Tuesday, 3 May 2011

NEW BLOG IN TOWN

I discovered a brand new blog earlier today, and it's certainly one I'll follow with relish. Johnny Vincent - author of the wonderful "An Alternative Derby" - has decided to start a blog that continues his love affair with the music scene in Derby.
Early posts include mention of The Clash, The Damned and the Sex Pistols, which should give you an idea where Johhny's coming from.
My own relationship with live music began in 1977, and I look forward to following Johnny's coverage on what still is a very lively city as far as music is concerned.

Just click HERE!

Monday, 2 May 2011

THE GHOST

Scotland, 1910. As a storm rages outside, the house of Dr. John Hichcock (Elliot) plays host to a seance, increasing the Doc's obsession with the paranormal and causing further unrest among superstitious locals. Back in the cold light of day, it's the complicated, bustling arena of life before death that occupies the mind of this wheelchair-bound ex-practitioner as Dr. Charles Livingston (Baldwin) administers regular shots of curare; a brand of poison which Hichcock believes will re-awaken his dormant limbs. Throw unfaithful wife Margaret (Steele) into the mix, and we have a classic, cliche-ridden pot boiler where the husband is bumped off, only to return seeking vengeance fromn beyond the grave.

While it's true that Freda's sequel to THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK often treads a predictable path, it's an eventful journey as Freda juggles signposted plot twists with genuine surprises; particularly during a delicious closing act where Margaret attempts to turn the tables on her tormentor. Barbara Steele is simply terrific here, conducting a love affair with the camera lens in a manner approaching the late, great Soledad Miranda, and going through the full range of emotions to devastating effect. With solid support from Elliot, Baldwin and the excellent Harriet White Medin (who plays a housekeeper with a devious agenda), Steele consistently hits the high notes, suggesting Black Sunday may not be her finest hour after all.

It's worth pointing out THE GHOST is a little-seen and little-read about film, and while it's not representative of Riccardo Freda at his best, there's more than enough to satisfy even the most jaded fan of Gothic cinema. Look out for:
a bloody razor attack; a spine chilling exhumation; Harriet Medin's gut-wrenching possession and, best of all, a wonderful scene involving a wheelchair with a mind of its own which must have inspired Peter Medak's superior spooker, THE CHANGELING.

Friday, 29 April 2011

A TRIBUTE TO POLY STYRENE

I've always regarded certain bands as unsung heroes in the Punk movement. The Adverts, Chelsea, UK Subs, 999 and The Lurkers are just a few of the groups who delivered some great vinyl and exhilarating live performances while never quite receiving the recognition they deserved. X-Ray Spex were another of those bands, led by the wonderful Poly Styrene.

Marianne Elliot was born in 1957, and burst onto the music scene some 19 years later. Like many of our most revered punk artists, Poly became inspired to form a band after witnessing a Sex Pistols gig, and so X-Ray Spex were born.
In September 1977, their first single lit up the airwaves. "Oh Bondage Up Yours" with its wild, wailing saxophone and Poly's call-to-arms vocals, Bondage was a thrilling declaration of intent from what would turn out to be one hugely important band.
You name the event, and Spex seemed to be there. The Roxy, Front Row Festival and Rock Against Racism were just a few of the events graced by the group who picked up a loyal army of fans.

November 1978 saw the eagerly awaited debut album, "Germ Free Adolescents". Happily, this album lived up to expectations, with bags of attitude and some blistering music: just listen to "Identity" some 33 years on and it still packs a devastating punch.
In 1979, the band split up, with Poly releasing a solo album before joining the Hare Krishna movement. X-Ray Spex did reform a couple of times in the '90s, and released an album - "Conscious Consumer" - but an accident put paid to Poly's hopes of recording a trilogy of records based on her beloved theme of consumerism.
Happily, it was damn nigh impossible to quell her spirit, and a new album - "Generation Indigo" - came about as a result of a collaboration with former Killing Joke member Youth. It's an excellent album, too, with musical contributions from Youth,Culture and former Slits guitarist Viv Albertine.

Sadly, Poly Styrene lost her battle against cancer on 25th August. Like Joe Strummer, Poly was exactly the kind of person you think will go on forever. She was a true pioneering woman, and will be so very sadly missed and so very fondly remembered.

