Home

Donald Is Possessed By The Devil (& Papa Gets a Brand New Pigbag, Whatever That Is): A Y Records Two For Tuesday

Leave a comment

Anybody remember Pulsallama?

The band were apparently synonymous with Club 57 on St Marks Place in the East Village in the early 1980s, when singer Ann Magnuson was a manager there.

Club 57 sounds a lot more exciting than my local arts centre. It played host to avant-garde plays, performance art events and readings by writers like Kathy Acker. Regulars Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf staged exhibitions. Movies were screened: grindhouse favourites like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Satan’s Cheerleaders. Horror fanzine Gore Gazette took over the venue for their first anniversary – Herschell Gordon Lewis was special guest and Sleazoid Express held several events there too. Many, many fantastic bands also took to the stage, from The Cramps to Ultravox, The Slits to Suicide.

For their first shows at 57, Pulsallama advertised themselves as a ‘Thirteen piece all girl percussive orchestra’, while Glenn O’Brien in Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine described them as: ‘a rhythmic band consisting of a dozen or so women who whomp and whoop up a storm of frolic on a wide range of percussive devices and some bass guitars.’

I’d guess if The Waitresses, ESG and a Caribbean steel band all entered a studio together, they might have ended up sounding not unlike Pulsallama.

The band had great names like Jean Caffeine and Wendy Wild and dressed theatrically in cocktail dresses. This was one act that refused to take themselves too seriously.

Pulsallama - The Devil Lives In My Husband's Body

I had almost forgotten about them since the days when John Peel would give them the odd spin on his radio show almost forty years ago, although Simon Reynolds had quoted an old East Village Eye review in the Mutant Disco and Punk-Funk chapter of Rip It Up and Start Again back in 2005. They got more of a mention in Stanley Strychacki’s Life As Art: The Club 57 Story, where Cynthia Sley of The Bush Tetras enthused about a typical Pulsallama live excursion, where they would bang on all kinds of percussion and yell. ‘A tremendous cacophony. Something like, Listen to us or die. But funny’.

NME gave them a one page spread. They shared a bill with a very young Madonna and supported The Clash at Bond’s in New York, where they were seen by everyone from Johnny Rotten to Robert De Niro.

By the time of their 1982 single The Devil Lives in My Husband’s Body, they had slimmed down to a seven piece. The song tells the tale of Donald, a suburban husband, who begins suddenly each evening after work to head down to the basement of his home, where he yelps, barks and growls like a dog.

Not the last barking mad Donald you may be thinking.

As daft as it is infectious, here it is:

The Pulsallama EP, a live set of seven tracks including The Devil Lives in My Husband’s Body, recorded in a New York studio for French radio, is just out, available here on pink or splatter coloured vinyl, CD or download.

Pulsallama signed to Y Records, named after the debut studio album of noisy English post-punks The Pop Group. Bristol based, the label was set up by Dick (Disc) O’Dell, who once upon a time had worked as a lights/sound operator for Pink Floyd and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, and at this point was The Pop Group’s manager.

When the girls put pen to paper, the label was likely best known for being the home of Pigbag of Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag fame and an element of crossover existed between both acts, such as playing a show together at New York’s famous Peppermint Lounge and sharing a producer in O’Dell. Peter Shapiro even suggested in Turn The Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco that Pulsallama ‘sounded like Pigbag combined with Julie Brown’.

That Pigbag single was one of the most insanely danceable records of the era, a guaranteed instant floor-filler in Maestros in Glasgow and likely every other club across the country. Even the really crap ones.

In 1981, it created a stir in the indie charts, albeit it would be best described as an underground hit. On its re-release a year later, as the band toured Britain to promote their Dr Heckle And Mr Jive album, it really took off. It entered the British charts at #50. A month later it had climbed to #3, where it peaked, unable to go the whole hog and dislodge Bucks Fucking Fizz’s The Camera Never Lies and Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s turgid Ebony and Ivory. Perfect harmony, my arse.

Here is Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag on Top of the Pops:

For more on Pigbag: http://www.pigbag.co.uk/

Goodbye, Ennio Morricone

Leave a comment

Ennio Morricone Trumpet

Today, a repost from exactly two years ago in tribute to Ennio Morricone, who died aged 91 today in Rome. The man was an absolute colossus in the field of soundtrack composition and what a magnificent legacy he has left behind.

*

If you don’t already know this obscure little gem then you’re in for a real treat. Honestly, don’t even think about leaving this page without reading on!

Ennio Morricone is the maestro behind the music of such films as A Fistful of Dollars and Once Upon a Time in the West through to The Untouchables and The Hateful Eight. His work has been sampled by a long list of acts from Big Audio Dynamite, Goldfrapp to The Prodigy and, of course, Stereolab.

He is also one of the rare musicians that I would firmly class in the category of genius.

Even so, I’ve still seen less than half the 500 plus films that he’s supplied the scores to and I can’t claim to have seen Vergogna Schifosi (or Dirty Angels, to give it its English translation) apart from some poor quality clips on YouTube.

It doesn’t seem to be available to buy from eBay or to download anywhere so Mauro Severino’s 1969 movie might be an underappreciated masterpiece or, alternatively, utterly awful, but even if it is a dud there’s still an exquisite Morricone soundtrack to enjoy.

According to someone commenting on YouTube, the opening track Matto, Caldo, Soldi, Morto… Girotondo sounds like a ‘satanic erotic mantra’ and I can see where they’re coming from but from the little I can glean from the internet, the song has some kind of connection to Giro Giro Tondo, an Italian nursery rhyme that is the equivalent to something like Ring Around the Rosie.

