Deep Space Nine: s02e15 – “Paradise”


Not all in jackboots

An entertaining if rather predictable episode that centred upon Chief O’Brien for a third successive week, this time paired up with Commander Sisko, with a minor role for Major Kira and Jardzia Dax as a rescue team.

Sisko and O’Brien, in the Rio Grande, are surveying potential colony planets near the Wormhole when they find human lifeforms on one such. They beam down, only to discover that their technology does not function planetside: no technology functions.

The occupants are the survivors of a crashed ship, on its way to colonise another planet. The ship developed life-support problems, was forced to land here, discovered the technological baffle and has spent ten years fending for itself, living off the land, forging a community. You know, building a primitive paradise.

We’ll leave aside practical problems, such as the ability of such a limited gene pool to sustain itself and create genetically healthy future generations without running afoul of the original Eden dilemma: the episode does this, blithely.

The colony is led by Alixus, who initially comes over as open-hearted, generous and quietly proud of what the community has achieved. She, at least, will stay, rather than return with Sisko and O’Brien to technology: she has reunited with her core being. It’s an admirable attitude but unfortunately the whiff of the fanatic very quickly drifts in, and the rest of the episode is pretty easy to foresee from there.

Sisko and O’Brien are confident of rescue. Alixus is determined that they should never leave, and that they need to be forced to  accept the community forever. Back on DS9, Kira and Jardzia discover that the Rio Grande isn’t answering and that, moreover, it’s flying away at Warp 1.5. They pursue and retrieve it and trace it back to the relevant star system, along with some momentary, artificially induced danger that’s just giving their strand some unnecessary juice.

Sisko’s rigid determination not to give in is tested by the community’s primitive version of prison, a metal box in the sun. Meanwhile, O’Brien, convinced that the duonetic field that is causing this blackout is not being generated naturally, discovers and switches off the machine generated by it.

Because, as we’ve all known since about ten minutes in, the whole thing has been set up by Alixus, a technology rejecting philosopher. She set up the problems that forced a pre-determined landing here, so as to force the community to come into being, and to ‘prove’ her point. Of course, it’s entirely contradictory that in order to do so she’s reliant upon heavy duty technology, like the field generator and the teleporter that  enabledher to get aboard the Rio Grande and try to fly it into the sun: this blows a hole in her fanatical case but the story isn’t going to go there, because it would spoil the ending.

Sisko and O’Brien arrest Alixus, who will be tried for causing the death of community members who were allowed to die for want of modern medicine. She’s unrepentant: she’s been proven right. Indeed she has: in a slightly pat ending, Joseph speaks for all in saying that this is their home and they all want to stay. Even the one whose first question was about how women’s fashions have changed. This is their life. Nobody’s in the least affected by discovering, literally minutes before, that their entire last ten years has been based upon lies and tyranny. Nope, doesn’t wash with me. Most, maybe. But not all.

Though we’re left with a ‘poignant’ closing image to suggest that maybe it isn’t as unanimous as it seems. Two people – children, a boy and a girl aged about 10 – 12 – hang back to stare at where Sisko et al have teleported from.

Good luck kids. Once again, the adults have decided what’s good for you without taking your thoughts into consideration. You’re the future of the community, the only children around, so it’s bloody lucky that you’re a boy and a girl, otherwise reproduction goes up the Swanee, and who cares if you discover, under the pressure of a community’s expectations and assumptions, that you loathe each other, you’re going to end up having to fuck each other because there are no alternatives. The adults are going to switch the duonetic field back on.

Unless the Federation is smart enough to send another runabout three months later, to see if anyone’s changed their minds, the fanatical dictator, Alixus (played neatly by Gail Strickland) has won this one.

Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 10


Lost 70s Volume 10 consists of 22 tracks again. As I said last time, these later volumes were compiled from whatever I’d collected since the last one, then sorted into whatever order felt best. There’s a couple of mini-themes but the unusual aspect of Volume 10 is that it has no less than three bands represented by two tracks. The point of this kind of compilation is that each track should be by a different artist, a convention to be broken occasionally if a band has two tracks that slot together. But here I had a couple of duplicated artists and it had been a very long time since I’d added to the series, so here we are. This and the relatively rapidly following Volume are both inspired by the rediscovery of tons of music on my MiniDisc collection.

This is not the original version of the compilation. After getting very sloppy in curation and including a number of tracks several times on different volumes, not to mention including too many tracks by the same artist that would be better grouped, I re-burnt the entire series, filling in spaces with tracks that had not been available when the original compilation was created.

