Category Archives: 1988

Rocks In The Attic #785: Alan Silvestri – ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit (O.S.T.)’ (1988)

RITA#785You might know Alan Silvestri from his orchestral scores to some of the biggest blockbusters of the 1980s, 1990s and beyond, but the really surprising credit to his name is for something far earlier. The Academy Award-winning composer of such classic scores as the Back To The Future trilogy, Forrest Gump, Predator, The Abyss, Cast Away and Young Guns II first got his break composing music for television in the late 1970s.

From 1977 to 1983, Silvestri scored the music for the hit show CHiPs, including its amazing main title, eventually scoring 95 of its 139 episodes. He also scored episodes of Starsky & Hutch, Tales From The Crypt and T.J. Hooker. His partnership with director Robert Zemeckis began in 1984 when they collaborated on Romancing The Stone; he has composed the music for all of Zemeckis’ films since.

RITA#785a1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a watershed moment in cinema. In 2019, it seems an everyday occurrence for an actor to share the screen with computer-generated images or characters. Such technology was in its infancy in 1988 – the first fully computer-generated animated character had only hit the screens three years earlier in Young Sherlock Holmes (courtesy of Lucasfilm’s John Lasseter, who would go on to establish Pixar Animation Studios). Instead, Zemeckis’ film relies on physical actors acting alongside empty spaces which was then overlaid with hand-drawn animation featuring three-lighting layers to give the appearance of three-dimensionality.

It’s just mind-blowing to watch the scene where Bob Hoskins’ character Eddie is handcuffed to Roger Rabbit, and he expertly hides him from the evil weasels. This was filmed over thirty years ago, and it still looks great.

My kids are currently aged 7, 6 and 4, and I don’t think I’ll be letting them watch the film anytime soon. It’s just a little too dark for them – particularly the more violent aspects of the plot with Judge Doom murdering toons by dunking them in ‘dip’. Maybe when they’re older…

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Silvestri’s score sounds as majestic as anything else he’s done, possibly coming closer to the zaniness of Danny Elfman than usual, and the soundtrack is interspersed with Roger and Jessica’s songs, sung by Charles Fleischer and Amy Irving respectively. This reissue by Mondo Records is pressed on a beautifully bright Jessica Rabbit neon pink and white splatter vinyl, and includes a reproduction of Roger’s poem to Jessica.

Hit: Why Don’t You Do Right? – Amy Irving

Hidden Gem: Valiant & Valiant

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Rocks In The Attic #727: James Brown – ‘Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ (1988)

RITA#727The Godfather of Soul would have been going through a bit of a revival in the late 1980’s. His screams and drum-breaks were sampled all over the burgeoning hip hop genre, and white audiences would have been reminded of him following his appearance on the soundtrack to Rocky IV. His output around this time, particularly on 1986’s Gravity and 1988’s I’m Real, sounds very of its time. The funk is there, but so are the synthesisers and drum machines.

So it would have been a great time to cash-in with a compilation of his Christmas-themed songs from 1966 to 1970. You might find it incredible that any one artist could have recorded so many festive songs in a four-year period – twelve are presented here, culled from singles, b-sides and three standalone Christmas albums – but James’ output during this period was incredible. Not only could he have released a song of him reading the South Carolina phonebook, but the resulting single, Funky Phone Book Pts. 1 & 2, would surely have been a hit on the R&B charts.

Most of these songs collected here show the slower, soulful side of James’ pre-funk career, but the standout is a song from the pointier end of the ‘60s. Soulful Christmas is a funk workout from ‘68, featuring James belting out the lyric ‘Happiness…Good gawd…Huh…I got plenty of!’ before calling for Maceo Parker to play his funky sax.

Santa would be proud. Merry Christmas everybody.

Hit: Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto

Hidden Gem: Soulful Christmas

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Rocks In The Attic #714: Enya – ‘Watermark’ (1988)

RITA#714Enya’s been on my mind recently.

I haven’t been thinking of her directly. She was just mentioned in passing online, and it really made me laugh. Apparently the ticketing agent Ticketmaster may be taken to court in a class-action lawsuit for being calculating, advantageous cunts when it comes to their business practices.

The outcome may be that Ticketmaster have to make good on everybody that they’ve sold concert tickets to in the last umpteen years – which is pretty much everybody in the western world.

