Wednesday 31 August 2011

The rant

Glen Campbell - Ghost on the Canvas reviewed by Terry Kelly

AMERICAN musical icon Glen Campbell announced to the world recently that he has Alzheimer's disease.

But although Ghost on the Canvas is being billed as his final studio album, Campbell is on top form on what is his finest release in years.

Emotional opener A Better Place sets the tone for a collection of songs looking back at life's joys and sorrows, while the title track is a real heart-tugging number about "looking at soul."

Campbell's voice remains a thing of beauty throughout an album tied together by subtle instrumental breaks.

Highlights are too many to mention on what is a fitting finale to a great musical career.

Glen Campbell - Ghost on the Canvas (Surfdog)



Monday 29 August 2011

Glen Campbell: still on the line

Glen Campbell: One last love song
In June, Glen Campbell announced that he had Alzheimer's. As he releases his final album, he talks about memory loss, drug addiction and telling Elvis he was too fat

Simon Hattenstone
Friday 26 August 2011 23.01

When you first listen to Glen Campbell's new album, Ghost On The Canvas, nothing seems amiss. His voice is rich and clear, the songs intimate reflections on his 75 years. There is plenty to reflect on – the drink and drugs, the four wives and eight children, the fame and fortune, 50-odd years as one of the world's great singers and guitarists. It's only when you listen closely that a recurrent theme emerges – of confusion. In A Better Place, he sings:

Some days I'm so confused, Lord,
My past gets in my way.
I need the ones I love, Lord,
More and more each day.

On the sleeve notes he writes: "Ghost On The Canvas is the last studio record of new songs that I plan to make. I've been saying it to friends and family, but now that it's in writing it really seems final." In June, Campbell revealed he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease six months earlier and that he was going to do a farewell tour before retiring. The announcement was shocking in its bluntness. Many of us still remember Glen Campbell as the eternally youthful hunk with huge shoulders or the naive boy-man who stars alongside John Wayne in True Grit. Glen Campbell wasn't made for growing old.

Malibu, California. The road winds round the hills until I reach a private estate. I am buzzed through the intercom and welcomed in warmly by a huddle of people and a couple of large dogs. After a few minutes a big, strong elderly man in shorts and T-shirt enters the room, doing a brilliant Donald Duck impression. He smiles, grabs my hand, says, "Well howdyado?" and makes good eye contact. "Well howdyalikeitoverhere?"

It's strange talking a man who is drifting in and out of the present. I'm waiting for his wife Kim to arrive – it feels wrong to start the interview before she does. We try to talk about the new album, which really is rather wonderful. "Well, thank you," he says. "Now, what album are we talking about?" I tell him it's called Ghost On The Canvas, and that he has said it's going to be his final record. "Well, I dunno about that," he says. "If I ran into five or six good songs, I would make another. Yeah, I'm sure I will. I dunno. Let me see how old I am now? I'm 75. Yeah, yeah, 75."

Before his successful solo career he was a member of the Wrecking Crew, a group of musicians that worked on numerous classic songs including You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin', Strangers In the Night and Viva Las Vegas. It was in the 1960s and 1970s that Campbell enjoyed his greatest success with songs such as Galveston, Gentle On My Mind, Wichita Lineman and Rhinestone Cowboy. And he did look like an all-American cowboy – blond as the sun, solid as a bale of hay, simple values. Classic beefcake. (In True Grit his character is called La Boeuf). Yet he was a supremely subtle, and surprisingly mournful, interpreter of songs, especially those by Jimmy Webb. In Wichita Lineman, which contains my favourite ever lyric ("And I need you more than want you/ And I want you for all time"), Campbell brings an incredible melancholy to the story of the lineman hearing the ghost of his absent girlfriend in the wires he's working on.

Campbell was one of 12 children born to a sharecropper father in Pike County, Arkansas. His Uncle Boo taught him guitar and at 16, he left for Albuquerque, New Mexico. Five years later he moved to Los Angeles as a session musician. He worked hard, lived hard, loved hard. By the time he married Kim in 1981 he'd been through three wives. They met on a blind date. She was a young dancer with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, he was a wreck. He had just come out of a tempestuous relationship with country singer Tanya Tucker, who claimed he had knocked her teeth out, an allegation he denied.

"JJ get outta here," says Kim, who has just joined us. She shoos the alsatian away. "Dog get outside. He's just a big old baby. Get outtahere dog."

