Earworm : a catchy song or tune that runs continuously through a person’s mind.
Has there ever been a song that you have equally cherished and chastised ? A song that sticks with you all day that you find yourself humming or whistling at the most inappropriate times ?
One such song for me is The Windmills Of My Mind sung by Noel Harrison back in 1968.
Mrs A (A graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama no less) describes it as a Baroque style melody similar to a Bach prelude with it’s numerous modulations. Personally I think it just sounds French.
Picture yourself supping your cafe au lait in a Parisian bistro with the strains of accordion from the beret clad busker across the boulevard.
Hey Pepe Le Peu, gonna gie it a break. Yur doin’ ma heid in wi that tune goin’ roon and roon. A fair near gagged on my croissant !
Of course I would be right. The music was by renowned French pianist and composer Michel Legrand with the English lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
Actor and musician Noel Harrison is better known as the son of Rex of My Fair Lady and Doctor Doolittle fame. Although appearing in numerous musicals Rex Harrison never really sang but talked through his songs (listen to If I Could Talk To The Animals)
Fortunately his boy could hold a tune (almost) and found himself singing on the soundtrack of The Thomas Crown Affair beating Andy Williams to the gig. Who can forget that sexy chess scene when Steve McQueen was all hot under the collar at FayeDunaway’s caressing of the Bishop piece.
The Windmills Of My Mind accompanied a glider scene as well as being used over the opening credits.
So, as the lyrics say :
Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
There’s a lot of hype and excitement surrounding the upcoming David Bowie movie Moonage Daydream…. and why not? The documentary features previously unreleased footage from Bowie’s personal archives and It’s the first film to gain approval from the Bowie estate.
The reviews are all very positive and the movie was well received by critics at this years Cannes Film Festival.
Roger Ebert describes the movie as “a wondrous, dreamy, ambitiously experimental take on the music doc formula” and its already attained a 93% approvals rating on the movie review site ‘Rotten Tomatoes’, by those who’ve seen it.
The trailer does a pretty good job of selling it too.
So if you’re a Bowie fan and you like going to the movies it should be a bit of no brainer then?
Well, you’d think so, except there’s been so many rock/music movies eagerly anticipated, which ultimately disappointed.
Before I get into this let me qualify what I mean by a rock movie.
The Elton John/Queen bio pics are not rock movies. Fictional music-based movies like Purple Rain or Almost Famous, (great movie btw) are not rock movies. Musicals like Grease are not rock movies.
By rock movie, I’m referring to performance based or documentary pieces featuring original artists…. like Woodstock or Gimme Shelter.
For example, I couldn’t wait to see Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same on its release in 1976. They hadn’t toured for 2 years, and this would be an opportunity to see the best live band in the world in their pomp, albeit on the silver screen.
Billed as the ultimate concert movie, the director had cherry-picked and consolidated the best performances from each of their three sold out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1973…. what could go wrong?
Well, for starters you could throw in the farcical fantasy segments (five in all, one for each band member plus manager Peter Grant) and an overblown 26-minute version of ‘Dazed & Confused’.
Robert Plant, who’s fantasy segment involved dressing up as a knight, rescuing maidens and frolicking about in search of the holy grail, probably got it right when he called it “A load of bollocks”
Don’t get me wrong, as anticipated, some of the concert footage was electric but the overall viewing experience was unfortunately marred by the movies self indulgence.
Similarly, I remember being coaxed to the cinema to behold T-Rex’s Born to Boogie, another decent concert movie scuppered by off-stage folly.
There were several bewildering scenes infiltrating the live performances in this one, unfortunately a couple still linger in my mind 50 years later…. One with Bolan dressed as a nun performing as part of a string quartet at a tea party on John Lennon’s lawn, and a bizarre routine featuring Ringo Starr driving a car dressed as a mouse accompanied by a character described in the credits as ‘car eating dwarf’, who during the course of the scene, starts to…. well, the clue’s in the name!
The film was directed by Starr, inspired by the Beatles 1967 movie, Magical Mystery Tour. Poor Ringo must have hammered the mushrooms that summer.
Still, the Bolan devotee I saw the movie with absolutely loved it, couldn’t get enough of the monosyllabic Marc and was totally oblivious to the car eating dwarf.
If we’re talking turkeys however, then perhaps the biggest gobbler of the lot…. (although, not a concert movie as such), is Robert Stigwood’s calamitous, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
How a movie featuring the music of the Beatles and some of the biggest acts of the decade (Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Aerosmith, Earth Wind & Fire, etc), could turn out to be so bad, is quite an accomplishment.
The trailer should have been enough of a red flag, but back in the day I was partial to a bit of the Bee Gees brand of blue-eyed soul, so I was prepared to give the movie a chance.
I should have listened to that wee voice in my head.
Between the cheesy performances lay a plot so bonkers and convoluted I couldn’t start to explain it, but if I tell you that it features Billy Preston as the magical Mr Pepper, so magical it transpires, that he can turn bystanders into nuns by zapping them with lightning bolts from his fingertips… then you’ll get the picture!
On top of this, we had to bear witness to Beatles song after Beatles song, being systematically ravaged, including an excruciating version of Maxwells Silver Hammer by a young comedian on the cusp of greatness called Steve Martin.
Even the soundtrack was a mess, with only Earth Wind & Fire’s version of ‘Gotta Get You into My Life’ gaining any credit. This was probably the biggest shock because after his achievements with Saturday Night Fever and Grease, Stigwood was seen as the man with the Midas touch, when it came to soundtracks.
