Up The Creek

DELIVERANCE, Produced and directed by John Boorman, written by James Dickey from his own novel. With Jon Voigt, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronnie Cox. Panavision, Technicolor. Distributed by Columbia-Warner Distributors.

Deliverance has been sold — to a certain extent – as the latest commercial product to hit London’s West End to contain a strong ‘gay’ content.

But after Stephen Murphy and Warner Communications have put away their scissors, there isn’t much of the famous male rape scene left — it’s a scene that got past the censors in every other country, in America and Europe but it’s one that’s lost 40 seconds in Britain.

Echoes here of what Warners did to Performance before showing it to John Trevelyan, the then-secretary of the British Board of Film Censors, and even then it was still cut some. The scene that we never got to see was James Fox and Mick Jagger making love, the scene that drove Fox into the arms of Jesus.

But the movie I’m supposed to be discussing is Deliverance. It’s a fine movie, but I just can’t bring myself to like it. And I don’t think it’s because I feel cheated at the rape scene. In fact, I didn’t feel at all cheated by that.

My main gripe (and that’s all it is) is that there’s a strong feeling of deja vu about Deliverance. Especially for those of us movie-buffs old enough to have seen The Misfits.

Deliverance is about a group of men trying to make the last canoe journey down a rapid-packed river (which is about to be turned into a reservoir). But they come to this confrontation with nature as city-bred men. The cruellest clash comes when two rough mountain men grab two of the party of four. They tie one up and bugger the other.

The city adventurers kill them both and hide the bodies under the rapidly rising waters of the reservoir.

I went expecting great things of Deliverance and felt a little cheated. Go with less expectations and you’ll probably enjoy it more.

One thing’s for sure, it’s a powerful statement about the degrading quality of American life. Perhaps the all-male cast does something to expose the phoniness of the wife-and-kids-at-home syndrome.

There’s a marvellous bit where Voight drops his wallet which contains his Diners Club Card and photo of his wife and kids, a photo that’s exactly like a credit card.

All the same, it’s a bit like the Misfits-On-lce-Under-Water.

Peter Holmes

More Deliverance

DELIVERANCE is one of the truly fantastic films of 1972, an explosion of the violence some of us feel about the way in which our world is being raped of the greenness, wildness, and the ways of living, which enable us to use some form of ingenuity and inventiveness, and to some extent, none of the four middle class, superficially stereotyped American suburban males, who go on a life-risking canoe trip down a rapid ridden river in cosy hamburger-ridden America’s last wilderness, accept this condition, albeit in some cases only semi-consciously. The men who live in desperate poverty in all ways except spiritually, in this wilderness, associate all outsiders with the bastards who are going to build a hydro-electric dam across their river and flood their valley, their 1920s idyll of undeveloped technology — rusty cars, straw hats, blue denim overalls and fishing. The now famous rape scene reverses the process; the man who gets raped is the one in the canoeing party who most symbolises the suburban horror. He’s fat and balding, working for an insurance company, looks like an oversized french fry.

Like all overtly realistic films. Deliverance is a mass of conflicts as it manifests Man’s dilemma. The leader of the canoe party who seems the one most anxious to return to Life, uses all his urban male chauvinist aggression, as he treats the locals like shits while remorselessly spearing fish and loving the river The guy who claims he’s been dragged along, doesn’t know why he’s there, would rather be home playing golf, is the one who finds it most difficult to spear and shoot.

This is a desperate film. Man is running round in ever-decreasing desperate circles. See it — you might find you are too.

David Seligman

An Apt Title

Endless Night. Starring Hywel Bennett and Hayley Mills. Directed/Produced by Launder & Gilliat. Based on the novel by Agatha Christie. Cert. ‘AA’ Distributed by British Lion.

Launder and Gilliat, the director-producer team of many successful British films were ill advised. Someone obviously thought of the long success Agatha Christie has had with THE MOUSETRAP must have dug through her novels in hopes of finding a suitable new film subject and they came across ENDLESS NIGHT.

