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Retro Crimbo 2014: White Christmas at 60 ~ just like the one we’ve always known

December 20, 2014

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Snow, snow, it won’t be long before we’re all there with snow: Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen in detail from a ‘snow effect’-treated poster for White Christmas

Even the most ardent of Christmas and advent experts – or, for that matter, the most clued-up of film fans – might not recognise October 14 1954 as a seminal date in the history of the modern yuletide. But it arguably is. For, it was on that day, some weeks before that year’s seasonal festivities admittedly, that one of the greatest, most enduring, most enjoyable and most significant Christmas movies of all-time was released, White Christmas.

Nowadays, of course, it’s almost unimaginable to contemplate a time when this marvellous musical concoction didn’t exist. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, George Clooney’s aunt and that other girl whose name nobody remembers all in lustrous Technicolor, along with that irresistible big-band delivery of some of Irving Berlin’s best compositions. They’ve always been around, haven’t they? Ready to be unwrapped and thrown on each December 24th/ 25th-ish, like that latest Christmas jumper your second-step-cousin-thrice-removed gets you every year? Well, they weren’t around 60 years ago. Back then White Christmas was but a Christmas tree light-esque glint in imperious director Michael Curtiz’s eye, as he was busy corralling and – who knows? – maybe carolling all his troops into ship-shape to deliver not just one of the best ever festive musicals, but possibly one of the best ever musicals, period.

So, here we are then, peeps, the latest post in this year’s celebration of all things festive and retro at George’s Journal is a sentimental look back at the making, success, legacy and best bits of the one, the only White Christmas. In which case, go on then, Bing… take it away – no, don’t worry, David Bowie’s nowhere in sight…

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The origins and the song…

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The foundations of White Christmas lie in another hit Hollywood musical with a similar plot, Holiday Inn (1942), which starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and featured songs written by tunesmith extraordinare Irving Berlin. It had been in Holiday Inn that Berlin’s song White Christmas had first appeared, going on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song and becoming a huge seasonal chart smash for crooner Crosby.

In fact, White Christmas the song is easily the biggest selling single of all-time – Crosby’s version having so far shifted in excess of 50 million copies. Moreover, it’s estimated that all versions of the song (including Bing’s) have sold over 125 million copies. It’s been recorded in several different languages, including Dutch, Yiddish, Japanese and even Swahili. Apparently, on writing it in January 1940, Berlin said immodestly to his musical secretary Helmy Kresa: ‘I want you to take down a song I wrote over the weekend. Not only is it the best song ever wrote, it’s the best song anybody ever wrote’.

Holiday Inn itself would eventually see its title borrowed by the worldwide mega-hotel chain that, yes, shares its name. However, less auspiciously, the movie is nowadays notorious for featuring a black-faced minstrel sequence which, for obvious reasons, is often cut during annual US TV broadcasts of the film at this time of year.

A decade or so on from Holiday Inn, Berlin and Crosby sought to repeat the trick they’d enjoyed with that flick and got behind another musical whose plot would be be loosely based on Inn’s – and whose climax would incorporate that (yes, even merely by then) enormously popular festive tune. This second movie would, of course, turn out to be White Christmas

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The casting and the production…

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Initially, the plan had been to reunite Crosby and Astaire for the leads in White Christmas, old army buddies-turned-variety performers Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, but somewhat oddly perhaps, Astaire didn’t like the script. As a ‘Plan B’, Donald O’Connor (whom two years before had hit pay-dirt opposite Gene Kelly in the rather similar Singin’ In The Rain) was offered the co-lead role, but when he had to drop out due to illness, Danny Kaye filled it – on the understanding he’d receive a $200,000 fee and 10 percent of the profits.

Financially speaking, the movie’s production was apparently split down the middle between Paramount on one side and Berlin and Crosby on the other.

Cast as the female leads, the Haynes sisters, were early ’50s hit singer Rosemary Clooney (yes, famously aunt of George) and actress and dancer Vera-Ellen (whom had starred in musicals opposite Fred Astaire and in 1949’s On The Town opposite Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra) – White Christmas would actually be Vera-Ellen’s penultimate film.

Notably, the cast was filled out by Academy Award-winner Dean Jagger as Major General Tom Waverly, the survival of whose Vermont winter resort drives the movie’s plot, and George Chakiris as a black-clad background dancer, whom would also win an Academy Award for his performance in West Side Story (1961).

Signed on to direct White Christmas was legendary Hungarian-born Hollywood helmer Michael Curtiz, whom had previously directed Casablanca (1942), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Angels With Dirty Faces (1935), Mildred Pierce (1941), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) and Captain Blood (1935).

Filming principally took place between September and November 1953 and made use of the Paramount-developed VistaVision camera process, making White Christmas the first movie to do so. VistaVision was effectively an alternative to 20th Century-Fox’s CinemaScope, which had been launched in ’53, and could be said to be something of a forerunner to the IMAX system first employed in the ’70s.

Every one of White Christmas’s 16 songs were composed by Irving Berlin. Although, like the title tune, several of them weren’t originally written for the film. Vera-Ellen’s singing voice was dubbed by chanteuse Trudy Stevens, except for on Sisters, for which Clooney provided both vocals. Conversely, on the commercially released soundtrack album, Clooney didn’t appear as her record company would refuse to release her, thus her vocals on that were taken by Peggy Lee. Meanwhile, Crosby and Clooney’s ballad Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sleep was Oscar-nominated.

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The reception and the legacy…

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Theatrically released in the US on October 14 1954, White Christmas was a smash with the public from the very start. By the end of the year, it had pulled in $12 million domestically, making it the biggest flick at the box-office in 1954 (second-placed The Caine Mutiny pulled in only $8.7 million). By the end of its run (and accounting for the re-releases in years since), it grossed around $30 million in the US alone – that’s $263.4 million in today’s money.

The critics, though, were a bit sniffy. Legendary film reviewer for The New York Times Bosley Crowther concluded: “oddly enough, the confection is not so tasty as one might suppose. The flavoring is largely in the line-up and not in the output of the cooks. Everyone works hard at the business of singing, dancing and cracking jokes, but the stuff that they work with is minor”.

However, over the decades the critics appear to have lightened up somewhat – it presently holds a 76 percent ‘Tomatometer’ score of all critics and an 89 percent audience score on rottentomatoes.com. And its popularity with the punters has never been in doubt. A perennial fixture of the TV schedules this time of year – on both sides of the Atlantic – it also came fifth in a recent ‘top Christmas films’ poll of 2,000 movie fans by the UK Odeon cinema chain, with only It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), Home Alone (1990), The Snowman (1982) and the 1994 remake of 1937’s Miracle On 34th Street ahead of it.

Moreover, when White Christmas reached its 50th-anniversary 10 years ago, it was adapted into a stage musical premiering in San Francisco. A success, it toured the US provinces and appeared on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre for the 2008-09 winter season. In 2006 it crossed the pond, playing in several major regional theatres, and is now showing at the West End’s Dominion Theatre in a production starring Aled Jones and Strictly Come Dancing’s Tom Chambers.

