Saturday 31 March 2012

Martin Scorsese's Favourite 11 Horror Films

11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time
Oct 28, 2009

Martin Scorsese—the man who brought you Taxi Driver and The Departed—shares his favorite horror movies of all time.


“You may not believe in ghosts but you cannot deny terror!” was the tagline for this absolutely terrifying 1963 Robert Wise picture about the investigation of a house plagued by violently assaultive spirits.


There’s a moment in this Val Lewton picture, about plague victims trapped on an island during the Greek civil war, that never fails to scare me. let’s just say that it involves premature burial.


Another, more benign haunted house picture, set in England, no less atmospheric than The Haunting—the tone is very delicate, and the sense of fear is woven into the setting, the gentility of the characters.


Barbara Hershey plays a woman who is brutally raped and ravished by an invisible force in this truly terrifying picture. The banal settings, the California-modern house, accentuate the unnerving quality.


A British classic: four tales told by four strangers mysteriously gathered in a country house, each one extremely disquieting, climaxing with a montage in which elements from all the stories converge into a crescendo of madness. Like The Uninvited, it’s very playful…and then it gets under your skin.


Another haunted house movie, filled with sadness and dread. George C. Scott, recovering from the death of his wife and child, discovers the angry ghost of another dead child in the mansion where he’s staying.


I never read the Stephen King novel, I have no idea how faithful it is or isn’t, but Kubrick made a majestically terrifying movie, where what you don’t see or comprehend shadows every move the characters make.


A classic, endlessly parodied, very familiar— and it’s as utterly horrifying as it was the day it came out. That room—the cold, the purple light, the demonic transformations: it really haunts you.


Jacques Tourneur made this picture about ancient curses near the end of his career, but it’s as potent as his films for Val Lewton. Forget the demon itself—again, it’s what you don’t see that’s so powerful.


This Jack Clayton adaptation of The Turn of the Screw is one of the rare pictures that does justice to Henry James. It’s beautifully crafted and acted, immaculately shot (by Freddie Francis), and very scary.


Again, it’s so familiar that you think: great movie, but it’s not so scary anymore. Then you watch it…and quickly start thinking again. The shower…the swamp…the relationship between mother and son—it’s extremely disturbing on so many levels. It’s also a great work of art.

Friday 30 March 2012

Thursday 29 March 2012

Earl Scruggs - by Steve Martin

The Master from Flint Hill: Earl Scruggs

by Steve Martin
17 Januray 2012

Some nights he had the stars of North Carolina shooting from his fingertips. Before him, no one had ever played the banjo like he did. After him, everyone played the banjo like he did, or at least tried. In 1945, when he first stood on the stage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and played banjo the way no one had ever heard before, the audience responded with shouts, whoops, and ovations. He performed tunes he wrote as well as songs they knew, with clarity and speed like no one could imagine, except him. When the singer came to the end of a phrase, he filled the theatre with sparkling runs of notes that became a signature for all bluegrass music since. He wore a suit and Stetson hat, and when he played he smiled at the audience like what he was doing was effortless. There aren’t many earthquakes in Tennessee, but that night there was.

As boys in the little community of Flint Hill, near Shelby, North Carolina, Earl and his brother Horace would take their banjo and guitar and start playing on the porch, then split up and meet behind the house. Their goal was to still be on the beat when they rejoined at the back. Momentously, when he was ten years old, after a fight with his brother, he was playing his banjo to calm his mind. He was practicing the standard “Reuben” when found he could incorporate his third finger into the picking of his right hand, instead of his usual two, in an unbroken, rolling, staccato. He ran back to his brother, shouting, “I’ve got it, I’ve got it!” He was on the way to creating an entirely new way of playing the banjo: Scruggs Style.

