Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #24

One of my favourite types of night in: a random stack of 7 inch vinyl, and a big old crate of booze. I’ve not held a Singles Night at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub for a little while, so allow me to put that right.

You see, I’ve got a load of 7″ singles that I haven’t listened to yet. They come from various sources, though most are second hand. So I play ’em through, A side then B side, and enjoy the sonic delights. Accompanied with a tipple of two.

Here’s the latest batch:

  1. Mudhoney – “Warning” / Meat Puppets – “One of These Days”
  2. Cockney Rejects – “The Greatest Cockney Rip Off” / “Hate of the City”
  3. Metallica – “The Unforgiven” / “Killing Time”
  4. The Shipbuilders – “Silk Road” / “La Fee Verte”
  5. Huey Lewis & The News – “Stuck With You” / “Don’t Ever Tell Me That You Love Me”
  6. The Archies – “Sugar, Sugar” / “Melody Hill”
  7. Boney M – “Painter Man” / “He Was a Steppenwolf”
  8. Twiggy – “Falling Angel” / “Virginia (And the Circus Side Show)”
  9. Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballe – “Barcelona” / “Exercises in Free Love”
  10. Yes – “Going for the One” / “Awaken Pt. 1”
  11. Bad Manners – “Special Brew” / “Ivor the Engine”
  12. Kylie Minogue – “Better the Devil You Know” / “I’m Over Dreaming (Over You)”
  13. The Jam – “Going Underground” / “The Dreams of Children”
  14. Siouxsie & The Banshees – “Cities in Dust” / “An Execution”
  15. Gary Numan – The Live E.P.: “Are “Friends” Electric?” / “Berserker” / “Cars” / “We Are Glass”
  16. Del Shannon – “Runaway” / “Jody”
  17. The Smurfs – “Silly Little Song” / “Little Smurf Boat”
  18. The Proclaimers – “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” / “Better Days”
  19. Stray Cats – “Stray Cat Strut” / “Drink That Bottle Down”
  20. Eurythmics – “Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty Four)” / “I Did it Just the Same”

From Metallica to the Smurfs, there’s a right old mixture in that playlist. A nice wide coverage of genres from pop, disco, ska, prog rock, punk and – wonder of wonders – even some opera. Not to mention all the various subgenres on the list (Goth? Post punk? New Wave? Make your own conclusions).

Another fine evening of music, I can recommend a Singles Night for the variety and fun. Dig out your old singles collection and have a knees up!

The Plague of Halloween Horror Fest

Halloween may be over, but Platinum Al’s still got a couple of movie reviews for ya! Well, I didn’t get time to write ’em up before bed time on the 31st – so here they are!

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

In a small, remote village in Cornwall, a series of deaths from a strange disease has baffled local doctor Peter Thompson (Brook Williams). He requests assistance from his mentor, Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell), who is accompanied on his journey by his daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare).

When exhuming the plague victims graves reveals a lack of bodies, the doctors are stumped even further. Adding further complication is the tragic and mysterious death of Peter’s wife, Alice (Jacqueline Pearce). Soon, it becomes clear that the local Squire Hamilton (John Carson) – and his band of hedonistic goons – are mixed up in proceedings; with a mixture of voodoo and black magic…

Fans of the Walking Dead, or other modern zombie movies, may find this Hammer production somewhat tame by today’s standards, but there’s a lot to enjoy. The Plague of the Zombies takes a more traditional path with its tale rooted in voodoo, with a clever script that veers away from the usual Gothic creatures employed by Hammer.

Neither Lee or Cushing make an appearance, sadly – but the acting is particularly good never the less, with Andre Morell shining. The Plague of the Zombies is successful entertainment and shows Hammer trying to be innovative with it’s output.

8/10

The Crow (1994)

Our final film for this year’s Halloween Horror Fest is a 1990s classic that made a massive impression on me, when I first viewed it in the cinema.

