Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Toy leaks, snobbery rises

Well, in news that is perhaps even bigger than if he chose to come out of retirement, the big music story at the moment is the “leak” of an unreleased David Bowie album, Toy. A bit more info will no doubt emerge in this post, but the short version would be that this is the album that he wished to release after the …hours record, but a dispute with the label saw it shelved, with Heathen emerging soon after.

Whereas there seems to have been no intention to ever release the album (Bowie has had his own label arrangement for years and could have put it out at any time he saw fit), there is, you would image, a difference between it being unreleased and the great one’s feelings on this surfacing unofficially. In regards of the rise of the internet as a conduit for increased music piracy, when asked about it Bowie’s response was along the lines of “why should I give a flying f***”, pointing out that his stuff had been bootlegged since the 60s and hadn’t seemed to have had a negative effect on him thus far. Whereas there has been no official comment from him or his representatives yet, one suspects that the view here may well be different. This is not a fan recording of a concert, after all – what’s been passed around for free here (unless you are one of the people who have bewilderingly paid large amounts of money for a CDR of it off one of the more famous internet auction sites) is something that David Bowie spent a good deal of time and money to make.

If the question is have I then got a copy then the answer would be yes, dear reader. I am an avid Bowie fan, and so was not going to turn my back on this modern day curiosity from the great man. I am hopefully, however, not going to speak of Toy in the same way that several people are on the internet, which we shall get to later.

Exactly how “unreleased” the Toy album is would be something of a debatable point as around half of it has surfaced officially, with another decent chunk being songs heard before. Toy was conceived by Bowie as a part new album, part quasi-follow up to his covers album Pin-Ups, the difference being that instead of his heroes he would be doing covers, or if you will re-recordings, of some of his early, somewhat obscure songs from the 60s.

Of the new songs, at least two appeared directly on the album released instead of Toy, the rather good Heathen. Toy’s purported opening track, Uncle Floyd, was overhauled and appeared on Heathen as Slip Away, noticeably losing the intricate sample intro. Similarly, Afraid was also re-worked from the version here and appeared on the, if you will, “replacement album”. A couple of the other tracks on this presented version of Toy featured as b-sides on singles, or, perhaps with a sense of retrospective irony, as “internet exclusives”.

In regards of the other half of the Toy album, one track which certainly appeared on a subsequent release was the re-recorded version of Conversation Piece. It turned up on the 2 CD version of Heathen, and is as good to hear again now as it was then. Whereas the original was a rather folksy, quasi-Dylan number, this version has a much darker edge with a considerably deeper voiced Bowie. Well worth tracking down and hearing.

As far as the other covers / “updates” go, perhaps the one that us fans were most excited about was Liza Jane. As this was his first ever single (released under the name Davie Jones and the King Bees), it always had a kind of “bookend” feel to it. Splendid that it has surfaced, although if I’m honest it’s not the greatest ever Bowie track I’ve heard. And it’s not in the top 20/50 Bowie tunes, either. That said, the new version of I Dig Everything is excellent, as indeed is the refreshed take on Let Me Sleep Beside You.

Before going on with something of a “whine” or valid observation, I would say that this presented version of Toy is short of being a lost masterpiece, but is a well above average album. Whatever the dispute around royalties and publishing rights prevented this from being released as intended really did rob Bowie fans of some great songs. The sound of it is almost “transitional” when you place it in the context of its intended release date. It carries a good deal of the laid back, chilled sound of ….hours, but also anticipates the return to his edgier sound of the mid-90s, something that was present throughout Heathen and indeed on what looks likely to be his last studio outing, Reality. It is a shame that Bowie fans are in a position where they have no choice but to hear this via less than legal channels, but that’s the only way to hear these songs, sadly.

Right, on to the down side of this release. Whereas the vast majority of us Bowie fans are just happy to enjoy his music and chat about this n that from his career, there exists a minority, militant front obsessed with apparently “outdoing” any and all other Bowie fans with their (to their minds) knowledge and “expertise”. The emergence of this version of Toy has caused an unprecedented assault on the internet from this type of “fan”, to the extent that I am considering closing comments on this post.