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Julie Ege/ Jenny Hanley/ Anouska Hempel/ Joanna Lumley: James Bond’s Jingle Belles

December 10, 2014

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Talent…

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… These are the lovely ladies and gorgeous girls of eras gone by whose beauty, ability, electricity and all-round x-appeal deserve celebration and – ahem – salivation here at George’s Journal

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It’s December. It’s getting proper dark outside. And proper cold. But the big Crimbo is still two weeks off. And yet surely not one of us has been able to escape all the Holidays hooplah and hype, thus, getting in on the act, George Journal’s first big gift to every one of you this season is a pictorial tribute to a quartet – yes, that’s right, four fantastic fillies – from among master villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s ‘Angels of Death’ in the absolutely cracking Christmas-set Bond flick On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Oh yes. So, following (if not hot, but eventually) on the heels of both Angela Scoular and Catherine Schell’s inductions, the brilliant, beautiful and beasent-tastic Julie Ege, Jenny Hanley, Anouska Hempel and Joanna Lumley are verily the latest inductees into this blog’s Talent corner

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Name: Julie Ege

Nationality: Norwegian

Professions: Actress, author and model

Born: November 12 1943, Høyland, Rogaland, Norway (Died: April 28 2008, Oslo, Norway)

Known for: Playing sexiful glamour puss roles in bawdy British comedies such as the big-screen adaption (1971) of the Frankie Howerd-starring, Roman era-set sitcom Up Pompeii (1969-75), Percy’s Progress (1974) and The Amorous Milkman (1975), the Hammer horrors and adventures The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (1974) and Creatures The World Forgot (1971) and, of course, playing the ‘Scandinavian Girl’ in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Initially a model, she competed in both the Miss Norway and Miss Universe (1962) competitions and was a Penthouse Pet (1967).

Strange but true: Before she died from breast cancer at just 64, Julie had for some time been working as a nurse

Peak of fitness: Revealing practically an entire half of her ample décolletage in her red, just-about-can-be-called dress in Up Pompeii

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Name: Jenny Hanley

Nationality: English

Professions: TV presenter, actress and model

Born: August 15 1947, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, England

Known for: From 1974-80, presenting ITV’s trendy answer to Blue Peter, kids’ magazine show Magpie (1968-80), in addition to cinema roles as the ‘Irish Girl’ in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes (1970), in sexy comedies Percy’s Progress (1974) and Alfie Darling (1976) and in the Hammer horror Scars Of Dracula (1970), in addition to appearances in TV dramas and comedies including The Persuaders! (1971-72), Man About The House (1973-76) and Return Of The Saint (1978-79)

Strange but true: Noted as the daughter of famed actress Dinah Sheridan, Jenny’s grandmother was, in fact, a top society photographer whom regularly took shots of Royal family members and launched the early modelling career of one Roger Moore

Peak of fitness: Putting Valerie Singleton and Lesley Judd very much in the shade as the female face of Magpie for much of the ’70s, in so doing making her a fantasy figure of adolescent boys’ dreams up and down the country

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Name: Anouska Hempel (born: Anne Geissler)

Nationality: New Zealander/ British

Professions: Actress, hotelier, interior designer and clothes designer

Born: December 13 1941, apparently at sea between Papau New Guinea and New Zealand

Known for: Starring in the Hammer horrors The Kiss Of The Vampire (1963) and Scars Of Dracula (1970) and the comedies The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins (1971) and Tiffany Jones (1973), as well as Russ Meyer’s blaxpoitation effort Black Snake (1973) and roles in TV’s UFO (1970-71) and Space 1999 (1975-77). Eventually, she went on to become a highly successful boutique hotel, interior and clothes designer to British high society. Her character in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is often referred to as the ‘Australian Girl’.

Strange but true: Before she was born, Anouska’s father emigrated to New Zealand to become a sheep farmer; when she moved to the UK in the early ’60s, she reckons she only had £10 to her name

Peak of fitness: Taking lead duties as the fox-to-trot protagonist in Black Snake. Why? A little research will put you in the picture… although, if you live in Britain you’ll do well to actually see it – Anouska’s bought its UK rights so nobody can

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Name: Joanna Lamond Lumley

Nationality: English

Professions: Actress, model, writer, TV presenter and campaigner

Born: May 1 1946, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India

Known for: A national institution in her native UK, mostly for playing bowl-bobbed action heroine Purdey in TV adventure drama The New Avengers (1976-77) and female Keith Richards equivalent Patsy Stone in sitcom Absolutely Fabulous (1992-2012), Joanna started out as a Swinging Sixties London model, often snapped by Brian Duffy. Other acting credits include, notably, alongside David McCallum in TV fantasy drama Sapphire & Steel (1979-82) and in the films The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1973), Trail Of The Pink Panther (1982), Curse Of The Pink Panther (1983) and Shirley Valentine (1989). In recent years, she has fronted television travel and nature programmes and famously campaigned on behalf of retired Gurkha soldiers. Her role as the ‘English Girl’ in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was one of her very first.

Strange but true: Joanna ‘enjoyed’ a literal May-to-December romance in 1970, being married between those months that year to Jeremy Lloyd, co-creator of the BBC sitcoms Are You Being Served? (1972-85) and ’Allo, ’Allo (1982-92)

Peak of fitness: Kicking ass, taking names and looking sexy as hell as Purdey in every episode of The New Avengers

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Retro Crimbo 2014/ Playlist: Listen, my present wrapping peeps!

December 4, 2014

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In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, sip a glass of mulled wine, munch on a mince pie and listen away; for in the words of Noddy Holder, ittttttt’s… well, I’m sure you know what comes next…

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Anthony Daniels ~ Christmas In The Stars (1980)¹

Rosemary Clooney ~ Count Your Blessings (Instead Of Sheep) (1954)²

Vel Mares ~ Jingle Bells

Dora Bryan ~ All I Want For Christmas Is A Beatle (1963)

The Supremes ~ Children’s Christmas Song (1965)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 ~ The Christmas Song (1968)

Keenan Wynn ~ One Foot In Front Of The Other (1970)³

Mike Oldfield ~ In Dulci Jubilo (1976)

Julie Andrews ~ The Secret Of Christmas (1982)

The Two Ronnies ~ Alice In A Winter Wonderland (1984) 

Jon Anderson ~ 3 Ships (1985)

Bob Rivers ~ The Restroom Door Said ‘Gentlemen’ (1988)

John Denver and The Muppets ~ Medley:
Alfie, The Christmas Tree/ It’s In Everyone Of Us
(1979)4

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¹ The opening track on Meco (Domenico Monardo)’s legendary Star Wars-‘referencing’ disco pop novelty album Christmas In The Stars

² As featured on the soundtrack album of festive favourite flick White Christmas (1954), which this year celebrates its sixtieth anniversary

³ From Rankin/Bass’s classic Christmas stop-motion masterpiece Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

4 From the soundtrack album of the TV special John Denver And The Muppets: A Christmas Together; the song It’s In Everyone Of Us originally featured in the 1970s musical Time (which had to wait until 1986 to debut in the West End), yet fans of the box-office blockbusting, body-swap comedy classic that’s Big (1988) may too recognise it – curiously but wonderfully, it cropped up in that movie as the instrumental Visiting Home

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November 9 1989: 25 years on from the fall of the Berlin Wall

November 9, 2014

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Axe attack: a man – surrounded by fellow citizens on the Berlin Wall – takes a pickaxe to the symbolic and literal division between the Communist East and West to begin its fall on November 9 1989

So much so was it one of those momentous turning points in world history that when it occurred, even as a child, I pretty much knew what it meant – the reunification of Berlin; the slide to the end of the Soviet Russia-driven Eastern Bloc. Europe would be whole and free once more; Communism was dying and the end of the Cold War was in sight. Yes, on November 9 1989, 25 years ago today, the Berlin Wall figuratively and (began to) literally fall.

