Most of the following articles have been published over the years. One or two points may now be dated although I have refreshed the “Bee Gees” article.
REVIEW OF THE EAGLES ALBUM “LONG ROAD OUT OF EDEN.” (Non Fiction)
For the fans that have grown up with the music of the Eagles, it must have felt as though all your birthdays had come at once. The launch of a new album. Yes, it’s been twenty-eight years since the last studio offering was on the shelves and the trepidation of wondering whether the lads had come up with the goods was frightening.
Let’s get one thing out of the way straight away. Double albums. How many can you honestly name that have done the business? It’s probably because of the sheer amount of songs hitting you all at once that tends to suffocate. Even the Beatles couldn’t do it. Remember the “White Album” as it became known? One disc would have given us a classic whereas the limp and experimental excess weighed it down heavily.
Understandably, the two-disc set “Long road out of Eden,” made me wary. Could Henley, Frey and Walsh sound as fresh as their seventies and eighties output, especially when there was now a new generation to aim at? And lets not forget the hugely talented Tim Schmit.
This album contains twenty songs and to be fair I was overawed with so much new material, so much so that I actually only played one CD for a while and then allowed myself to drift into the other.
The title track can be summed up in one word. Masterpiece. Crank up your volume controls and let the music reverberate around your ears. The opening bars take you into some mystic land of the Middle East, although romance could not be further away. The lyrics jolt you into President Bush territory, namely Iraq. The heavy, plodding beat holds you in a trance whilst drummer Henley stirs the imagination with his woeful words. It is going to be inevitable that there will be a comparison to Hotel California, but for me it stands on its own. Worth the money for this track alone.
“No more walks in the Woods,” will also draw comparisons to the likes of Crosby, Nash and Young, though I think there can be no tighter harmonies than the Eagles.
“Waiting in the Weeds,” is most definitely Don Henley’s strongest composition to date. Play this over and over again to let the lush chords and vocal patterns enrich your inner self. Sheer beauty.
“It’s your world now,” with its powerful Mexican ambience will be cast as Tequila Sunrise part two; whilst “What do I do with my heart,” will surely tug you back to snatches of “Best of my Love.” Is that a bad thing?
“Busy being Fabulous,” “I love to watch a woman dance,” and “Centre of the Universe,” are outstanding whilst the others come very close, and remember, there are twenty tracks. Now that takes some doing.
With old and new listeners coming along, this album was always going to put itself in the firing line of critics. Twenty-eight years is a long time, and apparently this rendering was six years in the making. . .
Double albums? This is the best.
1. REVIEW OF FILM: THE WRESTLER.(Non Fiction)
Probably the first thing in your mind when you see the star name of Mickey Rourke is the vision of a gung –ho wayward actor intent on self destruction. A person who has decided to self implode, thrown two fingers up to the establishment and chosen a road to meander which heads for the twilight zone. Maybe Sin City was his peak.
Then along comes a lifeline. On the belt is written the name of a director, Darren Aronofsky, a man who believes in talent and is willing to risk another throw of the dice.
So it happens with The Wrestler. Rourke is commissioned, (even though the budget is set at some 16 million dollars). He is told to add numerous pounds to his body in return for receiving many more in his bank account and then directed to give credence to a very hackneyed script.
Does it happen? Well, if the much-vaunted snippet that is doing the rounds is anything to go by, the answer is probably yes. Although by Shakespearian terms, the dialogue,” I’m an old broken down piece of meat and I deserve to be alone, I just don’t want you to hate me,” tends to rub the other way.
Another bleep in the film is the camera technique of following our hero down numerous corridors, showing his back and darkened walls, probably in an effort to show the dinginess of some of the venues. Hasn’t this angle been seen many times before in Rocky films? The only time it works is when Rourke takes a job in a delicatessen store, and the contrast is probably where the direction was heading originally.
The back up of Marisa Tomei as a sympathetic shoulder to cry on character is extremely predictable. You know that she is going to turn up for his last big fight. As for the daughter, (Evan Rachel Wood) do we really need to take the plot on by finding out if she is a lesbian or not? If these additives are given to the viewers, we probably think that it is going to become relevant to the story. It doesn’t happen. To me it is a poor way of padding out towards another fight scene. She must have been bemused about her contribution. The minutes she is actually on screen only allows her to deliver an extremely shallow performance.
Loose ends abound, especially the lack of information about his wife. Why did he leave his daughter? Surely we could have had a little more sustenance here?
So, does it work or not? The critics say so, the nominations are there and the publicity welcomes him back with open arms. Without giving the ending away, the film sums it up correctly when he performs his flying leap from the ropes of the wrestling ring. The screen goes blank.
My feelings went the same way, but as I listened to the Bruce Springsteen music over the end credits, I would say there is a very good chance of us seeing Sin City Two.
