Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Until The End Of The World - My favourite movie of all time

In my mind, I have a list of my favourite movies. When I see a movie that enters the top 10 this is great news. It means that this movie has affected me in some important way. But the number one movie in this list has remained constant for decades. It's "Until The End Of The World" by Wim Wenders.

It all happened quite by accident. It was on late at night, on a summer's night on a Greek TV channel. I sat down to watch it because I thought "Ah, that's the movie where that U2 song is featured". I had a few doubts at first because it was a Wim Wenders movie and I considered him to be a "difficult" director. Three hours later, as the credits were rolling I was sitting, dumbfounded, on my couch thinking "What the **** has just happened?" I couldn't believe what I had just seen and experienced. I knew right there and then that this was the best movie I had ever seen.

But the question is "why?" Why was this the best movie ever, at least for me? Well, I guess that it has to do with all the travelling done in the movie. Indeed, I love road movies, but this is a road movie whose characters are moving all around the world, a world which comes close to destruction, but in the end, while our heroes have gathered at one of its most remote corners,  (SPOILER ALERT!), it is saved. That the two main characters fall in love during this journey, probably has something to do with it as well. Not to mention that it was set at the turn of the millennium which was then still a few years ahead in the future (This is after all a 1991 movie).

Another reason is the soundtrack. As you probably know well by know, music plays an important role - probably the most important - in my life. And although my decision to watch this movie the first time was because it contained a U2 song, which in fact is its title track ("Until The End Of The World" originally from "Achtung Baby"), it was other songs featured in the movie that made me fall in love with it. My favourites are : "Silent Kisses, Winter Tears" performed by Julee Cruise (but then again, this song was produced by David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, a fact which says quite a lot), Nick Cave's "(I'll Love You) Till The End Of The World" (his "thank you girl" line at the beginning of the chorus is just sublime), "Death's Door" by Depeche Mode (all DM songs - at least during that era - sung by Martin Gore tended to be more downtempo and atmospheric and thus, appropriate for a movie), and finally the best one: "Calling All Angels". I love k.d. lang's voice, even though she's just a guest providing additional vocals on a song performed by Jane Siberry. Their combined vocals in the chorus is, in my opinion. the highlight of this soundtrack. There is also "Days", a Kinks cover by Elvis Costello, but no version of this song ever is going to surpass the one sung by Kirsty McCall in 1989.

The connection of Wim Wenders with U2 continued with his next movie "Faraway, So Close" which featured "Stay (Faraway, So Close)" from the "Zooropa" album as its title track. That movie was actually the sequel to his earlier "Wings Of Desire". Because of this fact, I also watched these last two movies and Wim Wenders, whom at first I had thought of as "difficult", became one of my favourite directors. On top of that, I fell in love with Solveig Dommartin who stars in all these three movies I have discussed here and I was deeply saddened, years later, when I learned that she was no longer with us.

"Until The End Of The World" may be my favourite movie of all time, but this isn't a view that is shared by many others. The movie didn't get good reviews and it seems its production was chaotic, mainly due to the fact that it was shot all over the world using different, mainly local, crews. But I love it, and the atmosphere it creates and I find myself watching it again every once in a while. In fact, the reason I'm writing this blog post now, is because a couple of months ago I watched the  4 hour director's cut for the first time from a special 3DVD box set. Meanwhile Wim Wenders had once again collaborated with U2 on "The Million Dollar Hotel" and it wasn't until years later that I finally watched what is considered by critics to be Wim Wenders's finest film, "Paris Texas".

And since I have mentioned my favourite movie list, here is how it currently stands:

01. Until The End Of The World - Wim Wenders (1991)
02. Dark City - Alex Proyas (1998)
03. Pulp Fiction - Quentin Tarantino (1994)
04. Donnie Darko - Richard Kelly (2001)
05. Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson (2012)
06. Loving Vincent - Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman (2017)
07. Bohemian Rhapsody - Bryan Singer (2018)
08. Le Havre - Aki Kaourismaki (2011)
09. The Corporation -  Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott (2003)
10. Casablanca - Michael Curtiz (1942)
11. Before The Rain - Milcho Manchevski (1994)
12. Forrest Gump - Robert Zemeckis (1994)
13. Ghostbusters - Ivan Reitman (1984)
14. The Shining - Stanley Kubrick (1980)
15. Planet Terror - Robert Rodriguez (2007)
16. The Wall - Alan Parker (1982)
17. High Fidelity - Stephen Frears (2000)
18. Three Colours Red - Krzysztof Kieslowski (1994)
19. Mulholland Drive - David Lynch (2001)
20. Summer Lovers - Randal Kleiser (1982)

Thursday, 27 April 2023

Greetings From Bury Park


Us Bruce Springsteen fans were quite excited when the "Blinded By The Light" movie was released a few years ago. It told the story of a British Asian teenager who was a Springsteen fan in the 80's. I've seen the movie at the cinema, bought the DVD and the soundtrack CD which featured some rare live tracks and a "new" song "I'll Stand By You" which was originally intended for the first Harry Potter movie. Not to mention a couple of other 80's songs by A-Ha and the Pet Shop Boys. So why am I writing this now? Well, it's because I've also read the book. It's called "Greetings From Bury Park" and it goes much further than the storyline of the movie.