She hands her husband the lyrics to A Better Place as a reminder. He looks at them and starts singing, falteringly at first, as he searches for the tune. "I've tried and I have failed, Lord." He slurps his cranberry juice through a straw with relish. "Yeah, that's a good one…" He's more relaxed with Kim by his side, but is still trying to make sense of why I'm here. Where did the album title come from? "I dunno. They just said that's OK." His voice is slurred, drunk-sounding, though he's been off the booze for an age. "They just said, 'Are you gonna put something on an album or'… what d'you call this thing here?" He looks at the CD cover and then to Kim for guidance.

Kim: "A CD."

"A CD, yes. It's cool."

Kim calls over to their daughter Ashley, who's in the kitchen. "Ash, do we have coffee over there for Daddy?" She talks about the personal nature of the album. "The songs reflect what he's been going through the last few years and the way he's felt."

Campbell mumbles incoherently as she talks. "I've always been very blessed. Well, not at first… I'm not going to do another song I don't like."

Kim gestures urgently to Ashley. "Coffee!"

Campbell sees this scene playing out in front of him.

"What what what?" he says in his Donald Duck voice.

Kim, by now frustrated and amused, shouts. "Ashley, get Dad a cup of coffee! Gosh. He's been playing golf and had a sleep, and he woke up right before you got here, and I feel like he needs a cup of coffee."

Campbell loves his golf. I mention Irishman Rory McIlroy recently winning the US Open, and he smiles. "Isn't that great?" he says. "That knocks me out, man. I'm Irish, too, you know. They really can play some golf."

I ask him what his handicap is. "I'm a white protestant – That's my handicap. I'm an eight handicap, it's OK…" The coffee is working. There are flashes of the old Campbell – jokes, anecdotes, rightwing one-liners, still there as reflex responses.

In their heyday, Campbell, Ronald Reagan and Charlton Heston – three proud Republicans – were close friends. Like Campbell, the other two were also diagnosed with Alzheimer's, but by the time the world knew about it they had quietly disappeared from public life. Kim says this is one reason why the family felt it was important to make the announcement – so he can live as normally as possible without having to feel shame.

We talk about the past, and soon it starts rushing back. The times he played with Elvis and Sinatra, and stood in for Brian Wilson in the Beach Boys. "I was a studio player in a group called…" He looks at Kim. "What were they called?

Kim: "The Wrecking Crew"

Campbell smiles affectionately. "Ah, the Wrecking Crew! They played on everything that came out of LA. Oh that was a good band. You really enjoyed going to work. You played for everyone, it didn't matter what it was. Pop, rock, crock…" Crock? "Country rock! What was his name? With the Beach Boys." Brian Wilson? "Brian went off and put his feet in the sand and wrote the Pet Sounds album, and what was I going to say? Ah! Forgot it. Oh, yes. I played the bass. Oh, that was hard. I had to do the high parts, too. Like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time."

If there was one person from the old days who could join him on this tour, who would it be? "Oh Elvis. Course," he says instantly. "When we played at the Hilton hotel in Vegas, he would go in for a month, and I'd go in for a month. Then we'd switch. Elvis had more charisma in his little finger than everybody else put together. What d'you call it? Electricity. And he was a handsome guy." Didn't you used to do Elvis impressions on stage? "Yeah. Hehehehe!"

Kim: "Elvis came to see him one night, and he said something like, 'You better stop doing me, Campbell, otherwise I'm going to come and read the newspaper in the front row.' And you said, 'If I'm gonna keep doin' you I'm gonna have to gain some weight.'"

Campbell looks mortified at the memory. "I got booed. I wanted to bite my tongue after I said that."

We are sitting in a large sunlit villa looking over the Malibu hills and surrounded by memorabilia from Campbell's career. There are trophy cabinets and rooms full of photographs of Campbell with Elvis, Dean Martin, Ray Charles and Sammy Davis Jr and everybody who was everybody – permanent reminders of who he was. Huge leather-bound Bibles, far too heavy to pick up, lie on tables. Kim was brought up in the Methodist Presbyterian church, he in the Church of Christ, Baptist, but early into their marriage they joined a Messianic synagogue that follows the Old Testament but believes Jesus is the Messiah. The Campbells eat kosher and celebrate Jewish festivals. On Friday nights, Campbell blesses the bread and wine.

Kim: "Glen sings the prayers. Go on, sing a prayer. Barukh attah adonai…"

Campbell starts to sing quietly. "Barukh attah adonai eloheynu melekh haolom hammotsi lechem min haarets."

Has religion changed him? "Well, his relationship with God, whether it was going to the Baptist church or Messianic synagogue has definitely straightened him up," Kim says.

