Tag Archives: 1977

Rocks In The Attic #632: Amen Corner – ‘Greatest Hits’ (1977)

RITA#632Greatest Hits can mean a lot of things. Some collections can cover decades, some much shorter. This disc represents the latter: twelve songs from a band that had a very short life, in that they only recorded across two years – 1968 and 1969.

Opening with the #1 single, (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice, things slip downhill quite suddenly with a cover of the Beatles’ Get Back. It’s not a bad cover – in fact, they re-imagine the song quite well from the original – but the prospect of a cover song as the second song on a Greatest Hits collection doesn’t bode well.

In fact, of the record’s twelve songs, another two are well-known covers – a more straightforward, yet sloppier, version of the Band’s The Weight that outstays its welcome, and a peaky version of the American Breed’s Bend Me, Shape Me – while the album’s final four songs are all live recordings. Surely this is the dictionary definition of scraping the barrel; but good on Immediate Records for trying.

Released in 1977 to benefit from frontman Andy Fairweather Low’s burgeoning solo career (and sideman to the likes of Eric Clapton and George Harrison), the album is a nice little nostalgia trip, and a snapshot of the band’s short life at the headier, and musically more interesting, end of the 1960s.

Hit: (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice

Hidden Gem: Get Back

Advertisements

Rocks In The Attic #602: Richard Einhorn – ‘Shock Waves (O.S.T.)’ (1977)

tp0004c_Double_Gate_Cover_onlyI don’t often buy soundtracks for films I’ve never seen – actually, that’s a lie, I do it all the time – but what I don’t seem to do is buy soundtracks for films I’ve never heard of. I saw this LP listed on Waxworks Records’ website when I was purchasing the newly re-released Evil Dead 2 soundtrack and was just blown away by the cover. It’s such a great image – I love it.

I tracked down the film and watched the film on Friday night. It manages to be both the best film I’ve ever seen about underwater Nazi zombies, and also one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

We open on a spot of narration over a sepia shot of SS Officers:

“Shortly before the start of World War II, the German High Command began the secret investigation into the powers of the supernatural.

Ancient legend told of a race of warriors who used neither weapons nor shields and whose superhuman power came from within the earth itself.

As Germany prepared for war, the SS secretly enlisted a group of scientists to create an invincible soldier.

It is known that the bodies of soldiers killed in battle were returned to a secret laboratory near Koblenz where they were used in a variety of scientific experiments.

It was rumoured that toward the end of the war, Allied forces met German squads that fought without weapons, killing only with their bare hands.

No-one knows who they were or what became of them, but one thing is certain: of all the SS units, there was only one that the Allies never captured a single member of.”

(Of course, Nigel Tufnel’s stage-introduction to Stonehenge almost ruins that last sentence – “No-one knows who they were… or…what they were doing…”).

After some brief opening credits, introducing Richard Einhorn’s ominous synth score, we then open on a fisherman and his young son bringing in their nets. The son spots a small rowboat drifting on the horizon. They motor over to it and find a young woman, visibly distressed and cowering under the seat (shades of another future film here, of a similar scene in Jaws 2).

Her story is then told in flashback. A group of tourists have charted a boat around the Bahamas. The boat and its crew are not entirely in the best condition. A strange astrological phenomenon occurs – the sun turns everything a peculiar shade of orange – but is never explained; the first hint at a truly terrible screenplay.

Both the crew and the tourists are concerned at this occurrence and the strange noises they keep hearing. At night, one of the crew members piloting the boat crashes alongside a huge ship he claims appeared out of nowhere and without any lights. They send up a flare, and see an old shipwreck in the distance.

RITA#602a.jpgWaking the next morning to realise that the boat is taking on water, the group decamp to a nearby island. They find a deserted hotel, and meet the island’s only inhabitant – Peter Cushing.

Cushing appears alarmed at the news of the shipwreck and runs out to see for himself. After spying the approaching zombies for himself, he returns to the group to give them the exposition we’ve all been waiting for.

Towards the end of the war, Cushing, an SS Commander in charge of the death squad prefaced in the film’s opening, escaped Europe by sea, eventually ending up in the Carribean. He sank the ship, with the zombie soldiers still aboard, and took up residence on the island. The boat hitting the wreck has woken up the soldiers, who are now emerging from the water and making their way to the island.

It’s great to see a ­New Hope­-era Peter Cushing in a small, but pivotal role.  He looks so wiry and inhuman that he makes the Rogue One CGI version of himself look positively believable; I couldn’t get over the ‘uncanny valley’-ness of that in the cinema.

