The Who: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival (1970)

When is comes to skeleton suits and rock music, one man stands head and shoulders (or should that be ‘skull and clavicle’) above the rest, and that man is John Entwhistle from The Who. The iconic performance was at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival.

Of course, by the time I saw The Who in concert (only a few years ago) a lot had changed from the electric shows of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Drummer Keith Moon – aka: Moon the Loon died in 1978 after consuming 32 tablets of clomethiazole. The drummer with the band when I saw them was Zak Starkey

For the youngsters reading this, and wondering why he was nicknamed Moon the Loon, well here’s a small snippet from Wikipedia (and this is just a small part of his excesses):

Along with his drum sets, Moon’s infamous (and favourite) calling card was to flush powerful explosives down toilets. It has been estimated that his destruction of toilets and plumbing ran as high as UK£300,000 (US$500,000). His levels of destruction forced the band to stay outside of New York City when they performed there, and his repeated practice of blowing up toilets with explosives led to Moon being banned for life from lodging at several hotel chains around the world, including all Holiday Inn, Sheraton, and Hilton Hotels, as well as the Waldorf Astoria. Moon became so notorious for this practice that when Nick Harper was asked about his childhood memories spent around The Who, his first recollection was, “I remember Keith blowing up the toilets.”

And also missing from the lineup I saw was John Entwhistle who passed away due to a heart attack induced by cocaine use in 2002.

Here, Entwhistle talks briefly about the Skeleton suit – uploaded by eyerockeyeroll

When I saw The Who it was a great show – it’s very hard to be good at stadium rock – but Daltrey, Townshend and co. are masters at this, but somehow I felt something was missing – maybe a spark, or a sense of danger. Maybe that spark can be seen in the clips below. For this post, I am not going to rabbit on like usual. Instead I am going to allow you to bask in music of one of the world’s best rock bands at their peak. Here’s a selection of Youtube clips.

Young Man Blues – uploaded by magopeu

My Generation – uploaded by punkscarecrow1

Pinball Wizard – uploaded by eaglerocktv

I Can’t Explain – uploaded by CCRtour1

October is the month of the Skeleton Suit! Or Skeletons, Skulls and Bones, and in a month long celebration, The Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit is checking out the Skeletons in their closets.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Minions of M.O.S.S. check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page or the Twitter feed.

The Who: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival (1970)

Bone Machine

Artist: Tom Waits
Label: Island
Released: 1992

In 1992 the world was waiting for a new Tom Waits album. It had been five years since Frank’s Wild Years (which still remains one of my favourite albums of all time)

Not that Tom had been idle. He appeared in films as diverse as Ironweed, At Play In The Field’s of the Lord to Coppola’s Dracula. He also released a live album, Big Time, with an accompanying concert film. Then there was a strange collaboration with William S. Burrows on a theatrical project called The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets. A CD would later be released in 1993, simply entitled The Black Rider, but even hard core Waits fans found it hard going. Tom also did a soundtrack album for Jim Jarmusch’s A Night on Earth. I used to have a copy of that soundtrack, but when I was burgled in 1992, it was taken, and I have never gotten around to replace it. And there were many other projects.

Renfield
Waits as Renfield in Coppola's Dracula
So Tom was pretty busy, but as fans wanted a new album, and finally after a five year wait, we got it with Bone Machine. However, as the title would imply, it was a pretty scary collection of songs, dealing with death, suicide, murder, and suspicion.

Bone Machine is pretty much a musical apocalypse, and the first track, Earth Died Screaming sets the scene and establishes the themes prevalent on the album. The title, Earth Died Screaming suggests that it is ‘end of days’ and that end is not pretty. Musically, a discordant percussive beat sounds like bones being banged together, and Waits voice over the top sounds creepy, almost a whisper. But not a soft whisper, a croaky, guttural monotone, with a hint of a hellfire and damnation preacher’s sermon to it. Albeit, as if the sermon was being delivered by a preacher whose Church has collapsed and the stone blocks have pinned him to the floor. Trapped, he now has to meet his maker. He says, “Well hell doesn’t want you. And heaven is full. Bring me some water. Put it in that skull.”

The next track, Dirt In The Ground is a wistful lament, that has a funeral march sound to it. Once again Waits suggests that “…hell is boiling over. And heaven is full.” And what is the future of mankind, well “We’re all gonna be, yea, yea, we’re all gonna be, just dirt in the ground.”

Such A Scream. In this case ‘scream’ doesn’t mean a throaty yell of terror but a good time, as in ‘that was a scream!’ And the repeated phrase is ‘She’s such a scream’. However the ambiguity is, as to whether the ‘she’ is a woman, or a machine? Musically, the song grinds and clangs like a large steam driven industrial behemoth.

On Bone Machine, Waits adopts several vocal styles. Sometimes he sings in the familiar growl. On other occasions he croons like a bargain basement Sinatra. Then there’s his falsettos, and bullhorn diatribes. And many of the songs have combinations of these stylings. He’ll adopt one vocal style for the verse, and then another for the chorus. All Stripped Down is a great example of this, with a bullhorn intro, then a falsetto voice through the verses, and then adopting a familiar growl for the ‘All Stripped Down’ lyrical refrain over the top.