RIP and thanks for some great gigs and vinyl.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Sunday, 13 March 2011

15 FAVOURITE LIVE ACTS #4 (WTF?)

Yep, this is one of my WTF moments (there will be another later on).
While Lydon and his cohorts were declaring Anarchy In The UK, I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us listened to Abba on the fly, and for me, they were the perfect pop group with catchy tunes wedded to lyrics that at times could be devastating. Like millions of others, I never got to see them live, but was lucky enough to catch tribute band Bjorn Again on two occasions. They were the next best thing to the real deal, and I hope you enjoy this clip.

Friday, 4 March 2011

ON THE RADIO

Music lovers could do a lot worse than check out Blip.fm where you'll find a vast library of online music. There's something for everyone, whatever their tastes.

I opened a new radio station last week, including such bands as Joy Divison, Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, David Bowie, Sex Pistols, The Jam. Flamin Groovies, The Clash, Talking Heads, Television, Wire, Elvis Costello, The Banshees, Stiff Little Fingers, The Cramps, The Fall, Bauhaus and lots more.

You can check out my station by clicking HERE

Friday, 11 February 2011

EUGENIE DE SADE

"Pleasure is always at someone else's expense."


The late, great Soledad Miranda is joined by Franco regular Paul Muller for what is often cited as the most faithful celluloid adaptation of a Marquis De Sade tale. Based on the novella "Eugenie De Franval", Franco's take involves a most unsavoury relationship between Eugenie and her stepfather, Albert Radeck. In De Sade's story, their status was actually father and daughter, with a real sea change occuring on Eugenie's 14th birthday when Albert made her his mistress. Although Franco changed much of the original narrative - therefore falling well short of any claim pertaining to that 'most faithful' tag - his version is most certainly alive with the spirit of De Sade

The film begins as Atilla Tanner (Franco) sits at the bedside of Eugenie, who promises to relate her story on condition that Tanner kills her on completion. Tanner, an author who aims to write a biography on the Franval's, agrees and sits back to hear every sordid detail of their life and crimes.

Although Eugenie De Sade runs for less than 90 minutes, Franco crams an awful lot into his film; particularly during a remarkable first act, sowing the seeds of disgust as Albert introduces Eugenie to the delights of pornography, making it clear there are to be no boundaries. As the pair grow ever closer, Albert announces a business trip to Paris, where the couple will commit the 'perfect crime'.

Although Franco steered clear of replicating De Sade's father and daughter partnership, he undoubtedly succeeds in creating an unsettling air of familial perversity, with shots of Eugenie's teddy bear reminding us that a hitherto innocent young girl is now approaching the dark side of human nature; an entrance that is marked by Albert's confession that he was forced to kill Eugenie's mother, in order to raise and groom his intended one true love (Albert's wife, and a third party named Valmont, both figure strongly in De Sade's novella).Soon, Eugenie is a willing accomplice in Albert's quest for the ultimate in erotic entertainment, though his demands will eventually lead to the realisation of his worst nightmare.
The subsequent downwards spiral is, perhaps, too brisk to really catch fire - particularly during a most unlikely courtship between Eugenie and one of her intended conquests (musician Paul, played by weakest link Andre Montcall) but Miranda and Muller never miss a beat en route to the tragic conclusion.

As with most Franco films, there are a couple of scenes that really do linger in the memory: the De Franval's first murder is captured on camera as a young model (Alice Arno) takes part in a photo shoot that will culminate in her death. It's here that Eugenie makes her killer's debut, taking the part of make-up artist, producer and executioner. As Albert's camera approaches a frenzied climax, Bruno Nicolai's lyrical score suddenly mutates into disorientating free-form jazz; a head-spinning combination that will surely wipe the smile off the face of any Franco detractor. The second inspired set-piece occurs when the De Franval's develop a taste for hitchhikers; this time, it's Greta Schmidt (playing terminal chatterbox Kitty) who joins the ranks of Franco's 'slaughtered broads', taking centre-stage in a party game that must figure as one of Franco's most erotic creations. The man himself also plays a significant part in front of the camera, emerging as a directorial detective who loathes and admires his quarry.

