Wednesday, 31 December 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR

So, 2009 is just under 4 hours away and it's about time for me to log off the WWW and enjoy a quiet drink at home with my wife. Overall, it's not been a bad year. We've had a successful 12 months at work, with Xmas sales a lot stronger than the corresponding time last year, and my wife won an LCD TV and a Blu-ray player in competitions. We managed to get away for a 3 day break by the seaside in July and although it pissed down with rain for most of our stay, it didn't seem to matter. On the film and music front, a lot of the cinema, DVD and CD releases passed us by (due to a lack of cash), and this situation will certainly get even worse with the current recession which will badly affect almost everybody.
On the blogging front, it's often been difficult to find time to update anywhere near as regularly as I'd like and this is something I'll strive to rectify next year. I'd like to thank those who took time to read some of my stuff, and who also took the trouble to leave comments. The feedback I receive does keep me going, I assure you.
I'd also like to wish everyone a happy, healthy and safe New Year. 2009 will be a tough year to negotiate, but I hope we can all meet the challenges and also find time to help others who are less fortunate than ourselves. Happy New Year!

SPOTLIGHT ON THE BLOGS

Fans of the late, great Lucio Fulci should check out a great new blog from Nigel M. DEAR LUCIO will be devoted to all things Fulci, and promises to be essential reading for those of us who number Italian genre movies amongst our favourites. Zip on over to http://dearlucio.blogspot.com/ and also check out Nigel's other blogs. http://spitonyourtaste.blogspot.com/
http://pyratesatplay.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 27 December 2008

THE CLASH: MY TOP TEN

Following on from my Joe Strummer post, I'd been thinking a lot about The Clash as I always do this time of year. Looking back on their catalogue of albums and singles, I still find it difficult to select my favourite tracks but compiling a list of my own top 10 should not prove too arduous. One hour later, and I'm ready.Note, these are in no order of preference (except for maybe the number 1 spot).


1/ White Man In Hammersmith Palais. "I'm the all night drunk prowling wolf who looks so sick in the sun". Their finest hour in my humble opinion, with a giant of a vocal performance and lyrics that are a joy to read. Inspired by an event at one of my favourite London music venues, this is a mighty 45rpm-er and a live highlight.


2/ Safe European Home. "Well I just got back and 'ah wish I never leave now". From the once-hated 'Give 'Em Enough Rope' album. Much dissension from those who wanted a clone of the magnificent first LP (same folks who stopped following bands once they reached The Lyceum "cos they've sold out") but no matter. This track made for a fine rabble-rousing opening to Rope and was often used to open their live sets.


3/ Career Opportunities. "Career Opportunities the ones that never knock. Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock". Snarling vocals,a beat that moves like an express train. Sadly, it's just as relevant today. Come a long fucking way, haven't we?


4/ Janie Jones "He's in love with rock 'n' roll woah. He's in love with getting stoned woah". Another one from that classic debut. Joe gets naughty with Janie, while the crowd goes wild. Let them know, let them knoow!


5/ Clash City Rockers. "You owe me a move say the bells of Old Groove. Come on and show me say the bells of Old Bowie". Name dropping here in this top-notch single release (we won't mention G******) from a band on fire. Do your stuff, Topper!


6/ Police And Thieves. "And all the peacemaker turn war officer. Hear what I say" Used to love this one live (and not because it gave us a breather). Joe really lived this song live, and the sight of him shimmying across the stage while Mick, Paul and Topper stayed rock steady will stay with me forever.


7/ London Calling. "London calling, now don't look to us. Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust". Thank Christ for that! Probably the standout track from the fab album of the same name, and you can take the lyrics any way you want. Uplifting every time I listen.


8/ Stay Free. "When you lot get out, we're gonna hit the town. We'll burn it fackin down, to a cinder". Back to Rope for this one. Such an emotional song. If there's one Clash track that's tear-inducing, this is it!


9/ Complete Control. "They said we'd be artistically free, when we signed that bit of paper". This one always went down a storm live. One of the greatest guitar openings in musical history? Oh yes.


10/ Capital Radio. " Wanna tell your problems, phone in from your bedsit room. Havin' trouble with your partner, let us all in on the news". Got the Clash debut week of release, and it did have that red sticker for a copy of this single. Ashamed to say I didn't send off for it. Ah well, loved this song to death and the lyrics still bring a smile to my face.