The first twenty minutes are spent establishing the character of Hywel Bennett playing a chauffeur to the rich. He is seen first bidding for an expensive painting and a few moments later donning his working hat – the first ‘surprise’ twist, proving he is merely a working man after all. Soon after he is admiring the landscape somewhere in Southern England and taking photographs there. Enter our heroine, an American girl played by, of all people, Hayley Mills. She attempts an American drawl for a few moments and then gives up the game, going back to her arch accent.

Courtship follows by long distance and soon after our hero and heroine are wed. It is then established that Hayley is one of the richest girls in the world and of course her step mother is much against her marrying a chauffeur. But love overcomes all and they duly move into their dream house built on the site where they first met by a dying Swedish architect. No sooner have they begun to settle down to wedded bliss than Hayley’s former companion-secretary arrives, played prettily but without any talent by Britt Eckland.

The in-laws move into the district and Hayley’s step father is often seen riding a horse in the grounds. Also an old girl keeps appearing from nowhere with mysterious threats about the ground being unlucky. By now an hour has parsed and very little has occurred.

It wouldn’t really be fair to divulge what does occur without giving the plot away, but I can say that Miss Christie has one of her last-minute twists up her sleeve which manages to give an opportunity for some of today’s in-style violence to be shown. Hywel Bennett manages fairly well but Hayley Mills seems a bit stumped by her role, accent and dubbed singing voice. Poor old George Sanders makes a farewell appearance as the family lawyer and Per Oscarson does the best he can with the dying architect. The running time is around 100 minutes but for me it certainly seemed an endless night.

An American Scream

The Room – by Hubert Selby Jr.
Published by Calder and Boyars £2.50.

Now that the Media has tired somewhat with The Permissive Society, just as they took up and dropped Swinging London, Drugs and Decimal Currency as soon as their mileage as circulation boosters faltered, it is possible for a book like Hubert Selby’s The Room to be quietly assimilated into the English literary scene without outraged shrieks from The People or purple prosed editorials from The Sunday Express.

It is his first novel since Last Exit To Brooklyn brought the world wide controversy over obscenity, censorship, and the arts to a head; and although it has been dismissed in some quarters as one of the most unpleasant books ever written, it has strengthened the right of the writer and his audience to choose for themselves.

Briefly, the book once again examines the Kafka-like horror of life in American cities; how life and love can be transformed to death and hate through the enigmatic powers of the Fascist State.

A nameless man is confined to a prison cell, his crime is vague and insubstantial, his trial apparently endlessly lived out in his mind. There are masturbatory fantasies of his early teenage experiments – guilt-ridden finger-fucking ending in joyless orgasm; and sadistic fantasies involving platoons of policemen forced into impersonating performing dogs — begging, fucking, licking each other’s arses in front of an audience of their families and children.

It is a weary and joyless novel, conceived in concern and despair, but it is impossible to deny that Selby’s work is amongst the most vital now being written. This is the age when the novel is arguably dead, with only Mailer, Nabokov, Fowles, Lord Longford’s team and a handful of others even trying to keep it alive, and although The Room is unpleasant, probably obscene (it is not an erotic work), it is important nonetheless. Read it.

Warts And All

Bob Dylan by Anthony Scaduto. Abacus paperback – 6Op

Anthony Scaduto’s biography has attempted a portrait of Bob Dylan, warts and all, and what spoils it from being a definitive history of Dylan from childhood until now, is a scarcely hidden veneration approaching idolatory. But between this book and the autobiography that Dylan is reported as writing (will it take as long to reach us as his novel Tarantula, possibly the most famous underground novel of all, until it was finally published), enough material must now be on record to interpret the myths and enigmas which have always surrounded one of the earliest of the Super Stars. Scaduto appears to have interviewed every known Dylan contact — exhaustively.