Eugenie De Sade was the first major starring role for Soledad Miranda who, to avoid shaming her parents, used the pseudonym 'Susan Korday' (aka Korder): this disguise would be used again for Spanish language prints of films where Miranda was required to appear nude, and the name was a combination of novelist Jacqueline Susann and the great Alexander Korda. While it's a real pleasure to witness one of her most affecting performances, it's also a genuinely moving experience as one is rarely more than a minute away from remembering that her time amongst us was all too short.

Thanks to the wonderful medium of DVD, Eugenie De Sade has joined a growing library of choice cuts from the Spanish maestro. The Region 1 release - from Wild East Productions - apparently contains an acceptable transfer of this low budget film, with the added bonus of an "Unfinished Franco" supplement, comprising of 18 minutes of footage from 3 aborted projects shot in b&w between 1978-80 (one segment featuring Susan Hemmingway). While Oracle Entertainment's Region 2 UK release does not include this footage, their presentation of the main feature is nice and sharp, with strong colours. By all accounts, this is a far superior transfer though Franco completists may well look beyond this delicately balanced trade-off and purchase both.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

POSTER MAGIC

15 favourite live acts #3



Wembley Stadium. The home of English football and a venue I'd already experienced on 2 occasions, prior to this special concert.
Like all fans of The Who, I was saddened by the passing of Keith Moon and wished I'd had the chance to see him pounding the skins onstage. Still, when news came through the band were to play Wembley, I knew I had to bag a ticket and travel to London for what promised to be a top day and night of music.

So, on 18th August 1979, I joined 93,000 people to watch a trio of bands perform and lead us to the main event.
First up was Nils Lofgren who entertained the crowd for just under an hour and even threw a few somersaults. Next up was AC/DC who - as usual - provided great value for money. I'd already seen this band on 3 occasions in Derby, and while I preferred watching them in smaller venues, they certainly raised the roof here.

Just before dusk, The Stranglers took the stage and proceeded to play a large part of their forthcoming album "The Raven", which was released one month after this gig. Bit disappointing for those who wanted a 'greatest hits' set but they set things up nicely for the band we were all waiting for.

So, the scene was set. It was now dusk, searchlights swept round the arena and the band took to the stage and blasted straight into "Substitute" as the crowd went crazy.
Of course, Mooney was sadly missed but this was one hell of a gig with the crowd singing along to every word. Indeed, when the line "It's only teenage wasteland" came up, I swear just about everyone in England could hear the Wembley choir.
A memorable concert and easily one of my favourite live experiences for a ticket price of £8.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

EUGENIE... THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION

Written in 1795, the Marquis De Sade's 'Philosophy In The Boudoir' continues to court controversy to this very day, leaving a mark in the sand that no filmmaker could cross with regard to a completely faithful adaptation. Spanish auteur Jess Franco took De Sade's book and, together with Harry Alan Towers, made a film that, out of all his considerable filmography, he" hates the least".

Eugenie opens in suitably sordid mode when the titular character (Liljedahl) takes a telephone call from Marianne Saint-Ange (Rohm) who is part of a devious scheme to lure Marie to an island retreat owned by Mirvel (Taylor), her stepbrother. After seducing Maria's father (Muller), offering her body in return for his daughter's, the path is clear for Marianne and Mirvel to turn normality into a nightmare of Sadean excess. It's here on a beautiful island that Franco's film really catches fire, as drug-induced sexual abandon leaves Marie in a in a halfway-house, between reality and the black veils of sleep. When sinister narrator Dolmance (Lee) arrives with a colourful band of followers straight out of Jean Rollin's The Demoniacs, events accelerate Marie's downwards spiral, leading to a bloody crime of passion.

Liljedahl, best known for her role in Joe Sarno's Inga where a young woman is also corrupted by her elders, acquits herself admirably as the lead , while Taylor, Muller and Lee - all previous Franco players - excel in their respective roles. Best of all, however, is Maria Rohm whose cruel, seductive character tracks the spirit of De Sade in suitably outrageous fashion, whether she's making love or laying out the pain while Bruno Nicolai's score drones in the background quite superbly; doubtless influenced by the seminal debut album from Velvet Underground. Regarded by many as a career best for one of Franco's finest actresses, Marianne Saint-Ange provided Rohm with a wonderfully evil character, and is a fitting showcase for her considerable range; certainly, her partnership with Taylor and Lee demonstrates that De Sade was just as misunderstood by his own followers as by 'outsiders.'

