You Can Watch Yourself While You Are Eating (The Beat)

There was less than 3 years between the release of “Anarchy In The UK” & the first single by the Specials ,”Gangsters”, in July 1979 but at the time it did seem that there was a shift in style & fashion by British pop kids. Two Tone was Punk’s little brother. The D.I.Y. ethos of forming a band & even a record company with your mates,  the revival of the 3 minute heroes making classic singles, opened the doors for these young, pork pie hatted, ska-loving bands to charge through. Two Tone’s combination of punk energy & retro-skinhead style caught on big time. The Specials, between 1979 & 1981 had 7 Top 10 records. An inter-racial group, their anti-racism & socially conscious lyrics set a positive agenda in those early years of Thatcherism. Madness, a support on the Specials’ first tour, had 253 hit singles in the UK. (Ah Google it yourself, I’m busy).

Madness were London boys but Two Tone was largely of provincial origin. The Specials were based in Coventry as were the Selector. Up the road in Birmingham UB 40 were learning how to play reggae, former hairdresser & punk Kevin Rowlands searched for some young soul rebels & Two Tone’s Buzzcocks to the Specials Clash were ready for the charts with a blazing debut LP.

The Beat (I refuse to call them the English Beat) nailed the whine and indeed the grine with 2 Prince Buster covers on “I Just Can’t Stop It”. Drummer Everett Morton was not only bang on the ska & the reggae but dragged the young white boys along in an often frenetic & exhilarating rush. Saxa, a 50 year old reggae veteran, already knew how it went. “Hands Off She’s Mine”, “Mirror In The Bathroom” & “Best Friend” were all top notch & sparkling pop songs. The self-explanatory “Stand Down Margaret” nailed their colours to our mast, a fine political statement. “Mirror” is the soundtrack to the great bit of martial nonsense in “Grosse Pointe Blank” between John Cusack (“Lone gunman. Get it ? That’s the whole point !”) & Benny “The Jet”  Urquidez. The whole LP still sounds fresh & young & terrific.

So, the world was their lobster & “Too Nice To Talk To” hit the Top 10 before the release of the 2nd LP “Wh’appen” in 1981.The record was more mature, a little calmer, Ranking Roger stepped forward, there was more variety in the sound & there was still some anger in the lyrics. “Wh’appen” is a good record. But “Too Nice” was to be their last  big hit until an Andy Williams cover was re-released 3 years later. I guess that the Two Toners wanted some more fast ska while pop fans wanted the adolescent angst of “Hands Off” & most wanted it to be kept simple.

The 3rd LP came the next year & I bought it as soon as. “Special Beat Service” was, I think, made with an eye on the US market & it was their most successful there. The reggae tracks are a little short on roots but there are 3 very good singles on there. This track may be the Beat’s finest 3 minutes.

“Save It For Later” is a smart romp of a New Wave pop song. Possibly too smart.When Pete Townshend wanted to cover the song he had to call singer Dave Wakeling to ask him for the chord sequence. “I Confess” & “Jeanette” (substitute Ronette…great rhyme) were similar mid-tempo potential hits. I played this record a lot, I like intelligent classy pop songs. It made the desired impression in the USA, the sleeve is surprisingly referenced in an early George Pelecanos novel (the Nick Stefanos years). However, saying that any band has just 3 LPs in them, the Beat did not go on.

Wakeling & Roger formed General Public & for a time it seemed that they were onto something. The jaunty “Tenderness” got heard & the band were a good night out. I spent an evening in the company of the pair (friends of friends) & they were very nice, unassuming guys. It was thought that Dave was the talent of the Beat. He was the lead singer, the face & probably the lyricist. However General Public made their 3 records and met with diminishing returns. It was the other 2, bassist David Steele & guitarist Andy Cox, the 2 who did the twist & crawl at the back who had been watching & learning. In 1989 their LP “The Raw & the Cooked” as two-thirds of the Fine Young Cannibals did very well for them indeed.

