Tag Archives: vinyl

Rocks In The Attic #781: Various Artists – ‘Easy Rider (O.S.T.)’ (1969)

RITA#781Peter Fonda died on the weekend. The original Captain America from 1969’s New Hollywood hit Easy Rider, he co-wrote the film alongside Terry Southern and director and co-star Dennis Hopper. It almost seems like fate that Fonda would pass away on the weekend of the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock festival. You’d be far pushed to find a more appropriate icon of that period in American counterculture.

All weekend I listened to WXPN’s live stream of the ’69 Woodstock festival, aired as close to ‘real time’ as possible, including all of the stage announcements and weather delays. It seemed to be streaming about 24 hours ahead of time, as they were streaming it by date rather than sticking to the Friday to Monday morning timeframe. Still, it was great to tune in to listen to most of the sets.

RITA#781aNot only were there quite a lot of forgettable acts early on in the festival, it also sounded very chaotic with the stage announcements offering a glimpse at the bedlam going on between sets. Lost thyroid pills and lost people, broken limbs, bad brown acid to avoid, and hitchhikers hoping to get back into the car they arrived in to get their ‘medication’. The coming of the huge storm minutes after Joe Cocker’s set sounded like the end of times.

Of the dozens of bands who missed out or turned down playing the festival, the funniest story is surely that of Iron Butterfly. Stuck at an airport, they sent a telegram to the festival: ‘We will arrive at LaGuardia / You will have helicopters pick us up / We will fly straight to the show / We will perform immediately / And then we will be flown out.’ Production co-ordinator John Morris sent a telegram back in reply: ‘For reasons I can’t go into / Until you are here / Clarifying your situation / Knowing you are having problems / You will have to find / Other transportation / Unless you plan not to come.’ The first letter of each line of his acrostic reply spelled out his true feelings.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Easy Rider. It’s one of those films that obviously needed to happen, as an important stepping stone in wrestling power away from the studios and into the hands of writers and directors, but as a piece of art I don’t think it’s dated terribly well. In fact, after the opening thrill of Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild, the rest of the picture is a bit of a slog. It probably works better when you’re high?

But if this film opened the door and led to Coppola making The Godfather, or Friedkin making The Exorcist, and ultimately to Spielberg’s Jaws and Lucas’ Star Wars, then it’s more than alright by me.

Hit: Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf

Hidden Gem: The Pusher – Steppenwolf

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Rocks In The Attic #780: Elmer Bernstein – ‘Ghostbusters (O.S.T.)’ (1984)

RITA#780Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night? Do you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic? Have you or your family ever seen a spook, spectre or ghost? If the answer is ‘yes’ then don’t wait another minute. Pick up the phone and call the professionals…

After a pre-order three months ago, and eight subsequent status-update emails from Amazon, it’s great to finally hold this in my hands. Thirty-five years after its original release in cinemas, the soundtrack score to Ghostbusters by Elmer Bernstein is finally available on vinyl.

From that first electronic flutter (played on a Yamaha DX7 synth) heard over the grainy Columbia Pictures logo, this score is part of my musical DNA. It’s as seminal to my upbringing as John Williams’ big-five (Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and E.T.), Alan Silvestri’s Back To The Future, Dave Grusin’s Goonies and John Barry’s landmark Bond scores.

Just like those soundtracks, it’s easy to visualise the film when listening to Bernstein’s Ghostbusters score. Not only are the image and music melded together perfectly, it also helps when you’ve seen the film hundreds of times. There are a couple of unused cues on the soundtrack that are a little jarring (and perhaps should have been collected towards the end of the release), and I would have liked the first track to have been Library, as per the film (rather than the main Ghostbusters Theme, which again could have been collected at the end), but these are just superficial gripes about a superb release.

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My favourite of many musical moments is the end of the track News, which segues into the beginning of Judgement Day. In the film, this is used to soundtrack the conversation between Ray and Winston as they drive through the night after a busy day ghostbusting. It’s a rare moment of quiet, of serious reflection, in an otherwise comical film, and I’ve always liked that Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote the scene for Ernie Hudson’s character – the ‘everyman’ archetype of the piece.

In terms of the package itself, the score is presented by Sony Classical as a double LP, on clear discs with slime green centres. The sleeve is a really nice, squidgy card-stock, similar to the type used by Brookvale Records on their From Dusk Till Dawn release from 2016.