And the only trouble is that in his effort to appear completely objective (an effort that fails) large chunks of apparently unedited, uninformative interviews roll endlessly on ie: “When I knew him he was in no way being Jewish. That was something he was absolutely not being at all. Even after he knew that I knew he was Bob Zimmerman from up on the Range, he was not being Jewish. He was saying his mother wasn’t…” And this after many pages dealing with Dylan’s early denial of his heritage.

Dylan appears not only as a ruthless, cruel, unhappy manipulator who’s only aim was the pinnacle which he has now found to be so untenable, but as one of Rock ‘n‘ Roll’s few serious claimants for the ‘Genius’ tag.

Rumours that homosexual or bi-sexual episodes in his life have been removed at Dylan’s ‘request’, tie up with Scaduto’s obviously total involvement and admiration.

Nonetheless, an honest enough attempt to present the truth behind the changing face on the LP covers.

Heroes And Villains

Heroes and VillainsAngela CarterPicador paperback, 4Op.

Heroic, legendary, Tolkien-like… these and similar phrases pepper the quotes on the back cover of this book. Well, for me, it wasn’t quite so large in scope. I thought, in fact, that it’s structure clearly indicated its firm roots in the here and now.

On the one hand, a clinical, orderly, comfy, well-protected community, in which the greatest respect is accorded academics and those with ‘experience’; on the other, the violent, brutal, primitive world of the ‘Barbarians’, to whom the professor’s daughter escapes.

We, like Marianne, are asked which is best. The brutal and elemental, or the coldly civilised? The madness induced by societal repression, or the death from wounds or disease? Primitive or civilised?

This is in many ways the conflict everyone shies away from – the fears of the older generation as the young threaten to destroy the constricting, but also supportive structure called society. The book stands as an expression of the falseness of the security kick – the feeling of security which no-one seems to have and everyone wants – and the way in which this debilitates people. The Barbarians are much more alive than the Professors.

But the question ‘Which is best’ is never answered, the conflict never resolved. It all depends on what you want. If you’ve made your mind up that you’re on the side of the revolution, then this book will be too. And vice versa. It doesn’t look like any choice at all to me.

Seconds Out

In the past few weeks three major books about women’s liberation have been re-issued in paperback. If you are at all interested in what women’s lib is about, and why the women active in the movement consider their struggle necessary, then these three books are essential reading.

The first is The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. Originally published in France in 1948 (the English translation first appearing in 1953), this book still remains one of the most indispensible works on women and their position in male-dominated societies.

The second is Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics. This American writer’s book is considered by i many to be as important as Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. Her comments on homosexuality, both male and female are particularly interesting.

Lastly, The Dialectic of Sex, (subtitled: The Case for Feminist Revolution) by Shulamith Firestone, is thought to be a contemporary continuation of the analysis of sexism as first defined by Simone de Beauvoir. It presents an articulated blueprint for sexual revolution by one of the most outspoken of America’s Radical Feminists.

The Other Opinions

The Obscenity Report. Published by the Olympia Press. Paperback. 50p.

If you are not already bored to tears with the subject of obscenity and pornography, this book presents the findings of three reports/commissions whose conclusions vastly differ to those of Lord Longford and his ‘porn-busters’.

Introduced by John Trevelyan, the book contains the most significant parts of The Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (The Johnson Report), The Report of The Arts Council of Great Britain (1969) on the Obscene Publications Acts and The Report from the Danish Forensic Medicine Council to the Danish Penal Code Council (1966).

And believe me, or prove it for yourself by reading these informative, literate investigations their disclosures show how bigoted and unresearched Longford’s enquiry was.

The book is prefaced by Maurice Girodias, who himself went to prison in France because of some of the titles published in his famous Olympia Press Traveller’s Companion Series. Also included is a statement by President Richard Nixon, which rejects the Report of the Presidential Commission. Longford and his ‘band of angels’ unfortunately have one powerful, muddle-headed ally in the States.

A parting comment from your humble reviewer, ‘You see what you want to see, you hear what you want to hear.’

