Posts Tagged ‘70s coming back’

Got An Intergalactic Revolution!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

With JJ ABrams’ Shatnerless Star Trek reboot hitting cinemas this summer, the eternal question is back on everyone’s lips. To whit: which is the best out of the major “Star” franchises (Trek, Wars, Gate)? Well. First of all we can disregard Stargate as I have never seen it (except for the original film, which seemed pretty cool in 1994, although that might be because we were so impoverished for space spanning adventure that James Spader versus an androgynous Pharoah was an acceptable evening’s entertainment. In retrospect it can be blamed for paving the way for  Independence Day. So not good then).

So Star Trek vs Star Wars. It’s a debate that has raged among nerds for years, and we can finally put it to bed now. The criteria we will use will be a seemingly inconsequential element of  the most misbegotten moments of each saga. From Scott Bakula helmed crapfest Star Trek: Enterprise we have the overblown, incongruously 80s style power ballad Where My Heart Will Take Me, while the acid flashback fever dream that is The Star Wars Holiday Special provides Jefferson Starship’s “futuristic” performance of Light The Sky On Fire.

Enterprise was an attempt to free the Star Trek franchise from the entrenched continuity that the previous three series had built up, being set as it was before the formation of The Federation and the adventures of Kirk and Spock. Unfortunately this resulted in episodes about making a really good chair. It was also distinct in that it forsook the traditional “spacey” orchestral theme tune (none of them a patch on the otherworldly warbling of the Original Series) and went for a (gulp!) “rock ballad”.

Gratuitously sexy vulcan, Sam Beckett and blue dude - Enterprise had it all

Where My Heart Will Take Me was sung by crossover opera star Russell Watson in full gravelly transatlantic style, and while a bit cheesy, it’s not bad if you like that kind of thing. Not surprising as it was written by uber songsmith Diane Warren, whose oeuvre includes such AOR classics as Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time, LeAnn Rimes’ Can’t Fight The Moonlight and Aerosmith’s That One From Armageddon. That drivel about “reaching any star” notwithstanding,  it’s nothing to do with Star Trek though, which is unsurprising when you find out that the song was originally written for Patch Adams, a Robin Williams (urgh) comedy drama (uurrgh) about a Doctor who treats patients’ spirits as much as their bodies (glurgaargh!!). Spizz  Energi’s Where’s Captain Kirk? would have been a better choice. As long as it was the live version with screaming in the middle.

Diane Warren’s CV also includes Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now from the movie Mannequin, performed by Starship, the 80s stadium rock incarnation of pivotal godheads of 60s psychedelia Jefferson Airplane.

In between their glory days of bashing the Nixon Administration through the medium of acid rock and their latter years, singing of the love between a man and a shop dummy, they were known as Jefferson Starship, and seemingly did a lot of songs about space. This set them up as an ideal “special musical guest” for that infamous, interminable, Star Wars Holiday Special.

Now, much has been written about this 97 minute (but feels a lot longer) toy advert slash variety show slash psychological torture, so I hardly need to get into it here, suffice to say that it has to be seen to be believed, but you’ll wish you hadn’t bothered.

They're really big on Kazhyyyk

Appearing as a pink hued hologram, the band perform the song as a distraction for the Imperial officers, who obviously like a bit of a groove to murky 70s rock during downtime. Marty Balin is singing into what I presume is intended to be a lightsaber, but it resembles a flourescent dildo. At least they make the effort, wearing swishy costumes (pitched between glam rock and male stripper), twirling drumsticks, and generally pulling shapes while their instruments (including the fantastically futuristic keyboard on a shoulder strap) emit sonic waves (or something). The song features a spoken interlude about “The Great God Kopa Khan”, and (apropos of nothing) cries of “Cigar shaped object”! I can’t be certain but I’m sure that’s not canon.

Psychedelic siren Grace Slick is nowhere to be seen in the preformance. She had actually been fired from the band earlier in the year for drunkenly goading German audiences by shouting “who won the war?” while she should have been singing Somebody To Love for the 30,000th time. Nice one Grace. At least she was spared the embarrassment of appearing in the one part of the Star Wars franchise that is deemed too bad to ever get an official release.

Even though I have a grudging affection for Where My Heart Will Take Me, the prize has to go to Light The Sky On Fire, just because it’s so mental. So that’s that settled then. Next week we sort out which is the one true religion.