After the break up of the Beat a collection of the hits, “What is Beat ?” was released. The cassette (Ha !) came with a full LP of 12″ mixes & dub versions of the reggae tracks. It is a fine listen, showing the strength of the songwriting. Tracks like “Doors Of Your Heart” & “Psychedelic Rockers” may have not met with commercial success but they sounded & still sound good to me. Top 3 bands from Birmingham ? We got the Beat and 2 more.

 

Courtesy Of The BMX Bandits

Alex Chilton sings Carly Simon ! I know, I trawl the Y-tube so you don’t have to. The BMX Bandits & Teenage Fanclub both got to know & play with their powerpop idol in the 1990s. Alex asked Duglas T Stewart, the head Bandit, if he knew the song & promised to send him it on tape. Back home Alex could not find the record so got a couple of friends round and recorded his own version. So here it is.

Duglas T spent 3 years producing a tribute LP “Caroline Now. The Songs of Brian Wilson & the Beach Boys”. This is one of my favourite songs of the band (tho’ there is a long list). It is written by Dennis Wilson & first appeared on the “Holland” LP before Dennis recorded a solo version which was released on the whistles & bells, expanded edition of the extraordinary “Pacific Ocean Blue”. It is sung by Norman Blake off of the Teenage Fannies &, of course, the love & respect for the music shines brightly.

Blimey, I need to hear a bit more of that record. There’s a Kim Fowley track & one by the David Ritchie Coalition who, I think, is my new F-book friend…who knew ! (I have found this track, “Good Timin'” & it’s a belter). OK as 3 is the magic number I need another clip & as I have been looting the BMX Bandit’s stash for my own ends I must include one of the bands more recent appearances. This is “Disco Girl”.  I could add the obligatory should have beens and the injustice of overlooked talent but I only want to say that I enjoy the BMX Bandits, their music makes me feel good.

The Joy I’ve Named Shall Not Be Tamed (BMX Bandits/Dan Penn)

A most pleasing episode of Interweb synchronicity today when a Facebook friend posted this early gem by an artist who’s music I just love. I am a little obsessed by those boys from the Southern states of the USA who grew up listening to rock & roll, country, R & B then found, in Memphis & Muscle Shoals, places where they could influence the future of  soul music. Steve Cropper had more hits at Stax than a basket full of kittens on Y-tube. The great maverick Jim Dickinson & his band, the Dixie Flyers, were involved in so much great music. There are many others who were there & made their mark but it is the life & music of Dan Penn which continues to intrigue as I hear things like this.

“I’m Your Puppet” was the breakthrough hit for Dan Penn when, in 1966, James & Bobby Purify took the song into the US Top 10. It convinced Dan that this music thing just might work out & when, a year later, he produced a world wide hit for the Box Tops his reputation as a guy who could get the job done was made. This version was released as a single & did nothing, the song went back into the drawer marked “for future reference”.

The clip was posted by Davie Ritchie, a man I have never met but someone I know to have impeccable taste. His band, the Debris Rose, prove themselves to be the perfect bar band with this terrific version of Prince Buster’s “Girl Answer Your Name”. I am perfectly content to have my evening’s musical direction chosen by someone else so I chipped in with James Barnett’s “Keep On Talking”, a Northern Soul classic & went off to listen to more songs written by Penn both for himself & for others. In any such rummage a mandatory stopover must be made at a delightful oasis.

After a slate grey February day “That Summer Feeling”, a fine collision/collusion between Scottish jangle pop, Dan Penn and a Jonathan Richman song is the very thing to remind you that, when we get through the Winter, things are gonna get better. I don’t know too much about how this BMX Bandits b-side came about, it probably does not eclipse the JR original. I do know that it is absolutely charming & that if you are making a record with Dan Penn that you will have to raise your game.

So, I am enjoying this favourite when Mr Ritchie’s thread coughs up the name of Duglas T Stewart. Now this may be just a regular passer-by for Davie but it’s a rare thing when the people I am listening to are on my F-book at the same time. Duglas is the BMX Bandits,there have been many members of the group in the past 25 years but he has been the one constant. He & school pal Norman Blake started the band. Norman went off to start Teenage Fanclub while other Bandits have left for greater success. Duglas has been at the centre of a Glasgow rock scene which has worn its influences on its sleeve & pretty good solid influences they have been too. In his case the songs of Jonathan Richman were as influential as those of Brian Wilson & Alex Chilton. There can be a jokey naivete but the moments of direct emotional honesty, of  love & pathos that get you right there. The BMX Bandits may have boasted that “Kylie’s Got A Crush On Us” on a 1993 single but they could make some lovely honest pop nuggets too.