‘Fantastic,’ somebody said. ‘Whatever they provide will be essentially useless. They’ll probably give us tickets to see Enya in the Philippines.’

Enya’s the type of music that I struggle to listen to, not because of how it sounds – which is essentially bland, inoffensive mood music – but more because I have trouble imagining the type of person that would be impressed by it.

We didn’t have any Enya on in our house when I grew up. I imagine it was played a lot in the home-counties, by boring, middle-aged married couples who don’t like foreign food or swearing.

Hit: Orinoco Flow

Hidden Gem: Watermark

Rocks In The Attic #711: Alan Howarth – ‘Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (O.S.T.)’ (1988)

11183_JKTOne thing I’ve learnt from my discussions with fans of horror movies and horror soundtracks is that the majority of them have poor, poor taste in films. They might have jobs and families, but it’s like they have the mental age of a 7-year old when it comes to films.

The first Halloween is a stone-cold classic. It’s more than a little responsible for the popularity of the slasher genre of horror films. It was made a shoestring budget, and became one of the most profitable films of all time.

Halloween II gets by mainly because of the same cast, the involvement of John Carpenter (now in the producer’s chair), and its continuity (it takes place immediately after the events of the first film).

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch is the outlier – a brilliant side-step away from the threat of murderous kid brother Michael Myers, into something far more terrifying. But there’s no accounting for taste, and its poor box-office performance almost killed the franchise.

John Carpenter walks away, and in steps Syrian-American film producer Moustapha Akkad, attempting to resurrect the series by returning Michael Myers to Haddonfield, Illinois.

Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers should have been subtitled The Disappearance Of The Roman Numerals. It is a bad film. The story is bad. The script is bad. The performances are bad – not least the dreadfully hammy acting by Donald Pleasance. The action sequences are bad. Everything is bad.

Probably the most unforgivable aspect of the whole film is the production design. Where Michael Myers once looked terrifying, he now looks comical. His white mask has changed since the earlier films. He now looks like a confused Asian businessman standing at a hotel buffet cart.

The only saving grace is the synth-laden soundtrack, by Carpenter’s musical collaborator, Alan Howarth. The Halloween theme, with its fantastically odd-time signature, makes a welcome return, and feels like the most Carpenterish element of the whole film.

Moustapha Akkad was killed along with his daughter in 2005, by a Al-Qaeda bomb in the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Amman, Jordan. The Rob Zombie directed 2007 remake of Halloween was dedicated to his memory.

Hit: Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers

Hidden Gem: Halloween 4 Reprise

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Rocks In The Attic #525: Various Artists – ‘Cocktail (O.S.T.)’ (1988)

rita525God, I miss the shameful optimism of 1980s mainstream American cinema. Yes, it was soulless (at times) and offered little in the way of substance (again, at times), but I really have a deep feeling of nostalgia for helicopter tracking shots of American cities, soundtracked by the likes of Starship’s Wild Again. Throw a bit of neon in there, and a glimpse of bikini, and I’m hooked.

I’m a child of the 1980s so America has always felt like the centre of the universe – it still is – and the main driver of that image was American cinema. Cocktail, albeit directed by a New Zealander (Roger Donaldson), is a typical example. It may not be the greatest film in the world – it’s far from it – but I’d happily watch it again right now.

I would have been very aware of who Tom Cruise was in 1988, but it might have been the first time I saw Elisabeth Shue and Bryan Brown; a couple of actors I’ve always admired. Shue appeared as the love interest in The Karate Kid (1984) and as the lead in Adventures In Babysitting (1987), but Cocktail would definitely be the first time I’d seen her in an adult role.

One of my favourite moments from Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho is when our anti-hero Patrick Bateman shares an elevator with Tom Cruise, who lives in the same apartment block:

The film actor, Tom Cruise, has an apartment in my building and steps into the elevator just after me. I press the “PH” button for him and he nods his thanks. He is wearing a sport coat from Ralph Lauren over a tshirt, also Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein Jeans and Ray Bans and is very short.
‘I really liked
Bartender“, I say to him.
‘Cocktail.’
‘What?’
‘The movie is called
Cocktail.’
‘Oh, right, of course.’
We turn away from each other as the elevator hums along. Then, he slowly turns towards me.
‘Your nose is bleeding,’ he tells me.
I hadn’t noticed it, although it is bleeding heavily and I reach for my pocket square by Bill Blass as we arrive at my floor. As I step into the hallway, covering my nose with the handkerchief, I hear Tom Cruise stabbing frantically at the ‘Close Door’ button.

