Friday, September 26, 2014

Waiting For A Mission- Apocalypse Now 1979

Waiting for a mission, getting softer


Martin Sheen is one of my favorite actors and though he hasn't gotten a lot of great parts throughout his career, parts equal to his considerable talent, he did star in two of the best films of the 1970's- Badlands and Apocalypse Now- arguably two of the best films ever. Apocalypse Now works on so many different levels, it's both an outward and inward journey, literal and metaphorical. The film is a masterpiece of atmosphere, a tone piece that you can sink deep inside, it's completely hypnotic and succeeds magnificently in recreating the main character's inward trip, into the heart of darkness, in the viewer. 

It's impossible to imagine anyone portraying Captain Willard more effectively that Sheen with all the subtle notes in his performance, the way his eyes and voice allow you into the character's mind and soul. Throughout the majority of the film Willard is passive, an observer, but Sheen is able to masterfully convey the changes happening internally in the character as the movie progresses. Steve McQueen was who Coppola originally envisioned as Willard but he turned down the part due to the long shooting schedule outside of America, and Harvey Keitel began the film's initial shoot in the role but was let go after Coppola viewed the rushes and was unhappy with his performance.

I've watched this film countless times, and while the theatrical cut is still the go to version, the redux cut is interesting once you've become acquainted with the film as released, in particular the French Plantation scene, which is the only part of the redux that might have significantly added to the strength of the theatrical release- though it is a considerable detour from the journey down river. I highly recommend the three disc Blu-Ray that includes both versions of the film as well as the making of documentary Hearts of Darkness. These films can be watched again and again, always revealing different layers and nuances. It's truly a psychedelic film about what was in many ways a psychedelic war. 

It's important to note that film as we know it, including the final narration and the majority of the sound elements, was shaped through a torturous post-production editing process that took close to two years to complete. So the somewhat secret heroes of the film are people like Walter Murch, Richard Beggs, Carmine Coppola (who composed the score) and Michael Herr. Peter Cowie's book, The Apocalypse Now Book, provides fascinating insight into the whole film including this post-production process. A favorite quote in the book from Murch regarding the use of the Doors' song "The End"- "There was no connection other than a very deep bond between the psyche of Jim Morrison and the psyche of the film". 

My favorite scene from Apocalypse remains the opening Saigon scene which contains segments that were largely improvised by Sheen on his 36th birthday after a day of drinking. During the filming of this scene he reportedly had a breakdown ("my heart is broken") and accidentally cut his hand on a mirror but demanded that Coppola continue shooting. That scene and the behind the scenes cut from the documentary Hearts of Darkness follows. Kinda reminds me of every morning at my house trying to get ready for work, heh. Austin, shit, I'm still only in Austin. 

"Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another." Captain Benjamin Willard

The shot after he cuts himself and is crying and raises his head back reminds me of renderings of the passion of Christ. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

They Smell Like They Sound-Pop Singles 1981-83

John Cusack smokes in 1983's Class-apologies if this GIF is annoying it does seem to be in time to the songs


Finishing off our 1980's themed month, here's a compilation of pop singles from the years 1981 to 1983. These songs were mainly taken from the 1980's box set that Rhino put out back in the early 2000's  which is now out of print. I distilled my favorite songs from the two discs that covered these three years and then tried to place them in an order that had a nice flow, it's not chronological. I definitely prefer the first half of the 80's to the second, with 1980-83 being my favorite years. Unfortunately if I had included songs from 1980 the mix would have gotten too long, plus in some ways it feels like a decade doesn't really get started till about a year into it. 
This mix was also inspired by the book  I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution a good if somewhat trashy read that is, like its subject, light, silly and fun.Videos were important in breaking almost all of the songs in this mix, so below is the track listing along with, when available, the video. I've used some pictures from the movie Class in this post because it reminds me so much of the same period that the mix covers. 

1. Goodbye to You- Scandal- Patti Smyth was awful cute. I wish more girls went for cute rather than trashy. What's up with the guitar player in this one?  Is that the dude she's telling goodbye to, hope so. The keyboard player is funny too, nothing says ROCK like a fuckin' keyboard solo!  Come to think of it looks like she's telling both of them to get lost.

2. Tainted Love- Soft Cell- Looks like someone's throwing a bit of a hissy fit! Why, he's absolutely livid! Cute little kid in the video, hope she didn't get too creeped out by Marc Almond. I know I feel a bit traumatized just from watching it. 

Soft Cell - Tainted Love from bsi_pacs on Vimeo.

3. Bettie Davis Eyes- Kim Carnes- This song was written by Jackie DeShannon, so no wonder it's great. I had the single as a kid, with a picture sleeve I think. "Pure as New York snow" was almost the name of this post.

