Archive for October, 2011

A very Supertzar Hallowe’en

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Had a great Supertzar weekend! Friday there was a practice in a new room in our old jam studio, for some reason the guitars, drums and vocals sound great in this space, we should use it as much as possible from now on.

Saturday I did a bunch of blog-related stuff all day, and in the evening went off to buy plastic fangs, a cape, and black wristbands so that I could be back in black for the Supertzar “To Hallowe’en We Go” horror gig with Metal Karmah (actually, they pulled out at the last minute, only to be replaced at the last minute by Swift Knife), Misfits Ramones and Supertzar. Awesome!

It was my first gig as a concert MC, I did so-so. Swift Knife were pretty good, kind of poppy, a bit Bryan Adams-y, and they built up nicely in terms of tempo and velocity. Good one, guys. Wouldn’t play “one more”, though, but I admire them for sticking to only originals and not doing any covers. Misfits Ramones paid tribute to the occasion by playing a bunch of Misfits songs, including (of course) “Hallowe’en”. I sang part of that with them, as well as “Astro Zombies”. Great, great, great.

For our gig, I came out in full make-up (darkened eye sockets, pointed eyebrows, and extended dark sideburns), with my fangs and my cape. Bluarrrghhhhh!!! Great, great, great, great fun! Ant wore a witches hat from Daiso, and James had fake fangs too, while Val got a temporary tattoo on his face, ha ha. Joe from London came out, as did a bunch of our fans, we rocked the place to the ground. Our two originals, “To Hell We Go” and “Blood Horizon” also came off very well.

The full concert can be at my Supertzar video page.

These are our new original songs:

To Hell We Go

Blood Horizon

Here’s me singing songs with Misfits Ramones:

Hallowe’en

Astro Zombies

Here are some pics of the gig, courtesy my friend Donald:

Supertzar Chocolate Bar Halloween gig October 29th 2011

Supertzar Chocolate Bar Halloween gig October 29th 2011

Supertzar Chocolate Bar Halloween gig October 29th 2011

Supertzar Chocolate Bar Halloween gig October 29th 2011

That's me doing some guest vocals for the Misfit Ramones

That's me doing some guest vocals for the Misfit Ramones

BLURGHHH!!!  Supertzar!!!!!

BLURGHHH!!! Supertzar!!!!!

BLURGHHH!!!  Supertzar!!!!!

BLURGHHH!!! Supertzar!!!!!

BLURGHHH!!!  Supertzar!!!!!

BLURGHHH!!! Supertzar!!!!!

Me and my friend James

Me and my friend James

BLURGHHH!!!  Supertzar!!!!!

BLURGHHH!!! Supertzar!!!!!

Friday night, Zen was invited to an inpromptu Hallowe’en party in the function room of our condominium place. Some western families organised it, and even came around trick-or-treating (Naoko wasn’t prepared, so she handed over all of the candies that we had on hand, about 20 pieces of hard candy). Zen played until 9:00, when he came home exhausted, too tired to even move, and went straight to sleep. Here are some pictures:

BLUARGHHHH!!!!

BLUARGHHHH!!!!

Zenferatu

Zenferatu

Finally, here it is, the Misfits Hallowe’en – enjoy.

My big bad Conan page

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Conan is so cool, and Dark Horse has revived the series with some great stories of our handsome Cimmerian.

C-TFGD

C-TFGD

Conan Volume 1: The Frost Giant’s Daughter (2005) – A great new series of Conan tales re-launched by Dark Horse in 2003 (2004, really, but the preview “Issue 0″, which sets the scene was published in 2003), based on original Robert E Howard stories and collected from 2004 in a series of volumes. The first tale in Volume 1, called “Conan The Legend”, starts off many years after the death of King Conan and the fall of his kingdom with a young Arab prince travelling the lands and discovering his temple with a powerful and envious wazir (nice mind games going on here). The tale gives some history of the times Conan lived in, which was some point “between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas”, describing the various lands of Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora (with its “towers of spider-haunted mystery”), Zingara, Koth, Shym, Stygia, Hyrkania, and Aquilonia, from whence the Cimmerian himself hails. The issue is full of stunning art by Cary Nord, who draws the stories without an inker (the appendix, which tells tales of Robert E Howard and contains some of Nord’s sketches, includes also a three-page “audition” that Nord submitted as one of twenty pencillers called on to try out for the new series – it’s easy to see why he was chosen, and why Dark Horse decided to go ahead and use his art with out an inker, the pages are gorgeous). Nord draws all of the eight stories in this volume, and seems to be the preferred artist throughout the first 44 issues of this Conan series. The covers are by other artists (and aren’t as good either).

The proper tale starts off with a sixteen-year-old Conan wandering into a barbarian raid on an Aesir village called Asgard, we get our magnificent first look at him as he beheads a savage trying to rape a young woman. Conan kills five of the red-headed raiders, and when the blonde Aesir riders return they at first regard him as an enemy spy or scout (no Cimmerians are to be trusted, according to Aesir tradition, not even one who saved the women and children of the village from Vanir raiders). Great dialogue here:

I have spoken as a man at council since before my fifteenth year-day. I stood at Venarium – at Venarium! – and sent a score of Aquilonians to Hell. Can you say the same? Or is talking all you do well?

You, on the horse, I am Conan. Are you chief of this village? Is this how you treat those who save the lives of your women, your children? I had hoped better of the men of Asgard.

Of course, from there on in, he befriends chief Niord, makes an enemy of the black-hearted Sjarl, and attracts the affections of Sjarl’s woman Henga (you can see where this is going). Conan recounts to Niord his quest to find the land of Hyperborea, a magical region of the northlands protected from the icy winds by powerful magic, inhabited by deathless scholars who live a life of splendour, peace and luxury. Conan rides with the Aesir to permanently deal with the Vanir raiders, and the snows of the region redden with the blood of fallen red-hairs. A raiding party is wiped out man-for-man, with Conan is the last man standing, now moving on from the bloody battle ground to wander the winter wastelands in “The Frost Giant’s Daughter”, a tale adapted from an original Robert E Howard story. Here he meets a beautiful and haughty nude vixen who angers our sullen warrier, who then hunts her through the snows – of course this is what she wants, to lead him into a trap with her two frost giant brothers. But they are no match for Conan, who levels his sword and lunges for our pixie, who now knows the taste of fear (I love using language like this to describe barbarian tales!!). Reunited with Niord and his men, the Aesir catch up with the Vanir, who surrender and beg for mercy, upon which both groups are fallen upon by savage, giant Hyperborean warriors – they have been sold out by Sjarl! Captured by the monstrous magical society, as corrupt in its splendour as Rome, Conan becomes a gladiator for the Hyperboreans’ amusement; the rest of the tale is about his escape and the sweet love he makes to a little Turanian slave called Iasmini. There’s a bit of Hyperborean history, Conan’s first encounter with lions, and then the inevitable slave revolt, Conan’s escape from Hyperborea and his revenge against Sjarl. Far out, funky and groovy. Can’t wait to read the next volumes.

C-TGITBAOS

C-TGITBAOS

Conan Volume 2: The God In the Bowl and other stories (2005) – This picks up where Volume 1 left off: Conan has just avenged himself on the Aesir traitors who caused trouble for him in the land of the Hyperboreans, but not before we get a look at Janissa, the Widowmaker, who has been sent to assassinate a merchant who has angered her matron, the bone woman (she’s a witch). Conan beats up two town thugs in a tavern, where he befriends some dancing girls and a sleazy politician who hires him to penetrate a rich man’s palace where he is to meet the god in the bowl, a tale based on an actual Robert E Howard story. Conan has recently taken revenge on a loutish city official who had pissed him off in the public square by breaking and entering his palace and humiliating him and stealing his golden staff. Nice. he frames the louts, then goes off as a hired thief. Finally, he stumbles across a murder scene – the high official he was supposed to rob has been murdered. Conan’s not the killer, but he’s found as a thief and he’s the obvious suspect. There’s an Agatha Christie-like “closed room mystery” given a weird Conan treatment, with some sinister conniving Roman senator-types, some centurions, a few toadies and sycophants and a freakish beast. Here we get our first glimpse at Thoth-Amon, and Conan hears the name for the first time. After a while, a fey Kalanthes stumbles into the scene, Conan gets to go no a berserker rampage in a showdown with Janissa, who wears a rediculously-short leather bra thingy (please!). Conan joins Kalanthes (why not – he’s got nothing else to do), where he finds himself on a mission to destroy a deadly jewel that Kalanthes possesses that Thoth-Amon covets, there are tales of early lizard civilisations, ancient evil (of course), possessed underlings, snowy passes, and freaky giants covered in bugs. Janissa tells her tale, of being raped endlessly by demons as she underwent the bone woman’s training that turned her into a scarred, ruthless killer. Thoth-Amon speaks to Kalanthes via a swarm of winged beetles, the riders return to an infested city and have to slaughter the possessed in habitants, there are hordes of undead that need to be hacked to bits. An afterword shows sketches that laid out what Janissa would look like, as an original non-Robert E Howard character in the new Conan tales, while also going into a cool Robert E Howard background essay.

The artwork is incredible, and the story-telling pretty good too.

C-TTOTEAOS

C-TTOTEAOS

Conan Volume 3: The Tower of the Elephant and other stories (2006) – Some minor and some major Conan tales: our hero reunites with the wenches and the tavern owner from earlier tales, but they drug him, rob him and leave him to rot. He chases them, finding a haunted pasture (he defeats the demons that haunt it), before showing up in the most putrid of cities of the time, Zamora, the city of thieves. He finds himself a fence for stolen goods, single-handedly hews down a squad of goons, meets a lovely concubine called Tinanna, he steals the tiara of Tiamat, which wakens a Lovecraftian ectoplasmic nether god, the hideous dog creatures. The first two stories are less interesting, but then we get to the title story, the tower of the elephant, which begins with another confrontation with seedy types in a tavern, braggarts and thieves that Conan puts in his place, before setting out to steal an unattainable prize of evil magician Yara from an enchanted destination. Here he meets master thief Taurus of Nemedia, and they join forces – temporarily, for Taurus, while he may be a master thief, is neither as wily (or as lucky) as Conan; he’s also more impetuous, if that’s possible. Here Conan meets your regular cast of lions, Lovecraftian space beings and shrinking evil wizards, as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark-like exploding temples.

C-THOTDAOS

C-THOTDAOS

Conan Volume 4: The Hall of the Dead and other stories (2007) – This issue starts the tale of Conan’s adventures as a thief, mostly in the company of Nestor the Gunderman and the blonde tart Jiara. Conan is wild, uncontrolled, undisciplined, young, rash, impetuous and as much a foe as a friend to his allies. Three of the issues collected in this volume were scripted by Mike Mignola, who sketched out concepts for the artists to follow, as Conan enters the city of the Frog God, which swallows him, only to have him fight his way out. At the start, Conan and Jiara are in Zamora, they argue, he robs the magistrate, he meets Nestor while gold robbing, and the mad chase begins – Conan betrays Nestor, Nestor enlists with the magistrate to hunt Conan, there are chases and battles, and they both find themselves in the city of the dead fighting frog monsters and long-dead evil wizards. Great blood red section where Conan hallucinates of the unholy kings of the dead while in the belly of the frog-beast (I love writing sentences like that one – only in Conan). Iniri, the short-haired waif who Conan rescues from barroom brutes, enters the story here – she senses a great danger in his life and seeks to find him again to warn him (which all comes about in the corny “The Hand of Nergal” story – she’s not a great character, and it’s hard to stay interested in her). Jerim, the blind spy, also drifts into the story at some point, and we see in flashbacks that he’s met Conan before. Some funny lines between Conan and Jiara as they approach the den of the Spider King and his band of thieves:

Conan: Let’s just say I don’t like tight places.
Jiala: Funny, you whispered something quite different last night.

C-RITH

C-RITH

Conan Volume 5: Rogues In the House and other stories (2008) – Conan is still a thief in Zamora, still with Nestor and Jiara… but not for much longer as Nestor is captured, tortured and executed, while Jiara betrays the two. Great. Enter Prince Murilo, who finds himself in a deadly feud with court mage. Conan takes his revenge on the priest of Anu who ordered Nestor’s death by killing him twice, a very grisly episode indeed. Conan is captured, then enlisted by the prince to kill his enemy, Nabonidus, a fiendish priest with a palace of traps that houses a mad gorilla man-beast thing that mutinies, taking on his master’s habits, as well as his red cape. Not a bad little story.

C-THON

C-THON

Conan Volume 6: The Hand of Nergal (2008) - This collection is similar to Conan and the Midnight Guard, except this time Conan is just a homeless wanderer and not King Conan, as in the later story; but there’s still the same “mad king calls on evil hordes, slaughters his own people, evil magic is suffocating the world” sort of stuff; evil, of course, dies in the end, but along with it millions of innocents.