“Serious Drugs”, now there’s a title that’ll get you played on the radio. If only it had been because there is a tune that gets stuck in your head and in a good way. There are 3 versions of the song. Norman Blake sings this one & a later one with Duglas on vocals is good stuff too. Kurt Cobain said “If I could be in any other band, it would be BMX Bandits”  & the band were at Creation Records when the Oasis thing happened but have determinedly remained a cult while influencing other bands. There is a movie about him called “Serious Drugs” which deals with his career & his problems with depression. i must check it out.

The BMX Bandits have affected enough people for Duglas to keep working & to collaborate with many interesting people. This evening I was tempted to make a couple of clicks & ask him to tell me about Dan Penn, about Brian Wilson. Hey, this “the Internet makes the world a smaller place” thing just won’t wash. I don’t know him, he don’t know me & I’m sussed enough to know when I may be too intrusive. No matter, there was a little connection today & I got to post some good music right here. This is “Little Hands” more proof that Duglas & Norman wore out those Big Star LPs when they were kids.

If You Like Country With A Boogie Beat He’s The Man To Meet (Lowell George)

Over on Facebook, that thing I use so that I can avoid talking to real people (they’re nuts !)  but still fool myself I have a life, I get a lot of music thrown my way every day. Sometimes there are so many tunes & so little time that it is not possible to listen to it all. Of course if the selection is from one of my Band of Brothers I will give it the time of day but pressing “like” for a Captain Beefheart tune is equivalent to saying “I like breathing”…there seems little point in stating the obvious. Then there are things that make you go ” Oo-Ee-Oo ! That will do for me”. Today I heard this track from 1967 for the first, but not the last time.

“Smile Let Your Life Begin” is by the Factory, a band from Los Angeles. It was their only release on Uni Records, a label which in the same year, 1967, had records by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Sonics, Hugh Masekela & the Osmond Brothers ! The Factory included Lowell George, the founder of Little Feat, the group who’s loose-limbed, melodic, stoner take on the Blues made them a Premier League outfit of 1970s American rock (maybe they held the title belt for a while). Richie Hayward’s there too, Feat’s drummer & a man of such rhythmic dexterity that when you saw him you felt the need to check out just how many arms he had.

“Smile” has the seeds of Little Feat’s loping pace. They could dash along with the best but preferred to amble & still get there right on the beat. It is a pop record but it is not the Grass Roots or the American Breed. It’s kind of Sunshine Pop but these guys are sat under a tree somewhere waiting for the day to get a little cooler before they come out to play.I love 60s pop, I love Lowell George & this…? Guess what.

More Cowbell ! In 1973 Little Feat recorded the “Dixie Chicken” LP which included “Fat Man In The Bathtub”. The serpentine blues slid into sinuous funk with their expanded rhythm section. That year Lowell & Richie played on John Cale’s “Paris 1919” masterpiece. With 3 great records they were bigger in the UK than in the USA. In 1975 Warner Brothers brought a raft of their bands over to Europe & at a noted London gig the Doobie Brothers were hooted off the stage when they followed the band the crowd were there to see. Friends who were there told me it was hilarious. We saw them in Birmingham in 1976, an incredible performance was improved by the capture of a maraca thrown by Lowell. My wife had very sharp elbows as the two guys in front of us discovered.

So Little Feat were as popular in Britain as any other American group at this time. In 1977 they returned to play 5 sold out nights at the Rainbow theatre, the scene of their triumph over the Doobies. We took some time off work so that we could see the concert with our London friends. Man, we were so high that our driver baled on us early in our journey. A very dazed & confused Tube journey across London was in order, thanks Phil. So this next clip, I may have been there when it was filmed. If I wasn’t then I was in the very same theatre just days from the filming.