It tells us all about his life, not just as a teenager as we see him in the movie, but as an adult as well, who gets married and becomes a father. But the most important thing is that it shows us how Bruce Springsteen appeals to everyone, no matter what colour, religion or nationality. And it shows us how his music can help people through hard times, even if they're not the "typical" American fan.
Having lived in Britain myself, during most of the period that the main events in the book take place, and having socialized with members of the British Asian community while I was there, many of the things and events described in the book are familiar to me.
If you're Bruce fans you have probably already seen the movie, but I strongly urge you to read the book as well.

Monday, 27 March 2023

Dance Craze - The Best Of British Ska .... Live!

What is Dance Craze? Well, let me start by saying that I'm referring to a film. A 1981 film about the 2 Tone bands and the ska revival at the beginning of the 80's.

I got interested in that scene when I read about Madness and The Specials back in the day. I hadn't heard any of their music but I saw the albums and their reviews in a Greek music magazine so I bought "One Step Beyond" the debut album by Madness. According to the article I had read "ska is reggae played very fast". It also stated that "there's reggae, there's ska and in between there's rock steady whose tempo is somewhere in between reggae and ska". The article erroneously stated that "ska had evolved from reggae" when in fact the truth is that it happened the other way round. The bands that played that music according to the article were "Madness, The Specials, The Selecters (sic) and the Ruts" (As we all know that band's proper name is "The Selecter"). So after "One Step Beyond" I bought the first Specials album, their "Too Much Too Young" single and the first Selecter album. I didn't however buy anything from The Ruts because they weren't mentioned again as part of that scene. Instead I bought albums by The Beat and The Bad Manners.

And suddenly, at some point, all these bands appeared together in a live album called "Dance Craze". This was apparently the soundtrack of a movie showing all these bands playing live. Of course the movie was never shown in Greece, but the album was released featuring a poster with all 6 bands (Madness, The Specials, The Selecter, The Beat, The Bad Manners and The Bodysnatchers). 


I never managed to find the film after I had moved to Britain and when I once again looked for it recently I learnt that it had never been released on DVD. I managed however to find a VHS copy. So the next thing I had to do was buy a VCR! 

I managed to find a second hand stereo one and once I had connected everything I managed to finally see the movie 40 years later! Well, better late than never!

I have followed the 2 Tone scene over the years buying more albums from these bands and I even managed to see two of them live: Madness in 2007 and The Specials in 2010. I have just been informed though that Dance Craze is now being released on DVD and on a deluxe edition triple CD. I have already ordered both and I will finally manage to see a restored stereo version.

Thursday, 9 February 2023

Letter From Bruce

With Bruce Springsteen starting his new tour in the US in Tampa,FL (a city where I have lived and worked in), a tour which will later come to Europe, I decided to listen to "Letter To You" again. As it happened, it was snowing on that day which seemed to fit in with the album cover. This was after all the album he was going to promote with a tour before the lockdowns changed all these plans. In the meantime, he also released a covers album ("Only The Strong Survive") and it was apparent from the Tampa setlist that he was going to promote both of them, but he would focus more on "Letter To You". 

This time I decided to listen to my vinyl copy for the first time instead of the CD. I used to buy Bruce's albums on both vinyl and CD, but I don't do anymore because this could prove to be a costly habit. However, I decided to buy this one when I found out that it was going to be a three-side album, with the fourth side being etched. And I secured a grey coloured vinyl as well. 

I was surprised once again by how good an album it was. That's why I decided to write this belated review. I used to review all new Bruce albums in this blog, but somehow I stopped after "High Hopes". 

First of all, it seems to be bookended by two songs about loss ("One Minute You're Here" and "I'll See You In My Dreams"). Having experienced personal loss in the past year, these two songs meant much more to me this time around. The title track, "House Of A Thousand Guitars" and "Song For Orphans" (the latter being one of three early songs that he re-recorded for this album) were my favourites when I first listened to it. This time round, apart from the opening and closing tracks I also appreciated "Burnin' Train" more. And let's not forget the drum intro of "Ghosts" which makes you think that he's about into "We Take Care Of Our Own" at any minute.