So, that's my 10 faves but I'm sure most of you will have different choices. Might do this one again, with bands like The Jam and The Banshees.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

Christmas Eve. Just broken up from work for a 4 day break, which for me is the longest Xmas holiday I've had since I finished school. Tomorrow, my wife and I will spend the day at my mother's, and then phone her family in America to wish them all the best for the holiday season. We'll probably eat just a little bit too much turkey, listen to the Queen's Christmas message (where she'll probably tell us how bad things are) and enjoy some live football on TV. At this time of year, I think of the members of my family who are no longer here and also realise that I have a lot to be thankful for. While it's true that our economy - along with many others - is in dire shape, and the next 12 months and beyond are going to be extremely challenging, there are many people who battle with illness and real poverty that badly need a little light in their darkness. My local football team were on TV earlier this week, visiting the children's ward at the local hospital. It was heartbreaking to see youngsters who are suffering from illness - in some cases terminal - and very humbling to see them smile at things most of us take for granted. So, it's my New Year's resolution to try and be a better person in 2009, and to better understand the needs of others.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, I wish you the best Xmas you can have and hope that 2009 is kind to you.

Monday, 22 December 2008

MEMENTO: THE CLASH IN 1977



22nd December 2002. 6 years ago today, I listened to the news on the radio and heard that Joe Strummer had passed away. The Stranglers once declared there were 'No More Heroes' but we knew different. Lydon, Siouxsie, Weller, good old Shane, Smithy from The Fall, Howard Devoto.... all people I looked up to. Joe, however, was top branch of my tree. See, The Clash were always my favourites. Still are. Right from that raw bastard of a debut album through to Combat Shock, I loved their music. The things they said, their dress code. Everything. Trip back in time. it's 1977.


Kings Hall, Derby. I started off my gig going career at this venue. A former public baths. Eastern Promises and all that. First few gigs were Progressive Rock. Curved Air, Man, Budgie, Steve Hillage. Bit of a piss-up with my mates and sod the music. Then Punk came on the scene with both barrels blazing. Boomtown Rats was the first. Geldof trotting out his old story about being refused at a local Derby pub. Wanted us to all go round there after the gig and tear the place up. Heard he ran the same story at Leicester the night after. Showbiz. Buzz in the air the following week. Heard The Jam would be playing in November, bringing In The City to our city. Then word came through The Clash were down to come to Derby. 3rd November was the date to mark down in the old diary of events, and the night in question could not come quickly enough.


Cold November evening, and the queue snaked down Queen Street. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally got in through the pearly gates and strode onto the wooden boards of the hall, making a beeline for the bar. Two pints of watered-down ale later and we greeted the first band of the evening. Welcome to The Lous; an all-girl band from France who were forced to make an early departure due to a barrage of missiles from a crowd who only wanted to see The Clash. Next up, Richard Hell And The Void-oids. Now, we all had vast amounts of love and respect for American bands who numbered highly amongst our favourite bands, and Mr. Hell was of course responsible for 'Blank Generation'; one of the finest 45 revs of delirium to batter our tender shell-likes. Sad to say, Richard H. was assaulted by showers of beer and spit, but battled manfully on to deliver a stormer of a set. Respect.


By now, the hour was getting late-ish. 10.00pm. The lights go out, 4 figures move onto the stage and.... BANG! There's a riot going on. It's the 4 rockers of the apocalypse and 3 seconds into their set, the Kings Hall is jumping from front to back. A solid mass of pogoing bodies, exploding in time to the music. Highlights? 'Janie Jones', 'White Riot', 'Career Opportunities', 'Garageland' ("Back in the garage with my bullshit detector") and the mighty 'Capital Radio' ("There's a tower at the heart of London, with a radio station right at the top"). Great songs, but the absolute peak was 'Police And Thieves'. Put this song down in my top 3 of most memorable live songs. i can still see the boys now, laying down those rhythms while the lyrics are barked out through the crowd, out the doors and into the streets where they came from. I'd go on to see The Clash on other occasions and although their gig with The Slits the following year was absolutely magnificent, this was my favourite. You never forget the first time.


Or the last. My final encounter with The Clash was at De Montfort Hall, Leicester. Jonesy and Topper had gone, Joe and Paul were joined by two members of Bristol punkers The Cortinas, and Joe sported a Travis Bickle hairstyle, flanked by a bank of TV screens. We kidded ourselves it was a great gig and, in truth, Joe played a blinder. Wasn't the same though.. Years later, I witnessed Joe join The Pogues onstage for a blistering 'London Calling'. That was the last time I saw him onstage.


His passing hit me particularly hard, so on the anniversary of his death, I raise a glass to an amazing man and wish to fuck he was still here.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

MEMENTO: JOAN OF ARC AND NICK CAVE







27th August, 1995. The second collaboration between London's National Film Theatre and New Musical Express magazine presented a series of films linking music with the moving image. 'Screenage Kicks' featured some of the best music-related films, and notable performers and broadcasters were invited to introduce movies that had inspired them. John Peel, Jarvis Cocker (Pulp), Andrew Oldham and Martin Carr (The Boo Radleys) were just a few of the celebrities involved as WITHNAIL AND I, KES, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS and MIDNIGHT RUN rubbed shoulders with classic footage from the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and The Who.



