Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #16

Time to relax and enjoy more of the joys of vinyl!  Yes, it’s another Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub, where I spend an evening playing through my stack of 7 inch records.  No skipping, no choosing anything out of order – just A then B side and make the most of it.

With the aid of some alcoholic beverages, of course!

In this edition, there’s another eclectic mix of songs from artists of various genres – including some absolute bangers.  Let’s go!

  1. Madness – “One Step Beyond” / “Mistakes”
  2. Bad Company – “Rock’n’Roll Fantasy” / ” Crazy Circles”
  3. Rick James – “Dance Wit Me (Part 1)” / “Dance Wit Me (Part 2)”
  4. INXS – “Taste It” / “Light the Planet”
  5. ZZ Top – “Legs” / “Bad Girl”
  6. Landscape – “Einstein A Go-Go” / “New Religion”
  7. Billy Idol – “Mony Mony” / “Shakin’ All Over (Live)”
  8. Fine Young Cannibals – “Johnny Come Home” / “Good Times and Bad”
  9. James Brown – “Living in America” / Vince DiCola – “Farewell”
  10. The Sweet – “Teenage Rampage” / “Own Up, Take a Look at Yourself”
  11. Sham 69 – “Hersham Boys” / “I Don’t Wanna” / “Tell us the Truth”
  12. Judas Priest – “Take On the World” / “Starbreaker”
  13. Stray Cats – “Rock This Town” / “You Can’t Hurry Love”
  14. Madam X – “High in High School” / “Metal in my Veins”
  15. Wings – “Live and Let Die” / “I Lie Around”
  16. The Beach Boys – “Do It Again” / “Wake the World”
  17. The Joan Collins Fan Club – “Leader of the Pack” / “Jacques”
  18. Elton John – “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” / “Jack Rabbit” / “Whenever You’re Ready (We’ll Go Steady Again”
  19. Lee Marvin – “Wand’rin’ Star” / Clint Eastwood – “I Talk to the Trees”
  20. Suzi Quatro – “Can the Can” / “Ain’t You Somethin’ Honey”
  21. Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin – “Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus” / “Jane B.”
  22. Bee Gees – “Tragedy” / “Until”

And there you have it!  A great collection of tunes and a fun night.  My favourite Bond theme, plus a load of class artists including The Beach Boys, Elton John, Billy Idol, Bad Company, Madness, James Brown and more.

No idea who Madam X are, that was a 20p find and I bought it on the strength of the cover.  Turned out to be dodgy 80s metal, unsurprisingly.  It was quite good.

Bonus points to any reader who can tell me: who was the Joan Collins Fan Club?

Stay tuned for more Singles Nights soon – I’ve still got a heck of a lot of vinyl to play through…

NB: The Fine Young Cannibals track was inside an Alarm sleeve.  I thought I’d picked up “Spirit of ’76” for 20p in a charity shop, but no such luck: it was FYC instead.  Such are the perils I encounter.  On a happy note though, the FYC tune was a belter.

Chester Comic Con – The Director’s Cut

Chester Comic Con

Sunday 24th September 2017

OK – so remember when I wrote my blog post about Chester Comic Con a while ago?  I ran out of memory space on my WordPress site and couldn’t post all of the photos I had taken.  Almost all made it, but not quite.

Then came Halloween Horror Fest, and although the space issue was solved I didn’t get chance to complete the images taken from Chester.

Until now.

Here, in true George Lucas style, I have re-visited the event and present for your enjoyment, the missing shots taken on that day.

Most of the these bonus pics simply weren’t used due to lack of space; some here are alternative versions of shots used.

Either way, I hope you enjoy.

As well as fantastic Cosplay costumes and various stalls selling all manner of wonders, there were also a few vehicles on display…

As I mentioned in the previous Chester Comic Con blog, I saw a great Q&A session with Martine Beswicke, Caroline Munro and Madeline Smith.  Best thing of the day!

Well done everyone at Chester Comic Con – it was a fab day!  Looking forward to next year.

Chester Comic Con

Chester Comic Con

Sunday 24th September 2017

My buddy Dan acquired some tickets and I was off to my first Chester Comic Con.  Amazingly, it was held at that den of drunken depravity, Chester Racecourse.  So for once, that almighty dignity vacuum would feature some actual culture.

To be fair, the racecourse was a pretty good venue.  There was plenty of space, with the indoor stalls surrounding a courtyard where numerous cosplayers, fans and geeks of all types could gather.  As it was decent weather, this outdoor section was a handy addition as it got fairly crowded indoors.

The stalls were many and varied; it was good to see a large number of merchandise stalls selling all manner of collectable paraphernalia.  There was plenty to drool over and spend hard earned cash on.

I picked up some comic books and Lego figures for presents, incredibly managing to resist adding more Funko Pops to my collection (there were lots).  As always with these events, however, there was tons I regretted not picking up later!