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There’s been a fair bit of criticism online around the imagery used for the sleeve – the cover is the classic Ghostbusters logo (with the white ghost inverted from the version used on the original 1984 pop soundtrack), and the images on the gatefold and rear cover are straightforward stills from the film. Boutique soundtrack labels like Waxwork and Mondo have raised the game in terms of design, so this release feels a tad undercooked in this department.

The 4-panel photo booklet contained within the set features more images from the film, and includes liner notes from Elmer Bernstein’s son Peter, alongside full orchestra credits – something I always like to see on soundtrack releases.

Ray, has it ever occurred to you that maybe the reason we’ve been so busy lately is ’cause the dead HAVE been rising from the grave? ……….How ’bout a little music?

Hit: Ghostbusters Theme

Hidden Gem: News

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Rocks In The Attic #779: Various Artists – ‘FM (O.S.T.)’ (1978)

RITA#779Is there a worse film with such a great jukebox soundtrack? I don’t know what went on with the production of this film, but they managed to amass a who’s who of AOR tracks – courtesy of many different record labels – on the soundtrack.

It’s amazing to see the ident of the film studio, and the opening credits roll over a Steely Dan track. Their title track is one of the band’s only tracks not to appear on any of their studio albums, and serves as a great reason to own this soundtrack. Within the bands discography, it falls between the recording of 1977’s Aja and 1980’s Gaucho. The instrumental reprise of the title track, unavailable anywhere else, makes it essential for any diehard Steely Dan fan.

The plot of the film – a hit radio station staffed by a plucky bunch of rebels, faced with interference from their corporate owners – is about as interesting as the trade dispute storyline from The Phantom Menace.

The cast – of mostly unknowns – aren’t particularly bad, or unlikable, it’s just that the story is so damn uninteresting. It plays more like a soap opera than a feature film, and the claustrophobia of the radio station offices is really only punctured by two concert performances, by Jimmy ‘Great Spread’ Buffett and Linda Ronstadt.

RITA#779aWhat a corker of a soundtrack though. Alongside the Dan’s FM, we also get their groovy Do It Again, the Eagles’ Life In The Fast Lane, Foreigner’s Cold As Ice, the Doobie’s It Keeps You Runnin’, the Steve Miller Band’s Fly Like An Eagle, Tom Petty & The Heartbreaker’s Breakdown, Queen’s We Will Rock You and the full 8-minute cut of Joe Walsh’s Life’s Been Good To Me. It really is the American Graffiti of late ‘70s rock music. My only criticism is that it’s comprised entirely by white singers and bands, and I can’t imagine any radio station in the late 1970s being so blind to African-American artists.

In fact, the hits come so thick and fast, the film feels more like a 2-hour trailer for a much better film, given how used we are to hearing big songs flip between one to another so rapidly. It’s just a shame the film doesn’t live up to the quality of the music.

No static at all, but a whole load of white noise.

Hit: More Than A Feeling – Boston

Hidden Gem: FM Reprise – Steely Dan

Rocks In The Attic #778: Zero 7 – ‘Simple Things’ (2001)

RITA#778I love this record. It’s a beautiful slice of soulful downbeat electronica from 2001, and a chilled-out companion-piece to Bent’s Programmed To Love from 2000, or Air’s Moon Safari from 1998.

Those chill-out years, around the end of the ‘90s and the early 2000s, really produced some classic albums – far superior to what was happening in rock music at the time. It didn’t last long though, with the Strokes and the White Stripes creating a new back to basics blueprint for rock music that still resonates today. Coldplay even set the foundation for their meteoric rise with one foot firmly in the chill-out genre on their sublime 2000 debut Parachutes.

I introduced Zero 7’s Simple Things to my wife-to-be soon after we started dating, and it’s full of happy memories as a result. It’s the sound of long Sunday drives, or the soundtrack to early morning city streets when there’s nobody around, or the anticipation of a roast dinner cooking in the oven. Who needs drugs when you’ve got Yorkshire Puddings?

Hit: Destiny

Hidden Gem: I Have Seen

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Rocks In The Attic #777: Charles Bernstein – ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street (O.S.T.)’ (1984)

RITA#777Facebook recently reminded me of something great that happened a couple of years ago. One day, my wife – who is about as far from a horror fan as somebody could be – came home with a new purchase from one of our local second-hand stores.