The reason I keep saying “this version” of Toy or similar is as an act of appeasement to this rather obnoxious crowd. Apparently, according to these experts, this track listing is different from the one they were “told by sources very close to David would be released.”. Yeah, right. The main bone of contention would be the exclusion of a re-recorded Can’t Help Thinking About Me. The basis for the belief that this would be on the album appears to have been the fact that Bowie did it as part of the set for his brilliant VH-1 Storytellers show. No one has ever produced a scrap of evidence to suggest that he has re-recorded this slightly amusing, mostly dire song, but you try telling this lot otherwise.

Another annoying trend is the emergence of those saying “oh, I have had this for a few years now, this is old news”. No you have not, and not it isn’t. Bar some still unsubstantiated claims that a full version of the album made the rounds around 2005 (and I know of not one fanatical collector who was able to get even close to a copy of it), all that has surfaced before now have been “fan created” variants, featuring the known tracks that turned up as b-sides, album tracks and extras, complemented by the 60s versions of the songs Bowie was reported to have re-recorded. If you did indeed have it, why did you keep so quiet about it and why was no one else able to locate a copy?

Despite my appeasement in reference to those fanatics, I am pretty sure that this is the intended version of the Toy album. The source appears to be a CDR from the studio where Bowie was working on the tracks; it’s likely it could even have been a test pressing for the great one himself.

Now, whereas I am not usually prone to advising people on how to get music in less than legal ways, there seems to be little, if any, alternate in this incident. It is very difficult to avoid copies of Toy on the internet, quite frankly, and I would imagine that anyone who is of a mind to hear it has by now also located a copy. If you haven’t, and for some reason are unable to navigate the rather still waters of the internet towards a copy, then click this link right here and you should get what you seek.

If you do get or have a copy of Toy and wish to have some splendid artwork for it, then look no further. A very talented chap known only as Mr Richey on the Manics forum has created this fine cover for it :

I suspect that the actual artwork for the album might have been something of a homage to the famous Pin-Ups cover which featured Bowie posing with Twiggy. Whatever the actual artwork would have been, much like the “actual” intended track listing, is perhaps something that we shall never get to know.

Beyond who dared go against the trust of Bowie and release this album (unless the unlikely story emerges that he “arranged” the leak himself) the most intriguing aspect of this incident is whether or not Bowie will make a comment about it. I would suspect the answer is no. Outside of acting appearances that seem to amuse him (The Prestige, Extras and, erm, Spongebob Squarepants), the chap seems to be enjoying a quiet life rather too much to give the media a statement to feed on. who knows, though, with the interest in and generally enthusiastic response to this 'release', he may yet be persuaded that he has an absolutely massive enough audience to give one last album to.

Be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

we will get fooled again?

Well, with April Fool’s Day just around the corner (or if you will at the end of the road this week) I figured I would try and make up for the lack of updates this month with a look at five highly impressive, far reaching pranks played on this day. The world is getting far, far too sensitive for its own good these days, so the chances of any really brilliant ones being implemented again without lawsuits and what have you being thrown about are somewhat limited. Oh well, that’s life I guess, let’s rather just look at some classics rather than bother about the lack of them in the present day.

the best one us kids ever did was probably back in Australia in the early 80s, where we woke our Dad up very, very early to tell him that the swimming pool was on fire. he fell for it, grumbled and went back to bed!

I’ve limited this to hoaxes pulled on April 1st; ones that the world at large should have perhaps clocked were not exactly true but the majority fell for anyway. This means that I’ve rather sadly had to exclude some brilliant hoaxes, such as Orson Welles’ brilliant War Of The Worlds broadcast, the sale of the “Hitler Diaries” and, leading into my first one, the Beatles “Paul McCartney Is Dead” prank. Well, prank or cover up, depending on what you want to believe.

The Beatles : Together again as far as possible

This one I include as I fell for it, but according to the internet it seems to have never actually happened, no matter how well I remember it. This, then, would be an appeal to any reader who recalls this incident too – please post a comment or link to more info!

All I can tell you is that it was in the mid-80s, and it was on the front page of one of England’s (ahem) “celebrated” red top tabloid papers. I am almost certain it was the Daily Mirror, but it could have been The Star. I am pretty certain it was not The Sun, so watch it turn out to be that particular (ahem) “newspaper”.

The front headline was something like “look who’s back!” and had pictures of the at the time three surviving Beatles, namely George, Paul and Ringo, in the studio “together”. In retrospect, the pictures used looked a touch manipulated, but this was all before computers and “photo shopping”, so you kind of tended to believe pictures printed must be true.