Twelve Inches Of Pleasure

STIR DON’T SHAKESouthern Comfort – Harvest SHSP 4021

For me one of the best albums to come out recently is Stir Don’t Shake by Southern Comfort. This group has released a number of albums since departing from Ian Matthews, for whom they were back-up band. These albums haven’t sold too well, but the group has gained a strong following through ‘live’ performances, and recently had a minor hit with a single.

Basically they are a country music band, but they have a healthy affection for rock ‘n’ roll and for recent trends in modern American country/rock. The appearance on the record of Jesse Winchester’s Yankee Lady is a sign of this. And they deliver a fine version of this song, written by a truly underrated ‘underground’ artist.

The first side is all their own material except for the Winchester number. Other stand out tracks on side one are the countrified I Need Help and the rather magical, string embraced Something Said. Side two is a varied assortment of past hits from various sources. The Beatles of yester-year in the form of If I Fell are remembered. This is one of the most pleasing tracks on the album, for it captures all that was so good about the ‘fab four’ at that time. There is also a light rock version of Fats Domino’s I’m Walkin’, as well as the inclusion of Neil Young’s Harvest.

But it is the closing track that completely converts you to Southern Comfort. Remember Sleep Walk by Santo & Johnny, vintage…? That really shows an old rock ‘n’ roller’s age. Their treatment of it is beautiful and is an ideal choice to finish the album. EMI ought to release it as a single, could be a monster hit for them, just like Albatross was for Fleetwood Mac.

Really try and hear this album. It’s not too heavy, is generously nostalgic, and it makes you feel real good. Good rock ‘n’ roll forever.

SUMMER BREEZESeals & CroftsWarner Bros K46173

In the last issue of GN I reviewed an album by England Dan & John Ford Coley. I found them a very relaxing, gentle duo. much the same as I find Seals & Crofts’ Summer Breeze. If anything it’s a superior album to Dan and Johns, partly because of their more apparent professionality and seemingly greater experience. The back-up players are also a much finer selection of musicians. Incidentally, John Ford Coley plays some piano on the record.

The sympathetic arrangements and general togetherness of everyone makes for a headily beautiful series of performances. The lyrics are concerned with love, life and the things that too quickly pass by. Summer Breeze, the title track, is a hymn praising the simple joys of nature and a season, forgetting for a while the more materialistic games of life.

The first cut on side one is Hummingbird, which apart from encouraging my parakeet to sing along, is a good opener, and sets the mood for the rest of the album. And the remaining songs also all have something to more than just recommend them.

The words occasionally touch on the religious beliefs of the duo, but this doesn’t come over in a heavy handed way They sound sincere and happy when they mention their personal influences and do not come across as super-salesmen Jesus freaks. It’s all very acceptable, with no pressures on the listener to be converted to their brand of religion. As it should be. A Dion song. Attraction Works Better Than Promotion, comes to mind when trying to describe how the spiritual side of Seals and Crofts strikes me.

This American duo have a minor reputation in this country. This new album should enhance it. James Seals and Dash Crofts Summer Breeze is a highly suitable recording to have around this winter. They make a good addition to an electric fire or central heating. Have a listen.

WAR HEROESJimi HendrixTrack Deluxe 2302020

This record is the latest posthumous release by Jimi Hendrix to be brought out in this country, and of those so far released. War Heroes is the third to be issued by Polydor. In comparison to the last album of his put out by this company, Hendrix In The West, the material included is not quite as strong.

But that doesn’t mean to say that it is not another valuable collection of unheard Hendrix. Of the numbers included, Highway Chile is the only one that has appeared before. This alternative take is different enough from the original to make it worth hearing. The rest of the songs and instrumentals range from remarkable through to just interesting. A version of Duane Eddy’s Peter Gunn is begun but abandoned, and makes you wish that they hadn’t given up. The second side contains the best tracks. Midnight and Beginning feature some beautiful, mind-blowing guitar work, with the rest of the group providing the powerful, all out backing so much associated with the best of Hendrix’s recorded work and the excitement it still generates.