Blue Underground's DVD release is a perfect home for this 'Holy Grail', offering refreshingly candid interviews with Franco, Towers, Liljedahl and Lee; the latter explaining why he chose to have his name removed from the credits. Still, that's another story. For now, potential customers should be aware this film looks fabulous, thanks to a sharp, colourful transfer with only intermittent grain. Sit back and drink in some gorgeous colour schemes that are often character-related, whether it's Rohm's green-for -jealousy dress or those colour-coded cigarettes which really are the stuff of nightmares.

UK Francophiles should note that Anchor Bay's Region 2 release is identical to its Region 1 cousin.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

COMING SOON


Dario Argento fans should look out for this forthcoming release of PHENOMENA, on SD and Blu-ray.
THIS AMAZING EDITION CONTAINS:
- 4 panel reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
- Two sided fold out poster with new art work
- Exclusive collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on Phenomena by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento
- High Definition transfer of the Italian cut of the film
- Original English* & Italian Stereo Audio
- Brand new subtitle translation of the Italian and optional English subtitles of the English audio
SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Introduction by special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti (1080p)
- Dario's Monkey Business: The Making of Phenomena - A 50 minute long documentary featuring interviews with key talent behind the film including director Dario Argento, star Daria Nicolodi, underwater photographer Gianlorenzo Battaglia and more! (1080p)
- Music for Maggots - An Interview with composer with Claudio Simonetti (1080p)
- Creepers for Creatures - Sergio Stivaletti lives Q&A sessions from Dublin and Edinburgh (1080p)

Original art by Rick Melton

Presented in original 1.66:1 (16x9) Aspect Ratio with English & Italian Stereo Audio options

*The English Audio track has some portions of English audio missing. This was either never recorded or has been lost. Scenes without English audio automatically revert to the Italian audio with English subtitles.

Blu-ray Region ABC

Sunday, 30 January 2011

IAN SMITH'S BLU-RAY PODCASTS

Blu-ray collecters really should check out Ian Smith's weekly Blu-ray podcasts.
Here, you'll find beautifully presented reviews containing always honest - sometimes damning - opinion and all the info you need to best inform any potential purchase. Ian goes into the nuts and bolts of weekly releases, using snippets from interviews to provide a complete picture of the film in question. This really is well worth half an hour of your time, so join the rest of us and click HERE!

Friday, 28 January 2011

15 FAVOURITE LIVE ACTS # 2




Siouxsie And The Banshees. The first time I really connected with the name was in 1977, when I began travelling to London's world famous Marquee club. There, sprayed on an entrance wall, was the legend: "Siouxsie And The Banshees. Sign them up. Do it now!" Before long, I'd heard their beautifully fractured sounds on the John Peel show and began a long assocation with the band, seeing them live on many occasions.
The Royal Albert Hall gigs (recorded for a video), the memorable Juju tour (where I caught them on 3 occasions), a bad tempered affair in Nottingham where Sioux and Severin whacked over-zealous bouncers with a crutch and base guitar, and a manic gig at Sheffield Top Rank where Calire Grogan's Altered Images played an admirable support set.
Just a few personal highlights from a golden period where the late John Mcgeogh and Robert Smith weaved their guitar magic with a stack of wonderful 45's which - along with The Jam - established the band as one of our finest singles outfits.

After a few years, the Marquee graffiti disappeared and it seemed like a small part of the club's spirit had gone with it. Happily, band and venue continued for some years to come, ensuring their place in history.

