Tag Archives: Bill Hicks

Rocks In The Attic #857: Bill Hicks – ‘Revelations – Live In London’ (1993)

RITA#857I try not to get offended about things. Most of the time, I don’t let things get to me. I don’t think I’ve ever been offended by something that a comedian has said on stage. They’re just jokes, and even the ones that are designed to offend are usually admirable in how well they’ve been crafted.

Even the likes of Frankie Boyle and Jimmy Carr – two comedians who have a no-nonsense, offensive streak to their act – are comedy heroes of mine. They might make a joke about paralympians or the holocaust, or any number of taboo topics, but it’ll still make me laugh. The joke itself is usually funnier than its subject.

It’s a dangerous game though. Where do you draw the line? And who decides on what subjects are off-limits? Only last night I made a joke about Phil Spector, the famous record producer, in a Facebook thread. I was told my joke was in very bad taste, and yet the individual defending him seemed to be completely unaware – or in disbelief – of the fact that Spector is a convicted murderer.

RITA#857bI recently heard a BBC Radio 4 special called Ellie Taylor’s Safe Space (synopsis: ‘Stand-up Ellie Taylor airs her controversial opinions in her Safe Space’). I like Ellie Taylor; she can regularly be seen with Nish Kumar on The Mash Report, and has appeared on the likes of Live At The Apollo and Mock The Week. She’s a great comedian and, like Boyle and Carr, specialises in making light of offensive subjects.

Interspersed with her stand-up routine in the show were segments where Taylor would interview audience members and ask them about any controversial opinions they might have. The amnesty mined generally inoffensive points of view; unpopular opinions rather than offensive ones. For example, the first audience member thought that ‘Game Of Thrones / Breaking Bad – i.e. the best shows in the last ten years – are really not as good as they’re said to be’. As I said: unpopular but not offensive.

But one audience-member’s opinion did get my attention. Remember, this is coming not only from a Radio 4 listener, but one so involved with the station that they will seek tickets to, and then attend, the filming of one if its shows.

Mr. Val Jennings’ opinion was that ‘For those who can afford it – particularly people who happily subscribe to Sky, Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc – the license fee should be increased.’ When Taylor asked Jennings if he subscribed to any of these services, he replied with ‘No. The license fee is perfectly adequate for everything you need.’ He then suggested that those people should pay an additional £20 per year for their BBC license fee. The audience grumbled; I would have shouted ‘Bullshit!’

RITA#857aWho made this guy the arbiter of what content is suitable and not suitable for people? It has to be mentioned that Breaking Bad – generally regarded, as above, as one of the best shows in the last ten years – was never originally broadcast on British television. You had to subscribe to Sky to watch it. One of the freeview channels, 5USA, broadcast the second season in 2011, but didn’t pick up any of the subsequent seasons. You either had to buy or rent the DVDs, or wait until the launch of Netflix in 2012 to see the rest of the show.

Val’s argument – that the content offered by BBC radio and television through its license fee is perfectly adequate – seems to dismiss all content that is not offered through these channels. It sounds like the sort of argument a similarly-minded person would have made when television was inaugurated in the 1930s: ‘The wireless is perfectly adequate for everything you need.’

I’ve never been so offended in my life.

Hit: He Had A Gun

Hidden Gem: Put ‘Em In The Movies

RITA#857c

Rocks In The Attic #838: Bill Hicks – ‘Rant In E-Minor: Variations’ (2016)

RITA#838The first thing I ever heard about Bill Hicks was the title of his fourth comedy album, Rant In E-Minor. I was reading one of the music magazines – Mojo or Q, or something like that – back in 1994, and Phil Jupitus was being interviewed about his favourite albums. He chose Rant In E-Minor purely for its superb title (because surely everybody knows that Relentless is Bill’s best from those original four Rykodisc albums). It is a great title; possibly the greatest for a comedy album, especially for one so angry.

