Category Archives: Vinyl Records

Rocks In The Attic #765: Labi Siffre – ‘Remember My Song’ (1975)

RITA#765British singer-songwriter Labi Siffre released ten albums of soul, jazz and funk between 1970 and 1998. A year later, a sample from the opening track of this, his fifth release, would be used as the basis for Eminem’s My Name Is. But it wasn’t the first time the song had been sampled by Hip Hop.

I Got The starts off as perhaps the greatest soul song ever. After just two verses and two passionate choruses calls of ‘You’re so good / The way you give / You’re so good / You’re the best there is’, the song stops and drastically changes course. A stop-start drum and bass groove takes over, providing the bed for a now-very familiar electric-piano riff. We’ve switched from soul to funk and the band are on fire.

I Got The will now forever be linked to Eminem, but the basic drum and bass groove had previously been lifted by the Wu-Tang Clan, and Jay-Z sampled the first section of the song a few years before Eminem and Dr. Dre came along. Nothing’s original under the sun. Or in Hip Hop.

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Remember My Song is a fantastic record. I Got The is clearly the stand-out track but The Vulture, the opening track on the flip-side, is also a stone-cold funk gem. It’s so good, it’s a surprise the album didn’t sell in higher numbers. Original copies are now very scarce, presumably snapped up by Hip Hop fans in the late ‘90s, but this Mr. Bongo reissue sounds great.

And what a backing band. Not only do we have Chas Hodges and Dave Peacock on guitar and bass – surely making this Chas & Dave’s greatest contribution to popular culture – but the lead guitarist and arranger of the album is Big Jim Sullivan – one of the most renowned session guitarists on the London scene in the 1960s (alongside Jimmy Page and Vic Flick).

Hit: I Got The

Hidden Gem: The Vulture

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Rocks In The Attic #764: Ladyhawke – ‘Ladyhawke’ (2008)

RITA#7642008 was a big year for me. I up-rooted sticks and flew to the other side of the world. When I got to that mysterious land of milk and honey (and pineapple lumps), a young singer-songwriter released her debut album just six months later.

Ladyhawke, or Pip Brown to give her real name, had a history of playing in art-rock bands both in her native New Zealand and across the ditch in Australia. She then released her self-titled debut, Ladyhawke, in September 2008, and it’s a pearler.

At the time I seem to remember it borrowed a fair bit from the Killers’ Hot Fuss, another record from the 2000s that I love to bits – similar art-rock moodiness, some lovely synth-work, and lots of singalong choruses. It has a foot firmly placed in the 1980s, with the other foot almost taking a futuristic leap into the 21st century. In the decade that has since passed following the record’s release, it seems to have improved with age. It feels like a forerunner of the synth-wave revival of the last five years; an album ahead of its time in some respects.

RITA#764aHit single My Delirium is a belter of a song, with a tricky pre-chorus that repeats on itself before launching into the chorus. It’s one of those songwriting quirks that might make you launch into the chorus early if you were singing it at karaoke after a few beers. It even caught Ladyhawke out when she reportedly fluffed the song, performing it at Halloween in Auckland following the single’s release. It’s such a good song that when my good friend Bucko visited New Zealand and went on a coach tour around the country, she was upset that My Delirium was chosen as the team song of the coach she wasn’t on. Her coach leader settled on a different, lesser song. For shame.

Unfortunately the album has been out of print on LP until very recently. This reissue is pressed on pristine white vinyl, has a great watercolour gatefold and comes with a beautiful colour booklet with lyrics and a couple of pages of concept art and photographs charting the original design. Until now I’ve only known the album digitally. It’s wonderful to rediscover it all again through my turntable.

I love this record. I have trouble separating it from my mindset in 2008 – a new life, in a new country with untold opportunities ahead. I’m pretty sure it should conjure up images of neon and cityscapes, but for me it’s the sound of sunshine, L&P, beaches, open roads and freedom. It screams NEW ZEALAND. Thank-you so much, Pip Brown.

