Apologies to hard-clicking Google travellers: no cheeky downloads, rambling analysis or unhelpful answers to unasked questions. Instead two lovely examples of that vanished art: the record sleeve.
It's a twangy [S]uicidal dirge from the wrong end of the M6...
Some Snapper-sanctioned footage drops happily into our inbox...
So from more or less out of nowhere comes this crunchy, sax-obsessed, Kraut-leaning new release from Red Snapper, suggesting the great jazz-dub electro-experimentalists have mutated – as eventually we all must – into early Hawkwind. So good is it, in fact, that there's no official footage on YouTube so you'll have to scurry over to Spotify, iTunes or Amazon in order to examine the evidence more closely. A live version heads up the playlist down below.
Way back in the late and unprofitable 1990s, round about the time of their album Making Bones, I went to interview Red Snapper for a British men's magazine. They were unfailingly excellent company, and I sat in the corner of their rehearsal space while they summoned up a visible vortex (that's right - you could actually see it) of murky surf guitar, roaring horn, live drum'n'bass, analogue house and dirty city soul.
But I couldn't get the feature right. It doggedly refused to make sense. It persistently declined to be any good. Back then I had a day job in a local college and after I'd eventually completed the 28,000th draft I had to furtively fax my manuscript using the college's fax machine and paper.
Except there wasn't any paper, I didn't have a computer and a variety of other crises were starting to pertain, so I rewrote the piece by hand on the back of an old application form for a hairdressing course, which I then faxed the wrong way round, thereby delivering the application form rather than the article to a mystified and doubtless weary editor, who subsequently sent it back. I am often more professional than this now.
But back to Red Snapper, whose magnificent last album Pale Blue Dot suggested there'd been a lot Neu! and Television going on alongside all the usual unusual grooves, and who were the highlight by several degrees at Glastonbury's Glade Stage a couple of years back. I'm still sorry I couldn't write a better article. Here's where they live on the web:
News today that Sydney Lumet has died. So, pulled from the dusty archive, this piece on Dog Day Afternoon.
Based on real events Dog Day Afternoon was the second collaboration between director Sydney Lumet and Al Pacino, coming two years after Serpico, and it racked up an array of firsts. This was the first mainstream American film to deal with transgender issues without sniggering behind its hand. It was the first film to deal with a televised hold-up, and it was among the first films to cast a major lead actor as explicitly bisexual, even if the proposed kiss between Pacino and John Cazale never quite came about.
The story, though based on real events, has the lurid quality of something cooked up by Paul Morrissey for Joe Dallesandro in Flesh, Trash or Heat. But Lumet, a director whose 1970s movies were bittersweet love notes to his native New York, went to great lengths to avoid a sensationalist look-at-the-crazy-fag film. It deals with hysteria, but it's rarely hysterical, and Pacino - nominated for an Oscar alongside Lumet - maintains such a fevered pitch throughout that he had to be hospitalised for exhaustion during the shoot.
Sonny Wortzik (Pacino) needs the money to pay for lover Leon's (Sarandon) sex change operation. Holding up the local branch of Chase Manhattan shouldn't take long, he figures, and accomplice Sal (Cazale) is on hand to do whatever Sonny cannot. That turns out to be most things, and as a result of his ineptitude the robbery degenerates into a siege. Then, once the press turn up, it becomes a media circus with Sonny as jittery ringmaster, before disintegrating into tragedy.
Chaos hovers over every scene but Lumet's handling of the material is deceptively disciplined. His explicit aim for the film was that it should have the look and feel of real news footage, but for all its ambition, Dog Day Afternoon is distinguished by its absences. There's no score apart from a snatch of Elton John over the opening sequence. Screenwriter Frank Pierson took the only Oscar, but much of the dialogue - particularly that spoken by incidental characters - was improvised during rehearsal. There's limited artificial lighting, the extras were instructed to wear their own clothes, and the crowd scenes were fleshed out with hundreds of Brooklyn locals.
Like the reportage it seeks to replicate, everything here happens at once. There are moments of absurd comedy, social satire, and the film's unafraid to explore a wound which in 1975 was still raw in the American psyche - the Attica prison riots, the institutional uprising that resulted in 19 inmates being shot dead in the back. Lumet commiserates with Sonny's desperation but, appropriately for a film that deals with the spectacle of tragedy, the film never strives for an explanation. Asked why he's robbing a bank, Sonny's got it covered: "I'm robbing a bank because they got money here. That's why I'm robbing it!"
Lumet's film was released a year before Taxi Driver, and it's interesting to compare the two. Both Sonny and Travis Bickle are disoriented Vietnam vets. Both are flailing in an America that's taken its hands off the wheel and put its foot on the floor, and both settle for solutions born out of extreme desperation. But whereas Bickle's bitterness and belligerence - and De Niro's own primitive force - made Scorsese's film an angry classic about an outsider heading further out, Pacino's nervous energy and Lumet's sympathetic approach make Dog Day Afternoon a quieter but equally significant film about a hopeless, hot-headed loser who just wants to come in from the cold.
Paul Moreley's observation on Top of the Pops' ability to beam strange and exotic new music right into your living room at tea time reminds us of how great Alex Harvey was.
This man talks with an impressive lack of clarity about Killing Joke's performance at the Royal Festival Hall. You can see why that career in broadcast journalism never quite took off.