He was only twenty-one when he was in on the founding of bluegrass music, adding the Scruggs’ banjo sound to Bill Monroe’s great blend of guitar, bass, fiddle, mandolin, and Monroe’s iconic high, lonesome voice, singing, “It’s mighty dark for me to travel.” He had already been playing Scruggs style for eleven years. On the Grand Ole Opry’s Ryman Auditorium stage, the banjo had been played well, but mostly in the old style, and mostly by comedians, prompting Uncle Dave Macon, a beloved regular, to say about Earl from the wings, “That boy can play the banjo, but he ain’t one damned bit funny.”

It was at the Ryman, in 1946, that he met his future wife, Louise. They made eye contact while he was performing as she sat in the third row, stage left. Ten years later, when it became obvious that Earl was not only famous but verging on a legend, Louise, exhibiting country firmness and gumption, became his gate-keeper, defending the soft-spoken Earl from celebrity abuse, ill-advised contracts, and too many free dates or dubious honors. But Earl always obliged the youngsters and amateurs (including this writer, whom Earl showed how to play “Sally Goodin’,” his way, when I was twenty-two).

Sometime after Monroe denied him songwriting credit on “Bluegrass Breakdown,” Scruggs left Monroe, changed the F chord in “Bluegrass Breakdown” to E minor, and wrote “Foggy Mountain Breakdown. ” It became, arguably, the most famous banjo instrumental, a song that speeds along at a clip of eleven notes per second. It is known by most people as the theme from the movie “Bonnie and Clyde,” and also supplied Earl with an income for life.

The banjo lends itself to showing off: it’s often played fast and thrillingly, fingers flying up and down the neck, the right hand connecting to the left with seemingly impossible accuracy. But Earl always remembered his mother’s advice when he was a boy: “Play something that has a tune to it.” His first and last priority was to make music, which keeps his sound melodic and accessible. Yet, even professional players today say, “How did he do that?” It is not easy to make the melody note land in the right place when rolling three fingers over five strings, but Earl could syncopate, “bend” a string—which caused one note to move unbroken into another—and he could audibly retune the banjo in the middle of a song, leading to the invention of a mechanical device called “Scruggs’ pegs.” Earl knew when and how to surprise the heck out of the listener.

After he left Monroe, in 1948, Scruggs teamed up with Lester Flatt, who had also left Monroe, and Earl maintained his position, unassailed, as the greatest and most influential banjo player who ever lived. They toured the rough backroads of the bluegrass circuit, where jarring potholes knocked their instruments haywire, and they tuned each night to Flatt’s G string on his guitar—which, over the months, crept up in pitch. By the end of the tour, they were often a half-step too high, which they soon learned suited Flatt’s baritone voice.

The long zigzag march through the clubs and radio stations of America counted, though, and Monroe was annoyed as Flatt and Scruggs became as famous as he was. In 1962, they headlined the Newport Folk Festival, sold out Carnegie Hall, and, one year later, Earl’s banjo helped send “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” to No. 1 on the country charts. Then the Bob Dylan revolution and Beatles revolution hit almost simultaneously. At one point, a producer convinced the band to incorporate this new music into Flatt and Scruggs, persuading poor Flatt to sing “Everybody must get stoned.”

In the late nineteen-sixties, Earl continued to be introduced to new sounds through his musical sons Randy and Gary, and also by drop-ins to his Nashville house: Bob Dylan, the Byrds, and others who wanted to pick with the famous Earl Scruggs. Ravi Shankar came by with his sitar, and, after their unlikely jam session, they satisfied Ravi’s mystical craving for Kentucky Fried Chicken by sharing a bucket. Eventually, Earl grew his hair a bit long, joined Randy and Gary to create the Earl Scruggs Revue, and added drums to the band—a bluegrass no-no. A few years later, he released a solo album featuring songs by Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles. When he showed up at a Washington, D.C., anti-Vietnam War protest, the country-music world from which he sprang wondered if he had blown a gasket.