The shows were not exactly a disappointment but there was tension within the band as keyboard man Bill Payne & guitarist Paul Barrere challenged Lowell’s leadership. No matter the band still hit the heights & “Spanish Moon”, backed by the Tower Of Power horns was plenty high enough thank you.

In 1979 I left the UK for the Summer. For 3 of those months I lived in a small island village in Greece with, in those pre- Walkman (ask your folks) times, no soundtrack to my days. It was a little strange. Back home music was a constant & I had never been away from it for longer than a month before. Stripped of the choice & new sounds it was the music of Little Feat that I missed the most. As I walked the cliff paths or got up early to watch the sun rise it was their tunes, that mix of blues,country, funk, New Orleans, their lyrics with a touch of surreal, stoned craziness that I either hummed to myself or shouted into the emptiness. “Fool Yourself“, that’s a good song.

At a cafe on the beach I met a young Scandinavian. He was OK, a music nut who believed his airmail edition of the New Musical Express when, as any fool knows, the trick is to read between the lines & reject at least half of that. I told him that Little Feat were my band of choice & he casually told me that Lowell George had died just 6 weeks ago. I was shocked. News like that travels quickly in the UK & it would have affected all of my friends. Here I was having a very, very good time, not realising that life ,& death, goes on in the world. It was a disconcerting feeling to hear this sad news at a time I was loving that music. A bit of perspective…too much persp (uh-uh I’m not going there)

As I have written about all the great artists who are no longer around, their music always will be. There are so many great records with which Lowell George was involved. More later I’m sure.

I’d Just Like To Say, Thank You Very Much (Kevin Ayers)

More bad & sad news today with the passing of Kevin Ayers a founder member of Soft Machine & a pivot of the Canterbury music scene which had such an influence on British psychedelia. His teenage group the Wilde Flowers split to form Soft Machine & Caravan. The Softs, Ayers, Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge & Daevid Allen played a wild mix of jazz & rock with the contrasting vocals of Ayers & Wyatt adding to a potent brew. The B-side of their debut 45, produced by Kim Fowley in 1967, “Feeling, Reeling Squealing” set the bar for British progressive music. Here’s another early single.

He left the band for a solo career & in 1969 released “Joy of a Toy” the first of a series of LPs which fused folky whimsy, exotic rhythms, a languid nonchalance & inventive lyrics. His backing band, The Whole World included Mike Oldfield & David Bedford, the avant garde composer who’s elegant contributions to rock spanned Roy Harper & Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The records did not sell too well but their gentle British eccentricity remains a charm. The romantic “May I ?” is the opening track of 1970’s “Shooting at the Moon”. Lovely.

Kevin worked with Syd Barrett then with Eno. They were joined by Nico & John Cale for a one-off series of concerts & a live LP. I had the opportunity to see Kevin on just the one occasion. He played a solo, acoustic set which was languid, assured & absolutely of the spirit of the early 1970s. (Syd Barrett was billed to appear that night. Someone we assumed was Syd walked on-stage & promptly split !). Kevin Ayers finished with the song that always ended his set & here is a rather grand, televised version of that song with a great joke ending.

As our music enters its dotage we often only hear of musicians when there is bad news about their health. I shall play my copy of “Whatevershebringswesing”, possibly the best of his records & remember the tall, handsome stylish young man who made some lasting records. Cheers !

Music And Movies (Adults Only)

These 3 films were rated “R” in the USA because of scenes of a sexual nature, violence or offensive language. I do now want to shock or offend anyone so  if you are not of an age to watch this or are offended by such scenes, please check out the rest of my blog which is much more wholesome. Now…on with the filth !

In 1995 Christopher McQuarrie wrote a script that was a hard sell in Hollywood. “The Usual Suspects” is about 5 guys who meet in a police line-up. It is a dialogue heavy, multi-layered story, the plot is set out on Wikipedia if you have an hour to spare. The movie’s budget was $6 million & the box office take in the USA was over $23 million. McQuarrie won the Oscar for Best Original Script so he had a little leverage. It was though 2000 before a “written & directed by” was released. “The Way of The Gun” is another crime film & it starts like this.