Officially named the Antifaschistischer Schutzwall (the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart), it was supposedly constructed to keep the ‘fascism’ of the West out of Communist Eastern Europe. As so often with Soviet totalitarianism, though, this just came off as a sick joke; it was obviously put up to stop the flow of people who’d been escaping since the end of the Second World War from East to West Berlin (which had been split in two, one side controlled by the Soviets and the other by the West – the Americans and the British). Apparently, before it was built, 3.5 million Berliners had fled from the East to the West. Thus, on August 13 1961, barbed wire marking the border was replaced by a breeze-blocked wall, which in turn was later solidified into great, heaving chunks of interlocking concrete. The wall immediately and, until its fall, would continue to cut off West Berlin from East Berlin and the rest of East Germany, which had always enclosed the city. And, while it stood, it’s estimated up to 200 people died in trying to get over the miles-and-miles-long monolith and escape.

Eventually, however, indeed after an entire generation, things began to change. As the 1980s progressed, the Soviet stranglehold of the Eastern Bloc (the Eastern European nations that had fallen to Soviet control before and following WWII) loosened, constricted as it was by impending economic collapse. Already, the authoritarian governments of both Hungary and Poland had stuttered and, following weeks of protest and civil unrest, East Germany declared on November 9 1989 that its citizens could finally visit West Germany. That was all thousands on either side needed; almost immediately they flocked to the wall, climbed on it, started chipping away and knocking out lumps and eventually pulled down small portions of it. Meanwhile, as families and friends were being reunited, the East German guards simply stood by and looked on. It was one of those all too rare historic, world-changing moments – one that was truly joyful and without bloodshed.

Most important of all, of course, was what followed. The repercussions of the wall’s fall were, first, a seemingly untroubled reunification of Germany on October 3 1990 (the wall itself was actually demolished between summer 1990 and ’92) and then, second, the end of Soviet tyranny across Eastern Europe with the USSR’s dissolution in ’91, thanks to the crumbling of Communist control in Moscow’s Kremlin. To this day, though, and rightly so, the fall of the Berlin Wall on this day 25 years ago remains the defining visual symbol for the end of the Cold War – the day the frost undeniably began to thaw.

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George’s (extended) birthday party: pick of the flicks and top of the pops ~ 1970-74

November 7, 2014

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On the face of it, the transition of the 1960s into the 1970s doesn’t bring a cheer to the hearts of many (pop) culture vultures – perceived, as it often is, as a slide from an economically and materialistically buoyant era of social progression and radical and exciting development in the pop/ rock and cinematic arenas into an economically depressed, energy challenged and politically corrupt and crippled few years beset by naff pop and rock on our radios and vacuous bawdy comedies and disastrous disaster movies on the big screen. But is that fair? Was that what really happened?

Well, as this is a post (the return of, yes, the series detailing my ‘best of’ films and tunes from each year which regular visitors to this nook of the ’Net may well have wished wasn’t coming back – sorry, folks!) is a celebration of the first half of the ’70s, predictably enough, for me, that isn’t fair and certainly wasn’t what happened.

In retrospect, the semi-decade that was 1970 through to ’74 was, in fact, a fascinating five years. It may have seen the cool young ’uns fall out of love with free love and psychedelia, while everyone else finally got into ’60s fashions and wore flares like they were going out of fashion and slowly became easier about ’60s social changes (leading to suburban flings with swinging and, er, Tupperware and fondue parties), but it also allowed for the adoption by the mainstream of Glam rock, prog rock and trendy, folksy singer-songwriters (and thus the explosion of the sensations that were Bowie, Pink Floyd and Elton John, Carole King and Carly Simon), unbridled neo-realism in American film (step forward Coppola, Scorsese, Friedkin and Altman) and maybe even a taste, more so than ever before, for culturally colourful and challenging Euro cinema greats (Bergman, Roeg, Buñel, Malle and new kid on the block Bertolucci).

So, peeps, bounce along with me if you will (on your Space Hopper, naturally) into this follow-up to the previous ‘pick of the flicks and top of the pops’ posts from the ’50s (see here and here) and the ’60s (see here and here) – for, yes, whether you like it or not, we’re heading down the yellow brick road that’s 1970-74, where the dogs of society howl (yeah, don’t worry, they don’t really)…

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CLICK

on the film and song titles for video clips…

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1970

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Surprise election success for Heath and Tories; US troops invade Cambodia;
Pelé stars in Brazil’s thrilling third World Cup triumph; Houston has a problem with Apollo 13;
Black September and October Crisis; The Beatles, The Supremes and Simon & Garfunkel call it quits

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Film:

Il Conformista

(Le Conformiste/ The Conformist)

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Directed by: Bernardo Bertolucci/ Starring: Jean-Louis Tritingnant, Stefania Sandrelli,
Dominique Sanda, Enzo Tarascio, José Quaglio, Gastone Moschin and Pierre Clémenti/
Country: Italy/ France/ West Germany/ 111 minutes/ (Historical drama-thriller)

What George says: By turns period-drama grand and sweeping, by others introspective and self-contained, Il Conformista was the film that established Bertolucci as a major talent outside of Italy; even if, curiously maybe, it’s a very Italian tale of a skewered oddball whom finds his making in the Mussolini fascist era of the 1930s as he’s sent on an assassination mission by the secret police. Off-kilter and amusing, erotic and a little perverted, it’s always absorbing, dramatically bold, beautiful filmmaking.

What the critics say: “In this dazzling film, Bertolucci manages to combine the bravura style of Fellini, the acute sense of period of Visconti and the fervent political commitment of Elio Petri — and, better still, a lack of self-indulgence … The Conformist … is not merely an indictment of fascism — with some swipes at ecclesiastical hypocrisy as well — but also a profound personal tragedy” ~
 Kevin Thomas

Oscar count: 0

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: Patton

The public’s pick this year: Love Story (global box-office #1)

George’s runners-up: 2. Patton; 3. M*A*S*H4. Little Big Man; 5. Performance

patton_1970 mash_1970 little_big_man_1970 performance_1970

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And the rest: AirportLe Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle); Deep EndFive Easy Pieces; Le Genou de Claire (Claire’s Knee); Husbands; Let It Be; Love StoryPeau d’Âne (Donkey Skin); Ryan’s DaughterTristana; WoodstockZabriskie Point

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Song:

Bridge Over Troubled Water ~

Simon & Garfunkel

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bridge_over_troubled_water_simon_&_garfunkel_1970

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Writer: Paul Simon/ Released: January 1970

What George says: Paul Simon’s epic testament to being there for someone who falls was huge back in the day and remains huge today. The silver-lined, silver-girled masterpiece, which overshadows everything on the otherwise still superb swansong album with which it shares its name, is a faultless exercise in studio manipulated brilliance, opening simply with Art Garfunkel’s angelic vocals and an accompanying piano, then slowly building and building to become a gigantic showcase of melodic balladry. It’s basically Lawrence of Arabia (1962) as a pop song. Well, sort of.