Hit: My Delirium

Hidden Gem: Magic

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Rocks In The Attic #763: David Bowie – ‘Pinups’ (1973)

RITA#763I just saw Martin Scorsese’s new documentary, covering Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour of 1975 – 1976. I’m not much of a Dylan-head, so it was all new information to me. I’d seen pictures of him playing with a face painted white, but I had no idea what that was all about. And I was surprised to learn that Gene Simmons and Kiss were partly to blame!

Another surprise was spotting a post-Bowie Mick Ronson playing in Dylan’s tour band. I’m not much of a Bowie-head either, so I wasn’t sure what Ronson ended up doing after he left Bowie’s employ. Turns out he was a very busy boy, recording two solo albums and essentially becoming a gun for hire.

Ronson appears in the Scorsese film a couple of times, playing some blistering lead guitar on a couple of songs on stage, and can be glimpsed walking around backstage and in some of more interesting off-stage sections of the film. It really made me realise how much I miss seeing him strutting around with his Les Paul. It was sad to hear Joan Baez recount asking Ronson what Dylan thought of him, and Ronson replied ‘I don’t know; Bob’s never spoken to me’.

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The highlight of the Dylan film for me was seeing Joni Mitchell playing Bob and his entourage the song Coyote, which she had written for the tour. Bob half-heartedly joins in, and you can see his face almost drain at Joni’s use of non-standard tuning and funny chords. It’s the same look of despondency he throws at a pair of CBS records executives when he goes in to ask about them releasing Hurricane as a single (to draw attention to the false imprisonment of boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter). One executive immediately starts talking about markets and the possibility of airplay on black radio stations. Bob just doesn’t care and his face shows it.

My one very small criticism of Scorsese’s film relates to the only time I’ve seen Dylan play. At the end of the film, in the run-up to the credits, each of Dylan’s tour dates since the Rolling Thunder tour are listed, separated by year. I paused the 2018 list to have a look at the date I saw him play, in Auckland. Not only is the concert listed against an incorrect date, but it’s also attributed to Brisbane, New Zealand – an imaginary combination of locations in the Pacific. Jeez, Scorsese is such a hack director!

Pinups is probably the Bowie album I know the least from his early glam period. I don’t know why; I think I just avoided it in my youth simply for being a covers record. Whenever I do listen to it though, I really enjoy it. It’s nice to see the kind of mainly London-esque material that was making Bowie tick at the time – The Who, The Pretty Things, Pink Floyd, Them, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Mojos, The Easybeats and The Merseys. It’s actually a bloody strong LP, finding Bowie having a lot of fun, backed by Ronson and bass player Trevor Bolder from the Ziggy Stardust / Aladdin Sane albums, and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. Nice to see Twiggy on the cover too.

Hit: Sorrow

Hidden Gem: Here Comes The Night

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Rocks In The Attic #762: Harry Manfredini – ‘Friday The 13th (O.S.T.)’ (1980)

tp0009c_SP_Gate_CoverAs well as watching all of the James Bond films in the run-up to next year’s Bond 25 , I’m also in the middle of watching the Friday The 13th films in order. I’ve seen them all before, multiple times, but it’s good to rewatch them as I’ve been listening to the great In Voorhees We Trust podcast, hosted by the very funny Matt Gourley and Paul Rust.

Friday The 13th has always been my favourite horror franchise. There’s just something more lovable about the series than the lame comedy-horror of the Nightmare On Elm Street sequels, or the dull-as-dishwater Halloween films after the brilliant third installment.

Jason Voorhees is just a lovable guy. He might be disfigured, wander around in the dark, and kill campers with a machete, but what a guy! He doesn’t limit the terror with wisecracks like Freddy Kreuger, and he’s far more animated than the passive Michael Myers. Although I don’t like the superpower qualities he adopts in the later sequels, it’s great to see Jason’s character develop through the first four films.

