Nightman Listens To – Some Time In New York City – John Lennon (Non-Beatles Series)!

John Lennon: Some Time In New York City - Behind The Albums

Greetings, Glancers! It’s obvious by now that I’ve been disappointed by Lennon’s post Beatles work. I could say the same for all of them really, but I think both McCartney and Harrison have so far made more songs that I’ve enjoyed. I didn’t know a thing about this album until I went to grab the tracklist and saw that it is half studio, half live. I’m not going to listen to the Live half. I’ve I’d absolutely loved Lennon’s post-Beatles work till this point, then I may have dipped into the Live part, but I haven’t so I won’t. Maybe I’ll come back to it some day. Anyway, here’s what I assume is another bunch of angry protest songs.

Woman Is The N****r Of The World‘ is a song I’m aware of more because of its name and surrounding controversy, rather than any musical or lyrical content. In fact, of the ten songs listed, I don’t believe I’ve heard any of them. It has a big brass opening, Lennon’s soothing vocals a counterpoint to the harsher vocals and the great lyrics. He does go in for the hard R at times too. The music is laid back in a New Orleans style, but isn’t overly exciting. There’s a lot thrown in to the production in terms of layering, but little of it stands out. As you’ll hear me say quite a bit, which is unusual for someone who loves long songs, but this could have been condensed easily to under four minutes and increased its impact.

Sisters, O Sisters‘ begins, as is standard for Yoko, with some Yoko warbling. What’s interesting is that the song is actually quite fun – it has a Motown/Supremes/earlier rock vibe. The production is particularly horrible and with Yoko’s vocals being what they are… were they trying to hide how bad they sound by doubling up? That has only made them worse. Stick any other vocalist in here and you’d have a pretty nifty song. A shame as this is very catchy and lovely – it’s like seeing someone butcher your favourite song at a school talent contest.

Attica State‘ opens like a hundred other Blues rockers, including quite a few which The Beatles did themselves. The squealing guitars, shouty vocals, and burping horns compliment each other even if it does all sound jumbled and messy. It keeps to a more adequate length.

Born In A Prison’ is intentionally positioned tracklist wise between the next song and the previous one. Yoko does a lullaby sing-song to remind us of all of the prisons we find ourselves in. The vocals are marginally better, John’s arsing about in the background, and it’s all a little too quaint. Nice sax, if you’re into that sort of thing.

New York City’ is another, uninventive, riff on blues rock standards. It’s all a bit silly when you see what Zep was doing at this point in time. Without having heard this song before, it’s a song I’ve heard a hundred times before. The lyrics are more interesting, but it’s a song which isn’t saying a lot. Solid guitar in there. It’s a topical Chuck Berry influence rocker, without the melodic fun. Again, shave a minute off this and you don’t lose anything.

Sunday Bloody Sunday‘ opens with a much more interesting sound, and evolves into a funky rhythm. Unfortunately the lyrics are a bit of a shambles. I appreciated the sentiment, but coming from Northern Ireland you’re never going to get a simple answer to such a mess. The general consensus in these sorts of songs and movies is that the Protestants living in Northern Ireland shouldn’t be here and should be booted out. Which would be fine if we’d just moved in and took over 5 minutes ago, but all of that shit was the crimes of our (several times over) ancestors and ultimately becomes a naive and racist statement in itself and makes a mockery of his sentiment in Imagine. Good music all round though.

The Luck Of The Irish‘ is a sweet little ditty which seems to deal with the same subject as the previous song. It’s a little too saccharine and on the nose with Yoko’s mythological nonsense, but Lennon’s lyrics include a few great lines. A few more naive ones too – taking sides in this nonsense as it currently stands will never get anywhere – there are simply murderers and monsters from all directions and the best solution would be to nuke it all and start again.

John Sinclair‘ is a folksy rocker which sees Lennon still trying to emulate Dylan. It’s more fun than a Dylan song, and has the benefit of not having Dylan sing on it. Plus the slide guitar is strong with this one, and the ‘got to got to got to’ shenanigans is fairly amusing.

Angela‘ is a sweet song. It’s another Yoko song, neatly constructed and catchy, but harmed by the fact that she’s the one singing on it. Is that Harrison on guitar? It sounds like his tone.

We’re All Water‘ blasts out of the speakers, a fast paced jukebox rocker with plenty of horn parps and jagged guitar. Yoko sings again – they’ve got her voice filtered again so it sounds even weirder than normal. The vocals are more spoken than sung. It’s basically a list of names juxtaposed, with the refrain signifying that we’re all the same. Then Yoko starts screeching, which I don’t mind as much as her singing. It’s damn catchy too.

It’s another sub par album by Lennon. The better songs, musically, are the ones which Yoko performs. Which is a mess because her vocals are not right. I get that you want to work with the one you love, and that when you’re John Lennon you can do whatever the fuck you want. But from a purely musical perspective, from the respective of any listener, there are so many other singers out there that could have filled in and turned the songs into what they deserved to be instead of a point of ridicule. Lennon sounds as if he’s barely trying, while the Yoko songs are genuinely fun, or would be with a stronger singer.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Angela. John Sinclair, I guess. We’re All Water.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Best Song – 1984

Official Nominations: I Just Called To Say I Love You. Take A Look At Me Now. Footloose. Lets Hear It For The Boy. Ghostbusters.

