Monday, 11 October 2021
Monday, 27 September 2021
My review of "Skin For Skin", based on the one that originally appeared in Parsec magazine, issue 1:
Monday, 13 September 2021
And soon there is a terrible price to be paid for his new-found freedom and independence. A price that will come back to haunt him, even in the bright sunlight of summer.
As with SOME KIND OF FAIRY TALE, Graham Joyce has crafted a deceptively simple tale of great power. With beautiful prose, wonderful characters and a perfect evocation of time and place, this is a novel that transcends the boundaries between the everyday and the supernatural while celebrating the power of both.
Monday, 30 August 2021
The third of four singles from the album (following This Time, released in 1985 in the US and Europe and What You Need in August 1985 - the first Australia/New Zealand release - and followed by Listen Like Thieves, released in the UK in 1985 but 1986 in Australia), it peaked at number 15 in Australia, 42 in New Zealand and 54 in the UK.
Listen Like Thieves was released on 14th October 1985 and is widely considered to be the international breakthrough album for the band. It was produced by Chris Thomas, who had previously worked with The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols (on Never Mind The Bollocks) and Elton John and of whom Richard Clapton said, “INXS met their match - he was the only producer they've ever had who told them what they needed to hear.” Michael Hutchence later said, “This is what we've been trying to do one way or another for a few years now, that is to make an album that is purely just form and function of the songs. It has no artistic pretensions.” The album was recorded at Rhinoceros Studios in Sydney from June to August 1985, after initial sessions in March, finishing in August 1985 and including a break for a South American tour. The album spent two weeks at number 1 on the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart, peaked at number 11 on the US Billboard 200, 24 on the Canadian RPM 100 Albums and 46 on the UK charts. I wrote about the album here, on its 30th anniversary.
The four singles released from the album all had accompanying videos.
This Time was directed by Peter Sinclair and produced by Godley & Crème
Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain) was directed by Alex Proyas and produced by Andrew McPhail.
What You Need and Listen Like Thieves were directed and produced by Richard Lowenstein, continuing the successful collaboration that had started on the previous album, The Swing, with his videos for Burn for You (which won the 1985 Countdown Music and Video Awards for Best Promotional Video), Dancing on the Jetty and All The Voices. Lowenstein would go on to establish a long term relationship with the band until Hutchence’s death.
INXS: Story to Story: The Official Autobiography, by INXS & Anthony Bozza
Burn: The Life and Times of Michael Hutchence and INXS, by Ed St. John
Official Charts (UK) information
Discogs release information
Monday, 23 August 2021
which I wrote about here) - but I did when they had great covers and content like this. I mean, any magazine that has Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Escape From New York and For Your Eyes Only on the cover has to be worth a read, doesn’t it?
There are also interviews with George Lucas (part 2 of 3, it's quite amusing in places), Derek Meddings on his For Your Eyes Only effects (interesting and thorough) and George Takei.
They don’t make them like this any more…
Monday, 2 August 2021
Monday, 26 July 2021
To help celebrate the anniversary, I’ve been on a bit of a Raiders jag and one element was this making of. First published in paperback in 1981, it includes a batch (32 pages) of “spectacular behind-the-scenes photos” (all black and white) and is a real old school making-of, the kind that’s almost as much a memoir as anything else. It’s also the kind that doesn’t get published these days.
|Richard Amsel's iconic poster, which adorned my bedroom wall for a long time.|
|Karen Allen, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford on location in Tunisia|
|Filming on Norman Reynolds' island set at Elstree Studios|
|Lunch in Tunisia, with executive producer Howard Kazanjian on the far left|
|This iconic shot features in the narrative, a lucky accident that Spielberg saw the sunset and decided to incorporate it|
|Taylor is surprised at the size of the Tunisian dig set - and at how the extras are treated. After he informs Spielberg (who wasn't aware), changes are quickly made.|
|The final sequence, with the "complicated" ILM work included|
Happy 40th, Indy!
Monday, 19 July 2021
Welcome to the world of Damocles.