I remember excitedly rushing home with a copy of the newspaper (I was doing a newspaper round in the morning at this time) to show my Mum & Dad. I remember my Mum giving me and the story a rather funny look, with her (gently) pointing out that it was the first day of the fourth month to me.

Of course this reunion “did” happen a decade or so later for the “Anthology” thing the band did, but as I said, anyone else who remembers this, or perhaps even has a link to a picture of the newspaper cover, please post the details!

The Spaghetti Incident

Arguably the greatest ever April Fool hoax ever pulled? This one takes some beating!

Back in the 1950s, television was still very much in its infancy, and was viewed as a tool for the education for and provision of information to many. The widely held view was that if it was on television then it must be true, a philosophy which over the last decade or so has come to be said of the internet. This view was particularly true of the prestigious BBC channel, in particular their “flagship” news, current affairs and documentary programme, Panorama. What better place, then, to launch an April Fools’ joke?

In 1957 Panorama ran a brief documentary on the “bumper crops” being expected that year by the Swiss spaghetti farmers. The documentary was mostly footage of ladies examining sprigs of spaghetti hanging from trees.

OK, if you somehow haven’t gotten over the hurdle of the idea of spaghetti growing from trees, surely at the least the fact that the pasta “growers” were Swiss, rather than say Italian, might have given the game away? No, it did not, and apparently the BBC was inundated with calls from viewers very anxious to know how they could go about growing their own crops of spaghetti!

So convincing was that story that, to this day, I still meet one or two people who are blissfully unaware of the fact that it was a hoax. One, who shall remain nameless, even refused to believe me when I said it was a trick, and they remain convinced that pasta comes from trees.

This may well explain why the BBC are able to get away with it again and again…..

Planetary Bounce

Sir Patrick Moore is perhaps one of the world’s best known and widely respected astronomers. His radio and TV show, The Sky At Night, has been going just about as long as the BBC has, and no one has ever had reason to doubt any of the fascinating astronomical insights Sir Patrick has shared on the programme. No reason to doubt him, then, when he announced a planetary alignment on one April 1st in the 70s would cause a disturbance in the Earth’s gravity and people would, if they jumped at a very specific time, experience weightlessness.

Considering the stature of Sir Patrick Moore in the nation’s eyes, and the fact that he, along with anyone else who spoke of space, was implicitly trusted (there really weren’t even all that many decent “fake moon landing” theories at the time), it is little wonder that most who heard it happily accepted this occurrence as fact. A little more difficult to explain would be the many phone calls the BBC received from people confirming they had experienced the promised weightlessness, the most spectacular being a claim from a lady that she and a dozen or so friends had floated out of their chairs at the time.

Mind over matter, as they say.

Digital Ben

Making it a trilogy, or if you will hat trick, for the BBC would be the story from the 80s of how one of London’s most recognizable landmarks, Big Ben, was to be modernized and the familiar clock face was to be replaced with a digital read out.

Now, whereas you couldn’t get away with anything of this sort today due to the establishment of listed and protected buildings, there seemed to be nothing like that back then, and thus the BBC were bombarded with shocked, angry calls, complaining about this decision to the fullest extent possible.

It wasn’t just people calling in to complain, mind. The BBC also announced that they had acquired the now discarded four clock faces of Big Ben, and offered to sell them to the first four people who called them. Perhaps the single most spectacular person to have fallen for this aspect of the prank was a Japanese sailor, who took the time to radio in an enquiry to buy from somewhere in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean.

Where The Truth Lies

Finally, a kind of eerie one, but one that caused some waves at the time and might (note might) have helped an election result go the way that it did.

On April 1 1997, the UK newspaper The Independent ran the startling story that Tony Blair, the leader of the main opposition Labour party, had engineered a “deal” with Margaret Thatcher, the former Conservative Prime Minister and arguably the greatest “enemy” that the Labour Party has ever faced or had in terms of political outlook. Apparently, under the deal, Thatcher would endorse Blair as the right choice for leading Britain, and in return Blair (or if you will, Bliar) would make Thatcher Britain’s ambassador to America.