A grand part of American music owes a debt to Earl Scruggs. Few players have changed the way we hear an instrument the way Earl has, putting him in a category with Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Chet Atkins, and Jimi Hendrix. His reach extends not only throughout America, but to other countries, including Japan, where bluegrass bands, strangely, abound, as well as Australia, Russia, the U.K., Italy, Germany, and the Czech Republic, which boasts not only bands but banjo makers. Most, if not all, of the banjo players play Scruggs style.

Earl is now eighty-eight, and it’s been seventy-eight years since he first shouted, “I’ve got it!” and reinvigorated the banjo. Picking with Earl at his home in Nashville is a holy anointment, and playing Earl’s banjo, the one he recorded “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” on in 1949, well, that’s like holding the Grail. Sometimes on these special evenings, everyone will sit around playing their instruments, and the tunes will glide easily from one to another, like it has on the porches and living rooms of America for hundreds of years. But then Earl will settle in, playing backup or taking the lead, and you hear the sound, the one you heard when you first fell in love with the banjo, and you can’t help but have a slight intake of breath. Unmistakable. That’s Earl Scruggs. The five-string banjo could not have had a better genius.

The author wishes to thank Gary Scruggs, Pete Wernick, and Tony Trischka for confirming facts and contributing memories to this article.

Earl Scruggs RIP

Banjo innovator and bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, died on Wednesday at a Nashville hospital at age 88.

A four-time Grammy winner, Scruggs was perhaps best known in popular culture for "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," the theme song for "The Beverly Hillbillies" television program, and for "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," a Flatt & Scruggs classic which was used in the 1967 classic film, "Bonnie and Clyde."

Last night's setlists

At The Habit, York: -

Set 1 (with Ron): -
Crying In The Rain
The Singer Not The Song
Bye Bye Love
The Sound Of Silence
Love Hurts
Let It Be Me

Set 2 (solo): -
Things We Said Today
Too Far Gone
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Long May You Run

A strange night in some ways. Very quiet until about 11:15 when suddenly the place was packed.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Tonight's setlist

At the Waggon & Horses, York: -

Mellow My Mind
There Stands The Glass

A laid-back evening for the open mic punter. Some excellent toons from Dave Ward Maclean, Lee Parry & the wonderful Carol Henderson. Top stuff!


Monday 26 March 2012

Joseph Wright of Derby...

Restoration of Joseph Wright of Derby paintings reveals hidden details
Tiny figures and flames hidden for a century re-emerge in paintings due to go back on display in painter's native city

Maev Kennedy
Thursday 23 February 2012

Sparks flew when the world's largest collection of paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby was cleaned – along with wind-blown spray flashing in sunlight, flames shooting from mountain tops and tiny figures suddenly revealed skulking in inky shadows.The conservation work on the paintings, before the reopening this weekend of the gallery in his native city dedicated to his work, astonished Lucy Salt, keeper of fine art at the city museum, who thought she knew every inch of the paintings, and suddenly saw details invisible for more than a century re-emerge.

Wright remains a bit of a mystery to her. He was born in 1734 a few hundred yards from the museum, a town clerk's son who taught himself to draw by copying prints. Although he went on to study in London, and exhibited at the Royal Academy until he fell out with them because he thought they undervalued his work and chipped his frames, and travelled in mainland Europe where he saw Vesuvius erupting, an experience recalled in scores of his paintings, he spent nearly his entire life in Derby and died in a house almost within sight of his birthplace.