RITA#762aOf course, as every trivia expert knows, Jason isn’t the killer in the original Friday The 13th film. It’s his Mom. The matriarch of the Voorhees family, Pamela wears fisherman’s sweaters and looks a little like a menopausal Steven Tyler. The film opens on Camp Crystal Lake in the late 1950s, with Momma Voorhees as an unseen killer, in POV. She kills a pair of camp counselors who allowed her son Jason to drown while they had sex.

Enter plucky young hitchhiker Annie, on her way to Camp Crystal Lake. A intertitle informs us it is now the present day, AKA 1980. The camp is being re-opened for the summer, but Annie doesn’t get there. First, she meets Crazy Ralph, who warns her against going to the camp (“It’s got a death curse!”), and then she gets a lift from the POV killer who dispatches her in the woods.

Cut to camp, and we find the enterprising Steve Christy, who’s rushing to refurbish the camp before its first guests of the season arrive. He’s employed a team of young counsellors, including Bing Crosby’s son Harry, and Kevin Bacon, to fix up the place. Interspersed with these establishing scenes are shots of the killer, hiding behind trees, watching the counsellors in POV. It’s far less scary when you know it’s an old lady watching them. At this point, it’s important to note that Kevin Bacon cannot dive very well. Before he meets Mrs. Voohees, he almost kills himself with a belly-flop.

The killings start almost immediately without a chance for any character progression. Day turns into night and the counsellors get picked off one by one during a rainstorm. The murder scenes are great, aided by special-effects maestro Tom Savini, and do for campsites what Jaws did for beach-swimming five years earlier.

Harry Manfredini’s score has just enough innovation in it to sidestep any accusations that it takes a little too liberally from John Williams’ Jaws and Bernard Herrmann’s shower scene in Psycho. The repeated ‘Ki-ki-ki, Ma-ma-ma’ sound-effects, representing Jason’s pleas of ‘Kill her, Mommy’, are just brilliant and effortlessly lift the film’s sound-design above its contemporaries.

It’s a simple film; over as soon as it’s set up. And of course, the location is superb. I’m not sure if sequels were considered before its runaway success – it made $40 million in the U.S. alone, from a $500,000 budget – but the location easily allows for subsequent films, as new, unknowing victims turn up at the camp each summer.

In the episode of the In Voorhees We Trust podcast which covers this film, Matt Gourley and Paul Rust debate whether or not the title card, at the top of the film, flies into view and breaks the camera lens or the viewer’s screen – or whether it’s supposed to be a mirror breaking, as per the film title’s link to superstition. Rewatching it, I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be the lens of the camera, although it’s a missed opportunity for the film not to reference the theme of superstition a little more:

Final Girl: Oh, Mrs. Voorhees, what a pretty black cat you’re holding.

Pamela Voorhees: Oh yes, dear, I’ve just come from my Amateur Dramatics class where we’re rehearsing the Scottish Play…or should I say…Macbeth!

Final Girl ducks out of the way, under an open ladder, as Stevie Wonder’s Superstition plays over the soundtrack.

And speaking of Mrs. Voorhees, I fully agree with Gourley and Rust that she would have been soliloquising with each character, refining her back-story down to a tight-five, before murdering them.

Pamela’s head rolls, as do the credits, and the only thing missing is a post-credit sequence with Crazy Ralph grinning at the camera, joyfully exclaiming “Called it!”

Hit: Overlay Of Evil / Main Title

Hidden Gem: Banjo Travelin’

Body Count: 10

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Rocks In The Attic #761: John Barry – ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (1969)

RITA#761I’m currently counting down the months until the release of Bond 25 by watching all of the previous 24 films, in order of release. I have a fellow Bond nut and Facebook friend to thank for the idea; it’s given me a good excuse to watch two Bond films a month. Watching the films in order is also pretty rewarding as you get to see the character and the franchise progress over the decades.