The fact that this rotten movie scored 11% on Rotten Tomatoes, tells you just how rotten it was.
So, enough about the turkeys, what about the best rock movie’s – well off the top of my head I’d say there’s two I’m more than happy to revisit on a regular basis.
The first being The Last Waltz by The Band, directed by the great Martin Scorsese, and described as a lavish, dynamic act of fan worship, on his part.
The concert in question was The Band’s farewell gig, held on Thanksgiving Day in 1976. The event was beautifully captured by Scorsese and is augmented by an incredible supporting cast including – Dylan, Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, The Staple Singers and Van Morrison.
The film is a mix of live performances and studio segments plus interviews with the group reminiscing on their 16 year journey together.
Scorsese captures a host of great performances, one of the stand-outs being The Band and The Staple Singers collaboration on ‘The Weight‘.
When all’s said and done however, in my book, there is one rock movie that stands head and shoulders above all others – Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads
I can’t say I was a massive Talking Heads fan before I saw it, but I became one soon afterwards.
Directed and crafted by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme before he became Hollywood royalty (Philadelphia, Slaughter of the Lambs), the film was described as “close to perfect” by famed critic Pauline Kael.
The concert kicks off with a solitary David Byrne on an empty stage with a boom-box and an acoustic guitar and the momentum slowly builds with each song as the other band members join him. Eventually there are nine musicians on a fully dressed stage, with the four core band members supplemented by the cream of P-Funk musicians.
Cinematically it’s great, it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off the enigmatic Byrne, whilst his madcap antics (and wardrobe) all add to the theatre.
I’ve watched this movie at the cinema, I’ve purchased it on VHS, on DVD, and on Blu-ray and I’ve also streamed and downloaded it. I never get tired of watching it and any friend interested in music who comes to my house and hasn’t seen it is encouraged to join me in front of a screen with a supply of cold beers for the next 90 minutes.
So….. I expect I’ll go and see Moonage Daydream when it’s released on the 16th September, although my expectations will be relatively low.
I’ve learned my lesson… you don’t get disappointed that way.
By Cat Cook: January 2022, Greece (the place, not the movie!).
I’ve seen quite a few references on this blog and on the Bearsden Academy FB page to the Rio cinema and I guess if you grew up in Bearsden (or nearby) in the 70s, then you’ll probably have a few memories of the old place.
I virtually lived there.
Not because I loved that old cinema – which I did
Not because I was such a huge movie fan – which I was
I had no choice really, my dad was the manager of the Rio for 15 years, my mum ran the kiosk, my big brother helped out after school and our house overlooked the damn place, it was a real family affair and there was no escape really!
When my dad took over the management of the Rio in 1971 it was already 37 years old, having been built in 1934 during the art-deco period with an original capacity of 1,120 seats, sadly there don’t seem to be any images available of when it was in its prime.
I was only 7 when the Rio came into my life, but I have so many strong memories of the place.
One of the first films I can remember sneaking into see as a 7 year old, was ‘A Clockwork Orange’, I’m not going to pretend that I knew what the hell was going on with the gangs in their white outfits, bowler hats and eye makeup, drinking milk – but it always stayed with me.
I also remember seeing the Exorcist age 9 and realising it wasn’t a Disney movie – “Your mother sucks cocks in hell” was something I learned not to repeat at the dinner table! Similarly, seeing Carrie as a 9 year old was a bit heavy and brought about a few sleepless nights! I should also add at this point that I loved Bambi and Mary Poppins too, I was quite normal really! I just had access to all the cinematic experiences on offer and my Mum & Dad were sooo busy running the cinema 24-7 to worry about me skunking about the place.
Of course, being a ‘cinema brat’ had its benefits, apart from having the privilege of ‘access all areas’ I was spoiled rotten by the staff and my Birthday parties were always extremely popular.
One memory still treasured was the Rio Saturday Club, especially at Christmas when we’d collect donations for Strathblane Children’s Home. In fact, if I had to choose my favourite Rio perk, it was going to the wholesalers to select the gifts for the kids at the Home before going up there with dad to hand them out.
As you can imagine, I saw so many great movies at the Rio, often multiple times! I reckon I must have seen Grease about 30 times and Saturday Night Fever wasn’t far behind.
My big brother Graham and his mates (Russ Stewart & Des Marlborough – both of this parish) were regular cinema-goers as well, but I remember they were more interested in the “adult themed’ genres of the day!
Whenever I see a great 70s movie now, like The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars or Airplane it transports me back to the first time I saw them at the Rio and reminds me of the long queues of expectant movie-goers forming outside the cinema an hour or so before the doors open
Like any business that deals with the public, running a cinema wasn’t always plain sailing, particularly at weekends, and particularly as the Rio was equidistant between Maryhill and Drumchapel. There were quite a few incidents with rival gangs, mainly in the car park thankfully, and with gangs threatening people in the queue before relieving them of their money. The local police were usually quick to react to the situation, often handing out their own justice, at the rear of the cinema.
It was funny to see people trying the same old tricks, time and time again, always thinking they were the first to think of them!
Like – the folk who would pay for one person and then try to open the fire-doors for their mates, always believing they were the first to try it and couldn’t understand why they got caught.
Like – the folk who would try and hide in the toilets to see a movie twice. Always believing they were the first to try it and couldn’t understand why they got caught.