What the critics say: “The ’60s stand for heedless free love; in Simon’s songs, emotional entanglement brings heavy consequences and duties … [Bridge Over Troubled Water] expresses devotion and empathy in terms more likely to resonate with an adult than some headstrong hippie: ‘When you’re weary, feeling small,’ goes one verse, ‘I’ll take your part’. Simon is a deceptive lyricist – he starts out describing the scenery, and pretty soon he’s drawn listeners deep into the thoughts of his complicated, often conflicted characters” ~ Tom Moon , 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die (2008)

Chart record: US #1 (for six weeks)/ UK #1 (for three weeks)

Recognition: Won the Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Contemporary Song, Best Engineered Record and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists (1970)/ ranked #3 for 1970, #17 for the 1970s and #81 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.net’s cumulatively ranked ‘top songs’ lists

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George’s runners-up: 2. Layla (Derek and the Dominos)/ 3. Your Song (Elton John)/
 4. Let It Be (The Beatles)/ 5. Groupie (Superstar) (Delaney and Bonnie)

layla_1970 your_song_1970 let_ite_be_1970 groupie_(superstar)_1970

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And the rest: ABCI’ll Be There; I Want You Back (The Jackson 5)/Across The UniverseThe Long And Winding Road (The Beatles)/ All Right Now (Free)/ American Woman (The Guess Who)/ Apeman; Lola (The Kinks)/ Band Of Gold (Freda Payne)/ Bell Bottom Blues; I Looked Away; Keep On GrowingThorn Tree In The Garden; Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad? (Derek and the Dominos)/ Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)/ Cecilia; El Cóndor Pasa; The Only Living Boy In New York (Simon & Garfunkel)/ Cracklin’ Rosie; Shilo (Neil Diamond)/ Cry Me A River; The Letter (Joe Cocker) Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) (The Delfonics)/ Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine (James Brown)/ Give Me Just A Little More Time (Chairmen Of The Board)/ Groovin’ With Mr Bloe (Mr Bloe)/ If Not For YouIsn’t It A Pity; Let It DownMy Sweet Lord; Wah-WahWhat Is Life (George Harrison)/ Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin)/ In the Summertime (Mungo Jerry)/ Instant Karma!; LoveMother (John Lennon)/ It’s So Easy (Andy Williams)/ Jig-A-Jig (East Of Eden)/ Love The One You’re With (Stephen Stills)/ Lucky Man (Emerson, Lake & Palmer)/ The Man Who Sold The World (David Bowie)/ Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney)/ Moon Shadow; Tea For The TillermanWild World (Cat Stevens)/ No Matter What (Badfinger)/ Our House (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young)/ Paranoid (Black Sabbath)/ Question (The Moody Blues)/ River Deep Mountain High (The Supremes and The Four Tops)/ Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand) (Diana Ross)/ The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Gil Scott-Heron)/ Ride A White Swan (T. Rex)/ See Me, Feel Me (The Who)/ Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours (Stevie Wonder)/ Something (Frank Sinatra)/ Stay With Me (Faces)/ Suicide Is Painless (The Mash)/ Tears Of A Clown (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)/ (They Long To Be) Close To You; We’ve Only Just Begun (The Carpenters)/ To Be Young, Gifted And Black (Nina Simone)/ War (Edwin Starr)/ Whole Lotta Love (CCS)/ The Wonder Of You (Elvis Presley)

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1971

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Britain enters the EEC and decimalises the pound; Idi Amin’s Uganda coup;
12,50o troops now in Northern Ireland; 60 percent of US now against Vietnam War;
Lunar Rover driven on Moon; Greenpeace founded; Open University begins 

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Film:

A Clockwork Orange

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Directed by: Stanley Kubrick/ Starring: Malcolm MacDowell, Patrick Magee, Anthony Sharp, Warren Clarke, Michael Bates, Adrienne Corri and Miriam Karlin/ Country: UK/ 136 minutes/ (Dystopian-satirical drama)

What George says: Although the outrage it generated on release may now seem quaint (it’s far from the most violent film ever made), A Clockwork Orange is still a work that shocks, amuses thanks to its very dark humour and forces one to face awkward truths about modern society’s hypocritical attitudes to social rebellion and violence, and political regulation and control. Maybe most successful and memorable of all, though, is its retro-futuristic look and use of music; like his brilliantly stark and caustic handling of the film’s themes, this is proof indeed that Kubrick was a visionary ahead of his time.

What the critics say: A Clockwork Orange is a brilliant nightmare. Stanley Kubrick … takes the heavy realities of the ‘do-your-thing’ and ‘law-and-order’ syndromes, runs them through a cinematic centrifuge, and spews forth the commingled comic horrors of a regulated society. Uncomfortably proximate, disturbingly plausible and obliquely resolved, the film employs outrageous vulgarity, stark brutality and some sophisticated comedy to make an opaque argument for the preservation of respect for man’s free will – even to do wrong” ~ A D Murphy

Oscar count: 0

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: The French Connection

The public’s pick this year: Fiddler On The Roof (US box-office #1)

George’s runners-up: 2. The Last Picture Show; 3. The French Connection;
4. The Go-Between; 5. Sunday Bloody Sunday

the_last_picture_show_1971 the_french_connection_1971 the_go-between_1971 sunday_bloody_sunday_1971

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And the rest: The Anderson TapesCarry On At Your ConvenienceDirty Harry; Duel; Fiddler On The Roof; Get Carter; Harold And Maude; The HospitalKlute; McCabe & Mrs Miller; Straw Dogs; Summer Of ’42; Utvandrarna (The Emigrants); Walkabout

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Song:

Imagine ~ John Lennon

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imagine_john_lennon_1971

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Writer: John Lennon/ Released: October 1971

What George says: Adopted immediately on release and probably never to be replaced as the anthem for the worldwide peace movement, John Lennon’s signature tune is proof not just of what a talented songwriter he was, but also of the fact that (despite a long hiatus from the mid-’70s up to nearly his death in 1980), of the four Fabs, his post-Beatles output was tops. Imagine is, of course, a sumptuously simple would-be-ballad, with its tumbling, nay hypnotic piano melody and Lennon’s lilting, wistful delivery of his ‘what if?’ lyrics. And what of those lyrics? They’ve been criticised for revealing the hypocrisy of the just-as-materialistic-as-the-rest-as-us millionaire pop star, but surely, if one stops and really listens to them, that’s to miss the point they  make – the song’s called Imagine for a reason…

