The Top 10 Criterion Blu-rays of 2017

Posted by Amoebite, December 18, 2017 01:57pm | Post a Comment

Top 10 Criterion Blu-rays of 2018

Has Criterion gone punk?? Based on the top selling Blu-rays at Amoeba this year it looks as if the primo purveyors of classic, foreign, and arthouse films found much of their success in alternative and cult-y titles by such provocateurs as Alex Cox, Terry Zwigoff, and John Waters. Perhaps it's a slight exaggeration, but based on the thin presence of films for Francophiles and classic film buffs, it seems that the prestigious label has gotten more angsty and alternative. Regardless, Criterion, as always, released a stellar collection of films in 2017. Here are the 10 best-selling Criterion Blu-rays at Amoeba.

Read all of our Best of 2017 lists.

Sid & Nancy Criterion Blu-ray Amoeba Music

10. Sid & Nancy 
Directed by Alex Cox, 1986
Released Aug 22, 2017

The long overdue Blu-ray release of Sid & Nancy has been one of the most anticipated Criterion releases in recent memory, and it couldn't have come at a more poignant time in lead actor Gary Oldman's career. Now regarded as a Hollywood mainstay, and garnering Oscar buzz for his recent portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hours, Oldman broke through to audiences in Cox's kinetic cult flick about the infamous, short lived, heroin-fueled relationship between Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen (played by an equally fascinating Chloe Webb), before her gruesome, unsolved death by stabbing. Packed with extra documentaries, archival interviews of the real Vicious and Spungen, commentaries by the cast and crew, and more, this is the ultimate edition of the beloved punk-classic. 4K digital restoration.
Rebecca Criterion Blu-ray Amoeba Music 9. Rebecca 
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1940
Released Sept 5, 2017

Considered a favorite by many die-hard Alfred Hitchcock fans, Rebecca was the director's first production in Hollywood, after making a name for himself across the Atlantic. Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier star is this psychological melodrama, in which the bliss of their new marriage becomes overshadowed by the memory, and possibly spirit, of Olivier's dead first wife. Filled with visual style, atmospheric special effects, and superb performances, Rebecca signaled the arrival of a new master in Tinseltown, and took home the Academy Award for best picture. The new Blu-ray is filled to the brim with special features, including various archival interviews with cast and crew members, three radio adaptations (including one by Orson Wells), screen tests, and a new conversation by legendary film critic Molly Haskell with Patricia White. 4K digital restoration.

10 Most Essential Mod Albums

Posted by Amoebite, April 22, 2016 10:52am | Post a Comment

10 Essential Mod Albums

For our list of the 10 Most Essential Mod Albums, we went to one of the scene's experts: DJ Penny Lane. She has been hosting the longest running mod radio show (aka "mod cast") for eleven years, with a playlist dedicated to the eternally cool 1960s British music scene inspired by the then-new sounds of R&B, soul, ska, rock, and jazz. Her show, Punks in Parkas, is featured on UMFM radio (101.5 FM) out of Winnipeg, Canada every Thursday night at 9pm. UMFM is a campus and community radio station run by students and volunteers from the University of Manitoba and community members from around Winnipeg.

Penny Lane's show features the best in the national and international mod scene; she plays great artists from the 1960s to current artists who are keeping the scene alive. She invites all kinds of guest DJs in studio and was the first to feature many new music acts as well. She does it all -- from hosting the show to creating the playlist and designing amazing promotional material. To learn more, you can also check out Penny's blog and her show listing on the UMFM website. Read on for Penny's take on the mod albums every record collection needs.

The Who - My Generation

1. The WhoMy Generation (1965)

One album wonders: The Open Mind's The Open Mind

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 10, 2014 01:00am | Post a Comment

Around 1963, Putney-based musicians Mike "Mike Bran" Brancaccio (guitar), Phil Fox (drums), Timothy du Feu (vocals), and Ray Nye (bass) formed The Apaches, who recorded a demo with none other than Joe Meek. Nye left the band and du Feu moved to bass after they acquired a new singer, Terry Martin (real name Terry Schindler). They changed their name to The Drag Set in 1965.