Who Are You is a ballad in a more recognisable Waits style, although guitar driven, rather than seated at a piano. The Ocean Doesn’t Me is just plain creepy. It’s a rambling monologue by man who is clearly contemplating suicide by walking into the Ocean. But seems to be leaving a part of his demise to fate. He expects to be caught up in a rip tide and get dragged out to sea, but on this particular occasion, he isn’t taken. There is no sadness or self pity in the song. It is all matter of fact – and it would appear just a matter of time – until he succeeds in killing himself, or to put it another way, the ocean takes him.

Jesus Gonna Be Here is a blues spiritual, but also another song that reinforces the theme that the world has gone to hell. A Little Rain once again sees Waits in ballad mode, and this time seated behind a piano. The number almost has a country & western feel to it, with pedal steel guitar in the background. In The Colosseum sees a return to primal skeleton dance music, such as the opener Earth Died Screaming. The percussion sounds like bones being beaten together and the melody is reminiscent of carnival music, albeit a carnival that has gone very wrong. And I guess reflects the spectacle on display in the titular Colosseum – violence as entertainment.

Goin’ Out West is the song that got all the airplay on the indie radio stations, and it’s not a bad little number either. Well, see for yourself. Here’s the video clip.

Uploaded to youtube by: uglycliche

A song with a title like Murder In The Red Barn probably needs little description. However it is not so much as a song about a murder, but the suspicion that falls on everyone after the event, up until the killer is caught. Black Wings could be about the devil, or it could be about a serial killer – or the devil as a serial killer. Musically the song is foreboding but it has a great sense of atmosphere, and the lyrics are very evocative.

Whistle down the Wind is country and western song which features Churchy piano, with some lap steel guitar lilting in the background -and later some harmonica and violin. Vaguely familiar of Tom Traubert’s Blues, Tom croons the lyrics gently, that if you consider his gravelly voice capable of crooning.

I Don’t Want To Grow Up is as close as Tom comes to pure pop – even more so than Goin’ Out West. There is a duality to the lyrics – partially from a child’s point of view – but also through Tom’s delivery, clearly about an older person refusing to accept that they are aging. It has a real sing a long quality to it, and it is not so surprising that in recent years it has become one of his most covered songs.

Let Me Get Up On It is a musical soundscape which sounds like chains being reeled in. At under a minute in length, it doesn’t really have time to draw you into the song musically, so it acts as a bit of atmosphere leading into the last song…which is:

That Feel is Tom Waits and Keith Richards hamming it up. It’s not a bad country and western style number, but it they overdo the two old soaks routine a tad. Never-the-less it’s a smooth way to go out, and after all the death, and destruction over the previous tracks, it’s nice to leave with something that, while not being uplifting, is certainly more upbeat.

I guess it would be fair to say that Bone Machine is a heavy album, and if you’re not in the mood for it, a downer! But it is unique. Sure some of the musical stylings have been recycled from Rain Dogs and Frank’s Wild Years, but here they have been twisted (and possibly tortured) into something new. A song such as Downtown Train (from Rain Dogs) would be suffocated on an album like Bone Machine. Downtown Train, even if it is about longing and loneliness, still has a glimmer of hope. The songs on Bone Machine don’t have that battered nobility. They have been beaten and lost all hope. The only future is death. Sure it’s nihilistic, but after twenty years of singing about society’s have-nots where could Waits go musically? Light pop? Not likely. The only place he could go was down. And down he went. Bone Machine is a descent into hell.

As an artist, Waits stands defiantly against prevailing trends in rock and pop music. Bone Machine was released in 1992, and try comparing it to the other popular albums and musical artists of the day; such as Nirvana’s Nevermind (released in 1991 – but topped the charts in 92), or Michael Jackson’s Dangerous (once again released in 91). 1992 was also the year of Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus – which became the first single ever to achieve triple Platinum status in Australia also the best selling single the year. Scary, I know! Waits has never been a follower, always choosing to do his own thing, and Bone Machine is a testament to his unique vision.

Bone Machine

Kizil Maske (1968)

In Turkey, The Phantom is known as Kizil Maske, or The Red Mask, but I regret to inform you that at this time I have not been able to acquire copies of any of the three Turkish Phantom movies. Yep, that’s right, there were three of them – and just to confuse you (well it confused me) – two of them were called ‘Kizil Maske’ and were released in 1968.

But fear not, dear reader. Harnessing the awesome power that is TarsTarkas.NET here’s two snippets from his reviews of Kizil Maske.

Kizil Maske (1968)

This entry was produced, directed, and written by Çetin Inanç, the protege of Yilmaz Atadeniz (who gave world the Kilink films.) Inanc went on to produce a whole ton of Turkish films, both craptacularly awesome superhero fair like this, and more modern stuff that includes violent action films.

Kizil Maske translates to Red Mask, in case you were wondering. Remember how in old serials fights would break out all the time randomly, and last like five minutes? That’s pretty much this film. Long fights, lots of manly action, and Turkish men being men. No subtitles, either, because who needs those? At TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinkin’ subtitles! It is not like you need a flow chart to follow the plot: The bad dudes are bad, and the Phantom punches them for an hour or so. The end.

