Category Archives: 1994

Rocks In The Attic #699: Thomas Newman – ‘The Shawshank Redemption (O.S.T.)’ (1994)

RITA#699“You looking for something, mate?”

“Er, yeah, can you sort me out with season 5 of House Of Cards?”

“Sure, boss, you want some season 9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, with that? I’ve just got it from my man at the docks – it’s pretty good. Pretty, pretty, good.”

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This is a fairly accurate representation of what I’ve had to do to watch quality television whilst living in the cultural backwater of New Zealand in the last ten years. Not only is the country infatuated with one of the dullest sports ever invented, the populace also seems to be content with some of the most mediocre television created. I expect Kazakhstani TV to be more exciting than it is here.

From the endless reality shows and soap operas, to the fact that TVNZ once unwittingly transmitted Thunderball at prime-time on a Saturday night just seven days after it transmitted its 1983 remake, Never Say Never Again­, I imagine the programming schedules are drawn up by work-experience kids, or –worse still – programmers who have never left these shores and aren’t aware of how good other countries can be.

We joined the rest of the planet a few weeks ago, and finally got Netflix. After ten years in the wilderness, I’ve finally returned to the act of channel-surfing (although in a slightly different way to broadcast television).

RITA#699bI’ve been waiting months to see the new Psycho documentary 78/52 – the title referring to the number of camera set-ups and edits in Hitchcock’s infamous shower scene. As I’m pretty sure the documentary is still doing the rounds on the festival circuit, I thought I’d have to contact my dealer hanging out behind the local library. Forget it, it’s on Netflix!

Looking to score the stand-up special, Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life? Forget it, it’s on Netflix!

Looking forward to the second season of GLOW? Forget it, it’s on Netflix!

My dealer’s going to go out of business, and might have to resort to supplying the local kindergarten kids with pirated episodes of Peppa Pig.

One of the unexpected advantages of Netflix has been the joy of stumbling upon something unexpected. I got such a great grounding in film from watching films and documentaries in the middle of the night on the BBC or Channel 4, from curated retrospectives of particular directors, to seminal cult films and forgotten classics. I let the programmers shape my tastes.

A recent Netflix find was one of my favourites to watch in the early hours as a teenager – Don Siegel’s Escape From Alcatraz, his fifth and final collaboration with Clint Eastwood, from 1979.

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It’s still a great film, from Eastwood’s underplayed, optimistic hero, to Patrick MacGoohan’s calculating prison warden, and having not seen it for around twenty-five years, I really enjoyed it.

It is, however, not a patch on The Shawshank Redemption. Before the genre-bending, narrative revolution of 1990’s cinema, prison films were almost a lost art, a masculine relic of bygone times. Escape From Alcatraz, Papillon, and Midnight Express were the genre’s three high watermarks. What could a prison film do that we haven’t seen before?

Enter Frank Darabont. Originally a horror screenwriter (The Fly II, The Blob, A Nightmare On Elm Street III: Dream Warriors), his 1983 short film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Woman In The Room, led to an ongoing and successful collaboration with the writer. After giving us the greatest prison film of the decade, he followed it up with The Green Mile, the second-best of the genre.

Originally a short story titled Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption from King’s 1982 Different Seasons collection – which also spawned 1986’s Stand By Me and 1998’s Apt Pupil – the premise is simple: an innocent man gets imprisoned for his wife’s murder, and escapes from the prison against all odds.

In fact, it’s a little too simple, isn’t it? But when you consider that this was made in a post Die Hard world, the film’s lack of action is its greatest gamble. If 1996’s The Rock was the prison film made for hopped-up ’90s teen audiences; Shawshank was directed at their nostalgia-hungry parents.

From Morgan Freeman’s career-defining voice-over, to Tim Robbins’ downbeat protagonist, and an ensemble cast of future Darabont regulars, it’s a joy to watch, easily earning its seven Oscar nominations. Ultimately the film went home from the Academy Awards empty-handed, losing against Forrest Gump for its three big nominations – Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The glue that holds Shawshank together is its ethereal score by Thomas Newman, who by this time was well on his way to his 1999 career peak with Sam Mendes’ American Beauty. Newman’s score fits the 1940s/1950s setting effortlessly, and is enhanced by period songs from the (always fantastic) Ink Spots and Hank Williams.

