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Too Old To Die Young (Soundtrack Sundays)

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Too Old To Die Young Soundtrack

If you ever happen to switch on your TV and come across a movie that you don’t know which has moody, damaged characters who say very little, hypnotic scenes with colourful palettes with red to the fore and plenty of visceral ultraviolence, chances are it’s been directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.

The chances are also that you will experience a strong reaction to what you’re seeing.

‘Polarization, to me, is the key,’ Refn explained in a recent interview. ‘That’s the definition of success.’ He also claimed that creativity is not about being likable, which is good to hear in an age where many virtue signalling filmmakers seem keener on providing an inspirational message that promotes social justice and diversity than telling a fascinating story. Not that social justice or diversity are bad obviously. But characters behaving horrendously do tend to make for better drama. And there are plenty of characters behaving horrendously here.

Miles_Teller_in_Too_Old_To_Die_Young

In Too Old To Die Young, dialogue is sparse and the pace slow. Frustratingly slow at times. I watched Refn’s Pusher trilogy recently and it was striking how fast moving it was in comparison. And that characters spoke as near as dammit naturalistically. Another big difference was the lack of a Cliff Martinez score. And of the scores he’s composed for Refn: Drive, Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon being the first three, this is very probably the best.

Here, though, I want to feature some existing tracks used in the series.
In the final episode, one of the main characters decides that it would be good to dance to Goldfrapp’s Ooh La La. On her own, for the complete length of the song.

Ooh La La is certainly a great synth glam stomp to shake your stuff to. Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky is sampled, and there’s a strong echo of Canned Heat’s On The Road Again. Some early Giorgio Moroder and T.Rex have been thrown into the mix too, and I reckon I can detect a trace of Elvis in places and even an echo of Suicide in the keyboards. And I adore those disco angel vocals from Alison Goldfrapp.

Here’s the song live from Later… with Jools Holland:

Refn’s latest work is a sometimes brilliant and sometimes exasperating ten part series that explores the seedy underworld of crime in LA, and which occasionally takes up the story in Mexico with a drug cartel bigwig called Jesus (Augusto Aguilera). I’m sure Nicolas Windup Refn took a great delight in giving a brutal killer with a (dead) mummy fixation that particular name.

And believe me, you won’t have a friend in this Jesus.

If there’s a central character, though, it would be LAPD sheriff Martin Jones (played by Miles Teller), who is in a relationship with a seventeen year old high school senior, Janey (Nell Tiger Free). Janey has a brilliant mind, and according to creepy father Theo (William Baldwin), she’s a ten in the looks department too. Oh, and as this is California, having sex with Martin is illegal due to Janey’s age, although this doesn’t overly concern Theo.

Outwith his police work, Martin is also forced to carry out hits for Damian, a Jamaican American gangster, who loves vintage ska. Martin later comes into the sphere of Diana DeYoung (Jena Malone) a victim’s advocate, who feeds former FBI agent Viggo Larsen (John Hawkes), information about paedophiles that she has learnt about through her law work.

Viggo acts on this by killing the names he is given. Martin discovers this and luckily for Diana and Viggo, he believes that if a child abuser is killed, it’s a victim-less crime.

Does Martin believe in Homicide? Yes, he does. Absolutely. Does Theo like dad dancing to 999’s Homicide at a party for Janey’s eighteenth birthday? Yes, he does.

Produced by Martin Rushent (Buzzcocks, Human League), the sixth single by 999 was released by United Artists in October 1978 in Britain. Here it is live on The Old Grey Whistle Test, just as the craze in Britain for tight pink trousers apparently reached its peak:

Sadly, Homicide isn’t a part of the soundtrack album. Neither is Prince Buster’s ska classic Ten Commandments (okay, the lyrics are far from classic). Barry Manilow’s Mandy didn’t make the cut either – hurrah, but a nostalgic dirge called Elvis and Marilyn did – boo.

The Leather Nun are included, so hurrah again.

The Leather Nun were one of those acts whose name suggested that mainstream success was never very high on their agenda. The Sound of Young Sweden in the late 1970s/early 1980s, the band specialized in causing offence, especially with their live shows, where they were often accompanied by strippers with live adult movies being projected.

TOTDY utilises F.F.A, which doesn’t stand for Fast Filmic Action. If Grace Jones had teamed up with Bowie’s Lodger era band, they just might have come up with something not unlike this.

That’s Jesus with the whip, incidentally, in the video below and the brunette in the red leather trousers is Yaritza (Cristina Rodlo). Death follows Yaritza around to the extent that she proclaims herself ‘The High Priestess of Death’.

Maybe death is only following her around due to her cartel connections. But this theory doesn’t somehow seem to have occurred to her.

Here is a clip of F.F.A as it was used in episode 8. I didn’t mention the slow pace, didn’t I?

If you’re coming to Refn for the first time, then I’d recommend that you try Drive first. This series does resemble Drive in many ways, although Miles Teller is marginally less magnetic as Ryan Gosling and Jena Malone is nowhere near as good an actor as Carey Mulligan. But if you like Drive, you at least have a chance of enjoying Too Old To Die Young. If you dislike Drive, then watching this series will be a waste of thirteen hours of your life.

Nicolas Winding Refn could do with ditching the idea of letting himself be influenced by tarot readings from Alejandro Jodorowsky, but there is much to enjoy in the series from a psychedelic shooting rampage to a surreal skit on the crucifixion of Jesus (no, not the cartel Jesus) through to Monkee Puppet, a real cheeky little monkey who believes that ‘peace is only for hippies’.