And from the other Kizil Maske, which was directed by Tolgay Ziyal:

The night club singer is in the bathtub covered in bubbles, scrubbing away! Oh, to be Mr. Bubble back in 1968 Turkey… Kizil Maske is in costume and leaps onto the walls to go all voyeur on her. So Kizil Maske is an uncontrollable sex fiend now? He looks around her place, spies on her in the tub and out of it. She isn’t upset in the slightest that he is there. talks to him in a towel as he lies on her bed. This section has some very jumpy cuts….it is possible there was actual nudity at some point, but it is all chopped out, and maybe lost forever. Turkey!!! The lounge singer calls for “Champagne” from “room service,” which we all know is just some goons who come up – Kizil Maske gets the drop on them, but the fight drags on. The 1960?s Batman theme plays! Groovy.

For more Phantom-ey goodness, and information on Kizil Maske, but sure to head over to TarsTarkas.NET and check out BOTH reviews.

Here’s a chunk of the action, uploaded to youtube by Mr Violenta. Finding this Youtube clip delighted me no end. Enjoy.

Here’s a brief synopsis courtesy of Turkishcult.blogspot.com

One of the most important diamonds in the world, the Nairobi Diamond is stolen by Octopussy’s gang in Istanbul. When Phantom (Ismet Erten) hears this news, he comes to Istanbul to retrieve the diamond from Octopussy and his gang.

Wow! Just wow! Octopussy is a man!

October is the month of the Skeleton Suit! Or Skeletons, Skulls and Bones, and in a month long celebration, The Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit is checking out the Skeletons in their closets.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Minions of M.O.S.S. check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page or the Twitter feed.

Kizil Maske (1968)

Il Marchio Di Kriminal (1967)

Country: Italy / Spain
Directors: Fernando Cerchio, Nando Cicero
Starring: Glenn Saxson, Helga Line, Andrea Bosic, Frank Oliver, Tomas Pico, Evi Rigano
Music: Manuel Parada

Il Marchio Di Kriminal is much lighter in tone than it’s predecessor, and the plot is a little more straight forward. But, it is still fine, good old fashioned entertainment.

Kriminal (Glenn Saxon) is back and operating in London, but Inspector Milton (Andrea Bosic) of Scotland Yard believes the fiend is still locked up in a prison in Istanbul. In fact, Kriminal is now working as the director of Villa Serena, which is a nursing home for old widows. The film starts with Kriminal, dressed in full skeleton kit entering through the outside window, into one of the rooms of one of the ladies in his care, Ethel Smith. Ethel awakens, sees Kriminal standing above her, and then has a heart attack and dies.

As Ethel had no kin, the life insurance is paid out to Villa Serena (and Kriminal). After the funeral Kriminal goes through Ethel’s belongings. One item is a little blue Buddha statuette. Kriminal’s gorgeous accomplice, Janet (Evi Rigano) clumsily drops the statue and it breaks open. Inside is a quarter of a map, showing the location to two stolen paintings (by Goya and Rembrandt).

Kriminal estimates the paintings to be valued in the millions of dollars, and as such it seems like a worthy project and worth his attention. But the catch is, that the other three portions of the map are hidden in three identical blue Buddha statues.

Kriminal tracks one of the statues down to an auction house, but he is too late. The hammer had just fallen and the statuette has been bought. Adding insult to injury, the winning bidder is the fiancée of Inspector Milton, and she intends to turn it over to him as a wedding gift.

Another Buddha belongs to a German art collector named Von Beck (Ugo Sasso/Hugo Arden). Kriminal dons the skeleton suit and heads to Von Beck’s home, only to find that someone has beaten him to the punch. Von Beck is lying on the floor with a knife in his belly and the Statue is gone. Naturally enough, Kriminal gets the blame for the murder – but that’s what happens when you wander around dressed as a skeleton – people just believe you’re up to no good.

After his failure to retrieve Von Beck’s Buddha, Kriminal goes after Milton’s. Disguised, Kriminal poses as a guest at Milton’s wedding and swipes the statuette from the gift table. In it’s place though, Kriminal leaves a ‘special’ gift for Milton. The gift happens to be a spring loaded gun, that fires when the gift box is opened. The shot misses, but the gift alerts Milton to the fact that Kriminal may be at large. He runs out of his wedding and after a little investigating, makes his way to Istanbul to check if the authorities really have their man.

Now that Kriminal has two pieces of the map, Janet tries a little bit of treachery. Kriminal is wise to the event, and runs Janet a nice hot bath – unfortunately, the water has an electrical charge running through it. Alone, Kriminal next follows his next clue to Madrid, and to a Flamenco dancer named Mara Gitan (Helga Liné). You probably remember, Liné was in the first Kriminal film, but here she is playing a different character.

Kriminal and Gitan agree to team up and find the forth missing piece of the map. She believes it is in Lebanon, and they both agree to take a boat trip there. Naturally, Gitan double crosses Kriminal, but he was ready for that. And as she has never actually seen Krimal’s face, her attempt isn’t too successful. It’s hard to double cross someone when you don’t know what they look like!