Serenade – The Steve Miller Band

The Steve Miller Band were always bigger at home than in the UK. Johnnie Walker massively championed ‘The Joker’ when it first appeared, but had to wait nearly twenty years to see the fruits of his patronage, when the song unexpectedly went to number 1. ‘The Joker’ excepted, the Band were still fairly bland, meat and potatoes rockers, with the occasional flash of something better. One of those was ‘Rock’n’Me’, which saw them into the top 20 in 1976. ‘Serenade’ was among its follow-ups, a slower, quieter, less distinctive song, but one with a quiet, undervalued quality of its own. It has a mournfulness that I still respond to all these years later, and a suggestion of depth that the band’s ordinary material can’t come near.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkrLmeeCrhY

Gerdundula – Status Quo

Ger-what? This spindly, twiddly, thin-sounding song represents a crossing-point for the band formerly known as The Spectres. It’s a bridge between the Quo’s early, feedback-drenched, poppy material and the boogie they were wedded to in their hearts. There’s a hint of the Irish jig in there, but this is the start of the band’s true career. All that was needed was for the production to be beefed up about, oh, a thousand percent, and this would be the Quo we knew for the rest of time immemorial.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjlJwSoomDo

Love’s Made A Fool Of You –     Cochise

I know nothing whatsoever about Cochise, but I remember this rocked-up version of Buddy Holly’s song from a few plays on the radio in early 1971. It took over thirty years to get hold of it and refresh those memories because it didn’t appear on YouTube until relatively recently. As I’ve had occasion to observe, 1971 was a very prolific year for obscurities that caught my ear in the most fleeting of passes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVbN21f3EuU

I Guess the Lord must be in New York City – Nilsson

Until I checked for the purpose of these ‘sleeve-notes’, I was convinced this (and another song on this compilation) was from the 1970s. I mean, I kept hearing it on the radio, and I wasn’t listening to that before December 21 1969. But this and the other Nilsson track on this compilation are both from the same Summer album, and this track was also from the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack, and until ‘Everybody’s Talkin”, it was going to be the title song for the film, and it would have been as good a choice as Fred Neil’s song, with the same superficial lightness and sweetness conveyed by Nilsson’s voice, and the same melancholy, hinting at deeper, darker issues, caught within the song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQRHUp5_tyE

Soldier Blue – Buffy Sainte-Marie

I hated this song in 1971, absolutely loathed it. It was a straining, quavering, drawn-out wail, with minimal tune, and I was too young by far to understand what it was about, and far from understanding how personal and meaningful the song was to Buffy Sainte-Marie, a pureblood Native American (not that we called them by such terms then, no, she was still a Red Indian). And there was no way, at 15, that I was going to be let out to see the major Hollywood film of which this was the title song. So it took me another forty years, during which I became far more familiar with the history of America than I had been in the summer of 1971, to see that what Sainte-Marie sings is of the bond between the Native Americans and their land, the rapine of the white soldiers, the commitment to the country and the ways in which it sustains its children, and the plea for the White-Eyes to see as the Amerinds saw and still see. Yes, this is my country, and it is wide, rolling and beautiful. Soldier Blue, can’t you see that there’s another way to love her? But no, they couldn’t, and I have taken over half my life to understand some part of that myself, and to be moved almost to tears by the passion of this song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlrOaJFf6tg

Sugar Me – Lynsey de Paul

And in complete contrast… Lynsey de Paul appeared on the scene in 1972 as a tiny long-haired, big-eyed blonde with a sexy twinkle in her eye. ‘Sugar Me’ was a simple, piano-pounded pop song, with a bouncy, commercial melody, and it was a top 10 hit. Based on her gift for commercial pop, and her looks, de Paul was obviously going to be a major hit artist for years to come. But she wasn’t. In later years, she was heavily into female self-defence. And heavily Conservative views. Still a fun pop song, and she looked hot all the rest of her life. One for the memories.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htBfNPyKKoI

It’s Natural – Medicine Head

When I look back, the early Seventies sometimes seems unbelievable. You look at the bands who scored actual hits, listen to the songs and, more than in any other era, there’s an underlying sense of WTF? I mean, how the hell did something like this sell so much that it reached number x in the chart? You could call this a testament to a time when the country’s ears were wider open to possibilities than they’ve ever been, before or since, or you could decide that we collectively went mad. I lived through it and even I’m not sure. Medicine Head were one of the more improbable hit-makers. You could understand a fluke visit into the top 30, as they did in 1971, when they were a two-piece mustering between them a guitar, a bass drum and a jew’s harp, but it still beggars belief that their simple, almost droney music could go seriously top 5. ‘It’s Natural’ was their last release, was a complete flop and the duo split shortly afterwards. There is no realistic way to differentiate between this and the ones that sold.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEcoGQ96f2I