In a city overrun with crime, musician Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancée are ruthlessly murdered by a criminal gang. One year later, Eric is revived through the spirit magic of a crow, to enact revenge on the killers. One by one, the perpetrators meet brutal ends, but the complicated web of crime continuously unravels, leading Eric to the gangster overlord, Top Dollar (Michael Wincott).

The Crow is a magnificently macabre, dark tale – a violent, action-packed revenge story with gothic supernatural elements. It may not be pure horror, but this twisted superhero drama is definitely pure Halloween. Brandon Lee is the soul of the movie, he’s both prefect and unforgettable in the role of Eric. Sadly, his accidental death during filming adds a haunting tone to the film. Even so, The Crow is a fine testament to Lee.

Visually stunning on the screen, the soundtrack is also fantastic: one of the greatest soundtrack albums ever compiled, it’s a classic of it’s time.

The Crow still has an incredible emotional impact. It’s a simple, moralistic fable wrapped up in a bloody revenge movie – with a sympathetic anti-hero and melancholic tone. Absolute class.

R.I.P. Brandon Lee

10/10

A Halloween Horror Fest on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Now here’s a film that should need no introduction. Though to be honest, back in the 80s when A Nightmare on Elm Street – and it’s sequels – were hugely popular, I was never a fan. I’ve just never been really into “Slasher” movies – I was investigating the classic Gothic horror of Hammer and Universal at the time, and modern, contemporary films just didn’t grab me.

Never the less, I decided to give Wes Craven’s original another go, just in case I was missing something.

Brief recap: a bunch of kids on Elm Street suffer from terrifying dreams, featuring a crispy faced dude wearing a mask and possessing a gardening glove customised with lethal blades. Yes, it’s evil child murderer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), and he intends not only to provide the kids with some unforgettable nightmares, he also wants to bloodily murderise them.

Revisiting this film was actually a lot of fun, I was surprised how well A Nightmare on Elm Street stood up. Yes, it’s incredibly dated, and ridden with clichés, but hey – these were new, original ideas back in the day. It’s not Gothic horror, but the supernatural elements are well plotted and help create the Krueger mythos.

Englund is great, though he’s more restrained in this first instalment. It’s always great to see John Saxon, who plays a cop here; and there’s an interesting debut from a fresh faced Johnny Depp, playing teenager Glen (who was probably about 40 at the time of filming).

Yes, I have been proven wrong – A Nightmare on Elm Street is actually a pretty damn good movie, with a mix of scares, peril and gore that shows Craven knows what he’s doing. Not the best film eve made, but I’m beginning to see how the cult of Freddy became so formidable. I’ll definitely check out the sequels.

8/10

The Indestructible Man (1956)

Convicted criminal “Butcher” Benton (Lon Chaney Jr.) is going to the electric chair, and he refuses to tell his bank robbing colleagues where the loot is. After being executed, Benton is brought back to life in an experiment. He then commences to seek revenge on his former partners, and the police are left to put the clues together and stop the gruesome murders.

A strange mix of the Frankenstein tale and 1950s cop show, this movie hardly feels like horror, but does have an impressive body count. Chaney has few lines – he’s mute for some reason, when resurrected – and we usually see his intense emotion only in wacky, extreme close up.

No points for originality here, but the film benefits from scenes representing the streets, bars and Burlesque clubs of old Los Angeles. As a period piece, The Indestructible Man is fun – it’s typical drive-in B-movie fare. Ironic that a couple of key scenes actually take place in a drive-in theatre!

6/10

Bucket of Halloween Horror Fest

The Gorgon (1964)

There have been several murders in the village of Vandorf in Central Europe, where the victims bodies are turned to stone. Following the death of his son Bruno, Professor Heitz (Michael Goodliffe) suspects all is not as it seems, and decides to investigate what the locals are hiding – and what they are so afraid of.

The Professor believes something hideous from ancient Greek mythology stalks the area, and seeks the help of Doctor Namaroff (Peter Cushing). Namaroff will not cooperate and the Professor meets his end when he sees the terrible face of Megeara, the Gorgon. Heitz manages to write a letter to his son Paul (Richard Pasco), before he is turned to stone.