Saxon is great as Kriminal. He has the looks to convey the sophisticated gentleman traveller, but he also has an evil glint in his eye, maybe even a furrowed brow, which indicate that there is more to this character than we are seeing. Andrea Bosic doesn’t have quite as much to do as Milton this time around, and Helga Liné is just plain gorgeous. As with the first film, the globe trotting locations and scenery are excellent, especially in Baalbeck amongst the ancient ruins. Manuel Parada’s music is light and swingin’ and really suits the film. As I mentioned at the top, this is a lighter Kriminal, but that doesn’t mean this film should be dismissed as being inferior to it’s predecessor. If you enjoyed the first, then I am sure you will enjoy this second outing for our skeleton suited anti hero.

October is the month of the Skeleton Suit! Or Skeletons, Skulls and Bones, and in a month long celebration, The Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit is checking out the Skeletons in their closets.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Minions of M.O.S.S. check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page or the Twitter feed.

Il Marchio Di Kriminal (1967)

Kriminal (1966)

Country: Italy
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Glenn Saxson, Helga Line, Andrea Bosic, Ivano Staccioli, Esmeralda Ruspoli, Dante Posani, Franco Fantasia, Susan Baker
Music: Raymond Full, Roberto Pregadio

The character Kriminal has a rich history, which is a bit out of my depth to discuss at length. Put simply, Kriminal began in a series of adult comic books (called Fumetti) in Italy. The success of the comics lead to two Kriminal movies, made in the mid sixties and starring Glenn Saxon as the titular hero.

The film opens in London. A man is being lead to the gallows. The man is ‘Kriminal’ – an evil genius. He is to be executed for the theft of the Crown of England. Kriminal mounts the scaffold, and the noose is slipped around his neck. At the last second, before Kriminal swings, the lights go out and the rope breaks. In the confusion Kriminal escapes.

The escape had been carefully planned down to the last detail. But not by Kriminal though. It was the police that allowed Kriminal to escape. Why? Because the Crown has not been recovered. If Kriminal had died, the secret location would have died with him. Instead, the police have secretly positioned officers in cars and on foot to follow the fiend, hopefully to the regal headpiece. But as I mentioned at the top, Kriminal is an evil genius, and it does not take him long to slip through the cordon of officers, leaving Scotland Yard with egg on their face and a lot of explaining to do.

Taunting the police further, Kriminal returns the crown, letting everybody know that it is a goodwill gesture on his behalf, rather than the tactics or investigation skills of the police that have returned this priceless artifact.

Now free from the shackles of imprisonment, Kriminal can return to his old ways, and when committing a crime, this involves wearing a full body skeleton suit. It’s a pretty threatening ensemble, but you could only get away with wearing it in the sixties. No modern evil mastermind would be seen dead wearing it. When we next see Kriminal he’s in his suit and breaking into a ladies bedroom. When he flicks on the light the lady awakens, and then confronted by Kriminal, she screams. As she does, he takes off his mask. She recognises his face and stops screaming. Her name is Margie Swan and she used to be married to the man standing in front of her. And all that time she never knew she was married to an uber fiend. But that is all in the past. Margie is all set to remarry a rich man. She now works for the Tradex Diamond Company and her new love, is her bosses son. But Kriminal isn’t interested in Margie’s love life. He’s interested in Tradex’s next big shipment of diamonds from London to Istanbul.

The thing about masked fumetti characters like Kriminal or Diabolik, is while they are criminals themselves, their actions tend to take down people and crime syndicate’s that are worse. The regular criminals have no code of honour, or worse still, pretend to be upright citizens. Kriminal’s skeleton suit says to the world, ‘look out’, I am a bad person, ‘stay out of my way’. But criminals who do not wear are costume are hypocrites who want things both ways. They want there ill gotten gain, but they also want to be accepted and fit into society. That’s exactly what happens in this film. Kriminal attempts to steal some diamonds, but finds that they have already been stolen. But of course, he gets the blame for the theft, while the perpetrators get off scott free. But Kriminal is an evil doer of the highest order, so naturally he seeks retribution.

Kriminal is an interesting film. It’s fun in a glossy sixties jet-setting fashion, but there are a few ‘evil’ moments. Generally, the nasty things happen to people who deserve the atrocities, but a couple of innocents get caught along the way. It’s this subversive or slightly malevolent tone that may put a few people off this movie. But mostly it’s cartoon mayhem, with a dash of sixties glamour.

October is the month of the Skeleton Suit! Or Skeletons, Skulls and Bones, and in a month long celebration, The Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit is checking out the Skeletons in their closets.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Minions of M.O.S.S. check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page or the Twitter feed.

Kriminal (1966)

Skull Ring

Artist: Iggy Pop
Label: Virgin
Release Year: 2003

Iggy Pop has been touring Australia for years but much to my shame I had never caught a show. Of course, the friends of mine that had, regaled me with tails of legendary shows where Iggy would – well put simply, do Iggy Pop things – whether that be open him self up, dive into the crowd or get naked. But I missed his shows every time. It would appear, according to Alvin Gibbs, formerly of the U.K. Subs, and one time member of Iggy Pop’s support band, that Iggy’s 1989 tour of Australia and New Zealand – as support to Jimmy Barnes on his Barnestorming tour – was quite a series of shows.