4. Don't You Want Me- The Human League- "Mother bought him a synthesizer, got the human league in to advise her". That Undertones lyric is what comes to my mind whenever I think of the Human League.  Anycase this is a clever little song, good alternating viewpoint boy/girl lyrics. And I don't think she wants you, usually when a woman's done, she's done.

5. Hungry Like The Wolf- Duran Duran- Duran Duran were massively popular when I was in Jr. High, and their fans were almost all girls. I didn't like record at the time, but in more recent years I've come to love the whole Rio album. Their first record's pretty good too, but the ones after Rio are the pits. I love how the whole album, Rio, has a colonial/Indiana Jones hanging out in the tropics in linen and safari gear feel, heh. What can I say I'm a white man. White's the new Black, right?

6. Words- Missing Persons- Careful the questions you ask Bozzio. There's a story in that MTV book about Dale giving head to some MTV executive while the band were on set or in the MTV building for an interview. 

Boy, if she thought people didn't listen back then she should see things nowadays, everybody just staring at their phones.

7. Jessie's Girl- Rick Springfield- In the aforementioned MTV book there's much talk about how videos developed "progressed" into little films with a narrative and how mimed performance videos quickly became lame. Yet, I gotta say in general I prefer the miming to the stupid ass story lines. This one mixes the two approaches to good effect. My favorite part is when Rick starts fucking up the medicine cabinet mirror with his guitar. Nice guitar solo too, short and sweet.

"She's loving him with that body I just know it" never assume my man, maybe they're just really good friends that like to spend the night at each other's house, could be totally platonic. "I feel so dirty when they start talking cute, I wanna tell her that I love her but the point is probably moot". Kinda makes me want Jessie's girl. Why can't I find a woman like that?

8. Centerfold- J. Geil's Band- This is a great story song in the classic pop tradition. The milk in the snare drum bit at the end of the video is funny. I used to see this video all the time on MTV, and the whole record, Freeze Frame, was a big hit with the kids down at my neighborhood swimming pool. The local pool had a 7-11 right across the street with tons of comic books, bubblegum cards, rock mags and a Defender arcade game along with a couple of other video games. Man I loved the smell of that place, some combination of bubble gum, chlorine and slurpees.

How did Peter Wolfe get Faye Dunaway to marry him? Some guys have all the luck.

9. Genius of Love- The Tom Tom Club- "What cha gonna do when you get out of jail?" Probably do some more drugs.

10. Down Under- Men at Work- Damn if I'm not craving a vegemite sandwich. 

11. Twilight Zone-Golden Earring- This is an awesome noirish rock track, and there's boobies in the video!  What's not to like?  For the record I'm into subjectifying women, so don't trip.

12. Dancing With Myself- Billy Idol- Billy Idol is definitely a guilty pleasure for me- well I don't feel that guilty, just when he does that lip curl thing too much. It's funny how he's always acting like he's a tough guy about to kick ass, but when you look at him he's a little dude, not muscular at all and the tiniest shoulders I've ever seen. Maybe he knows judo? As for the video, damn the 80's were so post-apocalyptic. If I'm following the video correctly it looks like he uses the generator on top of the building to harness his libidinal energy into power blasts that knock the zombies off the rooftop. Pretty cool!

13. Rock This Town- Stray Cats- These guys were solid and Brian Setzer is an ace guitarist. Anybody that loves Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent that much is okay in my book. In the video I wish he would have kicked that one guy's ass, the one with the shitty mustache and jacket, like he was threatening too in the lyrics. 

14. Mickey- Toni Basil- Robert Christgau seems obsessed with this song being about taking it up the ass cause of that one line about "anyway you want me, i'll take it like a man"- maybe Christgau's an ass man. 

15. I Want Candy- Bow Wow Wow- This is actually an improvement on the original, Matthew Ashman was an amazing guitarist, R.I.P.- the whole band was so unique. 

16. Maneater- Hall & Oates- Maybe I'm taking this title too literally but I think that if all men (or at least me) could get blown on a daily basis the world would be a much more relaxed and beautiful place. Just a thought, planting seeds! In the words of Buddy Bradley "this feast or famine shit is strictly for the birds".

17. 867-5309- Tommy Tutone- Did he make nine a three or four syllable word?

18. Harden My Heart- Quarterflash- I hate it when girls harden their hearts, it means among other things you are no longer getting any and most likely in the words of your boy Stephen Sondheim it's time to send in the motherfuckin' clowns (the original title for that broadway gem)!  