Featuring the honey-saturated soprano of Edda Dell’orso, whose voice here conjures up visions of earthly paradises, I’ll go for a Capri beach with golden sands, inhabited by Monica Vitti lookalikes in bikinis and the most intensely coloured rainbow you’ve ever seen in the sky.

Glorioso!

PS. I only very recently came across Dirty Angels on YouTube although it’s in Italian with no subtitles. Despite living with an Italian in the 1990s, I sadly only know a handful of words and phrases in that language but I do still intend to watch it soon.

Finally, some more Morricone magic. A Fistful of Dynamite, to give it the title it’s known as in Britain, is an entertaining spaghetti western featuring James Coburn’s never terribly convincing Irish accent, Rod Steigers’s never terribly convincing Mexican accent and explosions galore.

The soundtrack is superb throughout and here is its main theme – and, yes, Coburn’s character is called Sean.

Ennio Morricone: 10 November 1928 – 6 July 2020

All the Love and Poison of London (& A Reaction Against All the Love and Poison of London)

Leave a comment

Suede and Elastica

This week I’ve been reading The Last Party, John Harris’s take on Britpop, Blair and the demise of English Rock, together with the July issue of Mojo.

I thought I’d given up on music mags, as every time I’ve read one in recent years I’ve felt something akin to déjà vu, with the same old acts cropping up again and again, saying much the same things again and again – while far too many of the newer acts look like geography teachers for my liking.

Suede ad

Suede certainly didn’t resemble geography teachers. And they didn’t resemble the grunge acts that were ruling the alternative roost of the early 1990s either. Suede might have had longish hair but unlike the Seattle bands, they deemed it a good idea to actually wash it more than once every coupla months. And there was as much chance as singer Brett Anderson donning a plaid shirt as me sending a donation to Richard Branson on his private island to help him out during his current financial difficulties.

Live shows saw Brett sashaying around the stage, skelping his thighs and his skinny ass as he did so, that lank fringe of his swaying foppishly back and forth across with metronome regularity, while singing in that arch voice of his about beautiful losers and the underside of the city – or as the band put it on the deadwax of Metal Mickey: ‘All the Love and Poison of London’.

A year earlier A&R departments wouldn’t cross the street to see them but in 1992, the band speedily found themselves the darlings of the British rock press which now included magazines like Q, Vox and Select. Few independent guitar acts had created this level of hype since the early days of The Smiths and The Jesus and Mary Chain. For one front cover in Spring 1992, Melody Maker declared them the best new band in Britain. They had yet to release any music, although when sleaze tinged glam pop debut The Drowners hit record shops the hype machine only accelerated.

The track demonstrated a band with big ambitions, consequently pissing off many indie purists (I’ve just reached the point in The Last Party, where an indie purist accosts Alan McGee and calls him a ‘turncoat cunt’, before spitting on him for selling off just under half of Creation to Sony). These musical puritans must have cursed the rise of Suede, meaning less room in their music paper of choice for Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and other acts with terrible haircuts and even worse music.

NME’s Christmas 1992 issue was reputedly their biggest seller in a decade. On the cover Brett Anderson posed as Sid Vicious, an idea explored around the same time by the artist Gavin Turk in his life-size waxwork Pop, where Turk poses as Vicious singing My Way in The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle. Which came first? I’m not sure but if I had to guess I’d go for the NME cover.

Brett as Sid and Gavin as Sid

Anderson had a way with a quote. Twenty years earlier, David Bowie had informed Melody Maker that he was ‘gay, and always have been.’ Brett Anderson now explained in the same paper that: ‘I see myself as a bisexual man who’s never had a homosexual experience.’ This struck some as a big deal at the time.

Brett’s father was a Lisztomaniac who even named Brett’s sister Blondine after Franz Liszt’s daughter. His mum an art school graduate. The young Brett caught up with The Sex Pistols in secondary school during the 1980s. And then he developed a taste for Crass and The Exploited, which is a bit like discovering that pre-Britain’s Got Talent, Susan Boyle had been obsessed with, well, Crass and The Exploited.

His musical tastes improved with age, his affections switching primarily to Bowie and The Smiths. As Suede established themselves, their sound reflected these influences, although I thought there was as much Human Menagerie era Cockney Rebel as 1970s Bowie. Brett soon got to meet his heroes, although the encounter with Morrissey soured almost instantly. Anderson complained that Morrissey’s shyness was boring rather than charming and claimed Moz was like ‘some kind of useless teenager’.

The useless teenager volleyed back, decrying Suede as a band ‘with all reference points so tightly packed that it consequently leaves no room whatsoever for originality, should any be lurking.’ His tirade concluded by stating that Anderson would ‘never forgive God for not making him Angie Bowie.’ Oouch, but it was a putdown that raised the question as to why then had he chosen to cover The Insatiable Ones (one of the B-sides of The Drowners) live?

Controversies continued. Stuart Maconie at Select featured Anderson on one front cover with a Union Jack superimposed in the background – a decision guaranteed to get the knickers of most British indie types in a collective twist. A stooshie ensued with some seeing this as a dangerous right-wing statement, while others argued that the time was right to reclaim the flag and that you could be proud of being British without wanting a return to the days of the Raj. Either way, it was a decision that had nothing to do with Anderson.

From the moment Bernard Butler’s guitar took off and soared like Concorde, second single Metal Mickey was clearly going to consolidate Suede’s reputation. Like their stage image, the single’s packaging also showed the benefits of a coherent aesthetic. The first single had featured famous 1960s model Veruschka von Lehndorff on its cover, a trompe-l’œil suit painted on to her body and facial hair stippled on to her face. This time around Anderson chose an intriguing photo he’d found while browsing in a second-hand bookstore. Like The Smiths again, Suede were dead against the idea of any record company imposing their ideas over the band’s vision. The ideas for these sleeves came from Anderson and the boys, albeit a pair of graphic designers, Peter Barrett and Andrew Biscomb, were brought in to execute the finished product.