Well all right, that’s rated “R” for restricted right there ! The frenetic rockabilly bluster of “Rip This Joint” thrusts the viewer into the world of two not-so-wise guys played by Ryan Phillippe & Benicio del Toro. (” So, you the brains of this outfit, or is he?” asks James Caan in a reprise of his seen-it-all turn in “Bottle Rocket”. “Tell ya the truth, I don’t think it’s a brains kind of operation” replies Benicio). An ill-planned kidnapping of Juliette Lewis, the crazy, beautiful ingenue of choice in the 90s, & away we go.

Any violent movie at this time was inevitably labelled “post-Tarentino” but there is a lot more to “The Way Of The Gun” than dogging the trail of “Reservoir Dogs”. In this pulp fiction there are no heroes, the relationships between all the characters are complex. There are double-crosses, puzzles & the dialogue is as smart as a whip. Oh &, as we saw, Sarah Silverman gets her lights punched out ! The progenitor of this movie is the work of Sam Peckinpah , the hard-boiled “The Getaway” & the Modern West of “Junior Bonner” not just the famed Westerns. I make no claim that the “The Way Of The Gun” is in the class of these classics but from a sound base the violence is proper, there is intelligence & flair on the screen. Christopher McQuarrie… Wha’  Happened ?

So Vincent Gallo, painter, rapper, model, musician, Renaissance Man, does a fair turn in that movie about the dorks who try to rob a jewellery shop & get doughnuts (Palookaville, 1995). From this he gets to write, direct & star in his own film. “Buffalo 66” (1998) is a gem of an independent movie with a simple plot, a fine cast & cinematography by Lance Acord, who now works with Spike Jonze & Sofia Coppola. Billy (Gallo) is released from prison, he will return to his parents (Ben Gazzara & Angelica Huston…enough said) & will take revenge on Scott Norwood the kicker of the Buffalo Bills who missed a game-winning kick in the 1991 Superbowl &, indirectly, caused Billy’s imprisonment. He kidnaps Layla & presents her to his parents as his fiancee. Er…that’s it.

Billy’s violent fantasy of revenge in the strip club is accompanied by “Heart Of The Sunrise” by Yes. It’s by no means my kind of music but the movie is Gallo’s thing. His slacker, self-indulgent, whiny character, unable to recognise or respond to any genuine emotion is a dickhead but respect to Vincent for showing out. The heart of the film is Layla, played by Christina Ricci, the ingenue of choice in the 00’s. Another bruised individual she is just so attractive in this film. Little Wednesday Addams, who knew ? Here she awkwardly performs a self-absorbed tap dance to King Crimson’s “Moonchild”.

I did not see Gallo’s follow-up film “The Brown Bunny” (2003). By this time his narcissism, performance or not, had become tiresome & I did not want to see what he & Chloe Sevighny had going on. I may have been wrong & it is worth a view but “Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be” (Kurt Vonnegut). Come on Vincent too cool is just not cool.  “Buffalo 66” is a fine personal vision of stunted masculinity & a memorable movie.

Atom Egoyan, the Canadian film maker, made a breakthrough movie with “Exotica” in 1994. The film revolves around the lives of characters who coincide at the eponymous nightclub. It was promoted as an erotic thriller but it’s a  complex non-linear intrigue with a lot of sadness & tragedy. I preferred Egoyan’s mature films to his contemporary US directors like Soderbergh for example. “Exotica” is a tough watch but rewarding. Elias Koteas, as DJ Eric, proves he is some actor.

Christina (Mia Kirshner) dances to “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen from the “I’m Your Man” LP which added orchestration to his caustic, spare lyrics. Cohen’s sardonic & arch commentaries on the modern world and its strange ways are perfect for the tone of “Exotica” They are often very funny. That line in “Closing Time”, “she’s a hundred but she’s wearing something tight” is so perfect. His songs are in so many films now. “Pump Up The Volume” used this same one. There are two in both “Natural Born Killers” & “Watchmen”. “Secretary” has Maggie Whatsit crawling around to his music. These films aspire to a similar accurate & pithy observation as the songs. “Exotica” does the trick & other films will continue to use Cohen’s music but please, not “Hallelujah” again. Here is a full length video to “Everybody Knows” which I find most alluring.

