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A Beautiful Mutation Of A Future Generation & An Electronic Bilbo Bopparonie

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First up, The Regents’ 7 Teen, a slice of perfect post-punk pop (if that’s even a thing) released in November 1979 – by which time I was already 2 Months into being 8 Teen.

The song retains the rawness of 1977 but is even more stripped back than yer average punk offering from that year. It’s also somehow very accessible and danceable too, the sort of track you could have easily skanked along to at your local alternative disco in between The Specials and Leyton Buzzards. As for its DIY credentials – they’re impeccable. Released by British independent label Rialto, the tune was recorded on the band’s own 4 track and released in this form.

The lyrics are a grubby three and a half minute mini Play For Today about a girl who’s not yet a woman, a beautiful mutation of a future generation. There’s a great choppy guitar line, some chunky bass and the two girls la-la-la-laa-ing provide a fantastic counterpoint to Martin Scheller’s vocals. And his scream.

As for the cover, it looks like what graphic designers call a rough, a sketch produced quickly to give a client an indication of what the finished image might look like. Here, this is not necessarily a bad thing – its bold simplicity suits the lo-fi feel of the music.

Two versions of the single were issued. One was deemed TV and radio friendly, even though it manages to smuggle in the line ‘Thought that you were never coming’. The only difference is that it substitutes the ‘uncensored’ version’s ‘permanent erection’ with ‘permanent reaction’. You could never have one of the BBC’s top presenters such as Jimmy Savile having to introduce a hit with a clearly offensive word in its lyrics, could you?

And yes, 7 Teen began selling in sufficient quantities to make its way into the UK charts, joining the likes of The Clash, The Sugarhill Gang, Pink Floyd and Abba and soon The Regents were invited onto Britain’s favourite pop show on a number of times (and Savile did introduce them on one of these visits).

You couldn’t hold the band back. For another Top of the Pops appearance, Martin Sheller modelled a red outfit with two shoulder pads gaffa taped onto his top and despite the fashion faux pas, the record still kept on selling, eventually, peaking at #11. They’re certainly in a good mood here and look out for Sheller’s reaction when he realises he’s messed up his miming.

A year or so after The Regents’ five minutes of fame, Phil Oakey visited a nightspot in the centre of Sheffield called the Crazy Daisy where he chanced upon Susanne Sulley (only 7 Teen) and Joanne Catherall (only just turned 8 Teen) on the dancefloor. Famously, this led to him inviting them to sing and dance with The Human League, who had recently been depleted after an acrimonious split.

At the time it was suggested by some that Oakey’s decision might have been influenced by The Regents line-up including two young female backing singers in dresses who also danced – one blonde, one brunette.

Most likely a coincidence I reckon. The Regents, after all, had failed to repeat the chart success of 7 Teen and by this point must have already been worrying that they might be filed under ‘one hit wonders’ in years to come. As further evidence I’ll cite a comment made by a modest Susanne to NME in the autumn of 1981, when she explained Phil’s intentions for his new look band: ‘He wanted a tall black singer and he got two short white girls who couldn’t sing.’

The Sound of the Crowd was the girls’ first outing in the ranks of The Human League and the formula of a crunching synth riff; impossible to decipher the meaning of lyrics and two short white girls who couldn’t sing (and couldn’t dance either according to some) proved irresistible to the British record buying public. This would be The Human League’s first real hit, peaking at #12. With no need to stand proud, here they are from 1981.

Finally, in explanation, if you’ve been wondering about An Electronic Bilbo Bopparoonie. That’s the message etched into the runout groove of The Sound of the Crowd‘s vinyl.

Mr. Vampire (Made in Hong Kong #2)

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Friday saw freezing temperatures in my part of the world (-7 overnight) and the next morning I woke up sneezing incessantly. This lasted throughout the day and into the night but luckily disappeared after about twelve hours although the sneezing had been so severe that my ribs hurt like hell for some time afterwards. At least I could be thankful it very likely wasn’t Covid related.

It was time for something that might just be fun entertainment. The dafter the better and 1985’s Mr. Vampire suited that bill ideally. Directed by Ricky Lau, this is an influential horror/comedy/kung fu hybrid from the golden age of Hong Kong cinema that I hadn’t watched since it was featured as part of Channel 4’s Chinese Ghost Story season in 1990.

The rules here are different from those you have learned in Western vampire movies. Vampires become harmless if you stick a special talisman to their foreheads. Twin dabs of blood on the forehead also incapacitate them, as does an eight-sided mirror. They’re blind and so can’t locate you if you hold your breath. If bitten by one, you can be saved by sticky rice. Not a mixture of sticky and non-sticky rice. Only pure sticky rice. That rule is very important.

I should also point out that the vampires resemble zombies as much as they do Count Dracula. And they hop!

A Taoist priest, Master Kau (Lam Ching-ying) is given the task of supervising the re-burial of a businessman’s father, the idea being that the improved feng shui of a new tomb will bring prosperity to his family who are still alive. Together with his bumbling assistants, Man Choi (Ricky Hui) and Chou Sheng (Chin Siu-ho), Kau exhumes the corpse but the body shows few signs of decomposition despite having lain underground for years.

Realising that it must be a vampire, Kau relocates the coffin to his house for further study. Due to the incompetence of Man Choi and Chou, the vampire breaks out and his first victim will be his own son, Yam.

The local police become involved. Led by Yam’s nephew Wai, who is another incompetent, they are of limited use. Wai, like Man Choi and Chou, is more interested in Yam’s daughter Ting-Ting. To impress her, he arrests Kau, framing him on a charge of murdering his uncle. With the only man knowledgeable enough to combat vampires behind bars, the whole situation spirals out of control with yet more hopping vampires, a conniving but seductive ghost and even a cave-dwelling gorilla.

The comedy is obviously far from subtle. And if you’re looking for scares, you might as well watch Hotel Transylvania. The walls in the prison look as solid as cardboard and occasionally the wires are visible in some of the stunts. Whether Kau’s grey monobrow is supposed to look fake, I have no idea. But all of this adds to the madcap fun.

Ricky Lau, on his directing debut, keeps the action moving briskly. There’s some impressive kung fu action, especially from the amazingly acrobatic Lan Ching-Ying. Best of all, Mr. Vampire has a great ensemble cast, although special mention must be made of Lam Ching-ying as the indomitable Master Kau.

Lam had previously worked as an action choreographer, and assistant to Bruce Lee on movies like Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon, as well as appearing in a string of Shaw Brothers chopsocky movies. His performance here will be his most fondly remembered. Deservedly so.

On its original 1985 release, Mr. Vampire proved a real blockbuster at the Hong Kong box-office. It also spawned a cycle of sequels and countless rip-off jiangshi (hopping vampire) movies, though none of them are said to have matched the original.

The movie was released last summer by Eureka Masters of Cinema. For more on Mr. Vampire click here.