She walked into the house in a red and green sweater, without any awareness of who’s famous for wearing such an item of clothing, and said ‘What do you think?’.

“Looks great, Freddy,’ I told her, prompting a ‘Huh?’ in response.

To be fair, she took it in good humour. She even staged her own photo, using stainless steel knives as a makeshift claw, so I could send it into the humour column of New Zealand’s daily newspaper. She never wore the sweater again, and took it back the next day (which I really regret as I should have kept it for fancy dress, particularly if I ever had a really bad acne attack).

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The Nightmare On Elm Street series feels like such a wasted opportunity to me. The original film from 1984 is very creepy and genuinely scary in parts – from the girl sliding around the ceiling of her room, falling onto a bed of blood, to Johnny Depp and his TV set being sucked into his bed, and his bed spewing a fountain of blood. But then the sequels started, and the films got less and less scary, focusing more on the humour of Freddy Krueger’s character. It went from scary to ridiculous in just a couple of films.

This soundtrack to the first film, reissued here by Mondo in a lovely red and green ‘Freddy’s sweater’ vinyl, is a nice piece of work too. Turning away from the traditionally orchestral scores of slasher films of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Charles Bernstein opts for a suite of electronic music on the soundtrack. The main theme plays with lullabies and nursery rhymes, echoing the danger of the child-killer antagonist who kills teenagers in their sleep.

I was hoping that the 2010 remake would have put the films back on course, but it was thrillingly mediocre and Jackie Earl Hayley, that nice young boy from The Love Boat, missed an opportunity to really inhabit such a famous horror character. Apparently, another remake / reboot is on the cards. Let’s hope it gets back to the thrill of the 1984 original.

Hit: Main Title

Hidden Gem: Laying The Traps

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Rocks In The Attic #776: Booker T. & The MGs – ‘Soul Limbo’ (1968)

RITA#776The front cover of this record has always bothered me for looking a little bit, erm, rapey. The group are stood around under the boardwalk, ogling a pretty girl in a bikini. It gets worse on the back cover as the group are then show following the girl as she walks along the beach. The four cats in the band are all wearing sunglasses, but the poor quality of the photo makes it look like their eyes have been blanked out like on the cover of that AC/DC album. It reeks of a Crimewatch reconstruction.

Thankfully the record itself is very innocent, and chock full of choice instrumental cuts. Eleanor Rigby, Foxy Lady and Hang ‘Em High are the most well known covers, but it’s their original composition Soul Limbo that everybody’s here for. It’s the track that will forever be connected to the most boring sport in the word, but let’s not hold that against it. It’s such a bright and sunny song, a little funk masterpiece.

RITA#776bIn place of liner notes, this album – number seven for the band – includes a jokey multiple-choice test. Six questions with either obvious or amusing answers. My favourite is the first question: WHAT is the name of the number one instrumental group in America for 1967 / 1968 according to the annual BILLBOARD poll? The answers, alongside the real name of the band of course, are ‘Cornbread & The Crumbs’, ‘Jake And The Strawberries’ and ‘Horse And The Harnesses’.

Hit: Soul Limbo

Hidden Gem: Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy

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Rocks In The Attic #775: Michael Jackson – ‘Monsterjam’ (2017)

RITA#775I recently watched Quincy, the 2018 documentary about Quincy Jones, co-directed by his daughter Rashida Jones (with Alan Hicks). I was hoping it was going to be a feature-length episode about the Los Angeles medical examiner, but you can’t have everything.

Watching it, I was suddenly hit by the realisation that I’m not really a fan of Michael Jackson – I’m a fan of his partnership with Quincy Jones. I can take or leave most of Michael’s earlier material both with the Jacksons, and solo; and the same goes for most of his work after he stopped collaborating with Quincy, the 1930s-born producer who outlived him.

RITA#775aThose three classic albums – 1979’s Off The Wall, 1982’s Thriller and 1987’s Bad – are perhaps the perfect blend of artist and producer; maybe the greatest collaboration since Sir George Martin and the Beatles. Without Quincy, Michael would have continued making records; and vice versa. Neither would have had the same success though. Together, they made pure gold.

This unofficial release from 2017 is a lazy wedding DJ’s wet-dream: four 20-minute continuous mixes of the King of Pop’s hits over two LPs – one blue, one red. It’s a little Stars On 45 at times, but decent nevertheless.

Hit: Billie Jean

Hidden Gem: Scream