The story, at least as far as the time it was published, was utter nonsense. “Socialism is fantastic until it runs out of other people’s money” was Thatcher’s view on Labour policies and she was known to see Blair as nothing more than a “boneless wonder”. I do wonder, however, how many people heard of “the Thatcher endorsement” without it being qualified as a hoax in the month before the 1997 General Election, which saw Blair sweep to power with a landslide victory that not even the most optimistic of “Blairites” anticipated. Could it be that the idea of their beloved, much missed leader approved of this Blair fellow swayed so many dedicated Conservative voters to switch allegiance?

The eerie, or perhaps plain disturbing, part of all of this was that Blair became the kind of Prime Minister that Thatcher would undoubtedly have approved of. After coming to power with so much promise, he gradually came to treat the office as some sort of quasi-dictatorship, doing things in a very Thatcher way – limiting Union power and using war to distract from domestic concerns, for example.

Well, there you go! If you see or hear of any great April Fool’s stunts this Friday, be sure to let the world know of them! Just remember to treat everything you see, read and hear on that day with a healthy dose of suspicion.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

Sunday, March 27, 2011

80s fans, behold......

hey everyone

blimey, how is this for a picture that comes close to telling you the whole story of the 80s?

really it's probably only missing Neil Tennant, Jim Kerr, Adam Ant and of course Andrew Ridgley in regards of where the best pop of the 80s came from all in one handy picture!

i'm not at all sure why Simon Le Bon has decided that he needs to try and look like me by growing a beard, but at the moment i shall assume it is some sort of compliment and thus will take it as such.

this pic is from the Duran Duran website, but unfortunately it doesn't give the circumstances of it. i will assume, then, that either Holly and Boy George were VIPs at their recent One Night Only TV special, or perhaps it was at some sort of launch party for Duran Duran's new album, if they still do things like have launch parties.

whatever the reason, a most excellent picture!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lyla and Ruby-Lee

hey everyone

well, as promised earlier in the week, here are some more of the excellent pictures Erika sent through. they are, although some of you may wish to disagree, even more excellent than the ones of Richard in his classy pink cowboy hat.

here is an ace pic of Lyla and her baby sister, Ruby-Lee Valentine, that caught the more nostalgic corners of my eyes.

lurking around somewhere are pictures that, beyond being black and white, look none too different from this, featuring myself, Richard and Gillian in the garden of our home on Longbeck Lane over 30 years ago. perhaps if Dad is reading this he may well be kind enough to fetch those pics out of the album and scan them for me, you never know!

in the mean time, here's another pic of the sisters looking distinctly chilled!

Blimey, Ruby-Lee is growing in a hurry! just like William, it seems and feels!

thanks again Erika!

well, sorry for the lack of updates this month - it really has not been the best of times, dear readers. i will do my best to up the effort with rather more frequent musings!!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

a day in the life (of Richard)

hey everyone

Erika was very kind to send on some new pictures during the last week. whereas i shall soon post new ones of Lyla and Ruby-Lee, there were some rather interesting ones of Richard that probably needed sharing with the world a good deal sooner.

it seems that my brother has a spiffing new hat.

erm, yes. one can only imagine that he got some comfortable shoes to go with the hat, and has probably taken to ordering half rice, half chips at the many fine takeaway establishments near his home.

he clearly thinks this is the look for him, mind!

i note that Richard is doing his "beard" thing again. usually he pledges only to shave as and when (ahem) Newcastle win. looking like a ZZ Top special beard is on the way then!

after showing off that hat Richard seems to have got a big shagged, or if you will bummed out. here he is having a nice afternoon nap, no doubt dreaming of what outfit would go best with his new hat. and comfortable shoes.

thanks Erika!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


hi everyone

well, the title is the only suitable reference i can make to the best song ever about a train ride off The Who's magnificent Quadrophenia album. i am obliged to point out that they didn't get the train at this time, and at no point was anyone below "out of their brain on a train".

now, with that disclaimer out the way......

with Michele needing an early start in the hospital, James went to stay with Grandma and Grandad the night beofre to make the morning less of a battle. and a battle it was, as it took me 90 minutes to drive no more than 5 kilometers back from the clinic, such is our excellent traffic management here! i mention the last bit as one of the (long overdue) initiatives to battle traffic problems (as employing competent people to manage it is out of the question) is the ambitious "Gautrain" project.

whereas the intention of the Gautrain is to connect major points for commuters, at this stage the only bit really running properly is from the place where the rich and shameless live, Sandton, and the major airport in Johannesburg. as a treat, Grandma and Grandad took James for a ride on it!