Suede 3 Singles

The Metal Mickey video saw the reappearance of the sleeve star of The Drowners – okay, somebody else dressing as the Veruschka figure but with a better pimp hat – who rescues a pretty thing from the drudgery of her dead-end job at a meat processing plant, whisking her off to the seedy glamour of a neon lit Soho.

Released on Nude Records in November 1992, here is Metal Mickey:

And now for an act featuring two former members of Suede, Justine Frischmann – who had gone out with Brett Anderson and had played guitar in the band – and Justin Welch, who was their first drummer, although not for long.

Justine decided to react against the music and lyrics of that band.

‘I was sick of the whole “love and poison of London” thing,’ she told Harris in The Last Party.

Elastica Singles

And unlike Suede, their aesthetic was minimalist DIY. Just take a look at the video for debut 45 Stutter.

White background, magazine pages scattered across the floor. Justine out in front, flanked by Donna Matthews and Annie Holland, with drummer Justin at the back. The band mime and a handheld camera captures them in a single take. A perfect match for the music with those crunching power chords, crisp drumming and Jean-Jacques Burnel bass. And didn’t Justine look effortlessly cool as she sings about her frustration at the failures of some guy in the bedroom.

From November 1993, this is Stutter, the third single release on the Deceptive label:

The album Suede charted at #1 in the UK Albums Chart, shifting 100,000 copies on the day of its release. It went on to win the then prestigious Mercury Music Prize, while Elastica also hit #1 becoming one of the fastest selling debuts in British musical history. Soon Suede’s rivals at the time Blur released Modern Life Is Rubbish, which I loved while Pulp were also about to make a hard won and well deserved breakthrough with His ‘n’ Hers.

For the first time since the late 1970s/ early ‘80s heyday of The Jam, The Specials and Dexy’s, my tastes were pretty much in line with what was looking like the new mainstream.

This wasn’t to last too long.

Justine Frischmann Three Paintings

Today Justine is based in California where she works as an abstract artist, utilising a wide range of materials from the traditional (oil paint) to the new (repurposed photography and fluorescent spray enamel).

‘I really enjoy the synthetic, Pop-look of fluorescents, and the magical, almost mystical way they seem to light up a surface,’ she told In the Make website. ‘They only came into existence in the latter part of the 20th century and for me, they are one of the best things about our toxic, synthetic times. Medieval artists used gold leaf to light up a surface; we have fluoro!’ Above are her paintings Lambent 89, Lambent 80 and Lambent 83.

Justine was shortlisted for the 2012 Marmite Prize although she didn’t win – presumably her work completely divided the opinions of the judges. She has no plans to reform Elastica which hopefully rules out any temptation to ever appear at some ‘90s Rewind style weekender at Butlin’s Minehead along with Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin.

Fingers crossed.

For more on Justine: http://www.justinefrischmann.net/

Dark Alley / Black Star / Four Turkeys in a Big Black Car

Leave a comment

Brian Eno: King’s Lead Hat

7-by-7-1977-logo-2016

Anagrams aren’t really my thing. Offhand, I can only think of one that someone else has coined. That is King’s Lead Hat, which you likely know is an anagram of Talking Heads. I bet Eno, the great intellectual of pop music*, could rattle off a list of thousands of them and given a few seconds could generate one off any random letters he was given to work with.

Eno had been impressed when he saw Talking Heads support The Ramones in the early summer of 1977 in London. He hooked up with them a couple of times after the show and struck up a friendship with David Byrne in particular. Before the year was out, Eno travelled to New York where he met up again with The Talking Heads. He was hired to produce their second album on this visit.

1977 was to prove a vintage year for Eno. He earned glowing accolades for acting as what Tony Visconti called ‘zen master’ on the classic pair of albums Low and Heroes that proved David Bowie truly was music’s great chameleon; he additionally teamed up with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius on the album Cluster and Eno and produced three albums that would be released on his own Obscure imprint, including Harold Budd’s The Pavilion of Dreams. Eno also appeared on a Camel track Elke – which I had never heard of until a few hours ago. It’s certainly better than I had imagined it would be although I doubt it’ll be making its way into my collection any time soon.

Most importantly for the artist, he finally finished off his fourth solo album Before And After Science, an eclectic collection of songs that ranged from the melancholic Julie With through to the aforementioned King’s Lead Hat.

The latter track owes something to the jerky, agitated sound of early XTC with an added dash of Devo (who would also soon hire him to produce an album) but at base it’s a salute to Talking Heads. Eno had even originally hoped that the band would accompany him on the track but due to a scheduling clash this couldn’t happen.

Still, he managed to assemble an interesting ensemble of musicians to take their place, including former Roxy pal Phil Manzanera, and Robert Fripp.
With nonsense lyrics such as ‘Dark alley / Black star / Four turkeys in a big black car’, Andy Fraser’s quakes of whiplash bass and unhinged plinky plonky piano supplied by Brian himself, this was Eno at his most infectious. Best of all is Fripp’s usual left side of the brain guitar lines.

Despite the age and experience of these musicians, it’s a track that didn’t sound remotely out of place in the year of punk’s big breakthrough. At the end of November, Eno was showcased on the front of NME with the first of a two part conversation with Ian McDonald inside. There was Old Wave, there was New Wave and there was David Bowie. And Brian Eno.