This release by Comedy Dynamics, for Record Store Day 2016, represents the very first of Bill’s work to be released on vinyl. It’s an expanded and unedited version of the Rant In E-Minor album, minus Bill’s musical interludes from the original release. Recorded at The Laff Stop in Austin, Texas in October 1993, the performance falls four months after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis, and just four months before his death at the age of 32.

RITA#838aMy only concern is that Bill’s best friend, Kevin Booth, who produced three of Bill’s four original albums, seems to have now been sidelined by the Hicks family (three of which are listed as producers on this release). I hope Kevin still has some skin in the game, and eventually gets to release those original albums on vinyl at some point.

In early 1995 Bill’s family released a brief essay that he had written a week prior to his death:

I was born William Melvin Hicks on December 16, 1961 in Valdosta, Georgia. Ugh. Melvin Hicks from Georgia. Yee Har! I already had gotten off to life on the wrong foot. I was always “awake,” I guess you’d say. Some part of me clamoring for new insights and new ways to make the world a better place. All of this came out years down the line, in my multitude of creative interests that are the tools I now bring to the Party. Writing, acting, music, comedy. A deep love of literature and books. Thank God for all the artists who’ve helped me. I’d read these words and off I went—dreaming my own imaginative dreams. Exercising them at will, eventually to form bands, comedy, more bands, movies, anything creative. This is the coin of the realm I use in my words—Vision. On June 16, 1993 I was diagnosed with having “liver cancer that had spread from the pancreas.” One of life’s weirdest and worst jokes imaginable. I’d been making such progress recently in my attitude, my career and realizing my dreams that it just stood me on my head for a while. “Why me!?” I would cry out, and “Why now!?” Well, I know now there may never be any answers to those particular questions, but maybe in telling a little about myself, we can find some other answers to other questions. That might help our way down our own particular paths, towards realizing my dream of New Hope and New Happiness. Amen. I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.

Hit: Fevered Egos

Hidden Gem: Confession Time (Cops)

RITA#838b

Rocks In The Attic #352: Van Morrison – ‘Astral Weeks’ (1968)

RITA#352I was driving around once, looked in my rear view mirror and saw Van Morrison sat on my back seat. I then remembered that mirrors reverse everything, and it was just a Morrisons Van following me.

I’m starting to appreciate this album as I get older. It’s the same with things like Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue – when you listen to albums like these as a young man, they don’t resonate as much. Maybe you just have to listen to a certain quantity of music – maybe a certain quantity of inferior or mediocre music – for your brain to reach a valid comparison.

One of my heroes is the late comedian Bill Hicks, and I read once that Astral Weeks was the album he would listen to, over and over again, in the final stages of his battle against pancreatic cancer. It’s an album that’s designed to be played repeatedly – a cycle of songs that makes more and more sense together the more you listen to it.

Aside from his tenure in Them (and their superlative version of Baby Please Don’t Go – with a little help from Jimmy Page), this is my favourite era of Van Morrison. I’m not really a fan of the forced jazz of Moondance, and I think I might tear my own eyeballs out if I ever hear Brown Eyed Girl one more time. Most importantly though, I’m not a fan of what Van Morrison has become.

Whenever I see him these days, such as in the Red, White & Blues episode of Martin Scorsese: The Blues, he’s almost unrecognisable. He’s a big bear of a man, usually dressed in clothes that wouldn’t go amiss on a 1970s black pimp called Big Daddy, with a face so bloated that you can’t actually make out any of his features anymore. He looks like somebody’s driver.

Van Morrison, Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart should form a vocal supergroup called ‘WTF Happened?’

But which musicians should join them?

Hit: The Way Young Lovers Do

Hidden Gem: Beside You

Rocks In The Attic #300: Various Artists – ‘Dazed And Confused (O.S.T.)’ (1993)

RITA#300Rocks In The Attic turns 300!

Not only a great film, Richard Linklater’s Dazed And Confused also has a killer soundtrack – probably the one soundtrack that has had the greatest influence on the rest of my record collection. I’ve waited a long to get this on vinyl, and finally on Record Store Day this year it was released to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary. I had to get it shipped over from the USA by my local record store, but it was worth the wait. It’s a double vinyl, and – to borrow a line from the film, “…it’s green too!”