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A hidden (behind a poster) gem of my collection, this double LP set is on ‘suds on the roof’ yellow vinyl, and includes a replica of Andy’s ‘blank’ postcard to Red.

Hit: Shawshank Prison (Stoic Theme)

Hidden Gem: Elmo Blatch

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Rocks In The Attic #650: Pantera – ‘Far Beyond Bootleg – Live From Donington ’94’ (2014)

RITA#650If there was ever a music festival that I wish I had attended, it’s this one – Monsters Of Rock, Donington on Saturday 4th June 1994. It’s the first festival I remember really wanting to go to, but it was out of the question – I was only 15, I couldn’t afford it and even if I could, my parents wouldn’t have let me go just in case I consequently became addicted to heroin. Or, even worse, became a fan of the band Extreme.

What a line-up though. Two stages. The main stage headlined by Aerosmith, with the rest of the bill including Extreme, Sepultura, Pantera, Therapy? and Pride & Glory. The second stage appealed to me even more – headlined by the Wildhearts, this also featured Terrorvision, Skin, Biohazard, Cry Of Love and Headswim.

I think up to this weekend, my head was firmly planted in classic rock. I just listened to Aerosmith and pretty much nothing else. But then MTV aired an hour-long special on the Monsters Of Rock festival, presented by Vanessa Warwick and featuring past performances and music videos of the acts playing that year. As I did with everything else at the time, I recorded it on VHS.

RITA#650aThat tape ended up being one of my favourite recordings, and I’d watch it repeatedly. Most importantly, it introduced me to AC/DC via the AC/DC Live cut of For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) from Donington ’91. It also introduced me to the Wildhearts, by way of the Suckerpunch video. Those two bands became my next obsession after Aerosmith.

The MTV special also introduced me to Iron Maiden with their Fear Of The Dark performance at Donington’92, and Zakk Wylde’s Pride & Glory via their Losin’ Your Mind´ video. I might still have the video somewhere.  The ’94 line-up also justified a couple of bands that I was already interested in, and would go on to see live many times over the next couple of years – Headswim, Terrorvision, Skin and Therapy?.

I’ve picked up a couple of bootlegs from the festival over the years – Aerosmith and the Wildheart’s headlining sets, but sadly only on CD. So it was a welcome sight to see Pantera’s set see an official release. Listening to it now, I so wish I was there, drinking warm beer in the sun.

Hit: Walk

Hidden Gem: Fucking Hostile

Rocks In The Attic #534: Various Artists – ‘Clerks (O.S.T.)’ (1994)

rita534After finding Aerosmith – and starting to unlock the rest of the music world – in 1993, the following year was the first year where I completely submerged myself into this weird new world from the first day of January to the last day of December. As such, 1994 has really ended up becoming Year Zero for me.

If I see an album listed with the year 1994 in brackets after it, it instantly raises my eyebrows like a Roger Moore double entendre. It might not be the most attractive year to have as a starting point – by this time grunge was in a nursing home, and the empty and vacuous Britpop genre was starting to snowball in my native England – but you have to take what you’re given, don’t you?

I can’t remember when I saw Clerks – or even how I saw it – but it instantly became a favourite of mine along with Dazed And Confused from the prior year. Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater really became the spokesmen for those post-grunge, slacker times. They’ve both creeped more and more into the mainstream with every release since, but both of these films were really regarded as the embodiment of the counterculture in the early- to mid-‘90s.
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Of the two, I feel the most let down by Kevin Smith. His output has been very patchy since, to such an extent that I gave up on him altogether after 2010’s Cop Out. Linklater, meanwhile, has taken the Steven Soderbergh route of just trying to do something different with every film (okay, let’s ignore Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, the Ocean’s Eleven sequels and a few other duffers). Anybody who goes to the effort of directing Boyhood, a film where the principal photography was spread out over eleven years, deserves major respect.

Of course, the magic in Clerks and Dazed And Confused is in the scripts, and both films stand up really well to the other well-scripted comedies I would watch endlessly around this time: This Is Spinal Tap and Withnail & I.

Hit: Clerks – Love Among Freaks

Hidden Gem: Chewbacca – Supernova

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Rocks In The Attic #441: Pearl Jam – ‘Vitalogy’ (1994)

RITA#441.jpgAll I remember about this album when it first came out is an incredible amount of hoo-ha around the size of the CD case it came in (purposefully larger than a standard CD case so that it wouldn’t fit into a CD rack), and the band’s continued boycott against touring with Ticketmaster. One of the biggest bands in the world after just two albums, and people were already discussing things like packaging rather than the music.