What the statesman says: “In many countries around the world – my wife and I have visited about 125 countries – you hear John Lennon’s song Imagine used almost equally with national anthems” ~ Former US President Jimmy Carter

Chart record: US #3/ UK #6 in 1975 (#1 in December 1980)

Recognition: Ranked #3 for 1971, #7 for the 1970s and #35 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.net’s cumulatively ranked ‘top songs’ list/ ranked #30 on the Recording Industry Association of America‘s list of ‘The 365 Songs of the Century bearing the most historical significance’/ since 2005, played every New Year’s Eve in Times Square immediately before ‘the ball drops’

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George’s runners-up: 2. Let’s Stay Together (Al Green)/ 3. What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye)/ 4. Day After Day (Badfinger)/ 5. Tokoloshe Man (John Kongos)

let's_stay_together_1971 what's_going_on_1971 day_after_day_1971 tokoloshe_man_1971

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And the rest: Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers)/ Angel (Jimi Hendrix)/ Anticipation; That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be (Carly Simon)/ Another Day (Paul McCartney)/ Baba O’RileyBehind Blue Eyes; Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who)/ Baby I’m-A Want You; If (Bread)/ The Beautiful Briny (David Tomlinson and Angela Lansbury)/ Black Dog (Led Zeppelin)/ Brown Sugar; Moonlight MileWild Horses; Sister Morphine (The Rolling Stones)/ Cosmic DancerGet It On; Hot Love; Jeepster (T. Rex)/ Coz I Luv You (Slade)/ Desiderata (Les Crane)/ Devil’s Answer (Atomic Rooster)/ Everything’s Alright; I Don’t Know How To Love Him (Yvonne Elliman)/Express Yourself (Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band)Family Affair (Sly and the Family Stone)/ Gimme Some TruthHappy Xmas (War Is Over); How?; Jealous Guy (John Lennon)/ Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves (Cher)/ Have You Ever Seen The Rain? (Creedence Clearwater Revival)/ Have You Seen Her (The Chi-Lites)/ Hyacinth HouseLove Her Madly; Riders On The Storm (The Doors)/ I Am… I Said (Neil Diamond)/ I Feel The Earth Move; It’s Too Late; So Far AwayWill You Love Me Tomorrow?(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Carole King)/ I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony) (The New Seekers)/ I’ve Seen All Good People/ Your Move (Yes)/ If I Were A Rich Man (Topol)/ Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler); Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) (Marvin Gaye)/ Life’s A Trippy Thing (Frank and Nancy Sinatra)/ Life On Mars; Oh! You Pretty Things (David Bowie)/ Maggie May (Rod Stewart)/ Magpie (The Murgatroyd Band)/ Me And Bobby McGee; Mercedes Benz (Janis Joplin)/ Main Theme from Get Carter (Roy Budd)/ Mr Big Stuff (Jean Knight)/ Nathan Jones (The Supremes)/ Peace Train (Cat Stevens)/ Proud Mary (Ike & Tina Turner)/ Pure Imagination (Anthony Newley)/ Rainy Days And Mondays; Superstar (The Carpenters)/ Respect Yourself (The Staple Sisters)/ Scorpio’s Theme (Lalo Schifrin)/ Theme from Shaft (Isaac Hayes)/ Theme from The Persuaders! (John Barry)/You’ve Got A Friend (James Taylor)

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1972

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Nixon visits China, later re-elected by giant margin; Watergate break-in;
Munich Massacre at Olympics but Spitz wins seven golds; Baader-Meinhof Gang caught;
Bowie and Bolan; cannabis now sold legally in Amsterdam; The Joy of Sex published

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Film:

Viskningar Och Rop

(Cries And Whispers)

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viskningar_och_rop_1972

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Directed by: Ingmar Bergman/ Starring: Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin, Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan and Erland Josephson/ Country: Sweden/ 91 minutes/ (Period-psychological drama)

What George says: A seminal voyage into despair and regret, suffering and the supernatural and the repressed sexuality and emotions of dysfunctional siblings, Bergman’s masterpiece is at once beautiful, absorbing and affectingly melancholic. Featuring outstanding performances by Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Thulin and extraordinary, Oscar-winning cinematography by Sven Nykvist (wallow in all those deep reds and ‘pure’ whites), it will haunt you long after you see it – perhaps forever.

What the critics say: Cries and Whispers is like no movie I’ve seen before, and like no movie Ingmar Bergman has made before; although we are all likely to see many films in our lives, there will be few like this one. It is hypnotic, disturbing, frightening … We slip lower in our seats, feeling claustrophobia and sexual disquiet, realising that we have been surrounded by the vision of a filmmaker who has absolute mastery of his art … [It] is about dying, love, sexual passion, hatred and death – in that order” ~
Roger Ebert

Oscar count: 1

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: The Godfather

The public’s pick this year: The Godfather (global box-office #1)

George’s runners-up: 2. The Godfather;
3. Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie (The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie);
4. Solaris; 5. Aguirre, The Wrath Of God

the_godfather_1972 le_charme_discret_de_la_bourgeoisie_1972 solaris_1972_poster aguirre_wrath_of_god_1972

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And the rest: Cabaret; The Candidate; Deliverance; Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask); The Getaway; The Hot RockLast Tango In Paris; The Poseidon Adventure; The Ruling Class; Sleuth

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Song:

You’re So Vain ~ Carly Simon

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you're_so_vain_carly_simon_1972

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Writer: Carly Simon/ Released: November 1972

What George says: The biggest hit of Ms Simon’s career has been somewhat overtaken by the media’s obsession with learning of its lyrics’ subject, but that’s never been important, slowly obfuscating, as it has, the fact it’s an absolute belter of a tune; its jangly, lazy, honky-tonk but highly appealing composition blending perfectly with its driving, irresistible melody, culminating in those cracking Mick Jagger-backed choruses. Far from clouds-in-your-coffee frothy, this is a fantastic soft-rock/ pop classic.

Chart record: US #1/ UK #3

Recognition: Ranked #13 for 1972, #112 for the 1970s and #508 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.net’s cumulatively ranked ‘top songs’ list/ ranked #82 on Billboard magazine’s ‘Greatest Songs of All-Time’ list (1994)

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George’s runners-up: 2. Heart Of Gold (Neil Young)/ 3. Starman (David Bowie)/
4.
 If There Is Something (Roxy Music)/ 5. Diamonds Are Forever (Shirley Bassey)

heart_of_gold_1972 starman_1972 if_there_is_something_1972 diamonds_are_forever_1972