The cosplayers at the Con were superb.  There was all manner of fabulous creations on show, as seen here.  You’ve go to admire the dedication, hard work and creativity that goes into making these costumes.  I also think they’re also very brave, it takes some guts to proudly display your geek pride.

Well done to all the cosplayers – costumed heroes, every single one!  And thanks for letting me take your photo for this blog.

A highlight of the day were the Q&A sessions.  I caught a very interesting talk with Christopher Fairbank, who discussed his roles in film and TV from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet to Guardians of the Galaxy – and tons of other stuff.  His recollections provided loads of fascinating insights behind some of the many projects he’s been a part of.

Later on, there was another Q&A with Martine Beswick, Caroline Munro and Madeline Smith.  I’ve met these wonderful ladies before, but it was great to hear them talk about their experiences with Bond, Hammer and beyond.  The session was light hearted and lots of fun, with some genuinely interesting stories. All three came across very well; they were warm and friendly and really happy to be part of the event.  Superb, my favourite bit of the whole day.

All in all, Chester Comic Con was a total success.  It was a great day out and I’ll definitely be repeating the experience next year.  Let’s hope that 2018’s Con is expanded to two days!

The Chester Comic Con website is here.

Well folks, there you have it – for now.  I have a few more photos from the event to share, however I appear to have reached my limit for images with WordPress.  So for now, this is it.

In fact, this may be the end of Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.

We shall see…

R.I.P. Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell

20.07.1964 – 18.05.2017

Writing this memorial piece is a hard thing to do.  I was a massive fan of Chris Cornell and had been for many, many years.  I was left stunned, then in disbelief, and finally great sorrow when I stumbled on news of his death early that morning.

I had discovered Soundgarden with their “Louder Than Love” album back around 1990.  Music back then was shifting; I’d been listening to what would become “alternative rock” for some time and Soundgarden fitted right in with my tastes.  Along with other bands of the time like Jane’s Addiction and Mudhoney, I liked these bands that were able to meld classic heavy rock with a punk approach.  Bands like Soundgarden threw influences across the musical landscape into one pot.

When “Badmotorfinger” was released, I became a full on Soundgarden devotee.  The band soundtracked the ups and downs of my student life, the good times and bad.  The excellent “Superunknown” album cemented this noise in my affections even further.

Their sound evolved as Soundgarden explored and developed.  The riffs could still be inhumanly heavy, but there other sounds filtering through – from the whimsical to the psychedelic.  Listening to those albums was an experience that took the listener on a journey through different sounds and textures, feelings and emotions.

And of course, there was that amazing voice.  Chris Cornell could croon soothingly or wail like a tormented banshee – an awe inspiring ability that added yet more colour to the band’s sound.

Following Soundgarden’s split, I followed Chris’s musical journey through his solo endeavours and work with Audioslave.  I also loved his Bond theme – “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale.  I’ve played that many times to psyche myself up before a challenging situation, I can tell you.

I’ve tried to edit these recollections down, but revisiting some of the touch points in my life – where the music of Chris Cornell (and band mates) has been integral – goes some way to understanding the respect I have for the man and his legacy.

Sadly, now he’s gone.  I never saw Chris Cornell live (I went to Reading festival in 1994 but Soundgarden pulled out at the last minute) and I’d been looking forward to more music in the future.

It’s heart breaking to know that Chris is gone, and there’s no more music.  We’ve reached the end of that journey.  But what a legacy he’s left.  I’ll revisit those records again and again.  Though full of reminiscences of my past, those songs and performances are immortal.

I won’t speculate on the nature of Chris’s death, it’s not my place.  There are dark places that the human soul can go to.  It’s just incredibly sad.

Thanks for the music, Chris Cornell.  An exceptional musician who has left an indelible mark on millions of us.

“Heaven send
Hell away
No one sings
Like you anymore”

St. Andrew’s Day Playlist

In the past I’ve posted playlists for St. David’s Day (obviously, home nation and that) and St. Patrick’s Day.  About time I posted something for my Celtic brothers up north.

The following list is not meant to be exhaustive, rather it showcases a number of bands/musicians who hail from Scotland.  In some cases, there’s just one band member who fits the bill – for example, Garbage (supervixen vocalist Shirley Manson being Scottish).  But there’s some connection to Scotland that means the artist is on the playlist.

  1. Nazareth – “Hair of the Dog”
  2. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – “Faith Healer”
  3. The Average White Band – “Pick Up The Pieces”
  4. The Skids – “Into The Valley”
  5. The Jesus and Mary Chain – “April Skies”
  6. Primal Scream – “Jailbird”
  7. Alestorm – “Flower of Scotland”
  8. The Exploited – “Attack”
  9. The Proclaimers – “Born Innocent”
  10. Big Country – “In a Big Country”
  11. The Vaselines – “Molly’s Lips”
  12. Garbage – “Only Happy When it Rains”
  13. Eurythmics – “Here Comes The Rain Again”
  14. Mogwai – “San Pedro”
  15. The Rezillos – “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight”
  16. Simple Minds – “Promised You a Miracle”
  17. Lulu – “The Man with the Golden Gun”
  18. Stiltskin – “Inside”
  19. Stealers Wheel – “Stuck in the Middle with You”
  20. Ultravox – “Vienna”
  21. Sean Connery – “in My Life”

There are a few other bands in my collection that probably could have made the list, like The Sweet for example (singer Brian Connolly was born in Glasgow).  But you won’t find any Wet Wet Wet, Travis or Texas anywhere near my record collection.