The story goes that an evil terror stalks the street of Nergal, where the king has just died. His foolish son has taken over, and is in the sway of a necromancer who convinces him that the gods will promise him riches and glory if he commits certain… sacrifices. The prince does this, even as he prepares for his wedding to a beautiful princess from an allied nation. She’s on his way to meet him, she bumps into a short-haired young enchantress who’s looking for Conan, who bumps into the troops protecting the princess, who all bump into an army of the undead; meanwhile, Conan bumps into the same army, which enlists him – his help comes in handy when they fight the walking dead. Endless slaughter, the necromancer becomes a wicked beast, resurrecting chtonian horrors from cyclopean halls; of course, if this isn’t enough, enter one reanimated Gunderman who is on a mission to kill Conan. Pigmen and vultures eat the rotting corpses of fallen armies, and our princess wakes up in a river of blood, as does Conan, the only survivor of a battle that cost all of his comrades their lives. Our heroes meet in the palace, there is a human sacrifice, Conan’s iron will is too much for the hypnotist orc leader, and it all ends in fire. Of course it all takes place during a solar eclipse.

The art is magnificent, of course, but the story is awful.

CC

CC

Conan Volume 7: Cimmeria (2009)
One of the great, epic Conan tales. The book starts off with a new collage of images depicting scenes from the Conan stories until now – the God in the Bowl, the Tower of the Elephant, the Hand of Nergal, and others. It’s great great artwork.

The prologue shows Conan approaching Cimmeria, encountering a band of Vanir raiders. Naturally he wipes them all out, except for the youngest, clearly a musician and no warrior. The tale is book-ended by a pictoral of Robert E Howard himself climbing into the North Texas hills to write the poem “Cimmeria” on one cold, dark, rainy winter afternoon. Beautiful, sentimental tribute to the master.

The tale proper starts with Conan riding in to Cimmeria, surprised by another band of Vanir raiders; they fell his horse, trapping him under its corpse. He is surrounded by Vanir, and although he kills one, he’s trapped. Until a lone stranger’s approach frightens them off. The stranger rescues Conan, and takes him back to his lodging for warmth and nourishment. The stranger knew Conan’s grandfather, Connacht, and tells his tale, how he wandered out of Cimmeria after killing a chief’s son in a squabble over a nag, rescued boys who were about to be made human sacrifices, but the boys are werewolves that take joy at the kill… at least the bullying elder one is. In a battle, the younger one survives.

Connacht’s wandering tales are illustrated by Richard Corben, who has a cartoony, inky style, while the tales of Conan’s wandering back to Cimmeria are magnificently illustrated in high realistic/macho grandeur by Tomas Giorell, the tales shuffle back and forth throughout the thick volume. Both artists are very good, but also very different. It makes for a great contrast.

Conan returns to Cimmeria, meets Caollan, his first love, on the trail, fleeing a death sentence. She is pregnant by a chieftain’s son from another village, the same who also killed a neighbouring Aesir kingdom’s prince. To keep peace, the Cimmerian’s traded Caollan to be the neighbouring king’s bride. Cimmerian politics. Aesir hunt Caollan in the snows, with them the witch Ulva who raises Skrae maggot zombies to capture Coallan and kill Conan to avenge the death of fallen comrades. Burning the Skrae, he again battle the Aesir and is again rescued by the wolves. What action!

Connacht’s tales of Arabic lands, where a lovely slave girl he likes is slaughtered, he avenges her by murdering the temple priests, he saves a businessman who betrays him, he becomes a galley slave, but fights for his freedom, joins raiders from Koth who slaughter kingdoms in the employ of mad kings; leaving the men of “civilisations” in disgust, he nearly freezes to death returning to Cimmeria, where he meets Conan’s grandmother. They live happily ever after.

Conan returns to the village briefly, tells more tales of his grandfather to Caollan, with whom he is reconciled. She meets her husband, who murders her, closing the cycle. That’s it, off he goes, wandering again – never to return.

The tales are wonderfully intertwined, making the whole book fulfilling in a way that it might not have been as a single tale, which would perhaps have been a bit too simple. The sights of Cimmeria are interesting – we’ve always known Conan as a Cimmerians, but we’ve not seen his homeland, nor have we seen any other Cimmerians during his travels either.

The story is great, and the art – from both artists – is stunning. Bravo.

CBC

CBC

Conan Volume 8: Black Colossus – I normally don’t like the “there’s a wizard on the loose and he’s gathering an army of monsters and destroying entire civilisations” type stories, but this one is much better.

An ancient sorcerer tyrant worshipper of Set slumbers, awakened by a temple thief, he goes on a rampage amassing an army, intent on possessing princess Yasmela of Khoraja (why?), who has become queen upon the kidnapping of her brother, the king. Conan, meanwhile, enters the mercenary horde of Lord Amalric, who aids the armies of Khoraja. Yasmela observes Conan in battle, deciding to make him the commander of her armies. And so Conan becomes a leader for the first time. He’s on his way to becoming a king.

But there are battles to be won, and Conan must stave off a black burning camel, a vulture with enchanted eyes, a sabre-tooth djinn creature that feasts on the hearts of warriors, and the evil armies of the scorpion king, who sets his opponents’ forces in flames.

CATMG

CATMG

Conan and the Midnight God – A truly icky tale of Stygia, where evil grows, and King Conan’s war on its necromantic armies. Lots of “Die, peasant” badness, and “D-darkness… I see… darkness rising.” There are underwater demons, sexy half-naked snake-woman assassins, tortured souls, child warriors, and evil sorcerers commanding hydra things. The story is bizarre and ill-resolved, not worth a read.

CTBOT

CTBOT

Book of Thoth – A vile tale of a classic villain, that needs to be read nonetheless, as it explains who is Thoth, who is Amon, and who is Thoth-Amon. It also explains who Kalenthes is, what the order of Ibis is, and what the order of Set is (and how Thoth-Amon and Kalenthes may actually unite… although that is the less-interesting part of this story). The awesome, moody art is by Kelley Jones. The tale-of-no-hope proceeds down a menacing spiral as the young urchin Thoth raises himself through his ambitions and into opportunity through the sect of Ibis via a betrayal of his friend Amon. Naturally he embraces the dark side of the force and becomes truly, unrepentantly evil, befriending nobility, duping the hapless Kalenthes and his father, the over-trusting mage Kharantus, into believing that he’s good. Many young padwans are killed before Thoth realises his destiny as the once-dead when he is inducted into the cult of Acheron, and beings to secretly practice evil magic, craftily creating a world where the innocent are punished and the guilty are exonerated. “Be true to your oath boy… unto death… and beyond.” Creepy stuff. A map made from the skins of five murdered men shows Thoth the way to the ancient temple of Set, where the evil intensifies into weird Dr Strange lands of ancient time. Conan-like riders attack the outer lands, bringing political instability that plays into Thoth’s plans to turn the entire kingdom over to Acheron, who will givce him absolute power – bwa-ha-ha-ha!!!! Of course, when Kalenthes finally wises up it’s too late. Thoth starts to grow a beard, and becomes the mean old bird we know and love. Consolidating his power, we see the statues of the ibis pulled down, and up go the statues to the snake. With the sacrifice of a voluptuous virgin, the powerful Acheron’s lieutenants rise and brings a few Lovecraftian ectoplasmic over-lords, but… they must be stopped. Yikes, a dilemma for our young lord of evil – does he rule the world under a powerful vassal today, or does he do it under his own steam tomorrow… or next week.

Great art, pretty good story (as with so many of Dark Horse’s Conan books).

TBSCAOS

TBSCAOS

The blood-stained Crown and Other Stories – Five illustrated comic tales of Conan and one script for a comic book to celebrate the centenary of Robert E Howard’s birth. The first re-united Kalanthes, Janissa and Conan as they fight off a demon horde in an outpost village. The village idiot wants to be a hero and holds off the demons in his own way. “Seeds of Empire” tells the tale of Conan as a hill chieftain, with the framing story of the young prince and his scheming wazir, as we gets conflicting tales of how Conan dealt with an unruly lieutenant (and a faithless ally). The artwork is very nice, and (for once) the byzantine story is even better (albeit with plenty of grotesque cruelty). “The Tower of Tara-Teth” is another one of those break-into-the-magically-defended-fortress-and-compete-with-another-thief-for-a-magical-prize-while-fighting-off-hideous-creatures kinds of stories. The artwork is stunning, the action fluid and exciting, and the story isn’t too bad either (and we get to see more of Janissa – bonus). “Helm” is a great little story that recounts the helmet that Conan lost in “The Frost Giant’s Daughter”, and how it passed from hand to hand, each of its owners meeting an early grave. Funky Where’s Waldo-like layouts.

TBWSA-CV1

TBWSA-CV1


The Barry Windsor-Smith Archives – Conan, Volume 1 – This collection published in February 2010, gathers 11 issues of the original Conan the Barbarian Marvel comic series, written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith, originally published between October 1970 and November 1971. The book tells many of the same tales we see in the current Dark Horse Conan series, except in the original bloodless treatment, whereby artists weren’t allowed to show nudity, bloodletting and murder (which still took place, of course, but was all off camera). The foreword by Roy Thomas tells the tale of how Conan got off the ground at Marvel and how Barry Windsor-Smith (then called Barry Smith) was selected as the artist. The first issue has a very Jack Kirby feel to it (big swings, bright-eyed amplified facial expressions, over-wrought posing, etc). The story covers weird barbarian tribal battles (Conan makes a career of wandering into such battles, where he arbitrarily picks sides), sorcerers in caves, winged demons, sudden death, beautiful enchantresses and other angels. In issue two, Conan is lured by a beautiful slave into the arms of the evil Hyperborians, who throw him in the pit with the other slaves, there are great gladiator battles and slave revolts. Conan meets the Great Grey God and his Valkyries, in the first adaptation of an original Robert E Howard tale (“The Grey God Passes”), whereby Conan joins an internecine battle of vicious back-stabbing hordes playing a game of mutually assured destruction. Issue four is the classic “The Tower of the Elephant”, it is full of great art and story-telling, very similar to the Dark Horse version (of course – true to the original tale). Issue five also follows Robert E Howard, this time “Zukala’s Daughter” is modelled after Howard’s poem “Zukala’s Hour”, about the sorceress Zephra who can turn into a tiger who is in love with Conan and decides to turn on her father instead of battle the brave barbarian. Right. Not one of the better tales. “Devil Wings Over Shadizar”, the title of issue six, is the start of a series of tales that include the faithless strumpet Jenna, she of “Rogues In The House” fame (a tale that is to be recounted in issue 11). Here he meets her between swings in a pub brawl, then rescues her as she’d kidnapped by evil priests to be sacrificed to the night god (actually a giant bat) by its high priestess, the sexy Hajii. Issue seven recounts “The God In The Bowl”, renamed here “The Lurker Within”, when Conan meets the haughty Lady Aztrias, who betrays him in the end. At the end of this supernatural mystery, superbly plotted, everybody is dead except Conan, who engages in a mighty battle with a serpent that has a frozen human head and Medusa snakes for hair. Here Conan also gets his first glimpse of the face of Thoth-Amon. Scary! In “Keeper of the Crypt”, Conan meets the Gunderman, who initially has been sent to track him down, and together they plunder the city of the dead, with its giant salamander guardian, zombie militia, and all sorts of other wackiness (jade snakes, for example, that come alive). Conan encounters the faithless Jenna again, and off they run, penniless, the law at their heels, ha ha ha. Issue nine, “The Garden of Fear” is a cool tale of the barbarian meeting savage tribes even more uncivilised than he, then going off to fight a winged black demon in a garden of mastodon and carniverous grass, where he saves Jenna’s live once again from yet another tower. By issue 10, Barry Smith’s art is looking really great, with wonderful lines. Here, Conan reunites with Burgun the Gunderman, Jenna meets Burgun’s apprentice Igon. In the temple, Burgun is captured and soon thereafter hung, Conan takes his revenge on the priest who sold him out and confronts the bull god. It’s like a scene from a Monster Magnet album cover, of course, and all good fun. Issue 11, “Rogues In The House” tells of Conan’s battle with Thak, a monster who’s also a man. The inks here are washed out and not very good. There’s murder and nudity, and the Conan team seemed to have gotten in trouble for flaunting the comic code here because the next issues (gathered in volume 2) go easy on both. Great battle between Thak and the Red Priest’s black leopard.

TBWSA-CV2

TBWSA-CV2


The Barry Windsor-Smith Archives – Conan, Volume 2 – Volume 2 is different from Volume 1 in that it doesn’t collect issues in order – we get Conan the Barbarian issues 12 to 16, then issues 19-24, published between December 1971 and March 1973, with various other Conan tidbits published at other times, along with a covers collection. Fine.

In “Dweller In The Dark”, Conan gets kidnapped by Arab-looking soldiers to become a demented queen’s boy toy; when she tires of him, he gets thrown to the spider pit to be eaten by an octopus creature – a thing that was once human – that Conan escapes, only to toss the queen into the pit with it. Nice. In “Web of the Spider God”, Conan helps an oppressed people free themselves from becoming Spider God food. Great dialogue here: “Don’t take me, holy one – not me! Take my wife – my sons – but not me!!” Conan battles the giant beast, wounding it, the city blows up!! Issue 14 and 15 are crossover tales – Conan meets Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone, they battle evil sorcerers resurrecting an eldrich proto-goddesses of green evil. Great. Moorcock also plotted the tale. Zephra and Zulkala re-enter the story here, now both of them on the side of our Cimmerian. Sure. Conan rides to aid Zulkala, he encounters Elric, they battle to a standstill and then become reluctant allies (especially when Conan sees Elric’s swords drinking the souls of the fallen). They fight demon hordes together until they reach the golden palace that is their destination and fight off the evil resurrected goddess. Issue 16 recounts the tale of “The Frost Giant’s Daughter”, the art is stunning. Issue 19 starts a four-issue run where Conan sails to war, first fighting one side, before he is betrayed, then joining the other he is betrayed again. He meets up with Red Sonja, has a cool fight with Mikhal Oglu, the Vulture, and then turns his back on the mess.