I’ve Been Hurt – Guy Darrell

First of a couple of Northern Soul charters, re-released and hitting the airwaves at a time when even I had become aware of Northern Soul. Guy Darrell had originally released this single in 1966, which had been an American success for the Tams, and reached the top 10 in South Africa. Its crashing beat and its twanging guitar supported a straining, pleading vocal, but it was the tempo that made it popular at Wigan Casino, and which made it sell, and I remember it now more vividly than when it was around, when it used to annoy me intensely.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SR0m2RUZAU

Goodbye, Nothing to Say – The Javells, ftg. Nosmo King

Some of us were old enough, even at the age of eighteen, to know that the name Nosmo King (run it together) had been ripped off a successful Music Hall act from long ago (thank you Peter Tinniswood). The guy’s real name was Stephen Jameson, and he recorded under his own name and the Nosmo one. The song was originally a b-side to a 1966 single, which was then sped up, given a Northern Soul friendly beat and reissued with Nosmo singing over it. Hellooooo Wigan!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=delIK9hz8_Q

How Long – Ace

And the first in a little triptych of songs whose air and sound have always been linked in my mind, though they were (minor) hits across three successive years. Ace were an early example of pub rock and were very highly rated. ‘How Long’ got brilliant reviews and tons of airplay, but then spoilt the expected outcome by freezing at no 20, and the band disappeared without trace. It’s still a brilliant, slow-moving rocker, built upon a slow, almost plodding bassline and some cool guitar, it’s still recognised and played nowadays, which is more than you can say for a lot of much bigger hits, then and since.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo_GMMLULXw

Why Did You Do It? – Stretch

If you didn’t know the background to this single, you would probably hear it as an embittered love song, a guy hurt by what his lady has done to shaft him, sung in a gravelly voice to a walking blues-rock background. But that’s not what this is about. The context is that, in 1974, Fleetwood Mac were in a fallow period, neither recording nor touring. Former manager Clifford Davies decided to cash in by claiming he owned the rights to the name and putting together a touring band – no Fleetwoods, no Macs, in fact no-one ever previously connected with the band – to play under the name. The real band promptly went to law to stop him, thus demonstrating that, in addition to the complete lack of moral rights, Davies had no legal rights either. So he renamed his band Stretch, and wrote this epic whiney complaint about it being he – the would-be thief – who was the one who had been shafted and why had they treated him this way, and who put them up to it. Given that background, it’s a minor miracle that the song is even worth listening to at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7SloVbbzZc

Couldn’t Get It Right – The Climax Blues Band

Throughout the early Seventies, the Climax Chicago Blues Band, a pretty intense British blues-rock band who had named themselves after a particularly avant-garde form of Chicago jazz, proudly went about their business in experimental form. According to Wikipedia, they shortened their name in 1972 under pressure from Chicago, who didn’t want any confusion going on, through my own memory from 1976 was of hearing that they’d shortened the name because they’d come up with a gloriously commercial piece of straightforward music, which took them to no 11. It completes the triptych begun with Ace on this CD because of the musical similarity between these three tracks, with their low-key, blues-oriented stylings and three in a row classic choruses. Everybody’s got a great song in them, whether they like it or not.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwnC_8_ZeYE

Howzat – Sherbet

I first became aware of this single when it penetrated the top 50. As a cricket-lover, the name caught my eye, but it suggested a horrible, twee and twinky novelty single. Instead, when I heard it, it was a piece of smooth-rolling white soul-funk, delivered by an Australian group with superb harmonies, and whilst the lyrics were a touch on the dodgy side, you could have said the same for Pete Wingfield’s classic ‘Eighteen with a Bullet’. The song itself was straight, it’s appeal immediate. But the band went back to Australia after their moment in the English sun, never to return, unlike the Test team.  That’s why such a big hit counts as a lost song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvtyc8CIqKQ

Who? – Allan Clarke

Allan Clarke left the Hollies in 1972 to start a solo career that reached an early peak, musically-speaking, with this 1973 single. ‘Who?’ is an ethereal ballad, lifted by Clarke’s distinctive strained singing, as he appeals to his girl to stay with him, because he needs her and because who is it who has treated her so well? It’s a definite Sixties throwback, lyrically, the girl isn’t allowed to have a mind and feelings of her own, not if the guy treats her right. The main reason it didn’t succeed is that the sound is too ethereal to make an impression on the radio, and at the end of the day there’s too little tune for it to ever have been a successful single, but I remember it lightly and drift with it in a pleasant haze.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdaD-H-xIDM

For Your Love – Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac meet the Yardbirds via a pleasant but relatively indistinctive version of the Graham Gouldman classic song. This was one of the songs that got rotational airplay the first two weeks when Piccadilly Radio, Manchester’s first commercial station, went on the air in April 1974. It doesn’t really represent the (somewhat feeble) best of the Mac in that shadow period between Peter Green and Lyndsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks, but the guitar solo is a decided pleasure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIsbjmveDSo

