Millennium Falcon – the Greatest Toy Ever

“You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.”

Was it Christmas 1980 or 1981? Whichever it was, it was the best Christmas present ever. After months and months of making a pretend Millennium Falcon out of cardboard tissue boxes, I was suddenly the owner of an actual Falcon. Han Solo’s super fast, hunk of junk smuggler’s freighter was mine, to recreate all the fun of the films.

The Millennium Falcon was the coolest space ship ever. The ship was a central part of the action in Star Wars, almost a character in itself – unreliable, temperamental, heroic. It was the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy and full of surprises – as was the toy.

We already had an X-Wing for Luke, a TIE fighter and landspeeder to play out our memories of the movie scenes (remember: no VCR in those days, kids!). But the Falcon seemed unattainable – surely Kenner/Palitoy wouldn’t be able to make a ship that big, to fit the figures inside?

And then they did. And I got one for Christmas: it was straight out the box, built up and stickers put on by my Dad, and I was ready to go. I still remember that morning now, after weeks of anticipation, hoping that I’d be lucky enough to be rewarded with this toy on the big day.

Kenner (or Palitoy, the UK manufacturer, in my case) delivered a toy that had all the magic of the film. Yes, you could put figures inside it: Han and Chewie could fit in the cockpit. There was a laser gun turret to shoot enemy fighters. A holo chess table to play (“It’s not wise to upset a Wookiee.”). A remote for lightsaber practice and a hidden smuggling compartment to hide from the Empire. It made a buzzing laser gun sound and had retractable landing gear.

The ship looked fantastic on the outside, lots of random detail just like the model in the film. This Millennium Falcon was a toy, but it appeared so accurate it might have been an actual prop from Industrial Light and Magic. That’s how I felt about it, anyway.

Photos here are of my original Millennium Falcon, still with all parts and in the box, which I gratefully received that Christmas morning. After years of play, it’s still all there: a little beat up, a little dirty – just like the “real” thing. As a kid, I liked to make it look more authentic with a good layer of dust and some discolouration: not sure that was a good idea, now.

But what a toy! Literally hours and hours of play value, recreating scenes or imagining my own sequels. An absolute joy.

It was great fun digging out this old piece of junk. I had a blast taking the photos, hope you enjoy them. And remember: “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”

Part 2 soon!

Brown Acid: the Eleventh Trip – Album Review

Various Artists – Brown Acid: The Eleventh Trip

RidingEasy Records

Release date: 31/10/2020

Running time: 33 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

One of the best things about the Brown Acid series is imagining the alternate reality where these songs, long forgotten in the mists of rock’n’roll legend, actually attained the success so many of them deserve.  A world where these long-lost bands are as equally revered as BOC, Grand Funk or the MC5.  The same world, probably, where Lemmy’s still alive, Trump never got near the White House and the last Star Wars film came out in 1983.

But maybe that’s just me.  What I do know, is that the Brown Acid series from RidingEasy Records offers up another batch of ten proto heavy rockers that have been excavated from the depths of memory and given new purpose.  Lovingly curated and nursed back to life; then unleashed upon a musical landscape that didn’t know it needed the songs, but by Jimi – we’re thankful for them.

The first track on this compilation, “Something Else” by Adam Wind, didn’t flip my switch much at first.  After a couple of plays, however, the Hendrix style guitar frenzy did the trick.  Then the marvellously named Grump rock out with “I’ll Give You Love”, reminiscent of the mighty Steppenwolf with skronky organs and scratchy guitar.

“Diamond Lady” from Larry Lynn is a fantastic punchy, psychedelic number.  Then midway through the album, we get “In Wyrd” by Renaissance Fare.  This track sounds like the Doors being particularly annoying when they’re on the wrong drugs.  Thankfully, at under 3 minutes, it avoids some of Jimbo and pals’ lengthier exasperations; it’s the only challenge on an otherwise album of rock’n’roll killers.

My highlight of the collection is “Just Can’t Say” by Day Break – a boogie influenced groover with desert rock swagger.  Debb Johnson contribute “Dancing in the Ruin”, which packs Stax style brass to great effect, and finally Crazy Jerry rounds things off with the riff-tastic “Every Girl Gets One”.

