Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #11

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 24th February 2017

It’s the first Bring Your Own Vinyl Night of the year!  It was great to be back in the Queen’s Head in Mold for another Vinyl Night, and nice to see all the familiar faces after the Christmas break.

Most of all, it was great to have a few pints and hear some great music, old and new.

To recap how this works (though I’m sure you know by now): everyone gets 15 minutes to play whatever music they like, so long as it’s on vinyl.

Here’s my playlist for the evening:

Professor Elemental – I’m British

For my first song of the set, I craved something a little different. So I decided on a track from Professor Elemental, a gentleman of some repute who is known to fashion extraordinary “chap hop” tunes.  That is, steam punk hip-hop (sort of).  I’ve seen the good Professor live a couple of times (at Sci-Fi Weekender) and was astonished at this marvellous mash-up from the get go.  A few months back I tracked down some vinyl via the Prof’s Bandcamp page; lo and behold it was a sonic delight.  Lively beats and unusual samples – more brass band than James Brown – meld with humorous, uniquely British rap topics to create a wonderful new hybrid.  This track was the perfect primer for the uninitiated, but it’s all good.  Get over to the Professor’s Bandcamp now, you won’t regret it.  And catch him live if you can!

B-52s – Planet Claire

Next up in my musical feast was a fine little song from those lovable, quirky scamps the B-52s.  “Planet Claire” is a perfect slice of sci-fi flavoured rock’n’roll, straight out of a B-movie and into your brain like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  I love it.  This version is from the B side of the “Rock Lobster” 12″ single, which I was lucky enough to pick up at a record fair not long ago.

Thee Hypnotics – Come Down Heavy

In the late 80’s/early 90’s, just before Nirvana changed the world with “Nevermind”, I had discovered the Stooges via punk rock bands like the Damned and the Sex Pistols.  At the same time, there were bands coming out of the USA – such as Mudhoney – that utilised a very Stooges-like sound: fuzzed up guitars, wah wah pedals and so on.  Thee Hypnotics were a British garage band that followed a similar blueprint.  Though largely forgotten about now, they’re a fantastic historical anomaly and pre-cursor to the alt rock explosion of the early 90’s.  “Come Down Heavy” is from the album of the same name.  It seemed very popular on the night – highly recommended.

Iggy Pop – Cold Metal

I bought the Thee Hypnotics album from a Connah’s Quay record fair around 1990.  I also picked up Iggy Pop’s “Instinct” album at the same fair, as I’d heard the track “Cold Metal” on a Sounds sampler EP that a friend gave me.  I love – and still love – the amazing guitar riff.  I was instantly smitten; not just the riff but the incredible gritty yet finely produced guitar tone – courtesy of the one and only Steve Jones.  “Instinct” is a superb album – Iggy’s explored lots of sounds, but I do like it when he rocks out unashamedly.  A highlight of a varied and inspirational career.

And that was the end of the set – hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did!  Looking forward to the next Bring Your Own Vinyl Night – it can never come too soon.

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

The VOD music website is here.

R.I.P. Lemmy

Lemmy

Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister

24.12.1945 – 28.12.2015

A huge part of growing up is buying your first Motorhead album.  For me it was the compilation album “No Remorse”, which I wanted because it had “Ace of Spades” and “Killed By Death” on it.  With that purchase, I took a step into a bigger world.  Motorhead were a gang, not just a band – and with buying that record I was subscribing to a whole new way of life.

The first time I encountered the rabid monster that was Motorhead was when they performed the legendary “Ace of Spades” on the Young Ones episode “Bambi”.  Lemmy was there front and centre, a living icon in mirror shades, mutton chop whiskers, and thunderous bass guitar; bellowing into a mic that was stretched to the ceiling.

Motorhead’s music was a raucous, fast burst of adrenaline and I played that album every Monday morning before school.  It was the best way to get into the zone and face the start of the week.  Total take no prisoners, take on the world music.  Of course, real life wasn’t so harsh, but Motorhead made you feel like you could do anything.

