Category Archives: 1981

Rocks In The Attic #835: The Police – ‘Ghost In The Machine’ (1981)

RITA#835Listening to the oddly hypnotic covers album, Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police, over Christmas has reignited my love for Sting, Summers and Copeland. It’s even given me a newfound love for this album, the first of two records that fail to live up to the zest of the first three.

I’ve been trying to learn Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic on guitar. As always with Andy Summers’ guitar parts, it’s not as easy as it looks. Summers has a habit of making intricate guitar lines look effortless, but they’re always doing something different to what you’d expect. The opening of the guitar song has delicately ascending guitar part doubled by a piano, all the while underscored by Sting bowing a fretless bass. Damn then and their genius.

RITA#835aBut what a song, with one of my favourite middle-eights of all time:

I resolved to call her up / A thousand times a day / And ask her if she’ll marry me / In some old fashioned way / But my silent fears have gripped me / Long before I reach the phone / Long before my tongue has tripped me /  Must I always be alone?

While the hit singles illustrate that Sting can still write a decent pop song, the aimless, endless reggae feel of the rest of the album suggests that something had changed in the band. This could be the nature of the recording, at Montserrat’s AIR studios in the Carribean – the first time the band had recorded outside Europe – or simply inter-band tension starting to simmer among the ranks.

Summers later laid the blame at Sting becoming a massive cunt – ‘I have to say I was getting disappointed with the musical direction around the time of Ghost in the Machine. With the horns and synth coming in, the fantastic raw-trio feel – all the really creative and dynamic stuff – was being lost. We were ending up backing a singer doing his pop songs.’

It’s a shame, as each of the three albums that precede Ghost In The Machine feel like the output of a band. Outlandos d’Armour is a fantastic post-punk debut, Regatta de Blanc found them starting to believe in themselves, and Zenyatta Mondatta captures them at the height of their creativity. Ghost In The Machine is something else. It’s also the first of the band’s albums with an English-language title. Something had definitely changed, and not for the better.

Hit: Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

Hidden Gem: Ωmega Man

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Rocks In The Attic #824: George Harrison – ‘Somewhere In England’ (1981)

RITA#824What happens when George Harrison walks on stage, and the band breaks into the wrong version of With A Little Help From My Friends?

I recently read a beautiful story about George Harrison in Steve Lukather’s autobiography. Following the untimely death of Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro in 1992 –  the man who popularised the headband a long time before Mark Knopfler – his former band members organised a tribute concert.

Unfortunately, Porcaro’s death is the closest that real life has ever come to the Spinal Tap drummer who died in a ‘bizarre gardening accident.’ He was spraying pesticides in his garden, without wearing a mask. Somehow the pesticide got into his system, and he was supposedly dead before he hit the floor. Terrible.

The benefit concert sounds like one of the best shows ever. Toto hosted all of their musician friends and colleagues – a long list, considering their session-band credentials (they comprised most of the session band on Michael Jackson’s Thriller among many, many other hits). Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, Don Henley, David Crosby, the film composer James Newton Howard, Eddie Van Halen and Donald Fagen all took part.

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The cover of the 2004 reissue, originally rejected by Warner Bros. in 1980.

Around this time, Lukather also met one of his earliest musical heroes, George Harrison. He spotted him at a club in a private area and begged a bouncer to be allowed to speak to him. ‘George’s guitar is the reason I breathe and I wanted to thank him for inspiring me to play,’ he writes.

George sent word to let him through. ‘He stood and shook my hand, and was so gracious and welcoming. I told him that he was the reason that I played music, but also that my band had recently suffered a tremendous loss and that I understood that he of all people would know what that felt like.’

After getting on well due to their mutual connections, Lukather mentioned the upcoming benefit concert for Porcaro, and that the last song of the night was going to be With A Little Help From My Friends. ‘“I know this is a long shot and no pressure,” I told him, “but I’ll have a couple of tickets left for you at the back door.’”