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And the rest: All The Young Dudes; One Of The Boys (Mott The Hoople)/ Always On My Mind; Burning Love (Elvis Presley)/ American Pie; Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) (Don McLean)/ Amoureuse (Véronique Sanson)/ Baby Blue (Badfinger)/ Cabaret; Maybe This Time (Liza Minnelli)/ The Candy Man (Sammy Davis, Jr.)/ Changes; Five YearsThe Jean Genie; John, I’m Only Dancing; Moonage Daydream; Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide; Suffragette City; Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)/ Children Of The Revolution; Metal Guru; Telegram Sam (T. Rex)/ Crocodile Rock; Honky CatMona Lisas And Mad HattersRocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time); Tiny Dancer (Elton John)/ Do It Again (Steely Dan)/ Everything I Own; The Guitar Man (Bread)/ The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Roberta Flack)/ Go All The Way (Raspberries)/ Goodbye to Love (The Carpenters)/Gudbuy T’ JaneMama Weer All Crazee Now (Slade)/ Happy; Let It Loose; Shine A LightTumbling Dice (The Rolling Stones)/ The Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff)/ A Horse With No Name (America)/ I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash)/ I Saw The Light (Todd Rundgren)/ I’ll Take You There (The Staple Sisters)/ If You Don’t Know Me By Now (Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes)/ Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile) (Van Morrison)/ Join Together (The Who)/ Joy (Apollo 100)/ Lady Eleanor (Lindisfarne)/ Lean On Me (Bill Withers)/ Listen To The Music (The Doobie Brothers)/ Ladytron; Re-make/Re-modelVirginia Plain (Roxy Music)/ Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress (The Hollies)/ Look At Yourself (Uriah Heep)/ Love Train (The O’Jays)/  Midnight Rider (The Allmann Brothers Band)/ The Money Song (Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey)/ Morning Has Broken (Cat Stevens)/ Mother And Child Reunion (Paul Simon)/ Outa-Space (Billy Preston)/ Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone (The Temptations)/ Perfect Day; Satellite Of LoveWalk On The Wild Side (Lou Reed)/ Play Me (Neil Diamond)/ School’s Out (Alice Cooper)/ Silver Machine (Hawkwind)/ Spoon (Can)/ Stuck In The Middle With You (Stealers Wheel)/ Summer Breeze (Seals & Croft)/ Superstition (Stevie Wonder)/ 10538 Overture (Electric Light Orchestra)/ Where Is The Love (Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway)/ Whiskey In The Jar (Thin Lizzy)/ Why Can’t We Live Together (Timmy Thomas)/ Wilkommen (Joel Grey)/ Without You (Harry Nilsson)/ You Wear It Well (Rod Stewart)

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1973

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Nixon tells world he’s ‘not a crook’; America out of Vietnam; Yom-Kippur War;
oil crisis; World Trade Center and Sydney Opera House open; Roe vs. Wade;
Dark Side Of The Moon, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Tubular Bells released

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Film:

Don’t Look Now

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don't_look_now_1973

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Directed by: Nicholas Roeg/ Starring: Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania, Massimo Serato, Sharon Williams and Adelina Poerio/ Country: UK/ Italy/ 105 minutes/ (Psychological thriller-horror)

What George says: Haunting, disturbing, disorientating, melancholic, moving and – in one notorious scene in particular – ebulliently erotic, Don’t Look Now is a thriller-cum-horror of the highest order; complex and mature in its emotional beats and psychological turns, startling in its ability to stun, nay shock, and unforgettable in its blend of Venetian setting, perfect playing and inspired direction.

What the critics say: “A brilliant, in many ways unique, conflation of the erotic and the uncanny, with a masterly feel for images and mood that will reverberate in your mind for days. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie give performances of deeply felt humanity and sensitivity … It’s a ghost story; it’s a meditation on time, memory and the poignancy of married love. And it’s a masterpiece” ~
Peter Bradshaw

Oscar count: 0

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: The Sting

The public’s pick this year: The Exorcist (global box-office #1)

George’s runners-up: 2. Badlands;
3. Scener Ur Ett Äktenskap (Scenes From A Marriage);
4. The Sting; 5. Amarcord

badlands_1973 Scener_Ur_Ett_Äktenskap_1973 the_sting_1973 amarcord_1973

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And the rest: American Graffiti; The Day Of The Jackal; El Espíritu de la Colmena (Spirit Of The Beehive); The ExorcistLive And Let Die; The Long Goodbye; Mean StreetsLa Nuit Américaine (Day For Night); O Lucky Man!; Paper Moon; Papillon; Serpico

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Song:

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road ~

Elton John

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Writers: Elton John and Bernie Taupin/ Released: October 1973

What George says: An outstanding standout from his incredibly productive early career, Elton’s near signature single  has stood the test of time due to its flawless combination of piano-driven pop balladry and epic ambition. It’s tumbling rather than tub-thumping, though, coated in a rich, melancholic, infectious charisma, while Bernie Taupin’s lyrics, full of the woes of lost innocence, invite the composer to display the full vocal range that his oh-so distinctive voice was once able to deliver.

What the critics say: “[A] small masterpiece of ’70s soft rock … Lyrically, [it’s] evocative of faded Hollywood glamour in the manner of Sunset Boulevard … [and it’s] a vocal triumph; although the wordless melisma that decorates the bridge between the verse and chorus melodies is straight out of The Beach Boys playbook, John makes that keening wail his own, and it’s very likely his single finest vocal moment, one that creates shivers every single time … Extravagant but not pretentious, [the song] is a pinnacle of its style” ~ Stewart Mason

Chart record: US #2/ UK #6

Recognition: Ranked #12 for 1973, #129 for the 1970s and #584 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.net’s cumulatively ranked ‘top songs’ lists

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George’s runners-up:
2. Us And Them (Pink Floyd)/
3. Cum On Feel The Noize (Slade)/
4. Could It Be I’m Falling In Love (The Detroit Spinners)/
5. Mind Games (John Lennon)

usa_and_them_1973 cum_on_feel_the_noize_1973 could_it_be_i'm_falling_in_love_1973 mind_games_1973

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And the rest: All The Young Girls Love AliceDaniel; Funeral For A Friend/ Love Lies Bleeding; Grey SealSaturday Night’s Alright For Fighting (Elton John)/ Also Sprach Zarathustra (Deodato)/ Amoureuse (Kiki Dee)/ Angie (The Rolling Stones)/ Apple Of My Eye (Badfinger)/ The Ballroom Blitz; Block Buster! (The Sweet)/ Band On The Run; Jet; Live And Let Die; My LoveNineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five (Paul McCartney & Wings)/ Brother Louie (Hot Chocolate)/ Cindy Incidentally; Ooh La La (Faces)/ Do The Strand; Pyjamarama; Street Life (Roxy Music)/ Don’t You Worry ’Bout A Thing; Higher Ground; You Are The Sunshine Of My Life (Stevie Wonder)/ Drive-In Saturday; Sorrow (David Bowie)/ Dueling Banjos (Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith)/ Evil (Earth, Wind & Fire)/ Eye Level (Simon Park Orchestra)/ 5.15; Love Reign O’er Me (The Who)/ Frankenstein; Free Ride (Edgar Winter Group)/ The Great Gig In The SkyMoney; Time (Pink Floyd)/ Hocus Pocus (Focus)/ I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday (Wizzard)/ I Won’t Last A Day Without You; Yesterday Once More (The Carpenters)/ The Joker (The Steve Miller Band)/ Jolene (Dolly Parton)/ Jungle Boogie (Kool & the Gang)/ Killin’ Me Softly With His Song (Roberta Flack)/ Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Eric Clapton)/ La Grange (ZZ Top)/ Let’s Get It On (Marvin Gaye)/ The Love I Lost (Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes)/ Merry Xmas Everybody (Slade)/ Midnight Train To Georgia (Gladys Knight & The Pips)/ The Morning After (Maureen McGovern)/ The Most Beautiful Girl (Charlie Rich)/ No More Mr. Nice Guy (Alice Cooper)/ Nutbush City Limits (Ike & Tina Turner)/ Pinball Wizard/ See Me Feel Me (The New Seekers)/ Radar Love (Golden Earring)/ Ramblin’ Man (The Allman Brothers Band)/ Reelin’ In The Years (Steely Dan)/ Ring Ring (ABBA)/ Rock On (David Essex)/ Roll Away The Stone (Mott The Hoople)/ Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple)/ Space Race (Billy Preston)/ Superstar (Bette Midler)/ Touch Me In The Morning (Diana Ross)/ Tubular Bells (Mike Oldfield)/ 20th Century Boy (T. Rex)/ Twistin’ The Night Away (Rod Stewart)