Nothing in his life explains the drama and passion in his work which made him famous – although he knew many scientists, inventors and philosophers, and watched the scientific experiments shown in many of his best-known works, including the spellbound group watching a demonstration of an orrery."There's a really wild streak in Wright. He was very intelligent, and had a very wide circle of extremely interesting and intellectual friends, but he was obviously quite a difficult man, nervous, ill, anxious, increasingly reluctant to leave his house. And yet the paintings don't reflect that at all," says Salt.The gallery owns one of his last works, painted two years before his death at the age of 63, when he had probably already suffered a stroke and was complaining of pain and tremor in his hands. It is a glittering view of Rydal waterfall, in which he achieved his ambition of showing every pebble below the ripples of water, a painting full of light and happiness. Wright commented grumpily in a letter than he was frozen working on it, and never so glad to get out of a wood in his life.It was a critic in his lifetime who called him "Joseph Wright of Derby" to distinguish him from another artist Wright, but the grand title has stuck ever since, much to the satisfaction of his home. Although his paintings are in many major collections, including the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Collection, Derby started collecting his work as soon as the Victorian museum was built.The first, the Alchemist, was bought by public subscription for £1,000, and The Orrery followed for the same then huge price.

It sometimes seems to Stuart Gillis, head of museum transformation, that the squatters in the house where Wright died care more about him now than his city. The squatters have made a little display board about the building and the artist, while the city allowed the house – which was also the birthplace of the first astronomer royal, John Flamsteed, and the home of Wright's great friend the clockmaker John Whitehurst, subject of a tender portrait in the collection – to fall into dereliction.To Gillis – and to the designer Wayne Hemingway, who formally reopened the gallery – Wright is the link between the worlds of art, science and manufacture, who could inspire a new generation. "He's not an easy sell," Gillis says. "This isn't just easy sugary stuff. There's real worth here, the world as viewed from the English 18th-century provinces."

Friday 23 March 2012

Philip Jenkinson RIP

Philip Jenkinson: Film writer and historian who presentedthe BBC's 'Late Night Line-Up'

Friday 23 March 2012

Philip Jenkinson was a film archivist and journalist who presented the television show Late Night Line-Up, in which he played viewers' requests for clips from old movies. He was particularly fond of the wildly imaginative musical routines staged by Busby Berkeley in films such as 42nd Street, Dames and Footlight Parade, and brought the breathtaking work of Berkeley (whom he insisted on pronouncing "Barkley") to a new generation. He conducted an acclaimed series of talks for the British Film Institute, where he served for a period as governor, on the history of the musical, as well as interviewing for television such legendary figures as Ramon Novarro, John Ford and Gloria Swanson. In 1977 his fame was such that he was one of seven BBC frontmen who performed "There is Nothing Like a Dame", dressed in sailor suits, on The Morecambe & Wise Show.

His personal archive of 16mm prints was so extensive that he had to rent garages to store it, and through his company Filmfinders he would research and provide clips for documentaries and advertisements, though his business suffered with the increasingly strict enforcement of copyright laws.

Born in 1935 in Sale, Cheshire, he won a talent competition as a child doing George Formby impersonations, which led to radio work in Manchester. He used the money for elocution lessons, as regional accents were considered a handicap in those days. Prone to asthma, he was frequently kept home from school, and a sympathetic family milkman gave him a 9.5mm projector, which started his interest in films. Given money by his mother to go swimming, he would instead go to the cinema.

His boyhood friend Alan Howden, who was later to become head of film purchasing at the BBC, also acquired a projector, and recalls that this meant they could screen films without interruption for reel changes. "We showed a 90-minute version of Metropolis to half our school class in my house."

On leaving school, Jenkinson worked as a projectionist before quitting to join the Library Theatre in Manchester where he hoped to become an actor, but found himself working primarily as a stage manager. There he met his future wife, Sally Jay, a scenic designer. Deciding he had little future as an actor, he took a job with Contemporary Pictures in London, rising from general assistant to a key position.

In 1967, while lecturing on vintage cinema at the St Martin's School of Art, he was seen by Mike Appleton, the producer of the BBC's Late Night Line-Up. This pioneering show was scheduled nightly at the end of programming, so it was open-ended. "I initially signed a contract for six months, which grew and grew," he recalled. "I ended up staying for five years. Film Night came out of Late Night Line-Up. It started with me and Tony Bilbow. Tony reviewed the new films while I related the new films to ones made earlier, linking them with either a director or a star or the style; something they had in common."