Before I go any further, for those unfamiliar with Jimmy Barnes, he was the lead singer of one of Australia’s leading bands Cold Chisel – and if trivia fact sheets are to be believe then Chisel’s song Khe-San is the most highly played jukebox song in the U.K. despite the fact that it was never released as a single. I presume drunken ex-pat Aussies must rule the U.K. jukebox playlists. Anyway after Chisel called it a day (well I say that loosely as I believe they are reforming for a series of concerts this summer), Barnesy went solo. His first few albums were okay, but I must admit by the Barnestorming stage he had lost me, as his albums were over-produced and lost that earthy (or maybe honest) feel that the Chisel and early solo work had.

Anyway, according to Gibbs, in his book Neighbourhood Threat, on the New Zealand leg of the tour, Iggy had a go at one of the show’s sponsors (well, that’s putting it politely). You’ve got to remember this was at the time of what Billy Joel would call the ‘Rock ‘n’ Rolla Cola Wars’, and Barnsey’s tour was sponsored by Pepsi – the alleged choice of a New Generation. Iggy didn’t appreciate the Pepsi signage and chose to express himself in a way that only Iggy Pop could.

As Alvin Gibbs says (Neighbourhood Threat: On Tour With Iggy Pop. 2001 – Codex Publishing – revised edition) page 116-117.

Directly behind the amplifiers and kit hung a massive backdrop declaring: “Pepsi Cola – the voice of a new generation” in red and blue letters on a white canvas background. Furthermore, lapping around in the early evening breeze on both sides of the stage were two ten foot banners bearing the Pepsi trademark along with representations of king-sized cola cans. As we hammered into our first number, ‘TV Eye’, I could see the disgust that Iggy felt at having to perform on what was basically a soft drink commercial billboard. Now, we knew that Pepsi Cola were the sponsors for the two New Zealand festival shows because the Barnestorming tour itinerary had Pepsi presents, written all over it and their corporate symbol stamp on the cover. But what we hadn’t realised was that we were expected to perform and play our music with those fucking monstrous cans of soda at our shoulders and a stupid, presumptuous advertising slogan for a backdrop. None of that stuff had been present during the sound check. It must have been hauled up just before the first band was due to play by the devious cola stage-hands.

Iggy was far from happy. After bringing ‘TV Eye’ to an end he pointed up at one of the banner cans and screamed into his microphone, “See that? I’d rather drink my own piss than touch that vile shit.”

This appealed to the crowds innate sense of anarchy and they let out a roar of agreement as Iggy bullied and whipped us into a searing extraordinary performance of ‘Five Foot One’ which jumped and jolted like no version we had ever delivered before.

After each song of the set, Iggy had a new observation share with the audience about our sponsors.

“If those fuckers are the voice of a new generation, then I’m glad I’m a fuckin’ old fart!”

“Yeah, Iggy, you tell those corporate assholes what’s what,”the crowd seemed to be saying back in its own wild assed communal fashion. “We’re on your side, Iggy, man… Let them have it.”

The crowd’s approval of Iggy’s stance pushed him on to new heights.

“Those evil sons of bitches at fuckin’ Pepsi want to rot your guts and brains with their poisonous shit. They want to fill your veins full of their pus, filth and garbage, and turn you into non-thinking bloated fucking consumers. Well, fuck them! Fuck them! Fuck them…” Then he turned to us. “Okay, motherfuckers, give me ‘Search and Destroy’”, and pointing to the Pepsi backdrop, Iggy added, “’Cos that’s what I’m gonna do to the assholes who expect me to sing with that on my stage.”

Of course you can read more about Iggy’s exploits in Neighbourhood Threat, which is well worth the read – the passage about how Julio Iglesias disabled a tour bus had me laughing out loud.

Despite never having caught a Iggy Pop show, I still had managed to amass quite a bit of audio and video of Pop over the years – each piece almost providing a brief but insightful piece to the jigsaw puzzle that makes up Pop’s career. Most amazing – but hardly easy listening is Metallic K.O. Listen to that at volume (especially Rich Bitch) and then come back and tell me how hard the current crop of punk rockers are, eh? I am sure many books could be and have been written about Iggy and the destruction of The Stooges, so I wont be stupid (and express my ignorance) and talk about it here.

But The Stooges became a big part of my life. I wont bore you with the details, but I was going through a rough patch back a few years ago, and the first two albums (The Stooges and Funhouse) almost became a soundtrack for my life. Then a friend played me a new album, Skull Ring.

Immediately I was blown away. The selling point was that The Stooges had reformed and had played on a few tracks. That was enough to grab me by the balls, and have me proclaiming that this was the greatest fucking record of all time. In hindsight I can say that possibly The Trolls tracks (with Whitey Kirst and the band, who can been seen in the Kiss My Blood video) were better numbers.

Adding icing to the cake, Iggy and The Stooges were set to reform, and were about to tour Australia as a part of The Big Day Out. For International readers, let me explain that The Big Day Out is a music festival that tours around Australia (and New Zealand) in the summer with a massive lineup of talent. That years line up included not only Iggy, but the Beasts of Bourbon, Franz Ferdinand, the Mars Volta, and Henry Rollins doing one of his spoken word shows – and of course a swag of others, most of who I didn’t see.