Two years later the band were writing their own material and released their first and only single as The Drag Set, “Day and Night” b/w “Get Out of My Way” in early 1967 on Go. Go was a short-lived label which released mostly mod and soul music by the likes of The Barney Sisters, Carl Douglas And The Big Stampede, Neil Spence, Our Plastic Dream, Phil Brady And The Ranch Set, The Roll Movement, Samantha Juste, Scots Of St. James, and Sugar Simone.

The Drag Set realized that there might be some unintended connotations to their name and in 1968 changed it to the suitably psychedelic The Open Mind, on the suggestion of De Feu

The following May they released their first single with their new name, “Horses And Chariots” b/w “Before My Time.” In July the band released a collection of mod-tinged, leather pants heavy psych which proved to be their only LP, titled The Open Mind and released by Philips

In August of 1969, The Open Mind released a non-album single, “Magic Potion” b/w “Cast a Spell," produced by Fritz Fryer, guitarist of The Four Pennies. "Magic Potion" proved to be The Open Mind's final release, although they soldiered on until 1973, at which point Phil Fox quit. 

After that, De Feu and Schindler were joined by Stephen Florence and a new drummer and became Armada (not to be confused with Rod Torfulson's Armada Featuring Herman Menderchuck), who broke up after releasing no music.

In 1974, Schindler moved to Vancouver, Canada and opened an apparel company, Terry Schindler & Associates. De Feu sold his bass and found work in the petrochemical industry and as a graphic designer, Fox became a carpenter and at one point operated a pub, and Brancaccio continues to play guitar, albeit classical. Since 2001 The Open Mind has been released several times on compact disc by the labels Acme Records and Second Battle, both including bonus tracks.


One album wonders: John's Children's Orgasm

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 3, 2014 10:20am | Post a Comment
 JOHN'S CHILDREN - ORGASM (recorded 1967, released 1971) 

Today the band John's Children, when remembered at all, are best remembered for two things: one, for having briefly included within their ranks a pre-T. Rex Marc Bolan and two, for their calculatedly outrageousness and provocative live performances. Both overshadow the fact that they also made some quite enjoyable music, including a sole LP recorded before Bolan joined but released long after he'd left.


The story of John's Children begins in 1965 in Great Bookham, where drummer Chris Townson, guitarist Geoff McClelland, harmonica-player Andy Ellison, and singer Louis Grooner played in a band called The Clockwork Onions. With changing times and line-ups came changing names and The Clockwork Onions became The Few. After the departure of keyboardist Chris Dawsett The Few became The Silence, who were Andy Ellison, Chris Townson, Geoff McClelland, and John Hewlett. The Silence were described by Yardbirds manager Simon Napier-Bell as “positively the worst group I'd ever seen” and not surprisingly he insisted on becoming their manager. 

Napier-Bell changed The Silence's name to John's Children. The band -- actually a group of session musicians -- recorded John's Children's first single, “The Love I Thought I'd Found” b/w “Strange Affair," which was released in 1966. The original title of the A-side was "Smashed Blocked" but a name change was necessitated at home because it was deemed offensive. Far from Surrey the single found a receptive audience (where it was released with its original name) in Florida and California -- two American states both known for their production and appreciation of weird, unpolished garage rock

In 1967, John's Children released their second single, “Just What You Want – Just What You'll Get” b/w “But You're Mine” was also recorded by session musicians -- something which was back then still somewhat common practice even for bands composed of technically talented but commercially unproven instrumentalists.  The single fared better than its predecessor and after the release of a "lost" third single, “Not the Sort of Girl (You'd Like to Take to Bed),” their American label, White Whale Records, requested a full-length album.