NME placed Before And After Science 14th best album of the year in their end of year poll, three places above Talking Heads’ ’77. Here is track five, side one:

If you were hoping for more of this kind of glorious racket from Eno, you’d be disappointed as he turned his attention increasingly to ambient music. Before then, he did release a remixed version of the song which came out on 45 in January 1978. This was accompanied by a way ahead of its time B-side, R.A.F. Although to be applauded for its innovative use of sampling, it’s not one that I listen to on any kind of regular basis (mainly due to being allergic to anything played on a fretless bass).

A precursor of 1981’s My Life In The Bush of Ghosts collaboration with David Byrne, which itself was way ahead of the curve, R.A.F. was credited to Brian Eno and Snatch with the songwriting divided between Eno, Judy Nylon and Patti Palladin.

It combined spoken vocals by Nylon and Palladin in the role of passengers on a hijacked plane with a studio recording made by Eno and others a few years previously. The sonic collage was then completed with recordings supplied by Nylon of snippets of West German police telephone communications containing RAF (Red Army Faction) ransom messages and other ominous material. Hear this hybrid of the new, the recycled, and the readymade here.

Roxy Music - Trash

‘Are you customized or ready-made?’ Bryan Ferry asked in the first line of Trash, Roxy Music’s first single since Both Ends Burning in 1975. This wasn’t the high-profile return that Ferry had hoped for. The song sneaked into the charts, peaking at #40.

It’s a decent enough wee ditty but clearly far from the flamboyant retro futurism of Virginia Plain and Ladytron. The new rather staidly dressed Roxy just didn’t look right either, with those shirts and ties and with a former pub rocker (Paul Carrack) and ex-Vibrator (Gary Tibbs) in the line-up. You might argue that image isn’t important but have a gander at either of the photos on the inside gatefold sleeves of the first two Roxy albums, and you’ll immediately realise which of the two line-ups would make the more vital music.

Roxy Music For Your Pleasure Gatefold Sleeve

Finally, if you like Japan (the band) then you’ll love the B-side of Trash, titled Trash 2.

* As I began writing, I chose an Eno Oblique Strategy online. It was Use Cliches and I don’t think this helped. I also decided to devise my first ever anagram and struggled to come up with what retrospectively strikes me as the highly obvious Brain One. Which it now strikes me I’m sure I’ve heard before.

The Devil’s Filth Witch Struts Her Stuff To The Second Greatest Disco Track Ever Recorded

Leave a comment

Firstly, we all know what the greatest disco track ever recorded was, don’t we?

A clue. It wasn’t Chic and Good Times. That was the third greatest disco track ever recorded. It wasn’t Le Freak either, although that’s right up there too. And it definitely wasn’t Disco Duck, was it? No, Donna Summer’s I Feel Love was the highpoint of disco, the Mona Lisa of the disco movement, the Citizen Kane of the synthesiser.

Hearing I Feel Love boom out for the first time was like being transported into the future and not just the near future. This is how music will sound in decades from now I must have thought, completely hypnotized by the electronic pulse of the track.

How deflating it would have been later that night to have actually time travelled forward into today, only to discover that music was being dominated by backwards looking bores like Ed Sheeran and Gerry Cinnamon sounding like 1970s buskers.

Second greatest ever disco track? Just edging it over Good Times is Sylvester and You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real). More on which later.

Sylvester - You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)

If you’re wondering about the devil’s filth witch dancing to it, then that’ll be Cosey Fanni Tutti, whose book Art Sex Music was one of my favourite reads of 2017. In it, she mentions that ‘The Devil’s Filth Witch’ is what the mother of one of her fans branded her upon discovering that her daughter had been in touch via the internet.

I imagine this woman resembling the psychotic mother in Carrie, punishing her daughter’s perceived transgressions by locking her in cupboards, convinced that her own twisted take on Christianity was morally brave and to be applauded.

If I’m being entirely honest, reading about some of the 1970s art performances by COUM Transmissions (of which Cosey was a member) do make me feel distinctly queasy – and I’ve managed to sit through all 120 days of Sodom in Salò and even reviewed one of those Human Centipede films for another site. But if something makes me experience a strong reaction like this, then I find it best to investigate it further. Why shut myself off in some personal safe space of the mind?

‘Cosey’s book,’ as I wrote in that Best of 2017 post,’ is by far the most engaging new autobiography I’ve read this year and it’s safe to say it’s also the best book I’ve ever came across by an author equally comfortable in her career as a leading avant-garde provocateur, industrial music pioneer, stripper and porno mag model.

‘One minute she’s exhibiting with the COUM Transmissions art collective and being dubbed a ‘Wrecker of Civilisation’ by Tory MP Nicolas Fairbairn, the next she’s nipping off to do a photo shoot for Fiesta.’

It was through her stripping that Cosey discovered that some background dancers were required for the video of the Sylvester single. Her agency phoned, asking if she would be interested in heading along to the shoot at the Embassy Club in the heart of London’s posho West End, a location used repeatedly in British films like Scandal, and where, like New York’s Studio 54 at the time, the waiters were made to wear tight satin athletics shorts.

The idea that in the 1970s, video makers would phone a stripping agency for dancers to appear alongside a fast rising American chart star and then hire them does tickle my fancy. Would never happen nowadays.

Despite seeing the video a good number of times as Sylvester climbed his way into the top ten of the British singles chart, I never recognised Cosey as being one of the dancers. She is the girl with the long brown hair, shimmying her ass as the video opens alongside the girl with black hair.

Released in Britain during the height of the summer of 1978 and produced by Sylvester and Motown legend Harvey Fuqua, here is the second best disco track ever recorded. And don’t try this falsetto at home, folks. Not unless you have some helium handy.