Revolver

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Peter Cook Revolver

So far this year, I’ve featured a couple of performances from The Rich Kids and Rezillos from 1978’s new music show Revolver. And today’s post features two more.

I’m not sure about regional variations but on STV, Revolver aired on Saturday nights at eleven o’clock. 45 minutes later it was followed by a quick religious spot called Late Call, which usually consisted of some Church of Scotland Minister telling you about his friend Jesus. Then the channel would shut down for the night.

Many including myself have very fond memories of the show; even back then the idea of Peter Cook playing the part of an old school ballroom manager fallen on hard times and forced to book new bands that he despised like The Jam and X–Ray Spex was infinitely preferable to the unfunny, narcissistic (and worse) DJs on Top Of The Pops or the earnestness of Bob Harris on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

The audience certainly seemed to enjoy themselves as you can see here. This is I Don’t Need to Tell Her by The Lurkers:

 
Revolver is sometimes remembered as a punk and new wave show but there was also a smattering of just about every genre of music that was popular in the late 70s at some point during its eight episodes: reggae, disco, power/pop, rock’n’roll and heavy rock. Nick Lowe made an appearance the same night that The Rezillos were on. As did Elvis Costello, The Motors, Matumbi and an act called Brent Ford (geddit?) and the Nylons that I have very little recollection of – some of the band wore nylons over their faces like robbers and they played high octane cover versions of sixties classics.

Kate Bush turned up on the pilot of Revolver to sing Them Heavy People. XTC appeared on that show too and in later weeks there were Siouxsie and The Banshees, Ian Dury and The Blockheads, Buzzcocks, Boomtown Rats, The Jam, Rich Kids and Eddie and The Hotrods and more but some folk still hated the show and ratings were never that high.

‘I enjoy pop shows as well as the next person, but I can honestly say this is the biggest load of garbage seen in years,’ one Evening Times reader complained. ‘Top of the Pops has nothing to fear from this awful show.’

Revolver only lasted for a single series which is a pity. From the final show this is The Only Ones with Another Girl Another Planet, one of the greatest songs ever recorded and featuring former Beatstalker Alan Mair on bass, a man who will be releasing a debut solo album this year which I’m looking forward to hearing.

 
The Lurkers play live tonight at The Wunderbar in Midsomer Norton. Here’s their official site.

And here’s the Facebook page of The Only Ones. Alan Mair can be found on Facebook too.

A Former Dreamboy & A Former Dancing Pig Discuss Punk, Doctor Who & Independence

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Ian Rankin - Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

Good to see What Presence! The Rock Photography of Harry Papadopoulos being discussed this week by former Dancing Pig, Ian Rankin and former Dreamboy, Craig Ferguson, on prime time American chat show, The Late Late Show.

 
If you missed my review of the book and exhibition of the same name, click here.

And for more on Harry Papadopoulos and the music of the punk/new wave and post-punk era, here’s a series of discussions organised by Glasgow’s Street Level Gallery during the first staging of the show:

27th Jan 2012: Introduced and hosted by David Belcher.

10th Feb 2012: Introduced by Ken McCluskey and hosted by Billy Sloan.

24th Feb 2012: Introduced by Malcolm Dickson and hosted by John Cavanagh.

Doctor Who and The Dreamboys

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The idea of writing about Doctor Who in my first blog isn’t something I would ever have imagined doing until last week when Peter Capaldi, who unlike me, is a lifelong fan of the show, was confirmed to be replacing Matt Smith in the lead role. 

I first became aware of the new Doctor back in the late 70s and early 80s when he sang and played guitar in a Glasgow new wave outfit called The Dreamboys, who for a while could also count in their ranks as drummer Craig Ferguson, currently one of America’s most popular chat show hosts.

Nowadays Peter tends to downplay the idea of him ever having any chance of making a success of his musical career when he discusses his days as a Dreamboy and jokes about them being the only Glasgow band of the era not to be invited to do a John Peel session but back then I’d guess he took the band idea very seriously; they certainly gigged across Glasgow on a very regular basis and several fanzine writers tipped them for big things including a guy called Daniel Easson, who edited a very fine fanzine that he ran from the south side of the city called Fumes.

Unfortunately my copy of #4 from April 1980 doesn’t score too highly in the legibility stakes, especially the photos, but I’ve reproduced a page anyway, with a review of a show The Dreamboys played in March 1980 in a Glasgow venue called the Doune Castle, a hastily arranged gig where the lads replaced another local act Newspeak – who I was actually hoping to see that night – after they were forced into cancelling owing to their drummer catching glandular fever.

Obviously the situation wasn’t ideal and some of those there to see Newspeak left before or during The Dreamboy’s set (but not me, honestly!) which must have pissed off the future Malcolm Tucker, who didn’t, though, explode into a potty mouthed tirade at those joining in the exodus.

Gradually many of the audience were won over and the cheering increased as the set progressed, or at least I seem to remember that being the case but it was a long time ago.

If only I had a Tardis style time machine to take me back to that night.

‘If you have not seen them yet get to the next gig,’ the Fumes reviewer concludes, ‘and in particular look out for ‘cowboys’ ‘peggie sue’ and iggy pops ‘passenger’… you should not be disappointed…….’

As for Newspeak, if anybody’s wondering what happened to them, I’ll have to inform you that like Capaldi’s group, they also failed to make any kind of significant breakthrough. Come to think of it Peelie never invited them in for a session either.

I’m told, however, that a combo that the guitarist later joined are still proving pretty popular and that the former bassist is currently putting together a new music label which is currently gaining more than a little media attention.

So well done to Andrew Innes for his part in Primal Scream’s recent More Light album and good luck to Alan McGee with his new 359 Music label.