Waiting For The Howl*

September 9, 2012

The poster creeped me out – the slightly sepia tint that almost gave it the appearance of a photograph and the inhuman creature splashing through the shallow water.

Below the movie’s title was a tagline that, like the poster, was simple but made it truly chilling.

A true story.

I hadn’t thought of the movie in years and years, but, The Legend Of Boggy Creek bobbed to the surface of the subconscious a couple weeks ago. It would seem from perusing the internet that the nearly forty-year old flick has maintained a prescence in the psyche of a lot of people – especially those that were kids – in the early ’70s.

It apparently did most of its business at drive-ins, but it hit our small town’s theater in late summer of ’74. I was six and the movie, despite being G-rated, was declared forbidden the first time my mom saw a commercial for it.

But there was most definitely a buzz surrounding The Legend Of Boggy Creek. The movie purported to tell the tale of a Sasquatch-type creature living in the forests and swamps of a speck of a town in the southwesternmost part of Arkansas.

Filmed for nothing and featuring locals and not actors, the movie was shot primarily as a documentary, making it a precursor to and an apparent inspiration for The Blair Witch Project twenty-five years later.

The commercial echoed the poster’s eerie vibe with a camera panning through remote, isolated swamp terrain before ending with a shot of dense, ominous woods at dusk and an unholy howl as the voiceover offered the stark reminder that the legend was truth.

It was simple and effective, especially as, at the time, we were living in an apartment complex that backed up to a wooded area. That commercial would air as we’d be watching television in the evening and I’d stare out the glass door to the patio, out into the darkness of those trees and wonder what might be out there.

By the following summer, we had moved to a subdivision on the outskirts of town where the slight outpost of civilization that was our town gave way to vast stretches of farmland. There were wooded areas in all directions broken by expanses of fields.

Those woods were a playground for me and my childhood friends, but, as a kid, when the summer faded and the chill of autumn arrived, those woods would also become a far more spooky setting, especially with dusk coming earlier each evening.

There was nothing in those woods more threatening than deer, but they were mysterious nonetheless and the idea that there might be something out there in the thick trees had been planted in my young mind.

I couldn’t help but stare out my bedroom window, across the fields, and to the treeline on the horizon and wonder…

I finally watched The Legend Of Boggy Creek last week and it is most definitely a mixed bag.

However, the first ten minutes are as creepy as advertised and made more so by the schizophrenic music that accompanies the camera gliding through ominous swamplands and open fields as a young boy – about the age I would have been at the time – hears the creature’s scream.

I wasn’t much into music in the autumn of ’74 as I was focused on what might or might not be lurking in the woods. Here are four songs that were on Billboard magazine’s charts that September…

Eric Clapton – I Shot The Sheriff
from Time Pieces: Best Of Eric Clapton (1982)

I can’t say that I’ve ever been devotee of “Slowhand.” Oh, I admire his skills and understand his place in rock history, but there’s just something that never completely resonated with me. Perhaps it’s because when my interest in music was taking root in the early ’80s, Clapton wasn’t exactly at the height of his powers.

However, Clapton’s take on Bob Marley’s I Shot The Sheriff not only became the guitarist’s biggest hit, it also brought the music of the reggae superstar to a new audience.

Stevie Wonder – You Haven’t Done Nothin’
from Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974)

The funky You Haven’t Done Nothin’ – with The Jackson 5 providing backup vocals – took the political powers at the time to task and managed to reward Stevie Wonder with yet another hit song during his remarkably prolific ’70s output.

Ten years later, he was calling just to say he loved us.

Gordon Lightfoot – Carefree Highway
from Sundown (1974)

I like The Lightfoot (as I’ve noted before).

Brian Eno – Baby’s On Fire
from Here Come The Warm Jets (1974)

OK, Baby’s On Fire wasn’t a hit, but, in September ’74, Brian Eno’s first solo album since parting company with Roxy Music was on the album charts (albeit in the lower reaches of the Top 200). Despite limited commercial success for his own work, few musicians over the past forty years have been as influential as Eno has been as an artist, collaborator, and producer.