How important has God been in his life? "God saved me. I drowned once," Campbell says. I think he means metaphorically. But he tells me he was two years old, walked into a river and was saved by his brother who had just learned CPR.

Ashley, at 24, the youngest of his children, says he's great with ancient memories, it's the short-term stuff that's the problem. I find her in a side room, lined with acoustic guitars like a rifle range. "Wondering where the bathroom is in your own house, for example. He was aware he couldn't remember things and it was very frustrating for him. But he seems to be doing a lot better since getting a new treatment. He was having a lot of anxiety. We have to be around him more. Sometimes he'll go look for the grocery store, and that's very scary for us because that's a dangerous road."

When did she realise he had problems? "It started very subtly back when I was in high school, like he'd ask the same question twice, and it got worse and worse. When the diagnosis came it hit me hard – it's not just he's getting older."

Has it changed her relationship with him? "It's made me appreciate him a lot more, and the time I have left with him. It's made me want to spend more time with him and ask him about his life. Get to know him as a person as opposed to him as my dad. My favourite question is, 'How are you doing right now, are you happy?' And that usually gets him going. 'Ah, I've been a little tired lately'…" Then I'll ask him about the Wrecking Crew. He loves talking about the Wrecking Crew."

Ashley graduated in drama and has played banjo with her father's band for the past two years. She says she's been watching his old TV show, The Good Time Hour. "Seeing that side, when he was completely on top of things, and the best guitar player there was, it makes me so proud to be playing with him now."

What's his guitar playing like now? "It's interesting because with the disease he'll sometimes mess it up, but he never forgets how to solo. His old colleagues used to call it Campbelling. Sometimes he does long solos on Wichita Lineman or Galveston. And when he does something different now, it makes me excited; it makes me so happy when he's on stage and just kills it."

The biggest change in their relationship is probably professionally, she says. (All three children from his marriage to Kim are in the band). While he's still obviously the star, she finds herself caring for him, even mothering him. "When I'm on stage I don't just play out to the audience and smile, I'm watching him all the time. If he decides to go somewhere else with a song we have to be right there to go with him. And if he doesn't know the song I'll be like, 'Hey, Dad, this is Galveston."

Does she worry that people might feel the family is exploiting him – a concern Kim has expressed. She looks shocked. "No. He still brings joy to people's hearts. Sure it would be exploitation if he was really far on. Dance, monkey, dance, that's not right. But it's not like that at all."

Back in the main room, Kim tells me about when she and Campbell got together. "On our first date he took me to a restaurant at the Waldorf and before we ate he bowed his head and said a prayer and I thought, 'Oh good, he believes in God. Of course, as the night went on I also found out he had an alcohol problem. But he's always been such a great person; so generous, so sweet and loving and kind. It was just the alcohol that turned him into a monster."

A monster? "Yes. He was obnoxious."

Campbell: "Nooooh!"

Kim: "He was. He was mean. It wasn't the Glen I knew him to be. So we got involved in the church and started studying the Bible together and got some godly friends around who encouraged you. We started surrounding ourselves with family. His brother came to live with us and Shorty said, 'Glen, I don't want you to end up like Elvis, you really need to stop drinking.' Gene Autry called him and said, 'The booze is no good, Glen.' So a lot of people who loved him encouraged him."

She pauses. "He would fall down drunk five nights a week. Just pass out. I would never advise anybody to do what I did; go into a relationship knowing that someone is so messed up."

He was also addicted to cocaine at the time. "It's the devil, he wants you man!" Campbell says. But he ain't having you? "No! Campbell will go out there and kick him."

Did Kim ever think he was too big a challenge? "Yes, I thought, 'I can't take it any more.' We had tiny children, and I thought, 'I'm not going to expose my children to some drunkard coming home and being mean to me, you know, I'm not going to do it,' so I put my foot down." She slaps her hand on the table.

Did she give him an ultimatum?

Campbell: "Oh, yes."

Kim: "I gave him an ultimatum on the drugs, coz right after we got married he stayed out all night with a very famous rock group." Which one? "My favourite band of all time, Fleetwood Mac." Wasn't he given a special pass because it was Fleetwood Mac? She laughs. "I know. How could I be angry with him when they were my favourite band? But he came back and I said, 'I'm not going to be married to someone who does that.' He got teary-eyed and said, 'I make one mistake and you're going to leave me?' And that was it; that was the last time."