Paul Heitz arrives in Vandorf to pick up the investigation, where he finds Namaroff similarly unhelpful. Carla, Namaroff’s assistant, played by Barbara Shelley, promises to assist Paul. But is there any truth to the myth of the Gorgon, and will there be time to solve the mystery before any more deaths occur?

I was sceptical at first, but The Gorgon successfully manages to transplant Greek myth to the more typical Gothic Hammer style. Christopher Lee turns up as Paul’s mentor, Professor Meister, in a great role – and Barbara Shelley is captivating in every scene. The film looks gorgeous, the lighting and shadows creating a stylish atmosphere – you’ll find it hard to look away, even when the Gorgon is on screen! A slightly different, but very fulfilling horror from Hammer.

8.5/10

Fields of the Nephilim – Gig Review

Fields of the Nephilim + The Faces of Sarah

Friday 10th September 2021

Buckley Tivoli

It had been a good 18 months since I last attended a gig, and leaving the house to join a throng of fans enjoying live music seemed like a very strange proposition. I’d actually forgotten all about the concert, as tickets had been booked long before lockdown. Heading up to the Tiv was both exciting and, if I’m honest, a little unnerving.

On entering the venue, it was just like old times: a great vibe as the crowd drank and awaited the bands. As life was getting back to normal, the Goths had crept from the shadows near and far, ready to witness Fields of the Nephilim.

The support band, The Faces of Sarah, were already attempting to breathe life into the evening. Unfortunately, and unusually for the Tiv, they could hardly be heard. I wasn’t too far away, but could barely make out the sound of the instruments. The guitarist looked to be going for it, throwing shapes like a crazed gibbon, but to no avail. The dual lead vocals were extremely impressive, however the poor sound made them come across like an AOR outfit.

Had my old copy of the Usborne Book of Goths been on my person, I could’ve ticked off several obvious dark rock tropes from the moment Fields of the Nephilim took the stage. There was so much dry ice the band could barely be seen, just a group of grey silhouettes in dusty cowboy hats. They begin in true over the top, cinematic style with “The Harmonica Man”. Atmosphere is poured on with no restraint.

And that’s exactly what I paid my money for: I wanted the full experience without any subtlety, and by God, that’s what the audience got.

FOTN erupted into “Preacher Man” and we all loved it. There’s no onstage frontman/audience banter (till the very end) and that, again, is just how I expected it. The songs bounce along like little Goth demons knowing Halloween isn’t far away.

“Moonchild” was an obvious highlight, with its slow, moody intro leading into the searing guitar and rumbling bass. The whole set is all treat, no tricks – I got the feeling that this is exactly how FOTN would’ve performed 30 years ago. The whole set is absolutely note perfect and full of every excess that the audience could devour.

I’d also forgotten how much I enjoy live music. This evening was a fantastic reminder of what we’ve been missing – can’t wait for more.

Bloody Hammers – Album Review

Bloody Hammers – Songs of Unspeakable Terror

Napalm Records

Release date: 15/01/2021

Running time: 32 mins approx

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

Outside, the nights are starting to get lighter and Spring is on its merry way.  The birds chirp merrily and warmth is returning to the land.  Which is completely inappropriate for a review of the new album by Bloody Hammers, “Songs of Unspeakable Terror”.  It should be Halloween instead: gloomy and dark with the bizarre and uncanny just outside your door.

Anders Manga (vocals, guitars, bass) and Devallia (keyboards/organ) are the Morticia and Gomez husband and wife team behind Bloody Hammers, a metal/rock/goth creation based in Transylvania County, North Carolina.  How’s that for an address?  Bet Glenn Danzig’s crying into his Count Chocula cereal. 