Now let me explain why. The show starts at 11:00 am, so I met up with friends at around 10:00. As we hadn’t eaten, we decided to have a late breakfast to line our stomachs. A Good idea, and we chose a cafe in Chapel Street for this. We ate our breakfast, but as Chapel Street is lined with bars, we meandered towards the train station stopping at practically every bar. In fact, by lunchtime, we hadn’t left Chapel Street and were at a bar called Vokdka, Borsch and Tears. The fad at the time was to drink Green Fairies (for the un-initiated – a flaming Absinthe concoction), so rather than lunch, we had the girl mix up a few drinks for us. A part of the fun with fairies, was always having the attractive barmaid join you at your table and do the flaming and the mixing. Three hours later, we actually made it to the venue, and despite the copious amount of alcohol that had been consumed, were still in reasonable shape.

By 5:00 o’clock we were out front of Channel One Sound System with Mickey Dread. This sounds pompous, but at a event such as this I hate cool people and poseurs, and quite a few of them seemed to be gathered in front of Mickey Dread. The music was great, but there was a giant open space in front of the band. There were plenty of attractive girls grooving on the side, but no one was prepared to go out, relax and dance. Finally the group I was with stood up and went out, and you know what? Yep, everyone else got up and joined in, and started having a good time. Sorry at my age I am not the pace and style setter, and really do think some ‘cool’ people should stop worrying about how they look and just relax and do it. If it feels good, do it.

Now I don’t want you to think that we were those drunken few that get up too early and make fools of themselves. Readers who are in, or have been in a band, will know what I am talking about. There is always some drunk guy, who is first to the front at a gig, and stands there swaying and dancing on his own for fifteen or twenty minutes before security shuffles him out of the building. We weren’t these guys, after all the festival had been going for four hours before we got there and we had been there for another two after that. The crowd was already fairly well lubricated (or had indulged in their own favourite vice). They were just a bit stiff, as if they needed permission to have a good time. I admit it was a strange environment for such a large crowd.

After Channel One and Mickey Dread, we caught Rollins, The Beasts (who were brilliant) and then a bit of Franz. And then it was Iggy and The Stooges. They didn’t let the crowd down. As the sun went down, they launched into a set of songs from The Stooges and Funhouse (surprisingly no Raw Power or new stuff from Skull Ring). So that was the day, and a good one it was too.

After all my self indulgent rambling, you’re probably wondering about the album Skull Ring (after all it is the topic of this post). Well the album was released in 2003 and not only featured The Stooges and The Trolls, but also some of the young Turks of the punk scene, such as Sum 41, Green Day, and Peaches.

Track one, with the Stooges is Little Electric Chair, which is a straight ahead rocker with a grinding rythym. It’s great opener and immediately joins the list of great capital punishment songs, right up there with Nick Cave’s Mercy Seat (also about an electric chair), and Johnny Cash’s 25 Minutes to Go.

Little Electric Chair – Iggy with The Stooges. Uploaded to Youtube by ROCKS1484J

Next up is Perverts in the Sun, where Iggy is joined to The Trolls, and impossibly so, but this number is harder and faster than the opener. Relentless. Skull Ring, once again with The Stooges has a driving Peter Gunn-esque grind behind it, and lyrically, like Conan the Barbarian before him, Iggy extolls all that is good in life. And no, it’s not ‘crush your enemies and see them driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women’, but ‘Skull Rings, Fast Cars, Hot Chicks, Money’.

The tag team between The Stooges and Trolls continues on Superbabe and Loser. The Trolls add a suitably noisy, crunching rhythm track to Superbabe, but Iggy’s vocal has a distracting echo on it, making this the first mis-step on the album. Similarly on The Stooges backed Loser, the vocal styling distracts from a crunching musicianship underneath – and there’s a nice change in this song too.

Private Hell with Green Day is almost perfect pop. Almost. The song bounces along nicely – it’s just a pity that for some reason it reminds me of The Passenger. Iggy and Sum 41 bring the album back to the hard rocking power of the opening tracks with Little Know it All.

Here’s a clip for Private Hell uploaded by oleg15021976. I’m not sure what this has been mashed with but you’ve gotta love dancing skeletons (a bit more skullduggery).

And Little Know It All by Iggy and Sum 41 from Iggy Pop’s Youtube Channel.

Songs based on popular catchphrases of the moment are always going to date lyrically, and Whatever falls into that trap. Although musically, courtesy of The Trolls, it hits and locks into a suitably hard groove.

Iggy croons Dead Rock Star over an eclectic arrangement by The Stooges. It’s not really a musical marriage that works, and at times, the song sounds very 1980s – in a bad way. Rock Show by Iggy with Peaches is possibly the only song which I don’t like on the album. It sounds like a synthetic punk. In Here Comes the Summer Iggy reverts to the echoed vocal styling, such as Superbabe and Loser, and once again, it adds a layer of artificiality to a song that at best should be a bread and butter rocker. That mistake is rectified on Motor Inn with Feedom featuring Peaches.

