One shot: (Stranded on a) Dateless Night

Tav Falco and Alex Chilton
I’ve been slowly sorting through my CDs and came across my copy of Alex Chilton Live in London that I picked up many, many moons ago – probably the late 80s or very early 90s.

I was superficially aware of Alex Chilton before I really knew Big Star, through The Letter, which I had on a 60s compilation LP (probably more than one).

During a short-lived, early 80s foray into Psyhcobilly I bought a compilation album called Rockabilly Psychosis and the Garage Disease that was pretty much my Psychobilly bible (along with the (first two) Blood on the Cats comps). It had some old gems – Psycho by The Sonics, The Crusher by The Novas; and some new gems by the likes of The Guana Batz, The Cramps and The Meteors.

But possibly my fave track on the album was Tav Falco’s Panther Burns Dateless Night. A few years later I bought The World We Knew on the strength of Dateless Night … and a couple of years on I became aware of Big Star.

The track is a pretty straight cover of an Alan (Allen) Page track from the late 50s

An instrumental version is on the reissues of Like Flies on Sherbert but I’m not too sure when this dates from

I rather love hearing Alex’s voice on the version on Live in London

Most of the 80s rockabilly/psyhcobilly revivalists have had a pop at Dateless Night but they’re all pretty straight and often fairly dull, so instead here’s Tav Falco performing the song a couple of years back in New Orleans

I only saw Alex once, when the reformed Big Star arrived in London with The Posies on the back of the Ryko reissues in 1992.

My top 6… Indietracks 2016

Indietracks crowd chilling between bands

Indietracks was a joy again this year – and with better weather than last year – saw lots of great stuff, missed lots of great stuff too – so a top six is sort of ridiculous… but here you go:

#1 – Deerful in the Church

Deerful at Indietracks 2016
The first year we went to Indietracks we never managed to see anything in the church – over the last couple of years we’ve worked out that going in as a band finishes rather than trying to get in when a band starts is the way – sure you have to wait (although the waiting might include bonus sound-check fun). Deerful was near the top of my list for Indietracks since I’ve rather been loving Emma’s beautiful voice over beautiful electronic doodling. The set was a treat and finished with a bit of classic Indietracks preaching to the choir with a cover of The Field Mice’s Emma’s House:

#2 – Haiku Salut on the main stage

Haiku Salut accordionists at @indietracks last weekend
One of the bands we never saw in the church was Haiku Salut who did their lamp show in there a few years back – we stood outside with lots of other folk who never got in. We’ve been lucky enough to see them quite a few times since (including lamp show performances) – their second album Etch and Etch Deep is just as beautifully hypnotising as the first… and live they are still mesmerising – even in daylight… and without lamps!

#3 – Teatime Collective

Food queue
It was the vegan food stall … turns out it has a name, I didn’t realise until I got the picture back. We ate there every day, I never realised how much I could love vegan ice cream!
Target lovely vegan ice cream at Indietracks

#4 – Flowers on the main stage

Another snap from this afternoon's wonderful set by Flowers at @indietracks
Flowers don’t really get better because they’re already there – the sets are differently perfect. Stuck is still the most mesmerising thing and it pretty much silenced the Indietracks field.

#5 – Lorna in the shed

Lorna at Indietracks 2016
Wa, way back when, I came across Lorna and bought some CDs (that’s how long ago) – I loved them but somehow didn’t notice that while I was discovering other things Lorna were still plugging away releasing more CDs and making beautiful music. So with them opening day three I chose to forego a steam train trip to finally catch up with them live and it was a joy. The stuff I didn’t know was as fine as the stuff I did and hearing them play Understanding Heavy Metal was an Indietracks high! No video on YouTube of that – but this’ll do!

