Posts from 2nd August 2004

Aug 04

DEL SHANNON – “Runaway”

Popular17 comments • 3,392 views

#120, 1st July 1961

The spaceman came to England at the start of July. Any reluctance that might have been felt over allowing Yuri Gagarin, the world’s most famous Soviet, to tour his propaganda triumph was surely outweighed by the simple wonder of meeting a man who had seen and done the things he had seen and done. He was a living, walking piece of the future, a future you can also catch in “Runaway”s shrill instrumental break, whose thin and eerily modulated circus tones bring even more melodrama to an already urgent song.

The gadget that made these piping sounds turned out to be not a true synth but a ‘Muzitron’, and the song’s co-writer had built it out of whatever was lying around, including bits of his TV set. “Runaway” already had a solid gimmick – the “wah-wah-wah-wah-wonder” hook – and you wouldn’t think it needed the Muzitron at all, but its presence makes the song. Its chirpiness has a mocking air, taunting Shannon just as he’s admitted that this is no ordinary breakup – his woman has not only left him but vanished. Then when the Muzitron takes the place of a second verse it makes it clear that there will be no explanation, no hint as to where the girl might have gone: she is free, Del is abject, and only mystery remains. One imagines Gagarin’s minders turning a radio dial in their London hotel, hearing the song, and perhaps frowning.

Whistle while you drink

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 178 views

Whistle while you drink — the Snow White Cafe in Hollywood was chosen as a meeting spot by a number of us in LA on Saturday pre-disco movie madness across the street at the Egyptian. The selling point is that ol’ Walt himself started the place back in the thirties to get some coffee (okay then) and that various minions of the time painted the Snow White art in the place. Nowadays Disney would appear to have jack to do the locale, and according to friend Spencer the staff seem to be attractive Russians. You can, however, get some beer and other alcoholic consumables, it makes for amusing people watching and the Eurotechno mix was actually pretty damned good. And there’s ‘food,’ but as Chris said, it’s very much only a base for the beer drinking.


Do You SeePost a comment • 182 views


Oh dear dear, dear me. I had heard about it. I knew it existed. I read a review here and there but I had happily forgotten what I had learned. And the reason why it was happy was that, years after I had been aware of the joys of both Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu, I finally saw the third in the disco-musical-extravaganza troika of bizarroness, The Apple, courtesy of the fine folks at American Cinematheque on their nice huge screen at the Egyptian in Hollywood. And goddamn does this film ever take the cake.

Oh, I suppose you want to know more about the film — and you can find out easily enough, you can go here or here. But you know, don’t. Don’t ask anyone to explain anything to you. Don’t ask for any hints. I want to tell you but I don’t want to tell you, because I want you to come in cold and just lose your mind. It will be squelched, pulped and extruded and you will thank me for letting you all experience it just as it is.

Now I can say that, yes, part of its noteriety is that it was written and directed by that genius of rudely energetic suck Menahem Golan, and that indeed he and cousin Yoram Globus were Those Guys In the Eighties that produced all sorts of fun, and that it was filmed in Berlin in 1979 or 1980 with a stated setting of the film being 1994, and that it’s about music and starpower and temptation and redemption. And overtly Christian eschatology…sorta. And that it doesn’t drag, only ninety minutes, and that’s to the good.

And I suppose I can say that two scenes linger with me — well, the entire film lingers with me, but anyway. First, this gentleman, Mr. Boogalow:

…sings a song apparently called “Master” which can only be described as Noel Coward does reggae in cabaret hell. Second…well, as the film draws to its close, there can never ever be a more astonishing deus ex machina moment ever. The fact that there is ABSOLUTELY NO CONTEXT AT ALL for its happening is all the more important.

It’s out on DVD at the end of the month. Buy it. Rent it. Marvel. I say no more.


FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 207 views


I actually sorta think that the last few years in particular have been a bit of a golden age when it comes to what I increasingly think is ‘my’ (borrowed) era of music, seen through a distorting lens of time and from thousands of miles of distance. Namely the whole late seventies/early eighties post-punk/new-pop/new-romantic UK whatsit, though mostly through a rockist (hey, it’s an early eighties word, it works!) sense of massive album rereleases and reissues with bonus tracks and remasterings — yay capitalism!

So there’s been the Echo and the Bunnymen reissues and the Sanctuary-released Fall reissues and the OMD reissues and the Simple Minds reissues and the Duran Duran reissues and a little while back there were the Psych Furs reissues and the Soft Cell reissues and and and etc. etc. etc. into the ground. And then there’s everything on the ever-godlike LTM, which I’m rapidly turning into a completist bore about.

And now it’s the Adam Ant reissues, how ridiculously great and how happy am I. Unheard demos! A proper digital release of “The Day I Met God” at long last! Those original versions of “Cartrouble” and “Kick” I heard about! And oh yes all those photos of all those images, what ridiculous greatness. I might actually say something more substantial about all this at some point but for right now I don’t care, I’m just ridiculously happy with the music.

Though for some reason “Press Darlings” isn’t on the Kings of the Wild Frontier disc. Unfun.