I wasn’t Looking Too Good But I Was Feeling Real Well (Keith Richards)

Keith Richards off of the Rolling Stones was in the Speakeasy Club in London’s glittering West End one night in 1974. His group had almost finished that year’s LP (1 a year between 1971-4) & there was no tour scheduled. He was invited to the house of Ron Wood by Ron’s then wife Krissy. Ron’s group, the Faces, had split, after playing with Rod Stewart since 1967 he had his own album to do. Mick Taylor was around, so were Ian Mclagan from the Faces & the best rhythm section of the time drummer Andy Newmark  & bass player Willie Weeks. Keith had a good time. He stayed for months & moved into the guest room.

In July 1974 Woody “and friends” played 2 gigs to promote the LP “I’ve Got My Own Album To Do”.  Keith had contributed 2 songs to the record & took the lead on one of them.

“Sure The One You Need” is a Jagger-Richards composition though when it was performed on the Stones’ 1975 tour it was introduced as a song what Keith wrote. Whatever, I’m sure that Chuck Berry had something to do with it. The band never recorded the tune, more because Ron had used it than any lack of quality. It’s great to see Keith, young, standing upright,  not so elegantly wasted and playing with fine musicians where it’s not his show. The focus though is on him. No-one brings the rock and the roll with such a natural facility. At a time when guitar “heroes” were admired for an increased velocity or for the effects they could wring from their instruments the best guitarist in the world is a rhythm player.

Mick Taylor left the Stones & Keith has described the 1976 LP “Black & Blue” as an audition for guitarists. The guy with the inside track had to be Ron Wood & he became the new member. We saw that 1976 tour &, Holy inflatable phallus, even if there had not been a classic record since “Exile”, it was a very special event. 1978’s “Some Girls” revitalized the band while Keith & Ron toured with the New Barbarians, in support of another solo LP by his co-guitarist, in 1979. The quality of “Some Girls” was not maintained & by 1986 Keith was estranged from Jagger. A solo Mick LP had annoyed him, the pair’s involvement with Live Aid was separate & only 3 songs on the latest record was by credited to them. Finally in 1988 Keith Richards released a solo LP.

What a record “Talk Is Cheap” is. The last great Rolling Stones LP. Keith felt that Jagger had become a pop singer & there must have been a competitive edge to the making of the record. There are songs about the deterioration of the two lasting relationships in his life, with his singer & Anita Pallenberg. There are those long, logical, galvanic riffs , “How I Wish” just never fails to delight. OK Jagger would have made a better job of the Al Green tribute “Make No Mistake” but “Talk Is Cheap” is a proper LP, one that should be listened to from start to finish.It was a great band too, including guitarist Waddy Wachtel, a Neville brother on keyboards, drummer & collaborator Steve Jordan. I wish that I had seen one of these shows.

As the Glimmer twins got to 50 they reunited & the Rolling Stones became an institution that recorded infrequently, making records that no-one remembers. (The lead single from “Bridges To Babylon” was “Anybody Seen My Baby ?”…anyone ?). The world tours became lucrative media events &, at least’ you got to see Keith & Charlie Watts play together, surely the greatest thing in music over the last 50 years. During the first hiatus Keith had the taste for recording & made a 2nd solo record with Jordan & Wachtel. “Main Offender” (1992) has some good songs but lacks the drive of “Talk” & seems a little over-produced. he didn’t need to make another Stones record but it is what he does best. “Wicked As It Seems” though, didn’t that song go to #1 ? Should have done.

That was it for the solo records. While others had turned blue in the bathroom & fallen by the wayside Keith swapped the smack for the Jack. He took all the drugs so that we didn’t have to & has become an international treasure. Deservedly so, he has been the heart & soul of the great rock and roll survivors. When see the geriatric Stones I am reminded of the final image of the band from Guy Peellaert’s “Rock Dreams” with the inseparable pair of troupers keeping on keeping on & Keith, presciently, as a pantomime pirate. Then I put on “Exile” or “Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out” & listen to one of the best bands  I have ever heard.