James was rather impressed with it (which is just as well, considering the cost of a ticket on it), and to my surprise didn't get worried about the parts where it goes underground, in fact he seemed to quite like it!

there is an allegation that this Gautrain will soon be running, at a reasonable price and at reliable times, from not so far from where we live to not so far to where i verk. if this is true, bonus, i would love to leave the car at home!

in the mean time, though, James is quite taken with them as said, although he thinks they should be called "bullet trains"; possibly as they are rather fast but mostly because i believe he saw the boys from Top Gear messing around on one of the actual bullet trains in Japan not so long ago.

the train wasn't the only highlight of the day for James, of course. this was the first time that James had been to the airport outside of Mummy's tummy, and he was well taken with how they take off and land!

glad you had an ace day out, son, and thanks again to Grandma and Grandad for looking after him so well for the day!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

flower time

hi everyone

well, here i am thinking of saying sorry for the lack of updates once again - sorry, really has been one of those months!

most recently we've been kept rather busy with my dear lady wife going into hospital for the day for some of those routine "women's things" check ups. i suspect us chaps are not supposed to know what it all is about and are probably better off not knowing!

a big thank you indeed to those chaps and ladies at Michele's work who arranged for the pictured below lovely set of flowers to arrive today!

and indeed a very big love and thank you from Mummy to James for the bunch he picked for Mummy too!

Michele is as OK as she can be with me at home looking after her for the remainder of this week. i am doing my best!

more updates soon-ish!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Queen Is Dead

RIP Elizabeth.....

i recall an interview in which she was asked if she regretted not being reunited with Richard Burton. her answer was "i believe one day i shall be.". it is that that this day has come, but let it be so.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

a very different Royal wedding.....

hey everyone

well, with Prince William and Lady Kate getting married rather soon, the merchandise cash-ins are coming thick and fast.

this mug from someone called Guandong Enterprises is probably worth buying straight away, really. not only is it a "limited edition" thing, it's probably going to be withdrawn from sale quite soon, once they clock the problem......

didn't see it? well, let's have a closer look......

it's excellent that it has "ornate detailing" on the handle, but perhaps the manufacturers should have spent a little less time on that and a little more time on getting the correct Prince on it!

with the way the world goes in the 21st Century it actually wouldn't be all that much of a surprise if, in a Dallas like move, Kate did end up marrying Harry instead, but it's pushing it a bit to contemplate that Harry would change his name to Will.

if you purchase one of these, do let me know!

many thanks to all who alerted me and the world at large to this classy item!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

William pottering

hey everyone

well this was somewhat inevitable. William is proving to be quite tricky to get pictures of at the moment, just as his brother James was when he started walking around!

i have done my best to get a few new pictures, but as you can see he would rather try and grab the camera instead of simply pose for a picture.

indeed, sometimes he does a little bit better than try and does in fact manage to get his hands on it!

i do really rather like that picture above!

instead of trying to get him to be still i have instead tried to get images of him as he goes around doing his thing. for some reason, though, his "thing" usually involves taking items of rubbish, mostly empty bottles, from the kitchen to go and deposit in other parts of the house.....

i am not 100% sure why William has decided that this is a top, if you will bangin' idea, but there's no stopping him - not even when James tries to counter-offer messing about with rubbish by suggesting instead they rather play in their very class Star Wars tent.

it's not limited to relocating rubbish, by the way. when it is time for bath William gets really excited, as he sees it as the time to go and grab all the soap, toothpaste and toilet paper in the cupboard that he can and throw it down the stairs. we briefly played with the idea of encouraging him to stop, but as James thinks that doing this is also rather class we have no chance of stopping it. never mind, you soon get used to a life full of dented soap!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

pottering about

hey everyone

well, with his dazzling gift for sparing absolutely no expense for his parents, James decided that he was going to sign up for and do pottery at school this year! not that we would deny or discourage him from any sort of official activity at school, of course.

with the year approaching the quarter done mark, James appears to have been very, very busy with pottery just once a week, as you can see from all that he has made so far!

we are likely to require a new, bigger house by the end of the year to accomodate all of his creations at this rate. well, that or at the least get Grandad to come along and knock up a shed or an extra level to our home!

speaking of Grandad, he told James once to pose giving the thumbs up and then the thumbs down for some, presumably elaborate, project of his. Grandad didn't, alas, think to make clear to James that he does not have to strike such a pose in every picture thereafter, and so that's what he's quite insistent on doing in pictures for the moment!

of course, if you catch James by surprise with the camera, you don't get thumbs up or thumbs down, just the standard "what are you doing, Dad" look from him....

ahem, getting back to the point of this post, very nice work indeed, son! we are really, really looking forward to seeing what else gets made this year!

and yes, when i think of pottery, i am very much reminded of the Monty Python sketch where Michael Palin is an art critic who keeps getting pottery and poetry mixed up. well, don't we all?