John's Children recorded Orgasm. The album kicks off with the shrill screams of young female fans. After someone pleads with the audience to stop screaming, which doesn't stop them, the band launch into "Killer Ben," which only elicits louder screaming. The album was, in fact, recorded in a studio and the audience screams were nicked from the soundtrack to The BeatlesHard Day’s Night. Toward the end of "You're a Nothing," it sounds like additional crowd noise has been lifted from a football match.

Just how the Daughters of the American Revolution heard about the planned release of such an obscure album isn't clear to me but they apparently delayed Orgasm's release until 1970. You have to wonder if it wasn't all part of another publicity stunt. Orgasm has been re-released multiple times sense, by multiple labels, on multiple formats and often bookended by additional material. 

Shortly after the Orgasm was shelved, in March of 1967, a young Marc Bolan replaced McClelland. Bolan had approached Napier-Bell in 1965, informing him that he was going to be a star but needed proper assistance. After recording some unreleased demos in 1966, rather than plug him into The Yardbirds, Napier-Bell stuck Bolan into his other band and Bolan wrote John's Children's next single, 
"Desdemona" b/w "Remember Thomas A Becket" which was banned from the airwaves for the A-side's shocking lyric, “Lift up your skirt and fly.”

John’s Children opened for The Who on their 1967 tour of Germany until they were kicked off, apparently for upstaging the headliners. Four months after joining, Bolan split quit John's Children and formed Tyrannosaurus Rex. The rest of the band soldiered on without him, recording several Bolan compositions before returning to Germany and ultimately disbanding in 1968.

The story didn't really end there, however, and Ellison and Townson next joined David O'List (formerly of The AttackThe NiceThe Misunderstood, and Roxy Music), Martin GordonPeter Oxendale, and Trevor White (who'd played in the power-pop band, The Jook, with Townson) in another one-album-wonder, Jet, who released a rather nice Sparks-ish record (titled Jet) in 1975. After Jet, Ellison, Gordon, and White went on to play in the new wave band, Radio Stars.

In the 1990s, a new line-up of John’s Children reformed with Gordon on bass and longtime Morrissey collaborator Boz Boorer on guitar. In 2001 this line-up performed at the Steve Marriott Memorial Event. A line-up of Ellison, Hewlett, Townson, and White began performing in 2006 and ended in 2008, when Townson died. 

For the John's Children fan, obtaining Orgasm is understandably the primary goal. However, of the several compilations available, Cherry Red's two-disc anthology, A Strange Affair: The Sixties Anthology, is the most comprehensive.


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Pour one out for the Cat & Fiddle -- another pub lost in the Southland

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 20, 2014 03:54pm | Post a Comment
Somewhere I don't want to be

If in the bar of your dreams every centimeter of wall (and ceiling) space is covered with banks of televisions flashing seizure-inducing commercials unblinkingly stared at by backwards-capped man-children guzzling plastic pitchers of thin macrobrew between failed attempts to scream over the top of deafening sports commentary, then you’re in luck because there are still about 2,000 places that fit that bill in Hollywood alone. If you enjoy waiting 45 minutes for a man dressed as a 19th century Canadian lumberjack to rub a mason jar with the entire contents of a spice rack then you're similarly set. 

Ooohhh, Ladyboys!

On the other hand, if the happy haze of your drunken hour involves sitting in a cozy corner, enjoying a round of ladyboys and perhaps playing a game of darts (or pool, skittles, dominoes, cards, or trivia) --  then you’re going to have to either broaden your horizons or let your dream die because sadly, The Cat & Fiddle is closing on 15 December after 32 years in business -- and English pubs in the Southland are becoming rarer than rain during a superdrought.

If you're able to travel, you can visit pubs not just in the UK and Ireland but (I'm told, because I'm not able to travel) Australia, Canada, New England, New Zealand, and South Africa. Sadly, pub culture has never really taken root in the semi-arid soil of SoCal even though we generally welcome all non-natives. Sometimes you'll see a name like Pig N’ Whistle and wrongly assume that it belongs to a pub.  If you're less cautious, you might find yourself in a place like Dillon’s Irish Pub, where being a green-schemed Hooters rip-off with chilled Guinness on tap has apparently made the owners think that they're running a public house. 