Well, not quite the last time. At least, not as far as the drink was concerned. "We've had a relapse or two," Kim says. In 2003 he was stopped for drink-driving after a hit-and-run incident. He told the officer who arrested him he wasn't drunk, he'd simply been over-served, before kneeing him in the thigh. "God allowed him to get caught and to get caught good," Kim says.

Does he remember that relapse?

Kim reminds him: "Hit and run. You got arrested. Kicked the police officer."

Campbell: "Oh, did I?"

Kim: "And they put you in jail."

Campbell: "That's right! They did."

Kim: "Then you had to serve 10 days in jail. I have the pink underwear upstairs to prove it. Sheriff Joe Arpaeo from Phoenix, Arizona is famous for making all the inmates wear pink underwear and I have a pair signed by the sheriff. Glen straightened up after that."

Campbell: "Yep. I finally got broke from sucking eggs, as they say."

Does Ashley remember her father's drunken years? "Mmm… yeah I remember him a couple of times. When he had that incident. He's not a very pleasant person when he's drinking." What's he like? "Just angry and annoys people and lies to make himself look good. 'Are you drinking?' 'No, course not.' 'What's in the Coke can?' 'Coke.' But he's totally past that now." Was he violent? "Never violent towards anyone. Just maybe furniture. "

Julian Raymond, the producer of Ghost On The Canvas, arrives. He and Campbell share song-writing credits on five songs on the album. How did the collaboration work? "We'd talk about stuff; things that were going on in his life, things that happened, and I'd nurse them into stories he could feel good about," Raymond says. "The classic one to me was we were hanging out in the kitchen, Kim was there, and he was talking about some of the more traumatic times in his life and he said, 'Look, there's no me without her.' So we changed it to 'There's no me without you'. It's about their relationship – he really wasn't expecting her to come along in his life. I'd keep a journal and we'd talk about the struggles of him being confused."

Although Campbell had not been diagnosed when they made the album, there were symptoms. But Raymond says once they were working it was almost like the old Campbell. That guy's never in the studio for more than 60 minutes. Never. On the way into the studio, he'd learn the song and have it by the time he got there. He might forget who he met five minutes ago, but he remembers lyrics and melodies really well."

As we chat, Campbell sits contentedly singing to himself, half listening. I ask him if he is worried about touring because of the Alzheimer's.

"Where did that come up? That Alzheimer," he says.

"You were diagnosed with Alzheimer's," Kim says gently.

Campbell: "Oh, I was? Well. No, no I don't worry."

What does Kim think touring does for him? "It inspires him and fills his life full of meaning, and it's who he is, it's what he's always done, and it keeps his mind fresh and it keeps him levelled out. It makes him happy."

Campbell: "What is Alzheimer? Forgetful."

Kim: "Uhuh."

Campbell: "Well, I definitely got that…"

Kim: "I noticed the difference at the last show since we announced it. They just gave him so much love after each song. It made all of us feel so good."

Was it a big decision to go public about the Alzheimer's? "Well, it was becoming obvious on stage," Kim says. "He always delivered flawless performances, and now he will flub a lyric here and there. He's always been totally open and honest about his life, and it felt like the natural thing for us to do; let everybody know."

Ashley found it distressing when they were gigging and nobody knew what was wrong. "When he messed up, people were coming up to me after shows and saying, 'Is your dad drunk or is he using again?' It upset me. Now this is out they're just going to be supporting and loving him rather than being angry that they paid to see him."

Is it important to help people understand the illness? "I think so. It's important because he's not just going into hiding. He's out there, and saying, 'I'm still going to try to do what I do, and I'm not going to let this disease beat me just yet.' "

Kim is convinced there is a change in his brain when he performs. "It's like a light switches on. When he walks out on stage, it's just BING! Wow!"

Campbell has been singing along as we've been talking, but it turns out he's been listening more closely than it seems. "You love music," he says. "You feel good. I get a kick out of it. Like the old Floyd Tillman song goes, 'I love you so much it hurts me, darling, that's why I'm so blue.' It's all I ever wanted – to play and sing." •

• Ghost On The Canvas is out on Monday on Surfdog Records. A UK tour starts in Salford, on 21 October; for tickets, go to

Saturday 27 August 2011

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Restoring Early Hitchcock

A Hitch in time: save the Hitchcock 9
Nine of the 10 films Hitchcock directed in the 1920s are getting a full restoration. Henry K Miller enters the dusty world of the archivists and learns about the race to save the silents

Henry K Miller
Thursday 18 August 2011 22.00

The audience at the Capitol cinema in London during the middle week of April 1926 witnessed an unusually bold declaration of authorship. The opening moments of The Pleasure Garden, touted in the fan magazines as the debut of "the youngest director in the world", contained, under the "directed by" credit, the slanted and underlined signature of the 26-year-old Alfred J Hitchcock. What followed was also – as it would become clear over the decades – signature Hitchcock film-making. The film's first scene gives us a voyeur's-eye-view of a dancer's legs; and then makes us share the voyeur's unease as the look is returned. The Spectator's influential critic Iris Barry scented the "new blood" desperately needed by the ailing British film industry, writing that Hitchcock had "astonished everyone with his freshness and power".