We’re deep into the 80s now – just look at these songs, every one was a hit, every one is still played today and everyone knows them. Probably only two of them are recognisable from their respective movie today, but these are all still significant movie songs in their own right. I can’t complain about any of these being the winner – I Just Called To Say I Love You is the official choice and it’s one of my favourite Stevie Wonder songs. Most of his fans disregard this one but as I’m not a huge fan of his I don’t fall into that category. I just like good cheese. Likewise, I’m not a fan of Phil Collins, but I do like Take A Look At Me Now (or Against All Odds as it is correctly named). Footloose and Lets Hear It For The Boy I can’t say I really like but they’re both a lot of cheesy 80s fun. My winner then is the most iconic song of the bunch, at least in terms of movies. Everyone knows Ghostbusters – who ya gonna call, and all that. Even so, I’m not a massive fan of the song – I like it, who doesn’t – but I have to pick it as the winner.

My Winner: Ghostbusters

Ray Parker Jr.: Ghostbusters (Music Video 1984) - IMDb

My Nominations: I Just Called To Say I Love You. Take A Look At Me Now. Footloose. Lets Hear It For The Boy. Ghostbusters. The Heat Is On. You’re The Best. Young Hearts. Feel The Night. Cruel Summer. See Me In The Mirror. Love Came For Me. Sorcerer. Nowhere Fast. Breaking Like The Wind. Stonehenge.

This is when we get into that realm of 80s movies and hit songs going hand in hand. It honestly seems like every worthwhile movie released this year, and in this era, had an accompanying hit song or songs. If they couldn’t manage a hit song, they likely had a hit piece of theme music – see Beverly Hills Cop. Not happy with having a hit theme, Beverly Hills Cop also had a hit song in The Heat Is On – you already know it, and now that I’ve made you remember it you’ll be going ‘wow ooh wow oh, wow ooh wow oh’ all day.

The Karate Kid is littered with hits and 80s monstrosities – the biggest one being ‘You’re The Best’ – another inspirational anthem that you can’t help but love. Young Hearts is pretty dreadful on its own, but once again it works well within the confines of the movie. The same goes for Feel The Night. Cruel Summer ended up being one of Bananarama’s biggest hits, debuting in The Karate Kid.

It’s fair to say Alice Cooper was a bit of a mess in the 80s, recording several bad albums that he has zero recollection of. He also popped up in a number of horror movies and contributed songs to them. He wrote two songs for the Italian cult horror movie Monster Dog, and while they are far from his best, they are stronger than most of his early 80s output. Identity Crisis is a slice of fun but See Me In The Mirror is a darker ballad of the type Cooper was an expert at writing – again far from his best, but a vital curio. Many people would say that the most important soundtrack of this year was Purple Rain. And yet, I’ve never been a Prince fan. At the time his music always seemed too 80s to me, too samey, too reliant on the same rhythms and synth sounds. My opinion hasn’t really changed over the years though I’m aware I’ve only heard a fraction of his work. As such, I’m struggling to find a song from the movie I actually enjoy. Just to annoy you further, I’ll add another slice of stinking cheese in Love Came For Me from Splash. Come at me!

Lets keep things going with the bizarre Streets Of Fire – Nowhere Fast is a decent attempt at some sort of rock/pop opera thing while Sorcerer is a more simple atmospheric ballad. Next we land on The Terminator with a few songs lurking in the background and hitting that weird mix of techno and rock that was around for a few years in the decade – Burning In The Third Degree has a crap verse but great chorus. Most of the other tracks aren’t worth mentioning. For This Is Spinal Tap, really any of the songs could make an appearance but I’m already ripping the arse out of it – my favourites being Break Like The Wind and Stonehenge, but really the entire album rips to shreds everything that was, and is, so laughable and terrible about 80s hair metal. For anyone still reading… I think we’re done here. I think we know Ghostbusters is the winner, but I’m the contrarian.

My Winner: You’re The Best

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Psycho Motel – State Of Mind (Maiden Non Maiden Series)!

Review: Psycho Motel – State Of Mind (1995) | Maiden Revelations

Greetings, Glancers! I’m going to try to be a little more consistent with these things. What tends to happen is that, I get bored focusing on one thing for too long and burn out, but just looking at how regularly I post under a specific topic is a little embarrassing. If anyone tunes in and only wants to read my posts on the Iron Maiden members’ non-IM work, or my Madonna or Bon Jovi posts, or whatever, there’s maybe one post on each every few months. That’s a bit crappy. I’m still writing them in the background, but I’m simply not posting them. So yeah, more consistency.

This time around it’s another Adrian Smith vehicle I’m unfamiliar with. From memory, I enjoyed some parts of Smith’s previous band ASAP, but felt their album ran out of steam quickly. I can only assume that his mid-nineties outfit, prior to re-joining Maiden, were more successful given they had two albums. State Of Mind was released in 1995 – near enough Grunge Peak – and hair metal, 80s style metal was all but dead. Maiden themselves weren’t having the best of times, and it was Europe which took the mantle, taking power and symphonic metal in the next logical direction. I’ve no idea what this will sound like. I assume there will be guitars, but whether it’s Maiden-esque, whether it’s hard rock, whether it’s grunge, whether it’s whatever – I don’t know. The name Psycho Motel does feel familiar to me – maybe they appeared in Beavis And Butthead or maybe the were featured in Kerrang at the time. Lets do this.