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6 Degrees of Francis Bacon Day 5: Doc Ock vs On The Buses

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

…or Roy Orbison Vs Hitler.

Doctor Octopus On The Buses

“Thanks” to Jeremy Marshall and Neill Cameron, who suggested the subjects for today’s pic. I can honestly say I never thought I’d see a crossover between classic Marvel Comics and 70s British sitcoms. Certainly never thought I would be drawing it. Of course, the entire cast of On The Buses would have been a little too much, so apart from Blakey, some of the others are just alluded to in the background. I could have gone into more detail (and added that show’s protagonist, Reg Varney, who was apparently the 1970s equivalent of Justin Timberlake in terms of popularity and heart throb status), but sanity prevailed. Incidentally, devotees of that particular monolith of 70s culture will notice that I went for a green bus as in the original series – in the movies (which are, amazingly, not canonical with the TV series) they were red. I like to keep it real.

You may have heard that the BBC are making an Only Fools & Horses prequel series. If ITV ever decide to go for an On The Buses: The Early Years, then the kid that plays Jay in The Inbetweeners is a shoo in for the Bob Grant role.

What next? Surely the possibilities for connections to Doctor Octopus and On The Buses are endless. Make your suggestions, along with your connection, for future pictures in the blog comments, on my Twitter feed, or at the Facebook Group.

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6 Degrees of Francis Bacon Day 8: Test Card Girl

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

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The subject for today’s picture was suggested by Chris Doherty on Twitter, who notes the similarities between the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon and Life On Mars , the BBC’s time travel/The Prisoner referencing psychodrama/70s nostalgia fest. As terrific as the performances by John Simm and Phillip Glenister were, the reality bending appearances by the Test Card Girl fascinated me the most. Anyone who grew up in the 70s has this image burned into their brain, so it was a stroke of genius for the creators to bring it to life. And creepy kids (not to mention creepier clown dolls) are always a winner.

So where next?  Suggestions for something cool, related in some way to Life On Mars, The Test Card, creepy kids or anything in between, can be made here, on my Twitter feed, or at the Facebook Group.

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Gig review: KISS, Manchester Evening News Arena, 10th May 2010

Friday, May 14th, 2010

My introduction to KISS was with their 1987 hit Crazy Crazy Nights. At the time I was getting into the finer points of high culture (Genesis, Iron Maiden, Middle Earth Role Playing), so I dismissed its cheesy glitziness and fake live whooping (“Here’s a little song for everyone out there!”). It was only later in life that I realised their importance – they were pivotal in (American) rock music and influenced pretty much every (American) band that followed them. I guess we never really “got” them over here. Why would we when we had Queen?

KISS have returned to their 70s roots (ie. wearing kabuki makeup and ridiculous comic book superhero style stage gear) and are touring the UK, so, obviously, we’re in attendance at Manchester’s cavernous MEN arena. Kicking off with their rather tasty new(ish) single Modern Day Delilah from the album Sonic Boom, they proceed to play a set of (mostly) classics. KISS made their reputation on the strength of their stage antics rather than their playing, but here they deliver a tight musical performance that’s worlds away from the clunky sound of live shows from their “heyday”. There’s also some blood spitting and fire breathing from Gene Simmons, which, while I realise it’s customary for a KISS show, is a little at odds with their songs, which are mostly good natured thumping party metal anthems.

In addition to that we get a solo from Tommy Thayer, which culminates in his launching flares from his guitar, and a drum solo, in which Eric Singer avoids the natural tedium that usually accompanies such things by producing a bazooka and blowing up part of the lighting rig. My wife pointed out that she enjoyed the show because there were “no lame ballads”, but if there had been you can bet something would have exploded halfway through.

The nearest thing we get is Paul Stanley flying across the arena to perform his party piece I Was Made For Lovin’ You, a bizarre disco rock hybrid, and an example of their talent for producing great pop records. Stanley, with his bare chest and glittery tassled stack heels flounces around the stage in a manner that Freddie Mercury would have considered a bit too camp. He’s the star(child) of the show, however, with his constant whoops of “Hey Man chest uh!! Man Chest Uh’s a Rock City! Let Me Hear You Man Chest Uh!”