Do You SeePost a comment • 889 views

FT Top 100 Films

Martin Skidmore says:
This has a lot of the things everyone likes in Woody’s work, and almost none of the stuff people don’t. It’s not trying to be Bergman at all, though its apparently light fantasy always has a very dark side, where the reality is so much worse than the protagonist’s cinematic escapism – and when better to set it than in the depression, with musical comedy and jolly adventure on screen, and poverty and hardship off it? The concept, of an adored movie character being brought off the screen by the love of a fan, is a good one, and then recognising that the character and the actor both exist in the world improves it – this double role is a gem for Jeff Daniels, and he tunes it beautifully. This might well be one of countless examples where an actor gives their best performance in one of Woody’s films – apparently he doesn’t direct actors much at all, so I guess it’s down to atmosphere and the script. Mia Farrow and Danny Aiello (as her horrible husband) are tremendous too.

Woody Allen is among my favourite filmmakers ever, and I think this is one of his most simply pleasurable films. Interestingly, I think it’s his first comedy in which he doesn’t appear himself – and there is not even a Woody substitute, as there often has been since.

Pete Baran says:
As much as I like The Purple Rose Of Cairo, I would really like to see “The Purple Rose Of Cairo”, the film within the film. I know it is Jeff Daniels hero that makes Mia Farrow come back time and again, but what a film it must be to not annoy her. Imagine if she had been watching the Avengers every day, just waiting for Ralph Fiennes (or Shaun Ryder) to step off the screen.

I wasn’t a Goblin

TMFDPost a comment • 521 views

D&D, Role playing, none of it interested me. There were about half a dozen kids at my school who lived this life. These were the kids you never saw at lunch hour. As soon as the bell went, they scurried away. It was a great ploy, the thugs would only bully what was placed in front of them, so they took themselves out of the equation.

I was an old friend of one of them. We drifted apart after a couple of years as our interests diverged and I kind of knew his absence at lunch indicated he was with the D&D gang, holed up in a demountable, throwing dice. I never asked him why he played, it just wasn’t a mutual interest. He never mentioned it either.

Once in a while they became visible. Someone would spot them and barge in (they would immediately move on). “Go and play football” was their cry. It was an ace putdown, the game summing up everything they detested. The quieter ones (my friend included) would pretend ‘outsiders’ weren’t there, inwardly casting invisibility spells. There was one guy who was full of clever answers. It was a dangerous game, matching wit and brains against the hard and brainless.

Strangely, what really shook them up were girls. “Do you think I’m pretty?” the girls would taunt (this was Essex and they wanted answers) and all wit and brains were nothing with blushes.


FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 464 views

DJ CASPER in HOW NOT TO MAKE A MUSIC VIDEO. DJ Casper has just shot down Tottenham Court Road in an delapidated open top bus with a bunch of bored looking punters on board, one cameraman at the back. As the lights changed to green, suddenly the music pumps out! PUT YOUR HANDS UP!!! he shouts, well, he was no doubt MIMING I should expect, but what I’m TRYING to say is that everyone magically started feeling the vibe, and off went the magical music bus, only to jerk to a halt two seconds later at the roadworks.


PS: who?!? not the cha-cha slide guy, surely?

Flicking The V’s.

TMFDPost a comment • 229 views

Flicking The V’s. So Harvey Smith then, showjumping legend became all the more legendary in 1971 when in the British Showjumping Derby, he completed the course, won and did a reverse V for Victory sign at a part of the crowd. Many say it was at the judges, Harvey claims no knowledge of the meaning of the gesture – which is aboiut as disingenuous as these things can get.

Anyway, he got the prize money (‘2000 – a lot of money in 1971) taken away from him. Some say it was a class thing, Harvey was working class son of a builder. Perhaps it was more proper anti-Yorkshire bias. Certainly at this period in time sport was full of bluff Yorkshiremen who spoke what they thought, and often displayed that they did not think very often int he process.

And of course his name became slang for the very gesture. What more can you ask for. Oh, to see it. Luckily the BBC will oblige. Hooray for the BBC and their online rudity archive.

Samurai Executioner

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 448 views

Samurai Executioner

Lone Wolf & Cub is one of my all-time favourite comic series, and I’d recommend it very highly, especially to anyone who likes Kurosawa’s samurai movies, as it seems a very close equivalent to them, except with a more substantial story – that’s the one drawback: it lasts for about 8,500 pages.

Anyway, before that Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima produced another series about a top swordsman (who did reappear in LW&C), and in the wake of the other series’s success, Dark Horse are publishing it. It’s about the shogun’s sword tester; and if that sounds less than action-packed, I should mention that they tested swords on commoners to be executed. The five self-contained stories here, totalling 322 pages, cover his appointment and four cases, one where his role is almost a cameo. Koike was admired for his research and historical accuracy, and this provides fascinating and surprising insights into a very different world, but the main appeal is his compelling and strongly delineated characters, our hero or the single-appearance characters all driving the stories along. Kojima is one of comics’ great artists, with an extraordinary dynamism and power and raw beauty, and the stories are paced in a way utterly alien to Western readers: I guess the average American comic reader spends about 30 seconds per page; in Japan the average is 1.5 seconds. The standard episode was over 60 pages, and this would take less than two minutes to read. Artists are perfectly happy to have long silent sections, and might take many pages over one sword-stroke, and Kojima controls this pacing brilliantly.

I don’t know if this will reach the heights of their next work, but it starts with great force, and I’ll be a keen buyer of all ten volumes.

As promised

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 985 views

As promised: Me on Fluxblog on Baggy plus THEE BIG POLL.