Posts Tagged ‘psychedelia’

Gig Review: Leeds Lights 6th Nov 2008

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

I’ve noticed that a lot of comics blogs include gig reviews. What, comics not cool enough for ya? So in the best spirit of copying everyone else, here I go.

Every year my wife suggests we go and see the Christmas lights in Leeds being turned on, and every year it’s exactly the same. Some schmucks from local radio introduce a pop group you’ve never heard of, someone that used to be in a pop group you have heard of, someone who was on The X Factor the previous year, Santa, the Lord Mayor (why are we expected to cheer that guy?), and then someone else from The X Factor. However, in these times of crunch being credited, you can’t really complain because it’s free.

Over the last few years I’ve seen more rubbish pop groups than I can remember. These include, but are not limited to Rachel Stevens, McFly, four fifths of Girls Aloud, Darius Danesh and Cannibal Corpse. That last one might not actually be true. Last year one time X Factor winner Shayne Ward was being helicoptored in from Manchester (take that, environment!) but was running late, so his “set” ended up being shorter than Chico’s. Oh the indignity! Dick and Dom were a laugh though, with their constant chanting of “Shayne Loves Dick!”.

Usually “Santa” appears and does a bit of business with Rudolf, or elves or some such. Santa appears to be a bit of an egomaniac, though. His party piece is his rendition of Santa Claus Is Coming To… LEEDS! I see what you’ve done there to make it a bit more unique, but talking about yourself in the third person? That’s not cool man. I dunno, but seeing some guy (spoiler alert: he’s not the real Santa) leering into the camera saying “I know when you are sleeping!” is a little unsettling. At least this year he didn’t do I Believe which is always a rather excrutiating and this is me moment.

The eyes of a killer

Same Difference: Cute, perky and unthreatening. And her slightly creepy brother.


Santa was joined this year by X Factor (I’m getting sick of typing that) runners up Same Difference. Saying anything bad about these two would be like kicking a puppy, possibly while shooting fish in a barrel, so I shall leave it, except to note that they did a cover of Starship’s “classic” Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

Starship were a bit weird, weren’t they? Originally Jefferson Airplane, one of the most radical psychedelic acts of the 60s, they morphed into Jefferson Starship (sci-fi credentials cemented by an appearance in the infamous crapfest The Star Wars Holiday Special), and then simply Starship. I still can’t get my head around the fact that the band that sang “I’d rather have my country die for me” ended up soundtracking Mannequin. Let’s be honest, Mannequin is terrible. I can just about accept the idea of a shop dummy coming to life as Samantha from Sex and the City (it was the eighties, after all), but don’t expect me to care about the cutthroat world of professional window dressers.

The evening was rounded off by Simon Webbe out of Blue (think about that: he’s a quarter as good as Blue!), Alesha out of Mis-Teeq, and Leon Jackson, who resembles a cleaned up, but terrified Pete Doherty. Leon may have won The X Factor, but it has to be said, he really isn’t cut out for a career as a performer.

Oh well, roll on next year. Steve Brookstein, Matt from Busted and someone from Atomic Kitten. Possibly.


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.


Alice’s Adaptations In Wonderland

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

God bless Tim Burton. For being utterly predictable. While he has worked in a number of different genres, (heartfelt outsider biopic, gorgeous Hammer pastiche, and terrible terrible remake), most of his die hard fans would prefer to see him making creepy cute fairy tales for goth kids. Not surprisingly seeing as he excels at it. Batman Returns, for example, while being a pretty bad Batman movie, is actually a great Tim Burton movie.

With the appearance of images from his forthcoming Alice in Wonderland, specifically Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter, looking for all the world like Jervis Tetch from a long lost Batman & Robin subplot, it seems like he is back in his comfort zone. For all the talk of how Wonderland has been “Burtonized” it looks to be a fairly traditional adaptation, with a plummy voiced young vixen pouting her way through scenes that borrow liberally from Tenniel and the better known elements of the sequel (although not any of the trequels), whilst running into Very Famous People, semi recognisable under layers of make up/prosthetics/animation/over the top acting.

Burton's Alice

Of course an entire book can be written on the various interpretations of Alice (and at least one already has), and I’m sure Burton’s will be a visual feast, but I suspect that the quitessential Englishness at the heart of it will be lost. That’s not to say that artists of other nationalities haven’t been able to make good versions (for example, both Disney and Jan Švankmajer have made wildly different adaptations, both of which are terrific), but for me Alice is part of a long strand of English surrealism, along with Edward Lear, Rupert Bear, The Magical Mystery Tour, Nursery Cryme, Syd Barrett and Vivian Stanshall. It’s this feeling that was captured in Jonathan Miller’s 1966 TV version (described by Brian Sibley much more eloquently than I can here), in which the animal masks were ditched and the inhabitants of Wonderland were depicted as aging upper class eccentrics.

"I'm only a poor old man, 'arold" Wilfred Brambell as The White Rabbit in Jonathan Miller's Alice

Alice doesn’t need darkening or weirdifying. It’s pretty dark and weird to begin with, which is why it’s lasted so long and has lended itself to so many different takes. This new version apparently “has been freshened with a blast of girl power” (urgh. Is it still 1996?) but I don’t recall Alice being a shrinking violet. She  regularly stands up to a bunch of weird unfathomable creatures, doing weird unfathomable shit, and has always, I think, been a pretty strong character. Hopefully they won’t resort to having her doing backflips while firing twin AK47s…


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!