I first heard about Dazed And Confused on my daily walk to school when I was 15. My good friend Ant used to do the same walk – through the fields behind my parents’ house that are no longer fields (they’re a housing estate), past the Elk mill that’s no longer a mill (it was demolished to make way for a retail centre) – and onto Clayton playing fields towards North Chadderton school.

On these walks, Ant would tell me about stuff he’d picked up from his brother. I owe my love of Bill Hicks to Ant and his brother – and I also owe my love of Dazed And Confused to them. Ant probably lent me their VHS copy of the film, but it wouldn’t be long until I acquired my own copy, and played it many, many time over the next few years into my late teens. I’d take this film to University with me, and turn lots of my friends onto it over the years.

On paper, Dazed And Confused doesn’t sound very interesting. It’s the story of high-school kids in Texas on their last day of school, but nothing really happens. There’s very little plot – just a lot of good music and more of a feeling about the time and place rather than any tangible storyline. But that’s probably true of a lot of youth films – Quadrophenia, The Breakfast Club, American Graffiti, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, etc.

Other than the killer soundtrack, the film also boasts an impressive cast of actors before they hit the big time – Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, Renée Zellweger, Parker Posey and Adam Goldberg all pop up in small but memorable roles.

But let’s talk about the music. I must have bought the soundtrack on CD as soon as I saw it, and it became the soundtrack to my summer of 1995. It’s fourteen tracks of rock music – some of which was already familiar to me – Sabbath’s Paranoid, ZZ Top’s Tush, Alice Cooper’s School’s Out – but it introduced me to a whole lot more.

For me, the soundtrack acted as a sampler – it turned me onto Ted Nugent’s first solo album, Skynyrd’s debut album and deepened my love of early ZZ Top. The second iteration of the soundtrack – Even More Dazed And Confused – even showed me that it’s okay to like Frampton Comes Alive!.

In fact, I love that second CD as much as the first. I remember being at a party at Palatine Road in Manchester and using Moo’s knowledge of Bob Dylan to collectively figure out why two of the film’s songs wasn’t included on either CD – Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion and Dylan’s Hurricane are both on the Columbia record label, so there must have been some conflict of interest with The Medicine Label who brought out the soundtrack albums.

It’s almost criminal that the Aerosmith track isn’t included on the soundtrack – it’s the song that opens the film! I hear this was a last minute substitution though, after Robert Plant wouldn’t allow Linklater to use the Zeppelin song of the film’s name over those opening credits. Perhaps they just didn’t have time to think about whether they’d be able to clear Sweet Emotion for the soundtrack album.

There are a lot of hidden gems on this album. For one, the slow-burn of Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold reminds me of cruising around in a pale yellow Nissan Stanza with Stotty and Bez on Friday and Saturday nights. Good times!

Hit: Slow Ride – Foghat

Hidden Gem: Low Rider – War

Rocks In The Attic #283: Jasper Carrott – ‘Jasper Carrott Rabbitts On And On And On’ (1975)

RITA#283I used to like watching Jasper Carrott on TV when I was growing up. He’s hardly the most cutting-edge comedian around, but I guess that’s why he was so popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s – his material was generally safe for all ages.

At some point in the last ten years or so, I caught one of his programmes on the BBC and I couldn’t believe how safe and – worst of all – broad his material was. I can remember him being much funnier back in the day, or is that simply a case of relativity? When I was growing up, my only exposure to comedy was on TV – and compared to some of the performers on there, Carrott was doing his own thing. He spoke in a regional accent – Solihull brummie – and dealt almost exclusively in observational comedy. I can imagine how refreshing it would have been in the UK when Billy Connolly and Jasper Carrott turned up, breathing fresh air into a stale comedy circuit.

Throughout my teens I was exposed to cutting-edge comedians of the early ‘90s – mainly British, but then Americans like Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison and Dennis Leary – and suddenly Jasper Carrott didn’t seem as funny anymore.

Hit: Magic Roundabout

Hidden Gem: Tribute To Eric Idle My Idol