Having recently watched On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, it’s amazing to see how well it stands up to its neighbouring films in the canon. 1967’s You Only Live Twice found Sean Connery tired of playing James Bond; the culmination of a run of films more and more reliant on gadgets and special effects. Connery’s return to the character, in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, found him again sleepwalking through the role in a film that was very hard to take seriously.

OHMSS is undoubtedly a stronger film than both. It tries to ground the action, without the reliance on gadgets and special effects. This is something the franchise would repeatedly do every time the films started to cross into the realms of implausibility – the serious tone of For Your Eyes Only followed the space-farce of Moonraker, the overtly-political backdrop of The Living Daylights tried to get back to basics after Roger Moore’s aged swansong in A View To A Kill, and Casino Royale successfully rebooted the franchise after the invisible car and messy CGI of Die Another Day. Shudder.

Up to this point, only three directors had helmed Bond films – Terence Young, Guy Hamilton and Lewis Gilbert. For OHMSS, the producers turned to a member of the production team who had made an indelible contribution to the series since its inception: editor Peter Hunt.

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Hunt had effectively invented the pace of modern action film editing, particularly with a technique he called crash-cutting. Realising that audiences didn’t need to see slow, irrelevant shots of scenes that added nothing and slowed the pace of the film – the protagonist walking down a set of stairs, for example – Hunt cut them, relying on the audience to fill in the blanks, thereby keeping the action flowing. He deployed the form first in 1962’s Dr. No – although that film does feature its fair share of shoe-leather, particularly in the travelog scenes of Connery walking through the airport in Jamaica – before perfecting the technique in From Russia With Love the following year.

Hunt had proved himself as second-unit director in ‘67’s You Only Live Twice, and so the producers took a chance on him to call the shots as director on the next film in the series. Luckily for Hunt, he wasn’t the producer’s riskiest proposition. After five films, Connery had departed, leaving the role in the untested hands of Australian male model George Lazenby.

RITA#761a.pgLazenby had never acted before, aside from TV commercials, but secured the role through sheer charm and charisma. He sought out, and made the use of, Connery’s tailor and barber, and presented himself to the producers, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, fully dressed as Bond. Originally offered a contract for seven films, he decided during the filming of OHMSS – on the strength of bad advice from his agent – to only film one. Bond films were too square and represented The Man, he thought. The emerging New Hollywood of Easy Rider, The Graduate and Bonnie And Clyde was surely the way forward.

It’s definitely strange to see another actor play 007. All of the other Bond actors played the character over at least two films, and without a follow-up film it’s hard to imagine what Lazenby might have added to the franchise. His overly-chiselled features might have seemed less stark in the neon lighting of Diamonds Are Forever, and maybe his campy charm and strange accent would have suited that film better.

RITA#761bDespite Lazenby’s inexperience, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service remains a cinematic masterpiece. It’s the first film in the series to go out of its way to look truly beautiful, mainly due to the cinematography of Michael Reed (something that hasn’t escaped the recent attention of fellow director Steven Soderbergh). Reed’s framing of shots raises the film above its predecessors, and we wouldn’t see another artistic-looking Bond film until director Marc Forster and cinematographer Roberto Schaefer’s work on 2008’s Quantum Of Solace.

Of course, the one element of the film that raises it above its contemporaries is the wonderful score by John Barry. This might just be the peak of Barry’s Bond work; a score so strong, he decided on using an instrumental over the now-familiar opening credits. It’s a score that screams cinema.

Hit: We Have All The Time In The World

Hidden Gem: Ski Chase

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Rocks In The Attic #760: Bo Hansson – ‘Lord Of The Rings’ (1972)

RITA#760Ah, the fantasy genre. The truly awful middle-ages have never appeared as good as they have in the last fifty years.  Books, films and television shows have glamorised these times, adeptly sidestepping the harsh realities of living in filth; a time when all food tasted like dirt and the average mortality rate was something like twelve years old.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy remains the genre’s high-water mark, of course, represented here by some lovely organ work by Swedish prog-botherer Bo Hansson. Before Peter Jackson’s film series in the early 2000s, and aside from a 1978 animated film, Tolkien’s work was only really visible through the imagined art of John Howe and Alan Lee.

