Monday, October 29, 2012

Clapton's Beano Period

I have commented before about this Clapton session. You can see a print of Slowhand from February, 1966 on this pic clipped to the strings of a Les Paul guitar, which was staged as Guitar World's Collectors Choice Centerfold Honoring the Marshall "Bluesbreaker" 2x12 50-watt combo Model 1965340.

BluesbreakerBeano w text

The amp – the Marshall "Bluesbreaker" 2x12 named for the album on which it was used – was found for me by the honorable Steve Melkisethian of Angela Instruments in Laurel, Maryland (Steve later got me the "Bullet" harp mike dedicated by Billy Gibbons to me, and which I still use, but that is another story). I orchestrated the whole setup in the studio for GW "Guitographer" Glen La Ferman's loving homage. The amp is owned by Mike Doyle of Guitar Center in CA.

Of the amp, Pete Prown, Gear Editor of Vintage Guitar magazine, said recently, "This is Ground Zero for rock-guitar tone. This is when it all exploded ... Hendrix, Beck, Cream, Zep -- they all took their cues from the Bluesbreakers album, tone-wise. It wasn't fuzz. It was TUBE tone."

Here's some more fab facts about Beanos, Bluesbreakers and that guy they used to call God:

Blues Breakers is an album credited to John Mayall With Eric Clapton, released in 1966. It peaked at #6 on the UK chart. In 2003. The album was ranked number 195 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Apart from being one of the most influential blues albums, it also started the now-legendary combination of a Gibson Les Paul guitar through an overdriven Marshall Bluesbreaker amplifier.

The band name John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers is derived from the title of this album; no original issues mention the Bluesbreakers as band name. The album was also known as The Beano Album because of its cover photograph showing Clapton reading The Beano, a British children's comic. Clapton stated in his autobiography that he was reading Beano on the cover because he felt like being "uncooperative" during the photo shoot.

Originally, John Mayall intended for his second album to be a live album in order to capture the guitar solos performed by Eric Clapton. A set was recorded at the Flamingo Club, with Jack Bruce (with whom Clapton would later work in Cream) on bass.

The recordings of the concert, however, were of bad quality and were scrapped. With the original plan of a live album now discarded, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers recorded Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton at Decca Studios, West Hampstead in March, 1966. The guitar that Eric Clapton used during the sessions was a 1960 Gibson 'sunburst' Les Paul with two PAF (Patent Applied For) 'humbucker' pickups.

This guitar, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, is also known as the "Beano" Les Paul, a replica of which has recently been reissued by Gibson.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jamie Lee Curtis Returns to the Scene of the Sublime

So, it is Halloween again and this news deserves a blog update. In honor of Debra Hill, the producer (R.I.P. 2005), who used to be my next-door neighbor ...
... I will make this the basis for a new blog update 2012!!!

The new poster for the re-release:
halloweenposter_LAT_10-24-12 last year's blog ...
Fear of Fright Night (redux):
and lest we forget ... Fear of Fright Night redux:
Just in time for

Halloween ...

... my updated essay on classic horror films entitled “Fear of Fright Night.” Wrote the original in 2001 for an AOL site called Entertainment Asylum. Find the page here. I wrote numerous pieces for Entertainment Asylum in my tenure as an AOL correspondent/content editor, but only this one was saved for posterity.

Flashforward to 2010, and I can now put up this considered reprise, recollected in tranquility entitled ...


Halloween Goes to the Movies

Watching Scary Movies in the relative safety of a theater with hundreds of other people around us will not turn us into raving, bloodthirsty lunatics. On the contrary, it's a cheap alternative to seeing a shrink.

