Paul Fuzz Presents: Flew In From Miami Beach BOAC
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
  Top 5 Beatle Songs: My contribution to the Normblog Poll
.1. Rain (B-Side of Paperback Writer')
.2. Tomorrow Never Knows (Revolver)
.3. I Am The Walrus (Magical Mystery Tour)
.4. Helter Skelter (The Beatles, aka 'The White Album')
.5. Revolution 9 (The Beatles, aka 'The White Album')

Notes, justifications, ideas etc:

(a) I arrived at this Top 5 because it reflects the chronological arc of my favourite Beatles period, bookended by the super-heavy bronze hammer psyche-funk of Rain (1996) and the dark avant-garde cut 'n' paste-adelia of the White Album's Revolution 9 (1968). This self-imposed time frame made making my choices easier - I told myself I could only pick songs which fell between the recording of these two tracks, and I wanted to pick 5 songs which worked well together, back-to-back. As these lists are abitary anyway, (I'd probably pick 5 entirely different songs next week) it's fun to come up with a system like this.

(b) The list suffers from a predominance of what are largely Lennon authored tracks. With the exception of Helter Skelter, entirely McCartney's experiment, each of my choices are identified most closely with Lennon. Revolution 9 is almost exclusively a LenOno production, while Rain, Tomorrow Never Knows and I Am The Walrus are all quintessentially John, though of course each benefit from stunning contributions by the other Fabs - especially so in the case of Rain. (Lennon's dominance stretched even to my pre-Top 5 shortist, which included Strawberry Fields Forever (Anthology 2 Version) , Glass Onion, and I've Got A Feeling...but also Paul's Rocky Raccoon.)

(c) With due respect to I've Got A Feeling, Come Together, The Word, Sgt Pepper's Reprise, and Flying, two of my choices - Rain & Tomorrow Never Knows (both 1966) - are hands down the funkiest motherthumpers The Fabs ever laid down. Ringo excels on both tracks; Rain edges it for sheer heavy-bottomed fonk, while TNK's off-kilter groove has entranced dance producers for years (The Chemical Brothers having spent half their career trying to recreate it). Macca's bass on Rain is simply phenonemal, laying down the blueprint for every freakbeat group who bought wholesale into the Rain sound, and is still being ripped off regularly to this day. Both tracks are heavily lysergic, psyche masterpieces, but are included here to remind people that the hugely underrated McCartney/Starr rhthym section was capable of grooves as danceable and as influential as Clyde Stubblefield's break on James Brown's Funky Drummer.

(d) Helter Skelter has enjoyed something of a revival in recent years; when I was growing up, the general pop concensus was that Charles Manson's fave Fabs rave-up was an example of Macca over-reaching himself, attempting an unconvincing, uncharacteristic, Who-aping wig-out in the New Heavy Style, and not really pulling it off. Beatles scholar Ian MacDonald called it "ridiculous, McCartney shrieking weedily against a massively tape-echoed backdrop of out-of-tune thrashing." This critical attitude seems now to have been almost completely dropped, and Helter Skelter almost entirely rehabilitated, regarded as a White Album highlight, and a Macca live favourite.

(e) Wot, no Sgt Peppers? Sgt Pepper's Lonley Hearts Club Band has never been my favourite Beatles LP, and despite the fact that it falls slap-bang in the middle of my Top 5 chronology, I include no tracks from it here because I still think Peppers is a relatively weak collection when compared to Rubber Soul, Revolver and The White Album. I actively dislike With A Little Help From My Friends and Good Morning, Good Morning. The drumbreak at the beginning of '...Reprise' is pretty cool. And clearly A Day In The Life is a wonderful, wonderful song. But on the whole, I'm not a huge fan.