Even the band had realised this. “I think we all agreed that it had gotten insane, that it was no longer about the music,” Vedder said after the end of the tour was cancelled due to him suffering from a severe bout of food poisoning.

This is the last Pearl Jam album I remember hearing at the time. I wasn’t a fan, but I still saw the videos and heard the singles. But from here on – after Better Man – they stopped producing hit singles, and slowly turned into an album band. You couldn’t escape Ten and Vs. In fact, if you gave me a pencil and a piece of paper today, I couldn’t even draw what I thought was the cover of the album after this – I just have no idea. After Vitalogy, they just turned into a band for Pearl Jam fans.

A couple of years ago Cameron Crowe’s Pearl Jam Twenty documentary made me reappraise the band, and go back to these first three records. Vitalogy might sound to most like a band growing up; to me it’s the sound of a band sitting on a fence between playing for the mainstream and playing for themselves.

Hit: Better Man

Hidden Gem: Not For You

Rocks In The Attic #404: Aerosmith – ‘Big Ones’ (1994)

RITA#404If not the worst record cover in my collection, this is definitely a candidate for worst compilation cover. It’s absolutely gross and looks like they paid an intern to design it in a really early copy of Microsoft Paint. It’s unforgiveable too – this is a band that had brought in millions and millions of album sales for Geffen Records over the prior seven years. The very least Geffen could do was to commission a proper artist. In fact, simple black font on a white background would have looked better. That font they used in the end is just a little too close to comic sans for my liking.

But what of the music? This was the first compilation of the Geffen-era Aerosmith. As such, it’s essentially hit single after hit single from their time in the glossy MTV era; all power-ballads and country-tinged rock. There are a couple of unreleased tracks – Walk On Water and Blind Man – along with Deuces Are Wild, a song from the soundtrack to The Beavis And Butt-Head Experience. Other than that though, the compilation is just a collection of their singles from Permanent Vacation right up to Get A Grip, their last studio album for Geffen. The singles from Done With Mirrors, the band’s first studio album for Geffen in 1985, are noticeably absent – probably due to space limitations and the fact that they hardly set the world on fire at the time.

Of the albums it does cover, the only singles it ignores are Hangman Jury ­– the first single from Permanent Vacation – and Shut Up And Dance, the sixth (sixth out of seven!) single from Get A Grip. Neither of these releases were supported by promotional videos, so therein lies the rub – this is just a collection of the songs from their hit MTV videos, a cynical way to sequence a compilation, if I’ve ever heard one. And unless I’m wrong, the video to Eat The Rich – included on this album – didn’t appear commercially until they released the video compilation of Big Ones.

On a side note, I recently saw the set list from the first time I saw Aerosmith, in 1993. Now either I’ve remembered things completely wrong, but the set list up on that website is incorrect. There’s no way on earth that they played so much ‘70s material at that show. Toys In The Attic, Back In The Saddle, Draw The Line, Last Child and Rats In The Cellar were NOT played that night.

One of my biggest gripes with the band – and believe me, there are many – was their seemingly steadfast refusal to play anything from the ‘70s (other than the ‘big three’ of Walk This Way, Dream On and Sweet Emotion) on the Get A Grip and Nine Lives tours, at least in Europe. It wasn’t until I saw them in the mid-2000s that I saw them play a decent amount of ‘70s material.

I was lucky enough to see the band play Mama Kin in Birmingham in 1997, but even that seemed like an afterthought because they had some time to spare at the end of their set (as they were preparing to leave the stage, I remember Joe Perry launching into the main riff, causing the rest of the band to run back to their instruments).

Hit: Love In An Elevator

Hidden Gem: Walk On Water

Rocks In The Attic #315: Various Artists – ‘Pulp Fiction (O.S.T.)’ (1994)

RITA#315What a soundtrack! Pulp Fiction came out in 1994 – the year I finished school – so I remember this soundtrack being the – erm – soundtrack to many parties over that summer. Whatever you might think of Tarantino’s films, his soundtracks can’t be beaten for pulling together forgotten songs and giving them another chance in the sun.