Going through the lost property box was always good fun as well and it was amazing to see what people left behind…. everything from umbrellas to frilly knickers.
Everyone mucked in and there was a real kinship behind the scenes, a lot of the staff became like family to us, especially after my brother Graham died.
Many folk reading this may even remember some of the Rio team: Mary and Linda the young good-looking girls, Wullie the friendly doorman and Jimmy the projectionist, who would nip out onto the roof for a fly smoke and sometimes miss the changing of the reel, leaving a blank screen and a lot of disgruntled customers…. They were all great people, who always turned up whatever the weather with many of them travelling by foot from Maryhill or Drumchapel daily.
Of course, there was a lot of ‘back-row’ action back then as the cinema was one of the few places you could go with your boyfriend or girlfriend when you were too young to go to the pub. In retrospect I should have started a gossip column as I knew everyone who was dating at the cinema on a Friday & Saturday night.
Funnily enough, when I went on a teenage cinema date myself, I still went to the Rio, the perks were too good to ignore.
A friend of the family managed the Odeon in Glasgow so I could always go there if I fancied a change. Basically, I never had to pay to see a movie back then.
My dad managed the Rio from 1971 until it closed in 1985 and was turned into flats.
By 1985 I guess I had temporarily fallen out of love with the cinema as Nursing, Boys & Holidays came into my life. I did rekindle my love as the facilities and options improved through the modern multiplexes but for me there will only be one cinema that is truly in my heart. In the words of Simon Le Bon – Her Name is RIO……
You’d think learning to walk would be a fairly straight-forward, once-in-a-lifetime thing. Yet somehow I ended up teaching myself how to do it three times before I reached the ripe old age of twenty-one.
The first time fell into the conventional category where you take those first tentative baby steps into the waiting arms of a nearby adult. As I have no recollection of this event, I have to rely on anecdotal evidence from family historians about my debut standing on my own two feet.
The story goes that I left my mum’s side, toddled off towards my grandad sitting across the room with my arms flailing like a windmill in a hurricane, picked up a fair bit of momentum and, just as I got within touching distance of him, nosedived into the carpet.
One small step for man…one giant laugh for mankind.
Anyway, I seemed to master the art of staying upright as the years went on and even managed to figure out how to do different walking speeds.
There was slow – a default position for going to school, supermarket shopping with my mum or doing household chores – and then there was fast for coming back from school, going to the shop on Saturdays for sweets and comics and heading out the house to go to football training.
This stood me in good stead until 1978 when, aged 19, I tried to reinvent my walking style.
And it was all John Travolta’s fault. Have you seen Travolta, playing the part of Tony Manero, in the opening scene of the movie Saturday Night Fever? He oozes cool as he swaggers through the streets of downtown Brooklyn in New York with a spring in his step, a puffed-out chest and a glint in his eye.
He bobs and weaves his way through the throng with a proper strut – and the thumping Bee Gees’ anthem ‘Stayin’ Alive’ with him every step of the way.
Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk, I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk.
I was engrossed by that scene and decided there and then I had to learn to walk like that. Easier said than done, of course. While Travolta was able to pull off his cooler-than-ice vibe with consummate ease, I was more like Bambi on ice as I tried to imitate him.
I dressed for the part with black trousers, a red Simon shirt with the regulation three buttons undone to allow the big collar to rest on the shoulders of my faux, oh so very faux, black leather bomber jacket and my shiny black shoes.
Yep, I know it should have been Cuban-heeled boots, but I felt self-conscious enough without shelling out for a pair of those bad boys. Anyway, I was already six feet tall so I hardly needed the extra lift.
And that, I keep telling myself, is where I went wrong. I reckon the heels gave Travolta the ability to glide and stride while my flat shoes only ever seemed to make me flounce and bounce.
I never really got a handle on how to carry it off and my short-lived Tony Manero era came to a shuddering halt a few months later after a brutal football injury.
One reckless sliding tackle plus six aluminium studs planted on my standing leg added up to a busted knee cap, a dislodged cartilage and torn ligaments.
I was put in a stookie, handed a pair of those old wooden crutches which lacerated your armpits and began the slow, laborious process of learning how to walk all over again.
First up, I went into hospital for an operation to have my knee cap put back together, my ligaments tied up and two-thirds of my cartilage taken out. This was the late 1970s so there was no keyhole surgery…more of a full-blown open-door procedure with a scalpel, stitches and a six-inch wound.
My rehab meant a never-ending cycle of hospital appointments, physiotherapy and swimming sessions until I could walk properly again.
It was the best part of a year before I was able to sprint full pelt on a football pitch, which is all the more remarkable considering I couldn’t do that before the injury! Aside from a creaking knee joint in the winter months, there is no real lasting damage.
Now that I’m in my sixties, the only thing I have to worry about is mastering how to walk without stooping ever lower.
Anyone know where I can get my hands on a pair of size 10-and-a-half Cuban-heeled boots?
The Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes, Batman, Dorothy… fictional characters I grant you, but all universally feted and admired.
But they didn’t do it alone, and although we all know who their sidekicks were, no one talks much about them, because at the end of the day, they’re the flunky’s, and who’s really interested in the support act? Unless its Queen supporting Mott the Hoople at the Apollo…. and that was nearly 50 years ago!