Terrible dialogue and acting aside, the one aspect where the film really works is in the shots of the zombies rising up from the sea. These sections look fantastic, and the rest of the film is hung around these moments like cheap wrapping paper around an expensive gift.

Characters are killed off one by one, and those who remain seem strangely unaffected by the deaths. In one scene, one of the tourists discovers the dead body of her husband, and doesn’t seem to be too upset. Yeah, don’t bother with naturalistic dialogue, just stick another scene of a Nazi emerging from the sea in his jackboots.

As with all horror films, the cast is whittled down to the Final Girl, who escapes the island in the rowboat in which we find her at the start of the film. Strangely the zombies are not defeated and are left roaming the island, awaiting the next 18 to 30 cruise liner to get beached there.

In the final shocking twist, we find the girl sitting up in a hospital bed writing up her account of the film’s events. Again foreshadowing a future film – Kubrick’s The Shining – we hear that she is repeating the same sentence over and over, and as the camera pans around we see that she isn’t writing at all, just scribbling indeterminately. SHE HAS LOST HER FREAKING MIND!

The film’s score is easily the best thing about the whole affair. I’m a sucker for a good synth score – and it’s great to see the soundtrack to Stranger Things welcoming this back into the zeitgeist – so I could have easily appreciated it without ever seeing the film. Give me that music, and Marc Schoenbach’s truly awesome artwork on the front cover, and I’m a very happy man.

Hit: Shock Waves (Opening Titles)

Hidden Gem: Zombie Chase

Rocks In The Attic #568: Percy ‘Thrills’ Thrillington – ‘Thrillington’ (1977)

RITA#568.jpgIn 1971, Paul McCartney had just recorded his second solo album, Ram (actually his third if you include his 1967 soundtrack to The Family Way). He had credited the record to ‘Paul and Linda McCartney’, to get around the publishing contract he had signed as a Beatle. Under that contract, any solo recordings he made until 1973 were owned by Northern Songs, so wisely he credited the album to himself and his wife.

It’s not surprising that McCartney was pleased with Ram; despite a fair bit of whimsy, it’s a massive improvement on his uneven debut solo record. If a comparison were to be made, you could argue that the melodies on Ram follow on from the more powerful moments of Abbey Road. However, where his contributions to the Beatles’ final recorded studio record were tempered with songs by John, George and even Ringo, Ram found McCartney writing and performing the whole thing by himself in fifth gear.

Before Ram was even released, McCartney had asked arranger Richard Anthony Hewson to orchestrate the whole record as a collection of light orchestral instrumental songs, intended for a separate release. Among the orchestra who played on these sessions at Abbey Road were the cream of the studio players of the day – James Bond Theme guitarist Vic Flick, bassist Herbie Flowers and drummer Clem Cattini.

The end result is an oddity. It is thought the indulgent project was undertaken to please his father, who played in bands of this nature during the First World War – but as Howard Sounes, author of Fab: An Intimate Life Of Paul McCartney, points out, ‘the record…sounds like incidental television music, with a soupcon of the tea dance’.

Following the release of Ram in May 1971, and the recording of the instrumental version in June 1971, Paul formed Wings alongside Linda, Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine and session drummer Denny Seiwell. As a result of this new direction, the instrumental Ram was shelved, and McCartney’s band went on to record and release Wild Life instead.

rita568a‘When Paul did finally put this off record out,’ Sounes writes, ‘he did so as quietly as possible under a pseudonym, titling the album Thrillington after an invented character named Percy ‘Thrills’ Thrillington “Born in Coventry Cathedral in 1939”. Somehow this wasn’t as amusing as Paul obviously thought it was.’

Thrillington finally saw the light of day in April 1977, released between 1976’s triple-live album Wings Over America and 1978’s London Town. While McCartney is pictured on the record’s rear cover as a reflection in the glass of the studio’s control room, and thus identifying him as the true producer of the album, Thrillington went largely unnoticed until McCartney revealed the connection during a 1989 press-conference. Following this admission, the record tripled in value and hasn’t been reissued on vinyl since its original release.

Hit: Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey

Hidden Gem: Smile Away

Rocks In The Attic #564: Third World – ‘96° In The Shade’ (1977)

rita560This record was rescued on my behalf from a charity shop by my father-in-law. I’m not sure why he picked it up, but I’m glad he did. When I first looked inside, the record was very dirty with mould and the signs of being stored away in the back of somebody’s garage for twenty or thirty years. I gave it the PVA glue treatment, and the record has turned out looking and sounding beautiful.