Bizarrely enough, Cosey often later danced to the song during her stripping days in and around London. And not only that but she would sometimes wear the very same shorts you see in the promo as she did so. As she told The Quietus in 2015: ‘They were really good for stripping in.’

This should’ve been an anecdote in Art Sex Music surely but somehow wasn’t. Maybe it’ll feature in the biopic that Cosey announced a few months ago. The film will largely draw from her autobiography and Andrew Hulme has been attached to direct. I wonder who’ll play the devil’s filth witch?

Oh, and if you’re wondering, Cosey found that particular insult amusing. She and her partner Chris even adopted it as an occasional nickname for her. Wonder what the woman who called her that is up to at the moment?

And now for a little disco (of sorts) from Cosey’s days in Throbbing Gristle. There’s a big I Feel Love influence going down here with those pulsing Moog Modular synthlines and breathy, Je T’aime style vocals. This is Hot on the Heels of Love, which might even make it into my top ten disco tracks.

For more on Cosey: http://www.coseyfannitutti.com/

Dressed to Kill & Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!

1 Comment

Dressed to Kill

My Italian soundtrack composer kick is ongoing. Over the past few nights I’ve been listening to Pino Donaggio, whose soundtrack career started with his haunting score for Don’t Look Now, before he forged a close collaboration with Brian De Palma. Over the years he’s supplied the music for many of that director’s films including Carrie, Body Double and Blow Out.

Before all that, though, Pino Donaggio penned a tune that became one of the great pop classics of the 1960s, Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te).

This song reached the top of the Italian charts in the Spring of 1965 and was also featured in Luchino Visconti’s award winning film Vaghe stelle dell’Orsa, which is sometimes known as Sandra, or in Britain, Of These Thousand Pleasures.

You might not think you know the tune from its Italian title, but you do and you most likely adore it, believe me, believe me! You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, as it was renamed with newly coined English language lyrics, becoming a British number one in Britain for Dusty Springfield in the Spring of 1966.

Italians Do It Better? Not on this particular occasion, this being one of the relatively few tracks where a cover version far surpasses the original. Here is Pino Donaggio anyway, performing the song on Italian TV.

Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill proved one of the most critically divisive movies of the 1980s. The movie is heavily influenced by Hitchcock’s Psycho and Italian Gialli movies – for starters, there’s a razor wielding killer in disguise, brutal murders and a pair of amateur sleuths, in this case the unlikely pairing of a nerdy and inventive Harry Potter lookalike and a high-end hooker.

The film is far from perfect – even when it was first released I found the whodunnit element easy to solve and Nancy Allen’s acting veers towards the flat but Dressed to Kill certainly grips you and, as always with De Palma, there are many virtuoso touches to enjoy. The long and wordless sequence in the museum is extraordinary, unpredictable and utterly dreamlike and brilliantly complemented by Pino Donaggio’s wonderful score.

The movie’s main theme accompanies the famous opening shower scene (where we see parts of Angie Dickinson’s body that I don’t remember ever seeing on Police Woman). Okay, it was actually a body double.

Donaggio’s music here is sumptuous and might come over as sentimental and even a little sickly but together with the visuals, it provides the ideal suspenseful counterpoint to a scene that makes for increasingly uneasy viewing.

Finally, some more music by another Italian maestro of scoring, Signore Berto Pisano.

From the soundtrack of a Italian/German/Spanish co-production from 1971, Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! that starred James Mason and Jean Seberg, this is a superb slice of bossa nova grooviness featuring that sometimes soaring, otherworldly soprano of Edda Dell’orso.

Another track that Stereolab would love, this is Kill (to Jean):

Teenage Superstars – An Interview with Grant McPhee (An Updated Repost)

6 Comments

Big Gold Dream Teenage Superstars

Tomorrow night (29/6/18) sees a screening of Teenage Superstars, the sequel to Big Gold Dream, in Glasgow’s Govanhill Baths.

The film, shown last week in Edinburgh as part of the Film Festival’s Documentaries Strand, follows on from where the Big Gold Dream left off. There’s plenty of fine music from The Vaselines, Jesus and Mary Chain, BMX Bandits and a host of other Scottish indie stalwarts with the likes of Jim Reid, Alan McGee, Edwyn Collins and Eugene Kelly all interviewed along the way.

For those lucky enough to be going along, the legendary Jowe Head (Swell Maps & Television Personalities) will be playing his first Glasgow gig in 20 years, with some Teenage Superstars, Duglas T Stewart and Rose McDowall, helping out on backing duties. Additionally there will be a Q&A with director Grant McPhee and you can BYOB.

The screening starts at 7 pm on the dot but there will also be a few Easter eggs being shown from 18:30, so get along early, folks. A percentage of the ticket price goes towards support for Dan Treacy of The Television Personalities. Booking information here.

The Original Interview (from Sept 2016)

What can we look forward to in Teenage Superstars?

Like Big Gold Dream there will be a lot of joining up of the dots. Most of the bands covered are better known to a wider audience but how interconnected they are is probably less well known, and probably very surprising; especially the Bellshill bands who are a very large focus of the film. There was a point where BMX Bandits, Soup Dragons and a pre-Teenage Fanclub Boy Hairdressers shared most of their line-ups simultaneously. This is really the story of those bands and the wider Glasgow scene which followed pretty much straight on from where Big Gold Dream ends. It starts with The Pastels and the vacuum in the Glasgow music scene left by Postcard imploding.

Did you always plan to make two films?

No, it was originally to be one film called The Sound of Young Scotland which was to be about Postcard and Fire Engines only. It actually does exist – to an extent in a 2010 film, but it doesn’t really make sense for it ever to be released now.