"Ghosts" and "Burnin' Train" look like they're going to be regulars on the setlists of this tour. Of course, that could change by the time the tour arrives in Europe at which moment I hope I will be able to see him and The E Street Band once again...


Tuesday, 3 January 2023

A Very Special Christmas


My first experience of pop stars singing Christmas songs came in December 1984. It was then that Queen, Wham! and Band Aid all released Christmas singles. ("Thank God It's Christmas", "Last Christmas" and "Do They Know It's Christmas" respectively). In the UK charts Band Aid went to number 1, Wham! were stuck at number 2 (because of Band Aid) and Queen, well, with that abundance of popular Christmas singles that year stalled at number 21. There had been of course Christmas pop hits before that and I got acquainted with most of those that were popular in the UK by acquiring "NOW The Christmas Album" (part of the "NOW That's What I Call Music" series). But then, in 1987, something happened: "A Very Special Christmas" was released with all proceeds going to the Special Olympics. That's the album which brought to my attention - albeit in new versions - the classic Christmas pop songs, several of which had been featured in what was considered the ultimate Christmas pop album: "A Christmas Gift For You", aka "Phil Spector's Christmas Album".


That's where I got "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (sung in the "rock" way, with emphasis on the first word, the same way that Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band sing it). Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band were in it as well, with "Merry Christmas Baby", which I already had as a B-Side of "War" the first single from the "Live 1975-85" box set. Other members of The E Street Band can be found on the album, namely Clarence Clemons and Roy Bittan playing on other songs. Artists from the Phil Spector Christmas album also make appearances such as Darlene Love who sings backing vocals on U2's cover of the song she herself had performed on the Phil Spector Christmas Album ("Christmas (Baby Please Come Home"). Bon Jovi were also in there with "Back Door Santa", however 5 years later that song was replaced with another from the same band, "I Wish Everyday Could Be Like Christmas". I haven't figured why this happened. Were perhaps the lyrics of "Back Door Santa" considered too seedy for a family Christmas album? Run DMC are also there with what was probably the first hip hop Christmas song, an original called "Christmas In Hollis". But one of the highlights of the album is "Silent Night" with haunting vocals by Stevie Nicks. What makes this version more amazing is something that you would have to refer to the liner notes to discover: The backing vocals by Robbie Nevil. You might of course had easily recognized his voice, since he had a hit earlier that year with "C'Est La Vie".


Since then there have been many more albums in that series (six more at first and then some 25th anniversary and special editions, plus a DVD). And from those sequels, I will single out "Oi To The World", an original by No Doubt, true to their ska/punk roots. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2022

Belle And Sebastian live in Athens September 2022

This was my first indoor concert in almost 3 years! I figured that since I was OK wearing a mask at outdoor gigs and since I had also been on a summer holiday a few days before, wearing a mask while on the ship and whenever I was indoors at a public place, I figured I could finally go to such a concert. It was, after all Belle And Sebastian. I had seen them back in the summer of 2015 in Ancona, at what was for me back then, a legendary concert and one of my top 5 live gigs ever, so I would have liked to see them again. In the last few years they had released an album that combined 3 EP's (How To Solve Our Human Problems), a soundtrack album ("Days Of The Bagnold Summer"), a live album during the lockdown ("What To Look For In Summer") and this year a brand new album ("A Bit Of Previous"). I had listened to all of these during the summer (I even watched the movie - The Days Of The Bagnold Summer) and so I was well prepared.
I set off for the venue immediately after work wearing my mask (which I wear during working hours anyway) and I arrived in time to catch a free place at the front and to the left of the stage). Support was provided by Amalia & The Architects, a Greek band and a welcome surprise (They even played a cover of "Blister In The Sun").


Then it was time for Stuart and his mates. It wasn't like 2015 and I didn't expect it to be like 2015 with the "special circumstances" under which we went to that gig, but it was, after all, Belle And Sebastian. It's all a matter of taste. In fact, a friend of mine who had seen them the first time they had come to Greece almost 20 years ago refused to come because they don't play the songs he wants to hear anymore. As far as I'm concerned I don't care which ones they play. "The Boy With The Arab Strap" is a sure thing and although there was no "The State I Am In" this time, or even anything from "Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance" which, in my opinion, is the best of their later albums, there were however many others to keep me happy (including "Dear Catastrophe Waitress").



One final thing I should mention, is that this was one more concert of those that we were promised for the summer of 2020 when everything was cancelled. It wasn't rescheduled for 2021 and wasn't initially announced for the summer of 2022 so I thought we had missed our chance. It was announced much later in the year (during the summer I think), so it turned out alright after all. And thankfully, we didn't have to go all the way to Terra Vibe to see them, where they were supposed to play two years ago...