The Eleventh Trip in this series continues to surprise and entertain.  It’s a compilation that’s so solid you’d need a forklift to move it.  Dig out your flares and love beads, heat up the lava lamp – it’s party time again!

By the way, I invented the term “skronky organs” and I’m trademarking it.

Track listing:

  1. Adam Wind – Something Else
  2. Grump – I’ll Give You Love
  3. Bagshot Row – Turtle Wax Blues
  4. Larry Lynn – Diamond Lady
  5. Renaissance Fair – In Wyrd
  6. Zendik – Mom’s Apple Pie Boy
  7. Day Break – Just Can’t Say
  8. West Minist’r – I Want You
  9. Debb Johnson – Dancing in the Ruin
  10. Crazy Jerry – Every Girl Gets One

Check out RidingEasy Records on the world wide web here or on Bandcamp here.

You can also check them out on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

This review has been brought to you by Platinum Al, in association with the awesome Ever Metal.

Brown Acid: the Tenth Trip – Album Review

Various Artists – Brown Acid: The Tenth Trip

Riding Easy Records

Release date: 20/04/2020 (?)

Running time: 33 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

Between me and you, I’ve been wondering when this series of proto metal/heavy psyche long-lost artifacts would start to go off the boil.  This is the tenth instalment now, and any listener could be forgiven for thinking that maybe, the well might run dry.  That the party is over, the acid has worn off, and the hippies have traded in their kaftans for the last time.  I mean, how much of these rare, forgotten nuggets can there be left, for the rock’n’roll gravediggers at Riding Easy Records to exhume?

Well pardon me for being a fanboy, but the Brown Acid trip is far from over.   In fact, this could be my favourite volume so far.

Yes, it’s more of the same: fuzzy, psychedelic late 60s/early 70s heavy rock; somehow cast aside for around fifty years, waiting to be rediscovered.  Gems that pre-date and redefine the genealogical development of metal and hard rock; throwing the long-standing theories of origin into dispute like some musical Antikythera mechanism.  But this time, if anything, the tunes are better than ever.

Here we have Sounds Synonymous with “Tensions”, a fuzz-rock monster with a “Wild Thing” feel and washes of freaky organ not a million miles removed from Steppenwolf.  Witness also the wonder of “Never Again” from Ralph Williams and the Wright Brothers, melding melodic vocals with an “American Woman” style desert rock vibe.   “Babylon” by Conception rolls with some funky, Hendrix-like riffs and a great pop sensibility, not to mention a fabulous bluesy instrumental section.

Bitter Creek deliver “Plastic Thunder”, which has a Who meets Stooges aggressive sound.  On “Mr. Sun”, First State Bank (rad name!) provide a Mountain-covering-the-Kinks lesson in far-out groovery.  Then there’s Brothers and One with the saucily titled “Hard On Me”, which has a little Hawkwind on a road to Maiden’s “Running Free”.

Probably the best track is “The Roach”, by The Brood (another quality name).  It’s a MC5/Sabbath garage rocker with apocalyptic horns and keys, heralding the end of peace and love and the arrival of the age of doom.

Freaky, fuzzy and far-out: that’s the latest edition of Brown Acid.  If you’re late to the party, jump on the magic bus right now and let your hair down.  Signs are this festival is gonna run and run.

 

Here’s a link to the Riding Easy Records website and their Bandcamp.

You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

This article first appeared as a review on Ever Metal.  Please use the electronic super highway to pay them a visit via this link.

Skateboard Museum: SMA Jim Thiebaud

Come with me as I take a roll down skateboarding memory lane, ollieing the cracks as I go…

Santa Monica Airlines Jim Thiebaud

This classic deck dates back to the late 80’s, I picked it up in 1989 if I remember.  At the time the Chester branch of Milletts, the camping and outdoors shop, were stocking skateboards for some reason or other.  They had some pretty rad stuff, too.

When the time came to replace my worn out deck and get a new one, I saved up my pennies/swapped vinyl records and got myself this Santa Monica Airlines deck from Milletts.

At least I think that’s where it was from, I can’t remember.  Either way, I didn’t support a skater owned shop on this occasion, to my shame.

SMA

SMA were really blowing up at the time, and Jim Thiebaud had been on my radar since I saw the (criminally minimal) footage of him in some of the Powell vids.