The sidekick’s are the perennial betas to the main event’s alpha’s… the show-stoppers who always seem to have greater powers, more charisma, and most importantly, bigger ego’s, than the supporting cast. Like a beloved pet the sidekick’s greatest attributes are typically noted as being devotion and loyalty.
Spare a thought then for the Tonto’s, Doctor Watson’s, Robin boy wonder’s and Scarecrow’s. In other words, the Diddy Kong’s of the world…..
There’s an old (and now probably, un-PC) saying that ‘behind every great man there’s a great woman’ and the same can be said with sidekick’s, think about it for a second…. as great as he was, would Bowie have been as good and as cocksure in the Ziggy era without Mick Ronson? Likewise, would Ricardo Montalban’s, Mr Roarke have been as suave and sophisticated without Herve Villechaize’s Tattoo ringing the bell tower whilst bellowing “The Plane, The Plane!” in Fantasy Island?
As this is predominantly a 70s blog the aim of the exercise is to identify the most impressive 70s sidekick, fictional or otherwise, so I’ve listed 5 nominees below which you can vote for on our Facebook page as well as putting forward any of your own nominations….. https://www.facebook.com/groups/onceuponatimeinthe70s
1) Kenickie Murdoch (Jeff Conaway) –Grease, (sidekick to Danny Zuko)
In Grease, the movie, Kenickie was played by Jeff Conaway of Taxi fame and was part of the original Broadway cast of Grease – where incidentally he played the lead role of Danny Zuko whilst his good mate Travolta played Doody, one of the putzy T-Birds.
Although Kenickie was cast as the sidekick it could be argued that he was cooler than Zuko… borne by the fact that not only was he the proud owner of Greased Lightnin’, but he also didn’t mope about a kids swing-park greeting about getting chucked by someone who must have repeated 4th year 5 times!
Plus with a name like Murdoch he obviously came from good Scottish stock!
2) Igor (Marty Feldman)– Young Frankenstein (sidekick to Dr Frederick Von Frankenstein)
Played by the brilliant Marty Feldman, Igor was the hunchbacked, bug-eyed servant who when asked by the good doctor why his hump kept changing sides, answered “what hump?”.
‘Eye-gore’ as he liked to be known was Dr ‘Fronkenshteen’s’ hapless assistant and was responsible for the mayhem that ensued by collecting a brain labelled ‘Abnormal’ rather than the brain of the revered and brilliant historian, he was sent to secure.
If his star turn in one of the funniest movies of the 70s wasn’t enough, Feldman’s further claim to fame was that his ‘Walk this way’ line from the film was adopted by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, who saw the movie, went back to the studio and wrote a song…. the rest as they say is history.
3) John Oates– Singer/musician in Hall & Oates (sidekick to Daryl Hall)
Hall & Oates were often described as….. ‘the tall, blonde, good looking one with the unbelievable vocal range and the wee guy with the curly hair and moustache’.
There’s no doubt then that Oates played second fiddle to Daryl Hall, but as sidekick’s go it was a pretty decent fiddle.
Oates wrote or co-wrote many of the pairs big hits including She’s Gone, Sara Smile, You Make my Dreams and I Can’t Go for That, and whilst he didn’t have Hall’s vocal range or stage presence, his harmonies, co-vocals and guitar playing were key to the band’s success (see clip below).
Hall & Oates may not have been equals in terms of talent and their partnership wasn’t as egalitarian as Lennon & McCartney, but Oates was certainly no Art Garfunkel.
4) Dennis Waterman– Perennial sidekick: to Jack Regan in The Sweeney and Arthur Daley in Minder.
A seasoned thespian who performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company at 13. Waterman was 27 when he appeared in The Sweeney as Detective George Carter, the hard-drinking, brawling, womanising, good-cop to John Thaw’s caustic Regan.
Waterman’s next big role in Minder, as a brawling, womanising ex-con who becomes a personal bodyguard wasn’t too much of a stretch then.
In a cruel twist of fate, Minder was actually devised post-Sweeney as a star vehicle for Waterman who relished the chance to shine after three seasons of playing the sidekick in The Sweeney. Cole’s part as Arthur Daly was meant to be a secondary/supporting role, however after a few episodes it was evident that Daly’s character was playing big with the audience, so the scripts and storylines were revised, leaving poor Dennis to fall back into his customary role as a sidekick once again.
5) Chewbacca– Wookie (sidekick to Han Solo)
Enforcer, body guard and loyal soldier, Chewie is Han Solo’s co-pilot and best buddy.
The character was inspired by George Lucas’ dog so it’s no surprise that one of Chewie’s greatest attributes is the talent most associated with sidekick’s – loyalty. Although he enjoys bringing the cocksure Solo down a peg or two every now and then, prompting the “Laugh it up fuzzball” retort, he is a faithful companion and would lay down his life for Solo…. a true sidekick!
Why are there no female sidekicks on the list?? I tried really hard to think of some but in almost all cases…. Sonny & Cher, Ike & Tina Turner, The Krankies, it was the bloke who was the sidekick!
I did think of one….. Peter Pan’s Tinker Bell but that was made in 1924.
I remember the evening like it was 50 years ago…. an evening that would change my life….
My Dad had just brought home a film projector…. A slice of Hollywood was coming to our humble suburban abode and life, surely, would never be the same again.
I had visions of Mum serving up choc ices and Kia-ora as I sat on the family sofa with my chums watching all the new releases… Planet of the Apes, The Graduate, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid…. there would be a blockbuster every week.