Lemmy himself was always the uncompromising rock’n’roll figurehead.  His gruff demeanour and his reputation for fast living only cemented his status.  And Motorhead were always cool.  When I developed a taste for punk rock, Motorhead were still cool.  Lemmy and Motorhead straddled the otherwise impossible crevasse between punk and metal.  He had roots going back to early rock’n’roll and the classics of the 60’s with the Beatles and Hendrix.  Lemmy was part of rock’s DNA.

Over the years I collected their albums, bought the t-shirt and Lemmy’s autobiography, and saw them live.  I even met the guy once.  One day I’ll write up the story of that night, which I was always going to call “The Greatest Night Out of My Life”.  Suffice to say that I met Lemmy in a strip club in Liverpool after a Motorhead gig, totally by chance.  I hung out with him all night.  He was extremely gracious and funny.  He was tolerant of drunk fans because he knew how much the music meant to us.

As much a gentleman as a warrior, the world has lost a real original with the passing of Lemmy Kilmister.  He was a pioneer, an innovator.  We knew he’d go one day, but it’s still unbelievable.  I’ll miss Motorhead.  Raise a glass to the great man and yell:

“You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools, but that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t wanna live forever!”

Halloween Horror Fest Circus

Vampire Circus (1972)

Yes it’s Hammer time at the Virtual Hot Tub, with this macabre classic from the legendary British studio!

A remote village, quarantined due to a strange plague, becomes the host to a travelling circus.  The circus entertain the villagers and distract them from their everyday woes; though they hide another motive.  That secret agenda involves a vanquished vampire count, and a despicable plot for revenge!

There’s no Cushing or Lee in this early seventies curiosity, yet Hammer are able to create a new spin on their Gothic tales with this unusual and striking film.  The boobs and gore identify the seventies vintage of this film, yet there’s plenty of atmosphere to embellish the tale.  Vampire Circus is a novel idea, and proves what the studio could do even without relying on the big names (stars or monsters).

Sadly this isn’t a feat that Hammer would replicate often in their twilight years.  Never the less, Vampire Circus is much more hit than miss.  The viewer will witness some real spectacle, some real frights – and the dark atmosphere of Hammer horror at it’s best.  Recommended.

8/10 vampire circus

From Hell (2001)

The crimes of Jack the Ripper are given a fictionalised re-telling in this 2001 Hughes brothers film.  It’s based – very loosely – on the Alan Moore graphic novel; relying heavily on conspiracy theory, a dash of clairvoyance and Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline. from hell

The conspiracy at the heart of the story is, of course, absolute nonsense, but then the original source novel didn’t set out to identify the culprit.  Rather, From Hell was a dense tome covering the mythology and occult roots of London and it’s citizens.

The film version goes for a more straightforward dramatic approach, as we follow the case and slowly unravel the mystery of the killer’s identity.  If you can suspend disbelief, forget the ridiculousness of it all and enjoy the ride, it’s a great film.  Fantastic sets give From Hell a very genuine feel, along with some decent performances (though not all) and enough shadows and murder to make it an effective thriller.

Go and read the book – it’s an incredible work.  But I’ll happily state that despite the clichés and the total fudging of fact and fiction – let alone disregard for the source material – the film From Hell is definitely worth a watch.

8/10

The Night I Played Bass for Diamond Head

DHLive

Diamond Head + The Heretic Order + Kuru + Cathar

Thursday 25th June 2015

The Live Rooms, Chester

Yes, you read that right.  For one night I played bass guitar for British Heavy Metal legends Diamond Head, and this is how it happened.

Diamond Head had three support bands, which is pretty good value for money in my book.  First up were Cathar, who were a Symphonic Metal band with two singers.  Solid musicians but not really my cup of mead; good vocals though.

Next were Kuru, who were more in the Death Metal vein.  Brutal riffs and the rhythm section were impressive.  Ferocious vocals, though I’m not a massive fan of the Death Metal Grunt.