Thiebaud was – and is – a supremely cool skateboarder with a smooth, rad style.  He was one of those original street pros that I really admired.  Along with Gonz, Natas, Guerrero and Vallely, JT was a bona fide street skating pioneer and innovator.

The shape was perfect for me at the time, exactly how I wanted a skateboard to be.  It’s still a classic shape now, I really like it. Nice size tail, comfy wide deck – but not too wide.  Great street deck of the era.

This deck also had the cool comic book style superhero graphics which I loved.  I’ve always been a big fan of superheroes.

However I wasn’t cool enough to get on this particular wave of popularity earlier.  If I had, I might have picked up the previous variation on the graphic, which featured a bad guy designed to resemble the Joker.  The Batman movie was out around that time, so I guess the whole theme was prominent back then.

So the Joker version had to be scrapped due to some issue with DC Comics, I believe the story goes, and I ended up with the purple suited thug instead.

No matter – cool graphic or not, this deck was to be skated.  I transferred my Indy trucks and OJII wheels and was ready to go.  Well, when I’d also added the Powell Rib Bones as well.  Not to save the graphic, mind – in those days the received wisdom (at least amongst my friends and I) was that the rails helped you slide better.

This particular set up was particularly long serving and loyal.  It was like a magic carpet that seemed to respond perfectly to my wishes.  Honestly, I remember learning tons of tricks on this finely shaped beauty.  Footplants and Boneless variations were (still are) major tricks in my arsenal and I learned several on this very set up. 

Biggest of all though, was the kick flip.  We called it an “ollie kick flip” back then, and it was a pretty desirable trick to own.  I learned kick flips on this gorgeously wide beast and was unbelievably stoked.  I still remember that first one.

It was well skated – in fact the tail is worn to a sharp and splintered point – but this set up is still skateable.  It’s still around as it was replaced with thinner decks and trucks as shapes evolved; thus I never swapped it.

The SMA Thiebaud is still on the garage wall, still looks great, and still gets a roll every now and again.  Classic.

Take a close look at the photos and you’ll notice some interesting features:

  • Madrid Fly Paper grip tape (note the fly shapes cut out)
  • Rad SMA top graphic
  • Santa Cruz Cell Block riser pad
  • A couple of cool stickers from back in the day still hanging in there
  • The trucks are fitted with Grind King reversed kingpins, there’s even a sticker on the front hanger…
  • You can see some of the bands I was into at the time from the grip tape art, which I did with Tip-Ex…

Songs of the Week 07.08.2016

A lot of vinyl played this week.  Here are the top 5 songs from the last seven days:

  1. Fu Manchu – Evil Eye
  2. The Clash – Jimmy Jazz
  3. Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft
  4. The Meters – Cissy Strut
  5. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel – Red Admiral Black Sunrise

Santa Cruz Street Creep

IMG_4705A few years ago, I had an urge to get me an old school set up.  I already had my everyday double kick street machine, but I felt I needed something that reminded me of my skateboarding youth in the 1980s.

This Santa Cruz Street Creep was the answer.

I remembered the Street Creep from those halcyon days.  I never owned one at the time, though I did own other Santa Cruz decks (see the blog about my Rob Roskopp deck, for one).  The Street Creep was a very cool shape and a cool graphic.

Luckily for me, numerous skateboard companies have been re-issuing the old shapes as collectors pieces.  I picked this re-issue up fairly easily.  I fitted it with some new, wide Independent trucks and some old Santa Cruz Slime Balls wheels and it was ready to go.

The wheels were rescued from an old relic of a board that was passed to me a few years back.  I always wanted some Slime Balls, finally I got a set!

The result is a rad skateboard that brings back loads of memories.  The shape is great, though it takes some getting used to after skating shorter, thinner boards for ages.  It’s a fantastic skateboard for blasting a few old tricks on – I find no-complys and some boneless manoeuvres easier on this set up.

With the big, softer Slime Balls attached, this board is great for carving up some of my favourite banked skate spots.  In particular, there’s a messy old “bowl” I like to skate – tarnished with grit and stones, but very skateable with this monster.

Plus there’s the graphic – if you’re an old 80’s skate hound like me, it’s all about the skulls!  Check out the close up the graphic and you’ll see dozens of smaller skulls and faces within the image.