Why the decision to double up?

Two reasons. The main one being that a fuller story was beginning to emerge that went far beyond our initial Postcard only story. It became apparent that when we were speaking to some of the stars of the first film there was a direct continuation to a bigger story which warranted a film in itself. For BGD, when speaking to people such as Eugene (Kelly) and Norman (Blake) we realised it made sense to speak to them about both films at the same time rather than coming back at a later date.

Oh right, so to an extent both films were really shot at the same time?

Well, when the idea for TS came along and the scope became wider, rather than risk BGD being eaten up by itself again we just made the decision to make two films. Saying that, BGD was a two hour film that at a very, very late stage had 30 minutes taken out. Those 30 minutes now form a good part of TS. Like I said, it’s complicated haha. But we now start off with The Bluebells, Pastels and Strawberry Switchblade. It’s not fair to say it’s the Glasgow story but some parts of BGD are re-told from a West Coast perspective.

What stage are you at with Teenage Superstars and when would you envisage it first being premiered?

Teenage Superstars is very nearly complete. Things may change, but we have some really exciting offers for premieres. At the moment we can’t say too much, but we will be able to make some announcements towards the end of the year. The film is almost there but what takes up so much of our time is dealing with archive clearances – music and video and we need to finalise them first. We decided very early on that if we were to do the films properly we needed to use the best music and archive available – it just would not work any other way. I can’t imagine anything worse than using a series of ‘soundalikes’ or those cheap Beatles films without actual Beatles music.

That kinda thing really should be banned!

We also purposely decided to not allow the film-making to take precedence. Both films are very simple in terms of how they are made and told so we felt it would only take away from the story to try anything complicated. And to not have proper archive would just take away from the excitement. So collecting our archive is a long and expensive process which is going to take up a large part of the next few months. But we do have some exciting and unique footage found in people’s lofts and basements.

How would you pitch the film to a distributor or sales agent?

We’re in a lucky position where both films are at such a late stage where they are beyond a proof-of-concept so we don’t have to explain to anyone too much what it would be like, we can just show them the finished film. BGD did better than we ever could have imagined and with that as a track record it makes TS much easier to pitch. The downside is that because of a lack of initial track record they had to be made on our own which was very tricky. At a basic level it’s just a story about great music, regardless of where it came from or when. So really the pitch is if you love this music you will love the films.

Any theories on why Scotland has managed to consistently produce so many talented independent bands over the years?

I think there are a combination of reasons. One is Fast having a strong and driven personality who happened to be around at the right time to nurture some very talented people. Those people having an element of success inspired others to believe they could do something similar. And generations of others have been inspired to either try the exact opposite or something similar to those who came before.

Where do you end Teenage Superstars and – if it takes in the 1990s – do you include the reactivated Postcard?

TS really ends at the beginning of a new era and the end of the film is the end of Postcard 2 and the emergence of Britpop. But like BGD it ends on a positive note, or more positive than that sounds.

And will there be a third film bringing the story up to date?

There is a skeleton for a third film. The honest answer is that both current films have been so all-consuming and personally incredibly expensive that a third film would really have to be commissioned by somebody for it to get beyond where it currently is, so it’s likely to remain unfinished. It covers or would have covered Belle and Sebastian, V-Twin, 1990s, Franz Ferdinand etc. There’s so much left to do it likely won’t be released.

What was your technique when shooting the documentaries, carefully plan everything or go with the flow?

Pretty much go with the flow. There was little opportunity for technique due to time. The main objective at the start was making contact with everyone involved and forming relationships and essentially getting voices down onto tape, to document in the purest sense. Obviously the early years were asking questions to extract just information, then as a story emerged – and more contacts were made there would be a refinement of the questions. A big part of the entire process was building up trust with the cast. It’s a lot to ask someone who doesn’t know you to tell you their story and allow you to tell that story to someone else in your own way. Overall we didn’t have any ulterior motives other than attempting to make a great film, and without any previous experience it was difficult to convince everyone of that.

Well, judging by the interviewees, you didn’t do a bad job on that score.

After BGD was released it became a lot easier, mainly that we could show that the first film had serious prospects so this next one could be similar. We were very careful with how we handled the material and various personalities which we took great lengths to achieve and hopefully that would show. But absolutely over and above everything we had an amazing community built around the film. So many people were so open to helping us create the story and we’ve managed to get contacts, information, photos, posters and advice to get the films where they are. That’s really what a lot of time was spent on. Mike O’Connor in particular seems to have an amazing online community of Scottish Indie music by running FB pages for most of the bands involved and his help has been a fantastic resource.

Having that support must have given you some extra motivation to keep at it during the inevitable times when the going got tough?

Actually, it’s by no means an exaggeration to say that without all the music fans support, the films would never have been completed. Of course that also helped the film as expectations started to mount and we had to produce something that could live up to it.

You’ve been filming for a long time now; I would guess that process has speeded up as you’ve gone along?

In the early days things moved very slowly, equipment and time were expensive so we had to save up for a while to do each interview – and that was frustrating. Even a dozen interviews could take a couple of years. Towards the end we managed to cram many interviews into a single day to keep costs down, it wasn’t ideal but it was the only way we could finish the film. Erik (Sandberg) and Innes (Reekie) coming on board was essential with their knowledge and enthusiasm and again the films would not have been made without them. Angela Slaven, our editor was the backbone to the film. We just handed her the material and she managed to make it into a film. Without her it would be very different. Wendy Griffin, the producer elevated the film to places and contacts we just could not achieve on our own, and in terms of finding a place for TS, winning the EIFF audience award has been a significant help. So for the film, a major part was finding the correct behind-the-scenes people for the film and waiting until they were available as their contributions would make or break it. And we had a great team.

