Another American Dream

19720914-10JUNIOR BONNER starring Steve McQueen, Ida Lupino, Robert Preston. An ABC Pictures production filmed in colour and TODD-AO, and directed by Sam Peckinpah. Released by Cinerama Releasing (UK) Ltd.

Peckinpah is desperate about the disappearance of the old pioneering America, the rough, wild, dangerous way of living. He’s an artistic, romantic, reactionary who doesn’t fit into the new style frozen fish colour TV style of life. Nor do a lot of us, but in this glorification of the past, he tends to forget about the traumas of pioneering, like poverty, illness, etc. Junior Bonner (Steve McQueen) who in 1972 is gradually ageing, fading just like the travelling rodeo circuit he’s on. After all who wants to see a man risking his life riding bareback on a rampaging bull when the ‘Lucy Show’ is on the colour telly.

The rodeo circuit brings Jr. back to his home town of Prescott, Arizona, where his first sight is the family ranch being bulldozed into a gravel pit. He looks on shocked and stupefied, and Peckinpah’s brilliant direction makes the bulldozers and earth movers look like monsters out of a King Kong film. Jr’s mum (Ida Lupino) seems fairly resigned to her son and husband (Robert Preston) refusing to conform, but approves of her other son, Curly, who is in the tourist trade and making money. Dad, known as Ace Bonner, is 60 and still involved with rodeos. He’s an eccentric womaniser, who wants to go to Australia to mine for gold, as there’s nothing left to pioneer in America, and one can’t help feeling he is Peckinpah transferred to the screen.

Curly, who’s respectably married, wants Jr to join him in ripping off tourists in his Arizona history museum. His wife, as she serves her two kids with yet another bottle of cyclamate filled Coke, comes out with comments like – “Once you’ve seen one rodeo you’ve seen them all”. Curly and Jr are always fighting, the conflict between the old and the new which is very effective, but Peckinpah does overstate his case in the big fight scene in the bar, which while technically superb, attempts to suggest visually that the couple of hundred people there are enjoying fighting each other, rather like one enjoys watching a funny film.

After seeing Junior Bonner I have begun to understand Straw Dogs, Peckinpah’s last film, which appalled and puzzled me when I first saw it. Peckinpah was seeking to destroy the epitome of the 1970’s pseud, the ‘liberal’ American university professor renting a cottage in a Cornish fishing village while writing his thesis, and being patronising to the locals. They set out to destroy him and rape his wife, and if you accept the violence as a symbol – why not? What does the American bullshitter know of their boring and useless lives?

Peckinpah undoubtably tends to be excessive in his images, but his films are made . with real feeling and understanding of the awful plight of man, his degeneration into a plastic culture where he can no longer initiate or invent. Perhaps Junior Bonner is a tamer film than ‘Wild Bunch’ and ‘Straw Dogs’, because of all the criticism Peckinpah has received for the violence in these films, but it is rich in beauty and atmosphere, and I highly recommend it.

Caine Mutinies

19720914-10PULP starring Micheal Caine, Mickey Rooney, Lionel Stander, Lizabeth Scott and Dennis Price. A Klinger-Caine Hodges Production in colour, written and directed by Mike Hodges. Released by United Artists.

To cut a long short story short this is a funny film, a very funny film, in which Caine in company with Rooney and other old time actors and actresses demolishes sarcastically all the butch thrillers he’s ever made, and the books they were taken from. Along the way farce and satire is created out of everything from taxi drivers to cheap crime fiction (Pulp) to package holidays to Humphrey Bogart, and after this film Caine must surely be considered one of Britain’s top comedy actors. No kidding!

Mickey King (Caine), a cheap thriller writer, is assigned to write the life story of Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney), a former Hollywood star who retired 15 years earlier, just as Rooney did, and this is the delight of the film: everyone seems to be playing themselves. Gilbert is a notorious practical joker, leading to riotous scenes in restaurants etc., which are made up of a mixture of old style slapstick and biting satirical dialogue, a new style of humour which really works successfully. So for a cynical night out, folks, Pulp is your film.

Progressive Soul

19720914-10Still Bill – Bill Withers – A & M AMLS 68107

Bill Withers has a new album out. It’s called Still Bill and contains his hit single Lean on Me, that is currently riding high on the single charts.

I thought his first album disappointing, even though it contained a few good tracks. But this new set is a vast improvement on even the best of that initial release. There are very few other soul artists who can not only produce uncluttered, funky dance music, but also write extremely sensitive, adult songs.

Bill Withers succeeds in every way. Even the use of strings does not allow the sentiments to become syrupy – a fault that all too often happens with arrangers who permit the sound they create to swamp an artist’s talent and originality. The string arrangements used here either help to set a mood or bring in a needed tension to supplement the lyrics.

Soul music has been progressing considerably recently and this album is one of the best examples of this welcome trend. Listen to it a few times before forming any opinions, it really does need a little concentrated listening before you fully realise the amount of thought and perception that has gone into producing this very stunning and rewarding record.

Lean on Me is a very beautiful track, instantly appealing, as its chart success indicates. But songs like Another Day To Run, Take It All In And Check It All Out, and Who Is He (And What Is He To You)? further portray the maturity of Wither’s vision and musical accomplishments.

This record should prove to be one of the soul ballad albums of the year. Don’t miss out on it.

The Hits of Edwin Starr – Edwin Starr — Tamla Motown STML 11209

The new ‘greatest hits’ collection from Tamla Motown is the Hits of Edwin Starr. The album contains not only Starr’s recent chart singles, but also his earlier successes. These include numbers such as Headline News, 25 Miles and Agent Double O Soul, which previously only had limited exposure in this country when first released, although they have always been firm discotheque favourites

Of his later period, chart-toppers such as Time and the incredibly arranged and produced War still prove to be as exciting as ever.