BJJ: What started out as an attempt to write a joint collection of horror stories themed around the second world war quickly escalated into something bigger. Why don’t we link all the stories in some way? An overarching narrative perhaps… Well, I do have this one idea… The next thing we knew we were well on our way to 110,000 words and found ourselves building a whole world. In creating this world we knew from the off that we wanted to anchor the dark fantastic in the real history of the second world war; major events still occur when they did, units and regiments are where they were at a specific time. But, behind these real events other, darker, things are occurring.
In drawing up the characters who make up the Damocles organisation and populate the world around them we wanted to make sure that they were all too human with all the fragility which that brings. These are people plucked from the worlds of academia and the military and thrust into life or death conflicts with forces they can barely comprehend. Soldiers and scholars are dispatched to be used as cannon fodder for “the greater good”, mirroring the sacrifices made in the actual war, and we wanted to try and showcase the effects that this would have upon our protagonists. The true facts of the conflict are hidden from some of those involved, the truth being simply too terrible. Scholars, book hounds, assassins and occultists mix with bureaucrats, hobbyists, criminals and squaddies. It was important to us that their stories, with an eye to realism, were told as well as that of the epic struggle to prevent Ragnarok.
Location. Location. Location. Whether it is musty libraries in London, the streets of Istanbul, the desert wastes of north Africa, cave systems in the outer Hebrides, the barren arctic, or war-ravaged Berlin we wanted to imbue each tale with a real sense of place. This was done to try and illustrate the scope and range of the second world war. It truly was a global event that touched almost every corner of the world in one way or another.
The influences that we drew upon in developing the world of Damocles were wide ranging, drawing upon spy literature, historical sources, action and adventure pulps, Lovecraftian cosmic horror, and Norse mythology to name but a few. The Hellboy universe provided some touch points of inspiration as did various other works that involve “weird world war two”. Structure wise we aimed for a fractured narrative with characters coming into and out of the story at various points. The steampunk novel The Difference Engine helped with this in some ways, being an example of where this had been done before. Stories within stories and tales within tales. There is a heroic undercurrent to many of the stories but we tried to temper this by showing the real, often damaging, results of such heroism. One of the wonderful things about creating our world from scratch meant that we were able to draw upon a multitude of sources for influence as well as providing us with ample scope for the freedom to create and add our own inventions.
The act of writing is generally a solitary one. Writing with someone else can be a very different experience. The act of creation became a shared one in which we could both act as a sounding board for the other and in turn add our own ideas to the mix. These “idea sessions” really allowed for us to spark off each other’s creativity. It allowed us to avoid dead ends and cul-de-sacs of imagination and planning which not only allowed us to speed up the writing process but to create and develop the world around the characters very efficiently and fully. It also made it easier to overcome those writer’s block moments which can stall a work. Particularly difficult scenes for one writer could be passed to the other for completion and we utilised that at several points. The whole process has been one that was, and continues to be, thoroughly enjoyed by us both.
We produced Wings in the Darkness, an expansion on one of the shorter pieces in the novel, as an introduction and access point to the world of Damocles. The novella works well to lay out a lot of the themes and ideas which are expanded upon in the novel, Ragnarok Rising. A second novel, Volume Two, is close to completion (this time turning to the war in the Far East) and various other works set in the same world are also in development.
AW: When Ben first approached me with the idea of co-writing a collection of war/horror stories, agreeing to it was one of the easiest decisions I’d ever had to make. It’s not like we hadn’t worked together before, having already produced two volumes of our horror western novellas series Dark Frontiers so it was a real no-brainer. I set to work thinking of some ideas and had a couple lined up when Ben contacted me again and suggested that we based the stores around a secret organisation he’d thought up, there to investigate and combat occult and supernatural forces…
Cool, I thought, putting my kaiju and ghost stories back on the shelf, that’s a really good idea – and began plotting some new stories. I think we ‘d finished a story each when he came up with the “Let’s make this a novel with an overarching narrative” idea. Thus the Damocles Files were born.
I have to say, I’ve never enjoyed writing something as much as I have The Damocles Files. Once we had the main narrative in place, we could tailor the new stories to fit and retrofit the ones we’d already completed. On the whole, we would write individual stories on our own but one of the stories in the book is a collaboration, as is the novella Last Rites which makes up the novel’s conclusion. It’ll be interesting to see whether readers can tell which of us wrote which story – and whether they can tell which was the co-written one.