Sins Of Your Father: I get an instant Alice In Chains vibe from that opening riff, that sludgy guitar tone. It gets more slow, more dirty with the verse and follow-up riff. That’s not Smith on the vocals anyway. The vocals feel like the sleazier side of 80s metal, while the groove and tone feel Seattle inspired. It’s likely the upload quality I’m listening, but the drums feel distant, not as impactful as they should be. This is a slow, sludgy opener, nothing extraordinary, but hard and heavy, and something to knock back a beer to.

World’s On Fire: The tuning seems quite low on these songs so far – again hitting those lower register metal tones. I can’t say I enjoy the shouts of ‘fight’ in the verse – very cheesy a la 80s cheese. The guitars almost feel too distorted – could be the crappy upload though. So far, there’s nothing akin to Maiden at all, so good to see Smith again branching out further. The solo work hasn’t been amazing on these two tracks – more like any number of rock bands from the era. Not the most exciting song, and not as engaging as the opener.

Psycho Motel: Has a thankfully different intro, coming in with acoustic (?) guitars and some near Eastern arsing about before the fat riff drops. It’s another very groovy riff, more of the dirty tone – this one feels more like a single. There’s a greater melodic quality and it feels more coherent. It’s a foot tapper. Reminds me of a heavier, slower Slash’s Snakepit. This is the best song so far, but nothing special.

Western Shore: Starts with an acoustic shuffle, something like Soul Asylum or Mr Big or any of the 80s bands when they decided to have a ballad moment. The vocals work well along with the guitar, if a little Richard Marx-like. In the second verse they drop a string section when I was expecting a drum blast. The drum blast comes for the second chorus. Then there’s a sudden transition into a strange funk jazz rock fusion – an excuse for a bit of volume and twiddling. I’m not sure it fits, but it’s not bad.

Rage: A big crunchy intro leads to a screechy verse where the riffs pause for the vocals and vice versa. There’s some swirly vocal effects in the bridge, and the chorus is a bit of a nothing. It’s all quite bouncy so old school headbangers will get some mileage from the beat and volume, but for someone like me looking to make more of an emotional connection or hoping for something more inventive, there isn’t much to get behind. It’s a short one.

Killing Time: A squealing intro makes way for a great driving riff, which in turn drops away for a much more middle of the road, average rock verse. It’s all quite muddled and none of it makes much of an impact. What I assume is the chorus drops before the second minute mark, and it’s better. Not better enough to save the whole song, but still an improvement. Then there’s some solo stuff and the band fannying about. I’m not sure what this is meant to be, it feels like three separate jams or a batch of unused ideas squeezed into a single song.

Time Is A Hunter: Drums. Chords. The song name gives me Zeppelin vibes. The lyrics definitely give that early bluesy Zeppelin feel. The comparison doesn’t go much further. The melodies aren’t exciting, the music is just sort of ‘there’ and yet in the background. There’s a neater middle section which again offers some slight improvement. It returns to the blues and keeps going for another few minutes.

Money To Burn: A decent twangy riff gets a metal overhaul and segues into a decent verse and then a decent chorus. This one is more catchy than most of the other songs, decent all round. Again, hardly a song to light up anyone’s life, but fun nonetheless.

City Of Light: Does this sound like Peace Sells? There’s something familiar and Mustainey about the song. A siren guitar and some clanging single notes at least offer a taste of atmosphere. The songs feels like it’s building to something, rather than a collection of random unfocused notes and riffs. The bridge into chorus together is a little strange, but does offer a different type of melody. There’s some start/stop going on to which helps the rhythm along.

Excuse Me: Jeepers, this is full on grunge – on the softer side. That verse feels part Bush, part Soundgarden. Man, the vocals and the guitar and the melody is straight out of Seattle. Is this a cover? I don’t think it’s amazing, but it’s different enough from the rest of the album to make it feel unique, and it does have a much greater melodic quality and it feels like a single. There’s that added coherence to the structure. Maybe a minute longer than it should be.

Last Goodbye: These last two tracks seem to be re-release or extra tracks, but I’ll cover them anyway. Assuming this isn’t a Jeff Buckley cover. It opens with some ominous guitar and effects and soundbites before the jump-scare guitar drops with a stomping pace. Aside from the chorus, it’s more of the same really – heavy, but doesn’t leave me with anything interesting to say. It’s just loud, middling rock music which doesn’t demand my attention.

Can’t Wait: This one feels more chaotic, moderately faster, with a touch of funk. The bass is doing some funky bits and it is more melodic in places. But definitely chaotic – a lot of noise, and not a lot of it making much impact.

Not the most exciting album in the world then, even by mid-nineties hard rock standards. The majority of the album just felt like bang average rock songs – not a lot of edge, not a lot of emotion, melody, or originality, but for people who like to have any heavy music to stick on in the background to get them though the day, they shouldn’t have many complaints. I’m including myself in that group. Each song had something I liked, but those best bits never lasted or elevated the song as a whole. The band must have had fun and must have had a measure of success if they returned for another album. I won’t say I’m looking forward to hearing that one, but I’m marginally curious to see if they change their sound or if it’s simply more of the same.

Let us know in the comments what you think of State Of Mind!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Psycho Hotel. Money To Burn. Western Shore. Excuse Me.

Nightman Listens To – Master Of Reality – Black Sabbath (Top 500 Metal Series)!