Deveron Road was about to turn into Hollywood Boulevard… all we needed was a red carpet and a popcorn machine.
Setting the contraption up, my Dad explained that he’d got it from a friend who had kindly included a couple of reels of film to get us started.
The first reel was a home movie featuring the family who’d previously owned the projector, frolicking in the Clyde at Wemyss Bay where they lived. Not exactly The Poseiden Adventure but we had to start somewhere and at least it helped us to get all the settings aligned.
We sat in eager anticipation as he set up the next reel and to give us a clue he mentioned that the upcoming feature was a ‘classic black & white movie’.
“Laurel & Hardy?” I suggested…. “It’s a Wonderful Life?” my Mum volunteered….
I’m sure I spotted a wee smirk on his face as he turned the lights off and pressed start.
The room and the screen were in complete darkness before the title appeared, accompanied by the eeriest church organ music known to man……
There were to be no kind-hearted Angels earning their wings in this horrendous feature…. Nosferatu, was a terrifying German-Expressionist horror movie, made in 1922….. the first film ever in fact, to be based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel.
The protagonist, Count Orlok wasn’t your run of the mill, tall-dark & handsome gigolo of a vampire with slicked back hair either…. ala Christopher Lee or Vincent Price… he was the spookiest, creepiest, most chilling looking dude I’d ever laid eyes on in my young life.
I was transfixed with fear…. I didn’t want to watch it, but I wasn’t going upstairs to bed on my own either… lying there in the dark, listening to that horrific organ music, allowing my vivid imagination to run amok!
I always thought of myself as a pretty robust kid…. True, the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT) had given me a few sleepless nights when I was 7 or 8 but this was a whole new ball game…. the SRT was like Andy Pandy compared to this carnage!
I don’t recall getting much sleep that night.
In fact for what seemed like the next couple of years, I had a pathological and (admittedly) illogical fear of vampires.
Vampires were supposed to be a myth, but not to me… and I went to extreme lengths to protect myself from them… I wasn’t taking any chances.
I kept a bible on my bedside table. I ‘borrowed’ a silver Cross from my Mum’s jewellery box, that I wore at night. I ‘borrowed’ a little vassal of holy water from an Aunt which I kept under my pillow. And the piece d’resistance……. A wooden stake (carved then ‘borrowed’ from the school woodwork lab) kept under my bed, in case I had to go full Van Helsing on the Count’s ass.
I should also add that I tried my best to acquire some garlic but every time I added it to the weekly shopping list, I got the strangest looks.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but I dreaded night time… daybreak just couldn’t come fast enough.
Looking back, I fully related to George Clooney’s character in the excellent From Dusk till Dawn when he said….
“And I don’t want to hear anything about not believing in vampires. Because I don’t f***ing believe in vampires! But I believe in my own two eyes! And what I saw is f***ing vampires!“
(it’s funnier when he says it, watch clip below)
If there was a Hammer House of Horror movie on, (and there seemed to be one every Friday night) I’d creep downstairs and covertly sit on the bottom step of the landing, to listen to it. I knew I was tormenting myself, but at least I wasn’t upstairs on my own, thinking the worst.
My Dad, (a non-believer!) thought this was all a big joke so one Friday night when I’d been chased from the bottom step back up to my room, he thought that it would be a jolly jape to throw pebbles up at my bedroom window from the back garden.
Thinking, quite reasonably, that it was a Vampire (in the form of a bat) trying to get into my room I jumped out of bed, ran downstairs quicker than you could say “I have crossed oceans of time to find you“, only to find my Dad pissing himself laughing and my Mum chastising him… “you’ll give the poor lad a heart attack Joe!“
Reflecting on my ‘wimpish past’… apart from the Singing Ringing Tree the only other thing that had given me the heebie- jeebies prior to this monstrosity of a movie was an episode of the ‘Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ called Final Escape, about John, a convicted bank robber.
Determined to escape his sentence, John befriends an inmate named Doc, who’s in charge of the prison infirmary.
They hatch a plan to hide John inside the coffin of the next inmate who dies.
The coffin will then be buried and dug up by Doc after the gravediggers and guards leave.
It all goes according to plan, until Doc fails to dig John up. A terrified John learns why, when the shroud slips off the face of the corpse sharing the coffin with him: It’s Doc, who died of a heart attack the night before….Ahhhh!
I’m not sure when I ‘grew out’ of my Vampire phobia, I think it probably just got ‘trumped’ by The Exorcist which was much scarier and even more realistic.
I remember at the time you couldn’t pick up a newspaper without reading about some poor sod being possessed…. ‘an exorcism being performed in a town near you’…. or some other form of paranormal activity.
Fast forward a couple of years when the movie Jaws was breaking box office records and guess what? From nowhere, shark attacks started to be tabloid front page news with shocking regularity. “Great White seen at Helensburgh pier“
Life imitating art or just a way to sell more papers?
Of course Vampires are uber cool now so no one’s stocking up on bibles, or wooden stakes anymore… instead, windows are left wide open and saucer’s of blood are left on the ledge to beckon the undead….
Yesterdays persona non grata has become today’s big poster boy.
Anyway, give me the old-school ghouls any day of the week, at least Count Orlok was a scary looking mo-fo… not like these pretty boys below!
I think it was the author Ralph Waldo Emerson who said ‘life is a journey not a destination’, which is a quote that grows in relevance as the years roll on.