(f) I guess the most controversial choice here is Revolution 9. Partly I've included it because it worked in terms of my list, being the penultimate track on the White Album and thus bookending my self-imposed time-scale. Partly I've included it because I think it's a fascinating piece of music, and easily the the most extreme thing the Fabs ever put out. It's also pretentious, self-indulgent, silly and far less clever than it thinks it is...but nevertheless, the effort that went into its construction (Lennon said he spent more time on it than half the songs he wrote), its proto-hip-hop patchwork of samples and the fact that you can listen to it a million times and still hear something new make it, if not a favourite song, then certainly a highly rewarding listen.

Anyway, there you have it. I look forward to everybody else's lists...there are few things I enjoy more than a good ol' Beatles debate.


Sunday, May 13, 2007
  Monster Squad Vs Plan 9 From Outer Space: The 80's Teen Action Genre's relationship with Classical Hollywood
'Monster Squad' (Dir. Fred Dekker, 1987) is part of a very identifiable cycle of teen adventure (sci-fi/horror)-comedy movies of the mid - late 80s, a cycle which includes among others Adventures In Babysitting, My Best Friend Is A Vampire, My Science Project, Weird Science, Flight Of The Navigator and Space Camp. Many of these 80s Teen Action Movies are characterised by a postmodern re-visiting of Classical Hollywood and TV genres - Monster Squad's 'Dracula' is not Bram Stoker's Dracula, but the B-Movie Hammer Horror charicature. Everything is seen through a thick fog of collective popular memory, but a collective popular memory consisting not of actual historical events, but one constructed purely from a mass consumption of pop culture images we share through television, cereal packets and drive-in movies.

If Monster Squad reminded me of any other Cult Classic, it was Ed Wood's all-time 1959 Mondo Shlocko Plan 9 From Outer Space, the so called 'Worst Movie Of All Time', and perhaps the Sci-Fi /Horror B-Movie Genre's definitive statement. One key similarity bewteen the two movies is how they both draw so heavily and - crucially - so clumsily on stock Hammer Horror and Sci-Fi images, cutting and pasting together a messy collage of quotations. In Monster Squad, this effect is very much played for laughs; one memorable scene has Frankenstein's coffin rise from a swamp, amazing enough, until it is revealed that he is being held aloft by The Gill Man - as Dracula and The Wolf Man look on in triumph. It's ridiculous, and it knows it, but there's still something gleefull about the way it's done, like 'Actually, all these monsters together, it is pretty cool.'

In Plan 9's case the Monster over-kill is much less deliberate, but it's certainly still pretty funny and genuinely bizarre, not to mention the fact that it is actually cut and pasted together from different movies, even different genres. Plan 9 includes some footage origionally shot for an Ed Wood project titled Tomb Of The Vampire, which from the look and title of it would have been pretty much a straight (or as straight as Ed Wood could do it) Hammer-styled Dracula flick, starring none other than Bela Lugosi. When Lugosi died during filming, Wood decided to use what little footage he had from Tomb Of The Vampire in his next project, origionally titled Graverobbers From Outer Space, suggesting something part Stock Hammer Horror and part Stock Sci-Fi - which is exactly what it is, in the clumsiest way possible. Plan 9 features scenes of Bela Lugosi looking like he's in a completely different movie: which he is.