Only The Random makes Sense (Themroc)

In “Themroc”, Claude Faraldo’s 1973 French movie, a worker, made desperate by the repetitive & inane strictures of his life at home and at work, goes batshit crazy. His anarchistic dismissal of all societal circumscription & values, his reversion to a caveman/animal, leads to demolition, incest, cannibalism, murder & some other weird stuff. You can watch a lot of  “out there” movies but as a political & cinematic experiment & statement nothing can prepare you for “Themroc”

The film has no production values to speak of, filmed with shaky, unfocussed hand-held cameras. There is no dialogue, only grunts & gibberish. What it does have is an anger, an energy, a logic & a black humour which makes it an unforgettable experience. At the heart of the film is Michel Piccoli, a heavyweight performer in 3 Bunuel movies & in Marco Ferrari’s “La Grande Bouffe”. Here he is a bear, a lion, a savage who’s rejection of all he has been taught to accept is visceral rather than of the intellect. In “Themroc” anarchy goes beyond ideology. The film will make you laugh, it will make you flinch & it will make you think.

I saw “Themroc” on its release in the UK & again on a rare cinema showing. I even caught Faraldo’s earlier film “Bof” (1971) at a very rare screening. Then 5 years ago, in a bargain shop in my little town, among the undesirable, discounted whatnots, I bought, incredibly, a video copy of “Themroc” for just one of our English pounds ! I showed the film to anyone with an interest in the more outlandish side of cinema & then, with some irony, the in-built technological obsolescence of capitalism made the video a thing of the past. So it goes…”Themroc” is on the Y-tube, it is a blast, it is a challenge but I’m glad it is there. It would be glib of me to claim that it makes Godard look like a pussycat & Bunuel seem traditional but it is a unique film.

Music and Movies (Love Songs)

I’ve been enjoying “Dancing On The Edge” Stephen Poliakoff’s new BBC drama. 3 episodes down & it is not, I am sure ,going to end well for Chiwetil Ejiofor. Another sure thing about this fine production is that like most films in which he appears (“Blues Brothers 2000” being an exception), it is improved by the involvement of John Goodman. He spent 10 years pretending to be married to Roseanne Barr so that we didn’t have to & for that, at least, we should be grateful.

In David Byrne’s “True Stories” (1986) Goodman is Louis Fyne, ” I’m 6’3″, and maintain a very consistent panda bear shape” & “a dancing fool”. In this skewed & affectionate study of small town America Louis is our lonely Everyman who is looking for & failing to find love. The film’s characters could have been on loan from David Lynch but Byrne , the outsider & narrator, finds no malice in their tics & obsessions. Wes Anderson, Jean-Pierre Jeunet & others are directing films like this. Everyone is making “fake” documentaries. David Byrne did it in the 1980s & wrote a soundtrack of outstanding songs.

Getting Pop Staples to sing “Papa Legba” is a masterstroke, “Wild Wild Life” is a blast but Goodman is gifted the key song of the film. Through “People Like Us” the socially awkward Louis is able to express himself perfectly. “We don’t want freedom, we don’t want justice. We just want someone to love”. The lady who never leaves her bed (Swoosie Kurtz) is watching the “celebration of specialness”,. Of course she marries our hero. What else could she do ?

Now…if a partiality for classics of the British New Wave of the late 1970s really did attract women such as the lovely Maggie Unpronouncable then I would not be sat here writing this & you, probably, would not have the time to read it. Come on, movies are fantasy, I get that, but stuff like this has never & will never happen. I have not seen “Stranger Than Fiction” (2006), maybe it is an “Eternal Sunshine”, an original romantic reverie. I have seen “The Other Guys” & know that Will Ferrell needs to get it on with the  “Anchorman” sequel or he will be another Steve Martin, remembered for his early, funny films.