Iggy and The Trolls serve up a bit of moody introspective rock with Inferiority Complex. The beat is a lot slower and the song feels more like a hard rock number from the 1970s, from a band like Black Sabbath. Green Day returns for Super Market which is the lyrical equivalent of the Alvin Gibbs Pepsi story as related above.

Iggy Pop as an old bluesman? I can dig it. So this this is Iggy by himself with a guitar – Til Wrong Feels Right. Strangely, although this is the simplest song on the album, as it is so stripped down, it feels authentic. It’s not overproduced, like a few of the tracks and as such, being so different, it becomes a standout track.

Iggy and The Trolls close the album out (or so the track listing would have you believe) with Blood On Your Cool, which is right up with the best of the hard rocking tracks on the album. There’s a hidden track flowing on from Blood On Your Cool, which I don’t know who it is (The Trolls?) or what it is called (Nervous Exhaustion?) But it keeps the energy up till the end.

The thing with Iggy Pop is that he has had a long and diverse career. Songs from Funhouse (such as Down On The Street) are very different from songs off New Values (such as Endless Sea). And both of those albums are very different from Blah Blah Blah. I could go on. Earlier I alluded to the career of Iggy Pop of somewhat of a jigsaw puzzle, and it really is. Each piece is different and fits into its own unique slot. Skull Ring, in someways, with the regrouping of The Stooges, represents a return to his past, but at the same time it is something different. The early Stooges albums had an anger and a healthy dose of youthful rebellion about them. Skull Ring doesn’t have that youthful swagger, but has an aging defiance to it. It says, ‘we may be old, be we can still play harder than the young pups!’ This is only amplified by the inclusion of the ‘new’ punks on the album. Each song is reminiscent of a better Iggy Pop song. Green Day’s Private Hell has enough echoes of The Passenger to make me want to stop the CD, and actually dig out a version of The Passenger.

The album is flawed. But despite any negativity implied above, this is still one of my favourite hard rock albums on the 21st Century. Sometimes you just need it ‘loud’!

October is the month of the Skeleton Suit! Or Skeletons, Skulls and Bones, and in a month long celebration, The Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit is checking out the Skeletons in their closets.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Minions of M.O.S.S. check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page or the Twitter feed.

Skull Ring

The Phantom: Mini Series (2010)

Country: United States
Director: Paolo Barzman
Starring: Ryan Carnes, Sandrine Holt, Cameron Goodman, Jean Marchand, Isabella Rossellini, Cas Anvar, Ron Lea, Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles
Writers: Charles H. Knauf, Daniel Knauf
Music: Michel Corriveau

There’s an old jungle saying, ‘never throw the baby out with the bath water’. And unfortunately that is just what this series does. There is some argument that The Phantom, as a character has become dated, and as such needs to be modernised to make him relevant for the audiences of today. And I can accept that, but this mini-series doesn’t update The Phantom. It creates a new character and gives him The Phantom’s name. I cannot see the point of acquiring the rights to The Phantom character and then altering him so much that he no longer resembles the original character at all. If the producers wanted to make a modern, hi-tech adventure story, that’s all well and good, and on that level this series may have worked, but as a Phantom piece, it is an abject failure – in fact, I’ll go further than that – it’s a bloody disgrace.

The trailer:

Uploaded to Youtube by: ngvietbo

The series starts nineteen years previously, in New York, with a grating car chase. It’s not grating because the cars grind together, but due to the way it was filmed. A woman, named Diana Walker, with her son named Kit in the back of her vehicle, are being chased by another vehicle with two black clad gunmen. Gunfire is being exchanged. The editing is so abrasive and jarring it is almost impossible to work out what is actually happening. The strobing neon colour scheme doesn’t help either.

On her finger she has an elaborate signet ring, and Kit has a medallion around his neck with a skull on it. Running out of road, she drives the car into a river, and the car goes down. The goons who were chasing her get out of their vehicle and scan the water for survivors. They see no one. However, the young boy Kit has managed to hide himself, unobserved, in a tyre hanging at the waters edge.

When we next meet Kit, he has grown up – and is a Columbia law student and is calling himself Christopher Moore (Ryan Carnes). Chris, it seems is a mad free-running fool – or into parkour, for those of you who speak French. With a buddy, Jordy (Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles), filming him, Chris has accepted a challenge to cross a portion of New York in twelve minutes. Free running action happens to loud rock soundtrack as credits roll. Man, I wish I had chosen to watch District 13 rather than this. But I digress. The credits hadn’t even finished and I wanted to turn it off and play in the cutlery drawer.

So the free running continues, and Chris does some death-defying leaps, and of course, Jordy falls and injures himself. An Ambulance arrives with a paramedic named Renny (Cameron Goodman), who just so happens to be a foxy lookin’ gal – and, who will become important later in the story. Also the police arrive, and Chris is arrested and taken away.

However, Renny’s father happens to be a cop (Ron Lea) and she convinces her father to have Chris released. But things aren’t so rosy on the homefront for Chris. His parents aren’t happy about their law student son being arrested.

