Steve Jobs

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Despite being just a little addicted to the Macintosh Classic back in the late 80s, when many graphic designers were claiming that you would never get the same quality from a computer that you would from good old Letraset transfer lettering, I haven’t owned a single Apple product in years.

Nowadays I’m veering more toward the technophobe than technophile but when I was given the chance earlier this week to see a preview screening of Danny Boyle’s much anticipated Steve Jobs film, I grabbed it, well he is the man who gave us Renton and Spud being chased through the streets of Edinburgh to the sound of Lust for Life and the eerie beauty of the Cillian Murphy character drifting across a deserted London accompanied by In the House, In a Heartbeat by John Murphy in 28 Days Later.

The Steve Jobs screenplay was penned by Aaron Sorkin, best known for The Social Network, which I didn’t expect to enjoy but did, and Moneyball, which I had high hopes for but which left me underwhelmed.

Here he employs a daring, very theatrical structure with three clear acts, each lasting around forty minutes and played out in real time (with a few flashbacks) and against a countdown leading up to the moment when it’s time for the man to take to the stage to launch a high profile new product: the Macintosh in 1984; the NeXt cube in 1988, after he’s been ousted by the Apple Board and finally, back in the Apple fold, his vision vindicating iMac in 1998.

Importantly, though, there is also a very brief prelude, some archive footage of Arthur C. Clarke predicting a future world where people can live anywhere and communicate with others around the planet via their own computers. Obviously without Jobs, Sorkin seems to be suggesting, the home computer revolution was going to happen anyway, which I would agree with, albeit without Jobs’ input, it might have taken longer and looked less elegant.

Steve Jobs Movie 
Steve Jobs is played by Michael Fassbender, an actor who seems to have gone from strength to strength since I first saw him in Wedding Belles. This Jobs is lean, mean and, when we first see him, very keen for the Macintosh to be able to say hello when switched on, to the extent that he threatens to name and shame an employee Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) in front of a crowded shareholder’s meeting when, due to a system error, the computer isn’t guaranteed to do as he wishes.

‘Fix it.’

‘Fix it? We’re not a pit crew at Daytona. This can’t be fixed in seconds.’

‘You didn’t have seconds. You had three weeks. The universe was created in a third of that time.’

‘Well, maybe someday you’ll have to tell us how you did it.’

A compromise solution is found but there’s more problems that will need to be dealt with, even more important than the need to find a shirt at short notice with a pocket large enough to house a floppy disk, although he might not see it that way.

Backstage his ex-girlfriend Chrissann Brennan and (disputed) daughter Lisa are waiting, and the ex (Katherine Waterston) is as determined to force him to admit paternity of the child as Jobs is for his Macintosh to be a success. Well, the value of his Apple stock is on the rise and worth hundreds of millions while she’s being forced to apply for welfare.

Then there’s Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), a crucial player at Apple, who is gonna be mightily pissed off if Jobs doesn’t thank the team behind the creation of the money making Apple II during his speech. Which Jobs has no intention of doing.

It says a lot about how skilful Boyle is at coaxing performances from his casts that Rogen is exceptionally good here, something I never thought I’d say after watching Zack and Miri Make a Porno – strangely enough the Miri from that film, Elizabeth Banks, was excellent too in my other favourite biopic from this year, Love & Mercy.

And if you’re wondering why Jobs’ trusted confidant and continual voice of reason, Joanna Hoffman, a brunette with bad ’80s specs, looks familiar then that’s because she’s Kate Winslet.

It might still be a bit early to be talking about the Oscars but surely Winslet is a dead cert for a Best Supporting Actress nomination and I would think the film will also be in contention in a number of other categories: Best Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor (Fassbender), Best Supporting Actor (Rogen, with Jeff Daniels as John Sculley in with a shout too).

Visually, it’s nowhere near as magical as Slumdog Millionaire. Neither is it as gripping, visceral and funny as Trainspotting albeit very few films are. By Boyle standards, its soundtrack lacks the excitement of many of his previous films, although Don’t Look Back into the Sun always sounds good to me. The structure too is slightly problematic in that such a meticulous man would, I’m guessing, ensure that there would be no possible backstage hassles before such important events.

On the plus side, the script is constantly absorbing and astonishingly tight. When Lisa doodles what she calls an ‘abstract’ on MacPaint, it’s there for a reason and when a suddenly blasé Jobs comes out with the comment, ‘If it crashes, it crashes,’ as the NeXt cube is about to be introduced to the world, then it’s again for a very specific reason although unless you’re an Jobs/Apple devotee you won’t have a clue why.