Midway through the show, one of the crew guys tapped Lukather on the shoulder and said ‘Someone from Liverpool is here to see you.’ After a brief catch-up (‘You didn’t think I was going to turn up, did you?’), George agreed to sit in on the night’s closer, playing Lukather’s ’59 Les Paul.

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Eddie Van Halen onstage with George Harrison at the Jeff Porcaro tribute

‘I had asked George to wait in the wings so I could bring him on in my own words. “As if this wasn’t the most amazing night ever, we have one last surprise for you. This guy doesn’t need an introduction, but, ladies and gentlemen…George Harrison”!’

They played the rocked-up Joe Cocker version of the song, because that was the version that Porcaro used to play in his high-school band. When they kicked it off – a far different arrangement of the song to the Beatles’ original – George shouted over to Lukather ‘Well, me and the lads didn’t do it like this!’

Lukather ended up becoming friends with Harrison. The next time he saw him, George invited him for dinner in Los Angeles. Lukather turned up, and Bob Dylan was also sat at the table. ‘I’m now sat between George and Bob, but I don’t know what the fuck to say to Bob Dylan.’ Racking his brains, he struck up a conversation about Sammy Davis Jr. and Harrison leaned over and reassured Lukather. ‘He looks at me, smiles and says “I haven’t seen him this animated in years.”’

The With A Little Help From My Friends story seems to illustrate a theory I’ve always had about the occasional gaps in the musical knowledge of all four Beatles. In their own bubble, they didn’t have to learn the craft after the fact like a lot of other professional musicians. They were superb songwriters, arrangers and performers, but I wonder how they would have fared in, say, the early ‘70s, performing covers of contemporary artists.

Of course, they were an expert covers band – starting off covering ‘50s rock and roll – but it seems that the music that they influenced was always of a different level. Not better, or worse, just different. Even McCartney – arguably the most prolific of the four – can be seen making the odd error of judgement. In the documentary of the 9/11 tribute concert, he can be seen explaining to Eric Clapton which scales he could solo with on a song in the key of G (G Major or E Minor, if you’re playing along at home). Clapton looks back, with a poker face suppressing a massive internal eye-roll.

Lukather points to another example of this in his book, when he was invited to a jam with Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Kim Keltner. ‘I start playing George’s song I Want To Tell You off Revolver. I’m playing the piano part of the B section – a flat-9 – on the guitar while holding the low E open. George says “Stop. How are you doing that?”
“It’s a flat-9,” I say.
“I didn’t know you could that on the guitar as it’s the piano on the record.”’

RITA#824cSomewhere In England is George’s ninth studio album, release in 1981 on his own Dark Horse records label. Co-produced with ace studio-percussionist Ray Cooper, it was recorded in his home-studio FPSHOT (Friar Park Studio, Henley-On-Thames) and features a host of contributors including Keltner, Ringo Starr, Herbie Flowers, and Al Kooper.

The album starts off with the Dylan-tinged Blood From A Clone, but it is the fourth song on side A that stands out from the rest. All Those Years Ago, a song originally written for Ringo’s Stop And Smell The Roses album, was rewritten in light of John Lennon’s assassination and features Starr’s drums alongside backing vocals by Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney and their Wings bandmate Denny Laine.

Clearly affected by Lennon’s death – they parted on bad terms, with Lennon disappointed about his lack of mention in Harrison’s I Me Mine autobiography – Harrison offers a quote on the liner notes in tribute to his former bandmate:

Sri Krishna says in Bhagavadgita:
“There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you. Nor will there be any future when we cease to be.”

J.O.L. 1940-1980

Hit: All Those Years Ago

Hidden Gem: Blood From A Clone

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Rocks In The Attic #766: Harry Manfredini – ‘Friday The 13th Part II’ (1981)

RITA#766Jason’s finally here. He drowned back in ’57 but somehow he’s still alive and, two months after the events of the first film, has tracked down his killer mother’s killer, Alice, back to her suburban apartment. There’s no explanation of how he got there – did he take the bus, hire a car – nor how he managed to track her down, but he’s here to deal out some payback. Just don’t think too hard about the details.