#6 – Sitting behind Hazel on the miniature railway

Having fun
To be honest I feel a bit of a plum as a grown man sitting on a miniature railway – I feel it’s a tiny step away from grown men commuting on scooters – but I only do it once a year (actually so far once every two years as we missed out somehow last year) – but Hazel loves it – possibly more than anything else at Indietracks. I love that she loves Indietracks as much as I do – and the miniature railway helps with that – and that means we get to go back to the loveliest festival every year.

Honourable mention – Bearsuit

…for the weird anxiety of watching a band with the fear that one of their number might give birth at any moment

Honourable mention #2 – The sunset on day one

Sunset over Swanwick Junction

Hitch #12: Murder! (1930)

Hitchcock Murder

an interesting film and was quite successful in London. But it was too sophisticated for the provinces.

Hitchcock (1967) by Fran├žois Truffaut

This is quite the step-up from Hitch #11, the subject matter is more appropriate and means that Hitchcock is clearly more comfortable with being Hitch.

The cast all seem to fit and as we’re drawn into the the story and we are also fed little nuggets of humour to offset the tension and mask the occasional clunky dialogue and stiff performances.

Lovely to see Norah Baring again after her appearances in Asquith’s silent gems.

Being a sophisticated Londoner I thoroughly enjoyed Murder!

Watched: 2016-07-28
Source: DVD
Rating: 6/10

Hitch #11: Juno and the Paycock (1929)

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
OH this was a yawn! Maybe I was tired anyway but this painfully stage-y piece was always going to struggle to keep me awake. The earnest acting of the leads occasionally jerked me from my near-slumber – and Mrs ‘Juno’ Boyle, the one character with any depth and any heart, sometimes awakened a little bit of my attention. But Sarah Allgood as Mrs Boyle wasn’t enough and doze off I did.

After early Hitch magic can clearly be seen in many films prior to this one, here he leaves everything to the stage play and little to his imagination – The Times at the time wrote:

Mr. Alfred Hitchcock, director of the British International talking film of Juno and the Paycock, which was privately shown at the Regal Cinema on Monday, has been so faithful to his text as almost to forget the medium in which he was working.

And that in a nutshell is the problem with this film. It’s not a piece of cinematic art, it’s a piece of theatrical record and that held no interest for me. So occasionally I may have been found … resting my eyes … during some painful scenes (mostly those involving Joxer and Mrs Madigan).

Watched: 2016-07-26
Source: DVD
Rating: 1/10

Hitchcock Wiki
BFI Screenonline

Juno and the Paycock

Some idle ramblings about David Bowie

#bowie #davebowie #graffiti #southall

I’ve barely come to terms with Lemmy’s passing… and now this. It’s hard to comprehend how ingrained in my growing up Bowie’s music was. He was one of those few artists who spanned my listening from as early as I remember – I guess that’s why it feels weird. I have memories of talking about him at school the day after a TOTP appearance. I was nine or ten, I remember talking about Bowie and The Sweet and T-Rex at school.

I heard about Bowie’s death when I got up this morning. I didn’t play any Bowie until this afternoon. I needed time. With Lemmy it was different, I went straight to the records.

David Bowie - Low, RCA PL-12030, 1977

I played Life on Mars first, I’d picked it a few years back as one of my top 6 from my childhood. Later on Radio 2 Rick Wakeman played it on a piano – that was surprisingly affecting.

The internet today has made it clear that this is the way so many people feel. That people are emotionally affected by this isn’t weird… it’s beautiful. It’s not hysteria, it’s how music works, how it should work. I saw a tweet from some journalist suggesting that we should all grow up, it made me sad that someone could feel so detached and such a lack of empathy.

There’s a picture of my granny sitting on a bench in Glasgow with a pink haired young woman holding a copy of Scary Monsters and Super Creeps – wish I could find that photo – it always made me smile.

I never saw him live… he was playing stadiums when I was going to pubs and clubs for my music. I don’t have regrets… that’s not what Bowie meant to me.

When asked I’d always answer Low – I do love Low, but if I was being honest I’d have to say Hunky Dory.