Part of the joy of writing these stories was spending time with the characters we’d created. I think Ben is a master at this particular art but it’s something I’m not always that confident about so it was good to be able to take his creations and use them in the stories I was working on. It’s no real spoiler to say that not all of them survive until the end credits and it was actually quite emotional writing the scenes where they meet their fates. Of course, a huge benefit of writing the novel as a fractured narrative spanning many years is that there are big gaps between the stories, gaps which are there to be filled, so characters who might not have made it to the end of Volume One can always be resurrected – which is precisely what we’re doing in Volume Two, and all the standalone stories and novellas we have planned.
Whilst the novel is grounded in reality and historical fact, a huge influence on it personally were the war films I watched as a kid (and continue to watch and enjoy, it has to be said). I’ve a huge affection for those films and the unironic way they portrayed the heroism and valour of their heroes. I’d like to think that that gung-ho spirit is reflected in The Damocles Files; there’s certainly plenty of unapologetic heroic sacrifice and bravery above and beyond the call of duty featured within its pages. It’s a love letter to those films of my youth.
I had a great time writing this book and will be forever grateful to Ben for inviting me along for the ride. I hope everyone gets as much enjoyment from reading it as I had in writing it.
Monday, 12 July 2021
from left - Jon Farriss (drums/keyboards), Garry Gary Beers (bass), Tim Farriss (guitar), Michael Hutchence (vocals), Andrew Farriss (keyboards, guitar, harmonica), Kirk Pengilly (guitar, saxophone, vocals)
X had a lot to live up to and opened well, reaching number 2 in the UK and number 5 in the US charts, racking up plenty of sales along the way - Platinum in Australia (x2), the US (x2) and the UK, hitting Gold in Germany and France. Combined with the X Tour, it managed to spend an aggregate of eight months on the UK chart, returning to the Top 40 in July 1991.
In 1988, Michael Hutchence met soap-opera star and singer Kylie Minogue and when they ran away together in 1989, it brought the band to a whole new audience and level of publicity. In 1991, INXS received a Grammy nomination for 'Best Rock Performance by a Group', whilst USA Today reported they were tied for second place as 'musical artists with the most videos played on MTV' (at the time, they had 37 different clips). At the 1991 Brit Awards in March, INXS won 'Best International Group' (having previously been nominated in 1989) and Hutchence won 'Best International Male'. They were also recognised as 'Best International Band' at the first Australian Music Awards.
The X Tour kicked off in October 1990 at the Mackay Entertainment Centre in North Queensland. It hit the UK on November 25th with two nights at London Docklands Arena, a four night run at Wembley Arena, four nights at Birmingham NEC (where Alison & I would see them in 1997 as part of the Elegantly Wasted Tour), one night each at SECC in Glasgow (should have been two but the first was cancelled by weather), Manchester GMEX, Brigton (The Brighton Centre) and Bournemouth (Bournemouth International Centre) before two nights at The Point Theatre in Dublin. The UK dates ended in January and, in all, the tour played to 1.2m fans through 80 cities over four continents.
After a successful ‘homecoming’ leg in Australia during April and May, INXS returned to Europe for a series of headlining festival shows from 28th June through to 16th July, the highpoint of which (according to most band members) was the 13th July sold-out show at Wembley Stadium.
So the stage was set, with Summer XS taking place six years to the day after Live Aid had been staged at Wembley Stadium, as INXS continued to enjoy rock giant status both in the UK and around the world. And I was there.
|My now slightly sun-bleached ticket - look at that price!|
|Me & Liz, 1991 - I wore that t-shirt a lot!|
We parked in the multi-storey next to the stadium, crossed the bridge, found our gate and settled down as we waited to be let in. The girls were chatty, Liz & I talked and watched the world go by, we went on memorabilia buying sprees and ate our lunch. Finally the gates opened and we legged it - it was the first time I’d ever been to Wembley so of course I took the opportunity to run onto the (covered over pitch) and pretend I was representing England. As did so many other blokes my age it became silly.