Yes, you did read number 21 correctly.

Should Rod Stewart be on the list…?

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #8

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 8th April 2016

Got a record collection?  Want to spin those discs on a nice turntable for an appreciative bunch of vinyl enthusiasts?  The Bring Your Own Vinyl Night is for you!

Held monthly in the Queen’s Head pub in Mold, North Wales, this event goes from strength to strength.  The idea is simple: each participant gets 15 minutes to play whatever records they want.  That’s vinyl only; no CDs, MP3s, cassettes or whatever else.  Just have a beer and enjoy the music.

My pal Adam was back on the decks tonight, and was the first of our crew to step up.  He played a great set of songs from movies, that went something like this:

  • Carly Simon – Nobody Does It Better
  • Blue Swede – Hooked On A Feeling
  • George Thorogood & The Destroyers – Bad to the Bone
  • Ry Cooder – All Shook Up
  • Santo & Johnny – Sleepwalk

A special prize if you can name the films these songs are from!  A great set from Adam, I think one of his strongest.  In particular, I thought “Sleepwalk” was an exceptional track.

Then it was my turn:

Suicidal Tendencies – Possessed to Skate

Regular readers will know the story of my Suicidal records.  Here’s a quick recap.  Going back to the height of my skateboarding days in 1988 (or thereabouts), my friend Kelvin Bedford gave me the album “Join the Army” by Suicidal Tendencies.  A few years later, as a broke student, I sold that album and another ST record to my mate Graham.  Now fast forward to the recent past, and although I had the CDs, I was kicking myself for not having the vinyl anymore.  They were easy enough to buy off Discogs.  However, sadly Kel had passed away a couple of years ago, so I thought it would be great to have the copy he originally gave me back.  I contacted Graham, and he gave me the records for free.  What a gentleman!  I bought him a beer or two as a thank you.

Not so brief that recap, but now you have the background.  I wanted to play a track off the classic “Join the Army” record, as it was back in my collection, and this had to be it.  Many fun memories of my old skateboarding days always come flooding back with this fast paced punk rock/metal hybrid.  And I still listen to it when I skate nowadays (which isn’t often enough).  “Possessed to Skate”.  RAD.

Iggy & The Stooges – Gimme Danger

The next song is a favourite I was introduced to in my university days.  I was already a fan of the early Stooges albums, but hadn’t heard “Raw Power”.  It’s a superb record, full of barely restrained energy and chaos.  “Gimme Danger” is a the second song on the album, lulling the listener in to a false sense of comfort after lead track “Search and Destroy” decimates your speakers.  “Gimme Danger” still has an air of menace, however – a sense that anything can, and will, go wrong.  Decadent and beautiful, a masterpiece.

Chris Isaak – Wicked Game

And so on to Chris Isaak.  I have the “Wicked Game” album on CD, so I can regularly bask in the warmth of Isaak’s voice and imagine desert roads, truck stops, motels and neon lights.  This version is on a 7″ single that Greeny gave me for Christmas, and I’m so glad I have it.  Timeless Americana that always carries a hint of David Lynch, thanks to the song being included in “Wild at Heart”.  I usually drunkenly sing along to this at 2am.  I’ve also attempted “Wicked Game” at Karaoke a couple of times; I think I got away with it.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Sexy Mexican Maid

One of my favourite RHCP songs ever, you can find this sensual little number on the fantastic “Mother’s Milk” record.  It’s a slow funky groove that deserves to be heard more often, from one of their greatest albums.  “Sexy Mexican Maid” shows the Chili Peppers exploring their sound and developing towards “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”, whilst still happy to languish with their sexually charged lyrics.

So last up was Ben the Swede, who recently moved house and now had access to his full vinyl collection.  The theme was bass, of different types:

  • Level 42 – You Can’t Blame Louis
  • Duran Duran – A View to a Kill
  • ELO – Shine a Little Love

And there you have it: another great night with some great songs and some very cool people.There were some killer tracks from PIL, Perrey & Kingsley, Elvis Costello and more.  You can see the full playlist on the Halcyon Dreams blog here.

Thanks all – looking forward to the next Vinyl Night!

You can listen to this Bring Your Own Vinyl Night (and previous ones, too) on the Mixcloud page here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

Thanks Graham!

RIP Kelvin Bedford

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.