His quote is relatable to me in a few ways, one of them being how tastes and preferences change. Take going to the cinema as an example of changing times and tastes.
The first cinema experience for many of us was Saturday mornings spent at the the ABC minors club, or the like.
Those weekly events were a big step towards our adolescent freedom… pure independence from the minute you left your house and hopped onto the bus or train until the minute you got back.
For those that remember, the ABC minors club was a feast of cartoons and old black and white movies like The Lone Ranger or The Three Stooges, with a few pop hits of the day thrown in at the intervals to allow you to fill your face with Kia-ora and choc-ices.
Jump forward a few years and the next stage of the cinematic journey involved going on dates… with chicks to the flicks.
Saturday night at eight o’clock I know where I’m gonna go, I’m gonna pick my baby up, And take her to the picture show.
Saturday night at the movies, Who cares what picture you see When you’re huggin’ with your baby in the last row in the balcony?
Sounds romantic doesn’t it, but it never quite worked out that way. there was no pickin’ your baby up for a start, she was usually dropped off (and collected outside cinema the minute the film finished) by an overprotective Dad, drawing daggers at you as you gormlessly stood there drenched in Brut.
Looking back…. sitting in silence, side by side, in a large room with no lights was probably the perfect scenario for all involved, particularly when you were a 13/14-year-old monosyllabic boy with a bad haircut.
Back then, I hadn’t mastered the art of small-talk, (or banter, or bantz as it’s now called) or even basic conversation, so what could I chat to girls about when the only topics I could talk about with any authority were football and…. well actually nothing else, just football really.
It was clear therefore, that the perfect setting for this total lack of discourse was the dark silence of the local fleapit, regardless of what film was viewing.
Of course, what goes on in the back row stays in the back row so there’s going to be no juicy gossip shared here, but as most of you will remember, 75% of the film was spent contorting your arm around the shoulder of your date, 24.5% was spent fighting cramp and building up the courage to make that awkward next move…. and if you eventually overcame all your fears and anxieties, then you maybe got to share a wee snog for 90 seconds before the lights came on… realising you’d missed the conclusion to the film.
I was genuinely gutted to learn years later that General Custer did not survive the Battle of Little Bighorn, and that (spoiler alert) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Bonnie and Clyde also perished in the dying embers of said movies. No wonder there were no sequels!
Where The Drifters got it spot-on however, was that when you were that young it genuinely didn’t matter what film was on… the event was everything.
Within a couple of years however, it was a different story, we started to become a bit more discerning about the movies we wanted to see, and it’s at this stage X rated movies came onto the radar.
In our mid-teens gaining admission to an (18) was a badge of honour but as things transpired some of the best features at that time just happened to be X-rated.
As an example, five of the best movies of that period were all (18) X-rated……
A Clockwork Orange, The Exorcist, Enter the Dragon The Godfather 2 and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
A Clockwork Orange was a strange one, it was probably my least favourite of the five, but culturally it had a huge impact on us back then.
Within a couple of weeks of seeing it the impressionable ones amongst us were wearing Crombie coats, white sta-prest trousers and nicking our Dad’s umbrellas so we could be suede-heads and strut about like Malcolm McDowall’s character, even in the rare days that the sun was splitting the sky… We must have looked like the numpties we undoubtedly were.
The cinematic landscape has changed a lot since then.
I can think of six cinemas that I used to go to regularly in that period, only one, The Grosvenor in Hillhead, remains open as a cinema, the rest are flats or in the case of The Salon, also in Hillhead, a trendy bar (Hillhead Bookclub) where patrons play ping-pong and drink concoctions called coconut firecrackers.
I have mixed emotions when I go there now, trying to work out where I used to sit, and remember who with.
It’s nostalgic to see the remnants of the great old cinema, but it’s also poignant to think of all the fantastic movies, the nervy first dates and the collective memories that the grand old building harbours.
Who knows what the old playhouse will be transformed into next but at least we still have access to it today…. which is a blessing.
We all seem to be time-challenged these days but if you needed to kill 4 or 5 hours in the 70s there used to be some great double bills available to see…. a couple I remember with relish were Blazing Saddles + Monty Python & the Holy Grail and Midnight Express + Taxi Driver.
Thinking back… including intermissions each of those double bills accounted for approximately 5 hours’ worth of entertainment…. even the 70’s adverts were hilarious.
Is it any wonder then, that these old cinemas went out of business? Nowadays a blockbuster will be shown on a loop, five or six times a day on one screen in a multiplex that has 10 separate screens…. so up to 60 showings a day. Compare this to two showings a day on one screen in the old style cinemas and do the maths…
I guess it’s just another example of changing and developing tastes…. we start off as impressionable kids thinking that nothing can beat these grainy old black and white movies on a Saturday morning…. that our local cinema is the most exotic place in the world, and before you know it, we’re watching computer animation in a 10-screen multiplex with queues a mile long waiting to buy rubber hotdogs, cardboard popcorn and a gallon of carbonated liquid for a small ransom…..
Sometimes, the ‘journey’ doesn’t always take you to a better destination!
For anyone who’s interested, here’s my top ten 70’s movies in no particular order, based on repeat viewings over the years…
The Godfather 2
Monty Pythons The Life of Brian
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Saturday Night Fever
As a p.s. here’s some of those classic cinema ads from the 70’s, they don’t make ’em like this anymore….