Hansson’s Lord Of The Rings album adds to that work as a quasi-soundtrack, inspired by Tolkien’s writing and acting as an aural backdrop to the events of the books. As you might expect, it doesn’t sound a million miles away from the likes of Genesis records from around the same time. It’s the sort of music you might expect to hear in a shop that sells crystals and incense, run by a bra-less lady in her sixties.

Peter Jackson reintroduced Tolkien to the world, and gave the fantasy genre a commercial shot in the arm. This renewed interest in the anything-goes optimism of medieval times has led, of course, to the success of Game Of Thrones, both on television and in the writings of author George R.R. Martin. To be taken seriously in fantasy writing, it looks like you need to have two middle initials. One wonders whether the Yellow Pages’ fly-fishing book would have sold in greater quantities, and therefore been easier to find, if J.R. Hartley had had another middle name.

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The Game Of Thrones TV show recently concluded. After eight seasons of soap-opera level dialogue scenes, interspersed by the occasional action sequence, it’s finally over. I won’t have to hear people go on and ON about it anymore. All of these people, who have probably never seen The Wire, Band Of Brothers, or The Sopranos – or in some cases, not even Breaking Bad – will no longer bore me daily with their opinion that Game Of Thrones is television’s greatest achievement.

I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed this eighth and final season. The budgets have matched those you’d expect from feature films, and the long-separated main characters finally came together to fight a mutual enemy. If it had been like this throughout the show, I would have enjoyed it a lot more, but on the whole it’s been a long, ponderous show.

The first season was enjoyable, particularly the first episode reuniting The Full Monty’s Sean Bean and Mark Addy. It all fell apart after that, as the storylines drifted further and further apart. Most of the show’s fans seem to miss the point too, thinking that the show is about dragons and battles and the quest to sit on an iron throne. It’s not. It’s simply about a family that gets split up by the greed and bureaucracy of another family. Anything else is just dressing.

More than anything, the show was perfectly timed to cash-in on the young fans of the Harry Potter series, those annoying middle-class children who grew up immune to the derivative nature of J.K. Rowling’s books and their respective film adaptations, and were left adrift with nothing in popular culture to capture their attention. These children spent their adolescence in a time when science-fiction was in decline and Hollywood had almost killed off the traditional action genre. Suddenly, fantasy was king.

The other low point of Game Of Thrones was its unashamed use of sex to attract new, younger fans. This isn’t a new thing – even Homeland, a more serious (grown up?) show that ran over the same period, had more than its fair share of tits on display in its first season. Game Of Thrones seemed to relish in its portrayal of the female body though. You have to wonder how many of its hardcore fan-base came to the show primarily for this; came for the clunge, stayed for the dragons.

Hit: Leaving Shire

Hidden Gem: The Old Forest

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Rocks In The Attic #759: John Bird – ‘The Collected Broadcasts Of Idi Amin’ (1975)

RITA#759This parody LP by John Bird – later of Bremner, Bird & Fortune – treads a fine line between satire and racism. Based on columns Bird wrote for Punch magazine, the record pokes fun at the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the guise of radio broadcasts by the man himself.

Given that Amin killed hundreds of thousands of people, the lampooning seems innocent enough. But then, just before the bouncy pop song Amazin’ Man, Bird (as Amin) has trouble counting the song in – “One…two…oh no, what come after two…….[very long pause]……..five” – and then it loses me. It suddenly becomes a white man, pretending to be a black man, having difficulty counting.

RITA#759aWhile I’m sure John Bird would defend this as a reference to Amin’s poor education (he left school after only four years), it seems a cheap, low blow for a man who ultimately become a high-brow political satirist.

Hit: Amazin’ Man

Hidden Gem: Gunboat Dipperlomacy