How Black Sabbath Set a Metal Template on 'Master of Reality'

*Note – I set this to publish back in 2020, but something went wrong and it seemingly never posted. So here you go.

Greetings, Glancers! It feels like we’re getting through an awful lot of Black Sabbath so far with this list, which is a good thing as they were always more of a Greatest Hits band to me while I’m now able to take a deeper dive at their core work. Having said that, I’m pretty familiar with this album even if I’ve never heard it from start to finish. It contains a number of their most famous songs – songs which have appeared on Compilations, and songs which I’ve heard played at the Rock and Metal shows I used to go to and DJ at.

There isn’t much to say about the album cover – it’s iconic in its own way, more due to the popularity of the album rather than the actual artwork, but it does have an interesting wavering font which aligns with some of the more fusion and drug elements of the band and makes me think of a psychedelic Scooby Doo. The almost black on black print for the album title is a neat touch too. But lets just hit play on the thing, right?

Sweet Leaf’ begins with a cough which used to freak me out when I first heard the song on a Greatest Hits. I first thought it was a mistake. It’s still a strange inclusion now. But beyond that we get another fat, dirty Iommi riff. Like a lot of the best Sabbath riffs, it’s so simple yet leaves plenty of room for vocal accompaniment and instrumental arrangement. After a couple of verses, the song takes off into an extended instrumental phrase – the drums and bass are pouncing all over the place and there’s a sprinkling of shredding – then we return to the verse. Ozzy doesn’t sound too bad – he still has a distant, near reverb tone on his vocals, but this adds to the overall Sabbath sound. It’s a good song, can’t say I’ve ever loved it and I wish the instrumental part had gone a little further, lasted a little longer, but it’s still a powerful intro.

After Forever‘ feels much brighter and fun – the intro is faster and the riff makes the band sound less like Doom Metal, and more like a 70s US rock band. If you hadn’t heard it before, you wouldn’t guess it was Sabbath. The verses change up the pace and tone somewhat, the lyrics are funny, and on the second turn a thundering funky section changes things further. From there it’s a collection of the intro and verse riffs with assorted guitar trickery and freakouts.

Embryo‘ is one which, I’ve never been able to work out why, but was quite off-putting to me. Not because it was bad, more because it felt like it was triggering some unconscious memory from a past life in me which made me feel all apprehensive and panicky. I know that sounds ludicrous, but there you are. Something about the jaunty near-medieval melodies of the intro which aren’t quite out of tune, but are… puts me in the headspace of a child terrified by Knightmare or traumatised by some unimaginable horror scene. Then it’s followed up by a Doctor Who style galloping riff and the memory is slowly dispelled.

Children Of The Grave‘ continues based off that galloping Dr Who riff. The downtuned guitar and bass sound is really coming through here, and it may take a bit of getting used to for traditional rock fans. It’s not something I’m a massive fan of in general and metal bands have a habit of using it too much, but it’s perfect for Sabbath. The drums feel like trash can lids, but not in a St Anger way, and of course the technique is perfection.  It isn’t the most exciting song or riff the band has written, but there is room for a brief instrumental interlude in the middle and a spooky Friday The 13th ending.

Orchid‘ is a lovely acoustic guitar instrumental which doesn’t fit neatly with what you know of the band or have heard so far on the album. It sounds more complex than it is, the playing given a swirling hypnotic quality.

Lord Of This World‘ on the other hand is exactly what you would expect – a stinking riff followed by a whirlwind of drums before settling into a slower, funkier riff for the verse. Ozzy’s vocals have that distorted quality again, and by now the vocal approach feels a little overly familiar with Ozzy’s limitations becoming clear. It’s still fine, but the vocal melodies and rhythms do become repetitive between songs when listening to a full album. I assume another singer might have the range or originality to spin things up a little. It works better as a standalone than an album track, but the rest of the band are great as always.

Solitude‘ begins with a duet between guitar and bass – sweet and moody – and then the vocals start. Is that even Ozzy? Well, clearly they’ve listened to my previous comment as the vocals are almost entirely different on this one. The song isn’t quite trance-like, but it is lovely, hypnotic, sad. The lyrics are of the broken heart, I miss you type, and the whole song is mostly quiet and slow to echo the sentiment.

Into The Void‘ is the other big hitter of the album, closing the album with another famous riff which sounds like a, well, a giant Iron Man strutting down your street and happily munching on rooftops. Eventually the chugging joins in and we take things up a notch. Ozzy’s back to the more familiar vocals and the lyrics are back to more of what we expect. The pace picks up once more in the middle for a brief high speed slice of tomfoolery before returning to the verse and main riff. It’s a popular song, it’s easy to see why.

It’s another consistent and strong album by Sabbath. They haven’t made a bad one yet in my journey, although this one does feel the most ‘Sabbathy’. It has their key sounds, but it also has those trademarks which remind me why I was never their biggest fan. While the rhythm section is as superb as ever, the lack of variety in the vocals and melodies does become apparent, and even the individual riffs are great and the timing changes up multiple times per song, there is the sense that songs become repetitive. I think that’s more my issue with the genre – so dependent on slow, booming riffs, and songs that often stretch out longer than is necessary, with maybe less aggression or less emotion than I would like. Like I say, those are just my issues with the genre and the band, and plenty of others will love the music for the exact reasons I don’t. I still recognise the strength of the songs, certainly of the musicianship, and there isn’t a song here I’d have a problem hearing again. Just not many I’d actively pursue hearing.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: After Forever. Solitude. Orchid.