Skateboards are a thing of beauty; this Street Creep looks and rides superb.

IMG_4713

Top graohic

Top graphic

Sci Fi Weekender 2016 – part 2

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Phoenix

Sci Fi Weekender 17th – 20th March 2016

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Day 2 at SFW, and again it’s all a blur.  I recall it was a lazy start to the day for me, breakfast and chilling in the caravan.  Kurt was feeling better, but Greeny was starting to suffer with the illness.  It would be mostly be another day of watching Star Trek, Big Bang Theory and Top Gear for those two.

Adam had got up early and made it to see a showing of a new independent film called Pandorica.  Classed as an action-horror, reports about the film were very enthusiastic.  The Q&A with Director and cast was my first event of the day – it was interesting although I’d not seen the film!  Definitely one to keep and eye out for: word of mouth was very positive.

The highlight of the afternoon was, undoubtedly, an appearance by the incomparable Brian Blessed.  Larger than life and twice as loud, Blessed’s sci-fi credentials are suitably top notch.  A life long fan of science fiction, as well in starring in numerous genre pieces – you may have heard of Flash Gordon – his enthusiasm was both apparent and infectious.

Professor Elemental hosted the Q&A with Brian Blessed, who wisely let the great man get on and tell his tales!  A solid job from the Professor – a daunting task well executed.

Blessed’s talk ranged from his acting work to his many explorations and mountaineering adventures.  His recollections of the Flash Gordon movie, and it’s well deserved appreciation by audiences the world over, were affectionately told.  An unmissable audience with a real living legend.

In the afternoon I took some photos and looked around the stalls again.  Unfortunately, this years SFW again clashed with MCM Memorabilia in Birmingham, so genre based merchandise was thin on the ground.  I picked up some cool Elvira cocktail glasses though!

A good feature this year was the retro gaming section, where numerous old consoles could be played for free.  This was very popular, and although I don’t play video games it meant I always knew where to find my crew if we split up.  They were always playing games…

Every year at SFW, the Cosplay final is something to behold.  There’s always a sense of excitement in the air, as the costumed competitors take the stage.  And every year, the audience and competitors are enthusiastic and good natured.  Everyone cheers for each other, and there’s a real sense of community.  It’s nice to witness all the attendees rooting for each other; even though there will always be favourites, there is no bitterness.

The costumes were exceptional, as you can see (hopefully) from the photos here.  Not everyone entered the competition, but there were so many great costumes whether they were entering or just dressing up for fun.  Massive respect to everyone.

I find it great fun spotting and naming the characters.  The variety and imagination on show is consistently astounding, not to mention the talent that goes into making the costumes.  So again, thanks to all the Cosplayers for letting me take your photos.  Too many of my pics didn’t work out.  I also missed far too may opportunities.  But I hope that the photos here capture some of the creativity I witnessed.

And I sincerely apologise for not dressing up!  I lost count of the number of people who chastised me (with good humour, of course) for not dressing as Tony Stark…

Anyway, there can only be one winner of the Cosplay final, and that was the Robot Overlord fellow.  I can’t remember the character’s name, but I swear it was truly incredible!

Later on in the evening, I zoomed over to the Prog Rock area to catch some music.  I was very happy to catch the Focus set; the song “Hocus Pocus” was an obvious highlight.  I only saw a couple of songs by Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame) – though they were impressive – before heading back to the spaceport.

For the rest of the evening, my compadre, Ste and myself had a few beers and hung around with various SFW attendees.  We saw some old pals and met a few new ones.  I took more photos – including the now traditional “no photos” social media-proof shades pics.  And we managed to stay up partying till after 2 in the morning!

Not such a good thing going home Sunday…

Still, another great time at Sci Fi Weekender.  And yes, Greeny and Kurt got better, thanks for asking.

If you were there, it was good to see you.  Hopefully we’ll see you next year.

And big thanks to Adam, who organised the whole thing for us!

The Sci Fi Weekender site is here.

The HRH Prog site is here.

PS: There are photos left unpublished, so there will be Bonus Scenes in a few weeks.  Be warned!

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Cosplay winner!