The Puppy Song – Nilsson

Another Nilsson, another misremembered 1969 track. I thought this too twee and silly for consideration when I was younger, though Nilsson’s original took on gravity and depth when David Cassidy covered this as the back half of a double A-side no. 1. I still prefer cats by a long chalk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBbT40H74sc

Dawn – Flintlock

These days, Flintlock would have been a boy band. Five pretty faces, one of whom was already a teen heartthrob from his starring role in a popular, and reputable kids adventure series, and it would have been forget that shit about playing your own instruments and writing your own songs, get waxing. But Flintlock could sing, and thanks to drummer/singer Mike Holoway being one of the stars of the incredibly popular ‘The Tomorrow People’ (which I used to watch), not to mention the number of times he appeared in teenage girl’s magazines (and wet dreams), they got loads of TV appearances in kids programmes and their own series. They were the kind of band that, in those Bay City Rollers days, I instinctively knew to loathe, but their third single, ‘Dawn’, which reached no 30, showcased stylish harmonies, a strong, rocking chorus and a sax break from lead vocalist Derek Pascoe that you had to love.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZBYbYlEPiA

Jesus is just alright – The Doobie Brothers

In an age when religion was still held in more esteem, enforced though it might have been, this Doobie Brothers track didn’t get heard over here, though it was top 40 in America. Given the band’s early popularity among bikers and Hell’s Angels, not to mention that their name was a pretty overt reference to recreational drug taking, Radio 1 was not going to start promoting a song with our Lord and Saviour’s name in the title. Even though it was an authentic gospel song, written in earnest and the band’s version was heavily based on an earlier cover by the Byrds. None of the Doobies were particularly religious so their interest in the song lay in its fast, rock style and their characteristic rough harmonies, forcing the song along. It’s not here for the sake of my immortal soul either.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEvy8mROAj0

O Caroline – Matching Mole

Matching Mole were Robert Wyatt’s band after Soft Machine,and at the time he fell from a bedroom window and broke his back. A shorter version of this song was a single, and is the only other thing by Matching Mole that I’ve ever heard. It’s a slow-moving, piano-led, pragmatic love ballad, written for journalist Caroline Coon, with whom Wyatt had just broken up. The lyrics are ordinary and practical beginning with a reference to the band playing, trying to make the music work, except that Wyatt can’t get his focus right because Caroline’s no longer there with him. The song stays down to earth, realistic about love and making Caroline happy for the best part of her life. Wyatt deliberately avoids romanticism (at one point he half-expects his words to be called ‘sentimental crap’) yet it’s the very lack of lyricism that confirms this as one of the simplest and most heartfelt love songs ever, allowing Wyatt to reclaim true meaning for the hackneyed chorus he sings: I love you still, Caroline.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUFolB3LUpA

Mystery Song – Status Quo

Frankly, I’m one of those for whom a very little Status Quo boogie goes a very long way: as far as Jupiter if I were lucky. Nor have I ever been impressed by Rossi and Parfitt’s schtick about, “well, we were there but we don’t remember anything about it cos we was out of it.” I do have an amused memory of going to a ‘heavy disco’ at Salford University when the word was whispered that ‘Caroline’ was about to be played and, the moment that buzz-saw riff began, a ring of denim-clad, long-haired blokes burst in as if choreographed, placed their hands on their hips and proceeded to wag their hair from side to side like some forerunner of an ‘Iron John’ ritual. Why, in all this horror of dully repetitive boogie I should so like ”The Mystery Song’ is, naturally enough, a mystery, but it is sung by Rick Parfitt, rather than Francis Rossi for once, and it’s more of a song, a fast-paced rock song, than the perennial boogie. Let me repeat: everybody’s capable of something good, even if only by accident.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8cdGQiEtws

Sea of Flames – Flintlock

I said above that Flintlock had their own, 5.15pm, ITV series. It was called ‘Fanfare’ and the band performed on it, as well as presenting other musical guests and talking to them about their music. I only remember watching it once, when their guests included a young but well-established male opera singer whose name I can’t recall, and the superb-voiced June Tabor, a folk singer of a capella music (her version of ‘And the band played Waltzing Matilda’ is an absolute classic). Opera and a capella traditional folk were not obvious choices for teenagers in 1976, but the format of the show seemed to be about Flintlock learning about different styles of music, and I vividly remember the lead singer reading a piece of opera music then throwing himself into a spirited and fairly decent attempt at singing it, to the evident surprise, and respect, of the opera singer. ‘Sea of Flames’, the follow-up to ‘Dawn’, was Flintlock’s current single, a lost-love ballad with some rich harmonies. The single was marred by thin and weak production, rendering the sound paper-thin, but in the studio they sang a version much richer in sound and harmony that made the song memorable enough to remain for life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zl2tJFkqkSo