This is one of my favourite Banshees tracks, and I hope you enjoy it

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

15 FAVOURITE LIVE ACTS



Over the years, I've been lucky enough to see some wonderful bands performing live and thought I'd share my top 15 with you, plus 'The One That Got Away' (which will be reserved for last).Some of my choices include groups who I've seen on many occasions, while one or two are just based on one performance that blew me away.
I'll be doing one each week, and my first choice are a group that achieved legendary status.
Years after their demise, Joy Division are still attracting new admirers and stirring affectionate memories for those who were there at the time.
My first encounter with JD was at the Derby Assembly Rooms where they played support to The Buzzcocks. Both bands were excellent, but Joy Division shaded it for me, with the icy beauty of their music casting a spell on the audience. The late Ian Curtis was both physically and mentally exhausting to watch, thrashing and contorting to the at times savage rhythms of his colleagues. Months later, I caught them again at Derby's Ajanta Theatre; a gig which would turn out to be their penultimate. I left the concert on a high, full of admiration for a band that had reached new heights before my eyes and ears. The Ajanta was never the best as far as acoustics were concerned but this didn't seem to matter. It was our club. The place where I caught such bands as The Only Ones, Bauhaus, Stiff Little Fingers, The Pop Group, Throbbing Gristle, The Damned and many others. Here, Joy Division excelled and it was the last time I saw them. Later on, I'd witness New Order playing live but that's another story...

15 FAVOURITE LIVE ACTS #1

Over the years, I've been lucky enough to see some wonderful bands performing live and thought I'd share my top 15 with you, plus 'The One That Got Away' (which will be reserved for last).Some of my choice reflect groups who I've seen on many occasions, while one or two are just based on one performance that blew me away.
I'll be doing one each week, and my first choice are a group that achieved legendary status.
Years after their demise, Joy Division are still attracting new admirers and stirring affectionate memories for those who were there at the time.
My first encounter with JD was at the Derby Assembly Rooms where they played support to The Buzzcocks. Both bands were excellent, but Joy Division shaded it for me, with the icy beauty of their music casting a spell on the audience. The late Ian Curtis was both physically and mentally exhuasting to watch, thrashing and contorting to the at times savage rhythms of his colleagues. Months later, I caught them again at Derby's Ajanta Theatre; a gig which would turn out to be their penultimate. I left the concert on a high, full of admiration for a band that had reached new heights before my eyes and ears. The Ajanta was never the best as far as acoustics were concerned but this didn't seem to matter. It was our club. The place where I caught such bands as The Only Ones, Bauhaus, Stiff Little Fingers, The Pop Group, Throbbing Gristle, The Damned and many others. Here, Joy Division excelled and it was the last time I saw them. Later on, I'd witness New Order playing live but that's another story...

WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YOU


Christmas Eve. A perfect time to curl up in front of the fire and read a good old fashioned ghost story. M.R. James was probably the numero uno when it comes to creating literary spine-chillers,and the small screen has been graced by several worthy adaptations of his work The BBC had previously broadcast a fine translation of WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YOU, starring Michael Hordern, which hit all the right notes. Now, we have a modern re-working of this tale and once again BBC did the honours, possibly resulting in a split between hard-line James buffs and those who were not averse to some significant plot revision.

Here, John Hurt takes centre stage as James Parkin; a recently retired academic who leaves his catatonic wife in a nursing home and travels to a coastal resort in search of a few days break. When Parkin finds an old ring on the seemingly deserted beach, all manner of strange sights and sounds come forth, installing an atmosphere of dread and a longing for life to be as it once was.
Consumed by guilt at having to leave his sick wife behind, Parkin is haunted by a body that has outlived its personality, which is probably even more frightening than any supernatrual manisfestation. Indeed, this is very much a tale for our times, highlighting the pain of having to let go, with the nursing home (like the hotel) boasting a single member of staff like some gatekeeper who has always been there.

I was surprised to learn this is the first ghost story featuring John Hurt's involvement and, as you might expect, he's perfect for the role truly conveying the air of a disturbed man.
While this particular version may upset some with its script liberties, I found WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YOU to be worthwhile viewing, and a nice companion to the previous, slightly superior take.

Monday, 3 January 2011

PETER POSTLETHWAITE RIP


i was absolutely gutted to hear the sad news that Peter Postlethwaite passed away yesterday evening.
Of course, Peter was one of our national treasures, and started his love for the creative arts as a drama teacher, before moving on to the stage.
Roles with The Royal Shakespeare company became a stepping stone to highly acclaimed work in television and feature films, where Peter matured into one of the finest actors of his generation.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS and BRASSED OFF are just two of the films he'll be remembered for, demonstrating real range and an ability to get right inside his characters.

Peter left us at the age of 64, and will be sadly missed by the world of cinema and beyond. RIP big fella.