Hit: Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin

Hidden Gem: Powerful Stuff – The Fabulous Thunderbirds

Rocks In The Attic #512: Aerosmith – ‘Anthology’ (1988)

RITA#512Last night I finally watched Penelope Spheeris’ documentary The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. It’s something I’ve been looking for ever since I saw the first instalment on the 1979 L.A. punk rock scene. I’d heard about Part II ever since I’ve been an Aerosmith fan, and it didn’t disappoint.

Spheeris’ second film in the trilogy charts the comings and goings of L.A.’s glam metal bands from 1986 to 1988, all vying for stardom and attempting to out-do each other in the process. At first glance it’s not immediately clear who’s male and who’s female; the make-up and hairspray is so thick. And speaking of thick, there doesn’t seem to be a smart person among them. They’re the embodiment of Spinal Tap, without a trace of irony or self-awareness.

Intercut with these interviews and live performances are context-providing talking heads with the elder statesmen of the genre: Kiss’ Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy from Motörhead, Dave Mustaine from Megadeth, and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.

Aside from the absurdity of  the sections featuring Paul Stanley (lying in a bed with four lace-wearing groupies) and Gene Simmons (standing in a ladies’ clothes store, ogling at women), these interviews are reasonably candid and they come across much better than the young upstarts who are trying to make a name for themselves in the dingy Sunset Strip bars.

Alice Cooper particularly is as lucid as ever, and it’s refreshing to see Ozzy talk openly about the metal scene without the mumble he’s now commonly associated with. Tyler and Perry come across well, with the pair being able to talk with an air of stateliness, having recently hit the big time for a second time with 1987’s Permanent Vacation album.

Their sections are not too different from the content of the interviews in 1989’s The Making Of Pump documentary, with Tyler reeling off soundbites about his drug addictions, and Perry sounding as lugubrious as usual. It must be hard to summon the effort to talk about anything with enthusiasm when your adrenaline reserves have been destroyed through years of drug abuse.

One short shot in the film doesn’t ring quite true. After we’ve seen a domesticated Ozzy cook a fried breakfast with no issues, he goes to pour a bottle of orange juice into some glasses on the kitchen table, and Spheeris cynically inserts a shot of him spilling the orange juice as though he has the shakes. It’s obvious that it’s fake, and exists solely to make Ozzy look like he can’t handle sobriety. The end result is that you lose respect for Spheeris as a filmmaker. She might point her cameras at subjects she believes to be ridiculous, but at least they’re being honest.

Anthology is a rare West German compilation of Aerosmith’s early Columbia output, released on the UK label Castle Communications in 1988. It includes a heap of tracks that don’t feature on any other compilation, so you get, for example, the likes of Push Comes To Shove and the title track from 1982’s Rock In A Hard Place, the mis-titled Bite The Hand That Feeds and Sight For Sore Eyes from 1977’s Draw The Line, and several tracks from 1978’s Live! Bootleg – stadium performances of Walk This Way and Back In The Saddle, and the awesome 1973 Paul’s Mall performance of James Brown’s Mother Popcorn.

Hit: Sweet Emotion

Hidden Gem: Mother Popcorn (Live)

Rocks In The Attic #428: Anthrax – ‘Euphoria’ (1988)

RITA#428Apparently it’s illegal to send this band’s records through the post…

The Big Four? Metallica? Yes. Slayer? Yes. Megadeth? Yes. Anthrax? Hmm. For some reason, these guys never got to my ears when I used to listen to metal.

It does amuse me how these four bands have been grouped together in their own little club. Isn’t thrash supposed to be full of ‘stick it to the man’ f**k you attitude, with an innate desire to avoid the mainstream? Well, Metallica’s transcendence into a household name is another story, but doesn’t branding them altogether into a nice little package sort of negate their collective manifesto?

But as always, record companies will do whatever they can to make money, and if putting a bunch of bands together to sell some tickets / live DVDs, then so be it.

Hit: Antisocial

Hidden Gem: Now It’s Dark