Skateboard Museum Update: My First Skateboard Photos

IMG_4251My first skate board – new photos

The very first skateboard related post I wrote for the Virtual Hot Tub concerned, quite appropriately, my very first skateboard.  There was only one photo to accompany the article however, and that wasn’t much good.  So, as per the update I did regarding the Variflex Joker, here are a few additional shots of this classic board.

Now in my collection for over thirty five years, this skateboard is the one I learned to skate on.  It was a gift from my Gran; but was neglected for a few years.  Eventually I was bitten by the skateboarding bug, and it was this board that gave me that first taste.

This is a very old, and now faded, plastic board from the 1970’s heyday of skateboarding.  The deck is plastic, like many of the skateboards of the time that served to introduce us to the sport/art.  We called these plastic boards “polyprops” back in the day – as in polypropylene, which the boards were supposedly made out of.  I’m not sure if polyprop is a local term or not.

Plastic skateboards have been given a whole new life recently, with the popularity of Penny skateboards.  The development of this retro trend certainly puts a smile on this old skate dog’s face.

On the nose of the deck is what I assume to be the brand name – Albert.  I’ve not seen this company anywhere else – if you know anyhting about them, please leave a comment and let me know.

The trucks are metal, though I have no idea what the wheels are made of.  The wheels are hard, and are sealed with a protector over the bearings.  The wheels have always been like this as far as I remember, so I assume they’re not a softer plastic that’s decayed over time.

Once red, now faded to pink, I still love this old board.  I’m very glad I still have it.

You can read the original blog about My First Skateboard here.

The Greatest Skateboard Graphic Ever

Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp “Face”

Everyone has their own personal choice.  Over the years I’ve seen many amazing skateboard graphics – some intricate, some clever, some stupid, some risque.  Back in the 80’s it was mostly skulls and gore.  At the end of the decade, these themes became extinct, replaced by ironic cartoons and brand logo appropriation.  You name it, it’s probably been featured on a deck somewhere.  There are great examples of art of all styles.

The two giants of skateboard graphics in the 80’s, at least in my eyes, were Vernon Courtland Johnson and Jim Phillips.  VCJ created the many iconic designs for Powell Peralta such as the Ripper and Skull and Sword.  Awesome graphics that made my eyeballs pop, as a kid nurtured on comic book art and monsters.

The art of Jim Phillips featured on many Santa Cruz decks, including classic pro decks for Jeff Kendall, Jeff Grosso and Jason Jessee.  My absolute favourite though was the Rob Roskopp street model, with a huge ugly face on it.

I first saw the Roskopp graphic in my sisters Smash Hits magazine, of all places.  They did one of those lame “introduction to skateboarding” type of features, with things like “how to talk like a skateboarder”.  It did feature UK hardcore band The Stupids however, and a model holding the deck in question.

As soon as I saw it, I loved that graphic.  It was big, bold and over the top – but beautifully detailed.

A couple of years later, I eventually acquired a Santa Cruz Roskopp Face of my own.  The deck itself was white, with the graphic in black screaming out from the bottom of the board.  I was very happy that regardless of the fantastic art, it was a great shape and well made board.  So the decision wasn’t made purely on the artwork. IMG_2797

I don’t remember what happened to that particular deck, I probably wore it out and swapped it with someone.  There’s a photo of it somewhere.

A few years ago, I picked up a reissue of the Roskopp deck.  It’s yellow, with the same great graphic as I had all those years ago.  It’s never been skated – I keep this one on the wall, right above my desk (I have other boards for actually skating).  It hangs there as a proud reminder, and an example of great skateboard art.  That’s what this skateboard is to me – pure art.

In my opinion, the Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp “face” is the best skateboard graphic ever.

Check out the latest reissue here.

The Santa Cruz website is here.

Skateboard Museum Update: Variflex Joker Photos

Variflex Joker – new photos

You may remember recently that my post about my Variflex Joker skateboard was the fifth most read article of the year.  All well and good, but the photo used to accompany that blog post wasn’t the best.

So I have attempted to make up for that earlier oversight here, with some more pics of the board in question.

Remember this skateboard isn’t the original one I rode in the 80’s – I found this on a site selling old boards and snapped it up.  It was brand new, complete – sealed in plastic and everything.  Nice bit of kit for my collection.

Please take a look at the original post about the Variflex Joker here.