Carrie – Cliff Richard

It’s by Cliff Richard. It was written by B. A. Robertson. And it’s sung by Cliff Richard. And I’ve still included it here. It’s not here just because of indelible memories of a long ago party that are none of your business. It’s here because it was a song about fear, and death, and horror never to be explained. Carrie doesn’t live here any more. She left no forwarding address. You will never know what happened to her, but you won’t stop imagining it until the day you die. Cliff Richard. B. A. Robertson. The Devil works in mysterious ways.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfvVzgOYwRc

Saturday EuroCrime: The Disappearance parts 1 & 2


After a four week interlude in Wales, BBC4’s Saturday night slot reverts to European Crime Drama with an offering entitled Disparue or, for those of us reliant on the sub-titles: The Disappearance.

This is my first time with a French one, though Spiral has long since been a BBC4 favourite, but it was already established once my interest was first piqued by The Killing (the same with Inspector Montalbano), so I’ve never tried to catch up.

At first sight, there’s little to distinguish The Disappearance from its fellows. It’s very well made, and well acted, and it’s kept a low key over the first two episodes. It’s set in Lyons, about which I know nothing except that the makers of the programme are prone to aerial shots to give you a panorama and, especially when they follow the river, it looks a beautiful place.

I don’t want to use the word ‘cliche’ but there’s not a lot so far that we haven’t seen many times before. The Disappearance is about the disappearance of Lea Morel, a pretty, long blonde-haired girl on the eve of her seventeenth birthday. She goes out to a park concert with her elder brother (who’s supposed to get her back for 3.00am) and her cousin/best friend Chris, and doesn’t come back. So far, so The Killing 1.

There’s no sign of overt trouble at home, just a bit of teenage bolshieness/selfishness. Lea’s gone and gotten herself a small, discreet tattoo: Mother Flo, a civil servant, is disappointed, but only because they were supposed to be going together and getting one each. Father, Julien, works in a restaurant with his brother Jules (Chris’s father).

There’s obviously more to it than that. Over the first two episodes, we learn that Lea is a bit of a Laura Palmer: she takes cocaine, she’s had a boyfriend she’s concealed from her family for six months (Romain’s entirely respectable so why’s she been so secretive?), it turns out she’s forged parental consent for Formula FR racing training (at which she’s naturally gifted), and there’s a suggestion thatshe may have been involved to some extent in prostitution (she has to have gotten the money for the coke and the racing lessons somehow).

There’s a bit of a tangle in the backgrounds. Julian had an affair with a waitress last year, which he broke off when Flo found out about it, and spends a lot of episode 2 under arrest when she unexpectedly became part of his alibi and tried to get revenge by screwing him over. And Romain’s slept with Chris once or twice when he was mad at Lea, but he regrets it now, though Chris seems to think it means more, and it was discovering Chris’s earring in Romain’s car at 3.00am whilst fucking that sent Lea stomping off into the night from which she has yet to return…

Then there’s the cops. Leading the investigation is Commander Bertrand Molina, recently reposted to Lyons after ‘trouble’ in Paris. He’s hoping to see more of his daughter though she doesn’t exactly seem keen, not even when Maman decides it’s time Papa has to put up with the insufferable brat and dumps her on Molina mid-case.

And his second-in-command is Lieutenant Camille Guerin, recently split up with boyfriend, fending off Maman’s enquiries and forever eating (she’s a bit overweight but not worryingly so).

In short, cops with problems. We seem to have ticked all the boxes so far.

So The Disappearance is thus far another compilation of cliches, but I don’t want to accuse it of that. It’s not pretending that any of this is earth-shatteringly original, or high drama. It’s none of it risible, like Salamander or Follow the Money, and it’s entertaining enough for me to allow it time to develop.

It also has the benefit of a fine performance by Alix Poisson in the role of Flo: finely-drawn face, and a nicely pert bottom in jeans, she’s a worthy successor to Pernilla Birk Larsson as a distraught mother and by far the best thing about the show so far. Though I’m reserving judgement on the scene where she apologises to Julien for doubting him when he was arrested by the Police

Structurally, the episodes to date show a pattern of slow accumulation of detail leading to a low-key cliffhanger. Episode 1 ended with Julien’s arrest because he had lied in his statement in a manner that we didn’t know. Episode 2 ended in a rather more serious manner, with a voicemail at 3.14am on Julian’s mobile that he didn’t wake up for in time: from Lea…

The Disappearance was a big hit in France. It’s adapted from a Spanish series broadcast in 2007/8 so, along with the English sub-titles, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, internationally. There’s only eight parts of it and it’s been compared to Broadchurch, which, for my sins, I confess I’ve never watched, but if so, here’s hoping it’s a comparison to series 1.