Despite the plaudits, and despite Hitchcock's self-confidence, there was no inkling that his films would be seen in five years' time, let alone 85. Three million Britons went to the pictures every night, and the turnover was fast. Most movies played for half a week before being replaced, with a favoured few lingering in circulation a little longer. Survival was a matter of luck and the market. But next year, if all goes to plan, nine of the 10 films Hitchcock directed during the 1920s will be seen as no one has seen them since their first release, restored thanks to the BFI National Archive's Rescue the Hitchcock 9 project.

Publicly launched a year ago, and yoked to 2012's Cultural Olympiad, the biggest single undertaking in the archive's history is global in scope, but has its nerve-centre on the edge of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, in what used to be – and from the road still resembles – a farm. Home to vast air-locked, low-temperature film vaults, and to the personal papers of the likes of Michael Powell and David Lean, "Berko" is a hive of white-coated, clean-handed, obsessive activity.

Now the largest film archive in Europe, it was among the very first. The National Film Library, as the archive was originally called, was launched in July 1935, a few weeks after the release of The 39 Steps. A lowly department of the young and deeply troubled British Film Institute, it started out, in the words of its first curator Ernest Lindgren, 24 years old when he took on the role, with "no films, no equipment, and no money". Most of the silent heritage had been destroyed since the coming of talkies at the end of the 1920s, and so the library comprised, said Lindgren, "scraps of flotsam and jetsam, the wreckage of a vast output of film, which purely by chance have survived the destructive storm of time".

Perhaps because of his success and talent for self-promotion, as well as pure chance, the Hitchcock oeuvre was among the scraps. His first talkie, Blackmail (1929), was one of the Library's cherished early acquisitions. When Iris Barry began to curate the film department of New York's Museum of Modern Art, also founded in mid-1935, Hitchcock's early productions were among the first British films she sought out. Only his second, The Mountain Eagle (1926), has been lost; and after the discovery in New Zealand of part of The White Shadow (1923), a film on which Hitchcock acted as assistant director and editor, one cannot quite write off the chances of it being found.

There was more than one reason for the great bonfire of silent movies. Cellulose nitrate film stock could be melted down for its silver content, it was expensive to store, and it was and is dangerous to keep: it is volatile, prone to spontaneous combustion and inextinguishable once aflame. Sometimes the capricious compound defied expectations and outlived its successor, "acetate" or "safety", which had a tendency to turn vinegary with age. But other times it didn't. Nitrate's unpredictable nature meant that no film, even once it had entered the library, was safe.

While Henri Langlois, director of the Cinémathèque Française – and Lindgren's arch-rival, would show anything that passed through a projector, leaving a trail of ashes in his wake, Lindgren's urgent priority was to copy the most vulnerable films and stabilise the rest. The principles of storage and preservation established by his deputy Harold Brown continue to underpin the work of the BFI at Berkhamsted and at its special nitrate storage facility at Gaydon in Warwickshire.

Whereas Lindgren, head of the archive till his death in 1973, became notorious for his aversion to showing the films in his care, forcing his colleagues at the National Film Theatre to go to Langlois or Barry to make up their programmes, the newly restored Hitchcocks will be seen in every kind of format, on any number of screens, in all imaginable places. Despite the feeling of safety in widespread duplication, however, the question of longevity still hovers over the endeavour. Apart from the ever more precarious originals, all of the many copies will derive from one painstakingly constructed new source, and while safer materials than nitrate and acetate have been devised to bear it, even the best preservation techniques can only hold back the inevitable.

Each reel of each film has its own story that the archivists have to unpick in their pursuit of authenticity. Though some films, such as The Lodger (1926), Hitchcock's first bona fide hit, have come down to the present in a solitary positive nitrate print, others exist in multiple versions, presenting mysteries that require international collaboration to solve.

