June 23rd, 2015
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.
Download: Ever See A Diver Kiss His Wife While The Bubbles Bounce About Above The Ocean? – Shirley Ellis (mp3)
June 16th, 2015
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.
April 22nd, 2015
When I worked in the record department of WH Smith in the late 70s there were a few records which we were guaranteed to sell a copy of if we played them. Giorgio Moroder’s soundtrack to Midnight Express was one, it’s haunting electronics inevitably bringing an entranced customer to the counter to ask what it was. I’m reminded of it now because it’s just been reissued on vinyl after many years out of print.
Director Alan Parker hired Moroder after hearing “I Feel Love” and asked him to do something similar, so while the album is mostly slow mood pieces he fully answered that brief with the pulsing opening track “Chase” which turned out to be just as influential as the Donna Summer record. The version on the album is over 8 minutes long but it was also issued as a 12″ single that clocked in at a whopping 13 minutes, and that’s the version I’m giving you here. At this length it moves beyond electronic disco into more trancey territory, sounding at times like a proto-Rave tune.
Warning: Even at 128kbps this is a 12MB file.
Download: Chase (12″ version) – Giorgio Moroder (mp3)
January 7th, 2015
Looks like she enjoyed Last Tango In Paris. I think this is outside the Prince Charles Cinema in Soho.
Download: Good Girls – Merry Clayton (mp3)
You don’t need me to tell you that Merry Clayton was the wailing backing voice on The Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” or that her own version of the song is fabulously funky. “Good Girls” was the b-side of that and is also on her 1970 debut album.
September 29th, 2014
When I posted the video on Friday I had no idea it was Brigitte Bardot’s 80th birthday on Sunday. Though she’s mad as a box of frogs these days, she’s still the iconic queen of all the pouty, gap-toothed, French-movie sirens that have reduced so many of us to helpless blobs of jelly over the years.
Serge Gainsbourg’s most famously naughty song was originally written for Bardot, but stories of apparent heavy petting between the two of them while recording it caused a scandal before it had even come out. Brigitte was married to another man at the time — those French! — who was, not surprisingly, none too thrilled by this so she asked Serge not to release their version. It didn’t come out until the 1980s and I think is sexier than the version he did with Jane Birkin.
Download: Je t’aime… Moi Non Plus – Brigitte Bardot & Serge Gainsbourg (mp3)
February 12th, 2014
Watching Get Carter also reminded me that I have this: A note playwright/actor John Osborne wrote to my Dad and put inside the copy of his autobiography he gave him (and I now have).
If you can’t read his writing this is what it says:
You said you’d read the article — here’s the book. Many thanks for all your kindness and help when I went ‘tramp’ in July 1980.
Cantos [?] Christi,
I have no idea what “when I went ‘tramp'” means but knowing about Osborne — violent temper, five marriages, heavy drinker — I imagine he was on his arse for some reason.
Though Osborne is excellent in his small part as the crime boss Cyril Kinnear in Get Carter he is, of course, better known as a playwright, particularly for Look Back In Anger and The Entertainer, and is credited with revolutionizing British theatre in the 1950s. Regular readers of this blog will know that my Dad worked in the theatre which is how he would have met him.
I studied Look Back In Anger for my English A-Level which, funnily enough, I took in 1980 around the time he was going “tramp” — if I’d known my old man knew Osborne that well then and that he owed him a favour I’d have asked to get him to help me with the exam.
Download: Look Back In Anger – David Bowie (mp3)
UPDATE: Thanks to keen handwriting analysis by Martin in the comments he make have written “twang” and not “tramp” which makes even less sense to me.
February 11th, 2014
I was watching Get Carter the other night and got to wondering what happened to the actress Geraldine Moffat (her in the knickers above) who played the gangster’s floozy Glenda. When I was a kid my mum had a paperback of the novel it was based on which had a film still of a naked Moffat on the back that really, er, grabbed my attention as that sort of thing does at a tender age, so my memory had a bit of previous with her.
She only made a handful of films and did some telly like Coronation Street and The Sweeney, then got married and had two boys who grew up to found the videogame company that created Grand Theft Auto (and apparently she appears in version 5 of the game) — which all seems very appropriate considering her character in the film takes Michael Caine for a wild drive in a Sunbeam Alpine and comes to a watery end in its boot.
Get Carter is a great film of course and it also has a great soundtrack: Classic 70s crime-film music, all funky bongos, bass, and organ, with a cold-as-ice harpsichord.
Download: Get Carter – Roy Budd (mp3)
January 27th, 2014
I don’t think this song has anything to do with the film beyond the title, but it’s one of Nick’s best choons and this is a lovely version of it.
Download: Whistle Down The Wind (acoustic version) – Nick Heyward (mp3)