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1974

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Nixon quits before he’s impeached; Three-day-week topples Heath, Wilson back in;
Birmingham pub bombings; Pompidou dies in office; ‘Rumble in the Jungle’; Lord Lucan;
ABBA win Eurovision; India becomes nuclear power; West Germany wins home World Cup

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Film:

The Godfather Part II

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the_godfather_part_ii_1974

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Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola/ Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Michael V Gazzo, Lee Strasberg and Oreste Baldini/
Country: USA/ 200 minutes/ (Period-crime drama)

What George says: It’s hard to disagree with the oft trotted-out opinion that The Godfather Part II is one of the greatest films of all-time. It achieves all its aims with bells on, continuing the story begun in its classic predecessor by simultaneously presenting us with the contrasting narratives of the rise of Vito Corleone from street gangster to don (a sensational Robert De Niro) and the tragic, total moral fall of his son and successor Michael (Al Pacino, full of quiet power). Few movies so epic in both length and scope also boast the smarts, pacing and beats, and beauty and brilliance of Coppola’s mobster masterpiece.

What the critics say: The Godfather is a more important film, of course it is. But The Godfather Part II is a better film. It’s more ambitious, it’s more elegiac, it delves deeper into the soil of Italian-American myth … Everything that was majestic and mythic about The Godfather is more so in Part II, with scenes deliberately matching the original … So instead of constantly reminding us that the first film is better, Part II builds on its operatic sweep and cranks up the drama, both narratively and visually” ~
Andrew Collins

Oscar count: 6

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: The Godfather Part II

The public’s pick this year: Blazing Saddles (US box-office #1)

George’s runners-up: 2. Chinatown; 3. The Conversation; 4. Lenny; 5. Lacombe, Lucien

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And the rest: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore; Blazing Saddles; F For Fake; Hearts And Minds; Murder On The Orient Express; The Parallax View; Thunderbolt And Lightfoot; The Towering Inferno; A Woman Under The Influence; Young Frankenstein

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Song:

Rebel Rebel ~ David Bowie

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Writer: David Bowie/ Released: February 1974

What George says: Let’s be honest, it’s all about that guitar riff, hooking us right from the beginning and irresistibly, even hypnotically pulling us through the entirety of the four minutes and 30 seconds of this Bowie masterclass in rock song composition and realisation. A genderbending anthem for the glam rock movement, Rebel Rebel was actually a swansong for Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust phase, but remains one of the most vibrant, youthfully aspirational and undeniably coolest tracks to have come out of the ’70s.

What the critics say: “When it comes on at the ‘retro’ dance party, the redneck bar or on the way home from work, you can’t help but rock out to its quintessential message: we are young, we are free, we are filled with a special kind of love our parents will never understand. It’s like [Bruce Springsteen’s] Born To Run for perverts” ~ Mallory O’Donnell

Chart record: US #64/ UK #5

Recognition:  Ranked #14 for 1974, #230 for the 1970s and #1,055 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.net’s cumulatively ranked ‘top songs’ lists

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George’s runners-up: 2. You Are So Beautiful (Joe Cocker)/ 3. Free Bird (Lynyrd Skynyrd)/ 4. The Air That I Breathe (The Hollies)/ 5. Annie’s Song (John Denver)

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And the rest: Bad Company; Can’t Get Enough (Bad Company)/ Benny And The Jets; The Bitch Is Back; Candle In The Wind; Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me; Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Elton John)/ Cats In The Cradle (Harry Chapin)/ Diamond Dogs (David Bowie)/ The Entertainer (Marvin Hamlisch)/ EverydayFar Far Away (Slade)/ Free Man In Paris (Joni Mitchell)/ He’s Misstra Know-It-All (Stevie Wonder)/ Hooked On A Feeling (Blue Swede)/ I Won’t Last A Day Without You (The Carpenters)/ It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It) (The Rolling Stones)/ Killer Queen; Seven Seas Of Rhye (Queen)/ Kung Fu Fighting (Carl Douglas)/ Lady Marmalade (Labelle)/ Machine Gun (The Commodores)/ The Man Who Sold The WorldThe Man With The Golden Gun (Lulu)/ Mockingbird (Carly Simon and James Taylor)/ Never Can Say Goodbye (Gloria Gaynor)/ No Woman, No Cry (Bob Marley & the Wailers)/ Number 9 Dream; Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (John Lennon)/ Piano Man (Billy Joel)/ The Real Me (The Who)/ Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (Steely Dan)/ Rock The Boat (Hues Corporation)/ Rock Your Baby (George McCrae)/ She (Charles Aznavour)/ She’s Gone (Hall & Oates)/ Streets Of London (Ralph McTell)/ Summer Breeze (The Isley Brothers)/ Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)/ Takin’ Care Of Business; You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Bachmann-Turner Overdrive)/ This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us (Sparks)/ The Thrill Of It All (Roxy Music)/ Tiger Feet (Mud)/ TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) (MFSB)/ Upon The My-O-My (Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band)/ Waterloo (ABBA)/ We May Never Love Like This Again (Maureen McGovern)/ When Will I See You Again (The Three Degrees)/ You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything (Even Take the Dog For A Walk, Mend A Fuse, Fold Away The Ironing Board, Or Any Other Domestic Shortcomings) (Faces)/ W.O.L.D. (Harry Chapin)/ You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me (The New Seekers)

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And coming up…

George’s pick of the flicks
and top of the pops ~ 1975-79

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ November/ December 2014

November 1, 2014

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In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or have never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, listen away and enjoy…

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CLICK on the song titles to hear them

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Sally Ann Howes ~ Lovely Lonely Man (1968)¹

Van Morrison ~ Sweet Thing (1968)

Michael J Lewis ~ Opening Titles from The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)

Dennis Coffey ~ Scorpio (1971)

Kiki Dee ~ Amoureuse (1973)²

The Marshall Tucker Band ~ Can’t You See (1973)

Janis Ian ~ Water Colors (1975)