The conservationists' first step is to establish the definitive opening-night cut. For example, the BFI's own copy of The Pleasure Garden, acquired in 1940, is incomplete, missing scenes that appear in the Dutch EYE Film Institute's print. But the British is longer overall; and the scenes aren't all in the same sequence. To construct a restored print, the conservationist examines the various versions together, frame by frame, on a "synchroniser". Clues are sought in contemporary print sources: the synopses printed in the trade paper Bioscope, held by the BFI Library in London, provide a detailed first-hand account of the film's narrative construction. For other titles, like Downhill (1927), there are holdings in the institute's invaluable Special Collections department – scripts and press notes, though sadly little by Hitchcock himself.

In parallel with this attempt to get the right frames in the right order at the right speed, the archivists also aim to minimise the marks of age and handling – shrinkage and smudges, bubbling and blotching, and the like – sometimes using techniques from the Lindgren-Brown era. One magnificent analogue contraption, the optical step printer, is used to copy damaged reels on to usable stock. It makes possible the removal of long scratches by rephotographing the offending strips through dry-cleaning fluid, a process the latest software cannot replicate.

But of course digital technology has transformed, and continues to transform, film restoration. In three cases – Champagne (1928), The Manxman (1929), and the silent version of Blackmail – the BFI has the fons et origo, the original "camera negative". The same strips of celluloid that passed through Hitchcock's camera at Elstree and across his cutting desk are now fed through a digital scanner, copied using a cold light source, with each of the 100,000 odd frames given a unique number. Once in the digital realm, stored as images of 4096x3112 pixels (about double the current release-print standard), the films are subjected to careful cleaning and minute analysis for colour balance. The object is not antiquarianism for antiquarianism's sake, but a cinematic experience unencumbered by surface noise. In some instances total clarity is unwelcome: great effort is expended making the written title cards consistent in quality with the pictures.

Not so paradoxically, the restored image is also the most modern. As is well known, Hitchcock regarded the silent film as "the purest form of cinema", and never abandoned its principles. The climactic chase sequence of Blackmail, shot at the British Museum with the feeling for architectural space for which Hitchcock's American work became renowned, will appear to audiences not as an "old" film to be condescended to but as a model of action staging.

While maximum fidelity has been the goal of the archivists, the ambition of the curators is to give contemporary composers a free hand in producing soundtracks. Though a tie-in record was pressed up for the release of The Manxman, the films' first audiences would generally have had to make do with whatever accompaniment their local cinema could stretch to. There is room for invention. So far Nitin Sawhney has taken on The Lodger, and Daniel Cohen has scored The Pleasure Garden; Tansy Davies has been commissioned to score as yet unspecified title. All three have named Bernard Herrmann, whose music was integral to Hitchcock's late masterpieces, as an inspiration, and the results promise at the very least to reveal connections between the silent films and the better known works that followed.

The scores are the best hope of making the films new, but as with the wider project, money is tight and will have to be sought from donors if the nine are to be completed. To date a major contribution has been made by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation. Apart from their wide digital dissemination, the restorations will be preserved on polyester film negatives that, all other things being equal, will last over a hundred years. It is a wonder that the first attempt to produce definitive versions of the films in which Hitchcock honed his style has come in the original materials' twilight years – but that's not untypical of the archivists' world, where firefighting has always been part of the job.

• Details:

Friday 26 August 2011

Let's have a little jollity around here...

Last night's set list

At the Big Jug, Durham: -

Let It Be
Mind Your Own Business
Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Proceedings were temporarily halted by the inability of NUFC to dispose of Scunthorpe (the mighty iron!) in 90mins. Demba Ba is an absolute disgrace and isn't worthy of the shirt. Thanks to S Ameobi - that's Sammy - the desired result was finally achieved. I'm already expecting Chelsea in the next round.

So the open mic kicked off late, very late.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Lost Hitchcock Found!

Lost Alfred Hitchcock film found in New Zealand
In a twist the Master of Suspense himself would have been proud of Alfred Hitchcock's earliest surviving movie has been found languishing in a vault in New Zealand.

By Paul Chapman in Wellington and Nick Allen in Los Angeles
10:29AM BST 03 Aug 2011

All copies of The White Shadow, a silent feature film released by Hollywood in 1924, had been thought lost to posterity, and cinema historians have described the discovery as "priceless".

Three dusty reels containing the first half of the film – about 30 minutes of footage – had been stored deep in the bowels of the New Zealand Film Archive, where the search is continuing for the other three reels.
The acclaimed director was 24 when he worked on what was billed as a "wild, atmospheric melodrama" starring actress Betty Compson as twin sisters, one angelic and the other "without a soul". He was credited as assistant director and also wrote the scenario, designed the sets and edited the footage.