I would be in college before hearing Roxy Music or Eno’s solo work. It was my buddy Streuss who threw on Here Come The Warm Jets one day and the album blew me away. It was twelve years old at the time and sounded as though it could have been released twelve years in the future.

(and King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp’s solo is, in a word, wicked)

Advertisements

On The Road To Somewhere

September 3, 2011

Paloma got up, less than ten minutes into The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, to go read.

She muttered something about thinking Jackie Earle Haley was cute in the first movie and walked out before Kelly Leak arriving on his motorcycle kickstarted its sequel.

“It’s one of the greatest movies of all time,” I countered, but she was unswayed and headed off with Kindle in hand.

I don’t think I’d seen Breaking Training since 1977, but that review was the consensus of me and my friends leaving the theater.

(we were mostly nine or ten-years old, thus, our standards for such acclaim were the same as more noted critics)

We were growing up in a small town in John Mellencamp’s country and, at least at our age, playing baseball consumed much of our summer days.

We had embraced the ragtag collection of Bears with first movie. These kids looked like kids we knew and not kids in a movie.

And there was Jackie Earle Haley who, as Kelly was not only the best player on the team, but he was angry, long-haired, smoking cigarettes and hooking up with Tatum O’Neal.

He was as badass as a thirteen year-old could be in the mid-’70s.

The sequel lost the wonderful Walter Matthau and O’Neal, but gained a road trip.

Through the clever use of a dim-witted groundskeeper, the team manages to head from California to Texas in a stolen (and very ’70s-styled) van with Kelly Leak behind the wheel.

These were kids, more or less like us, unsupervised and mobile.

And Kelly Leak had the vision to make it happen.

The setting for their game against the Texas champions was the Astrodome, a stadium that was a favorite amongst us kids as the most spectacular of sporting venues on the planet.

(it was like something from some other futuristic world)

There was also a new kid playing Englebert the burly catcher. Not only was he now supersized, he was pivitol in the scene that elicited the biggest laughs from us.

During a brawl in the team’s hotel room, the bathroom door is knocked open to reveal Englebert, sitting on the can, trousers around his ankles, plowing through a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken while he answers nature’s call.

(high hilarity for nine year-olds and an act of multi-tasking that present-day corporate America would encourage)

Thirty-four years ago, it all made for a most excellent cinematic experience. Here are four songs from Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart for this week in 1977 that, had we been in that van, my friends and I might have heard…

Fleetwood Mac – Don’t Stop
from 25 Years: The Chain

In 1977, there was plenty Fleetwood Mac on the radio as their Rumours was in the midst of a run that would see it become one of the most commercially successful albums of all time.

The group had already had hits with Go Your Own Way and Dreams when the jaunty Don’t Stop became the third of Rumours‘ eventual four Top 40 singles.

Ram Jam – Black Betty
from Ram Jam

Paloma gets a bit giddy when she hears Black Betty and the lone hit by Ram Jam does grab one’s attention from the opening guitar riff.

I can’t hear Black Betty and not think of junior high when the song would invariably be blaring from the jukebox of the pizza place where most of our football team would gather to eat before home games.

The song made guitarist Bill Bartlett a two-time member of one-hit wonders as he had previously been lead guitarist for The Lemon Pipers who had topped the charts in the late ’60s with the bubblegum of Green Tambourine.

Paul Davis – I Go Crazy
from Sweet Life: His Greatest Hit Singles

Singer/songwriter Paul Davis’ I Go Crazy was in its second week on the charts thirty-four years ago. The song wouldn’t reach the Top Ten, though, until late February of the following year as it spent a then-record 40 weeks on the Hot 100.

Though I Go Crazy was melancholic light rock at its most mellow, I’ve often wondered if Davis was ever mistaken for a member of the Allman Brothers.

The Ramones – Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
from Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: The Anthology

Not long ago, a client was giving me his last name. “Ramone,” he said. “Like the band. Do you know who I’m talking about?”