In fact, maybe we should talk about the details. When we first see Jason, walking across the dark street towards Alice’s apartment, we only see his boots and the lower half of his legs. He’s wearing jeans, quite normal-looking, blue jeans. This isn’t the dungaree-wearing wild man of the woods we see later. In fact, it very much isn’t Jason at all, as this short insert was filmed with a female member of the crew standing in for Jason. In the first film, we expected the killer to be a man, but it was a woman; now we finally see the male killer, and his first appearance as an adult is portrayed by a woman. Mind blown!

RITA#766aAfter dispatching Alice, we cut to the kettle, whistling on top of the cooker. Jason’s hand reaches over and takes it off the heat. Every time I watch this film, I expect to see Jason force the side of Alice’s head down on to the hot element, and I catch myself agreeing that these movies are pretty gruesome. But then it doesn’t happen; my memory just tricks me. He just removes the kettle, because he…likes to keep a tidy kitchen?

Five years later, an intertitle tells us, the action moves to a camp near Crystal Lake for the rest of the film. The time-jump really throws a grenade into the timeline of the series, as discussed by Matt Gourley and Paul Rust on the excellent In Voorhees We Trust podcast. Bear with me…

The first film was shot in 1979 and released in 1980. However, a glimpse of Pamela Voorhees’ gravestone later in the series marks her death as the year of 1979, firmly placing that film’s events in the summer of that year. The five-year time-jump therefore places the events of Part II in 1984, three years into the future from its release date of April 1981. Part III and Part IV’s events both take place in the days following Part II, which allows the series to catch up a little, but then there’s another jump with Part V’s events taking place in 1989, despite being released in March 1985. I’d like to see Doc Brown chart this one out on a blackboard.

Back to Part II, and we find the businesslike Paul Holt opening a training camp for camp counsellors. We see Paul’s arm ringing the bell to call the other counsellors, and this is surely a red herring of a clue to the audience. We’ve already seen that Jason was dressed in a dark-check shirt when he killed Alice, and here we see Paul wearing a similar shirt. Is Paul the killer? The first film had a similar red herring, where we first see the killer drive a jeep, before seeing the camp leader Steve driving a similar jeep. These little details would have been really important when watching the film for the first time, but they just get lost in the picture when you’re re-watching for the hundredth time.

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I get this is now a quasi-futuristic film now, but the 1984 that this film imagines seems to be one where women don’t wear bras. The nipples on display, not to mention temptress Terry’s ass-cheeks peeking out the bottom of her cut-off Levis, are more suited to the eye-popping 3-D of Part III.

The other thing that pops out of the screen is the colour. I’m not sure if it’s better film-stock they’re using, or better-spec cameras, but this really looks like a typical Hollywood film after the muted tones of its low-budget predecessor.

Crazy Ralph makes a short return, but sadly doesn’t get to say “I FUCKING CALLED IT, MOTHERFUCKERS!” before he too is killed by Jason. With non-camp people like Alice and Crazy Ralph murdered early-on, and with the increased number of campers on offer, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Part II would easily surpass the first film’s body count of ten. But strangely, the film leaves half of the campers out drinking at the local bar while the finale happens. Ted (the nerd) is very much one of the main players, and his introduction in the first half of the picture ultimately leads nowhere as we last see him asking the locals where they can go after-hours. The body count comes in at a pitiful nine.

Jason is much less-scary when he’s on-screen. Once the Final Girl, Ginny, encounters him, he’s just a lumbering idiot. This is further supported by the fact that he’s seemingly wearing a pillow-case on his head. My tricky memory always remembers it as a hessian sack, but it’s actually a burlap flour sack. We glimpse a horrible blood-blister under his thumb at one point: one of the many ways the series would continue to show him as a despicably grubby individual. Ginny and Paul overpower Jason, and he ends up with a machete through his shoulder.