THE HIDDEN VILLAGE
On the sun-baked islands of the Canaries, legends abound. The Garden of Hesperides as well as the Ghost island of Borondon vie equally with the better known folklore tale of the lost city of Atlantis.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the largest island of the archipelago, Tenerife, boasts to have a hidden village. Mind you, that was quite a number of years ago, years before tourism entered the vocabulary of the inhabitants language. I was fortunate to be told about this secret place by two friends that run a restaurant high up on the slopes of glorious cascading hills. Robert and Gina Thorne are the hosts of the restaurant La Pimentera and know all about the hidden charms below them. It was from this vantage point whilst sampling their wonderful array of specially cooked foods that I learned a little more about the treasure trove that engulfed me.
Masca is the name of the village and the valley people have managed to live in tranquillity for hundreds of years due to the fact that they have been shielded from the outside world by steep sided gorges which rise high into the deep blue skies, the only real access being by a rugged two mile upward trek from the shores of the Atlantic ocean. Their only visitors were lone adventurers who stumbled across the Mascan people by chance or eagle-eyed birds of prey that would swoop down on basking lizards and mice.
That was until some enterprising engineers managed to somehow defy gravity and lay a twisting turning trail of tarmac to the top of the crags. They then managed to complete the roller coaster road down towards the small village, thus forever changing the arcadian lives of the Mascan populous.
Thankfully, the road just touches the outskirts of the village and then scurries away to the north western side of the island as if somehow embarrassed by its intrusion. Yet you cannot fail to notice the changes that have overtaken the once independent dwellers. The inevitable souvenir shops have sprung up as well as the ubiquitous restaurants although it would be fair to say that the beauty of the village has not altogether lost its original enchantment.
The little church which would have been the centre of the community, I am sure, is still that. Its great wooden doors are still open inviting not just her own people to prayer but maybe some of the new faces that trundle past with cameras and guide books of a different calling.
Sadly the old sprawling school-house tucked in amongst aged palm trees and honeysuckle vines has lost its youthful occupants. Nowadays it caters for hungry tourists who care to taste the traditional foods of Masca although the odd history lesson can be gleaned from the many folios left on the walls. I can testify to one thing here. The public convenience with side window has the best view I have ever come across on my travels. You actually look down the gorge towards the Atlantic Ocean and take in the view of neighbouring island La Gomera!
With the inroads that have been made to the tiny village it is fortunate that little has changed structurally. The steep cobbled walkways between hamlets are still there, maybe a little more worn down, but still overgrown with flowers of every colour. The older ladies of the community still sit on stools outside their cottages, possibly contemplating life when it was a little quieter, whilst the children of the village wait for the school bus to take them to a region that was unknown not too long ago.
Masca is now on all the tour itineraries so its title of the hidden village may be a little ambiguous, but fortunately its charm and beauty has repelled any further tarnish from developers, just like its mantle of mountains did all those years previous.
“I SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE ENGLAND MANAGER”
(An interview with the legendary Jack Charlton.)
It was high noon as I took up my position against one of the most successful centre-halves that English football has ever known. The sun was directly in my eyes but there was no mistaking the huge figure as he headed towards me. Should I feint to the right or should I turn and back-peddle, or maybe seek the sanctuary of my own penalty area? What a fearsome sight this must have been as you can imagine him doing the same in the old days as he drifted forward for a corner kick.
Luckily for me, Jack Charlton has since retired from football, and today he was making his way towards my pool-side table here in Tenerife for a chat and a few beers. His charming wife Pat joined us, and, as I would later find out, would supply some back up answers to Jacks distinguished career.
For a man who has won just about every honour in football, including the World Cup in 1966, and numerous domestic trophies with Leeds United, he remains a typical Northern chap. Indeed, first things first, he had to check some football results from his Daily Mirror before embarking on a question and answer session.
In todays modern game it is indeed rare to find a player serving out his career with one club, but this was exactly what Jack did with Leeds. He joined them in 1952 and played throughout until 1973.
“Being from the North East, I actually wanted to play for Newcastle, obviously, but my mother was never happy with the type of contract on offer, and so I had a trial with Leeds and never looked back”.
He reminisced about some of the famous managers that were in charge in his early years. People like Frank Buckley, Raich Carter and Jack Taylor, and then the impressive Don Revie. I wondered why the clubs fortunes were turned around when they chose Revie.
“Up until then we were limited to playing only five a side matches in training, but Don brought along coaches such as Sid Owen and Les Cocker. Their knowledge of the game and the use of many set-pieces transformed a bread and butter team into a high class outfit.” Having looked at the history of Leeds United under Revie it is hard to argue against it.
I mentioned the thirty or so caps he had gained with England as centre half (thirty five, whispered Pat) and reminded him of the goals he used to score when he moved forward. Was there never a time when he would have enjoyed playing up front? With this he started to move some of the glasses on the table as if they were players. He then proceeded to enlighten me on the differences of the two positions and the relative rolls that both required. Here was a man who loved his football whether in attack or defence!