The last two tales are of the “horny” Conan: first he unites with the fey agent/pirate captain Red Sonya, then he meets the blonde warrior woman Valeria. “The Song Of Red Sonja” is another climb-the-magic-tower-to-get-treasure-first-defeat-a-deadly-beast type of story that we’ve read many times before. Conan is betrayed again. Yawn. The Valeria tales, recounted in Savage Tales issues two and three, are much better. Telling the classic Robert E Howard tale “Red Nails”, the art by Barry Windsor-Smith is fully mature in his blood-spattered dots characteristic style and really great artwork. Conan and Valeria fight a giant red dinosaur, before discovering the seemingly-abandoned jade city, inhabited by ghosts as well as two impotent warring tribes that manage to wipe each other out some time after Conan and Valeria join them. Great tales of royal insanity, decapitated heads, reanimated dead kings with magic blaster insanity, human sacrifice, low necklines showing full cleavage, alligator monsters that lurk in the dark, and suicidal final battles. Great great great! There’s a black and white illustration of Robert E Howard’s poem Cimmeria that shows Conan fighting a wolf in the middle of a solo hunting expedition (?), then there are random covers of various reprints of old Conan collections, and finally there’s the original Conan-like “Starr The Slayer” tale, seven pages long, that Thomas and Windsor-Smith did in April 1970 before they began working on Conan in October 1970 (it has a weird time-traveling Twilight Zone-like ending to it).

A very Supertzar weekend

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Friday night I had a great live show with my band, Supertzar.  We played there on January 28th 2011, and then again on October 20th, the day after the death of Colonel Muammar Gadaffi (we dedicated our first son, War Pigs, to him). The show started at 7:30 and ran to 8:15, we played eight Black Sabbath songs, and debuted two original songs: “Blood Horizon” and “To Hell We Go”.  You can catch all the videos on my Supertzar video page here. Two of the people I invited came out and brought friends and family, including the three little boys (Zen, Kai, Sora and Evan, aged between two and nine) who came out and danced. We attracted quite a crowd and got some applause, which was great, considering that we were the first band up.

Saturday I spent the whole day doing errands, like editing the video of the concert, blogging about Exile on Main Street (books, DVDs and the expanded CD release), working, and tidying things up. In the evening, Naoko and Zen and I went to the local hawker centre for dinner (we went there last weekend as well, after many months of not going and now twice in two weeks). I wrote stuff late into the night.

Sunday morning we woke up early to go to a softball tournament, that was fun. Lots of tie out in the fields in the sun, throwing balls around. The day was not so hot, overcast but not rainy, with wind. The field gets lots of wind, and overhead giant birds of prey circle. There were monkeys in the trees, we worked hard to make sure that they didn’t steal our food. Zen’s team, the Coconuts, lost both games, the first one 5-2, the second one 7-5. Both games were exciting, and there was good pitching and good hitting. In the first game, Zen got a hit and made first bast, his hit also helped a runner who was on third base at the same time run home, and then also score a point for the team (he got an RBI, in other words). On that hit he got out trying to steal third base, silly boy – he didn’t run as fast as he could have, but I think he learned his lesson. He also got struck out. In the second game he got a nice hit but was out at first – no matter, a boy on third base at the time could run home (another RBI). They had a slow start, but by the end of the second inning, they tied 3-3. But in the third inning the other team got a grand slam home run, four runs. The Coconuts ended the inning with two more out, but the damage had been done – in the second half of the third inning they could only get two runs. Oh well – it was an exciting game, and the boys did well.

After that we went swimming, had dinner, and I did work for my company. Tired now…

Here are some pics of the great day:

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011, Peter

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011, James

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011, James

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011, Antonio

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011,Val

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011

Supertzar, live in Singapore, October 21st 2011

My big bad Exile On Main St page

Friday, October 21st, 2011

It’s been a few months now that I’ve been obsessed with Exile on Main St, the Rolling Stones record made in 1971, released in 1972, when I was three years old. Yes, it’s a great piece of gospel-rock-country-blues that I have just swallowed whole the way I would Dark Side of the Moon, Moving Pictures, and… I don’t know what else. Magic. So, here are a couple of CDs, a couple of books, a couple of DVDs… about that LP.

EOMS

EOMS

Exile on Main St (2010 extended CD) – It’s always beautiful when a double album (four sided, lots of flipping of discs) fits onto a single CD; now the band has resurrected some other songs from the sessions, a pre-Exile songs, and upgraded songs that were never given any further attention with new vocals, new harmonica, new guitar, or in some cases (perhaps) recorded entirely new songs outright. The Stones recorded Exile On Main Street primarily in the south of France, rambling sessions that produced 13 of the 18 tracks on this release (five pre-existed the Villa Nellcôte sessions). The band had approached recording with the goal of producing a single LP to follow up the colossal chart-topper “Sticky Fingers” that was just coming out in April 1971 as they were settling in Nellcôte (Sticky Fingers had been recorded in the summer and autumn of 1970 in Mick Jagger’s manor home Stargroves in the UK as well as other studios in the US); in the end, however, they had too many songs, and decided to put out a double album. In truth, it seems that they had enough songs for a quadruple album, and now – with the extended songs – Exile On Main St becomes a triple album.

The original songs are well known to all Stones fans; the popular legend is that this is the most-loved of all Stones albums. Most certainly, it is one of those “better-than-the-sum-of-its-parts” if it is weighed between the brilliant songs that it contains (and the wild, swampy atmosphere it exudes) and the fact that it contains nary a radio-recognisable single or standout crowd-pleaser other than the first single, “Tumbling Dice”, a nugget if there ever was one. Clearly, if the Stones had only made this album, it would have had an unstoppable, juggernaut, snortin’ life of its own.

To be precise, the album starts off with the snortin’ “Rocks Off”, which launches the double LP with a kick, a snort and a yelp, before taking the mood into the stratosphere about a minute in with magnificent horns provided by the legendary Bobby Keys (born on the same day as Keith Richards, but in Lubbock, Texas) and Jim Davis. No finer opening track has ever been conceived, even when the song wavers into burbling acid-trippiness (love the matter-of-fact lyrics too – “I was making love last night/With a dancer friend of mine”); “Rip This Joint”, besides being a splendid song title, is probably the fastest (ergo rip-snorting) song the band ever performed; incidentally, there is a nice version of the song on “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.” “Shake Your Hips”, a cover, is as swampy as a song can get, with freaky percussion, boogie guitar, Mick’s voice, some horns, and not much else. “Casino Boogie” is the weird imagistic song full of Mick and Keith interplay, with wonderful sax all over it, and some nice Mick Taylor slide with Keith interlaying, plus that cool honkey tonk piano from Nicky Hopkins, the eighth Stone. “Tumbling Dice” is the full production number with the full sassy background singers (the first time we hear them on the album, and they are here at their brassiest – we’ll get more of them on the new songs, as well as a demo of “Tumbling Dice” called “Good Time Women”), although actually only one is credited (meanwhile, four are credited for “Shine A Light”, the closing track); incidentally, there is a nice version of the song on “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.” “Sweet Virginia” is wild, wild country music with lovely guitar work. It is quite overtaken by Mick’s voice and the other drunken, shamboling singers that fall in with him in time (and that ever-present sax); incidentally, there is a nice version of the song on “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.” This is the song that has the “got to scrape the shit right off your shoes” line. “Torn and Frayed” is that sort of old, squirming bluesy, honky tonk song, with the cool distant Keith Richards background vocals, and Mick sounding like he’s from some other part of the world than Dartford, Kent. Mick Taylor’s guitar solo is wondrous, it glides slinky all over the song. “Sweet Black Angel”, the first song on this album I really fell in love with (I admit it – I didn’t like the album on first listening, since it was so “un-Stones”, but this hypnotizing little track reels you in with the first listen), with its doop-doop-doop feeling to it, and the cool and groovy crustiness of Mick Jagger. I’m curious about who really played marimba on the recording – the credits say it is someone called “Amyl Nitrate”. “Loving Cup” is full of grand piano, and a heavenly pleading tone to it, humbleness and a wicked drum thread that just zooms and zooms. “I’m the main who brings you roses… when you ain’t got nooooone!” It ranges the emotions from humility all the way to aggressive sexuality and dead-drunkenness. Sweet oblivion, thy name is “Loving Cup” (there’s an alternate version of the song, the “drunk” version, on the new release that is interesting). “Happy” is that wonderful song that has the really perfect Keith Richards vocals added to it – it could be the best song on the album, Keith’s best song with the Stones, or the best song that the Rolling Stones ever recorded. Heaven; incidentally, there is a nice version of the song on “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.” “Turd on the Run” is crazy, creepy janglo-rock with a shuffle beat and some “Midnight Rambler” harmonica. Splendid and turgid as its funk drones into a nutty post-production haze. “Ventilator Blues” is white-man blues at its craziest, going right down to the freaky percussion (what’s with the backbeat?), and the swelling horns that nearly sweep the song away, the call and response that is all call, and righteous shiftiness – in a song that is actually about the sweltering heat of the Nellcôte basement. OOH! “I Just Want To See His Face” is one of those weird pieces of psychedelia that you’d hear in a Jim Jarmush movie… except it’s the Stones, sounds coming out from here and there, you don’t know what it is or what it’s about. Is this what a drug trip is like? It’s gospel, but it’s not heavenly message that is coming our way! Or is it? Oddly, three bass players are credited, but only two guitarists. “Let It Loose” is a sort of weird little electric gospel number with several male voices floating in and out, six (!!!) backup singers are credited, although it’s Mick’s voice that cuts through it all (unlike the newer recordings, where the backup singers can overpower) and goes on and on (it is the longest song on the album. Drums, horns, voice; drums, horns, voice; drums, horns, voice… “All Down The Line” is real rabid rock ‘n’ roll, train-like, shooting along the tracks, with squeaky Mick Taylor lines, it’s a total party song with those rabid Keith Richards shots, the sassy singers, the saxes, and that screaming Mick; incidentally, there is a nice version of the song on “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.” “Stop Breaking Down” is wild whistling, great blues riffs, spooky squawks, and great Mick Taylor slide! This is as sweet as it comes, from this sweet, sweet Robert Johnson song. Before long it’s a battle between the two Micks, voice versus slide guitar, which is very high in the mix. Keith? Bill? Charlie? Who’re they? “Shine A Light”, unlike other songs, blends into the previous song, and begins with a piano and Mick’s voice, reminiscent a bit of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, going very gospelly with keyboards and piano, with plenty of lovely Mick Taylor riffs floating in and out like evening sun. Sweet, slick production. “Soul Survivor” ends the album with dirty blues, scruffy rock ‘n’ roll and sassy, sexy soul. The song really kicks out the jams in terms of ultimate mojo (Keith lends his voice to an alternate take on the second CD, demonstrating that this song is all Mick’s, especially in the ferocious second half, when Keith seems to lose his way/lose interest). That’s it – Exile on Main St.

The new CD has new recording elements on all tracks, except for “Good Time Women” (a version of “Tumbling Dice”) and the Keith Richards-vocals “Soul Survivor”, with Mick coming up with new lyrics for the other eight tracks and harmonica on some of the songs (he had been absent a lot in Nellcôte as he was a newlywed at the beginning of the sessions, and his pregnant bride gave birth to Jade Jagger at the end of the sessions). Mick Taylor turned up to record guitar for “Plundered My Soul,” while Keith Richards added bits to “So Divine (Aladdin Story)”. The new CD starts off hauntingly – how do you top Exile on Main St? “Pass The Wine (Sophia Lauren)” doesn’t really sound like an old song – Mick is straining his voice the way he might have on “Under Cover (Of The Night)”, while the organ zooms, the groovy power of the background singers swells up, the ludicrous lyrics tease… and then the horns come in… and we’re back at Villa Nellcôte

(Jimmy Miller, who died in 1994, also makes an appearance here with a percussion credit, as he does on the fifth track, “Dancing In The Light”). The first song is a lot like the rest of the album, a mish-mash of various eras, more “Tattoo You” (which was formed of abandoned tracks rescued from many sessions, including one called “Start Me Up”) than anything else (but, then again, aren’t many Stones albums, including Exile On Main Street, mish mashes of various sessions anyway?). “Pass The Wine” has some good “Midnight Rambler” mouth harp on it, and plenty of sassy backup vocals, dirty lyrics, and Mick Jagger pawing at your girlfriend through your speakers. No redemption in 2010, son. “Plundered My Soul” sounds very new in all respects, but it has quite nice and Stones-y lyrics: “I thought you needed my loving, but it’s my heart that you stole/I thought you wanted my money, but you plundered my soul.” Wistful loser-ish, very post-fame Stones and not of the bright young Nellcôte era – not really. But fun nonetheless in a sneering ’90s Jagger-esque way. It’s a good song, I’m not sure it fits in with “Stop Breaking Down”. Played back-to-back you’d wonder what was going on. Some sounds are old, but most are new. “I’m Not Signifying” is the first real throwback to Nellcôtete, sneering lyrics, angular honky tonk piano, snazzy drums and leftover horns and sweet lead guitar, along with some latter day hot harmonica by Sir Mick. Real swamp, along with the righteous blues. This would have not felt out of place on the original album, with its freaky drum beats – the difference is that it comes in on a piano, not on a guitar (Keith’s) as most of the songs on Exile on Main St do (“Loving Cup” comes in on a piano, but it’s an exception). “Following The River” is the very strange song on the pack – it starts out with piano and Mick’s voice, then builds up to become the only tune with strings on it (the background singers sound like they just came from a session with Leonard Cohen). This cannot have any remnants of the Exile on Main St sessions on it!! “Dancing in the Light” is a funky rockin’ country number that gets pretty weird at the end, it sounds mock-sincere, stamped with patented Mick Jagger sauce. “So Divine (Alladin’s Story)” starts off with a riff that you think will be “Paint It Black”… but then it tricks you by becoming something else. After many listens, you kind of get used to it. The song, with new lyrics and guitar from Keith Richards, doesn’t at first appear to have anything left from the 1971 sessions, but then mystical horns pop in, with weird precision – great, groovy oriental howling. Nice music!