The film is one of the stronger entries in the series, with a decent cast and without some of the sillier moments of the later films. The soundtrack is just more of the same from Harry Manfredini, and that’s just fine.

One last thing to mention is the shrine we see at the end of the film, inside Jason’s makeshift cabin. Lying on the floor, next to the decapitated head of his mother are a couple of dead bodies, one of which is supposed to be Alice from the opening of the film. Man, it sure would have made an awkward conversation with the bus driver when he tried to bring that all the way back to Crystal Lake.

Hit: Keep A Cool Head (Main Title)

Hidden Gem: Return To Chez Jason / End Title

Body Count: 9

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Rocks In The Attic #757: Carlo Maria Cordio – ‘Absurd (O.S.T.)’ (1981)

RITA#757Absurd is an Italian horror film from 1981, originally released as Rosso Sangue (the literal translation being Red Blood) and directed by Joe D’Amato. It has also been released under the titles Anthropophagus 2Zombie 6: Monster HunterHorrible and The Grim Reaper 2, so take your pick really and call it whatever you want.

I have to admit, it’s one of the very few soundtracks in my collection I bought before seeing the film. There’s just something about an LP sleeve featuring a madman holding his intestines – AND HIS INTESTINES ARE EMBOSSED ON THE COVER, SPELLING OUT THE NAME OF THE FILM – that I just had to have.

RITA#757aI finally got around to watching the film last week. As with the majority of films on the UK’s video nasty list, it’s unbelievably awful. The acting is sub-standard, the dialogue is laughable, the English-language dub is handled terribly, and the whole thing just left me wanting less.

The film’s only saving grace – aside from Wes Benscoter’s awesome artwork – is the music score by Carlo Maria Cordio. Sounding almost like it could have been recorded by Goblin, or a Meddle / Obscured By Clouds­-era Pink Floyd, it’s a lovely slice of prog-rock. The soundtrack does sound very repetitive though. I’m pretty sure some very similar sounding cues are repeated, in Death Waltz Records’ attempts to ensure that all of the film’s music is captured; I would have been happy with a single disc rather than a double LP.

Hit: Seq 1

Hidden Gem: Seq 8

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Rocks In The Attic #747: Various Artists – ‘Sharky’s Machine (O.S.T.)’ (1981)

RITA#747Thank God I had a video recorder in my room, growing up. It might have been a top-loader – much to the amusement of anybody who saw it – but it did the job. It meant that I could tape films in the middle of the night, rather than staying up and propping my eyelids open. When a teacher asks you why you’re so tired in class, it’s never a good idea to say that you stayed up to watch The Eiger Sanction.

I would record anything that sounded exciting: anything starring Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Bruce Willis, Rutger Hauer, Harrison Ford, Chuck Norris, and so on. Thankfully, the action genre is a little more racially diverse these days; I essentially grew up on a diet of white dude action heroes.

An old favourite was always Sharky’s Machine, directed by and starring Burt Reynolds, very much at the top of his game. Reynolds plays Tom Sharky, a tough Atlanta cop who gets transferred to the vice department. There, he discovers a high-class prostitution ring, and slowly falls in love with one of the girls as he stakes out her apartment.

On a recent re-watch, I admit it’s not a great film. But there’s just something about American cop thrillers from the ‘70s and ‘80s that I adore: the cityscapes, the grittiness, and the endless banks of lit-up office blocks against the night sky. For me, a weak script and a few hammy acting performances can usually be overlooked, purely on the strength of the filming locations.

RITA#747bReynolds also oversaw the soundtrack, alongside producer Snuff Garrett. This move – with Reynolds directing and overseeing the soundtrack – almost makes him a proto-Tarantino character, with Reynold’s only real contribution to that universe being his appearance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Tarantino-esque Boogie Nights in 1997. The other connection, of course, being the inclusion of Randy Crawford’s Street Life on both the Sharky’s Machine soundtrack, and the soundtrack to Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.