By Noë Gold
We are now in the midst of another cycle of shock films, loosely categorized by film historians as the horror genre but I'll just call 'em Scary Movies, since these film historians tend to quarrel and quibble about what exactly is a horror film. I say "cycle" because these films come in bunches, about every twenty years or so, and are extremely popular. The films in the late-'90s crop (typified by "Scream," "Scream 2," "I Know What You Did Last Summer," "Disturbing Behavior", the latter-day "Halloween: H2O" and the equally sequel-tastic "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer") have one thing in common: they're not "monster movies" like "Frankenstein" or "The Fly" or any of the creepy horror films that were popular in the fifties.

1530 North Orange Grove Ave. across the street stood in for the Doyle residence, where Laurie was baby-sitting Tommy in "Halloween." Looking the same as when the movie was filmed there 30 years ago, except the brick pillars in the front are filled in with hedges. The panicked children ran from the house between the pillars and onto the street. Photo by Noë Gold

The Scary Movie of the nineties relies more on psychological terror than the obvious makeup-enhanced movies of that more innocent era. It deals with ordinary people in ordinary situations who come across a deviant like "Halloween's" Mike Myers. The suspense in H20 is more on account of the audience's expectations and the throbbing, spooky music than from any obvious monster. Mike Myers comes with a lot of baggage, and it's all hidden beneath that very ordinary white Halloween mask. The effect is much more chilling than Godzilla or Keith Richards could ever hope to be.

Why is this Scary cycle surfacing again now? On the surface, things are fairly stable in modern-day society. Crime statistics are down, the economy is whistling along and Charles Manson is tucked away neatly in prison with no hope of escape. So why do we flock to movies that scare the gizzards out of us? Because it gives us pleasure. When there are no real things to be scared of, we go to the movies to shake things up. In a weird way, it's therapeutic.

To illustrate this point, I call forth a reference in a seminal book by an author I used to know who taught me a lot about the genre, Carlos Clarens. On the frontispiece of his Illustrated History of the Horror Films, Carlos quotes sociologist Roland Penrose from his work, Violence in Contemporary Art: "The bogey of violence is particularly horrifying and intolerable to us when we meet it in cold blood. The arts, however, avoid its brutal impact by their appeal to the emotions, they warm us to its presence, turning terror into enjoyment and cruelty into compassion. We participate in the act of violence without suffering its evil consequences. Art, in fact, allows us, as in certain rituals, to satisfy our Olympian yearning to stimulate the forces of nature. Its nonviolent power has a therapeutic and catalytic influence."

So, watching Scary Movies in the relative safety of a theater with hundreds of other people around us will not turn us into raving, bloodthirsty lunatics. On the contrary, it's a cheap alternative to seeing a shrink. For the same reason we pay money and wait in long lines to ride the shriekiest roller coaster, we go to the movies to get our hair lifted. Steve Miner, who directed H20, says it this way: "My favorite scary film of all time was Psycho, which I could not sit through. I never saw the whole movie until I was an adult. Halloween I found reminiscent in spirit of that kind of movie: unrelentingly scary and suspenseful and atmospheric. I think people like to be scared because they can go to the edge without really being there."

Kevin Williamson, the Dawson's Creek director who wrote the screenplay of H20 as well as that of Scream, credits Halloween for what he is today. "Halloween is and always has been my favorite film of all time," he says. "It wasn't just a movie, it was an experience. ... The audience participation factor was one of the most incredible parts of the movie. The way the audience jumped and screamed at the characters on screen got my blood pumping. It was this effect in Halloween that made me realize that I wanted to be a filmmaker.

Okay, what about that "every twenty years" theory? It's no coincidence that the current Halloween is subtitled H20, since the original Halloween was released in 1978. That one put its director, John Carpenter, on the map and kicked off the career of Jamie Lee Curtis as well (it was her first feature film). H20 has among its co-stars Jamie Lee's mom, Janet Leigh, who was the star victim of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, released 18 years before Halloween in 1960 (and later to be redone in a faithful translation by Gus Van Sant). Carpenter's stated purpose in conceiving Halloween was that he wanted to create a picture that would play like a full-length version of the shower scene in Psycho.