The real stuff comes from the four tracks at the end, and it’s probably no coincidence that the number of players (from three to six) on it are less than in the previous six tracks (up to 13). There’s an “alternate take” of “Loving Cup” that has a different Mick Jagger vocal over a different version of the song, which is apparently the marriage of two different outtakes (this makes this version of the song one minute longer than the album version). The song sounds drunken and bluesy, fuzzy, crazy, swampy, full of great Mick Taylor guitar, with sweet shamboling (that oh-so-Exile word again – here it means that instead of the tight Nicky Hopkins piano riff at the beginning, it’s a loose piano, some drums, and several sleepy guitars coming in during the intro) and some nuttiness around the “BZZZZ” part of the song. Great snarling backup vocals from Keith there, the elongated-ness of the song is superb. “Soul Survivor” with Keith singing to the same track as Mick did is pretty weird, as he’s so laconic, while Mick gave it everything he got (and at the end he does this weird “et cetera!!” thingy that just doesn’t work. But that’s okay, we still love you Keith. “Good Time Women” is a lovely, authentic song form the 1971 sessions that just squeals and grooves. Mick’s voice is low in the mix and Mick Taylor’s lead guitar jams ahead, dominating and pleasing women and men alike. It’s a lovely little number and a top lead single, total memorabilia from a glorious era. Final track, “Title 5″, is from sessions that pre-date Exile, probably from some time in 1967, and features only Keith, Charlie and Bill, fuzzing away with effects. It’s a sweet little rockin’ instrumental form an irrelevant era, tossing together with a lovely little CD full of scrappy shavings and tarted-up yarn. Love it all.

The packaging is okay – there are pictures all over the outer packaging, apparently replicating about 75% of the original packaging (the outer covers, the inner gatefold, and one of the two lLP slipcovers layouts). The 12-page booklet has 10 pages of pics from the Nellcôte sessions, including one that spreads over the folded-out front/back cover that shows basement loneliness and ventilator blues, while the centre-fold contains credits for both versions of Exile on Main St, helping us to see quite plainly that, even if Robert Greenfield’s book on the recording of the album claims that “Happy” was recorded with a wink and a grin near-spontaneously with a few Stones and sidemen on hand, the rest were added in anyway in post-production.

RSLATMC

RSLATMC

Rolling Stones, Live at the Marquee Club, March 26th 1971 – Coming off of 17 shows in nine UK cities, all cities but one double shows (with hardly a night off), the Rolling Stones prepared for their tax exile-ship (and the recording of Exile On Main St) by recording this concert video, which featured eight songs: Live With Me * Dead Flowers * I Got The Blues * Let It Rock * Midnight Rambler * Satisfaction * Bitch * Brown Sugar. Mick wears his baseball cap askance at the stop (eighties hip-hop already in the early seventies, Mick was), Bill Wyman’s bass starts out the cool set ,Bobby Keys resplendant on his sax, Keith hanging out by the amps, Mick Taylor lookin’ cool with his Gibson SG, probably the smallest stage the Stones have played in a while, Mick doing weird jogging actions off to the side, clapping like a madman, fast cutting on the video. Very happy to see Mick Taylor playing a Gibson SG this time around, since I play one too. “Dead Flowers” is so countriefied. Mick Jagger looks so happy. “I Got The Blues”, then “Let It Rock” with Keith doing the lead. Shots of the audience – horrific eyewear!! Another novel intro to “Midnight Rambler” (there were so many on this tour). Lots of Mick vs Keith shots, one shot has the two Micks and Keith in the same shot even! Weird fast-cutting “psychedelic” strobe segment in the middle, around the Mick Taylor solo. Crazy. Mick Jagger does the “go down on my baby” thing. Mick does a lot of clapping. There’s no reaction from the crowd – were they playing on a sound stage, with the crowd scenes edited in? We do see the crowd at the beginning and a the end, but it may just be a bit faked. Mick’s voice sounding raw in “Satisfaction.” Keith solos on “Bitch”, but it’s obvious he’s not as good a soloist as Mick Taylor is, as seen in the last song, “Brown Sugar.” Good night!

The whole 37:26 minute video can be found online here.

SIE

SIE

Stones in Exile – The documentary sets the scene, drifting along to the parts where the band is forced to go into tax exile to pay their back taxes, as they were being taxed 93% of their incomes, and they’d been fleeced by management, so they headed to the south of France to record in an infamous mansion at Villefranche-sur-Mer in the Côte d’Azur called Villa Nellcôte. Interviews with irrelevant celebrities, like some kid from Kings of Leon (?), and Benicio Del Toro (?). Don Was seems to have some perspective, at least, and so does Jack White (maybe). Great pics of a naked Keith lighting up a cig. Nice video clips of the Stones entourage getting off of an airplane, nice pics of the whole gang. Put a dress on a sphinx. Waterskiing in the South of France. Keith and Marlon. Keith with a big white sweater. Anita was the only one who could argue with the chef, Fat Jacques, there’s a pic of her holding a copy of the French version of Tintin The Black Island. According to Dominique Tarlé:

Every morning Keith would be up at 8:30 in the morning, ready to jump into his car, looking after his kid Marlon. Nobody knew the Stones in the South of France, so they were able to act and live normally, we would go to the zoo or the beach. In the afternoon, Anita would look after Marlon and Keith would play music. Every morning it would be the same. It was a normal way of life.

Keith dating Bianca. Mick posing with Keith’s guitar. Bill Wyman complaining about living in France, Charlie too, because they couldn’t get their British creature comforts there. Rare picture of Mick Taylor smiling. The late Jimmy Miller, the album’s producer, noted in a recording that the band chose convenience over sound and used Keith’s house. Brought in the BMC sound truck. Audio from recording sessions. Commuting around the South of France, Charlie lived six hours away. Gibson acoustic. Eight-man band with kids, and technicians. Can’t separate family life from professional activity in the tribes. Random images like album cover. Difficult recording conditions. Crazy entourage setup. “Mick’s rock, I’m roll,” says Keith. Marshall Chess with a nice mullet. Mick playing a Flying V. Jammin’. “As unrehearsed as a hiccup,” says Bobby Keys, “it wasn’t exactly spontaneous combustion.” A very nice blues jam with Mick and Keith going away, with Mick also playing guitar.

The Stones playing pool, Mick swigging from a flask. Jake Weber’s father was a race car driver, drug smuggler and adventurer, Jake was 8.5 years old at the time. Describes downtime and creative process. Picking away at guitars, the basement at night was the epicentre. Great picture of Jake with five classic Keith guitars – a flying V, the famous ampeg Dan Armstrong plexiglass guitar, an SG and a big Gibson ES-355. Swigging from bottles of Jack Daniels. A glimpse into the recording process. Andy Johns, recording engineer, noted that:

they would play very poorly for two or three days on whatever song. And then if Keith got up and started looking at Charlie, then you knew that something would go down. And then Bill would get up and put his bass at that sort of 84° angle, and you’d say “ah, here it comes, they’re going to go for it now, ha ha ha.” And it would turn into this wonderful, God-given music.

Some funky animation from still photos of Keith’s fretting hand moving, Bill’s bass shifting to an 84° angle (how did they do that?). The giant dinner, everybody gathered once a day. Jake’s function in life was to roll joints. A decadent life, everything was out in the open, this was the light before the moment of darkness. Charlie Watts: “everybody had a great time, but it was very stressful. You’re having a good time, but ready to go back home. The only one who wasn’t like that was Keith, of course, who was being supplied in his mansion, with his band downstairs, it must have been heaven for him in a way.” A real live rabbit in a tray next to the guitars. The anecdote of Keith in the bus saying “oh, I forgot something, we have to go back,” then he proceeded to simply drop a TV out of the balcony. Keith singing “Happy”.

Keith and the band address heroin. “With a hit of smack, I could walk through anything and not give a damn.” Keith’s voice heard more than Mick’s, until the end. “We always went to LA to finish our records. That was our modus operandi.” Keith: “It was kind of fun playing it to lots of musicians and friends in LA. It was interesting to get their input, because everything that went in at Nellcôte was a just bubble, really.” Mick: “We’d never made a double album before, so we were a bit naive  about it. It was just a bit too much work, considering that we’d had all these pressures, plus we were a bit burned on it.” Mick made “Tumbling Dice” out of a conversation with the maid, “Casino Boogie” had no lyrics, they were desperate so they used a cut-up method. This is illustrated with visuals. Beautiful. Description of the after-production at Sunset Sounds. Overdubs gave the songs a new twist. Little jams improve the original sessions. Awesome Robert Frank session footage of the band walking down the street, Mick Jagger yawning and stretching his face, and then it’s up on a billboard. Wild post-release pastiche of the media swirl of radio, billboard and magazine-cover (Rolling Stone), with a great “Rocks Off” images melange, Kasey Casem voce-over, playing with Stevie Wonder. Don Was: “Exile on Main Street dramatically altered the vocabulary of record-making. There are textures on that that no-one ever laid down before.” Irrelevant statements from Sheryl Crow, Martin Scorsese, Benecio Del Toro and others at the end.

Extended interviews:

Keith Richards: 33 minutes. Wanted to get started in the basement, then decided to keep it on, so much experimentation because of the sound of the various basement rooms. Dense sound down there. First month was touch and go, then it started to flow. Wanted to be a soul band, added horns with Bobby Keys and Jim Price. Two guys fitted into the size of the band, gave it extra texture and turned into a soul band. Bobby and Keith found out after many years that they had been born within hours of each other. Never intended Exile to be a double album until they realised that they’d recorded so many songs that they didn’t know which to cut.

According to Bill Wyman, the engineer and the producer and the band couldn’t see each other, and they had to communicate by voice, and it’s a miracle that it worked out, the whole band was only there 30% of the time, sometimes they were all there, except for Keith, who was just upstairs, despite Charlie coming five hours from where he lived, Bill and Mick Taylor coming two hours from where they lived, Bill coming one hour from where he lived. Mick Taylor was, musically, the better musician than any others in the band; he was young, and some of the things he had done were amazing, but he was incredibly boring onstage despite doing these incredible licks and solos.

Mick Taylor: he talks! Keith and Anita were mixing domesticity and art. Although the recordings were in the basement, there were constant power failures, and primitive and basic procedures. Ended up being a holiday resort for the Stones’ friends and all their friends, “and in the midst of all this partying, we were trying to make an album.â”

Anita: the guitars get the best seats. Kids are kids, they can sleep with any noise. They had a great attitude for adults, and the adults had to deal with them, especially Jacob and Charlie. Confronting adults and playing with them. Good vibe. A freeloading brigade. Anita became a bouncer as the freeloaders piled up, throwing everybody out. Moved from room to room. Weird sailor shoot-outs when they were in town. “It’s rock ‘n’ roll and drugs and sex, in that order.” Charlie bought an Edwardian villa, still has it. Keith is very easy to play with, very comfortable. Exile picked up a lot of stuff that was missed off of earlier releases.

An interview with Ronnie Wood: “I’d never played the songs, but I knew them. It hits the nail on the head whether the songs are mixed or not.”

Return to Stargroves: Jagger: completely, exactly the same. “I had this house for 1970 to 1975. It does have a lot of memories, because one of the reasons is that we recorded here, but it has other memories for me too, children, my parent, all that sort of thing, my brother lived here a lot. He liked it a lot, my brother, having this very large house. I don’t blame him.: Earliest recordings for Exile, such as Sweet Black Angel, were recorded there. “Old recordings, boring. Who gives a shit?”

Extra interviews: Sheryl Crow’s comments the best, listens to “Loving Cup” and “Sweet Virginia”. Will.I.Am is a moron. Kings of Leon guy, from Memphis, is too childish. Jack Black is savvy. Martin Scorsese is the only commentator of the same age as the Stones, maybe also Don Was, who talks passionately about the extra tracks, like “Sophia Loren” and the new mix of “Loving Cup.” Very expressive and passionate about the band.

Packaging is not that great – three-panel foldout booklet contains a pic of Charlie, a pic of Keith holding an acoustic, and a pic of Mick with a flying V guitar. The other side has a collage of Robert Frank pics. Through the transparent DVD case you also see a pic of Keith and the two Micks jamming.