The four of us made our way towards the front and found some seats to the left of the stage, close enough that we could see people up there (if not clearly), though the huge video monitors would also come in handy as the day wore on. The festival feel was maintained by having a whole host of bands on the programme which started in the early afternoon (INXS came onstage at about 8.45). Another of my main reasons to go was the fact that Debbie Harry was playing and I’d been a Blondie fan since the late 70s, though I'd been too young to get to any of their concerts.
The Summer XS line-up was:
Jellyfish - don’t remember anything of their set at all, though they were apparently “a melodic San Francisco rock band” (and got in trouble for plastering their posters everywhere)
Roachford - who were excellent, I went onto the pitch for a dance when they played
Jesus Jones - didn’t like them before I went, didn’t like them any better when I left
Deborah Harry - who I adored. I left the girls in the seats and pushed my way as far to the front as I could possibly get and then rocked out with the best of them. She played 11 songs and ended her set with the superb “Atomic”. Fantastic.
Hothouse Flowers - who were better live, I thought, than when I’d heard them on the radio
The INXS show was being recorded as part of the Live Baby Live project, under the supervision of Mark Optiz and the band’s manager, Chris Murphy decided it should be filmed as well. In an interview at the time, he said that although he thought X was good “the band had grown lazy, the new songs were too slick and too much like Kick. I was worried. I knew I had to do something to bring it back to the basics, back to the strengths of the band. Doing the film and releasing the live record accomplished that. It was a way to remind the public of how powerful INXS was live, in case they’d written them off as a band who only released pop songs.”
INXS spent £250,000 filming the concert whilst Murphy convinced Polygram, their European record label, to stump up the rest. On the night, the fact the band was barely breaking even on the show weighed heavily on Andrew Farriss, though he has since revised his opinion. “I am so glad we did it,” he said in interview with Anthony Bozza. “Thank God we did, that same band is not here any more. Michael is not here any more.” Andrew was so overcome with expectation of the event, he famously escaped to a bathroom where he spent ten minutes alone, enjoying a beer and smoking a cigarette. In documentary footage, Michael Hutchence comments that the gig is making £1m and he was only getting £5k of that.
Murphy hired David Mallet to film the concert and he used sixteen 35mm cameras, including two on roving helicopters, to capture everything. At the time, Mallet was an up-and-coming talent who’d cut his teeth on promo videos for Queen (Bicyle Race in 1978 and I Want To Break Free in 1984, which Brian May credits with the band losing US fans), Blondie (Hanging On The Telephone in 1978), a host of Bowie videos (including the iconic Ashes To Ashes in 1980) and many more. His work on Bowie’s Glass Spider tour in 1988 and Madonna’s Blond Ambition in 1990 convinced Murphy he was their man. Mallet also shot the video for Shining Star in 1991 and has since gone on to a strong career in concert films.
Original Sin that locked it for me, vibrant and alive with the all-out jam session at the end. I do remember loving the rest of the gig, I remember being invigorated by the whole thing though I must confess that most of my memory of the show itself now comes from the DVD. But no matter - as Mark Opitz said in interview, the band were incredible on the night and they were. In fact, watching the film again (as I did when I wrote this post), they were clearly on fire and for a first gig by a band relatively new to me, I couldn’t have asked for anything better!
The Loved One, which remains one of my all-time favourite songs and it was launched with an introduction from Hutchence. “This is a big gig. Really happy to be here, la-di-da-di-dah - this is the biggest pub we’ve ever played. Is this what they call a fucking rave or what?”
“We had already headlined at plenty of stadiums and festivals, but this was different. Wembley is the most prestigious stadium in Europe - if not the world - and it was going to be magical. There were 16 cameras, 72,000 extremely psyched people and some great opening bands and we were ready to turn Wembley Stadium into the biggest pub on the planet.”
- Kirk Pengilly
“For us as Australians, Wembley was always thought of as one of those places you knew you that you wanted to play - if you were lucky. To even have the opportunity to perform there was a dream. There were something like 200 people backstage which was a bigger crowd than some of the pubs we'd played in! It was nuts and I couldn't really take it all in.”
- Andrew Farriss
“This gig was a prize; it meant that all those years of touring, playing gigs the world over paid off this one night. We had played many concerts that were bigger but selling out Wembley Stadium was a prestigious hallmark for us, especially considering England’s affection towards INXS took years to develop.”