Another similarity between Monster Squad and Plan 9 is simply that they are both low-budget, exploitation affairs, and even though Monster Squad is much more knowing about the way it treats the genre, it's very cheapness shines winningly through - this isn't a big bucks romp a la The Goonies or even Bill & Ted's. Wether it likes it or not, Monster Squad is just as much a Trashy B-Movie as the films it lampoons. While I'm generally prepared to give Monster Squad the benefit of the doubt vis a vis it's 'ironic detachment from the subject matter' (to paraphrase Waynes World), but reviews I've looked up are incredibly varied, some say 'Spoof', others 'good family entertainment' and others simply that it's badly acted, low bugdet cheap thrills, and not in the good way, seeing no irony contained therein at all, and instead seeing just A Bad Movie. I guess this sorta mixed reaction would be comparable to the reaction to Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop, relased the same year as Monster Squad, in 1987. Robocop is read by many as a partly being a satire on Ultra-Violent 80s Action Cinema, but was understood by others - by most, I imagine, on first viewing - as simply just another dumb, bloody shoot 'em up, very much in The Terminator tradition, with a potentially fascist subtext. This failure to reach a general critical consensus about RoboCop's position (not good/bad, but simply 'where it's coming from') is mirrored in muddled critical attitudes to Monster Squad. The suggested 'ironic detachment' of these movies makes it difficult to pin them down, and their inherent cheapness only confuses matters - however satirical the intent, their own trashiness undermines the message. (The key difference bewteen RoboCop and Monster Squad, is that if his intent is ironic - which it surely is - Verhoeven has serious issues with the films he pastciches, where as Dekker clearly has huge affection for his subject matter.) Verhoeven, of course, went on to direct the very idelogically similar Starship Troopers, which you might argue is a more successful example of his particular thang than even Robocop.

Ultimately, what Plan 9 and Monster Squad share is a punk, gonzoid DIY ethic. They are films aimed directly and unashamedly at The Kids, in Wood's case a generation of newly affluent Teens, High School rock and rollers digging Elvis & Cadillac cars, living under the threat of Communism and The Bomb, and in Dekker's case a suburban generation raised on a diet of McDonalds, Marvel Comic Books, Steven King novels and late-night B-Movie Re-Runs, the generation that produced The Ramones. This generation, I guess, would become what we now call Generation X, a generation defined in part by it's bored, 'Whatever, Nevermind' ironic relationship with Mass Pop Culture, and movies like Monster Squad laid the seeds for the relitively sophisticated Slacker postmodernism of Clerks (Dir. Mike Smith, 1994) the Scream series, the Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV show and the wonderful Waynes World (Dir. Penelope Spheeris, 1992). The 80s Teen Action Cinema told its' audiences that stuff like Plan 9 From Outer Space was worth celebrating, or at the very thinking about - and ultimately however exploitative, Monster Squad was an honest attempt to re-evaluate and rehabilitate a genre maligned by the critics, but loved by The Kids. A worthy cause.

(You can read my over-excited review of Monster Squad below.)

(And I just checked: Monster Squad is gonna be available on DVD from July 27th. Plan 9 is already available on DVD.)


Saturday, May 12, 2007
  Monster Squad: The Review
Oh, man. Did anybody see my new fave movie 'Monster Squad' (1987) on Channel 5 this afternoon? It was der greatest. The Monster Squad is like this buncha punk kids raised on Steven King novels and trashy comics and popcorn cinema who battle B-Movie Monsters like Dracula and The Mummy and - coolest of all - The Wolfman in mid 80s Nowheresville USA suburbia, they're sorta like The BMX Bandits but with less BMX's, or a junior Ghostbusters, or a budget Goonies, or a slightly friendlier Lost Boys, and there's one kid whose menna be a bad ass, 'cos he wears a leather jacket and smokes and wears fingerless gloves and has A Bad Attitude, and a geeky kid, a Fat Kid and The Leader,and they say stuff like 'Radical' and 'Bitchin', and the special effects are hella lame and I'm pretty sure it was A Spoof, only 'cos they don't have the skill or the money or the talent to actually pull off a classy job you can never really tell what Sucks Knowlingly, and what just SUCKS, (the latter being way more fun) and there's The Cute Little Sister who - dig this - befriends Frankenstein's Monster, and the film pretty much ends with Frankenstein being sucked into a vortex and Cute Girl screaming "Come back, Frankenstein! Come baaaaccck!", like it's the touching story of the friendship between A 7 year old Girl and A Reanimated Corpse Sown Together From Human Flesh, and the National Guard turn up and demand to know 'What The Hell Has Been Going On Here', and THEN, - get this- the last 5 minutes of the movie is literally just the music video (a compilation of random clips from the movie we've just watched) for the 'Monster Squad' Theme Song, (OH YES!) which was pretty much just Ray Parker Jr's 'Ghostbusters' theme but only REALLY CRAP. They just shamelessly stuck an advert at the end of the movie! I dug it the most.