LAGTRS

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones – Super ugly Nazi Stones logo up front, there’s darkness and some flashes, you slowly hear the Stones’ voices, then they come out, you notice the side-stage shot with Bill Wyman’s bass cord across it, Mick’s sparkle spots at the temples and the middle of the forehead, shirt knotted at belly (for some scenes – the show was recorded across four nights, so Mick “changed costume” repeatedly, there was no sense of costume continuity). Bobby Keys in full blow, Keith with shawl in Brown Sugar, fast cuting on band but the camera really lingers on the dynamic Mick Jagger. In “Bitch”, Keith is lead, Mick is rhythm, “Gimme Shelter” flatish, Mick Taylor wailing eventually. Where’s Merry Clayton? “Broken Fowers” is Mick and Keith at the same mic, Keith with dyed patches in his hair. Great Mick Taylor solo. Call from the audience to play “Sweet Virginia” (they would comply later in the evening). They play “Happy”, it gets huge applause. Why? Audience loves songs from the critically unpopular new release, “Exile on Main Street”, or would they simply have been anxious for something new? “Sorry you didnt’ get to see Stevie Wonder, they must’ve overslept.” Tumblin’ Dice’ sounds empty without the background singers. Mick whispering, “We’re gonna do a little tune up, can you hear us in the back?” Mick’s right wrist, nice bracelet. Love In Vain, Mick Taylor’s great slide guitars. Dumb cameraman angle with Bill’s cable stretched across it is all wrong. Mick Taylor’s stunning solo. “We’re gonna play a little acoustic guitar. Why aren’t you in church anyway? “Sweet Virginia” has two acoustic guitars with Mick on harmonica. Calls out Bobby Keys, fixes mic for him. Keith’s vocals, “Be it crack or smack, or…” You Can’t Always Get What You Want showing Keith riffing. Funky, big Down The LIne, sounds simplistic and bombastic. Mick Taylor’s slide. Bill Wyman statuesque, song gains bluster, Mick goin’ nuts. Swigs Jack Daniels (or is it tea?). Nice Mick harmonica work. Mick’s jumpsuit pajamas with red sash, Mick howling/fucking onstage. All in moody/creepy red lights. Charlie’s good tonight. Over 10 minutes. “Bye Bye Johnny”, Chuck Berry song. Very good funk/punk blues. Mick does onstage yoga, doing the upside down thing, then the crossed-legs thing. “Jumping Jack Flash” and good shots of Keith playing towards Charlie. Keith really cuts loose on last two classic tracks, “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Street Fighting Man”. Mick throws rose petals into audience and onto Charlie, who’s wearing a nutty rhumba shirt (hey, that’s nothing – check out Mick’s satin jumpsuits). There’s a rain of sparks and the crowd cheers. Indian rose petal blessing, playing Cat Stevens on PA after, no encore. Thanked John and Yoko and Cat Stevens and the Who in the credits. In the bonus material, you get to see a cool “Hip Shake”, with Keith singing along (as he often does), with him playing lead guitar. “Tumbin’ Dice”, no Keith backups, though. Bottle of Jack available, plus shot glasses, on full display. Keith and Charlie jam. “Bluesberry Jam” is Mick-less. There’s an interview with Mick on the Old Grey Whistle Test where he talks about the loose recording process, praises the collaborative process John and Paul had writing as a band (ironic?). No place in the UK has the energy that Madison Square Gardens has, although it is a good place to base yourself in – better than France. Mark Bolan is good, better even when he plays acoustic (is this a backhanded compliment?). Mick mentions maybe doing things outside of the Stones. Charlie’s rhumba shirt is from Western Costumes in LA, the band raided it for costumes and satin, anything. Mick goes on to talk about clothes, gold belts, and the beginning of glam. “Bye Bye Johnny” was super-fast, mad tempo, buildup to end, leads up to “Rip This Joint.” “Rocks Off” was in the set, but not in movie, Mick and guitar were both off tune. Shot for cinema, not TV or home viewing. Film styles different, static process, people wanter and out of frame, no attempt at clothing continuity either.

The packaging is okay, with a 36 x 36 fold-out that has band pics on one side, and a poster of a stage shot on the other side. Through the transparent DVD case you also see a pic of the band onstage.

EOMSASEHWTRS

EOMSASEHWTRS

Exile on Main Street, A Season in Hell with The Rolling Stones, by Robert Greenfield – There have been a few books written about Exile On Main Street, including some from survivors of the Villa Nellcôte sessions in the south of France from June 1971 to September 1971 (although the band shows up at Nellcôte around April 5th, 1971 – which is tax day in the UK and tax exile is the reason that they’re in France instead of the UK – and post-productions sessions in LA lasted from December 1971 to May 1972). But this, Spanish Tony’s tale, and a slim 33 1/3 volume of 175 mini-pages are the only ones that are in print.

Greenfield’s book approaches, with plenty of sass, the familiar story of how the Stones, in their heyday, went into tax exile on the advice of their blue-blooded banker Prince something-or-other, before it was popular, and suffered for it – in terms of loneliness, alienation, personal injury, death of loved ones, and freakish drug abuse and addiction – but, in the meantime, produced great art. Like the Stones In Exile DVD documentary, the book covers the tax exile, the house, the sessions, the entourage, the hijinx, the drugs, the LA post-production sessions, ultimately jumping to present-day by the end of the book (Greenfield has no choice – his Exile material only covers the first 199 slim pages, he needs to fill out the volume to keep it from looking too slim). But Greenfield uses other source than the Stones-endorsed producers of Stones In Exile do, some of whom are protected under the moniker “Stones insider” (we can guess who some of them are). For example, while it is true that he could have described Villa Nellcôte, which still stands apparently, by visiting it as you or I could, he then also describes what Keith sees as he wanders into Nellcôte on a day in April in 1971.

Outside Nellcôte’s great front doors, gravel skitters beneath the wheels of the car as it comes to a stop. Keith gets out with Marlon, followed by Jo [Bergman] and Shirley Arnold. Before anyone can knock, the young French couple who have been hired to look after the cooking and the gardening come to welcome the new lord of the manor. Although they do not have very much English, the French couple are nothing if not polite, extending their hands to Keith in smiling welcome. “Nice,” Keith says succinctly, looking over their heads at his new home.

Looks like a scene from a movie. But while Greenfield likes to be coy about his sources are, his source of this very specific description here would have to be either Jo Bergman or Shirley Arnold, who he names more than once in books where barely anyone else was present… or it could also come from his own rich imagination. We get several scenes like this throughout the book (neither Berman nor Arnold are listed among his eight interviewees at the back of the book, nor are any of the actual Rolling Stones). A major source for the book was Tommy Weber, a semi-aristocratic race car driver, socialite and drug smuggler who, along with his wife Puss, forms a significant part of the backdrop of the Exile sessions, and his two sons Jake and Tommy (Jake, later an actor, appears in the Stones in Exile DVD as an I-was-there interviewee) who were Tommy’s drug mules and joint-rollers – sad but true. Weber’s soap opera is part of the dynamics of the goings-on at Nellcôte, not the least because his institutionalised wife Puss had had an affair with Anita Pallenberg, and subsequently committed suicide when she found out she’d be barred from leaving the country on account of her mother’s machinations. Yes, free spirits all – the body count began with Puss and piled higher and higher among the Stones’ free-spirited and hard drug-taking cohorts and colleagues.

The madness includes Mick Jagger’s wedding in France with Bianca Jagger, and all of the celebrities that showed up, including (a badly junk-sick) Eric Clapton, Paul and Ringo of the Beatles (who didn’t talk to each other), and several other big names, all in one charter flight over. The impromptu jam at Mick’s wedding reception – which Keith passed out at, the only time he ever missed a Stones gig apparently – must have really been something. The tale recounts Keith’s re-entry into heroin following a strange episode where someone may have had sex with Anita while everyone else was passed out in the same bed; the re-entry may also have been due to emotional trauma around a gun incident with some harbour toughs/cops and an Italian tourist Keith and Spanish Tony had a car run-in with (an incident Keith describes differently in his auto-biography Life than Greenfield does here), but is more likely the result of a go-cart wreck where Keith flips his vehicle and scrapes along the surface on his back, removing several layers of skin (he was on prescribed and medically-applied morphine after that to kill the pain, which quickly led to self-medication with heroin).

He also mentions in great detail an anecdote of Paul and Yoko visiting Nellcôte that he seems to have gotten from Anita Pallenberg herself. But the times were catching up to them and casualties within their entourage of friends include Madeleine d’Arcy, a girlfriend of Tommy Weber’s who got badly strung out on heroin and died young, Michele Breton, who had been in Performance with Mick and Anita and who eventually drifted around the drug world, then sold her passport and all her possessions in Kabul in order to support her morphine habit. Then there are the Gettys, the richest and most fashionable couple in the world among the hippies, who invited the Stones and the Beatles to their palace in Marrakesh. Talitha Pol Getty, after having an affair with aristocratic drug dealer to the stars Jean de Breteuil (he supplied Jim Morrison with the heroin that killed him), died of a drug overdose, as did de Breteuil. Photographer Michael Cooper, whose pics from theNellcôte sessions adorn the pages of this book, visited after his wife died of an overdose; eighteen months later he went the same way. Then there’s a rediculous story involving Tommy Weber and Timothy Leary: “On Christmas Day, Tommy was waiting for them in Cairo at the pyramids when Leary and Harcourt-Smith were arrested in Kabul and returned in custody to the United States.” Huh?

Greenfield describes the crazy recording van that was used to record Sticky Fingers, as well as “Sweet Black Angel”, which appeared on Exile, that was eventually used in lieu of using an actual French recording studio, none of which were up to scratch at the time. The first two weeks of jamming produced no music worth using, and then Keith would stay upstairs through whole parts of the sessions, spacing out with his guitar or mellowing out with junk, with even Mick scared to go up and bring him down to continue work. Weird tales of Keith being jealous of and even publicly humiliating Mick Taylor, their young new guitarist, for being a better guitarist than him, or of Mick Jagger hitting on Mick Taylor’s wife Rose just to piss him off; then there was Mick Taylor’s descent into heroin use himself, and the eventual divorce. Greenfield notes several cases of Mick Taylor being too scared to get out from under the blankets to be with his bandmates, especially Mick Jagger, who was in pursuit of his wife, and he then quotes Anita Pallenberg saying “you know, Jagger’s bisexual.” So, seven weeks went by with no songs recorded. Seven weeks in the south of France with youth, drugs and beauty to enjoy, not to mention a mansion, powerboats, and other toys.

The band, at this point, began phasing out Jimmy Miller as a producer, having learned to do what he did (they thought that the could do the same to engineer Andy Johns, but they had to bring him back in after trying to fire him. Great anecdotes of Bill Wyman’s eccentricities, switching from cigarettes to joints in order to quit smoking, taking pictures of nude sunbathers by telephoto lens while beautiful women from the entourage were nude sunbathing nearby, or asking women if he could photograph their breasts, constantly chronicling stuff. Keith cutting “Happy” with Bobby Keys on sax and Jimmy Miller on drums. Claims that Keith preferred self-service to having sex with the stunning Anita Pallenberg.

Once the album is done, the band goes on tour. They start off in Vancouver, playing most of the songs from Exile, but eventually settling on “Rocks Off”, “Happy”, “Tumbling Dice”, “Sweet Virginia”, “All Down The Line” and “Rip This Joint”, leaving off “Loving Cup, “Torn and Frayed” and “Ventilator Blues”. The 1972 US tour, also known as the Stones Touring Party tour, was a 29-date odyssey that started in Vancouver in early June, and ended with four nights in Madison Square Gardens in late July. Greenfield recounted the proceedings from this tour in another book, called Stp: A Journey Through America with The Rolling Stones, while it was also documented in Robert Frank’s controversial Cocksucker Blues (the full 95-minute film can be viewed here, by the way), and the four nights in Texas were captured in the 1974 concert film Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones, which was released on DVD in 2010.

Greenfield quickly jumps into a middle time, such as telling anecdotes of Jake Weber running into Mick Jagger by chance, recreating what seems like the entire conversation of Mick brushing off Jake, who had been eight years old when Mick knew him at Nellcôte. “As is his wont when confronted by someone from his past, Mick said, ‘Oh, right…. That was a long time ago, wasn’t it?’” There’s phrases like “Bill Wyman recently noted, ‘Keith used to say Mick’s a lovely bunch of guys.’” There’s a great recount of how Ameriquest sponsored the band’s A Bigger Bang tour, back in those heady sub-prime mortgage days when the sub-prime people had more money than ever; another passage describes the contortions of the Superbowl concert (where the lyrics “come” and “cocks” were censored in order to “preserve the virgin ears of more than a hundred and forty-one million viewers who had never before heard these particular lyrics, despite all the records the band had sold”), and another describes a reunion with Marshall Chess, the one-time CEO of Rolling Stone Records, who meets the band backstage. Keith shows off the area where the band does meet and greet with rich big shots, or where they strike a deal for campaign fundraising with Arnold Schwartzenegger and his circuit. Awesome to read about the women in Rio who had t-shirts that said “MICK JAGGER – FACA UM FILHO ES MIM”, which means “Mick Jagger, put a baby in me.”

The book is far from perfect: despite not being able to interview a single interview with one of the Rolling Stones, the author also has the annoying habit of inserting things that only a Stone would know, think or feel. He also, on many many occasions, refers to Mick Jagger with his full name, or parses Who and Beatles lyrics as part of his text. He’s also infamously guilty of referring to “Jumping Jack Flash” as being on an album that it wasn’t a part of (getting lots of slag in the Amazon reviews for that). But, if we take the proceedings with a grain of salt, it does make for an informative, if patchy read.