He was surprised and duly impressed as I explained that I not only knew his reference, but that Paloma has a framed poster autographed by Joey,Johnny, Dee Dee, and Marky hanging in our treehouse.


Big Fish*

May 8, 2011

How far is it from a relatively obscure, failed ‘70s feature film by an Oscar-winning director to a thirty-foot, fiberglass catfish?

Thirty-five miles.

Paloma and I have taken advantage of the fact that, here in the 21st century, people will deliver movies to your doorstep because we enjoy movies and…well…going to a theater requires leaving the couch and venturing into an often rude, zombie wasteland.

I’ve been delving into grainy movie memories from my childhood (several of which I’ve mentioned of late). One which I wanted to check out was Sorcerer, a 1977 film directed by William Friedkin (of The Exorcist fame) and starring Roy Scheider, who was fresh off the boat from his fishing excursion in Jaws.

I’d been fascinated by the poster for Sorcerer as a kid and the viewer comments on The Internet Movie Database touted it as an underappreciated gem.

The story revolved around four dodgy characters from various locales around the globe that end up hiding out in some South American village. Through a chain of events, they become mercenaries, driving two trucks laden with nitroglycerin through the jungle at great peril.

(Paloma was intrigued by this concept as a potential career opportunity)

Inspired by the viewing of Sorcerer, I decided that we should take a trek of our own, sans nitroglycerin, to a small town in the middle of nowhere where a restaurant boasted their catfish to be the finest in the state.

Paloma, ever supportive of my random whims – and won over by my assertion that such a place would certainly have pie – agreed to the venture, so long as I knew where we were going.

(leading to my assessment, halfway somewhere, that “we should be going west…or maybe south.”)

Thirty-five miles from our front door, there it was, a giant fiberglass catfish, perched majestically atop the roof of a roadside shack, proclaiming to all passers-by, here be catfish!

In the end, the catfish was serviceable, the Mississippi mud pie was, in the words of Paloma, “divine,” the thirty-foot catfish sign was the most life-like thirty-foot catfish sign I’ve ever seen, and Sorcerer was gritty, suspenseful, slightly surreal and well worth the walk to the mailbox.

There’s a lot of stuff under the sea. Here are four songs titled after some of the things that might be found in the briny deep…

The Other Two – Tasty Fish
from The Other Two & You

New Order were college radio darlings when I was in school and a lot of my friends loved the band. I was much more a casual listener.

In 1993, Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris – half of New Order – released an album as The Other Two. I liked it enough to file it away, but I couldn’t have named a song by the duo until Tasty Fish popped up.

It’s totally charming electro-pop, a pulsating, shimmering three minutes or so that would have been enough for me to hold onto the album to be rediscovered one day.

The B-52’s – Rock Lobster
from The B-52’s

I know that I wasn’t familiar with Rock Lobster in ’79. I can’t imagine that I heard the song until 97X went on the air four years later.

Then, Rock Lobster was a staple for the station and a burst of fun from the radio when it would come up.

Hooverphonic – Tuna
from Blue Wonder Power Milk

Like a lot of people, I was mesmerized the first time I heard A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular by the electronica/trip hop of the Belgian band Hooverphonic. It was a hypnotic listening experience.

Unfortunately, that album as well as Blue Wonder Power Milk and The Magnificent Tree didn’t make the transfer from harddrive to iPos explaining why I hadn’t heard the band in awhile.

Chilly, stately, and dreamy, Tuna, like most of Hooverphonic’s oeuvre, is perfect music to drift away to while listening on headphones.

Heart – Barracuda
from Greatest Hits

Though Heart might have had a lull in the early ’80s, the band remained popular on radio stations in our part of the Midwest. Then, the band notched a string of massive hits and platinum-selling albums in the mid-’80s that took the band to new heights.

I quite liked some of those latter ’80s hits, but I preferred Heart’s less-varnished ’70s stuff. The ubiquitousness of that later period made it easy to forget how much raw energy the band possessed.

Barracuda – driven by Ann Wilson’s piercing banshee wail – was as fierce as a band could hope to be.