During God Gave Rock ‘n Roll To You, another great single, the screens show shots of The Beatles, Zeppelin, Hendrix, The Stones et al. Okay, maybe they could have at least put Argent in there, but Kiss aren’t shy about giving some respect to their (mostly British) influences. They throw a bit of Won’t Get Fooled Again into Lick It Up, and play a brief version of  Whole Lotta Love. And while most critics would rather die than put them alongside such auspicious company, they’re true icons. Like Mickey Mouse, only badass.

Oh and Crazy Crazy Nights? Awesome!

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A Wretched Hive of Vapid Celebrities and Overpriced Drinks

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

OK the new entry in the Star Wars saga is pretty interesting, but I’m not sure where it fits in the timeline. For one thing The Mos Eisley Cantina has turned into one of those ghastly sports bars. It looks worse than The Outlander Club from Episode II. Daft Punk fit right in, of course, as they look exactly like those police robots from THX 1138 and Indie Godheads Ian Brown and Noel Gallagher are now so grizzled that they don’t exactly look out of place next to Hammerhead and Snaggletooth. I don’t know about Snoop Dogg awkwardly handling a lightsaber though. The Drop It Like It’s Hot hitmaker is about as convincing a Jedi as Don-Wan Kihotay. Walrus Man is clearly disappointed with the state of hip hop today and just wants to make his feelings known.

Girly voiced male model and occasional “Soccer” player David Beckhams makes an appearance, being hassled by Greedo… or at least some other rodian – they not only all look alike but they even dress the same. Jabba wants him to play for his team – at this point I could hear a million voices suddenly cry out in terror – or at least a bunch of fanboys bleating about their childhoods being raped. Look, if Adidas is going to sell overpriced sports gear with stormtroopers on or something, that’s fine, but all they need to do to get me to shell out is flog those casual jackets that Luke and Han wear in Empire. That’s what was wrong with the prequels, no casual jackets!

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Meanwhile David Coverdale is thinking about snakes…

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Who better to personify anthropomorphic Victoriana than a bunch of guys who had been in Deep Purple? The Butterfly’s Ball, and the Grasshopper’s Feast was a 19th Century poem, that was adapted into a children’s picture book by Alan Aldridge. My sister had this book when we were growing up and the gorgeously baroque and psychedelic (and not a little creepy) art was the sort of thing you could lose yourself in, much like the work of Kit Williams and Mike Wilks. However, I’ve only just discovered that there was an album based on the book,masterminded by Purple bassist Roger Glover, who roped in a bunch of fairly famous mates, including Ronnie James Dio, who appears as “Froggy” on the single Love Is All.

A live concert followed and Youtube evidence suggests that there were at least as many people on stage as there were in the audience and there are multiple shots of Twiggy being all ethereal and famous. Why don’t musicians go for this sort of large scale whimsy anymore? Where are the 21st century equivalents of The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony, Consequences, or that jazz rock version of Peter and The Wolf? It’s either the fault of punk, or Robert Fripp and his “small, mobile, intelligent units”. DAMN YOU FRIPP!

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Pump It

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

It’s Halloween once again – so here’s yet another picture of a creepy pumpkin. Enjoy!

If you are having some kind of party this weekend, or simply sitting alone carving the words “I will kill again” into the walls, maybe you need some suggestions as to what to listen to. Let’s be honest, Monster Mash is rubbish, so here are a few better spooky tunes

10. Alice Cooper – Feed My Frankenstein. Alice has, of course, made a career out of mixing theatrical horror and rock (“STEVEN!”), but I’m going for this one if only for the lyric “I ain’t evil, I’m just good lookin'”. Features Dream Theater’s Derek Sherinian on keyboards, fact fans!

9. Steve Harley – Mr Soft. Specifically the advert which this track was used on during the 80s, which my wife finds terrifying.

8. Alice In Chains – Frogs. Although grunge bands of the early 90s eschewed many of the tropes of metal, they all seemed to be duty bound to have at least one song about a serial killer. Alice In Chains were always totally metal anyway. I don’t know what this song is about, but it’s creepy as hell, especially on the Unplugged album.

7. HP Lovecraft – The White Ship. Based on the story by HP Lovecraft, but not the same HP Lovecraft. Sure they ripped off the folk-psych bolero of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, but they did it so well, who’s to argue?