I didn’t finish my post about Lemmy… it was harder to write because of the different relationship I had with him.

Films I watched in 2015

I rate most films I watch… it’s meaningless – numbers are affected by mood and environment – and how can you genuinely allow films to be ranked alongside each other… nevertheless I do it – here’s how 2015 went:

Three films were rated 10:

Gregory’s Girl (1981)

Cosmic Voyage (1936)
Tell England (1931)
Score Films rated
10 3
9 8
8 28
7 43
6 41
5 49
4 28
3 11
2 8
1 2
Total 221*
* actually there were 222 in my list but one was impossible to rate!
How I’ve rated films over the last four years

Hitch #10: Blackmail (1929) – Knives is not right

Hitch and Anny on the sound stage of Blackmail

Blackmail was Hitch’s last silent and first sound film – we watched both.

I first saw the silent Blackmail when it was restored and shown at the BFI in 2012 – it was a revelation – Hitch made the film’s lack of sound work brilliantly – and joy of silent film is that the non-silence of it (the music) becomes such an important part of watching the film – and the person making the music is not only an accompanist but also part of the creative process of making the film… so the film is almost still a work in progress – here’s a lengthy article by Neil Brand on scoring Blackmail.

The silent film is splendid – it builds suspense and Anny makes Alice looks truly scared and scarred by things.

The sound film is pretty good too – it has some bits of genius of course, famously the brilliant “… blah blah blah blah knife blah blah blah KNIFE …” scene – but it more often suffers from its sound – most noticeably the ridiculous live dubbing of Anny Ondra.

Watched: 2015-09-27
Source: DVD
Rating: 7/10

Watched: 2015-10-
Source: DVD
Rating: 8/10

Hitch #9: The Manxman (1929)

The first time I saw The Manxman was as the archive premier at the 2012 London Film Festival it was on the huge screen and spacious surrounds of the Empire Leicester Square, it was a beautifully restored print, it had a lovely score played by a small folk ensemble, there was a small bar of Green & Blacks chocolate on every seat (and there were seats without people so … bonus choc) and the film was a sweet and sad tale of love – all of this and Hitch’s long, lingering close-ups of Anny Ondra, conspired to make me love the film to pieces.

Sitting in my living room, on a DVD (that was actually not bad a print), and without chocolate and the shine was slightly burnished. The story, that had been charming and sad, seemed a little (actually quite a lot) insubstantial. I still rather liked the film but the lovely shots (both of the Cornish (not Manx) coutryside) and the aforementioned Ms Ondra, were not enough to make this seem any more than a half-hearted and slightly laboured yarn.

Sweet Anny
Surprised Anny
Enraptured Anny
Heartbroken Anny
Accused Anny

… you get the idea with that.

Far from classic Hitch, and one I’m not in a hurry to watch again… and besides … we get long, lingering shots of Anny Ondra in the next one too!

Watched: 2015-08
Source: DVD
Rating: 6/10

Hitch #8: Champagne (1928)

Oh poor, long-neglected, Everything’s Swirling – time to breathe a little life into you.

I haven’t checked but can’t believe that no one has reviewed Hitch’s 1928 comedy Champagne by comparing it to it’s alcoholic namesake. But I’ll do it all the same. It’s light, and fizzy (in places) but ultimately unsatisfying. We first watched it when it was streamed over the Internet back in 2012 (so long ago – I remember being quite excited by getting to see a Hitch rarity streamed online).

I enjoyed the film a bit more this time. The story is pretty awful, but Betty is charming and Gordon Harker as her father is a treat – Hazel thinks his casting “seems particularly daft” but I thought he pulled it off rather well – the man can use that same face in any role from farmhand to Wall Street executive.

Champagne at The Hitchcock Zone
Champagne at BFI Screenonline

Watched: 2015-07-04
Source: DVD
Rating: 5/10