KRL

KRL

Life, by Keith Richards – This book is reviewed elsewhere in this blog, but I can at least revisit the pages he deals with Exile on Main Street, right?

Keith mentions the recording and release of Exile on Main Street, and its subsequent tour, over about 14 pages in the book in the second half (the first half of the book is his childhood, and early pre-heroin days as a Stone), and most of Chapter Eight is about the Villa Nellcôte era and the Exile on Main Street gang, as well as the release of the album and its subsequent Spt (Stones party tour) extravaganza. He describes the over-grown garden, the mirrors and twenty-foot ceilings and marble columns and grand staircases, where there was grandeur after the shabbiness of Britain. Bill ended up hanging out with Marc Chagall at the time. He describes his feeling, developed over time, about Bianca Jagger (very smart, very powerful – “if she’d had a sense of humour I’d have married her”), but Mick had just met her, gotten her pregnant, and she gave birth to their daughter Jade, all during the Exile on Main Street sessions; Mick was torn. Keith talks about the big bag of pure heroin that he bought from Fat Jacques that kept him and Anita and many others going from June to November that had to be mixed 3 parts heroin to 97 parts lactose or it would kill the user. There were tales of parties, of boating off to Italy for breakfast after an all-night session recording in the basement, of the navy coming into town and Villefranche filling up with hookers and drugs. Keith describes writing song s like “Rocks Off”, Happy, “Ventilator Blues”, “Tumbling Dice” and All Down The Line” quickly, with five-string open tuning. Songs that never made it onto the album (or the 2010 expanded and revamped re-release) had titles like “Head in the Toilet Blues”, “Leather Jackets”, “Windmill”, “I was Just a Country Boy”, “Dancing in the Light”, “Bent Green Needles”, “Labour Pains” and “Pommes de Terre”. “Happy”, of course, was recorded in only four hours, with only Keith from the Stones there playing bass and guitar and singing, with Jimmy Miller on drums and Bobby Keys on sax. The influence of Gram Parsons is in “Dead Flowers”, “Torn and Frayed”, “Sweet Virginia” and “Wild Horses.” Great pretentious quotes about drugs like “But that perception of time – Einstein is pretty right: it’s all relative.” Keith describes his work ethic, being in the studio mixing for days on end, a taskmaster, throwing moods so he’d be able to go off and shoot up, not letting up, being thoughtless and not telling people he was going off for a while, always operating on Keith Time. There is the tale of the drug bust, and the escape to LA to master the tracks, add chorus, backup singers, or extra percussion (on page 339 he admits that the album “wasn’t even that highly rated when it came out”, but then says that “it always had incredible reviews”). He explained that the double album format seemed at first like it would be the kiss of death that so many record company executives had said that it would be… “but then it just kept going and gong and getting bigger and bigger.” Keith had a perverse sense of responsibility – he didn’t want to be a junkie on tour as arrests would have band’s fate: “the idea of putting the whole tour on the line because I couldn’t make it was too much.”

RSCB

Cocksucker Blues – The film begins slow and languid, with people coming into the frame: Mick, Bobby Keys, Keith Richards, Jim Price, with good lighting. Keith is strumming his Telecaster, does a little boogie. Mick jamming in a rhumba shirt, the band is jamming, the camera is on Charlie. Marshall Chess tells the story how “Cocksucker Blues” got its name, with songs like Dr John’s “How Much Pussy Can You Eat”? The song “Cocksucker Blues” plays, Mick is on the piano, then he storms off, Keith looks great playing piano standing up. Mick masturbating, Mick poolside, rolling doobs briefly, shattered table. Flms his cover pics billboard passing by in car. Interspersed cuts. Mick explains in an interview that, from the new album, he particularly likes “Sweet Virginia” and “All Down The Line” and “Ventilator Blues”. Weird conversation between the interviewer, Mick and Keith:

Have you thought about writing a hit for Chuck Berry?
No, I never have actually, we ain’t been gettin’ on too well recently.
He writes for himself, he’s got his equilibrium.
He’d probably like a hit, but it’s probably other people’d do it.

Pan around entourage. Great editing – Keith and Bobby chilled out on Air Stones, hear band intro, flashes of them in plane is discongruous with the music. Radio interview/intro bits over airplane scene with naked girls. At 17:12 we see Bill Wuyman with his own camera, grinning sheepisly when caught on Frank’s, there’s some on-plane sex, an in-air orgy is going on. Someone’s getting a blowjob. A roadie in a “Cocaine” t-shirt that looks like the Coca Cola logo. Rare bit of Keith at 23:00 being very Captain Jack Sparrow. Before show talking about gig, then coming off after the show (seems as if the gig never happened, that the backstage life is more important – only 15 minutes of the 94-minute film show any of their songs). Encore time. Snortin’ coke, black girls. “I thought it would be good, because they’re so good, but I didn’t think it would be this good.” Yeah, check out 31:00 as “Midnight Rambler” goes on! Mick howling in yellow jumpsuit then white jumpsuit. Mick attacking stage. “It’s not possible to get addicted to cocaine because it’s too expensive. The camera doesn’t lie, am I right, Bob?” Stoned groupie. Mic man did cocaine. Girl with syringe! Camera in mirror Keith nodding. Ahmet Ertagun there. High society backstage after rock ‘n’ roll blitzkrieg – Andy arrives, Truma Capote also. Some woman vocalist hanging out with the band hits a beautiful long sustain before someone puts a leaf in her mouth. Big kiss between Tina and Mick. Gay designer and Bianca and Mick on Mick’s birthday in cavernous suite. Band members driving around. “Getting away from the 39 people” Mick. Old coot with guitar at gas station. Playing pool with which blues legend? Mick brings out Stevie Wonder. Mick looking old with his hunch-backed short steps, Stevie’s “Uptight” jam morphs into wild “Satisfaction”. Wild funk ruckus, 30 people onstage, including topless black woman. Mick dancing with Stevie, who throws pie into audience (footage over several nights as there’s a costume change for Stevie Wonder). Girl after sex. Boys playing cards and listening to country – Keith, Bobby, Jim. Mick Taylor walks into room with three nude people to smoke a joint and have an intellectual conversation (we hardly ever heard him speak in those days, so it’s a treat) in Indiana. Mick watching himself on TV as he orders room service. Pregnant groupie shoots up. Shadowy corridor. Mick and socks. “Getting rid of Leroy.” The mentality of those people.” Bouncers in halls. Triple mirror shots – white man talking jive, fixin’ in another hotel room. Tomb of the unknown junkie, made of discarded spikes. Excederine commercial and Charlie. Drugs OTC or otherwise. Keith and Bobby tossing a TV out of a hotel room window (like Ozzy and everyone else). Dick Cavett? Charlie and makeup. Mick dressing up in a jumpsuit, backstage preparations. Mother on acid, she wants to see the Stones, Life’s already half-wrecked, could jump off a bridge, they took her child away because she was on LSD. “She was born on acid. It blows my mind.” Ends with big flashes, perp march. Keith and handler, Wiliam S Burroughs quoting “Brown Sugar.”


Australian tour documentary – Focussing on a short-haired Mick Jagger, shows the band playing “Brown Sugar”, then gets into intros: Leslie Perrin, PR manager, Peter Rudge, tour manager, Nickie Hopkins, Keith Richards (“he won’t live to 70″), Bill Wyman (“perhaps he’ll be the first to leave the Stones”), Mick Jagger’s bodyguard Leroy Leonard, Mick Taylor (“Jagger treats him gently, he seems rather fragile”) and Charlie Watts. They note that there no screaming girls outside the hotel. Interviews with hot chick rock fans, “we don’t go out to the airport to see the band any more, we just listen to the music; that was a long time ago like with the Beatles.” Interview with Patrick Stansfield, production manager, with shots of roadies setting up. Clip of the band playing “Bitch” in the mid-afternoon sun. Cool interview with Keith: “I’ve always felt more sexual than political; I could never get very worked up about Edward Heath.” Media insists that there’s a rumour that someone tried to smuggle pot into the country. “Who? What kind?” In the press conference, talk of Australia joining Southeast Asia. They harp on the fact that there’s no really big news during this visit, other than Mick’s bedsheets being auctioned for A$400. Leslie Perrin interviewed, quite dull of course (he’s a PR man). The documentary appears to end 33 minutes into this 50 minute documentary. They then play “Love In Vain” to video from the Gimme Shelter movie. Looks like there was more footage at the end of the “documentary” showing what may be unreleased footage from the Madison Square Gardens concert that was shown in part in Gimme Shelter. At the end, there’s the band playing “Walk The Dog” on a TV broadcast, with Brian Jones, and a few other songs.

Pictures from the Exile on Main Street sessions – Famed French photographer Dominique Tarlé was on hand at Villa Nellcôte to take pictures of the band hanging out and recording, out of which he published a huge out-of-print coffee table book in 2001. The book may not be available, but the pictures are gathered at several spots on the web, including here.

My Big Bad Hellboy Page

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I first saw the brilliant Hellboy film, starring Ron Perlman (who was born to play this role), which tidily summarises big chunks of the Hellboy story. Finally, last year, I started reading the original Mike Mignola creations, and they’re just beautiful.

HSOD

HSOD

Hellboy 1, Seed of Destruction – The origin of Hellboy, who emerges from Hell in some part of England at the bidding of of Rasputin, who is sending orders from Norway because he wants the right hand of doom to unleash total destruction… or something. Strange tales of the Arctic, ancient Arctic temples, secret Nazis, freaky frogs biting Trevor Bruttenholm to death, sleazy frog monsters, a disconsolate mother and all sorts of other freaky insanity. The pages are nearly all mystery and shadow, with lumpy lines showing where people/things/animals are supposed to be. Hellboy fights the frog creatures, everybody goes splatting everywhere. Hellboy gets beaten to a pulp, Rasputin raises Lovecraftean ectoplasm Elder Gods, Hellboy defeats the menace… and Rasputin. Plenty of scenes of the seven sinister wedges wobbling in space, the entrance of the Kirbian anti-eldrich aliens (just two pages of them – they’ll return later).

The appendix has some pages of sketches (just as most of the books in this collected works series do), and two early adventures: Hellboy confronts Anubis in a mid-Arizona desert diner, and then he confronts Von Klempt and Kriegaffe Number Nine. Nice. The latter is fitting (as its occurrence is mentioned happily later on when Hellboy next meets Von Klempt again), but the former is a bit weird – it’s one of those episodes where Hellboy seems like a bit of a bumbler, easily captured or incapacitated by a monstrous adversary, only to win the battle in spite of himself (in this case, Anubis accidentally walks into a sharp object – d’oh!

Note the heavy use of Japanese Fudo Myo-o imagery, despite Mignola saying that he’d never been to Japan before drawing some of these adventures (maybe he’s been there more recently). His source for ideas must have access to some rather eldritch stuff.

HRHOD

HRHOD

Hellboy 4, “the Right Hand of Doom” – Largely a collection of unconnected stories, it starts off with the classic “Pancakes”, a tale of the young Hellboy that registers the exact moment when the hordes of Hell realised that their emissary (Hellboy, in possession of the right hand of Doom no less) had been lost to them. “No way, I don’t like pamcakes! …Hey! I love it!!” Then there’s Hellboy’s meeting with the Osiris Club, who send him to slay a dragon in the forest – which he defeats in a lucky, bumbling way (see also his meeting with Anubis in Issue 1). In King Vold, he meets an opportunistic folklorist, who has a fey (and treacherous) way of dealing with a cursed hunter in the sky and his were-demon… much to Hellboy’s (and eventually his) regret. “Heads” is a great adventure in Japan, when Hellboy meets a group of ghouls. One of them tells a peculiar “funny story”… but Hellboy knows what they are and he is ready for their trap. There’s a misadventure with a piece of Lovecraftean ectoplasm who channels a psychic, and then a meeting with a vampire who makes Hellboy dream of the ultimate Varcolac (I first learned about this Romanian creature in the 1963 Mario Bava film Black Sabbath, starring Boris Karaloff – yes, it’s the film that gave the band the name, except it was spelled as Wurdalak). The Right Hand of Doom is a short-ish story where nothing much happens, but a priest tells Hellboy the story about his red right hand. “Box Full Of Evil” is a fascinating study in minor demons and earthly damnation, as well as a bit of a mystery – who is this strange fat man who uses the hand of a hanged man as a candle to help him incapacitate people – black magic! Demons resurrect (minor demons), Hellboy is nearly beaten to death, he discovers his true nature and triumphs; Abe Sapien battles a monkey, and Hellboy re-encounters the leprechauns; finally a bit of Astaroth action as a major demon makes an appearance to… have a talk. Wow.

Great guest sketches at the end, including ones by Michael Allred, and also Frank Miller.