6. Faith No More – Zombie Eaters. This is probably the only song that’s (possibly) inspired by The Small Assassin by Ray Bradbury

5. David Bowie – Please Mr Gravedigger. Like Alice, Bowie has many spooky songs in his canon… Ashes To Ashes, Scary Monsters, Diamond Dogs, that one about the telly that eats his girlfriend… but here’s one of his earlier pieces, which doesn’t feature any music, but has a shit ton of sound effects, and a convincing theatrical sneeze from the future Thin White Duke

4. Tool – No Quarter. Everything Tool does is awesome and creepy. Everything Led Zeppelin ever did was awesome (except All My Love). Tool + Zeppelin = maximum awesomeitude. I will now stop talking like a fourteen year old YouTube Comment writer.

3. Fairport Convention – Tam Lin. There’s witches, ghosts and murder aplenty in traditional folk music, and this is the tale of some fairies getting up to some shit. I’ve never quite understood it, but it’s dramatic and creepy, and it takes place at Halloween. Everyone and his dog have done this song, but extra points if you go for the super obscure Pentangle version!

2. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath from the album Black Sabbath. METAL! Yes, yes there are plenty of horror themed metal songs. Iron Maiden did Killers, Rush did The Necromancer, and Slayer did their own unique take on The Weather Girls’ classic with It’s Rainin’ Blood. But this is the Ur Text of metal, replete with the sound of pouring rain, doomy bells and Ozzy being menaced by a figure in black (Tony Iommi?).

1. Roger Joseph Manning Jr. – Creeple People. The ex Jellyfish and Imperial Drag guy does the best song never to be in an episode of Scooby Doo. But should’ve been. According to Last.FM, this is my most listened to song ever, or something

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It’s not easy being green

Sunday, August 26th, 2012


When Dark Horse started publishing Star Wars comics in the early 90s, it seemed to be editorial policy to bash the earlier Marvel run as an embarrassment. Their comics, they assured us, would be more in the spirit of the movies. That didn’t quite pan out, as anyone who ever read The Hunger of Princess Nampi would attest.

The attitude towards the Marvel run was one I never quite understood as I had really enjoyed them, and took them pretty seriously, when I was growing up. I recently reread the entire run and they’re as I remember: (mostly) good, (occasionally) bad and (in one or two cases), brilliant. In addition I’ve been listening to the commentary for the series on the excellent Two True Freaks podcast, so it’s fair to say I’m a little bit obsessed with them at the moment.

It seems that the only reason the Marvel comics were ever considered to be to be “goofy” and “camp” was the fact that a couple of the early issues featured a six foot tall green rabbit mercenary called Jaxxon.

OK maybe a gun toting, sarcastic bunny wouldn’t have worked in the movies, but comics are resolutely a different medium. Those early issues were a little crazy, but that was their charm. To an entire generation of Star Wars fans Jaxxon is not only the saga’s weirdest denizen, but also the symbol of a more innocent time. Hats off to you Jaxxon, and May The Holy Hutch Be With You.

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Just because my name is Jolli…

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Crimson Jack’s second in command is Jolli, an angry, young man-hating space babe. For someone who hates dudes so much, she’s made a peculiar choice of career – hanging out with a bunch of horny space pirates, wearing bright red knickers. To be fair, Jack himself can’t be bothered to put any trousers on, so I dunno, maybe the air conditioning is knackered on that ship. She also wears a green beret, presumably because she just doesn’t give a fuck. When Han Solo arrives on board, Jolli starts to have some confusing feelings. Well, she’s only human, and he’s monumentally good looking, roguishly charming, and manages to make a waistcoat look cool. At this point, at the age of six, I should have realised that I needed to start modelling myself on him. Instead, I think I still wanted to be C-3PO, so there was no hope for me.

Young Jolli never got to have sexy times with our dashing Corellian scoundrel. Instead she was betrayed by the pirates (surprise), and ploughed a Y Wing Fighter into the side of Jack’s Space Cruiser. We learn that as a child she was also abandoned by her father which led her to a life of piracy and barely dressed misandry. This may have been my first experience of pathos.

If the UK editions of Marvel Star Wars series had been printed in colour, I can only presume I would now have a fetish for girls with pink hair.

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