On this opus, Lily and Herman have left behind their previous established sound of Alice Cooper-style hard rock, crunchy metal and Sisters of Mercy atmos.  Entombed alive due to the pandemic, Bloody Hammers have exhumed the bloody corpse of horror punk, in a temporary tribute to the genre.

And it’s huge fun!  Fast and furious tracks like “Night to Dismember” and “Waking the Dead” rocket from the crypt like the hounds of hell are on their tail.  Huge “whoah-oh” Misfits choruses are of course present and correct.  Rousing and energetic, these songs are obvious but loving celebrations of influences that have only been hinted at on previous albums. 

There’s macabre melody on “We Are the Damned”, with a choir vocal effect to help power the camp horror feel.  “Hands of the Ripper” and “Not of This Earth” are slower, more metal sounding with a grinding riff.

Little of the occasional Andrew Eldritch explorations exist on “Songs of Unspeakable Terror”, though “Lucifers Light” unites guitar and keys into a moody Danzig like ballad.  A little more of this approach would still have fitted perfectly however.  I don’t know if Devallia can sing, but if she can this was a missed opportunity.   

The listener never feels too far removed from the original Bloody Hammers style, however.  Likewise this isn’t a simple, derivative rip-off of “Walk Among Us”, even though “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” is a nice radioactive “Hatebreeders” mutation.  But whereas the Misfits took their inspiration from monochrome B-movies, Bloody Hammers have changed gears to a Kensington gore-drenched 60’s Technicolor horror fest. 

“Songs of Unspeakable Terror” is an album of pure enjoyment, which is just what we need right now.  With song titles taken directly from classic Hammer/Amicus movies, a warm rediscovery of horror punk style and some familiar Bloody Hammers rock, you can’t go wrong.  Go dig out your Halloween fancy dress, find your “Plan 9 From Outer Space” VHS cassette and get ready for a ghouls night in!   

Check out Bloody Hammers on Bandcamp, Facebook and Instagram.

This review was brought to you by Platinum Al and Ever Metal.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #20

Here we go with the first Singles Night of 2021! The Virtual Hot Tub is ecstatic with anticipation for the return of these playlists.

What’s it all about? Well, I’m glad you asked. The singles in question are 45rpm vinyl singles, which I have accumulated over time from various sources. The plan: listen to the records, side A then side B, one after the other without skipping any in the pile. Whilst drinking booze.

Let’s see how I got on this time…

  1. The Temptations – “Psychedelic Shack” / “That’s the Way Love Is”
  2. Queen – “Killer Queen” / “Flick of the Wrist”
  3. Buzzcocks – “I Don’t Mind” / “Autonomy”
  4. The Clash – “Bankrobber” / “Rockers Galore… UK Tour”
  5. The Clash – “Complete Control” / “City of the Dead”
  6. The Damned – “History of the World Part 1” / “I Believe the Impossible” / “Sugar & Spite”
  7. Skids – “Sweet Suburbia” / “Open Sound”
  8. The Beach Boys – “Mona” / “Rock and Roll Music” / “Sail on Sailor” / “Marcella”
  9. ABBA – “Head Over Heels” / “The Visitors”
  10. Bananarama – “Cheers Then” / “Girl About Town”
  11. The Belle Stars – “Sign of the Times” / “Madness”
  12. Chicory Tip – “Son of My Father” / “Pride Comes Before a Fall”
  13. John Farnham – “You’re the Voice” / “Going, Going, Gone”
  14. Stevie Wonder – “My Cherie Amour” / “Don’t Know Why I Love You”
  15. Bardo – “One Step Further” / “Lady of the Night”
  16. The Motors – “Love and Loneliness” / “Time for Make-Up”
  17. Hot Chocolate – “So You Win Again” / “A Part of Being with You”
  18. Elton John – “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” / “Screw You”
  19. Blondie – “The Tide is High” / “Susie and Jeffrey”
  20. Slade – “We’ll Bring the House Down” / “Hold on to Your Hats”

Twenty – count ’em – twenty great tracks. Well, mostly. A solid offering from the world of punk rock in that collection, with the Buzzcocks, Clash, Damned and Skids singles all being salvaged from a local charity shop. Lucky day.