Meanwhile in Connecticut, a van is parked outside the home of on homemaker, Bethany Anne Gardner. She is under surveillance by a group called Tivkom. Through her digital set-top box, Tivkom, under the leadership of Dr. Bella Lithia (Isabella Rossellini), send a special encoded message to her, which she sees on her TV screen while she is preparing a chocolate cake. For fans of the television series Chuck, think of a poor man’s Intercept – except with her knowledge she doesn’t do good. Instead, she adds a deadly amount of ant-killer to the cake she is making. Later, her new found cookery skills claim nine lives at a PTA meeting.

In Switzerland the Singh Brotherhood, under the command of Raatib Singh (Cas Anvar) are concerned that a new leader, Ben David, will bridge a gap between the Palestinians and the Israelis and create peace in the middle east – they are also briefed on the Dr. Lithia’s new project. Yes, she’s a baddie. In reality though, I don’t know what Isabella is doing in this crap.

Anyway Chris and Renny become like an item, but one night after walking her home, some goons manhandle Chris into a black van; place a black bag on his head and take him to the river side – where the car went over the edge all those years ago. There, a man in a black hat and coat, Abel Vandermaark (Jean Marchand ) explains that Chris was adopted after being found scavenging for food in Chinatown. How did they track him down after all these years? After being arrested after his parkour stunt, a routine DNA test had him flagged on the computer.

Vandermaark explains that he is a member of a International Covert Intelligence and Law Enforcement agency called Bpaa Thap, which was established by one of Chris (now to be known as Kit)’s ancestors. He also explains that the men that killed Kit’s mother are still alive – and here’s the clincher, ‘the world needs him to assume the mantle of his forefathers.’

Kit, naturally enough is confused, and refuses Vandermaarks offer to join in the fight against evil. However when he returns home, he find that evil has begun to fight him. His adopted parents have been killed by members of the Singh Brotherhood who are also now on to him.

The two assassins, who killed his parents, are also waiting for Kit and attempt to kill him too. But he alludes them and makes his way to Vandermaark’s hotel. Vandermaark once again asks Kit to join Bpaa Thap and fight evil. This time, he reluctantly agrees. His reluctance stems from the fact that he must step away from his old life – and never contact anyone he knew again.

A jet whisks him to the island of Bengalla – and we finally get a hint of jungle. And the show finally starts acknowledging the Phantom’s roots. Kit’s lineage is explained to him, and the iconic Phantom suit is revealed. However, in the US, as a favour to Renny, her father starts looking into the disappearance of the Moore family. And this brings him to the attention of the Singh brotherhood, who instigate a plan to silence him. Also the Singh Brotherhood, with the aid of Dr. Lithia’s Tivkom ‘flicker’ technology step up their plan to assassinate Ben David, the diplomat who may stop the conflict in the Middle East.

After some Phantom training, where the journals of his ancestors are presented to him, along with the crappest Phantom suit ever, Kit sneaks back to the US to warn Renny’s father. In the process, he stumbles onto a Singh Brotherhood attempt to kill the detective. The attempt fails, but alerts Kit to some kind of ‘mind control’ device being utilised by his enemies.

The actors in this series aren’t too bad. Ryan Carnes and Cameron Goodman are pretty charismatic, almost managing to sell this mash up of the old and the new. But that is a big ask, particularly for Ryan Carnes who, as The Phantom, is lumbered with a suit that hides his eyes. It’s had to be emotive when all the audience can see is your mouth. Isabella Rossellini comes off the worst in the acting stakes. Her role is that of the misunderstood scientist working for the twisted megalomaniac. And we all know what happens to the scientist in shows like this. She’s not a vamp, or a femme fatale, but a simple misguided boffin.

The direction in the action scenes is stale, creating little visual excitement, and the stylised flashbacks are dreadful. The fight choreography is adequate, but once again that bloody suit doesn’t make for free flowing movement. It’s more like watching Robocop crashing through walls, than the Phantom moving lithely and freely through the jungle. Thankfully the famed ‘skull ring’ is shoe horned into the story, and I was pleased to see that they retained the mark it left on the faces of the men who The Phantom punches.

If this series wasn’t The Phantom I may not have been so harsh on it. If it had been called The Young Avenger, or some such, I may have let it slide over me. I will have still griped about the suit, as it is an actors (and a super heroes) worst nightmare for conveying movement and emotion; but I wouldn’t have the inbuilt affection for the character’s appearance. I guess one of the biggest hurdles when updating a series featuring a costumed superhero, is how to present the costume. And it’s in this department that this version of The Phantom really fails (have I stressed this enough?). I understand the necessity to update, but what is presented does not even project a semblance of The Phantom. People laughed many years ago, when George Clooney, as Batman, had a costume with ‘Bat nipples’. However, the character was still recognisable as Batman – the biggest failing of the movie, was that it ‘sucked’. But Batman was still Batman. But this is not The Phantom – he’s like a purple Robocop. As The Phantom, the show’s makers have crossed over the line and in the end sabotaged the very thing they set out to make. It’s a shame really, because I believe The Phantom has a place in the 21st Century.

October is the month of the Skeleton Suit! Or Skeletons, Skulls and Bones, and in a month long celebration, The Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit is checking out the Skeletons in their closets.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Minions of M.O.S.S. check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page or the Twitter feed.

The Phantom: Mini Series (2010)