Robert Palmer ~ Every Kinda People (1978)

Ferrara ~ Love Attack (1979)

Suzanne Vega ~ Tom’s Diner (1987)³

Hans Zimmer and Sandy McLelland ~ Theme from Going For Gold (1987-96) 

Deacon Blue ~ Real Gone Kid (1988)

Aztec Camera and Mick Jones ~ Good Morning Britain (1990)

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¹ From the soundtrack of the classic 1968 family fantasy movie musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, whose source novel by Bond author Ian Fleming celebrates its 50th anniversary this autumn

² The English language version of the tune released the previous year by chanteuse Véronique Sanson, which proved a huge hit in her native France

³ The alt-rock songstress’s classic effort, whose 1990 remix by the British dance group DNA many may better recognise; technology enthusiasts may also be aware that Tom’s Diner was the track used by the marvellously monikered engineer Karlheinz Brandenburg as the test subject for the digital audio  compression format MPG, ensuring the song ranks alongside other legendary ‘standard test items’ such as ‘Test Card F’ (BBC TV signal), the ‘Cornell box’ (3D computer design) and ‘Lorem ipsum’ (typography)

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The movie with the midas touch: Goldfinger’s golden anniversary

October 4, 2014

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Going for gold: to sate the growing 007 fans all around the world, Broccoli and Saltzman’s magic factory Eon Productions pulled out all the stops and verily sparked ‘Bondmamia’ with its third spy-fi fantasy epic – a precious-metal movie masterpiece that proved to be less gilt-edged, more 24-carat

On September 17 1964, at the prestigious Odeon Leicester Square cinema in London’s West End, one of the few films that can genuinely be considered an out-and-out cornerstone of post-war pop culture premiered. The film was Goldfinger. And, arguably, the world would never be the same again. Goldfinger, of course, wasn’t the first of Eon Productions’ ‘official’ Bond film series; it was the third, but owing to a wilful adoption of a somewhat lighter, more ironic, even knowingly self-parodying tone, it set the template for every 007 flick that would follow.

It also properly delivered for the first time the ‘box of delights’ offered by so many future efforts – the world-threatening plot; the grandiose larger-than-life villain; his equally larger-than-life, harder-than-nails henchman; Bond’s gadget-laden mode of transportation (the now world-famous Aston Martin DB5, of course); the totally bodacious title song; the witty puns throughout and the outrageous how-will-he-possibly-get-out-of-this? Bond-trap.

Directed by Guy Hamilton, who’d later return for three further consecutive movies (1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, ’73’s Live And Let Die and ’74’s The Man With The Golden Gun), designed by the genius that is Ken Adam (whose cathedral-like Fort Knox set was the result of letting his imagination run wild as he wasn’t allowed a look around the real US federal gold reserve) and scored by the incomparably brilliant John Barry (whom with Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse also wrote arguably maybe still the best Bond title theme, recorded by Shirley Bassey), the movie was graced with a cast including versatile German thesp Gert Fröbe as the eponymous villain Auric Goldfinger, Honor Blackman as his personal pilot Pussy ‘I must be dreaming’ Galore, Shirley Eaton as unforgettably literal ‘golden girl’ Jill Masterson, Tania Mallet as her vengeful sister Tania and Korean judo ace Harold Sakata as the fantastically formidable henchman Oddjob. Oh, and Sean Connery as James Bond, of course, in a performance seemingly more-at-ease than ever before or since.

And it would be with Goldfinger that Connery became an undisputed global superstar; in fact, in the minds of many around the world the character of 007 and the man Sean Connery became synonymous (later in the decade, he signed an autograph only for the recipient to complain it didn’t read ‘James Bond’). Such was the unadulterated anticipation for Goldfinger and Connery’s Bond in autumn ’64 that at that London premiere, the crowd pressure was so great it broke the windows of the Odeon. And the movie too did much breaking of its own – breaking box-office records, that is. In today’s money, it raked in over $1 billion; out of the 23 ‘official’ 007 movies so far, it still ranks third on the all-time (inflation-adjusted) grosser list, behind only 2012’s Skyfall and ’65’s Thunderball).

So, as the unique and still rather magnificent Goldfinger celebrates its golden anniversary this autumn (I was lucky enough to catch it on the big screen in the summer; it still looks and feels fresh as a daisy), do please, peeps, join George’s Journal as it gets in on the act, with this rare images-, videos-, facts- and quotes-boasting post. For, when back in ’64 Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman aimed for a bold change in direction for 007, they verily pulled off an Operation Grand Slam – and then some…

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HOVER MOUSE over images for more information

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Golden nugget of knowledge

It’s been said that 70-80% of the world’s population has seen Goldfinger at least once and that sales of the Aston Martin DB5 increased by 50% after its release – sadly for car-buying-punters, though, none of the vehicles sold featured the box of tricks 007’s did

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24-carat quote

You have to walk the line between absolute nonsense and seriousness and a way to cope with it is a little bit of humour~ Guy Hamilton on screenwriter Richard Maibaum’s approach to scripting Goldfinger (BAFTA/ Film4 Summer Screen interview, July 2010)

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Golden nugget of knowledge

Goldfinger was at first banned in Israel because the actor who played the titular villain (Gert Fröbe) was a registered Nazi during the Second World War; sometime later, however, it emerged he had helped hide Jewish families from the Gestapo during the war, and so, rightly, the ban was lifted

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24-carat quote

“[Co-producer] Harry [Saltzman] came from the circus; for him, Bond was a show. And [he was] always looking for something new. He popped in one day and said: ‘There’s a thing called a laser-beam, it’s fantastic; we’ve got to have it in [the film]’. I said: ‘Harry, that’s terrific – how do we use that in the picture?’. He said: ‘I don’t know, that’s your job’. [Scriptwriter] Dick Maibaum was thinking ‘the Perils of Pauline’: ‘Instead of using a circular saw [as used in the famous torture sequence as it is in the original novel], we’ll use the laser-beam’. And I said: ‘Thank you, Harry!’” ~ Guy Hamilton on how the laser-beam effect came to grace Goldfinger (BAFTA/ Film4 Summer Screen interview, July 2010)

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Golden nugget of knowledge

Future Hollywood writer-producer-director (most notably the man behind TV’s Happy Days and The Odd Couple and helmer of 1990’s Pretty Woman) Garry Marshall appears as a hood in the games room scene at Goldfinger’s Kentucky stud farm

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24-carat quote

I got into a situation where I didn’t have anywhere to live for two weeks and John [Barry] said ‘Come and live with me’… [The first night] I went to sleep and I was woken up about an hour later by the piano …. All night long he was on the piano. I thought: ‘I’m going to be here two weeks, my God, I’m never going to get any sleep!’. In the morning I got up, went down to breakfast and he was still on the piano … and [then] he said: “I’ve finished”. I asked: “What were you composing?” … He played me Goldfinger [the song] … and so I was the first person in the world to hear Goldfinger – and I heard it all night!” ~ Michael Caine on the writing of Goldfinger’s title song (John Barry Memorial Concert, Royal Albert Hall, London, June 2011)

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