 

A Brief Post about Captain America


………Naahhhhh.

I don’t really comment about Marvel Comics, their series and characters. I grew up on DC, and that’s always been the way my tastes have run. I had a spell of dabbling in the Marvel Universe that basically lasted from about 1979 to 1984, but I severed my last remaining connections with Marvel over the Jack Kirby Dispute and have never really gone back. The films are great fun, though.

This week has seen the latest development in the career of Captain America. Steve Rogers is back, after a couple of years of being too old, but he’s now been rejuvenated. Sam Wilson is staying as Captain America, so now there are two of them, with different series. Nifty idea.

But the new Captain America: Steve Rogers series has decided to start with a twist ending. It’s a very controversial twist that has got many people outraged. It’s led to mass condemnation, death threats against the writer and copies of the comic being burned. Oh my.

What is so bad that it’s aroused such hostility? Consider that Cap was created 75 years ago by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby specifically as an American symbol to fight against Adolf Hitler. Consider that both Simon and Kirby were Jewish. Consider that Cap’s most significant enemy is the Red Skull, a left-over Nazi. Consider that the Skull is an important figure in the creation and history of HYDRA, the fascistic organisation bent on taking over the world. Consider that this all has been the case for seventy five years solid.

Now consider that the twist in Captain America: Steve Rogers 1 is that Cap is, and always has been a secret Hydra Agent.

Never mind that it won’t last, that there’ll be an explanation for it, that sooner or later he’ll revert to his real self, this is a stupid idea. It’s a stupid idea because it is completely unbelievable. Because no-one with half a degree of intelligence can believe in it for even as long as the split second it takes to read the panel in which Cap says, “Hail Hydra”.

Because the very idea is a complete profanity of the character. It is an exact reversal of everything that Captain America is, was, always has been and always will be so long as he remains a character of any significance. I’m wary of accepting any mythical dimension attaching to superheroes, let alone the suggestion, only today, that they are our modern gods, but it is not exaggerating to say that this idea is a blasphemy.

Which is why it fails completely as a concept, as a springboard for a story. It’s wrong, and it’s impossible to take the idea seriously for a moment. Anything done with this idea has nothing to do with Steve Rogers. It will be divorced utterly from Captain America’s history.

No point in protesting, no point in death threats (there are never any point to death threats, save to identify those who are inadequate in their comprehension of life), although there is a point in burning the idiot thing: might as well start the process of excising the thing now as later.

 

The Infinite Jukebox: The Carnaby Street Pops Orchestra – Teenage Carnival


A long long time ago, I can still remember…

But this is not a reminiscence about Don MacLean, but about another piece of music entirely.

Some time in the Nineties, I began to get fragmentary memories of a distinctive piece of music. At first, there was only a tiny fraction of melody that, try as I might, I could not resolve into enough of a full tune to give myself a decent chance of remembering it.

It stayed as scanty as that for literally years, floating into and out of my head at irregular intervals. The segment expanded slightly: a roll of drums preceded it. I began to have vague images join my piece of music. A speedboat, crashing across the waves from crest to crest.

I began to ask myself, was I recalling the theme music to Freewheelers?

It’s practically forgotten today, and only parts of some of the later series still exist, but in the mid-Sixties, Southern TV’s Freewheelers was a massive phenomenon, syndicated in the pre-ITV News slot, with a handful of spin-off novels to boot. It was a teenage action drama series, starring a two boy, one girl line-up, three teenagers coming together accidentally to get involved in espionage and crimes. They began by helping British Secret Service Agent Colonel Buchan, played by Ronald Leigh-Hunt, and despite this being only a supposed one-off, the Freewheelers kept getting involved in case after case of Buchan’s.

Being made by Southern TV, there was a strong aquatic element to the stories, taking full advantage of location filming on the Channel. From time to time, the cast would change: Adrian Wright as Mike had the longest lasting role, but the initial line-up included Tom Owen, son of Bill, as a working class lad complete with serious young poet denim cap, whilst Wendy Padbury, fresh from playing companion to the Second Doctor, was added in series 5, playing well below her real age.

It was a good fun show, but then ITV teen drama in the Sixties and early Seventies was frequently very strong and greatly imaginative.

But that did me no good with my scrap of music.