In between tactics we were often interrupted by people who had recognised “Big Jack”. Each request for an autograph was met with a chat and a hand shake, and indeed, a photograph if required.
I steered him gently away from the “playing field” and asked him if he had expected to change the fortunes of the Republic of Ireland when he took over the management reins.
“Yes” came the forthright reply. “They had never qualified before, even though they had players of the calibre of Johny Giles and David O’Leary, but I knew that we could adopt a pressure system where you do not allow the opposition to settle.”
Once more the table became a football pitch as this great man moved the condiments into strategic positions and then brought John Aldridge into play as the salt cellar cum centre forward!
It was no wonder the teams he managed played with such feeling.
After the success with the Republic, he had become an almost legendary figure over there, and in 1994 they made him a Freeman of Dublin. What exactly did that entail?
“Well, I’m now allowed to take my sheep across any bridge in Dublin on a Sunday!”
A twinkle set in his eye as he raised his glass and for the second time Pat lifted her eyes from her crossword as if to rebuke him. Another round of drinks was ordered as we paused for more autograph hunters. The waiter took away the empty glasses and I noticed a disparaging look from the team manager as if two or three of his players had been sent off!
I casually asked if there was anything he had missed out on throughout his long time in football.
“I should have been the England manager” he stormed. It was never a question I had thought of asking but you could tell from the passion in his voice that he deeply believed it. What had prevented it?
“I wanted it after Don Revie and I was asked to apply, but I was told in certain circles that it was not to be. I think it was because I was regarded as a “Revie Boy”.
I asked him if he would have done a better job than any of the other managers. A scowl came to his face as he summoned the waiter again.
“Two more beers… oh, and leave the empties!”
Pat smiled and turned to her second crossword. I suspected in the next half hour that we were about to win the World Cup again!
THE WORLD OF THE BEE GEES
Most pop groups can be said to have led a life of debauchury, addiction to drugs of some form and childish tantrums. None more so than the Anglo/Australian trio of the Bee Gees. Over the years they seemed to have re-invented themselves many times over, often resurfacing when all hope was gone.
Initially born in Douglas, Isle of Man, (not Manchester, as lots of people think), they did eventually move to the Lancashire city where, as children, they fell foul of the law so much that their exasperated father decided on the rather momentous move of taking them to Australia.
They soon established themselves as a very talented group going under the name of the Rattlesnakes before becoming the Bee Gees. The name was not short for the brothers Gibb, but attributed to two men who helped in their initial success; speedway owner Bill Good and disc jockey Bill Gates.
Barry Gibb managed to write a song which would put them into the Australian top ten, “Spicks and Specks”. This did not satisfy their appetite for more acclaim so they headed for England where Brian Epstein and his new impresario Robert Stigwood took them along a more triumphant road.
Their new recording contract with Polydor produced a swift shot at the charts with “New York Mining Disaster” followed by their first number one in Britain, “Massachusetts”.
With all this new found fame the prosperity went to their heads. Maurice became a heavy drinker, whilst Robin became addicted to amphetamines. The extra number ones as well as numerous top ten hits sent them into disarray whilst they squabbled over who should get most credit for their highly proclaimed image.
At the same time they were having equal success in America, even writing songs for other people such as the Marbles UK top ten hit “Only one woman”.
Unfortunately, by 1969 they were in deep trouble with tax and divorce problems, (top rates of income tax at that time were something like over 80%). It was also a time when the hits dried up. They were then forced to play the soul destroying Northern club circuit, singing their old hits in places like Batley Variety club in Yorkshire.
They decided to hot foot it to the States where they stayed low in Miami for a couple of years.
The rest must have done them good because they emerged into a new era with the massive top seller of “Jive Talkin” as well as making new albums. Their prolific output of songs were even taken on by other artists such as Yvonne Elliman (“If I can’t have you”) and Tavares (“More than a woman”). The Bee Gees were back.
They then produced one of the biggest selling albums of the decade with “Saturday night fever”, followed by massive hits such as “Stayin Alive”, “How deep is your love” and “Tragedy”.
By now they were giving songs to people like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (“Islands in the stream”) and Dionne Warwick (“Heartbreaker) as well as Diana Ross (“Chain Reaction”). Once again it was time for them to leave the spotlight and stay in the background whilst lifting other peoples career.
It was during this period that they lost younger brother Andy who died from a drug overdose. In deference to their brothers death they declined to attend an Ivor Novello Awards ceremony in which they were honoured for their Outstanding Contribution to British Music.
Like that other great family group the Beach Boys, they have survived family feuds, harsh criticism and tragic death, although loosing Robin on the 20th May 2012, effectively and sadly ended the group.
Throughout the musical changes over the decades they survived because of their vocal dexterity and ability to arrange some wonderful pop melodies.
No greater tribute can be made than to see some of todays young pop groups record Bee Gees numbers. The likes of Steppes, Westlife, Take That and Destinys Child could not have had a better lift up the pop ladder.