The Heretic Order merged a more trad metal (Maiden, Priest) approach with some more thrashy elements.  Think Venom with some Sepultura and melody thrown in; they do a nice line in comedy Satanic Metal too.  At least I think it’s comedy; if not I mean no offence, honest…

Diamond Head can rock with the best of them.  Their NWOBHM anthems have become hugely popular due to their influence on those who followed.  The famous songs – “Am I Evil”, “The Prince”, “Helpless” – can be regarded as amongst the foundation stones of classic metal.  This is the music that helped shape today’s rock just as much as “Breaking the Law”, “Run to the Hills” or “Ace of Spades”.

In addition you’ve got those big, epic Zeppelin inspired songs like “To Heaven From Hell” and “To the Devil His Due”.  Monolithic tracks that really add another dimension to Diamond Head’s catalogue.

They play all the greats at the Live Rooms, and have a fantastic time doing it.  Brian Tatler is safely in the driving seat, in control and playing brilliantly.  Vocalist Rasmus Anderson has a hell of a voice on him, confidently delivering gem after gem.  The rhythm section of Karl Wilcox (drums) and Eddie Moohan (bass) are locked in and having a whale of a time.  Then you’ve got guitarist Abbz, who looks like the happiest bloke on the planet.

It’s a packed and professional set with plenty of conviction.  At the very end, I was down the front for the encore when Eddie offered his bass to the audience to strum.  So I hit a few strings – and so did half a dozen other people.  But now I’ll claim to have played bass for Diamond Head, and you can’t call me a liar.

Great gig.  My interest and respect for this band was renewed.  It was great to see a band who have accomplished so much – and still have so much to give – on my door step.  Legends.

The Diamond Head web site is here.

The Live Rooms web site is here.

In Memoriam – Sir Christopher Lee

Lee

Sir Christopher Lee

27.05.1922 – 07.06.2015

I was genuinely saddened to hear that Sir Christopher Lee had passed away.  Over the years Lee had become one of my favourite actors.  Perhaps my absolute favourite.  I certainly own more DVDs of his work than any other star.

My first encounter with Lee’s films would have been the brilliant, still unsurpassed The Three Musketeers (1973).  Or perhaps his turn as one of the best Bond villains ever – in one the best Bond films – Scaramanga, in The Man with the Golden Gun.

It wasn’t until my teens that I was able to catch up with his work for Hammer (and Amicus), when ITV started showing old horror films way past the witching hour with the advent of all night television.  I stayed up late, or recorded them all on the VCR to ensure I saw them all.  Those classic British horror movies captivated me – and still do. Whether playing Frankenstein’s Creature, Dracula, The Mummy – Lee was central to their success.

Monsters had always fascinated me.  I remember drawing them from an early age, though I wasn’t old enough to watch the films.  My early horror experiences came from Marvel comics, and a few movies such as King Kong and Boggy Creek.  Oh, yes – and the series of Fu Manchu movies shown on BBC2; again starring Christopher Lee.

The link to Hammer came from Star Wars.  I loved the cantina scene – still do – with its bizarre creatures; after all, I loved monsters.  Later, a connection from Star Wars would lead me to Hammer – I discovered that Peter Cushing wasn’t just Grand Moff Tarkin.  It was inevitable that I would explore the Gothic creations of the great British horror studio.  So I was understandably thrilled to find out that Christopher Lee would become part of the Star Wars family, as Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones.

Lee had something of a resurgence from the late 1990s.  He started to work with Tim Burton and seemed like he’d found a new home.  Sleepy Hollow (1999) was Burton’s love letter to the old Hammer movies, and Lee would return again and again to participate in the Director’s dark tales.

The fact that Christopher Lee found a new audience over the last decade and a half – with the Lord of the Rings films, even a return to Hammer with The Resident (2011) – is wonderful.  And gratifying for those, like me, who’ve admired his work for a long time.

Let’s not forget the many other talents Lee displayed.  How about releasing Heavy Metal albums in his nineties?  Check them out – they’re great.  And his wartime exploits (Google it) are worthy of a film in their own right.  A life time of incredible achievement.