Edwin Starr has shown over the years that he can produce consistently good soul sounds, which are both original in concept and fun to dance to.

The lyrics of his songs always make me think of him as the Chuck Berry of soul music. For while some may say the words are banal, if you listen closely enough they reveal valid reflections of space age society.

In conclusion, this is a top-rate, good value (14 tracks) collection of one man’s contributions so far to soul music. And it’s a must for parties or whatever you call the gatherings you attend.

Camp Classics

19720914-10Ganymede in Rome twenty-eight epigrams of Marcus Valerius Martialis. The Palantine Press £3

A slim hardback volume on high quality paper of very free and rather camp translations of Martial’s epigrams relating to pretty boys in the somewhat decadent days of Rome. Personally, I find it all a bit precious (and at £3 it is) and coy, but it will no doubt appeal to classicists and/or romantics, and will probably find it’s way into many homes in Harrow, Eton and Winchester.


19720914-10Everybody’s a Star — The Kinks — RCA DPS 2035

The Kinks have been around for quite a few years now, but unlike many other groups who have lasted as long as them, they are still producing fine pop music. Not only do the lyrics of Ray Davies become more impressive but the group’s playing improves with each record they release.

Whilst the singles of The Kinks usually make the ‘top twenty’ charts, their albums don’t receive as much attention. I thought that their last LP, Muswell Hillbillies, would have rectified that situation, but it was sadly ignored by the majority of record buyers and music paper critics.

The group’s new release. Everybody’s a Star, hopefully should put matters right. It is a double album, of which one record is a ‘live’ set. The first record though, which is a studio recording, contains nine of the best songs Ray Davies has ever written and one good offering by his brother Dave. Also the group’s playing is vastly more together than before, and the addition of brass and organ has given their sound a greater depth.

But it is the songs that make these two sides so stunning, along with the vocal style and delivery of Ray Davies. The sympathetic arrangements and production also add much to the success of this record.

Most of the songs are concerned with reflections on the life of a successful pop singer and the star system that supports him. Motorway, for instance, is basically about the low quality of food and conditions available in main highway restaurants and service stations, and the sort of existence one leads if ‘on-the-road’ for long periods.

Sitting in my Hotel is a subtle, cynical, introverted look at someone who has risen to ‘hit parade’ stardom. The group’s latest single, Supersonic Rocket Ship, is also included. The words are rather tongue-in-cheek, but at the same time cheerfully optimistic without becoming embarrassing. The lyrics tell of a future time when equality of all kinds is a reality aboard a ‘supersonic rocket ship’.

The outstanding track of the record is Celluloid Heroes. It is a funny/sad series of comments and observations about the stars and unrealities of Hollywood. The movie stars, and the cinema audiences dreams and fantasies are fused into a collection of images that try to be honest about the film-capital and its heroes.

There is a sincerity and understanding in the words, although sometimes gently mocking, that shows a fine awareness of the need for and reasons why idol-culture has become a necessity for so many in today’s urban, industrial societies. For example:

“I wish my life was a non-stop Hollywood movie show,
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes,
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain And celluloid heroes never really die.”

The descriptions of the stars and the casualties of the Hollywood star system are particularly sensitive and realistic. This becomes obvious in Davies’ comment on Marilyn Monroe:

“She should have been made of iron and steel,
But she was only made of flesh and blood.”

RCA has thoughtfully provided all the words of the songs on the first record on an insert.

The second record is made up of taped live’ performances whilst The Kinks were recently touring in the States. The recording quality is not always good, and some of the songs are noticeably weak especially after hearing the first record. But many of them contain the wit and charm that makes Ray Davies songs such good listening. The ‘live’ version of Lola (a gay anthem?) is well worth hearing and the treatment of standards like Baby Face are camp if nothing else.

The double set is reasonably priced at £2.98, and the excellence of the studio album more than makes up for the weaknesses of the ‘live’ record.


19720914-10Fracas At Gay Pub

On Friday 16th September, at approximately 10.30pm, five members of the Gay Liberation Front were arrested by Notting Hill police after 20 gays in drag tried to buy drinks in the Champion pub on Bayswater Road.

Richard Chappel, Douglas McDougal, Peter Bourn, Peter Reed and Andrew Lumsden were bailed by the police after being held in the cells for at least three hours. They claim they were not allowed to make any telephone calls while they were being held.

And they charge the police with using unnecessary violence and using insulting behaviour against them.

Gay News got the tip-off from Peter from Barnes, who was outside the pub with his boyfriend. Scotland Yard checked out the information he gave them and told him:

“Don’t quote me on this, but we hate these sort of problems.

“It’s up to the landlord of the pub to refuse to sell drinks to anyone, and to ask them to leave. If they won’t leave he can call the police. If they still won’t leave they can be charged with obstructing the police in the course of their duty.”

The drag gays are charged with a number of offences including one of obstructing the footpath, two of obstructing the police and two of threatening behaviour.

But they say the threatening behaviour was not just one-sided. Gay News was told:

“What was really terrifying was not just the fact that the police pulled our hair, which you can expect, But also, as well as getting all the ‘Yes, ducky’, ‘No, ducky’ remarks the arresting officer pulled Doug’s hair in the police van and said: ‘We’ll get you later’.”

Trouble broke out when the landlord decided not to serve the drag gays, who had had a social. Then, they sat down. The landlord called the police and three policemen entered the pub to clear the sit-down protesters. Outside there were two police vans, two panda cars and two squad cars.

The gays were released, after being stripped and questioned, at about 2am. They were bailed to appear at Great Marlborough Street Magistrates Court the next day.

The full story will appear in Gay News No. 8.


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