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Valhalla; i am coming

for over 20 years our family has with pride been able to call Matthew Bowes a friend.

for the rest of time, we shall remember our friend with love, affection and with the smiles that only a thousand million good memories can bring.

with your knowledge and incredible gift for conversation, with your love of rave and the quoted Led Zeppelin and with your zest for life it's very hard indeed to say Rest In Peace, Matt. we just all hope that you are at peace.

if any of us can lead a life half as good or just a fraction as inspiring as yours, we may one day be fortunate enough to see you again on the other side.

there cannot and will not be a goodbye for someone who shall forever remain in our hearts and in our minds.

Friday, March 04, 2011

the Blade Runner sequel(s)

hey everyone

just how fondly remembered and treasured the film Blade Runner is can be seen in the extensive press coverage being given to the news that a deal to make sequels to the film is "almost" in place. that's right - almost. with no concrete plans or even permission to do so, news that there might be a sequel, or possibly even a number of them and "prequels", was considered major enough news to warrant an official press release.

it's nice to see the film get this kind of reverence and respect, really, since it was a major box office flop on release. it was only some 10 years after the release, when a "director's cut" was issued, that a number of people saw this film as the masterpiece a few of us knew it to be. ideas of a follow up have always been speculated about, and indeed do exist in a set of official "sequel novels", but never before have we had an announcement like this that suggests it will all happen.

there are a number of reasons why a Blade Runner sequel has not been made in the last 25 or so years, all mostly relating to the fact that the "ownership" of the film and concept is as far from clear cut as you could imagine. it was, in fact, only the death of one of the shareholders that cleared the way for the recent, magnificent 5 DVD box set of the film. on top of this, i had always hoped that Warner Bros had not tried to force the issue of a sequel as there was not, and indeed it perhaps remains the case that there is not, any artistic reason for making one. in terms of artistic importance, Blade Runner must be held rather close to the works of Stanley Kubrick in works protected by the studio.

the latter view mentioned is probably, alas, not the case. a Company called Alcon Entertainment appears to be key to getting the funding and financing for any and all sequels. a good deal of noise is being made and attention drawn to the fact that they were responsible for a recent film called The Book Of Eli, a movie i am led to believe was rather good. somewhat less attention is being drawn to the fact that they also made this film :

yes, that's right - any and all Blade Runner related films and possible TV shows are in the hands of those who went ahead and made the single most irresponsible remake in history, and as a consequence delivered unto audiences one of the worst films ever, the ghastly, horrid remake of the magnificent British classic The Wicker Man. this is not what one would call a good sign.

there is a school of thought, then, that we should all jump on the "anti-sequel" bandwagon straight away, for fear of them delivering a film as bleak and desolate as the original film, although not for the same reasons.

i am, however, reluctant to instantly slam the idea. the Blade Runner universe is an interesting proposition for a new visit. in the film, after all, we did only get a brief glimpse of a fascinating, perhaps more likely than we could ever possibly have expected, future. here, for what it's worth, are the thoughts and ideas on how a Blade Runner sequel could work which spring to my mind.

only one person absolutely needs to return from the original film......

and that's the composer, Vangelis.

there are many, many aspects as to why Blade Runner move from box office failure to one of the most celebrated films in history, and few are as striking as the music for the film. when Michael Mann attempted his ill-fated, frankly awful film version of TV show Miami Vice a big warning sign to him should have been that Jan Hammer refused to allow the music he composed for the show to appear on the film as "the film seems to have nothing to do with the TV show.". Blade Runner without the astonishing soundtrack created by Vangelis is not Blade Runner. if he cannot be inspired to create a new soundtrack, or at the least allow them to use elements of the one he created, then the project should grind to a halt there and then.

you have a choice of three directors only.....