The dialogue is punchy as hell. The cinematography by Alwin Küchler is highly inventive too, especially since the film consists almost entirely of interior shots. The first act is shot on grainy 16mm stock, the next on 35mm and the final third on sharp digital.

I will very likely go and see Steve Jobs again when it opens nationwide next month. And if there was ever to be a sequel reuniting Boyle, Sorkin and Fassbender and covering the iPod, iPhone and illness years, then I would go to see that too, although even if that was it happen, it won’t be before Boyle shoots Trainspotting 2 – and here I briefly try, and fail, to imagine a Sorkin scripted version of that.

Steve Jobs opens in British cinemas on November 13. For more on the film click here.

Punk Rock, Aerobics & Inspector Rebus

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Back in the 1980s I bought a hardback novel during a book sale at what was then called the Third Eye Centre in Glasgow (now the CCA). It was the debut of an almost completely unknown young Scottish author and although only a couple of hundred copies of the hardback had been published, they must have been proving hard to shift hence the bargain price of a fiver.

I’m told that this edition of The Flood by Ian Rankin is worth a lot more these days than five quid. Or even fifty quid. Luckily I kept my copy.

Nowadays Ian Rankin is, of course, one of Britain’s best-selling authors and another claim to fame is that he was once the vocalist of Fife’s second best punk band*, The Dancing Pigs, who back in 1978 played about six gigs in Cowdenbeath before splitting up. All these years later the author is still happy to describe himself as a frustrated musician and anybody who follows him on Twitter will know just how important a part in his life that music still plays. Last week, for instance, he was congratulating C Duncan for his Mercury Prize nomination and he’s also just put me on to a band called Outblinker.

A few months ago Ian Rankin spoke with Viv Albertine at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and I have just discovered that their conversation can be downloaded in audio form, so I’ve added the link below. I’d definitely advise you give it a listen as Viv’s memoir Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys (or Clothes, Music, Boys as it has been rebranded) is the best autobiography by any musician I’ve read in years and also the best book ever to feature aerobics at any point. Oh, and she talks about playing in Edinburgh as part of White Riot tour.

Viv Albertine Clothes Music Boys cover

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Click here to listen to Viv with Ian.

Ian Rankin’s latest Inspector Rebus novel, Even Dogs in the Wild, will be published next month and its Glasgow launch is on Tuesday, 03 November, 2015 at Òran Mór.

* The Skids obviously being the best and the Dancing Pigs apparently being the only other punk band in the Kingdom.

For more on Ian: http://www.ianrankin.net/
For more on Viv: https://www.facebook.com/vivalbertine/

An A to Z of Scottish Fanzines #3: C is for… Cripes

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Okay, after a long break, the return of my far from definitive series on Scottish fanzines, the delay being caused by my inability to find the very first issue of Cripes from the summer of 1977, which I have now finally located and scanned (well, the pages that remain anyway).

Cripes No 1

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Cripes never actually claimed to be a fanzine, instead it billed itself simply as Bruce’s Newsletter, Bruce’s being Scotland’s best known independent record shop chain which started out in the late 1960s and at one point during the following decade had branches spread across Scotland in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Falkirk, Kirkcaldy, Clydebank and Kilmarnock. Older readers may well remember the very distinctive red ’I Found It At Bruce’s’ bags.

Edited from the Shandwick Place branch in Edinburgh, Cripes was put together by Bruce Findlay and Brian Hogg of the hugely influential ’zine Bam Balam, along with a number of other Bruce’s employees.

The newsletter was given away free of charge and according to #1: ‘CRIPES or whatever it may be called at any given time, is really an information sheet on the alternative or underground record scene, and will include lists of new releases and charts to keep all you vinyl junkies titillated and amused.’

Issues came out on regularly and along with those titillating lists of new releases and charts, each issue would include an editorial which became known as Havers; a regular column by Brian Hogg known as Split Ends; local music news; details of upcoming gigs in the central belt of Scotland and live reviews; ads and the occasional interview. Over time, the Bruce’s top twenty singles chart, based on sales across the chain, was split into a shop chart and mail order chart – where records like Buzzcocks’ Love You More, Smash It Up by The Damned and Where’s the Boy for Me by The Revillos all made it to number one.

Album charts became another feature and there were often one-offs such as a page of New Wave Resolutions at the tail end of ’77, that included seeing the Pistols live, improving Cripes and getting The Valves to number one in the UK – oh and each of the acts signed to Findlay’s excellent Zoom label such as The Valves and The Zones featured prominently (as you would kinda expect), as did other local acts like Another Pretty Face and The Rezillos, while front cover stars included Rich Kids, Gang of Four and on more than one occasion, Simple Minds.