At the time silent Hollywood films were distributed worldwide and, while many prints were discarded and lost in the US, others survived abroad where they were kept after runs in cinemas had finished.

The White Shadow owes its survival to Jack Murtagh, a projectionist in the provincial New Zealand town of Hastings, who was regarded as an eccentric collector of films, cigarette cards, stamps and coins.

After his death in 1989 Mr Murtagh's private collection of highly flammable nitrate film prints was sent for safekeeping to the national archives in Wellington by his grandson Tony Osborne.

Mr Osborne said "He would be quietly amused by all the attention now generated by these important film discoveries." Other lost films rediscovered in the collection have included a copy of John Ford's 1927 comedy Upstream.
The Hitchcock film was discovered by an American archivist, Leslie Lewis, who was sent to investigate the New Zealand vaults.

She found two reels marked "Twin Sisters" and one with a label saying "Unidentified American film." On viewing the footage she immediately recognised them as something special.

She said: "I realised that this was more like a film that Hitchcock worked on." David Sterritt, chairman of the National Society of Film Critics and a Hitchcock expert, said it was known that production on the film was hampered by the director's "professional jealousy" of his gifted young assistant.

The following year Hitchcock went on to make his feature film directorial debut with The Pleasure Garden, followed by classics like Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo, and The Birds.
Mr Sterritt said: "These first three reels offer a priceless opportunity to study his visual and narrative ideas when they were first taking shape. What we are getting is the missing link." The White Shadow will be shown publicly in what is being billed a "Re-Premiere" in Hollywood in September.

Last night's set list

At The Habit, York: -

They're All In It Together*
There'll Never Be Anyone Else But You
On The Way Home
Long May You Run

* a new song written on Monday. A political rant - not the usual wasted love song. Went down rather well.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Jerry Leiber RIP

Jerry Leiber dies at 78; lyricist in songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller
Leiber and Stoller's first No. 1 hit was Elvis Presley's 'Hound Dog.' They also wrote for the Coasters, the Drifters, Ben E. King and many other artists.

Jerry Leiber, who with his songwriting partner Mike Stoller, created a songbook that infused the rock 'n' roll scene of the 1950s and early '60s with energy and mischievous humor, has died. He was 78.

Leiber, the words half of the duo, died Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of cardiopulmonary failure, said Randy Poe, president of the songwriters' music publishing company.

Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, Leiber and his lifelong writing partner, Stoller, wrote hits that included Elvis Presley's rat-a-tat-tat rendition of "Hound Dog" in 1956 and Peggy Lee's 1969 recording of the jaded "Is That All There Is?"

But they may be best remembered for the ebullient, impudent hits written for black groups like the Clovers ("Love Potion No. 9"), the Drifters ("Ruby Baby"); the Cheers ("Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots"), the Robins ("Smokey Joe's Cafe," "Riot in Cell Block No. 9") and, especially, a Robins' spinoff group that Leiber and Stoller helped create, the Coasters ("Searchin'," "Yakety Yak," "Poison Ivy," "Charlie Brown," "Down in Mexico," "Little Egypt").

As Leiber-Stoller biographer Robert Graham wrote, the Coasters' songs "were arguably the most enduring and hands-down funniest records of the rock 'n' roll era."

They were barely 18 when they had their first brush with success with Charles Brown's 1951 recording of "Hard Times."

But it was a white singer who could sing R&B — Presley — who five years later gave Leiber and Stoller their first No. 1 hit on the pop charts, "Hound Dog," a song they had written several years earlier for Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, whom Leiber described as "the saltiest chick we'd ever seen."

Leiber and Stoller — never were their names mentioned in the opposite order — were amazed that Presley chose a song told from a woman's point of view about kicking out a no-account man. They didn't like the way Presley sang it — too fast and nervous. And Leiber was not pleased that Presley picked up some erroneous lyrics: "You ain't never caught a rabbit, and you ain't no friend of mine."

Monday 22 August 2011

Jimmy Sangster RIP

Jimmy Sangster obituary
Screenwriter behind Hammer films such as Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein

Kim Newman
Sunday 21 August 2011 15.33 BST

In 1957, Hammer Films revived gothic horror – in abeyance in a decade that offered nuclear or cosmic horrors which made the classic monsters seem tame – with The Curse of Frankenstein, directed by Terence Fisher and starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. To hear him tell it, Jimmy Sangster, who has died aged 83, wrote the script because no one else would, and simply typed it out and turned it in.