I had a great night spinning these discs, there are some really awesome records to add to the collection there. Time for more soon. Stay tuned!

The Goners – Good Mourning Album Review

The Goners – Good Mourning

RidingEasy Records (Us/Them Group)

Release date: 13/03/2020

Running time: 41 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

This little beauty threw off it’s shackles and ran for the hills, almost without me noticing.  I’m blaming the societal breakdown caused by Corona virus, obviously not an oversight on my part.  No, sir.  “Good Mourning” – the debut album from The Goners – was released back in March 2020; just before the world turned into a 1970’s Charlton Heston dystopian sci-fi movie.

The Goners are comprised of Nate Gone – formerly of Salem’s Pot – on vocals, with four dudes from Swedish rock band Yvonne.  “Good Mourning” is a throw-back to zoned-out good times and bizarro occult rock, with absolutely no regret the morning after.

First song “Are You Gone Yet” sets the pace nicely: fuzzy 60’s garage rock with a proto metal ferocity.  With the next track, “High, Low and Never In Between”, the Goners throw in more of their other specialty – 70s doom with groovy, care-free freak outs.

Wonderfully out of time, this retro feast also sounds totally now.  You can throw this on your portable music system and liven up any social gathering (so long as you stay far enough apart).  Press play and jump around all crazy-style to “Evil (Is Not Enough)” and “The Little Blue” – this is Black Sabbath if they were a Stones cover band.

Plus – and this seals the deal – a couple of fine, desert bleached songs in “Good Ol’ Death” and “Dead in the Saddle” that rattle with a dread atmosphere.  Absolutely essential for your next David Lynch/rockabilly/goth themed horror party.

“Good Mourning” by The Goners, then: if you’re a werewolf biker trapped in a cursed world you never made, but like to let your scraggy hair down with chicks from a Russ Meyer movie – this is for you.  Great cover art, too.

I’ve thought I was a goner myself, on a few occasions: most of them involving my old mucker Ozzy Osbourne.  One time, we were drinking in a golf club in LA and got thrown out, as you can imagine.  So, Ozzy decided to go for a joyride in a golf buggy, with me on shotgun.  He was flooring it, but we were only going at a jogging pace, so the golfers soon caught us up and were ready to brain us with their hitty-stick things.

All of a sudden, Oz drove the buggy over a hill and we toppled into a sand dune (bunker?).  We were lucky we were thrown clear and the buggy just managed to avoid crushing the pair of us.  The golfers took pity and consoled us with a nice brandy in the clubhouse.  Till the cops turned up, and dragged Ozzy and me off to jail.  The whole time, we were both wearing Sharon’s dresses.

Find The Goners on Bandcamp and Facebook.

Check out the RidingEasy Records website, or find them on Bandcamp or Facebook.

This review was brought to you by Platinum Al and Ever Metal.

Halloween Horror Fest 2020

Good evening, guys and ghouls! Enter, my friends, sit down near the fire and warm yourselves from the cold outside. It’s dark, and many strange things are afoot this night. Listen closely, and I will tell you of them…

Yes, it’s October – and time for another Halloween Horror Fest! Many of you may be feeling that 2020 has been horrible enough, but I’m going to press on anyway. Regular readers will remember that every October, I try to watch a load of spooky or creepy films. Not all of the films may be true horror, but there will always be an element of the bizarre or supernatural that will make them appropriate for this time of year.

Here we go with the first Horror Fest movie of the year…

Dracula (1958)

What could be better than starting the proceedings with a Hammer classic? Titled Horror of Dracula in the US to differentiate this film from the 1931 Universal version, Hammer films followed up the success of The Curse of Frankenstein with another venture into Gothic horror.

Sadly, the plot of this film veers away from the original novel a great deal, something that always bothered me from first viewing many years ago. I guess the viewer just has to accept that this isn’t a faithful rendering of Bram Stoker’s tale, rather a condensed and re-engineered take on the story.