HCW

HCW

Hellboy 5, “Conqueror Worm” – One long story throughout. Hellboy and Roger the homunculus investigate strange Nazi goings-ons in Austria, only to find out that there’s a new Nazi conspiracy trying to re-connect with a horror set in motion in 1939 that aims to give Lovecraftian ectoplasmic elder gods earthly form so that they can bring about the end of the world (sure, why not?). There’s a Rubezahl and the second appearance in the Mike Mignola universe (first appearance in the pages of Hellboy) of the totally bitchin’ Lobster Johnston – an early Captain America, to be sure – and some really spooky 61-year-dead talking skeletons. Another Kriegsaffe, number 10, captive executioner aliens executed, haunted scientist Herman Von Klempt’s head floating in a jar with robot arms and electric zappers, an army of human experiments emerging from the jar after 61 years, talking bats and rats and snakes, new frog creatures, and another encounter with a shadowy Rasputin-like figure (actually, it is Rasputin), before the final confrontation with the evil ectoplasm. Great meeting between Rasputin, Hecate and Baba Yaga.

H-ST

H-ST

Hellboy 6, “Strange Places” – Hellboy goes to Africa to meet a strange wandering sorcerer who sends him to battle sea hag Bog Roosh and her three misguided grand-daughter mermaids. They capture Hellboy and two are foolishly destroyed by their monster of a grandmother, who needs to wipe Hellboy off the earth to prevent the apocalypse, blah blah blah (everybody is so worried about the right hand of doom). Wonderful horror, flooded tombs, fate and destiny, the evil bones of a drowned werewolf bent on revenge against Hellboy, whales, bells, the eye of Baba Yaga, eldritch forest spirits doomed by Hellboy’s capture, besotted hog-man Gruagach (who only dreams of revenge against Hellboy) at council, not to mention the souls of dead sailors in their jars. Caribbean pirate ghosts and Hecate reveling and debating with Hellboy, a dead heretic revived recounting the ancient creation of the race of humans, demons and elder gods, including the formation of the right hand of doom itself, preserved for a time by the Hyperboreans (crazy, all-over-the-place story, this), and the spectre’s ultimate reduction from a demon to a ghoul re-executed by a long-dead Inquisitor (shades of witch hunter Henry Hood here). Wow! Mignola includes illustrations from a pirate ship graveyard story that he was never able to finish, showing Hellboy battling the moss monsters. Righteous! No word balloons, but lots of reading between the inked and early pencil sketch lines (possibly one of the coolest things I’ve seen in the Hellboy books so far).

H-TTWAO

H-TTWAO

Hellboy 7, “The Troll Witch and Others” – A collection of short stories, some of them not drawn by Mike Mignola, showing Hellboy on his various adventures. The Penanggalan shows him traveling to Malaysia to defeat a girl-witch, and The Hyrda and the Lion is about Hellboy’s battle in Alaska against a hyrdra, and his meeting with a little girl-lion (from the notes we read that this story was inspired by his daughter’s claim that she’s half lion). Beautiful mystery, marvelous quirkiness. The Troll-Witch is about a pair of young sisters, one beautiful and one ugly, and the strange fate that befell them – one has her head snatched during a troll invasion, the other uses Hellboy to extract her revenge – trapping them out-of-doors after dawn so that they turn to stone. The Vampire of Prague is illustrated by P Craig Russell, who I think I’ve seen in Heavy Metal magazine. The tale ends in a similar way to Troll Witch, but not after plenty of myth-building about this crazy gambler vampire, and one epic battle above the rooftops of gothic Prague. Dr Tarp’s Experiment is a BPRD tale that takes place in a split second in a hidden experimental chamber of a long-dead member of the Golden Lodge of the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, involving a blood extraction from Hellboy and the momentary creation of yet another homocidal ape monsters. The Ghoul is a tale of those that live among us. The long end-piece, Makoma, is a convoluted tale of the African king Makoma, who we first see as a modern-day mummy in an archaelogist’s study but who was once Hellboy born in an long-lost early civilisation who battles and defeats the wilderness demons of the mountain, river, forest, water, fire and puts them in a bag, then makes deals with forest magi. Mike Mignola starts it off, but Richard Corben, the illustrator of Den and other tales, takes it over, giving it also a rather Heavy Metal feel to it. Great pencil illustrations from Mike Mignola at the back.

H-DF

H-DF

Hellboy 8, “Darkness Calls” – The return of creepy wizard and half-man Igor Weldon Bromhead, Ilsa Haupstein/Hecate and the withered corpse of her lover, Vladimir Giurescu, Hellboy in slippers with whiskey shots in Harry Middleton’s haunted house in the UK, victim of a coven of witches, captured by twisted forest spirits, fighting them alongside the reanimated corpse of corrupt witchfinder Henry Hood, wild councils of witches and a declaration of war with the savior of the dark arts. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Hellboy is fighting armies of the undead in the forests of Russia, armies resurrected by Baba Yaga, who is ready to devote all of her power to defeat Hellboy. Leshii, the pagan god of Russian forests, sends his wolves to rescue Hellboy (?!?!), a temporary alliance only. Baba Yaga enlists mass murderer Koshchei the Deathless (whose soul Baba Yaga has hidden inside an egg inside a duck inside a rabbit inside a goat) against Hellboy. Perun the god of the world is killed (why not, right?), Hellboy battles Koshchei, the deathless fighting the deathless, both of whom can only be slowed down but never stopped, ha ha ha. Hellboy gets aid from a cute littly girl spirit Vasilisa the Beautiful, who yields a skull staff, Koshchei pinned to the floor like a bug. Humour, madness, death, dolls, the undead cardinals of the forest, Baba Yaga plotting with the gnomes with her tree of skulls, the roots of the earth rising to aid Hellboy, who returns near-destroyed to Henry Hood and the graveyards of Britain to destroy the grotesquely mis-shapen Igor Bromhead, who begs him to put him out of his misery and send him to Hell. There’s the death of elfking Dagda and two epilogues, one drawn by another artist who recounts a day of drudgery at the BPRD that reveals the mystery of Harry Middleton, and another by Mike Mignola that is Hecate’s monologue on the history of magic, through the Hyperborean age of witchcraft, into the modern day and Hellboy’s mission. At the end there are great pencil sketches. All of these artists were so in love with drawing crumbling, wasted buildings. The ruins of humanity we see all around us, Entropy the Victor.

HTWH

HTWH

Hellboy 9, “The Wild Hunt” – This is the first Hellboy story I’ve read, and what an introduction! Hellboy is betrayed not once, but twice. He’s stabbed and left for dead, he’s tricked into breaking into a guarded fortress, he meets Morgana le Fay and discovers his lineage… as the first male descendant of Arthur Pendragon and Morgana le Fay!! He feels remorse for starting a fight with a group of giants and wiping them out. The story continues, only now he’s got the sword from the stone…

By this book, Nazis hardly make an appearance – seems Mignola has either had Hellboy defeat the only ones left, or he’s bored of them – most likely the latter, the world of fantasy and sorcery will never run out of Nazis.

H-MAM

H-MAM

Hellboy, Masks and Monsters – A somewhat retarded and fairly unnecessary Hellboy/Batman/Starman (who?) adventure. Ted Knight, the original Starman, is captured by Nazis and our three heroes try but fail to prevent him being spirited off to San Diablo (great name) in South America (where else would Nazis hide out?) to resurrect a Lovecraftian Elder God. Batman stays behind, but Hellboy and Starman figure out how to stop the Nazis in their mission by blowing everything up. Nice. The second half of the book is about the ghosts of Arcadia, a wretched hive of scum and villainy that looks like New Jersey, with the restless murdered souls becoming masked spirits and laughing monkeys that try to trick Ghost, the female spirit of vengeance, into bringing Hellboy to them for their own uses. Hellboy, the world’s greatest paranormal investigator (as described on the cover of Time), figures out who these minor demons originally were and dispatches them. Not a great story, but okay – Ghost is hot. At the end there are the original Mike Mignola layouts of the Ghost story that he did with penciller Scott Benefiel and inker Jasen Rodriguez. There’s also a model sheet for Hellboy with notes, explaining that his tail is rounded, not pointed, that the palm of his hands are never shown, and describing his pants, overcoat, holster and hooves. Righteous, an worth the price of admission right there.

BPRD-HEAOS

BPRD-HEAOS

BPRD 1, Hollow Earth and Other Stories – I read BPRD because it was created by Mike Mignola, always hoping that it will be more interesting than Ghostbusters or X-Files. BPRD 1 introduces a new member of the bureau, Johan Kraus, a medium who was out-of-body during a seance when everyone at the seance was toasted – with no body to return to, his ectoplasm was housed in a BPRD-made suit, he wanders the earth with our disillusioned team Abe Sapien (will he leave BPRD or won’t he), the more human than human homunulcus Roger, Liz Sheridan the firestarter (she’s hot), and administrator Kate Corrigan. But what exactly is the nature of Kraus’ fascination with the absent Hellboy? Yawn. The Hollow Earth starts with Liz’s near-death in a Tibetan monestary, where all the monks have been slaughtered. That’s because there’s a shaft from there to the hollow earth and the mole men who live there (not to mention the graves of Nazi digging machines and other rotting primordial construction equipment) planning their revenge against the creatures of the surface. Silly. The early pages are rather Mike Mignola, while the rotting cyclopean underworlds are pure Jack Kirby. The Killer In My Skull is the first appearance of Lobster Johnson from a 1999 issue, and a nice bit of investigative journalism – members of an elite team of scientists are getting killed one by one by a member of the team… but which one? It can only be the one who survives, who happens to also have scary hair (and, eventually, an animated killer brain), of course. Amazing how Mignola can take the most cliched ideas (mad scientists, killer brains, reanimated Nazis, intelligent homicidal gorillas) and make them sinister as hell. Abe Sapien Versus Science is a short piece about the inhumanity of scientists against the soul of a gillman. Drums of the Dead is about the sunken ghosts of the Africa-Americas slave trade, and Abe Sapien freeing the lost souls (there are sharks too, as well as the war pig of Motörhead fame, cool). Nice pencil (and some water colour) sketches at the back.

BPRD-TSOVAOS

BPRD-TSOVAOS

BPRD 2, The Soul of Venice and Other Stories – The Soul of Venice is about Cloacina, the spirit of Venice, as well as Venetian wizards and vampires – Romulus Diovanni who slew a vampire and drank his blood, becoming a blood-thirsty non-vampire scourge of the islands, a worshipper of Shax (a relative of Hellboy) who rejects his offering, destroying the fiend. Dark Waters is about the souls of those drowned as witches in old New England and modern-day zealots condemned. Pretty pictures, but none of these stories lead anywhere. Night Train is another tale of Lobster Johnson, Nazi spies in 1930s America, the dead of a train wreck coming back in modern day for revenge that the BPRD needs to deal with. There’s Something Under My Bed is like a weird re-do of Monsters Inc, while Another Day In The Office is a silly zombie tale. Sketches at the back.

Rush – Beyond The Lighted Stage

Saturday, October 15th, 2011
RBTLS

RBTLS

I’ve been a Rush fan for most of my life, but since I’ve not been an avid all-time Rush fan, I’ve often missed what the band means to me. I go through Rush phases, particularly when they have an interesting new CD/DVD set, but I don’t listen to them all the time any more.

I recently borrowed from a friend Beyond The Lighted Stage, the 2010 Rush documentary by Scot MacFayden and Sam Dunn (the directors of “Metal: A Headbangers Journey”, “Global Metal” and the “Flight 666″ Iron Maiden documentary; Scot, apparently, grew up not far from me and went to high school with close friends of mine) because I had to experience for myself this incredible rock ‘n’ roll journey by one of the most long-lasting bands around (only the Stones have existed longer as a unit, but with more lineup changes). It’s been the same three guys since 1975, although Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee have been playing in bands since 1968.

The key themes of the movie are, of course, friendship, musicianship, development, passion, and (bad) fashion. It charts the history of the band, with key moments being when the directors bring the members of Rush back to the places where they started out – the church, where they played their first gig, they return to for the first time since they played there in 1968.

The films starts off with scenes of the band warming up, of Neil throwing a drumstick into the air and then dropping it (rare – how often would that happen?) and then goes quickly into celebrity interviews: Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, Kirk Hammett of Metallica (who couldn’t believe that the band could produce so much sound with only three members when he first heard them), Tim Commerford of Rage Against The Machine, Jason McGem of Death Cab For Cutie, Vinnie Paul of Pantera, Zakk Wylde, Les Claypool of Primus, Dana Carey of Tool, Matt Stone of South Park, Taylor Hawkings of Foo FIghters, Jimmy Chamberlin of Smashing Pumpkins, Sebastian Bach of Skid Row (who claims to be Member #3 of some Toronto-based Rush fan group), Jack Black (who gives multiple funny speeches, such as the one about rock sauce), Gene Simmons (“There’s no other way to describe Rush than just… Rush.”), and Billy Corgan, who notes that the Beatles and the Stones (the only other bands Rush can be compared with) have been over-explained… but not Rush.

But hey – where’s Marilyn Manson?

The film goes into historical mode, explaining that the parents of Geddy Lee (nee Gary Lee Weinrib) were both Polish Holocaust survivors (here’s where the similarities to Robb Reiner, the drummer of Anvil and a key player in the other great Canadian rock ‘n’ roll documentary, come in) who relocated to Willowdale, a suburb of Toronto, where they were one of the first Jewish families. Geddy’s dad died when he was 12, meaning that he had to go into 11 months of mourning. Geddy’s mom, Mary Weinrib, talked about Geddy as a kid (the nickname/stage name “Geddy” came from her pronunciation of Gary through her thick Polish accent; he’s since had his name legally changed to Geddy). The story covers how Geddy met Alex Lifeson in high school, there are plenty of cool pictures of Geddy and Alex as young shorthairs together in school (incidentally, Rick Moranis was their classmate, a fact that led to their collaboration with Geddy on “Take Off”, the hit single of the Bob And Doug MacKenzie  album “The Great White North“).