I had hoped, as people often do, to one day meet my hero in person.  Unrealistic, I know – but Christopher Lee was always the top of my list for the old “three people you would invite to dinner” game.  I would have loved to tell him how big a fan I am of the films he’s helped create.  Alas, that will never happen now.  It’s sad that tiny bit of a dream will never come true.

Thank you Sir Christopher Lee.  Your constant creative progression is an inspiration.  The impact you have had on our imagination – both dreams and nightmares – is your greatest gift.

Son of Hallowe’en Horror Fest

28 Days Later (2002)

When Mrs Platinum Al and I went on our very first date, this was the film she wanted to see.  I’d heard it was good, and being a fan of the Director Danny Boyle’s earlier works (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting) agreed it would be a good choice.  What followed was one of the most extreme cinematic experiences I’ve ever had.  You’ve heard stories about people walking out of the cinema?  I saw that during this screening.  Audience members were getting up and leaving.  I’m sure that it wasn’t because the film was bad – it was because 28 Days Later is utterly terrifying. MV5BNzM2NDYwNjM3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDYxNzk5._V1._SX337_SY500_ (1)

Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in hospital after being in an accident.  Slowly he finds that the world he knew has crumbled, as an infectious virus called “Rage” has decimated the population by turning the victims into violent, mindless killers.  Jim meets other survivors, and together they begin a journey to find a cure for Rage, and safe refuge from the Infected.

28 Days Later was never billed as a zombie flick originally, at least not as I remember it.  Although obviously inspired by zombie movies and other post apocalyptic films, it was promoted as a film exploring what could happen following the outbreak of a pandemic.  Scenes of an abandoned London created emotions of despair that were related, in the press, to the aftermath of 9/11.  Psychologically, the audience is submitted to a world of sheer desperation that pervades every minute.

As a result, 28 Days Later gives us much more than a zombie re-hash.  It has shocks and creates tension in the viewer unlike any other film I have ever seen.  But it also asks questions: how far away are any of us, in a world of road rage and social unrest, from mindless uncontrolled violence?

Quite simply a superb film on every level, 28 Days Later horrifies beyond belief.

10/10

The Curse of Hallowe’en Horror Fest

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

I first saw this film when I was about ten years old.  Or rather, I saw the first ten minutes.  When the initial attack occurs on the moors, my Mum switched it off.  And I’m not surprised.  Just those first few minutes were enough to make me shit my shoes off.  It would be many years later before I would actually watch the movie all the way through.

An American Werewolf in London begins with two backpacking young Americans finding their way to a mysterious village somewhere in Yorkshire.  They are attacked on the moors by a werewolf – one is killed and one survives, thus carrying on the werewolf’s curse.  Recovering in a London hospital, the survivor, David (David Naughton) is cared for by nurse Alex (Jenny Agutter).  His nightmares soon erupt into vicious attacks as he transforms, under the full moon, into a werewolf. american_werewolf_in_london_poster_04

This film is an absolute classic of the genre.  There are genuine jump-out-of-your-seat shocks, moments of bloody gore and a tragic love story that combine into a thrilling experience.  The special effects make-up (by Rick Baker) is still out standing today, particularly the transformation scene.

Often described as a “horror comedy”, there is a humorous tone in moments throughout the film which helps create the light and dark shades.  Director John Landis, however, has stated that An American Werewolf… is not a comedy, it just uses the lighter shades to create impact for the more horrible scenes.  Landis blends the moods superbly.  There are also numerous nods to the werewolf movies of the past; both verbally (The Wolfman and Curse of the Werewolf both get a nod) and in the structure of the film.

I’ve seen this film many, many times since Mum first switched channels after ten minutes. I’ve even seen it on the big screen, for a special late night showing a couple of years ago. The film’s ability to shock is now lost on me somewhat – I know when every scare is due to happen.  But I still enjoy watching this film and absorb every incredibly clever touch that Landis utilises.  It’s made a massive impression on me – I still remember the first time I was way down deep on the London underground, and gained an appreciation of the loneliness and isolation in one particular scene.

An American Werewolf In London: if you’ve not seen it, see it now.  But not in a dodgy theatre in Piccadilly Circus, obviously.

10/10