We still begin with Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen), arriving at Castle Dracula, where he is to take up employment as the Count’s librarian. In reality, Harker is there to destroy Dracula (a superb Christopher Lee) and end the counts reign of vampiric terror. Sadly this is not to be, and Harker meets his end at the fangs of the vampire count. Shortly thereafter, Harker’s vampire hunting colleague Dr Van Helsing (Peter Cushing – also excellent) is on the trail, and realises that Dracula is on his way to Harker’s home town, to enact revenge and turn the heroes friends and relatives into the undead.

Despite changing the story and confusing characters from the book, this film becomes a hugely enjoyable accomplishment. The sets are superb, James Bernard’s score is iconic and Director Terence Fisher masterfully keeps the suspense and action mounting. Although the gore and erotic undertone were restrained by the censor (something Hammer would deliver more of in the future), it’s a lush colour production that is simply gorgeous to watch.

Michael Gough as Arthur Holmwood, and Melissa Stribling as Mina Holmwood, provide great performances, as do all the cast. But Cushing and Lee elevate the film to mythic status – Lee in particular becoming the embodiment of Dracula with a power and menace that makes his role unforgettable.

Hammer’s Dracula may not be definitive, if you’re a fan of the source novel, but it’s bloody good entertainment.

8/10

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #17

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 29th November 2019

Finally, months later, I made it to another Bring Your Own Vinyl Night.  It’s been far too long, but it was great to be back.  A few beers, some great food, and awesome music always makes for an entertaining evening.

Hosted by Halcyon Dreams in the Queen’s Head pub in Mold, North Wales, Bring Your Own Vinyl Night is an opportunity to be a DJ for a night.  Each person has a 15 minute slot to play whatever they like, vinyl only.

It’s never an easy task, narrowing down my collection to just a handful of songs to play.  I didn’t go for a theme this time, just a few tracks that I thought worthy of sharing.

Here’s what I unleashed:

Betty Davis – If I’m in Luck I Might Get Picked Up

I decided to start the set with this funk-rock hybrid from cult soul singer and one time Mrs Miles Davis: the amazing Betty Davis.  I’d heard about Betty’s work on the grapevine; after checking this album out online I knew I had to track a vinyl copy down.  “If I’m in Luck…” is a raunchy number powered by hard rock guitar riffs and a phenomenally funky beat.  Highly recommended!

Iggy and the Stooges – Gimme Danger

My favourite track on the third Stooges record, “Gimme Danger” is a timeless classic.  The “Raw Power” album that housed it apparently fared badly on initial release, but blossomed with a cult following in later years.  Every home should have a copy of this fantastic record.  “Gimme Danger” lures the listener into a false sense of security with an unusually melodic guitar part, yet still weaves a web of debauchery and chaos.

The Cult – Lucifer

The Cult have been one of my favourite bands over the years, going right back to my teens with the “Love” and “Electric” albums.  They’re still delivering quality music, with the album “Choice of Weapon” (from which “Lucifer” is taken) being a highlight.  There’s a huge, epic riff driving this song – one of those tracks that I usually have to have on repeat, ‘cos just one play ain’t enough.

The Donnas – Who Invited You

In 2002, The Donnas released one of the best rock’n’nroll albums in years with “Spend the Night”, an energetic blend of AC/DC style hard rock and Ramones punk.  Sadly it was released in the CD age, so I don’t own a vinyl copy.  But I did hunt down the 7″ single of “Who Invited You” so that I can enjoy at least one magnificent song from the album on vinyl.  Re-issue, somebody, please!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was that – for me at least.  There were plenty of other great songs played throughout the evening which you can check out via the Halcyon Dreams links below.

In all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening – sharing the wonder of music and vinyl in a great pub.  I mustn’t leave it so long till my next Vinyl Night visit.

With thanks to Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music – well done guys!

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.