Best Score – 1984

Official Nominations: A Passage To India. The Temple Of Doom. The Natural. The River. Under The Volcano. Purple Rain. The Muppets Take Manhattan. The Songwriter.

Maurice Jarre picked up an official win for A Passage To India – a score with a lot of different styles at play, from big band jazz and orchestra epic pieces to more subtle sitar and mario-lava-level pieces. It’s big and bold, but it’s lacking in any great hooks to pull me in and doesn’t have a lot of deep resonating emotion. Similarly trawling the depths of Eastern culture and mysticism is Temple Of Doom, the sequel/prequel to Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Most of the best moments are borrowed from the first film, but there are one or two wonderful new pieces and changes to the classics to make it higher in my estimation than the official winner. John Williams was also nominated for The River this year, but it’s a bland enough score to go along with a bland film.

The Natural is a film about baseball, so I’m already not particularly interested, yet there’s something about the sport that makes it apparently the best candidate for translating to screen. There aren’t many great sports movies, but most of them are based around baseball. Randy Newman’s score is fine, moving from inspirational, oft copied ditties to era-specific pieces that I’m not so keen on. Under The Volcano always makes me think of the terrifying kids show Under The Mountain, though the two are in no way related. It and Moondial were pure nightmare fuel. Anyway, Alex North’s score has a lot of South American influence, but even in its more unusual moments it isn’t memorable.

Purple Rain unsurprisingly won the award for Best Original Song score but as I’m not a huge fan of the dearly departed star’s music, it’s not getting my vote. Joining him in that category were The Muppets with another collection of faintly riotous songs and Kris Kristofferson for Songwriter which has too much Country for my tastes.

My Winner: The Temple Of Doom

Indiana Jones & Temple Of Doom: CDs & Vinyl

My Nominations: The Temple Of DoomBeverly Hills Cop. Birdy. Body Double. The Company Of Wolves. Conan The Destroyer. Ghosbusters. Gremlins. The Karate Kid. The Killing Fields. The Last Starfighter. A Nightmare On Elm Street. Once Upon A Time In America. Police Academy. Splash. Starman. Supergirl. The Terminator.

Only my winner makes it to my list. Beverly Hills Cop gets a nod mostly for the great Axel F track and a variety of other early electronica. Peter Gabriel’s score for Birdy feels like a stark departure from his usual hits, a poignant, dreamlike collection of minimalist mood pieces. Pino Donaggio work well together once again on Body Double to make a score which apes Hitchcock and Hermann but has plenty of its own unique 80s pieces. You can’t talk about dreamlike without mentioning The Company Of Wolves – one of the first horror movies I ever saw and a score which never fails to send chills through me. Conan The Destroyer as a movie is, well, crap in comparison to Conan The Barbarian with the score being one of the major redeeming things. The score isn’t as wonderful as the first movie’s score (what is?) but it has a couple of excellent standalone themes and updates enough of the original’s tracks to remind us what a huge talent Poledouris was. Berstein’s Ghosbusters isn’t merely a bunch of ‘who ya gonna calls’ but has plenty of instrumental pieces of note, from the creepy museum intro to the madness of the ghostly caperings around New York later in the film.

This category is ripe for WTFs, as already discussed in my 1982 post. Gremlins not getting a nod this year is another of those. You have a conductor already recognized as an Academy favourite doing some of his most recognizable work, yet they pass it over. Gizmo’s theme and the main theme are both iconic, fantastic, and more deserving of a mention than most other pieces on this post. The Karate Kid must surely get a nomination too – Bill Conti another previous winner passed over. Sure I’m biased with a lot of these 80s movies as I grew up with them, but even removing yourself from that nostalgic viewpoint these films still have rip-roaring, rousing, inspirational scores – it’s not quite on the level of Rocky but it has a more youthful feel and if anything has more going on than Rocky with a great variety of styles.

Mike Oldfield’s score for The Killing Fields  score is gut-wrenching, epic, haunting, and memorable. There are too many great choices this year. The Last Starfighter may be a Star Wars clone but at least it tries to plough its own musical groove. All good slashers need a good score, or at least a great central theme – A Nightmare On Elm Street has one of the best yet most underrated. Funhouse fairground style sounds collide with child-like rhymes and simple melodies played with menace on the keys. There’s a lot of 80s rock influence there too and a touch of the industrial all meshing together in one nightmarish whole. Morricone’s Once Upon A Time In America – you already know it’s a masterpiece before you hear it. What’s surprising perhaps is how gentle and tender and melancholy it all is, eschewing the usual dramatic overpowering strings with more subtle softer moments, taking in South American, Asian, and European influences. Police Academy has, hands down, one of the best main themes in movie history and while the rest of the score doesn’t live up  to it, it still has other notable once-heard-never-forgotten arrangements.

This is truly the category that never ends. Splash is another romantic, dreamy string led soundtrack which remains beautiful without becoming cutesy. Starman is one of those rare John Carpenter movies where he didn’t provide the score, with Jack Nitzche providing the music instead. His main theme is one of the most gorgeous of the decade, complimented by other romantic and tension filled synthetic tracks. Supergirl… not the greatest film but fun in its own way and it has another great Goldsmith score even if it is a bit too similar to Star Trek. With The Terminator soundtrack Brad Fidel stamped his name on the industry making a score which merges dark techno and rock into a beast unlike anything else at the time. The main theme we all know, the beat in the original being slightly different to the more popular main theme of T2 and taking on a more synthetic and threatening tone than the industrial and emotion led follow-up. The central beat of course has become synonymous with the series and has taken on a life of its own outside of the film. I love how the beat becomes more aggressive as the track progresses, that sense of approaching danger growing, and it is balanced by pulsating chase themes and heartfelt, heart-breaking piano-led track which remain in regular rotation in my iPod.