of the film directors working at present, here are the three who could pull of a not only acceptable but probably exceptional sequel to Blade Runner : Christopher Nolan, Duncan Jones and David Fincher. all three have a name for handling films with high expectations, that are character driven whilst also hosting some incredible, dazzling special effects and, perhaps of particular importance, having the trust and respect of the vast majority of the target audience for this film.

the temptation to bring Sir Ridley Scott back must be fought. the "messy" way in which he has handled the idea of doing another Alien film (he has no idea if it would be a prequel or sequel, he claims that it will "certainly be in 3D" despite having no idea what it would be) and the fact that he has "thought" about a sequel for Blade Runner for some four years and hasn't quite come up with anything suggests that he's just going to tarnish all that he did with the first film if allowed another go. there's also the likelihood that, stung by the relative box office failure at the time (it did go on to make huge amounts of cash over the last 30 or so years), he might try to "right a wrong" in his mind and go for a more commercial movie. not that there's anything wrong with films making money at all, but every now and then sometimes the box office doesn't matter when compared to the name and reputation of those invovled.

another big, and i mean really big, no-no would be the temptation to pursue at all costs James Cameron for the film. despite his track record for already making a superb sequel to that other Ridley Scott classic, Alien, as well as the first two Terminator films, his celebrated recent effort, Avatar was devoid of all human interest or appealing story that the other films mentioned had. if they wish to throw vast sums of money at James Cameron to make some fancy light show then by all means do so, just please do not do it in the name of Blade Runner.

that said.....

learn from Aliens......

if you go all the way back to the mid-80s then the idea of doing a sequel to Alien must have seemed as ridiculous as the idea of a sequel to Blade Runner does now. but then they made Aliens, a film that ties in very, very well indeed to the original film and yet exists as a standalone film in its own right. a very impressive trick, and a very impressive film to boot. if they can follow this path with any Blade Runner sequel then i and many others are going to be a good deal more positive about the idea.

however, they must also......

learn from the Matrix sequels...........

The Matrix was an innovative, brilliant film which combined state of the art special effects with an engaging, interesting story, brought to life by some great performances (yes, even Keanu was good in it). the two sequels, Reloaded and Revolutions, saw the memories of greatness eroded very quickly as the makers rejected all that was good of the first film and loaded the films with pretentious, preposterous and quite frankly dull "fake mysticism".

work out what the eventual audience for Blade Runner actually liked and build on that please, don't go feeding us a whole load of bull.....

broaden your horizons.....................

whereas just about all of Blade Runner takes place in a dozen or so locations in the Los Angeles of the future, the world it hints at is vast. off-world colonies and other cities are a blank canvas. if they shove the whole thing into a block in downtown LA, they will have wasted the chance given.

on that note, the stories of the original characters - Deckard, Rachel, et al - are done and dusted. there is nothing more that one can say about them. that too, sadly, means that this chap should not feature.

Roy Batty was for many the star of the show, and his exit, with particular emphasis on his final lines, resonate as one of the greatest moments in cinema. any and all attempts to resurrect his character are futile. do not do it.

which makes it go without saying that......

the "official" sequels should be avoided.........

there are at least three "official" novels that are sequels to both the film and the original Philip K Dick novel, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?. whereas the books by K W Jeter are not entirely bad, the description given tells you all you need to know about the problem with them. they attempt to be sequels to two similar but also vastly different concepts.

by all means borrow ideas from here, as i would expect they shall do from the other works of Philip K Dick, but any effort to make the sequels full on adaptations of these novels, even allowing for Hollywood's notorious sense of "artistic licence", is just not going to work. i can't say much more than that without giving spoilers, really.

the final point will probably be the one that has the least chance of being heeded....

anticipate or even expect financial failure...........

with the noise being made about a theoretical sequel one suspects that they are busy planning and anticipating a blockbuster on the scale of The Dark Knight. oh dear. true, The Dark Knight was a masterpiece, but absolutely no one thought it was going to rake in over one billion dollars at the box office. there will be an understandable but rather inappropriate wish to try and force a repeat of the trick instead of letting it happen.

it's very difficult to see how one could make a Blade Runner film that stays true to the original concepts and yet incorporates "blockbuster" elements. attempts to do so would probably end up with them making something closer to Batman & Robin rather than The Dark Knight. you would have to guess that no one wants that.