Meanwhile, bikini bars, hostess clubs, izakayaspijiu wu and bodegas (not to mention coffee bars, lingerie cafes, and teahouses) all seem to be flourishing and I’ve enjoyed drinking at all of them (actually, I still find the hostess experience somewhat unnerving). I, for one, would rather be in a bar (with my head on the bar) and if it's at all possible, in a place where air smells of malt vinegar and scotch and the ambiance makes me feel like it’s raining outside -- since that's the next best thing to actual precipitation.  

Pubs aren’t the only drinking establishment that is threatened, it should be noted. Gay piano bars, saloons, and tiki bars, once covered the land but are now threatened. Pubs though are critically endangered -- just one notch above “extinct in the wild” and watching them close isn’t easy. Until 2011, I regularly passed afternoons inside Royal Claytons. They promised to re-open soon three years is as long as I hold my breath. Tom Bergin's in Miracle Mile closed in 2013 but thankfully re-opened. If you know Santa Monica you might assume that it’s a safe place for pubs but skyrocketing rents have driven much of that city’s English-American minority into exile. When they leave, Anglo-catering businesses do to, like Tudor House which closed in 2012 after 50 years in business. 

The Birds in The Deadly Bees (dir. Freddie Francis, 1967)

Hopefully the Cat & Fiddle will find a new home. The current location, after all, is not its first. When it opened in it was located up the hill in Laurel Canyon, near the Canyon Country Store. It was there opened in 1982 by Paula and Kim Gardner, who met one another in New Orleans where Paula was working at a clothing store called The Cocky Fox. Kim Gardner was a musician who played in Ashton, Gardner & Dyke, Badger, The Creation, Garwood Pickjon, and my favorites, The Birds. Sadly, he passed away in 2001 but Paula and her daughter Ashlee have continued to operate it mostly unchanged since for the thirteen years since and it was always a popular spot for Amoeba employees to find solace or even employment in at least one instance. 

Public Houses and gentrification have both been around since ancient rome and it is unlikely that either will vanish from this any time soon. Cat & Fiddle is reportedly being pushed out by their landlord (Jesse Shannon of Atlanta-based Branch Properties) who has found a tenant willing to pay thrice as much rent as the pub, which means we’ll probably get a soulless corporate chain or worse -- an urban taco fabricator. My fingers are crossed for something better but I also realize that crossing one’s fingers has never been effective at changing outcomes although I suppose a prayer to Saint Morrissey or the apostle Tim, both of whom I’ve seen relaxing in the beer garden, couldn’t hurt.

Meanwhile, if you like pubs it’s imperative that you donate to your local charity. There are the aforementioned Santa Monica pubs (The Britannia Pub, The Cock ’n’ Bull, The Daily PintO’Brien’s, and Ye Olde King’s Head), The Red Lion (a German gasthaus with pub-like atmosphere which not-coincidentally began as an English pub) in Silver Lake, The Tam O'Shanter in Atwater Village, Irish Times in Palms, The Whale and Ale in San Pedro, Lucky Baldwin's in Pasadena, Casey's in the Financial District. I haven't yet been to them but perhaps a mission to Molly Malone’s in Beverly Grove, The Fox & Hounds in Studio City, The Robin Hood in Sherman OaksTimmy Nolan’s in Toluca Lake, The Auld Dubliner or Murphy’s (both in Long Beach) is in order. Orange County, I'm told, is home to Durty Nelly’s and The Harp Inn in Costa Mesa, Muldoon’s in Newport Beach, Branagan’s in FullertonPatsy’s Irish Pub in Mission Viejo, and The Olde Ship British Pub & Restaurant with locations in both Fullerton and Santa Ana. If there are any decent pubs in the Southland, let me know and don't wait until they're gone to tell them that you love them!


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