It’s the 4th of July here tomorrow — actually, it’s that date everywhere but it’s also Independence Day in America. Sadly we won’t be getting an England-USA game this weekend for a chance for us to rewrite history and teach those colonials a lesson. As I’m sure you know, England broke our hearts again, going out of a World Cup in a way that was even more gutting than a penalty shoot-out. Now we have to play the bloody Germans again. That never goes well either.
Orange Juice’s early Postcard records are rightly held in reverence but their later work gets a little overlooked as a result. Personally my favourite album of theirs is Texas Fever and I remember there being a bit of Dylan-going-electric purist snobbery about them signing to a big label and sounding more polished — like they could keep doing that kind of amateurish jangly indie forever. “Polished” is a relative term of course, their records always sounded a bit off-kilter no matter how many new chords and grooves they learned.
One time I saw them live Edwyn Collins jokingly introduced “Rip It Up” as “our one-hit wonder” and their final single “Lean Period” from 1984 wasn’t a hit either like 99% of their others, but it’s a bouncy and catchy number that should have done better even if it maybe isn’t one of their greatest. I still like it a lot though, a typically snarky Collins love song (and maybe even a sly commentary on his own critical reputation) here given a nice dubby remix by Dennis Bovell in this 12″ version which isn’t easily available anywhere far as I can tell.
Download: Lean Period (Extended Version) – Orange Juice (mp3)
BONUS: I posted this before many years ago but this 12″ version is also hard to come by so here it is again. OJ’s second-to-last single and one of the best things they did.
Download: What Presence?! (Extended Version) – Orange Juice (mp3)
There’s no way I wasn’t going to check out an album called The Great Cybernetic Depression by an artist with the name Princess Chelsea when I saw it reviewed on Pitchfork. I’m already predisposed to like something like that before I’ve even heard it, and luckily it turned out to be a terrific album of lovely synthpop balladry that I would have enjoyed no matter what it was called.
Buy/listen to more here.
The SOS Band were one of the acts (along with Alexander O’Neal) that Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis honed their production chops on before hitting the really big time with Janet Jackson. This was their first hit and you can already hear that signature drum machine sound (a Roland TR-808) which pretty much defined 80s dance music.
An absolute classic record, and extra marks for the guy playing a Keytar. Don’t see enough of those these days.
Jaws was released in the States 40 years ago this week. It didn’t come out in the UK for another six months by which time it had become a pop-culture phenomenon and British audiences were well hyped to see a sensation which had broken box office records across the pond and made a whole nation scared to go swimming. Controversially at the time, this terrifying film was only given an “A” certificate by British censors which meant under-14s could see it. Happily this included me and my sister so our Dad took us to the Odeon Leicester Square the week it came out. We had to queue around the block but it was well worth it.
The phrase “movie event” is used for every piece of crap Hollywood puts out these days, but seeing Jaws for the first time on the massive screen in that theatre is still one of the most intense cinema experiences of my life from the moment poor Chrissie Watkins was attacked. When – spoiler alert – the shark blew up at the end, people actually stood and cheered, so ecstatic were they that this visceral, gut-wrenching ride was over. I haven’t seen a movie audience do that since.
And those stories about people being scared to go swimming because of the film were true. A year later on a school trip to Spain I was swimming underwater and far from shore in the Mediterranean when I thought I saw a shadow move behind this huge, dark boulder on the sea floor. Suddenly the Jaws theme music started playing in my head which caused me to have a panic attack and frantically swim back to the beach as fast as I could, terrified that something was chasing me.
I still think it’s Spielberg’s best film, he’s made more sophisticated ones but none that come as close to pure, perfect cinema as that one — it’s like a shark itself: a ruthlessly efficient machine. It also has a smart, witty script, memorable characters, and great performances — something that seems to be forgotten with movie blockbusters these days — which makes it eternally rewatchable long after the shocks have worn off.
To mark Father’s Day yesterday, I’m republishing this post from way back in 2008. Probably not the most flattering one I’ve written about my Dad, but our relationships with our parents can be complicated.
The only time I remember my Dad talking to me about why he left my mother and us he blamed Michael Caine. He said that a working class lad like himself was raised to think that there was a certain path your life would take: school, work, marriage, kids. So he did all that like he thought he was supposed to, and by 1962 at the age of 25 he was a cab driver with a wife and two kids living in a crumbling council flat in Fulham.
But then the Swinging Sixties happened and along came a new generation of stars in movies, music, and the arts like Caine who were from the same working class background as my Dad and didn’t following the old, class-defined rules. Suddenly the possibility of a different kind of life appeared, just because you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth you didn’t have to be a cab driver. You could be an actor, a rock star, a painter, a photographer — anything you wanted. So my old man ran away to join the theatre, hoping to become the next Michael Caine. That’s how he attempted to explain it to me anyway, personally I thought it sounded a little like self-justifying bullshit, but I don’t know how I’d feel if I found myself with a wife and two kids with an itch I’d been told I couldn’t scratch and society suddenly moved the goalposts on me like that.
There were other English actors at the time who came from similar backgrounds — Albert Finney, Tom Courtney, Terence Stamp — but none of them had the same iconic status that Caine attained with roles like Alfie Elkins, Harry Palmer, Charlie Croker, and Jack Carter which established him as the embodiment of 60s English cool — the good-looking lad from Rotherhithe with the birds and smart suits who even made glasses look sharp. And it wasn’t just my Dad, at some point in his life hasn’t every bloke wanted to be Alfie?
Download: Alfie – Cher (mp3)
The real pleasure in this clip isn’t Dave Edmunds (who looks half-asleep or stoned) but the audience, especially the odd fellow at the back who I assume must be the host of the show.
Dr. Who & The Daleks, the 1965 film with Peter Cushing as the Doctor, was on TV here the other week. It was the first time my kids had seen Daleks so I hyped up them up beforehand with tales of how much they scared me when I was young.
Now, my kids love Ray Harryhausen films so they’re not some jaded modern youths only impressed by state-of-the-art CGI, but sadly the Daleks didn’t frighten them in the slightest. Admittedly it isn’t a very good film, and it probably didn’t help that in it these supposedly terrifying machines were incapable of moving on a carpet. But still, at no point did either of the kids hide behind the couch which was very disappointing.
But the kid in me always gets a kick out of seeing the Daleks in widescreen colour instead of the grainy, black and white TV figures of my youth. The adult in me didn’t mind the lovely Jennie Linden either, that’s the young lady the Dalek is getting fresh with in the picture above. Careful where you’re pointing that plunger.
Download: Dalek I Love You (Destiny) – Dalek I (mp3)
Dalek I Love You was a post-punk synthpop group from Liverpool who weren’t all that successful and it’s members more famous for other bands they were in. Formed by Alan Gill and David Balfe who later joined The Teardrop Explodes (where Gill co-wrote “Reward”), the lineup at one point also included Andy McCluskey before he formed Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. This was a single from their 1980 album Compass Kumpas by which time they’d shortened their name to Dalek I. Didn’t make any difference to their record sales though.