My Winner: The Terminator

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1980!

Terror Train (1980) | MUBI

The Changeling

Before I get attacked – I like The Changeling. I probably would have liked it more had it not been so hyped for me. This was a film which kept slipping through my net – I’ve been a huge Horror fan since childhood, but as much as I heard people and magazines talk about The Changeling as a true classic, it never seemed to be on TV or available to buy. As such, I didn’t see it until I was older and I was expecting it to be on par with what I deemed to be classics. It didn’t live up to any of my expectations and I never found it to be particularly frightening. However, it’s classy, it’s not your run of the mill teen-bait of the period, and I’m a big fan of Jean Marsh who appears very briefly.

Flash Gordon

This was a film which was everywhere in my childhood, and one of those which I never enjoyed. I know it’s meant to be camp and cheesy and everything else, but young me felt that this was just shit. Older me doesn’t have a much better opinion of it.

The Jazz Singer

Me and musicals – there’s probably going to be at least one musical entry every where. This is one of those Hollywood go-tos – if in doubt, remake a generic, inoffensive standard with a modern cast. No-one in the cast is convincing, the story is a mess, and the music is crap.


For a long time, I didn’t trust anything by Robert Altman because he made this movie. Of course, I was wrong, but I disliked this movie so much when I was young that I not only avoided his films for an age, but it left me with a sour taste for Robin Williams too. Luckily both director and star have made monumentally better films.

Terror Train

It was the age of the slasher, and that meant that barely a week would pass without a new and shitty low budget Horror movie featuring a masked killer would be released. Poor Jamie Lee Curtis was being typecast to oblivion in this period – luckily she had the talent to rise above, and luckily she was still making genuinely great movies in this period too (The Fog), but she would still pop up in this sort of crap. It’s fine, it’s generic, it has a ridiculous plot, it’s not scary or interesting in the slightest. David Copperfield is in it (as a magician), Ben Johnson is in it… it’s an amusing cast. I generally like movies set on trains, but this film doesn’t use the setting to its advantage. It’s just another one of those ‘prank went wrong, dude gets revenge’ movies.


Where do you even start with this? It feels like a movie made by people who saw a movie once, just one, and thought ‘I can do that’. Plus, it’s another musical.

Let us know in the comments what your least favourite movies of 1980 are!

Nightman’s Updated Top Ten Favourite Movies Of 1980!

10: The Big Red One (US) Sam Fuller

When I was first getting into Cinema as more than mere entertainment, I began hunting down the lesser known (to me) films by actors and directors I already liked, or unseen films in genres I enjoyed. It took a while to get to The Big Red One because War movies were never high on my list of preferred genres and because the only actor I cared about was Mark Hamill – I didn’t know much about Fuller at the time. This was my gateway to Fuller as a director and to some of the less patriotic, less glossy War movies. The Big Red One has more in common with something like Platoon but also stands apart – it first follows a soldier (Lee Marvin) and his experiences in WWI and WWII, then follows the squad he becomes a part of (The Big Red One) in different missions throughout Africa and Europe. It’s light on plot – more a series of events involving this man and his fellow soldiers, but there’s a recurring enemy weaving the different scenes together as well as the sense of guilt and fear and War’s cyclical nature. It’s par for the course for Marvin, but it’s Fuller’s best film, and it’s great to see Hamill outside of the Star Wars universe.

9: Cannibal Holocaust (Italy)

Following on from above, Horror has long been my favourite genre, and younger me (who am I kidding, I still do it now) would make lists of all of the films I needed to see, culled from what I heard older relatives and friends talking about, from trips to the VHS store and memorizing the scariest cover art, to remembering the names from magazines I browsed in shops (before being told to buy or fuck off). Cannibal Holocaust was one of those movies that you almost weren’t allowed to talk about – it wasn’t just a video nasty, it was criminal. This was the work of an insane killer and simply talking about it would buy who a ticket to Hell, via the cop shop. Now, we all know that Cannibal Holocaust is just a movie and Hell is just a myth, but make no mistake that it is an incredibly difficult movie to recommend or sit through. Unless you’re a Horror fan or a huge Movie buff who wants to see everything, I’d say it would be best to stay away. It’s cheap, it’s nasty, and depending on which cut you watch it is morally reprehensible.

That said, it remains incredibly influential. Much of what it influenced turned out to be dreadful, but it did lead to some classics of the genre, while genuinely being a classic itself; if the goal of horror is to shock, sicken, and provoke, you should consider all three boxes ticked. It’s not that it’s overly bloody, more that it feels so grimy and realistic, and the tone feels dirty. It’s one of a small handful of films to play this trick while still being a worthwhile watch – TCM and Henry Portrait to name a couple. It has the bonus of having a truly gorgeous soundtrack too. Be aware though that the film does contain genuine animal cruelty – I refused to watch that version and if you don’t want to give the filmmakers any money or attention for doing such things, then you’re a better human than me. If you’re still reading and are interested in a synopsis, the film is basically split into two parts; the first, follows an anthropologist/explorer type searching The Amazon for a group of missing filmmakers and finding their bodies and film reels. The second half is the explorer playing said footage to a team of Producers (and us) and begging them not to put it on TV. While exploitative, it’s more clever than many gave it credit for at release, and it’s now more highly regarded.