Go back roughly twenty years from Psycho and you have the beginning of another Scary cycle in the early forties. A series of films produced by Val Lewton has a lot in common with what the Scary cycle of the nineties is going for - psychological horror with no monsters or creatures in sight. The great director Jacques Tourneur did more with camera angles, lighting and sound to chill the audience's bones with his masterpieces the original Cat People and his follow-up I Walked With a Zombie. I command you to go out and rent these right now so you can see what I mean.

The first of these twenty-year cycles, just to round out my argument, goes back to Germany in the twenties. You won't be able to rent Paul Weggener's Student of Prague or his series of films about the Golem, a vengeful Jewish monster who haunted Czechoslovakia. But there is also The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, the original vampire story (with Max Schreck as the Vampire). And rounding out the cycle is The Hands of Orlac, with Caligari's Conrad Veidt, about a concert pianist who has the hands of a murderer grafted on after he loses his in an accident. The fright genre moved (along with a number of German filmmakers escaping the Nazis) to America for its next cycle, and it is also no great coincidence that another one of these German exports, Peter Lorre, made his American film debut in 1935 in a remake of Orlac called Mad Love, another one that you must rent or seek out on cable TV.

Which is all to say that what comes around goes around in the world of roller coasters and Scary Movies. Now that I have given you a quick sense of its history, it's a good time to grab a ride.

PS, there’s also a neato keeno compendium of creature features here on the same site:

.... and in this photo gallery from The Hollywood Reporter:

also ...

LA Times 10-24-12

‘Halloween’: John Carpenter classic returns for theatrical run
Oct. 24, 2012 | 6:00 a.m.

Michael Myers, the masked silent Shape that emerged from the shadows of Haddonfield, Ill., to stalk generations of moviegoers, will return to theaters Thursday for a re-release of John Carpenter’s landmark 1978 horror film “Halloween,” just in time for the Oct. 31 holiday.
Trancas International Films, in partnership with Compass International Pictures and Screenvision, will open “Halloween” in roughly 560 theaters in the U.S. and more in the United Kingdom this week, marking the widest release the film has had since its original run.
With the 35th anniversary of “Halloween” arriving next year, it seemed the right time to resurrect Carpenter’s classic in a proper theatrical setting, according to Justin Beahm, Trancas’ vice president of licensing and new media. …..

“He isn’t a destination creature,” Beahm said. “In ‘Jaws,’ the shark’s only a threat when you’re in the water. In so many films, you have to venture into the darkness or into the mysterious whatever to find the creature. Michael exists in the shadows in our own homes. He’s in the closet. That never goes away, that’s always going to be relevant to people and there’s a real timelessness to it.”
– Gina McIntyre

Weho Houses' Spooky 'Halloween' History
Scenes from John Carpenter's visionary 1978 film were shot on North Orange Grove Avenue.
By Noe Gold
October 29, 2010

Short URL:

… and speaking about Halloween, this piece is a perennial:
Fear of Fright Night
Why the current crop of horror films holds no candle to the original masters
By Noe Gold

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ballad of a thin man

Ballad of a thin man by Doctor Noe
Ballad of a thin man, a photo by Doctor Noe on Flickr.
A magic quote from Mikal Gilmore's califragilistic interview (Bob Dylan Rolling Stone cover story Sept. 27, 2012) comes at the end with a reference to Dylan's supposed nod to the Civil War poetry of Henry Timrod. This is so Zim:

"Oh yeah, in folk and jazz, quotation is a rich and enriching tradition. That certainly is true. It's true for everybody, but me. I mean, everybody else can do it but not me. There are different rules for me. And as far as Henry Timrod is concerned, have you ever heard of him? Who's been reading him lately? And who's pushed him to the forefront? Who's been making you read him? And ask his descendants what they think of the hoopla. And if you think it's so easy to quote him and it can help your work, do it yourself and see how far you can get. Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. It's an old thing – it's part of the tradition. It goes way back. These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you've been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our lord and delivering him up to be crucified. All them evil motherfuckers can rot in hell."