As far as I was concerned, the most intriguing event looked to be a one-off screening of Karl Dreyer's THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, with live musical backing from Nick Cave And The Dirty Three. So, the evening of August 27th saw me arrive at the NFT with high expectations. I wasn't in the least surprised to discover that NFT1 was completely sold out, and the large number of folks vying for a handful of returned tickets contributed to an indefinable ambiance; the like of which I'd rarely encountered at the cinema. After spending half an hour in the NFT bar, it was time to take my seat for this most special event, which was introduced by Gavin Martin, editor of the NME film section. Martin explained that Nick Cave had suggested composing a score for Dreyer's silent classic; a project which had taken several months of rehearsals and careful planning. With that, Cave strode onto the stage, accompanied by Warren Ellis (violin), Mick Turner (guitar) and Jim White (drums).



THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC is certainly Dreyer's finest hour, and Cave's heartfelt tribute turned it into a truly extraordinary experience; quite simply the most emotional and physically draining experience I've witnessed at the cinema. Dreyer's film is based on two novels by Joseph Delteil on the original transcript of this infamous trial. Delteil assisted Dreyer with the screenplay, but there's little doubt that the court records set the tone for this harrowing film. THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC is composed almost entirely of close-ups, and the final stages of the trial - along with Joan's execution - are dominated by the face of Renee ('Marie') Falconetti. The plight of the woman who claimed she was sent by God to save France is indelibly printed on Falconetti's tortured visage; indeed her performance is so intense, it seems as though she was actually possessed by the spirit of this revered Saint. As Joan is tortured and humiliated by the 'devil's agents' en route to her eventual confession, Falconetti cries what are so obviously real tears. This has to be a real contender for the most courageous performance ever given by an actress, and I was astonished to learn that this was her first and last film. Reports indicate she received help and advice from her director along every step of the way but, ultimately, Renee Falconetti must have felt more alone than any woman in silver screen history. Her overwhelming presence makes this a painful viewing experience, and Dreyer's obsessive approach to his subject matter is still guaranteed to disturb, even in an age where we think we've seen everything. Falconetti's inner strength, her unparalleled suffering and eventual despair manage to cross that often impenetrable barrier between screen and audience, forcing us to feel her pain and, occasionally recoil in horror. The scene where Joan is 'bled' so that she may live to deny her faith is extremely graphic, drawing gasps from an incredulous audience and when her execution takes place, the band stop playing and become as one with the packed auditorium who are stunned by this tragic history lesson.



Cave has gone on record as saying this is his all-time favourite film and it showed, Nick! Here, The Dirty Three offered mostly understated background support, with smoldering violin and guitar anchored down by Jim White's steady beat. Occasionally, the boys really put their feet on the pedals, responding to Dreyer's disturbing visuals with all the brutality of prime-time Bad Seeds. However, it was the quieter moments that really left a scar: Cave's beautifully fragile piano, his wordless vocals which often mutate into a haunting 'This is my desire' refrain, and his unerring ability to correctly call when the music should stop. A prime example of this came near the end of the film, when Joan is burnt at the stake. As the flames rise, a deathly silence envelopes the NFT, as we watch the crowd who gathered to witness the execution suddenly realise the enormity of this obscene act and openly revolt. It's then that Cave chooses to deliver his only song of the evening; a plaintive vocal which addresses "God's non-intervention".



All at once, the film is over, and a shell-shocked audience rise to give a standing ovation to Cave and his fellow performers. As we made our way to the exits, I noticed that some people were weeping, others were discussing the film in hushed tones, but most were just too overwhelmed to react. I think we all realised that we had witnessed something extremely special as a passion that has endured for over 80 years reached new heights.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

SPOTLIGHT ON THE BLOGS

Head over to the excellent RADIATOR HEAVEN for a terrific write-up on Martin Scorsese's MEAN STREETS.

http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2008/12/mean-streets.html

Saturday, 13 December 2008

20 FAVOURITE ACTRESSES MEME










Jeremy over at Moon In The Gutter tagged me several days ago to select my own list of 20 favourite actresses, but haven't been able to find the time until now. This meme originated over at the excellent Flickhead blog. My selections are not in order of preference, and contain actresses who have impressed me with a body of work or, sometimes, with an isolated incendiary performance.