Anyway this one's got a wailing sax and I really dig the falsetto delivery on the line "darling in my wildest dreams".  All kinds of random stuff going on in the background of this video; torch jugglers, acrobatics and midgets. Midgets were all the rage in the 80's, probably the influence of Diamond Dave.

19. Love Plus One- Haircut 100- More sax! So fresh and so clean. Preppies, I dig the style but draw the line at tying a sweater around my neck.

20. Come on Eileen- Dexys Midnight Runners- These guys mean a lot to British folks of a certain age, but personally I find Kevin Rowland rather po-faced and strident- his voice and vocal mannerisms really grate on me nerves, that being said this is an undeniably great song. And the Dexys were certainly an improvement on his punk band the Killjoys, boy they were terrible. Takes all kinds I guess.

The voice over in the trailer for Class is bizarre, not sure what the idea was, sounds like a little kid. 

Rob Lowe, a Pisces like me, same b-day even, and were both randy fuckers but I guess that's where the likeness ends cause he's Rob Lowe and I'm not, anyway in the film Class he sports Izod-Lacoste polos and listens to the Dead Kennedys on his Sony walkman, such were the 1980's. I last saw him as a recurring character on Parks and Recreation in which he was very funny. God bless him, may he be the first human to live to 150 years old.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Life's a Piece of Shit-The Decline of the Western Civilization 1980

When I saw this film as a 13 year old I found it pretty depressing because of the nihilistic tone and how inarticulate most of the bands and fans seemed to me, in retrospect they're not inarticulate at all (intoxicated, yes) but I didn't like what I was hearing as I envisioned punk as a more humanitarian/socialist kind of thing. Now as an adult I find myself feeling more empathetic with the hopelessness and misanthropy on display and I also appreciate and understand more of the dark humor. Whether or not that's a good thing I'll leave for someone else to judge!

No one has uploaded the whole film so here are some of my favorite bits. The Circle Jerks are probably my absolute favorite performance in the film. This will hopefully one day get a legitimate DVD release, I'm sure the clearance issues are a nightmare. Thanks to Eric Idle for inspiring the title of this post and helping me laugh through the bleakest shit life has thrown at me so far.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blouses & Boleros- Echo & The Bunnymen Live 1983

Wait, what country did you say these outfits would get us laid in?

Why don't "they" release this on DVD?  It's muy bueno!
Early 1980's Banana Republic catalog 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The World's A Mess It's In My Kiss- X 1980-85

Are you getting on or getting off?
Buy this movie, The Unheard Music, it's a masterpiece, especially the montage editing with still photos and old video footage! Billy Zoom was my favorite member of X. I love that bit in Decline of the Western Civilization where the interviewer is bugging him about why he doesn't have tattoos like the other members, and he just casually says "cause I don't want one".  And this was before tattoos became the completely conformist gesture that they are today, mind you I never dug them, some people have to work to be different and some people just are. That clip is included here as well and boy Exene is drunk.

The Unheard Music is a perfect encapsulation of Los Angeles in the 1980's, and that's coming from someone whose never been there!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

Observatory Time- R.E.M. Live 1985

Cover Star-Man Ray, Paris 1975 (old men often have the best style)
This was the first tour I saw REM on, the Reconstruction of the Fables tour, summer of 1985 before my first year of high school. The concert was at Cullen Auditorium on the University of Houston campus, I was too young to drive, so my Aunt Kay brought me. It was an incredible show! Judging from this and earlier footage I've seen I'd wager that 1985 was REM's peak as a live band. Note the early version of "Fall On Me" and CCR cover "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" performed below.

Fables of the Reconstruction was, sadly, the band's last great album. I wish they would have continued to explore the psychedelic direction of "Feeling Gravity's Pull" and worked more with people like Joe Boyd rather than Don Gehman. Ah well, I suppose it's all part of life's rich pageant and shorty can't eat no books. Also below is the band's first American TV appearance (on Letterman) with Stipe looking for all the world like some kind of Botticelli angel.

R.E.M. in search of Brer Rabbit

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Smell Home Cooking!- Talking Heads Live in Rome 1980

More of my Life/Live in the 1980's series. Tina Weymouth looks particularly good in this video, I dig her. Adrian Belew, though adding nothing visually/sartorially, is a hell of a sonic addition to the band.
This is the definitive live line up of the Talking Heads- the band is on fire! Whew. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Feeling Gladiola All Over- The Smiths Live 1983

The black background proved difficult to maintain due to the ample sunlight from their behinds.
Continuing this week's live in the 1980's series- here are The Smiths!!! Watch your mammary glands!

Monday, September 8, 2014


Infinity Room
What was in front of his eyes went in and out of focus as the landscape slowly shifted like a film dissolve and he found himself yet again somewhere in the past, and in a foreign land.