That latter band found themselves increasingly appearing in the pages of Cripes as 1978 progressed. #61, for instance, urged east coast social secs and promoters to check out one of their Sunday night residency shows at Glasgow’s legendary Mar’s Bar*, where punters were already being turned away an hour before they took to the stage. Brian Hogg reviewed them several times, penning a fairly lengthy and highly enthusiastic piece on their Astoria gig in Cripes #70, where he concluded: ‘To be excellent and have potential is no mean thing. Simple Minds are a great band.’

Bruce Findlay obviously agreed with this assessment and quickly went on manage the band and sign them to Zoom; indeed the fanzine eventually bit the dust after two and a half years when Simple Minds, already with a second album in the can, began to really take off while on their first European tour, meaning Bruce had to devote more and more of his time to the group and the label.

‘That’s all for now,’ he declared in #110. ‘Hopefully this will not be the final Cripes. But it is certainly the last on a regular basis.’

So was this the final Cripes? I don’t know as by this point I was living outside Scotland, so if anybody knows the answer to that one, feel free to enlighten me.

* Googling the search query ‘Glasgow Mars Bar’ can be a bit frustrating as the information that tends to turn up is on which chippies in the city sell the culinary delight that is the deep fried Mars Bar. Yum.

For the whole of Brian Hogg’s Simple Minds review see Dream Giver Redux, the unofficial Simple Minds website.

For more on Cripes have a look at the Rags and Fanzines pages of The Edinburgh Gig Archive.

An A to Z of Scottish Fanzines - C
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C is also for:

Can I Bring My Dog?: I haven’t even ever seen this one but am assured that it was produced by fans of Dundee United.

(The) Celt: Another one I know little about other than it was first published in 1983 by George Sheridan and Eugene MacBride and largely concentrated on the history of the Glasgow club.

The Champions: Elgin City. I assume that the title is ironic but maybe not as they have been champions of the Scottish Highland League on a number of occasions although they now compete in Scotland’s League 2.

Cheers: One of a surprising number of Meadowbank Thistle fanzines. The club was admitted to the Scottish Football League in 1974 and played their first match against Albion Rovers with half-time entertainment being provided by a go-go dancer called Wanda. Meadowbank later morphed into Livingston and they currently play in the Scottish Championship where I’m guessing their current half-time entertainment will be a little less racy.

China’s: Again, no real knowledge of this Dalry Thistle football fanzine although I have just learned that Dalry is apparently known to some as China Town due to the large number of old China shops that used to exist there once upon a time, hence the title.

Claggan Gold: Produced for fans of Fort William FC, a team that play in Claggan Park and who joined Scotland’s Highland League around thirty years ago. From this cover at least its design feel could be described as ’basic’.

Clyde-O-Scope: Clyde FC. The issue above features Pat Nevin on the cover and Pat, who by coincidence popped up on BBC Four’s Music for Misfits: The Story of Indie the other night, might get another mention in the future here for an interview he gave for Slow Dazzle, an alternative fanzine from Greenock.

Clyde Underground: Another Clyde FC fanzine.

Cranked Up: A Dundee fanzine from the first half of the 80s which concentrated on music but also found room for cinema, TV, poetry. politics and theatre. Acts featured included Vic Godard, Altered Images, Aztec Camera and local bands like The Scrotum Poles. Cranked Up ran for eighteen issues. The main contributor was a guy called Jock Ferguson, who also DJed locally and who now occasionally works as a Sean Connery lookalike. For more visit the Retro Dundee site.

Crash Bang!: A couple of copies of this fanzine, which actually styled itself as a comic, went for over a hundred quid each on Ebay recently. Crash Bang! was produced in Airdrie and gave some of the very first coverage anywhere to groups like The Exile, Johnnie and The Self Abusers and James King’s first band The Backstabbers. There was also a Reader’s Chart, gig reviews and interviews with the likes of Jean-Jacques Burnel and Tony James of Generation X. A great read.

Crying Time Again: A Hamilton Accies zine that the Glasgow Herald once claimed had a great astrology column and which also contained a very popular cartoon strip called Frank the Multi-talented Ginger Bottle. Don’t ask.

Cult: Early ’80s punky zine from Livingston. Described by Liverpool’s Sign of the Times as: ’Crammed full of news and views but scrappy in places. But well worth it for the avid reader.’

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And finally Collusion is often thought to be another fanzine from Dundee but the Collusion I know was London based. Cool might have been produced in Edinburgh but I’m not absolutely sure, while City Lynx was never really a fanzine but an Edinburgh based publication that covered the local music scene and at one point was published on a weekly basis. Finally Alan McGee’s Communication Blur, although its editor was a Scot, was first produced when he was already living in London, so is not really Scottish.