1/ Alida Valli




2/ Meryl Streep




3/ Irene Jacob




4/ Isabelle Huppert




5/ Maggie Smith




6/ Julianne Moore




7/ Beatrice Dalle




8/ Helen Mirren




9/ Daria Nicolodi




10/ Isabelle Adjani




11/ Julie Christie




12/ Gena Rowlands




13/ Jeanne Moreau




14/ Margit Carstensen




15/ Hanna Schygulla




16/ Liv Ullmann




17/ Gloria Swanson




18/ Katherine Hepburn




19/ Anna Karina




20/ Stephane Audran
I'll tag:
PYRATES AT PLAY
ABOUT A HOOLIGAN
LOVE TRAIN FOR THE TENEBROUS EMPIRE
HORRORMAN
NO SMOKING IN THE SKULL CAVE

Thursday, 11 December 2008

BLU CHRISTMAS

Major surprise yesterday, as a Blu-Ray player turned up at our place. The missus had worked her magic once again in a competition. While the player is an entry-level model, we count ourselves extremely lucky to own one. Of course, we have no Blu-Ray discs to play but are able to take advantage of Lovefilm's excellent rental service and have amended our 'wants list' to a stack of Blu discs. Looking forward to future rents, including BLACK NARCISSUS, THE DARK KNIGHT, THE SEVENTH SEAL and HALLOWEEN to name but a few.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

MEMENTO: THE WHO ROCK WEMBLEY






18th August, 1979. I'd started going to gigs a couple of years earlier, taking in concerts by the likes of Budgie, Curved Air and Man before moving onto Punk. Although my earliest gigs were confined to Derby - my nearest location for live music - the bright lights of London quickly beckoned and would prove to be an irresistible force over the coming years. One gig in particular took my eye in 1979, and I just knew I had to be present. The NME announced details of a very special gig to be staged at the world famous Wembley Stadium, headlined by The Who with The Stranglers, AC/DC and Nils Lofgren making up a great bill. I'd been to Wembley for football games on two occasions prior to this and loved the atmosphere of the place, even though facilities left a lot to be desired. So, I left home early doors on a bright August morning, arriving at the ground shortly after midday. With a sell-out crowd of some 83,000 still settling in their seats, Nils Lofgren took to the stage, and delivered an enjoyable set, punctuated by a few somersaults which were well received. While I felt his set would have been better suited to more intimate venues, his music made for an enjoyable opening.



After a surprisingly short wait, AC/DC took the stage. I'd seen them a couple of times live in Derby prior to this gig, and missed their first few numbers in search of liquid refreshment to combat the stifling heat; conditions which had seen a few casualties amongst the crowd. As usual, the boys were on form, treating us to classics such as 'The Jack' and 'Highway To Hell', while battling against a temperamental PA system. Angus even did the old walkabout which was always a real crowd pleaser.



Next up, The Stranglers. Again, I'd caught them live on several occasions before this gig, and felt badly let down by the end of their Wembley stint. By all means showcase songs from your latest album, but playing the damn thing in practically its entirety was, in my view, taking the piss. Where were all the classics? Very punk, no encore.



Ah well, time for another pint and then grab a nice vantage point in the stands. By now, the crowd very getting very rowdy in readiness for The Main Event. This was the first really big concert from The Who since Keith Moon's tragic death, just under one year earlier. With Kenny Jones (ex-Faces) taking this vacated seat, how would The Who perform at a venue that Pete Townshend really didn't care for? Darkness falls, the stadium lights go out and at last, The Who take the stage. One minute later, searchlights are darting around the stadium and Pete and his boys launch into 'Substitute'. 83,000 people launch into a mass of pogoing, feeling the power like a kick in the balls. This is what we came for! Singalongawho, with everyone spitting out the lyrics and punching the air in a musical religious experience. 'I Can't Explain', 'Behind Blue Eyes', Baba O'Riley (with the line "IT'S ONLY TEENAGE WASTELAND" sung loudly enough to be heard all over the world), 'See Me Feel Me' and 'My Generation ("Why don't you all f-f-f-fuck off") were all present and correct, leading up to Pete smashing seven shades of shit out of his guitar. That night, we were the UK urchins choir, paying homage to a great band in the year Franc Roddam's QUADROPHENIA was released. These were exciting times, and this most special concert was my own personal highlight of the year. God Bless The Who!

Friday, 5 December 2008

NEW POLL (YAWN)


Watched EXORCIST III earlier today as preparation for a post on Brad Dourif's performance, and thought it would be an idea to canvass opinion as to the current running order of the best and worst of the series. So, please take time to cast your vote(s).

SPOTLIGHT ON THE BLOGS

Continuing my weekly look at some of the excellent work being done on the many blogs out there. This time, please head over to the I SPIT ON YOUR TASTE blog where you'll find a comprehensive look at the Italian film TO BE TWENTY aka BEING TWENTY
http://spitonyourtaste.blogspot.com/
As Nigel indicates, this is a work in progress so I hope you'll continue to check it out during the course of this month.

BOND POLL RESULTS

Thanks to everyone who voted in my poll regarding the best incarnation of James Bond.

The results are:

Sean Connery 38%

George Lazenby 11%

Roger Moore 17%

Timothy Dalton 2%

Pierce Brosnan 5%

Daniel Craig 23%

As expected, Connery took top spot, but nice to see Daniel Craig making such an impact, two films into his 007 career.