Basically, the whole thing couldn't be more 80's if it featured an innapropriate hard-drugs sub-plot and Billy Idol. Somewhere in the darkest corners of my memory I think I remember seeing it advertised in the local video store when I was just a kid (I'm talking 10 or 11) and thinking that it looked THE COOLEST. I was right. I'm staking my claim on 'Monster Squad' as A Genuine Cult Movie, a movie so dated, so badly executed and so cheap looking that it has been completely and understandably ignored by everyone, ever. But also a movie which features many things (50s B-Movie references, kids wearing 'Steven King Rules' t-shirts, a Fat Kid who winds up taking out The Gill Man with a huge shotgun and a super-quoteable script, proper Laugh Out Loud moments plus bags of general mid 80s teenage exploitation fun) which scream CULT!


  Wu Tang On The Culture Show
Oh, man. Just watchin' The Culture Show, very hip item about 'Street Chess' - the US phenonema of ghetto kids playing Chess out in the parks, (a familiar image from US TV, though not an image I really knew the history and culture of until I watched this), and then they start talkin' 'bout the connection with Hip-Hop, the idea of 'battling', of intellectual karate, and how there are numerous examples of rappers recognising the similarities between the two disciplines. Que: 'Da Mystery Of Chessboxin' from the awesome debut LP by Staten Island's finest, the mighty Wu Tang Clan. I was v. excited by this.

Anyway, enjoy Doctor Who tonight, guys...oh...No. Hang on. Enjoy Scooch. Enjoy Scooch tonight.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007
  Killjoy Radio
Edith Bowman, Radio 1FM, Friday afternoon (I'm paraphrasing): "OK, we've had a text sent in from Jay and Kelly saying 'Having a great afternoon chilling out in the amazing sunshine on a beach in Cornwall, could you play us something summery to dance to?' Would be our pleasure - Jay and Kelly, this is for you, I think this is gonna sound great on the beach..."

At which point Edith played...'Intervention' by The Arcade Fire. I mean, good song and everything, but as far as sunny, good time, beer and a barbeque beach party material goes it ain't exactly Surfin' USA, is it? "Everybody! 'Working for the church while your family dies!' Yeah! Limbo!"

At first I thought this was just mildy amusing, just another 1 Eff Emm dumb disco-jockey blunder, the type of clueless gaff one can hear at pretty much any given time during their day-time schedule. But the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that Bowman has unconciously stumbled across a really great radio format: Killjoy Radio! Jarringly Innapropriate Song Selections To Ruin Your Every Mood! Bumming You Out and Stomping All Over Your Good Vibes Around The Clock! Get your sad on, with Killjoy Radio!

(In super-hyped late-night dance DJ 'stylee'): "BOOOM! DJ Spin in the area, taking you through 'till 2am, right outta the box, keeping it fresh, you know it's gonna be ab-so-lutely MASSIVE! Aww Yeeaah! Friday night, wanna hear all your shout-outs, what you're doing tonight, the parties, the raves, where it's all KICKING OFF BIG TIME, let us know on Text 1298! Gotta shout out to Baz, Mazza, Bazza, and all the Beer Monster Crew 'aving it triple large down in Southhampton this evening, just says 'Play us something to go absolutely mental to' - can do, boys, go absolutley mental: this is Jeff Buckley's Halleluja! BOOOM!"

How good would that be?
IN GLORIOUS 3D FUZZ-O-VISION! A journey through the psychedelic world of cult movies, obsessive record collecting and pop-culture ephemera of all kinds. The Fuzziness is baked right in.

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