01. Dog On Wheels
02. I'm A Cuckoo
03. Young And Stupid
04. She's Losing It
05. Unnecessary Drama
06. Reclaim The Night
07. I Want The World To Stop
08. Piazza, New York Catcher
09. The Stars Of Track And Field
10. Chickfactor
11. Another Sunny Day
12. The Boy With The Arab Strap
13. Dear Catastrophe Waitress
14. The Wrong Girl
15. I Didn't See It Coming
16. Wrapped Up In Books
17. Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying
18. Sleep The Clock Around
19. Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie
20. Judy And The Dream Of Horses


Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Release Athens Festival 2022 - Iggy Pop & Liam Gallagher

 I chose this, as my last date of this year's Release Festival because, well, I had seen Noel Gallagher before (as well as Oasis just a few days before they split up), so it was fair and proper that I should see Liam Gallagher as well (although Liam may not actually agree with that!). On the plus side, I wouldn't mind seeing Iggy Pop again as well whom I had seen at the same festival and at the same venue back in 2019. I had seen Noel Gallagher play support to U2, so now I would see Liam Gallagher play support to Iggy Pop. And as an added bonus, I'd also see the Sleaford Mods, who had come to Greece before and I had wanted to see them and know more about them since I first discovered them on an Uncut (or Mojo?) cover CD and understood that they were some sort of protest band for Britain in the 2010's.

As you can guess, I arrived in time for Sleaford Mods and once again I met most of my friends that I usually meet at gigs. This time there were more of them as Iggy tends to attract Bruce fans. Sleaford Mods were exactly what I had expected them to be (one of their members was sporting a t-shirt with a rather unflattering message for Boris Johnson), but they had something extra for me: a cover of Yazoo's "Don't Go".


It was then time for Liam Gallagher. During the break I managed to locate some of my closest gig buddies, people with whom we had spent hours in the pit at Bruce Springsteen concerts, so I went with them to the very front (donning a mask of course). I was in fact asked by one of them if I was an Oasis or a Blur fan in the 90's and that brought back some memories! Truth is, although I had started as a Blur fan, I thought they went downhill after "Country House", so I switched to Oasis. And Liam himself didn't disappoint. He came up on stage wearing a rather heavy jacket, certainly too heavy for the Athenian weather which was pretty close to heatwave temperatures. Every once in a while, before launching into an Oasis song he would ask us whether there were "any Oasis fans in the audience'. However he also played Beady Eye songs and of course his solo stuff. Towards the end of his set he asked us whether there were "any Slipknot fans in the audience". And then he played "Wonderwall". Go figure... He also played one song ("Stand By Me") from Oasis' third album, one that Oasis wouldn't touch with a flagpole in their latter days.



And then it all ended wonderfully with "Champagne Supernova"

I went back to get some pizza and beer and by the time I had finished eating Iggy came on stage. It felt like not a single day had passed since 2019. when he had started with "I Wanna Be Your Dog". Earlier on, as we were watching Liam Gallagher, a friend of mine who had looked up his setlists on the internet told me that he kept playing the same setlist night after night and it was mostly comprised of Stooges songs However, the setlist we heard that night was completely different. And what was immediately apparent was that Iggy had a problem with his voice. It later turned out that he had changed the setlist because of this very problem and that he cancelled his further shows for the same reason. Did I have a problem with that? As I'd already told my friends Iggy is at a stage in his life and career that he doesn't have to prove anything to anyone. So even if he had decided to come up on stage and f*rt to the tune of "The Passenger", I would still be happy. He did of course play Stooges songs as well and as he was naked from the waist up as usual. Plus, he had a very beautiful female guitar player in his band!



Back in 2019 I went to see Iggy Pop because he was so popular in Greece and I had never seen him live (I had done the same thing with Nick Cave a year before that). And no matter what voice problems he has I will probably go see him for a third time if he decides to come back to Greece. 

01. The New Brick
02. Shortcummings
04. Spare Ribs
05. I Don't Rate You
06. Kebab Spider
07. Mork N Mindy
08. Thick Ear
09. TCR
10. Jolly Fucker
12. Nudge It
13. Elocution
14. Discourse
15. Tied Up In Nottz
16. Jobseeker
17. Tweet Tweet Tweet

01. Hello
03. Morning Glory
04. Wall Of Glass
05. Everything's Electric
06. Better Days
07. Stand By Me
08. Roll It Over
09. Slide Away
12. Diamond In The Dark
13. Once
14. Cigarettes & Alcohol
16. Champagne Supernova

01. Rune
02. T.V. Eye
03. I Wanna Be Your Dog
04. Lust For Life
06. Five Foot One
07. Mass Production
08. Free
09. Run Like A Villain
10. I'm Sick Of You
11. Death Trip
12. Nightclubbing
14. Gimme Danger
15. Down On The Street
17. Sister Midnight