By now, we’re in the early 2000’s, and our regular Saturday morning entertainment is Sounds of the Sixties from 8.00 – 10.00 am on Saturday mornings. There’s a transistor radio in our bedroom, and the timer on the hi-fi automatically records the two hour programme so that if any unknown gems come on – and at the time, producer Roger ‘The Vocalist’ Bowman is plucking wonderful obscurities out of this air on a regular basis – they can be copied over to a permanent cassette tape.

Besides, several times I’m the only one awake and listening from 8.00am and a tape of the programme ensures that anyone sleeping in can hear it at leisure.

Then, as now, the show goes to the Nine O’Clock news – end of Side 1 – with an instrumental. I am listening to the show and to gentle breathing on my immediate right, when Brian Matthew announces that this weeks instrumental is Teenage Carnival by The Carnaby Street Pops Orchestra. I know, sounds awful doesn’t it.

Then a drumroll pours out of the speakers and my head jerks round because I recognise it instantly, two beats, that’s all I need. It’s that piece of music that’s plagued me for years by now, I’m listening to it, and I’m actually taping it! I have it!

It was the instantenaity of it that astonished me. Just two beats on the drum, and I didn’t need the first note of a musical instrument to know what I was listening to. It was a classic Sixties TV theme tune, broad, expansive, sweeping, a great melody. And the speedboat crashed across the crests with an older man at the wheel and a younger man in a white t-shirt beside him.

This was the moment at which I was more than fifty percent convinced this was Freewheelers: Teenage Carnival by The Carnaby Street Pops Orchestra meant nothing to me. I e-mailed the show, identified the track played, asked if this was indeed the theme I suspected.

And two Saturdays later, once again the only one listening whilst my lovely spouse dozed on, my name came over the radio, my enquiry turned into a request! I didn’t get an answer – but I got the track played again!

Nothing daunted, I started seriously researching on-line, and it didn’t take me long to confirm, despite some initial claims for another, far less memorable piece of music, that I was right all along. Imagine that!

No copies of the early series with Tom Owen are extant, sad to say, but Wendy Padbury fares better, which is a pleasure because she was a sweet, delicate, elfin lady who was a sight for my naive eyes at a time when I was beginning to recognise that girls differed from boys in more ways than just having longer hair and wearing skirts.

We can never really recapture the impact of teenage hormones. But sooner or later we can recognise a Teenage Carnival

DC Rebirth… or, Fifty Years, Seven Universes and What About the Scrap of Red Cloth


It’s five years since Flashpoint reset the DC Universe one time too many for me, as detailed here. It’s considerably longer since I last bought an actual DC mainstream comic, but I’ve not been entirely out of touch. Old habits fade only slowly. The thing about the New 52 Universe was that it broke the thread of continuity that had run through DC since the beginning. It undercut history, removed legacy, deleted the proper Justice Society of America, and took down Superman’s shorts. I borrowed a couple of GNs from the library, on occasions, and the storytelling was incomprehensible.

It’s also been a bust, commercially, which is why the universe is being reset yet again. DC Rebirth is the name of the game, and since ‘Rebirth’ is Geoff Johns’ property, it’s yet again his show. Though only in the set-up: after the appearance this week of DC Rebirth 1 and only, Johns is being shunted over to the films division to apparently counteract the effects of Zack Snyder.

I don’t like Geoff Johns’ writing. This has made following DC awkward for the last ten years and more, since he has been flavour of the decade, to the point of having been appointed DC’s first Chief Creative Officer (first, because they’ve never needed one before). Basically, that means that the DC Universe is run according to the tastes and preferences of one man, and if you generally don’t agree with that man’s perspectives, things are a bit of a wasteland for you.

Reading DC Universe: Rebirth 1, I felt a tremendous sense of deja vu. It was exactly like reading Countdown to Infinite Crisis eleven years ago: the same dynamics, the same focus upon an individual whose fate is the forerunner of change. Even the art was by the same artists , or ones who drew pretty much like the ones who did Countdown.

Whereas that one was the Ted Kord Blue Beetle, on his way to his lonely, but significant death, this character aroused a more immediate sympathy in me, because it’s Kid Flash: the Kid Flash, Wally West, the real Wally West, whose been on the missing list since Flashpoint. And whilst Barry Allen and I may have been born around the same time, Wally was, in a realer sense, ‘my’ Flash, the one I collected assiduously – until Geoff Johns took him over, at least.

What it’s about is that, despite his having been Flash the last time we looked, Wally has spent the years since the Flashpoint trapped in the Speed Force as Kid Flash. Now he’s trying to get out. In fact, he’s desperate to do so. The problem is that, to return to reality, he has to appear to someone who recognises him, and that’s not happening. Not Batman, not Johnny Thunder, not even his beloved Linda Park (who is now a struggling reporter from a very tiny blog about to lose everything. Not even the Flash, Uncle Barry, remembers who he is.