Since you’re obviously such a massive fan of the music you cover, it must have been enjoyable talking to your subjects.

That was pretty easy as I was genuinely enthusiastic about finding out about them. My day job is as a technician on larger, mostly American movies so I’m pretty comfortable being around famous actors so I was never starstruck; though to me someone like Norman Blake is a far bigger star than Brad Pitt – and far more interesting.

Definitely!

Angela just cut around my mumbling and tangential questioning and we just had fun speaking to people about records. Other than having to be your own producer and arrange the interviews it was by far the most enjoyable part, along with the editing. Everything after was something close to nightmarish and involved little sleep for two years, haha. But really any process was born out of a massive enthusiasm in the subjects so in that respect this was the simplest part. I just told our subjects that we wanted to make a good film and explained that I didn’t really know what I was doing so asking for their help to achieve this seemed like a good move.

Any plans for a Big Gold Dream TV screening yet or news of a DVD release or VOD?

Yes and yes and more. There is a network TV screening later in the year, and we will have a DVD, streaming and other things available. Our B-Side, The Glasgow School is one extra but we also have 70 odd hours of interviews that have not been seen.

How do you think current Scottish independent music stands up against the Sound of Young Scotland era acts?

It may seem contentious but I think Postcard was the best and worst thing that has happened to Scottish music. Because Postcard had more of a focus on Scottish based bands, unlike FAST it quickly became regarded as a Scottish label whereas Fast were a record label based in Scotland. This, combined with the great music associated with Postcard quickly set Glasgow as a focus for music and aspiring local musicians. The legacy that’s built around Postcard has been so great that it’s very difficult to escape it’s shadow, and the irony is that’s what Postcard was all about. But there are great acts around and some very talented people.

You also direct your own drama films, how is that going at the moment?

Very different to the documentaries. The documentaries are fairly conventional so the dramas allow me to be a little more experimental. There’s one coming out later in the year called Night Kaleidoscope, which has had some good previews and I’m hoping to do another one early next year. I’ve been working with Dave Balfe, who used to run Zoo Records, who’s now a fantastic screenwriter. We’re working on a couple of drama scripts at the moment, one a horror and one a little closer to Zoo history (but purely drama).

And finally, what’s your own favourite music documentary?

I think All You Need is Love is fantastic, some amazing ’70s performances by folk like Jerry Lee Lewis.

Thanks for taking the time to talk and good luck with the film!

For more on Teenage Superstars here’s the Facebook page and here’s the link for Twitter.

A Map Reference, Two Virginia Plains & A Tea Painting in an Illusionistic Style

Leave a comment

Last week, on his Monday night show on Radio Scotland, Vic Galloway interviewed Wire’s Colin Newman and Graham Lewis. They spoke about supporting Roxy Music in 1979 and how it would have been a far more exciting prospect had it been the Eno era band. ‘That would have been something worth seeing,’ Newman commented.

A wee bit of an understatement I think.

Wire and Roxy’s former electronics maestro had a number of connections, from the days when the student Colin Newman cadged lifts to Watford College of Art from Eno, who was employed as a part time lecturer there at the time, through to Eno expressing an interest in producing Wire. A fascinating what if?

Issued by EMI’s Harvest subsidiary in October 1979 and named NME Single of the Week, here is a live version on German TV’s Rockpalast of Map Ref 41°N 93°W, these co-ordinates referring to the location of the supposed geographic centre of the U.S.A, Centerville in Iowa.

1972 was a year that saw my interest in music move up a gear or two. It was a good time to be ten even if, sadly, my young tastes hadn’t yet stretched to albums like Ege Bamyasi, Superfly, Pink Moon, Neu! or #1 Record.

Believe me, though, I was more than happy with the conveyor belt of amazing singles being released by the likes of T.Rex, Bowie, Slade and Mott.

When Virginia Plain entered the British charts early that August, it joined Starman, All the Young Dudes and Hawkwind’s Silver Machine. Number 1 was Alice Cooper with School’s Out.

Many people have called Virginia Plain one of the best debut singles of all time but you can ditch the word ‘debut’ and the claim is still valid. Three minutes of thrillingly inventive experimental pop with surreal lyrics that still make little sense to me, although I know now that Robert E. Lee was Roxy’s lawyer and that Baby Jane Holzer was a Warhol superstar.

In other words they make more sense to me than those Wire lyrics on the subject of cartography.

I also learned somewhere along the line that the song’s title comes directly from a painting that Bryan Ferry produced while studying art in Newcastle – where his tutor was Richard Hamilton, a man who could lay claim to being the inventor of Pop Art.

Many critics have mentioned Andy Warhol as an influence on this particular Ferry painting but although around this time he was pally with guys like Mark Lancaster, who’d been introduced to Warhol by Hamilton and seen The Velvet Underground perform as part of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia happenings in New York, I reckon David Hockney’s work from the early 1960s such as his Tea paintings are more likely to have been on Ferry’s mind when he got busy with his paint brushes. Loosely sketched human figure (check), product packaging (check) and hand drawn lettering (check).

Here’s Virginia Plain and A Tea Painting in an Illusionistic Style:

Virginia_Plain_&_Tea_Painting_in_an_Illusionistic_Style

To hear the Wire interview if you live in Britain (you have 22 days left to listen): https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b582s3

Bryan Ferry plays the Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow on Tuesday 31 July. I think I’ll save myself the 77 quid price tag on the tickets though.