Tarantino has definitely lost his way recently – Inglourious Basterds is simply a patronising wish-fulfilment fantasy for the Jews, Django Unchained does the same for African Americans – but Pulp Fiction is almost perfect. I remember hearing so much about it; I bought it on VHS the day it came out. I’d missed it at the cinema (although I did eventually see it on the big screen, on a special screening a few years later), but I just had to see it. I don’t think I had even seen the trailer at that point – just a snippet of the film, the Jack Rabbit Slims dance contest, on Barry Norman’s Film ’94.

This was when I used to work at Tesco, so after my shift I bought the video together with some chocolate with potato chips – and consumed the lot that night (as in the chocolate and potato chips at the same time). I haven’t eaten chocolate and potato chips at the same time since – it is a pretty weird taste, and I can’t remember who recommended it to me – but it’ll forever be linked to Pulp Fiction in my memory.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over that fluffed line when Amanda Plummer repeats her expletive-filled rant at the diners towards the end of the film (‘Any of you fucking pricks move and I’ll execute every motherfucking last one of you!’ becomes ‘Any of you fucking pricks move, and I’ll execute every one of you motherfuckers!’) – and I do think it is a mistake, regardless of any well-thought out theories out there (love your thinking, Realiction) – but I’m constantly reminded of it every time I hear the dialogue that opens the soundtrack.

I do like to think though, that if I ever did commit an armed robbery, I’d announce it in Tim Roth’s wonderfully understated “Everybody be cool – this is a robbery!”

Hit: Misirilou – Dick Dale & His Del-Tones

Hidden Gem: Bustin’ Surfboards – The Tornadoes

Rocks In The Attic #239: Terrorvision – ‘How To Make Friends And Influence People’ (1994)

RITA#239Terrorvision were one of four British rock bands that I followed avidly in 1994 and 1995 – alongside The Wildhearts, Skin and Therapy? I’ve always disliked that question mark at the end of that Irish band’s name. If I mention them at the end of a sentence, it immediately looks like I’m doubting myself. But yes, I’m pretty sure it’s them I’m talking about! I managed to meet all four of those bands except- sadly – The Wildhearts, who were my favourite contemporary band at the time.

This album was very important to me at the time of its release – if only in that it proved to me that rock music doesn’t always have be serious and glum. It was also nice to introduce the album – and its big single, Oblivion – to my guitar teacher, who really got off on the jazzy Major 7 chords that guitarist Mark Yates peppers throughout his playing. It’s full of great songs too – five very strong singles even – which always helps, and the album cover is fantastic.

Speaking of Mark Yates, me and a friend spotted him once after a gig in Bradford’s Rio nightclub. I went over to ask him if I could have a photo, and being more than a little drunk, I held the camera far too close to our faces. The flash blinded us, and it even knocked me over I was so unsteady on my feet.

Incidents involving cameras and Terrorvision seem to go together. At a record signing in Huddersfield, the band’s singer Tony Wright stopped me, holding up the queue behind me, to ask me about my camera – my second-hand Olympus Trip gifted to me by my parents. He was very excited to see such a nice camera. When I asked one of the band’s hangers-on to take a photo of me next to the band, she cut me out of the shot so all you can is my left ear. Excellent.

It seems like I did a lot of stupid things when I was a Terrorvision fan. It must have been the band’s zaniness rubbing off on me. At one gig in Leeds – just after I’d sold a spare ticket to a tout, queued up, been searched by the bouncers, and was walking into the venue – I felt my inside (denim!) jacket pocket, and had a slight panic attack. That day, I had walked into university with the firm intention of removing a road sign next to the building where my lectures were. We had named our covers band at the time – Primitive Street – after this road, so it only seemed right that I should remove the sign to decorate my bedroom, or our rehearsal room. Walking into the Terrorvision gig, I suddenly put my hands on the bulge next to my ribs – a huge nine-inch screwdriver I had taken to aid my act of road-sign theft – and wondered how on earth I’d not only managed to get through the rest of the day without noticing it was still in my pocket, but more importantly, how a trained bouncer had missed it when he searched me. I tried to keep out of trouble for the rest of the night, but it wasn’t hard to mosh with such a hard and heavy tool about my person: is that a screwdriver in your pocket or are you just far too excited to see this band? etc, etc.

Hit: Oblivion

Hidden Gem: Middleman

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