Yet Sangster came up with a new story – owing as little to Mary Shelley's novel as to James Whale's earlier film – and a radical depiction of Frankenstein as a determined, charming yet corrupt dandy who could still chill in an era of nuclear proliferation. Sexually amoral (he uses his monster to murder the maid he has impregnated), rigidly dividing his life (making a bloody hash in the laboratory; prissily refined at the breakfast table) and intent on his "higher calling", this Victor Frankenstein was as ruthless, fascinating and yet remote as the social climber of Room at the Top or the early James Bond.

The same team – Sangster included – then created the even more successful Dracula (1958). Sensing a formula which worked, or in a hurry, Sangster reused the template of The Curse of Frankenstein: Cushing's visionary character is repeatedly thwarted by the ineptitude and small-mindedness of everyone around him, although here Cushing is Dr Van Helsing, and his goal is not the creation of Lee but his destruction, with Lee cast as an unprecedentedly active, virile Dracula.
These two credits alone would establish Sangster as a major creator, though he often professed little interest in the gothic, and was more taken with putting together twist-driven thrillers such as Intent to Kill (1958), directed by Jack Cardiff. He wrote The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Mummy (1959), The Brides of Dracula (1960) and other Hammer gothics, but handed over his spec script Taste of Fear (1961) only on the condition that he be allowed to produce. As writer-producer, he specialised in psychological crime, most notably in the Oliver Reed melodrama Paranoiac (1963) and the Bette Davis vehicle The Nanny (1965).

When Hammer wanted to remake The Curse of Frankenstein, Sangster agreed to write it if he were also allowed to direct. The Horror of Frankenstein (1970) isn't a terribly good black comedy, and Sangster was similarly deprecating about Lust for a Vampire (1971), a troubled production he helmed when his old colleague Fisher was sidelined by a road accident. The suspense movie Fear in the Night (1972) is his best work as director.

He was born James Henry Kinmel Sangster in Kinmel Bay, north Wales. His estate agent father was persuaded to put in the town's name because he was supposedly the first baby born there. He was educated at Ewell Castle school, in Surrey, and entered the British film industry at 16 as a production assistant. After service with the RAF, he worked as a third assistant director on Ealing Studios productions (The Captive Heart, Pink String and Sealing Wax). He joined Exclusive Studios, which would become Hammer Films, in 1949, and worked as assistant director and production manager on many of the B-pictures the studio turned out before gaining success and prominence in horror.
His first script was for a short (A Man On the Beach, 1955) and his first feature script was X the Unknown (1956), a science-fiction film planned as an entry in Hammer's Quatermass series until Nigel Kneale refused permission to use the character. In the late 1950s and early 60s, other companies imitated Hammer. The producer-directors Robert Baker and Monty Berman hired Sangster to write historical horrors (Jack the Ripper, 1959), a science-fiction film (The Trollenberg Terror, 1958) and even the based-on-fact drama The Siege of Sidney Street (1960), in which Sangster appears in a non-speaking role as Winston Churchill, puffing a cigar and ducking bullets during the climactic siege.

Private I, his first novel, was published in 1967, and adapted as an American TV movie (The Spy Killer) in 1969. This led to more work in American TV, as story editor or scriptwriter on shows such as Banacek and Wonder Woman. He contributed supernatural scripts to Kolchak: The Night Stalker and the anthology show Ghost Story. Though retired from the late 80s, a shelved Sangster script was filmed in Germany as Flashback in 2000. His memoirs (Do You Want It Good Or Tuesday? was the characteristic title) were published in 1997.

In recent years, he recorded DVD commentaries in which he affected total surprise that anyone would be interested in his work. The screenwriter Peter Atkins describes him as "a very self-effacing writer who was better than he thought he was and who gave all of us, I think, moments of genuine pleasure with his work".

He was married to Monica, a hairdresser on the early Hammer films, from 1950 to 1968; they had a son, James. He is survived by his second wife, the actor Mary Peach, and his son.

• James Henry Kinmel Sangster, screenwriter, producer, director and novelist, born 2 December 1927; died 19 August 2011

Sunday 21 August 2011

Neil and Bruce

Yesterday's set lists

At the Fulford Arms, York: -

Mid afternoon, following a +ve result against the unwashed in the Windmill with Mr Toole: -

Love Song
Out On The Weekend
Only Love Can Break Your Heart

8pm or there abouts: -

I'm Just A Loser
Is It Only The Moonlight?
Mind Your Own Business
Let It Be
Walk Right In
I Don't Want To Talk About It
Heart Of Gold

A long day but an enjoyable one. 1st set was a stop-gap due to 2 acts not turning up. Tom & Maureen attended.