For more on Bryan Ferry: http://bryanferry.com/

Suneaters

2 Comments

L-Space press-photo

Run by unpaid volunteers, Last Night From Glasgow is truly a label that is all about a passion for good music. In 2017, LNfG established itself as one of Scotland’s finest imprints with Sister John, in particular, winning over fans with their album Returned From Sea. Music bloggers uniformly loved it and the lead-off track, Thinner Air, made its way into my Best of the Year list.

This year looks like it might be even more fruitful with album releases earmarked for Bis, Radiophonic Tuckshop, Zoe Bestel and L-Space.

The latter act describes themselves as ‘a noisy dream pop band from the central belt of Scotland’ and their wonderfully woozy single Suneaters is just out and available on the usual digital outlets.

With a mesmerising sound that made me think of Dot Allison fronting a spacey Prefab Sprout, the track has already received a number of highly favourable reviews with Louder Than War, for example, hailing it as ‘a truly enchanting piece of work.’

Here is almost five celestial minutes of fragile vocals and misty clouds of noise accompanied with one of the most visually sumptuous videos you’re likely to see all year – directed and produced by Coconut Island Photography, Ben Rigley & Fabio Rebelo Paivo. This is Suneaters:

L-space will be playing several live shows in the very near future, to the extent they are even performing in Glasgow and then Edinburgh on the same day. Not quite Phil Collins’ journey from London to Philly for Live Aid I know but the music will assuredly be far better.

Here are some dates for your diaries:

11.03.18 (noon) – Glasgow, Art School (with Lake of Stars).

11.03.18 (7pm) – Suneaters single launch at Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh (with Pocket Knife and Beta Waves).

31.03.18 – Stereo, Glasgow. LNfG’s Bigger Birthday Bash (with Bis, Sun Rose and Stephen Solo).

28.04.18 – Snuffledown Festival, Larbert.

Look out too for label compilation The ABC of LNFG, which will consist of twelve songs from twelve different artists with a couple of remixes thrown in too. This will be released officially on 30/03/18 and available at the LNfG Birthday Party (see above).

For more on L-Space, click here.

& for more on LNfG, here you go.

Talking of a previous L-Space track Space Junk, Scots Whay Hae! speculated that, ‘If Nicolas Winding Refn is looking for a band to soundtrack his next movie then he should look no further.’

High praise indeed. And on the subject of that visionary director and going down the same road, if he’s on the lookout for some hypnotic sounds with an ominous edge to include in the forthcoming remake he plans to produce of Italian horror classic What Have You Done to Solange? I’ll throw Dirge by Death in Vegas into the hat for his consideration.

Featuring the aforementioned Dot Allison on guest vocals here is the track live on Later and wouldn’t this be perfect for a twenty-first century Giallo?

For more on Dot, click here.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Music (& Some Junkshop Glam too)

Leave a comment

Some Guida releases

Back when I was accepting music submissions, I would seldom go a day without some young band sending me details of their single along with a bio stating they were a punk band.

None of these tracks were ever featured on the site. Taking inspiration from punk, fine. Claiming to be punk in the 21st century? Isn’t that like saying you’re an impressionist painter or angry young man playwright?

Anyway, I mention this because not one single act ever approached me describing themselves as glam.

Giuda don’t use this description in regards to themselves and actively want to avoid being labelled as ‘glam’ but – certainly if you’re a child of the 1970s like myself – it’s impossibe to listen to their music without thinking back to a world of men in mascara, terrace terrors and monumentally high platform boots. Giuda did try out some stackheels themselves but found it too hard to walk in them so they were ditched. All the same they do sound like they’re on a five man mission to party like it’s 1973.

Inspired by junkshop glamsters like Hector and glitter titans such as The Sweet and Slade, Giuda have additionally mentioned Slaughter And The Dogs, Eddie and The Hot Rods and gritty early 1970s British guitar group Third World War as being among their influences.

Chock-a-block with crunching glam riffs and bucketloads of oomph, their last album Let’s Do It Again was hailed by Vive Le Rock as ‘hitting the right side of the line that lies between parody and homage with pinpoint precision’, awarding it 10/10, while Alex Petridis in The Guardian judged that: ‘They carry the very essence of guitar rock into the 21st century.’

Giuda are undoubtedly a great live act too as I found out a few years ago when I caught them in Glasgow and if you ever get the chance to see them onstage take it as you will be guaranteed a fun night out, which is always a good thing in our increasingly po-faced world.

Pronounced Joo-dah, the Italian five-piece outfit will have a new single entitled Rock ‘n’ Roll Music out in the very near future. No video as yet but to get you in the mood, here’s a stomper from 2015, Roll The Balls:

 
Giuda will be in Britain shortly, playing London’s Lexington on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th April.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Music is released on Rise Above Records! on March 30th.

For more on Giuda:

Official

Facebook

Some of the guys from Hector apparently dropped in one of Giuda’s previous London shows and gave the band their seal of approval afterwards.

Hector themselves have been called ‘the perfect introduction to anyone not familiar with Junk Shop Glam’ by ex-Barracuda Robin Willis, who seems to be familiar with every track that could possibly be associated with glam rock.

The band appeared on Lift Off With Ayshea, supported Slade and even had their own fan club but sadly Hector never got a sniff of any chart action.

Here’s their best known track, their debut single from the tail-end of 1973 that’s given its name in recent years to a book on glam – there was even talk of Hector reforming to play at the launch party although that wasn’t to be – and a fanzine. This is Wired Up:

 
Wired Up is available on the 2005 compilation Boobs: The Junkshop Glam Discotheque, which also features some top tracks by the likes of Angel, Screemer and Jimmy Jukebox. A highly recommended album obviously!

For more on Hector click here.

Older Entries