Alex seems to have had a relatively steady upbringing, his parents both having immigrated from Yugoslavia, dad had been in a prison camp. The film interviews his mom, Melanija Zivojinovich. Both kids got guitars from their moms, Alex was promised his if he brought home good grades, which was no problem as he was a teacher’s pet and was a master schmoozer. Geddy and Alex shared the same grade nine homeroom. First gig was in a church basement in September 1968, the drop-in centre called The Coffin, they got $10, having played to 35 kids, went to eat at Panzer’s Deli. Scenes of Sam The Record Man and A&A Records on Yonge Street, discussion of the Yorkville scene (see also Neil Young’s Archives 1), and the local hit band The Poppers. Ray Danniels got them as a manager, saw them as talented 16-year-olds who could play a high school circuit with drummer John Rutsey (1953-2008). Pic of three of them in their undies, very early footage, nice red and white star shirt, playing in basement. Alex quit school in grade 12, there’s a high quality video of him talking to his parents about his decision, sitting with a girlfriend at the kitchen table talking about it, it looks staged, but that is because it is from a 1972 scare movie about teen pregnancy and school-leavers called “Come On Children” from 1972). “Bullshit”, he yells at one point, what an actor. There had been a turning point in the Toronto band scene in 1971 when the drinking age was dropped to 18. Yorkville’s cafes, hippy and revolutionary, were shut down, and good-time rock ‘n’ roll was encouraged for a rockin’ younger drinking crowd. The film quotes famous Canadian musician Kim Mitchell talking about the scene. Rush was playing six nights a week, at places like Abbey Road pub. “Garden Road“, a never-released song from that era, is played in the movie. The band put together their own first album, and it was heard in the US, where it got attention. “Rush” was the perfect album for Cleveland in 1974, especially songs like “Working Man”, which resonated with many Clevelanders (is it a coincidence that their new live CD Time Machine was recorded there?). The phones lit up with people calling in to ask for the record, thinking it was the new Led Zeppelin release. There was no record industry in Canada at that time, only outposts. John Rutsey was more into Bad Company, Geddy and Alex were into Yes and Genesis and Pink Floyd. John not healthy enough to tour, would have been okay for the home circuit. So, with a US tour coming up, they looked for a new drummer.

Neil Peart was from a farm in Hayville, cursed by skating on ankles, learned to knit because it was a challenge, suffered physical abuse in the smoking area as a result of being a bit weird and growing his hair longish. Drumming became an instrument of self esteem. The footage shows both parents, who were supportive of his career in music. Was in a band called JR Flood, playing the double bass drum even then. Dad encouraged Neil to audition for Rush in Ajax. Geddy thought Neil was goofy, Alex thought he was not cool enough for Rush. Then he played… “He was so good!” Mullet man. First tour was opening for Manfred Mann and Uriah Heep. Mick Box of Uriah Heap loved them.  Eleven days on, one day off, brutal schedule. The film shows posters of their bills with the New York Dolls, Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith, Rory Gallagher, Rod Stewart and the Faces, Montrose, KISS (who loved them, playing 50-60 shows together – the two bands got close). Geddy says that there was no harder working band then KISS, he said it was “fun to watch their hotel”. Two-band pic with big “happy birthday” cake, KISS in make-up, Rush just in jeans. Kim Mitchell’s story about the lady’s bowling league staying on the same floor as Rush and partying harder than these boys. Neil very literate, opinionated, weird, serious, always the new guy, buying a lot of books, a reader. The band worked on songs after shows. “By-Tor” the start of thematic stuff. Audiences got smaller and smaller, toured with Ted Nugent on Caress of Steel when he was also a small act, depressing tour. The discussion of 2112 begins at 37-minute mark of the DVD, the band says that they felt at the time that 2112 may have been their last hurrah, despite pressure to become a rock/pop band, they were determined to go out guns blazing.

Billy Corgan describes how he once could play all of Side 1 of 2112, the release also encouraged a 12-year old Sebastian Bach to go out and buy Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, to which the LP had been dedicated. “2112 bought us our independence,” they realised (“We have assumed control”, the final words of Side 1 of “2112″ really carry new meaning!). Critics hated it. “Unintentionally funny.” “A cancerous network of haphazard key and time signature changes.” “Smug, hypocritical, pseudo-symbolic drivel.” “Flagrantly derivative music.” Constant insults from media, but not from fans. “Best band in the galaxy” the posters at shows said, with the 2112 back patch on thousands of jean jackets. A people’s band. Canadian VJ JD Roberts gives his comments, now and also from ’80s footage. No fashion clue. In San Francisco they found kimonos. First UK tour, where they actually charted!  Nice shots of a Hammersmith Odeon marquee, Rush with Max Webster opening. Geddy and Alex at this point both with double-necked guitars (SG and Rickenbacher). UFO made fun of them – furry slippers nailed to the stage, calling Geddy “Glee” (oh how ironic now). With “Hemispheres” they embraced long songs, recorded in Wales, experimenting. Determined to record La Villa Strangiata in one take. The song made a huge impression on Kirk Hammet, who called them the high priests of conceptual metal (a title, I suppose that Metallica now owns, having become a less rockin’ band than Rush now is, a poor man’s Rush of sorts). Various musicians explain that Rush was a musician’s benchmark of sorts – if you could recreate Rush, you would be ready for anything. Jack Black explains meeting the band, first Alex and Geddy, then… the master, who is “eerily precise. If you went in with a computer, Neil Peart would be right on the beat to an atom.” The band played 200 concerts a year, and at one point 17 one-nighters in a row.

Babies started to arrive, the band felt that they couldn’t be selfish any more, and began recording bringing the family closer to the process. But they had their biggest successes in front of them. The band is very family-oriented – Alex married in his teens and had kids early, he introduced Geddy to his wife. Cool pic of Neil wearing an FM t-shirt. Permanent Waves was an important stepping stone, there would have been no Moving Pictures without Permanent Waves. Hemispheres was recorded in La Studio, a happy time with family. Concert audiences doubled with 2112, the band shifted from a theatre band at the start of the tour to doing stadium gigs at the end. Three nights at Maple Leaf Gardens. Moving Pictures made them what they are, Neil said that it was a mixed blessing, strange people came out of the woodwork. There’s a scene of a fan approaching Alex and Geddy in a cafe that brought tears to my eyes, I was sniffing and near-blubbering – I started wondering what thoughts would come to my mind, what overflowing emotions would come unbottled, if I came across Alex and Geddy somehow, somewhere the way this waitress did when they wandered into her establishment (which, I think, is Pedro’s, the spot where Panzer’s Deli had once been, as shown in the outtakes section). And, oddly enough, I think that the last two times that I was overcome by emotion, Rush was involved (the R30 DVD, and also buying Alex Lifeson’s “Limelight” instructional video). Neil struggles around fans, not comfortable. Fans are so different, hardcore fans of old, male, very intense. Billy Corgan recounts tale of playing “Entre Nous” to his mom, as a way to reach out to her. Jack Black: “They had honesty and integrity, which was in short supply.” Christopher Schreberger, fan (yes, they interviewed fans for this DVD too, but only a few), noted that “Subdivisions” really related to him – because he lived in a subdivision (ooohhh – aaaahhhh). Terry Date was the fourth member of Rush. Peter Colilns, a pop producer, was brought in for the next album, Grace Under Pressure. Neil: “No protective nature of what Rush was.” Alex” “Hard to work with keyboards on Power windows.” Geddy: Hold Your Fire pushed them far away from Rush. Rupert Hine brought them back to power trio mode. Counterparts had more hair on it.  Neil worked with Freddie Gruber on jazz drumming for a Buddy Rich tribute that meant re-learning the motion of the hands and feet of drumming. Taps drums two ways. Neil turned grip around. Test For Echo. “Ghost Rider.” When Neil suffered a double tragedy, they were so worried about him, he disappeared on a road trip, friends and family formed a network to update each other as to when they’d hear from him. Alex lost interest in music as well even, for one year not picking up his instrument at all. Landscapes, highways and wildlife revived Peart. The band have 6,000 nicknames for each other, he sent lifelines signed as one or the other of these nicknames. Had to stop moving before he could think about doing it again. Slow process to get his chops back. Pure and truthful energy on Vapour Trails. Amazed at the Sao Paolo show, when 60,000 fans showed up. The band appeared on the Colbert Report, interviewed and supported by a new generation of entertainers as the real thing. “The people have generally, consistently voted for them.” Billy Corgan very intelligent comments. Geddy reading The Sound And The Fury on a flight (brave man, I couldn’t get into it at all). “We had our own stream, and it wasn’t the main one, but it wasn’t too far away,”  says Geddy Lee. Nonetheless, they actually have a devoted following, people turn their kids on to Rush. “There’s a comfort to know that those same three guys are out there. It’s also special to see three guys who can tolerate each other after all these years and make good music,” says Les Claypool. “They’re on a righteous path,” Trent Reznor.

The extras are also very good: Long scenes of reminiscing around the Fisherville Junior High School, running greaser gauntlet at the bus stop, built snow man on the front lawn, rode a bike because it was the only mode of transport. Riding around Toronto. First time back to The Coffin since their gig there. Gas station Geddy used to work at. Pantzer’s now Anton’s. Les Claypool first concert was Rush, Hemispheres tour, Pat Travers Band opened up, he was 14 years old. All of Hemispheres was recorded a semi-tone too high for Geddy’s voice. Alex plays golf on days off. “Birds chirping, horses neighing, bones cracking. Golf is about tempo and rhythm and not trying too hard, not getting in the way of your swing, much like playing an instrument, just let your instinct take over and play.” Geddy collects art, baseballs – players and presidents. Neil – model car building, cycling, reading. Motorcycles. Practicing throwing stick up in the air. Rush Con 7 – Rush trekkies. Rush karaoke and Guitar Hero. Guy with Queens of the Stone Age t-shirt. “Kim Mitchell, Helix and Rush, nice camera, eh,” that must be the directors improvising. Alex doing ole honkin’ blues in a backstage warm-up. “Working Man” with John Rutsey at a high school show doing the intros from behind the drum kit, great, except for Alex’s music notes shirt. Groovy “La Villa Strangiata” cuts, off funky intro. Dedicated “Between The Sun And Moon” to John Entwistle, first time they ever played it, in 2002. Twelve minutes of dinner conversation with Rush. Geddy calls Alex “Lerx” in conversation. “I’ve got my notepad here.” Neil’s drunken laugh. Alex playing a Telecaster, looking very David Gilmour. Commentary on Neil Peart’s outrageous mustaches.

I am happy that this movie exists, for people like me to remember what a great band this is, and to set the record straight. This is also an important movie for the masses, Rush fans and non-fans alike – people who are not Rush fans and are perplexed why their friends like Rush so much, for example, watch the movie and they finally get it.

At the same time, however, I’m confused why this film was made. Here you’ve got guys who have everything – they have fame, they have fortune, they have friendship, they have a massive fan base, they have achieved anything a musician can achieve (except, maybe, admission into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, whatever that means); they are private people; why do they need this? Did they agree to do this for the fans?  The fans know everything that there is to know about Rush anyway, much more than is in this movie. Were they somehow talked into going along with this? Is Rush Corporation at a stage in their development where they need to take it to the next level, finally, or it’s never ever going to happen? Everyone’s getting older, of course. Were they astounded by the success of the Anvil movie and wondered why they never thought of it earlier?  Some of the aspects of this film do have the appearances of contract publishing – the band has so much brutal honesty, and they seem like guys with very little to hide, that you can’t suspect that the documentarians went easy on them, but it’s still a perplexing piece of work in some ways. It’s amazing, really.

Finally, I’m further convinced at how important the song “Limelight” is to the band and its fans. It provides the lyrical reference to the DVD’s title, the band is often quoting it (Neil notes the relevance of “I can’t pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend” at one point in the video). I am confirmed, also, in my belief that it is justified beyond just personally liking it for it to be my favorite Rush song.

The packaging is pretty good, with beautiful pics all across the outer case, a huge concert pic from the inside package, pics of the guys in their younger days, and a gorgeous full-colour 12-page booklet.

Naoko’s pretzels are so awesome!!

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Naoko’s pretzels are so awesome!!

Naoko's pretzels are so awesome!!

Naoko's pretzels are so awesome!!

Me ‘n’ my Gibson SG ‘n’ my Marshall mini-stack

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

I have united my Gibson SG with a Marshall mini-stack. God bless rock ‘n’ roll!!

Me 'n' my Gibson SG 'n' my Marshall mini-stack

Me 'n' my Gibson SG 'n' my Marshall mini-stack

Marshall mini-stack (Zakk Wylde signature series)

Marshall mini-stack (Zakk Wylde signature series)

Marshall mini-stack (Zakk Wylde signature series)

Marshall mini-stack (Zakk Wylde signature series)

Peter on the BBC

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Check it out, I was in a BBC video recently!

They also had me in a story a few weeks back…

Singapore obstruction

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

I was walking along the sidewalk the other day and I found a tree blocking my path – literally! Boy, was I ever shocked!!!

Tree won't let me pass!

Tree won't let me pass!

I also saw the trains passing by. How nice…

Train passing by overhead...

Train passing by overhead...