Jenkinson put together film sequences for programmes including The Old Grey Whistle Test, and wrote a column about the week's film schedule for the Radio Times, sometimes composing it in rhyming couplets, displaying a keen wit and imagination. His loquacious style and mannered delivery were parodied in Monty Python, with a sketch in which he was played by Eric Idle.

Jenkinson's 13 talks on the history of the film musical, given at the National Film Theatre in 1971 and accompanied by myriad extracts, was a great success. The same year, director Ken Russell hired him as a consultant on The Boy Friend, which included several pastiche Busby Berkeley numbers, complete with kaleidoscopic overhead shots.

Jenkinson had become part of a group of film lovers, which included Kevin Brownlow and William K Everson, intent on preserving movie heritage. He began to amass an impressive collection including Mack Sennett silents and early Laurel and Hardy, and he founded Filmfinders, locating footage and movie extracts for producers.

He was immensely generous with his precious film stock. Peter Armitage, the editor of Film magazine, had a 16mm projector in his house, and on weekends I would drive to his home in Orpington, making a detour to Phil's house in Blackheath, where he would entrust to me several cans of film usually containing two rare movies, which Peter would show to his family and friends.

Later, with the advent of VHS, Jenkinson would give friends gifts of tapes with an exhilarating selection of rare musical extracts. Barry Brown, producer of Film Night, described him as "generous to a fault" but also temperamental and exasperating in his effusive use of clich├ęs and such sweeping statements as: "This is the most dramatic scene ever filmed." "But viewers loved him", said Brown, "and each week his postbag was enormous."

For Film Night, distributors provided clips to promote their new films, along with extracts from their older ones, so long as the programme was non-critical, but when Bilbow and Jenkinson started to criticise the films, permission was rescinded. In 1975, a new controller of BBC2, unhappy with the hosts, told Brown to fire them, and new, younger replacements were found. But the revised show was not a success and Film Night ended the following year.

In 1987 Jenkinson compiled a series of six programmes, The Great Trailer Show. Trailers, since they are for promotion, are not considered to be subject to copyright. Tyne Tees Television showed four of the shows, but Jenkinson withdrew the last two after being threatened with a massive lawsuit and then, dogged by ill health, he disappeared fairly rapidly and became somewhat reclusive.

Tom Vallance

Philip Jenkinson, film archivist and television presenter: born Sale, Cheshire 17 August 1935; married Sally Jay (deceased, two sons); died 11 March 2012.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Last night's setlist

At The Habit, York: -

If It Wasn't For Me There'd Be No Ships
No Ordinary Joe
Ghosts On The Tyne
The Blacksmith's Song
Till There Was You

Thought I'd preach the Geordie gospel to the folks of York with some Men of the Tyne songs. They seemed well pleased.

Finished off with a song from The Music Man via With The Beatles .

Tuesday 20 March 2012

New Neil - Americana

From Neil Young's official website, comes the album cover art for Americana, the upcoming release by Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

Here is the complete track-listing for Americana:
"Oh Susannah"
"Tom Dooley"
Gallows Pole
"Get A Job
"Travel On
"High Flyin’ Bird
"She’ll Be Comin ’Round The Mountain"
"This Land Is Your Land
"Wayfarin’ Stranger
"God Save The Queen"

From Neil Young And Crazy Horse to Release New Album 'Americana' on June 5th Music News Rolling Stone By Andy Greene, the release date is June 5.

"What ties these songs together is the fact that while they may represent an America that may no longer exist," says a press release announcing the new album."The emotions and scenarios behind these songs still resonate with what’s going on in the country today with equal, if not greater impact nearly 200 years later. The lyrics reflect the same concerns and are still remarkably meaningful to a society going through economic and cultural upheaval, especially during an election year. They are just as poignant and powerful today as the day they were written."