8: Kagemusha (Japan)

It’s ridiculous for some filmmakers to have such long and distinguished careers. In the modern sense, we have the likes of Spielberg and Scorsese still putting out genuine money-makers which are also critically successful. Back in 1980, Kurosawa had already been working for almost half a century and had essentially defined Asian, and to a certain degree, Western film-making. With a legion of new Hollywood filmmakers worshipping him, they were able to help fund what would become a series of new epics by The Master. Kagemusha is a three hour, astonishingly crafted, epic of war and political intrigue set in 16th Century Japan. Like my number 9 entry, this is a hard sell unless you’re already a Kurosawa fan or want to see as much as possible. For those two groups, this should be a treat – what it lacks in Kurosawa’s early energy and innovation it makes up for in scope and vision. Plotwise, it follows the life of a thief who bares an uncanny resemblance to a Feudal Lord and who is trained to be a stand-in or decoy for the Lord. As you would expect, the Lord is killed but rather than deal with the loss of power and political fall-out, the thief acts as the leader full-time until a better solution can be found. Power struggles ahoy! Basically, imagine Game Of Thrones pulling this exact trick and you’ll have a fair idea of what the film is like.

7: The Watcher In The Woods (US/UK)

It remains bizarre to me that this, one of Disney’s best kept secrets and one of their best ever Live Action movies, is still not available to watch on Disney Plus. At least not here in the UK. I know Disney rarely touches Horror, but this is fairly light and more like an extended, classier Goosebumps episode. It’s a classic Haunted House story, complete with Gothic old home, creepy Bette Davis, and a slow-moving creep factor. Admittedly, it’s not the best made or best acted movie in the world, and the plot doesn’t always make the most sense, but it made me fall in love with Lynn Holly Johnson and is one of the better introductions to Horror for younger audiences – low on violence, jump-scares, naughty words, but high on atmosphere and spooky tone.

6: The Elephant Man (US)

The movie which showed that David Lynch could play within the system and could make Oscar bait just as well as anyone. Of course, once he’d got it out of his system, he went back to doing whatever the hell he wanted. That said, this biopic is not the standard fare you got then and which you still see Hollywood promote and cream over today – this is Lynch’s vision. It wouldn’t work as well without the two lead performances from Hurt and Hopkins, the great make-up, the cinematography, and of course the concept is more interesting than ‘here’s a two hour re-telling of a famous pop star’s life that you already know about’.

5: Raging Bull (US)

Equally, Scorsese’s take on the biopic is another black and white, director owned piece. You look at The Elephant Man and Raging Bull and you know that nobody else could have made those movies and have them be the successes they are. Building off his relationship with De Niro and Pesci, Bull is yet another masterclass by Scorsese which depicts fame and violence (and boxing) with such an artistic eye that any scene in the movie rarely drops below iconic stature.

4: The Blues Brothers (US)

It’s rare that you’ll ever find a musical in my Top Ten lists given my general dislike of the genre, but The Blues Brothers is one of those odd entries. It’s a perfect storm – Akroyd and Belushi were at the height of their fame, John Landis was hitting the big time, and we had a host of Blues and Blues-related performers who were still alive and kicking. Throw in a zany plot which you’d likely never find outside of the 80s, memorable one-liners, and an iconic set of costumes, and you have a winner. I always say that, with musicals I don’t care about dancing or big epic performances, but that the music has to be good. Almost without exception, the music in the big Hollywood musicals is tripe. Or at the very least, not to my tastes. While I’m not the biggest Blues fan in the world, you can’t deny the star power on display here or the music involved, involving old Blues, Rock, and Gospel standards. Outside of the music, it’s a genuinely funny and entertaining movie with plenty of the surreal thrown in for good measure – again, Hollywood Musicals? Not funny. Car chases don’t hurt either.

3: The Shining (US)

You know The Shining. We all know that Horror is a slighted genre in mainstream criticism and Awards, but The Shining is one of a small handful of movies that critics, awards type, film fans, and horror hounds can all agree on. Say what you will about the two lead performances – I love them – but they all add to the tone and atmosphere of the whole. This is a Haunted House movie where everyone is fucked from the first scene because they’re already haunted. Kubrick has always had horror elements in his movies and I wish he’d done one more in this genre, but at least he left us with one out and out masterpiece.

2: The Fog (US)

The Fog is not the revered classic that The Shining is, nor is it the better movie, but I just get so much of a kick out of The Fog. It’s the more fun ride, it’s the rollercoaster, it’s the perfect Halloween movie. It’s a ridiculous campfire story – ghost pirates attack a coastal town on the anniversary of their tragedy to get revenge/get their gold back. That’s it, and we meet a bunch of townspeople and people passing through who have to survive the night. John Carpenter has made a career of making siege movies of different types – this one is essentially a town under siege – but he’s a master of it. He makes it fun, he makes it scary, it has a terrific soundtrack, it looks wonderful, and there’s a bunch of great performers pulling us from A to B.