- Jon Farriss
- Garry Gary Beers
“It was INXS Day on BBC Radio, MTV, you name it, we were everywhere you looked or listened, it was kind of surreal, which is always a good thing. The whole gig was kind of like a big pressure cooker of 'let's see just how nervous we can make the band', but the tension had the opposite effect on me. I had to struggle to keep the smile off my face.”
- Tim Farriss
Selling out Wembley Stadium was a big deal - AC/DC are the only other Australian band to do the same. INXS had played the venue before, supporting Queen during the “Kind Of Magic” tour in July 1986 (which I didn't see, though had the opportunity to - really wish I had done now).
According to Billboard magazine, the concert grossed £1,426,617 and the audience was a sell-out capacity of 73,791.
The day after arguably one of their biggest gigs ever, the band and Mark Opitz recorded Shining Star (which Andrew Farriss had written on the road) at London’s Metropolis Studios.
* * * * *
Live Baby Live, the live CD and concert film video, were both released on 11th November 1991 (when I bought my copies). The film, which looks glorious but isn't in widescreen (presumably since TV's weren't set up for that then) is well-edited and perfectly captures the scale of the event (shots of the crowd and stadium) without missing any of the intimate bits - such as the little nods between Kirk Pengilly and Tim Farriss (plus the fabulous ear signals during What You Need as Hutchence sings “Hey you, don’t you listen” and Kirk gestures to Tim, who had screwed up his riff). It also captures the sheer energy of the show, the tightness of the musicianship and the real sense of camaraderie amongst the band. For me, watching it on VHS back in the day was a revelation - I thought I’d picked up a lot from the video monitors (and I thought Kirk was the coolest thing ever in his red suit and black shades) - but I clearly hadn't. I'm happy to say that even now I still find new bits every time I watch it.
"Guns in the Sky"
"I Send a Message"
"Know the Difference"
"By My Side"
"Hear That Sound"
"The Loved One"
"What You Need"
"Need You Tonight"
"Never Tear Us Apart"
"Who Pays the Price"
On the re-issue, there’s an excellent 40 minute behind-the-scenes documentary which shows the band in preparation for the gig with a real sense of nervous excitement about them all, which is refreshing to see.
The Live Baby Live album reached number 8 in the UK, number 3 in Australia and number 72 in the US (though it sold over 1m copies there). Shining Star, the single recorded directly after the concert and the only new material on the album (it’s heard over the closing credits of the DVD), was released on 2nd November. It reached number 31 in the UK, number 21 in Australia and 14 in the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The CD single was backed with live versions of Send A Message (from Summer XS), Faith In Each Other (Sydney 1990) and Bitter Tears (Paris 1991).
The album - produced by INXS and Mark Opitz - featured several songs recorded at Wembley, as well as highlights from gigs in Paris, Dublin, Glasgow, Rio de Janeiro (“Hey, hey Rio?” before launching into Suicide Blonde), Montreal, Spain, Switzerland, Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Las Vegas.
"Guns in the Sky"
"By My Side"
"Need You Tonight"
“One X One”
“Burn For You”
“The One Thing”
"Hear That Sound"
"Never Tear Us Apart"
"What You Need"
|Summer XS memorabilia - taken from the DVD insert|
An excellent gig and an excellent memory, a great band at the top of their game and I'm chuffed to have been there.
* * *
The show (with Lately now included) was released on vinyl in 2019 and so was the film, re-edited in HD from the original negative to give a proper widescreen presentation. Alison & I went to see if at the Northampton Filmhouse and it was bloody brilliant (I wrote about it here).
“We were just six blokes from Australia that treated Wembley Stadium like just another pub gig,” Tim Farriss wrote in the liner notes. “We went in with a PA and a few lights and played our asses off. No ego ramps, no back-up singers, no props, no grand pianos, just the six of us – and the audience went nuts! That’s all we needed!”
band interviews from the Live Baby Live DVD re-issue liner notes, no credit (released by Sanctuary Visual Entertainment)
INXS: The Official Inside Story Of A Band On The Road, text by Ed St. John
Gig information from Billboard Magazine
Story To Story: The Official INXS Autobiography, by INXS and Anthony Bozza