Advertising laws in Britain permitted beer and wine to be sold on television but the harder stuff could only be advertised on cinema screens. So before a movie (and after the Pearl & Dean intro) you would get ads for Gin, Scotch, and Vodka — and even cigarettes until 1986.
The most memorable were the ones for Martini vermouth (my mother’s tipple along with Cinzano) which sold a vision of the jet-set high life with exotic locales to match any Bond movie. All these ads for illicit, adult products added to the feeling that going to the pictures was a grown-up thing to do (at least it was before all movies were made for teenagers), so even if you were sitting in some shabby fleapit of a cinema sucking on a Kia-Ora you still felt dreadfully sophisticated.
I tried to finish off some new posts for this week but realized I’m not quite ready to let go of David Bowie just yet. He’s pretty much all I’ve been listening to and thinking about this past week and the earth still feels a little off it’s axis to me.
I don’t have much of anything in the way of Bowie rarities but this one isn’t too common on compilations and whatnot. The original version of “Cat People” produced by Giorgio Moroder in its longer, 6:40-minute form on the movie soundtrack.
The young lady being attacked by what looks like a giant rhubarb is Nicole Maury in a promo photo from the film version of The Day of The Triffids. I haven’t seen that for years but I do remember it diverges quite a bit from John Wyndham’s terrific original 1951 novel which was a highly prescient story about genetically-modified crops getting out of control, while the film was your usual scary monster flick.
Man-eating plants might seem a bit silly but book and film did have some genuinely terrifying moments, especially the haunting opening scene of a deserted London which was ripped off by 28 Days Later. I also like to think it influenced Cerrone’s 1977 electro-disco masterpiece “Supernature” which is also about how messing with the DNA of fruit and veg could have bad consequences. It’s a strange subject for a dance record but that could be because the lyrics were written by an uncredited Lene Lovich which I had no idea about until I wrote this post and blows my mind a little.
This is the mega 10-minute version so it’s a big file.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.