And Wally is utterly desperate. Not because he wants to return to life. He’d be happy to slip away, to dissolve in the Speed Force, to lose all identity forever, but he has to deliver a message, a warning. Five years ago, the Flashpoint, Barry Allen changed time by saving his mother from being killed in the past (odd coincidence that you should bring that up…)

Everybody believes that it was Barry’s action that changed time, created the New 52, but that’s not the case. Wally has a different perspective. There’s someone else, someone who manipulated things, who deliberately chose to steal ten years from everybody’s lives, ten years of incidents and events. It was done to weaken them, for some nefarious purpose…

And in the last possible second, Barry remembers, and Wally is back, to bring this warning. The Universe is about to be reborn, time to be restored, history will come back.

Because Barry, at the last possible instant, says Wally’s name.

Who is behind this, who has done this? That’s the good old fashioned sixty-four thousand dollar question. We get two clues.

One is a pan, from the earth to another planet, one with dark skies, pink sands, desert conditions. There’s a rigid, nine-panel grid page focused upon a watch, Wally’s watch, a gift from his Uncle. Someone is dismantling it, cog by cog, without touching it. There’s also some dialogue, with someone named Adrian, dialogue I remember from thirty years ago.

And meanwhile, Batman has been digging away at something, ever since the unknown stranger with a yellow and red costume and ginger hair manifested himself in the Batcave, pointing to the letter from his father that was an integral part of Flashpoint. There’s something behind the letter, buried in the rock, that Batman chips out in time for the final page. It’s a badge, a simple, yellow, smily-face badge, popular in the year 1985. And it’s got a diagonal streak of red – of blood – across one eye. (Except that it’s the wrong fucking eye…)

So the Watchmen Universe is about to be folded in with the rest of the DC Universe/Multiverse, after thirty years of separation and despite all the paramount reasons not to do so. But then, Johns and DiDio couldn’t give a shit about promises made by previous management, not when they can tangle their shitty fingers in a superior creation. It’s like the ‘let me piss in it and make it taste better’ joke.

So, what do we assume? At the end of Watchmen, Dr Manhattan, who had previously sequestered himself on Mars, decided to leave that Universe and create some life. Are we now to assume that the former Jonathan Osterman created the DC Universe? And that despite the good Doctor being a basically neutral but benevolent individual, he’s decided to play games with his creation? (Of course he will, Johns and DiDio are incapable of imagining that someone with Manhattan’s power wouldn’t act like a dictatorial shit with it. They really are extremely limited in their visions).

Rebirth is good as far as it goes, which is up to the point where the big reveal is intimated, at which point it turns into a possible utter disaster. I’ve signed up to get Earth-2 Rebirth, which is the Justice Society reboot, but that’s on a contingent basis, and depends very much on how authentic that series feels.

Nevertheless, I do not see myself making a return to DC like I used before, even if they restore Superman’s red trunks, an issue that remains to be seen. Too much time has gone by, old habits and old knowledge have been strained beyond repair. Johns may be gone but his spirit lives on, and my place is back among the back issues. Especially if they’re going to start shitting even more on Watchmen.

The Infinite Jukebox: Oliver – Good Morning Starshine


I’ve had this on my mind and in my ears a lot, lately. It got added to a compilation CD, it got added to my mp3 player, it even turned up on a recent Sounds of the Sixties.

This song comes from late 1969. It’s a part of those hazy days when I first started to absorb music: it was in the top 10, although it had peaked and was slipping down, but it was still on the radio. It’s been an integral reminder of that time of early discovery ever since.

It’s also probably one of the most hippy-dippy songs I’ve ever heard. It’s from the musical, Hair which was still very big and controversial business then. It’s a lightweight sound, an open-hearted, overconfident compilation of all the hippy cliches, about natural beauty, about living with the earth instead of against it, of wide-eyed wonder triumphing against anything remotely concrete. Good morning starshine, the Earth says hello. You twinkle above us, we twinkle below.

It’s naive, unrealistic, silly and twee. And that’s the whole point. Because it’s a glorious rush of optimism, straight from a time when we, naively, thought that things were getting better, and that they would continue to do so. It’s more poignant than ever now, because it’s unsullied by doubt, fear or the terror of the bastards who rule us, whose only thought is to divide us, to take advantage, to think me not us.

‘Good morning starshine’ still believes that it’s good and it’s getting better and it’s never going to stop. It can sing ‘glippy gloop glooby, nibby nabby nooby, la la la la low’ without fear of ridicule and believe in it. It’s an uprush, of light and heart and spirit, and for three minutes it doesn’t matter that you have to close your eyes, it has the power of a time machine, it takes you there.

And it reminds you that we made the most colossal of all mistakes by leaving in the first place.

Can you hear me?