Third World are a bit of an oddity – a reggae band formed in Jamaica in 1973, but influenced by musical trends outside of their native country. So along that nice reggae groove, you can hear the likes of disco, soul and funk. It makes for a nick mix and as a result, they sound a little bit more international than their more famous musical cousins the Wailers. It’s difficult not to compare the two bands – in fact, Third World’s first big break came when they toured Europe, supporting the Wailers, after being picked up by Island Records.

One of my favourite things about this record is the band member’s profile photos on the rear cover. Only drummer Willie and bass player Richie have normal names. The rest of the band is comprised of Rugs on guitar and vocals, Ibo on keyboards, Cat on lead guitar, and best of all, Carrot on percussion.

Hit: 1865 (96° In The Shade)

Hidden Gem: Tribal War

Rocks In The Attic #520: Wells Fargo – ‘Scarred And Grey’ (1977)

rita520Sometimes when you come across an album in a stack of clearance records, and you see that it’s fully signed by the band, the fifty cent price-tag more than justifies the risk of taking it home.

Wells Fargo were a country band from the UK club circuit of the 1970s. They’re definitely not to be confused with the American bank or the Zimbabwean revolutionary rock band of the same name that were around in the same decade. This is nice, gentle music. It’s the sort of music that I would hear endlessly on weekends when I would be forced to follow my Mum around craft centres and art shops in the North West of England. The memories make the music sound like wool.

Hit: Southbound

Hidden Gem: Rainy Day Woman

Rocks In The Attic #462: The Clash – ‘The Clash’ (1977)

RITA#462.jpgMy love/hate relationship with the Clash continues. Re-released on Record Store Day’s Black Friday in 2015, I really only bought this because of the lovely split vinyl in white riot / Protex blue. It’s too good just to look at though.

One of the things I love about this debut album is the tracklisting versus the running time. Fourteen songs breeze past in thirty five minutes. What’s not to like about an album where the average running time is two minutes and fifty three seconds? If you don’t like a certain song, by the time you reached that decision, there’ll be another one coming around the corner in a matter of seconds.

I should like the Clash. They’re clearly the most talented of all the bands that came out of the punk movement in the UK. They can really play and they’re great songwriters, which you can’t say for a lot of the punk bands that got by on a mixture of attitude, nose rings and spit. It isn’t the band that’s to blame though for my apathy towards them, it’s the bloody fans.

Clash fans are one of the worst subcultures in music fandom. To Clash fans, the Clash are the beginning and end of everything. And don’t get me started on the deification of Joe Strummer. As part of a well-balanced musical diet, the Clash are a healthy pursuit, but moderation is everything and the Clash are really nothing more than the best of a bad bunch. Or are they something more? What am I missing?

Hit: White Riot

Hidden Gem: Police & Thieves

Rocks In The Attic #457: Marvin Hamlisch – ‘The Spy Who Loved Me (O.S.T.)’ (1977)

RITA#457.jpg“But James, I need you…”

“So does England!”

Cue disco music.

It’s a shame that one of the most iconic moments in Bond history is blighted with this turgid, pandering-to-the-times, piece of artificial bullshit titled Bond ’77. You think it couldn’t get any worse, but then halfway through Bond ’77 – and really, calling the song that just irks of self-importance as though everybody was waiting for the theme tune to be updated – we get a horn part. It’s not a horn part in the style of John Barry (who must be vomiting in the cinema aisle at this very moment); it’s a horn part in the style of K.C. & The Sunshine Band. Only worse.

Then old James’ parachute opens and it’s alright. Hamlisch’s delicate piano introduction kicks in and we get one of the better theme songs in the series, courtesy of Carly Simon. The rest of the soundtrack isn’t that bad actually. It’s always been one of my favourite Bond films, and would probably be my firm favourite if Barry was in the composer’s chair.

The first appearance of Jaws, the launch of a white Lotus Esprit off a jetty into the ocean, a super hot Bond Girl (the future Mrs. Ringo Starr), the fight sequences in Egypt and on Stromberg’s Atlantis; this film has everything. In fact, it’s the film where Roger Moore really hits his stride and becomes his own Bond. If Live And Let Die was a transitional film, and The Man With The Golden Gun was a film where his performance was too close to Connery’s, The Spy Who Loved Me finds Moore raising his eyebrows and filling the screen with his natural, smarmy charm.

And it would be sacrilege to discuss The Spy Who Loved Me without mentioning Alan Partridge’s take on the film.

Hit: Nobody Does It Better – Carly Simon

Hidden Gem: Ride To Atlantis