1: The Empire Strikes Back (US)

Covered in my Top Movies Of The Decade post.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two (including the top grossing film)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two

1984 Academy Awards – An Introduction

The 57th Annual Academy Awards (TV Special 1985) - IMDb

The 57th Academy Awards were presented by Jack Lemmon, overseeing films such as Amadeus, A Passage To India, and The Killing Fields which all received multiple nominations. As is the case with most years in the 80s, there are a number of cult and high entertainment movies which will feature heavily in my choices.

Honorary Awards went to Jimmy Stewart, David L Wolper, and The River while Linda Hunt, Kathleen Turner, Tom Selleck, Michael Douglas and other handed out the awards. Performances came from Ray Parker Jr, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, and others.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks to see what my picks in each category will be, and feel free to leave your own choices!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1981!

Chariots Of Fire

It’s not that it’s a bad movie – clearly it’s not. It’s just that it’s so English, it’s so British, it’s so dull, and as a normal (innocent) man I primarily watch movies to be entertained. When I watched this as a youngling, I was not entertained. When I watched when I was older, I appreciated the performances but was annoyed by the pacing, the preaching, and by how static it feels.

Omen 3: The Final Conflict

What a dull and disappointing way to conclude what could have been one of the great Horror trilogies. The original is still strong enough that it remains a classic and the sequel is fun enough to suggest that the trilogy deserves to be mentioned in discussions of Best Trilogies, but Part 3 has little to connect it to the previous entries in terms of casting, tone, and quality. What is so interesting about the original is that it genuinely feels apocalyptic; the good guys don’t win and humanity looks like it is fucked. Part 2 is interesting as it presents a twisted Damian just going about his life as a teenager, gradually being manipulated and swung back into the path of evil. Part 3 is a bunch of guys in suits talking about star signs and politics. Sam Neill is a great choice for the grown up and powerful Damian, but outside of a single decent gore gag there’s almost nothing to recommend here.

On Golden Pond

When I was young this looked like a movie for Grannies. No that I’m old… it still looks like a movie for Grannies. Ask me again in another 30 years…

All Night Long

Romantic comedies aren’t my thing, Streisand isn’t my thing. In truth, it’s not as bad as the reputation it has built up has suggested and it’s perfectly watchable thanks to the performances, but it’s not very funny and at no point did I find any of it realistic or the characters interesting.

Let us know your least favourite films of 1981 in the comments!

Best Cast – 1983

My Nominations: Yellowbeard. Uncommon Valor. Terms Of Endearment. Trading Places. Scarface. Rumble Fish. The Outsiders. The Osterman Weekend. Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. The Right Stuff. The Big Chill.

We close out another year of Oscars coverage with another category which really should be part of the official ceremony. Yellowbeard is one of those films which seems like it could never have happened, probably shouldn’t have happened, and remains a curio which always prompts amazement that it exists at all. A who’s who of British talent, originally the plan was for it to be a Sam Peckinpah and Keith Moon vehicle, but instead became a Pirate movie featuring (takes a breath) an uncredited David Bowie, Spike Milligan, Graham Chapman, Peter Cook, Peter Boyle, Cheech & Chong, Marty Feldman, John Cleese, James Mason, Madeline Kahn, Susannah York, Nigel Planer, and Eric Idle. And others – you get the idea. It’s not very good, but it’s great to see the group of performers together.

Uncommon Valor is another one of those ‘Vets return to Vietnam’ movies which were all the rage for a few years, and features an interesting mix of established stars, martial artists, and new faces – Gene Hackman, Patrick Swayze, Fred Ward, Robert Stack, Randall Cobb, Kwan Hi Lim, Jane Kaczmarek, Michael Dudikoff, and Reb Brown. Even though it’s an action movie, it’s quite downbeat. Terms Of Endearment – it’s overrated in my books, but it excels in its casting and performances. Trading Places couples peak Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd with Jamie Lee Curtis trying her hand at comedy alongside stalwarts Denholm Elliott, Don Ameche, Ralph Bellamy. Scarface is inevitable – Pacino, Pfeiffer, Bauer, Loggia, Mastrantonio, and F Murray Abraham.

The Outsiders and Rumble Fish both have crazy casts – I’m not going to type out all the names, but they’re both a who’s who of future stars. The Osterman Weekend isn’t a film we’ve talked about so far – it was something of a critical and commercial failure, but given the source material, director, and calibre of cast it’s definitely worth your time. It’s a rather messy conspiracy thriller where you’re not quite sure what’s going on, the characters aren’t sure who to trust, and nobody is very likeable – yet it stars Burt Lancaster, Dennis Hopper, Rutger Hauer, John Hurt, Helen Shaver, Meg Foster, Chris Sarandon, and Craig T Nelson.

Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence is one of the better acted ensemble films in my list – David Bowie, Takeshi Kitano, Tom Conti, and Ryuichi Sakamoto are all great, while Eureka is another which deserves a wider re-appraisal, featuring Rutger Hauer (again), Gene Hackman (again), Mickey Rourke (again), Joe Pesci, Joe Spinell, Theresa Russell, and Jane Lapotaire. We don’t need to cover The Right Stuff again, but it should be here if this were an official category, as would The Big Chill. 

I’m a bit stumped on this one, and I’d likely pick a different winner if asked again tomorrow.

My Winner: The Outsiders.

The Outsiders is now a musical. ‹ Literary Hub

Let us know your winner in the comments!