Ever sat and watched a new movie, heard a line of dialogue and said to yourself: Bet they’re still saying that in 40-50 years time.
Thought not. Well, you wouldn’t have much reason to, would you?
You’d be far more likely to be caught up with the visuals and plot when watching a film for the first time.
And yet, as the years roll by, there are certain quotes or phrases which become synonymous with movies. It’s as if they’re joined at the hip.
If I offer up: “Here’s looking at you, kid”…“I coulda been a contender”…“Bond. James Bond”…“I feel the need, the need for speed” and “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti”, the chances are you’d be able to identify Casablanca (1942), On The Waterfront (1954), Dr No (1962), Top Gun (1986) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
Two things about these examples. Firstly, there are no representatives from the 1970s – be patient, we’ll come to that – and there is nothing from the 21st Century.
That was deliberate on my part. I feel you have to let these things evolve over time, let them weave their way into the fabric of popular culture and then – and only then – will they be considered classic lines of film dialogue.
The 1970s wasn’t too shabby when it came to marrying up blockbuster movies with killer lines, so here’s my top 10 quotable quotes from that era:
“May the Force be with you.”
Star Wars (1977)
The line by Harrison Ford’s Han Solo character – in a conversation with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) – has inspired generations of kids wielding toy light-sabers ever since the film came out.
And it has been adopted by fans all over the world who celebrate May the fourth as their official Star Wars day.
“You talkin’ to me?”
Taxi Driver (1976)
No matter how many times you’ve seen the clip, it still has the ability to send a chill down your spine as Travis Bickle – played by Robert de Niro – talks to himself in the mirror.
He’s rehearsing for a big confrontation and the iconic scene leaves you in no doubt just what he’s capable of.
“I must be crazy to be in a loony bin like this.”
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
This was a groundbreaking movie of the time and it gave us a groundbreaking performance by Jack Nicholson as asylum inmate Randle P McMurphy.
His memorable one-liner comes near the end when he’s planning a boozy last hurrah for everyone before making his escape from the institution.
“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
Apocalypse Now (1979)
There’s no getting away from this quote from Robert Duvall’s Vietnam War officer – it’s been ingrained in the public’s psyche for 40-odd years.
The full 12-inch disco remix version goes like this: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed for 12 hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill…smelled like victory.”
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Roy Schneider delivers the line after his Chief Brody character gets up close and personal with the giant shark for the first time.
Movie fact: The phrase you still hear over and over again to this day was an ad-lib from Schneider as part of a production crew in-joke.
“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
The Godfather (1972)
Despite the cotton wool filling his cheeks, Marlon Brando manages to sound calm and menacing at the same time when he says this.
It’s Don Corleone assuring godson Johnny Fontane he will win the race to land a part in a big Hollywood movie. And he does win it..by a horse’s head!
National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)
More of a chant than a phrase, but it’s still one of the endearing moments from the movie depicting the ups and downs of the Deltas fraternity house.
John Belushi – as manic Bluto – starts it off to lift the spirits of his frat brothers and it turns into a full-blown raucous drink-fuelled bash. Paaaarty!
“You gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya…punk?”
Dirty Harry (1971)
This one comes after Clint Eastwood’s edgy cop corners the baddie at a disused quarry – and you just know the showdown can only end one way.
Tough-talking Clint gives him the spiel about how he can’t remember if he’s fired five shots or six, allowing his crazed perp the chance to go for his gun…and, well, I’m sure you can guess the rest.
“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more.”
When newscasters go off script with a rant like this, they have the ability to make the news themselves.
Peter Finch’s Howard Beale character, resplendent in trench coat and striped pyjamas, is at the centre of the outburst when he urges his viewers to rise up and howl at the moon.
“What have the Romans ever done for us?”
Life of Brian (1979)
The Monty Python crew nailed it with this scene when John Cleese’s leader of the People’s Front of Judea tries to whip up some agitation against the Romans.
By the time he’s finished, his watered-down diatribe becomes: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system and public health..what have the Romans ever done for us?” Genius!
So what have the screenwriters ever done for us? Well, for a start, these unsung heroes of the movie business have given us a legacy that will last forever.
And in doing so they have debunked the myth that a picture is worth a thousand words. Turns out all you need is a handful of well-crafted memorable ones.
According to the Harvard professor and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, mankind’s never had it so good.
He reasons that by almost every metric of human wellbeing, the world is getting better —everything from war, violence, and poverty (all declining) to health, wealth, happiness, and equality (all improving).
I’m not about to argue against the Prof or his logic but despite the obvious progress there are still a few things from the 70s that I’m sure we all miss.
I don’t mean major things, like – loved ones or youth or waistlines, they’re a given of course, however, I’m not talking about superfluous things either, like Golden Cups or Sea Monkeys.
I readily admit that my choices are all minor in the grand scheme of things but they’re particular to me….
1) Jukeboxes: I know we can stream music from a grain of sand nowadays and Spotify can provide us with 70 million downloadable songs at the touch of a button, and really, I’m grateful for that, it’s progress, it really is.
But I do miss a great jukebox in a pub, because it’s the way it should be, it’s democracy at its finest, everyone has a choice and if the proprietors are smart and curate the best of each genre then it doesn’t matter if you’re a Rock fan and the jukebox is playing Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding or Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell, the chances are you’ll still appreciate best in class.