Originally the opening track on the Crusaders’ 1979 album of the same name, Street Life was originally a slower, 11-minute song featuring a guest vocal by Randy Crawford. The version recorded for the Sharky’s Machine soundtrack was recorded by Doc Severinson, who also composed the original score for the film, and is credited only to Randy Crawford. This shorter version of Street Life is far punchier and more direct than the Crusaders’ original, and is a stone-cold funk / soul gem.

The inner gatefold of the record shows a wonderful photo collage of the recording sessions, alongside publicity stills from the film. The liner notes read: For Sharky’s Machine, Burt Reynolds and Snuff Garrett have brought together some of the greatest jazz talents in history. This is followed by a detailed list of all the participants, most of which are unrecognisable to my uncultured eyes.

Hit: Street Life – Randy Crawford

Hidden Gem: Sexercise – Doc Severinsen

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Rocks In The Attic #726: Joe LoDuca – ‘The Evil Dead – A Nightmare Reimagined (O.S.T.)’ (1981)

RITA#726The soundtrack rights to Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead from 1981 have been in a legal quagmire for a very long time. Whoever owns them has them locked away in a cabin in the woods somewhere, probably in the root-cellar. In a weird twist, the original composer Joe LoDuca owns his score, but not the rights to the original recording, and so a long-overdue reissue of the score seems about as realistic as Donald Trump achieving world peace.

This year, LoDuca and Mondo Records has given us the next best thing – a full re-recording of the score, in a disgustingly beautiful green, yellow and purple swirl vinyl with red splatter. Pitched as a ‘reimagining’ of the soundtrack, it sounds similar enough to the original score with the main difference being the orchestration, both in size and scope. It sounds bigger and brighter than it did back in 1981, the same but different.

RITA#726aThe Evil Dead was one of the first horror films I saw in my early teens. Alongside the Friday The 13th and Halloween films, Sam Raimi’s second full-length feature made a big impression on me. It wasn’t until much later that I realised that it also made a big impression on New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson, who took the film’s DIY special-effects ethos as the basis for his first feature Bad Taste.

I still love the first Evil Dead. It was improved on greatly in the 1987 sequel, itself more of a remake than a continuation, but the original still stands as a classic of its genre. The 2013 remake / reboot, which in a weird twist of fate (given the Peter Jackson connection) was filmed in New Zealand, was just a mess, a dirge of a film. Just like the root-cellar, avoid at all costs.

Hit: Main Title

Hidden Gem: A Nightmare Reimagined / Overture

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Rocks In The Attic #725: Chas & Dave – ‘Mustn’t Grumble’ (1981)

RITA#725Chas Hodges, one half of Chas & Dave, died earlier in the year. Strangely this has been the year where I’ve listened to more of the duo than any other time in my life.

About six months ago, while being slightly obsessed with an online pool and snooker video game (Hustle Kings on the PS4), I started listening to Chas & Dave’s Snooker Loopy on repeat. I love the song from my childhood. Is it the best song about snooker ever committed to record? It might just be. It’s definitely the best music video featuring the sport. Well, the best one with Dennis Taylor contributing vocals at least.

RITA#725aMy renewed interest in Chas & Dave led me back to probably their furthest reaching musical contribution – their work as studio men (guitar and bass) on Labi Siffre’s I Got The, later sampled as the backbone of Eminem’s My Name Is.

There was always a bit of ridicule levelled at the duo when I was growing up. For the longest time, they were the furthest thing from cool. I remember everybody laughing at a tour poster in the ‘90s that advertised ‘Chas & Dave Live In Concert* (*Not Original Dave)’. I’m sure they never went out of fashion in London though. This sort of knees-up Mother Brown music seems to be written in the DNA of cockneys.

This record is one of their better-known ones, featuring the single Rabbit, commonly trotted out as one of their best tunes. Looking at their discography, they were busy boys, almost releasing an LP a year from 1974 until the momentum started running out in the ‘90s and the schedule switched to a different compilation every other year.

Hit: Rabbit

Hidden Gem: I Miss Ya Girl