The neutering of a balls-out rock classic like “Whole Wide World” by any acoustic strummer boy is a step too far in my book. When John Belushi deals with such an affront in “Animal House” by wrecking the offending instrument he , I’m sure, eloquently spoke for us all. The slightly ramshackle Wreckless Eric made a great debut LP & continued to make good, interesting music. His band here is Davey Payne of the Blockheads, Ian Dury on drums &  the striking Denise Roudette on bass, played by the equally striking Naomie Harris in the biopic “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”. Two women who would choose a power chord over leaden lassitude any day of the week. THIS is how “Whole Wide World” sounds…

This is more like it. “Man Bites Dog” (1992) & this, “Crazy Love” (1987) are two wonderfully odd films from Belgium. I’ve been to Belgium & it seems very nice but I must have missed the strange stuff. “Crazy Love” is a triptych of Charles Bukowski stories (with a little John Fante thrown in). Other Bukowski movies have portrayed the protagonist as an approximation of the author. It has been done well by Ben Gazzara. Mickey Rourke & Matt Dillon have done it too. This time we see 3 ages of our hero, Harry Voss.

At the high school prom Harry knows his cystic acne repels his dream girl but swathed, mummy-like, in toilet paper, as an Invisible Man, he has the confidence to approach her & to dance with her. For a couple of minutes he gets to do the things the big boys do & it’s a ridiculous but touching scene. The song “Love Hurts”, Felice & Boudleaux Bryant’s zenith, is perfect. “Some fools fool themselves I guess, but their not fooling me”. “Crazy Love” captures the spirit of Bukowski better than any other film. The bitterness, the pessimism, the thwarted passions & the poetry are all there. Don’t worry too much about Harry. He gets to have sex with a beautiful woman. It’s just that it’s a dead woman…great film !

We Got The !!!! Beat

In 1966 TV shows in colour were a new thing. The Nashville stations (waiting to see if it would catch on ?) had no facilities for the new technology so a local production company went to WFAA in Dallas to record their Rhythm & Blues  and Soul show. They took Bill “Hoss” Allen, a local DJ with them, hired a band led by bluesman Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown & made 26 episodes of The !!!! Beat. The available footage warrants a couple more exclamation marks.It captures some of the great soul artists of the era in unmatched, deserved quality.

First up, Joe Tex, in the middle of 6 R&B Top 40 hits in 1965 & 5 more in 1966 after nearly 10 years of little success. “The Love You Save May Be Your Own” is part of that winning run, recorded at Fame Studios & released on Dial Records. Joe, like many other singers, started the decade in thrall to Sam Cooke. When he found his own voice he wrote & recorded some great Southern Soul tunes. There were the funny homespun wisdom, story song, almost proto-rap, ones (“Skinny Legs & All”) & the soul classics (“Show Me”). His collected singles are all hits, still fresh & a couple of them have been used in Tarantino movies.

Joe had a preacher’s touch about him & became a Muslim. He died from a heart attack at just 47. He said to Peter Guaralnick in “Sweet Soul Music”…”It’s been nice here, man. A lot of ups and downs, the way life is, but I’ve enjoyed this life. I was glad that I was able to come up out of creation and look all around and see a little bit, grass and trees and cars, fish and steaks, potatoes.And I thank God for that. I’m thankful that he let me get up and walk around and take a look around here. Cause this is nice.”…Top man !

I have just found this wonderful clip. Robert Parker started out in New Orleans & played with most of the luminaries of the 1950s from that city. He hit big with “Barefootin” in 1966 but was never able to repeat the success. In the UK this was a major Mod anthem, an absolute dance floor filler. More attention was paid to Robert over here & he often toured over the next years. The self-composed “Barefootin” is irresistible & if you are going to be a one hit wonder then let your hit be this good. It has been covered many times & here is a version by Pete Townshend.

One of the first posts I ever made on this thing featured the other clip of Barbara Lynn on The !!!! Beat. Her performance of the 1962 #1 R&B hit “You’ll Lose A Good Thing”, recorded when she was just 20, is a sublime thing. “It’s Better To Have It”, a hit in 1965, is not as good a song but Ms Lynn is beautiful, elegant, singing & playing like she means it here. In 1965 the Rolling Stones recorded her song “Oh Baby (We Got A Good Thing Goin’)” & Keef seems to love playing it. man, I love Barbara Lynn.

These clips are scattered around the Y-tube & are not easy to find. The 26 episodes are on DVD in the US &, as you can see, are of a quality that is found nowhere else. Otis Redding came along for one show, Esther Phillips & Little Milton almost made the cut here. If Google can help me with a complete track listing then my search will continue.