The alternative is generally hit or miss and usually in the hands of a disinterested staff member who’s happy to put on anything for a bit of background noise.
I’ve left pubs before because the music was so banal.
In my local they have an online jukebox system called Secret DJ where you can log-in using the pubs Wi-Fi and make your own choices (everyone that logs in has 3 free choices before you have to pay), there’s not a great selection to choose from to be honest but there’s a bit of Steely Dan & The Doobie Brothers & Al Green and of course Wichita Lineman & Dock of the Bay…
It’s not as good as a finely curated jukebox of course but it’s better than listening to Adele on a loop.
2) Robert Halpern:
In the late 70s one of the best nights out for me was a visit to The Pavilion in Glasgow to see a stage hypnotist called Robert Halpern.
I must have seen the guy 20 times at least, and over the course of a few years I dragged along everyone I knew to see his act… mainly for the show but also to witness their reactions, which were usually hysterical.
The premise of the show was pretty simple and never really changed.
He would hypnotise about 40 people every night. Most of them hypnotised within the first 10 minutes of the show, unknowingly put under, whilst sitting in their seats.
He’d then home-in on about 12 principal characters (usually the mouthy ones) who would become the stars of the show.
I took a friend who on attending the show for the first time got hypnotised, and I watched it all unfold.
One minute he was sat beside me saying it was all claptrap the next he was trudging up to the stage like a zombie with his fingers clasped so tightly that his hands and arms were shaking.
At the end of the show my mate vehemently denied that he had been hypnotised and insisted that he’d been fully aware of everything that had gone on.
I so wished I had a camera phone back then to show him his ‘awareness’ at work.
He didn’t think it was strange at all, that… He was up on stage in front of 1,500 people… Or that he was eating raw onions that supposedly tasted like sweet apples…. Or that he would start taking all his clothes off when he heard a certain song… Or that he was stuck to a chair that he couldn’t get out of for 10 minutes…. Or that he was trying to feed a carrot to a wooden horse…. Or that he believed the number 3 didn’t exist so when he counted his fingers, he had 11 digits… despite him working for a bank!
He said he was just performing for the benefit of the show, which I guess on some level is how ‘response to suggestion’ works… which is at the core of hypnotism.
Anyway, as you can probably guess, the star of the show every night as always, was the great Glasgow public.
There was always a gallus wee punter telling the hypnotist to ‘f*ck off ya clown!’ or a schemie laying into him with ‘do ya think I’m buttoned up the back, ya dobber!’.
At the height of his popularity this dobber was earning £25,000 per week, had added a Bengal tiger a set of gallows and a spaceship to his act and was swanning about in a Rolls Royce.
Things didn’t end well for Halpern though. A girl hypnotised by him marched off the front of the stage into the orchestra pit, when as part of the act he’d convinced her she needed a pee and was desperate for the bathroom. She broke her leg, damaged her back and sued.
Halpern, a regular at the casinos, was by now allegedly bankrupt.
Even though I knew the drill I miss those shows, they were funny, chaotic, very live and obviously spontaneous.
One of my favourite parts was the wooden horse routine –
“when you wake up you will see a beautiful stallion, a Grand National winner, you love that horse and no one else is allowed to go near it, if anyone touches your horse you will be livid…. 1-2-3 Wake Up!”
Cue wee Glasgow punter when he wakes up and sees another wee Glasgow punter sitting on the wooden horse – “hey you, ya thieving b*stard, get aff my f*cking horse!!!”
3) Laugh out loud movies:
I never laughed so much in the cinema as I did in the 70s – Blazing Saddles, Life of Brian, Kentucky Fried Movie, Young Frankenstein, The Jerk, *Caddyshack, *Airplane, etc…
(*the last two were actually released early in 1980 but were devised & written in the 70s and filmed in 79, so I’m claiming them for the 70s)
Don’t get me wrong there have been some great comedies in subsequent decades – Borat, Step Brothers, In Bruges, In the Loop, etc, but nothing quite as hilarious as Mel Brooks and The Pythons at their best.
The depressing thing about a lot of those 70s movies however is that none of them would get made in todays ‘cancel culture’.
Don’t get me wrong, if something is genuinely offensive then it shouldn’t see the light of day, but nowadays a big section of society gets offended by everything and being outraged seems to give some people the right to take the moral high ground and say ‘I’m offended therefore I’m principled’…. permitting them to jump on whatever bandwagon is rolling through social media that week.
Creatively, this leads to a culture of fear and reduces risk taking, which in turn stymies talent and imagination.
Take Blazing Saddles as an example.. as brilliant as it is, that screenplay would never be pitched to studio execs today.
It’s mistakenly referred to as a racist movie by some, when in fact it’s actually one of the greatest anti-racist movies of all time…
Co-written by Richard Pryor, who also advised on the language, the films original title was Tex X: it was planned to be an homage to Malcolm X, and was conceived from the outset as an unflinching attack on racism
True, it requires a modicum of critical thinking to work out who the butt of the satire, sarcasm and absurdity is aimed at, but surely we can trust the general public to work that out for themselves without the need for a ‘3-minute racism warning message’ recently added to the start of Blazing Saddles (and Gone With the Wind) on HBO in America.
Likewise, was The Life of Brian really blasphemous or was Brian just “A very naughty boy” who happened to be born next door and on the same day as Jesus?
On reflection, maybe I’m using Movies as a means of bitching about todays ‘woke culture’, so I best stop there before I get cancelled!