small child, and I was just trying to encourage him along.

He bounced onto the dancefloor, led by a couple of big, burly bouncers (making him look even smaller than he was) and everybody parted for him like Moses and the Red Sea. He then sang along to a couple of his well-known songs, singing live into a microphone, accompanied by a backing track.

Everybody loved it, especially all the ladies in the audience who absolutely fell in love with him; and we’re talking about 18-19 year old University students here – most of them wouldn’t have known who he was. As a measure of how unfamiliar they were with him, on our way home the girls in our group kept asking me to sing that song of his they really liked (When I Need You) – they’d drunkenly forgotten it, and it wasn’t familiar enough for them to recall it.

It’s nice eating a kebab with a belly full of beer and a head full of Leo Sayer melodies.

Hit: You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

Hidden Gem: How Much Love

Rocks In The Attic #486: Various Artists – ‘There’s Music In The Air! Vol. 2’ (1976)

RITA#486Qantastic! Fifty cents for this little time capsule, and the record looks unplayed – how could I turn down such a deal?

Quite why this record opens with a boozy rendition of The Stripper is anybody’s guess. Why would you want to listen to that on a commercial airplane? I’d like to think it’s just a random song choice – the rest of the record seems to be just as random – but the cynic in me thinks it might have something to do with being in a captive environment where beautiful women wait on your every need. I’m guessing a man chose the playlist?

Another weird thing is that the third track on the record is Stranger On The Shore, credited to ‘Mr Acker Bilk’, presumably to prevent you from getting it mixed up with the version recorded by ‘Mrs. Acker Bilk’.

The record serves as a marketing tool, to advertise the airline’s futuristic entertainment offerings; alongside photos of people trying on earphones for what looks like the first time ever, the liner notes proudly point out that ‘On the mighty Qantas 747B you have a choice of seven channels of sound.’ Seven! How times have changed.

I suffer a little from a fear of flying. I’ve always been a bit of a nervous flyer, but as long as there’s no turbulence I’m usually fine. In fact I end up really enjoying it. I’ll be flying back from Sydney later today (Air New Zealand-tastic!), after a long weekend.

The last time I flew to Sydney, the plane trip in both directions was one of my highlights (and that’s not to say I didn’t have a good time in Sydney itself – I just don’t fly very often so I end up enjoying it when I do). I watched the Brian Wilson biopic Love And Mercy on the way out, and Guy Ritchie’s harmless but enjoyable Man From U.N.C.L.E., with a couple of beers on the way back.

There was never any stripping by the air stewardesses though; perhaps you only get that on Qantas?

Hit: Stranger On The Shore

Hidden Gem: Wheels, Cha Cha

Rocks In The Attic #477: Barbra Streisand & Kris Kristofferson – ‘A Star Is Born (O.S.T.)’ (1976)

RITA#477Woah guys, put it away, there are children watching!

The photograph that adorns this album cover may be responsible for many a young person’s anxiety about sex. It looks like the soundtrack album to The Joy Of Sex. I’ve never seen the film – I never intend to – but I saw the record for 50c so I thought it couldn’t be too bad. Plus I could always put it on top of the mantelpiece to scare the kids away from the fireplace.

Barbra was a bit of a fox in her day though, eh? Maybe not when she was in a naked embrace with Kristofferson, but we’ve all made mistakes. I’ve just finished reading an article on Sue Mengers, her original agent when she broke into Hollywood, by Peter Biskind (reproduced in his Gods And Monsters collection of essays and character profiles). Biskind paints Babs as having the world at her feet in the late 60s and early 70s; a star of both stage and screen. Today she’s still one of the highest selling female music artists ever with 145 million records sold worldwide. That reputation for being a diva – Queen of the divas, in fact – surely has something to do with the fact that her star has faded so much over time.

Kristofferson I know nothing about. Except for his beard. The man can grow a beard. In fact, he may just be a beard with a man attached to the back of it. He was born Kristoffer Kristofferson which must go down in history as one of the greatest names in the world; or an act of parental cruelty, depending on your standpoint.

Hit: Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)

Hidden Gem: Watch Closely Now