if they make a proper film here, then the audience and all important income will follow eventually. if they go for flashy effects and a simplistic story in the hope of getting very big money fast, it will be doomed to fail.

so, there you have my views, which i can only presume are wanted, going on how many people have forwarded me links to the story! and much appreciated it was too, all of you who did.

with the sequels appearing to be inevitable, one can only hope that the producers remain true to why Blade Runner is held in such regard. it's very easy to take an instantly negative view of the whole project, but at this stage i find it hard to believe that those who are investing so much time, money and effort into making a sequel have not done so just to make a fast profit - that's what comic book adaptations and remakes are for.

if any other news crops up i'll do my best to include it in a follow up post, but in the mean time, well, let's wait and see, and if only those making this could see with our eyes............

painful to live in fear, isn't it?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Beady Eye - Different Gear, Still Speeding

so, some 18 months after a very public and seemingly very final split, what was left of the last line-up of Oasis after Noel Gallagher stormed off have delivered their debut album. we've had a couple of singles (one, Bring The Light, exceptionally average, the other, The Roller, quite promising) and tour dates annouced. as Liam made it clear that there was "no way" any Oasis material would be played by the new band, it was always going to be fascinating to see what he intended to deliver instead of guaranteed crowd pleasers.

let us not forget that Liam promised Beady Eye would be "about one million times better" than Oasis. that's quite a bold statement, but then again he is not exactly known nor celebrated for his modesty. an initial thing to do when having heard the album is to then consider just how far off the mark Liam was with that claim. the answer, surprisingly, is not too far away in regards of the last two Oasis albums, but pretty far of when considering their first two.

if you can't be bothered to read comments on certain tracks below, the shorter version of this review is that Different Gear, Still Speeding is an album well worth buying as well as being an album that at times makes you very, very thankful indeed for the "skip track" button on your CD or mp3 player.

let's be honest here - if you seek innovative, inventive music that breaks barriers, you really aren't likely to ever buy an album by either of the more famous Gallagher brothers. it would seem that Beady Eye locked themselves in the studio with a stack of Faces, Small Faces, Beatles, Stones and Who albums, along with the more psychedelic aspects of the Easy Rider soundtrack and used this as the blueprint for what they want to sound like. you either like this idea or you don't.

to highlight this with an example, take the track Beatles and Stones from the album. it is, as clear as day, a 1970-era Townshend run through My Generation, with Liam, when he isn't celebrating his ego, apparently cribbing words from any number of Elvis, Janis and Jimi songs. from an artistic point of view it will be this song that the lazy critics will pick up on to slam them for a lack of talent and imagination; to us fans it sounds like a rather ace tune because of, rather than due to, this.

those seeking some sort of comment about Noel are no doubt going to home in on the frankly brilliant track Kill For A Dream. other than musically showing off just how good Beady Eye are, the lyrics suggest it's a message to Noel in some ways, offering him the chance to "just call" to fix things. if it is intended as an offer it is one you cannot see ever being taken up, and quite frankly the band do not sound like they really need him to, anyway.

much of the album resides in a sort of "mellow psychedelia" space, which is a bit of a surprise but a rather pleasant one. the attempts at flat out rock, in particular the worst of the album, Standing On The Edge Of The Noise, seem a bit so-so when compared to the somewhat softer, more refined sounds being made in tracks like Wigwam, Wind Up Dream and the epitome of celebrating Liam's ego, The Beat Goes On. Beady Eye concerts are going to be a very interesting experience indeed, as the slower paced stuff seems likely to be more exciting for a crowd than the edgier, rock stuff.

Gem, Andy Bell and Chris Sharrock are as fine a set of musicians as you will find working at the moment, and they are certainly not on this album just to serve Liam's ego or whims. whereas Noel was perhaps drifting off to his own thing in the last years of Oasis anyway, it seems the four left behind were very much talking the same language, and this carries on in the new band. the world shall miss Oasis, but never mind, says Beady Eye, the music carries on.

some critics have hailed this the equal of things like Definitely Maybe, which to my ears would certainly be going a bit too far. it's a good, solid album, and if i dare say it promising enough to suggest that their follow up album shall be rather well anticipated.

Beady Eye may not be "one million times" better than Oasis, but they are certainly a couple of thousand times better than people suspected or feared. give it a try, it's certainly more good than bad.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!