Whilst I dislike the cashing in on unused material and old takes by some record companies, I think that if the records are of this standard then it is important that they are made available. Jimi Hendrix is an irreplaceable artist, but at least we can still be amazed at the genius and magic of his talents on record.

BACK STABBERSO’JaysCBS 65257

The O’Jays are a new soul outfit who are at present riding high in the singles charts with their cut, Back Stabbers. It’s also the title track of their first album.

Their music is uptown soul, with a fair smattering of dynamics, which occasionally is a little reminiscent of Sly & The Family Stone. The opening number, When The World’s At Peace, is particularly close to the Sly sound. At times there are also similarities to the Chi-Lites. These are influences though, rather than rip-offs and for a first album they are surprisingly good. The originality portrayed makes me think they have even better things to offer on future releases.

Soul music has been for too long relegated to just singles. The O’Jays are yet another group to bring out an album that is a complete entity and not just two hit singles and a load of fillers.

A SONG FOR YOUThe CarpentersA&M AMLS 63511

There are quite a few ‘middle of the road’ groups around, many of whom have met with considerable success (The New Seekers), but The Carpenters are most certainly on top of the pile.

The opening track, and possibly the most impressive on the album, is A Song For You. It is also used as a reprise at the end of the record. The Carpenter’s version of Leon Russell’s Superstar, on their last album, was one of the finest recordings of the song, if not the best, and the choice of using another Russell number was a wise one. Unfortunately for Russell, his voice doesn’t give the songs the depth and sincerity they need. Mind you, his rockers cannot be beaten. Bob Messenger’s sax solo on A Song For You complements the song well. Four of the other songs included are by Richard Carpenter, whose writing techniques consistently improve. His Goodbye To Love has given the group yet another hit single, for it is currently highly placed in the charts.

The production and arrangements are as usual faultless and of the three albums they have released, this is undoubtedly the most enjoyable. Karen Carpenter’s vocals are strong and passionate, but at no time become too syrupy or over-emotional..

The Carpenters have produced an extremely enjoyable album that is never clumsy or over-done. On the levels they work on, they always achieve what they set out to do.

EARTH MOTHERLesley DuncanCBS 64807

Earth Mother is the second album of Lesley Duncan. The first, whilst much raved over in music circles, failed to impress the record buying public. This one has much more chance of being a success.

An obvious remark to make would be to say she is Britain’s Carole King or Joni Mitchell. But she could very easily be so. Her songs are about people and the complicated, often sad, lives they live. Nothing is forced though, you can take your time to absorb the stories and messages that Lesley Duncan sings about.

This lady is no ‘pie in the sky’ dreamer either. She knows about realities as her lyrics show, and throughout the record she displays a down-to-earth awareness of what’s going on around her. You just have to listen to Earth Mother to understand that – it’s dedicated to the ecology organisation Friends of the Earth.

The simple honesty of a line like “You caged the songbird but you can’t make it sing” from Fortieth Floor shows a darker side to a personal love affair and also makes a lot of sense in other contexts. One of my favourite tracks is By and Bye, which finishes the second side. It is a send-up of an old-time harmony group, but is ever such a friendly one.

The musicians that accompany Lesley are the cream of London session men. Chris Spedding is on guitar, Barry de Souza takes the credits for drums and percussion, and Andy Bown helps out on bass. The album is produced by Jimmy Horowitz, who is very aware of the right sound for an artist such as this.

Lesley Duncan deserves to be heard and recognised as an exceptional singer and a very gifted songwriter.

THE BEST OF BREADBreadElektra K42115

If you are into dreamy, romantic, soft rock music then this is an excellent collection of Bread’s best bakings

Included are their two biggest hits in this country, Make It With You and Baby I’m A Want You. Both songs still sound as good as they did when first released, and promise to become continued favourites for the end of parties and near to closing time at discotheques. These two numbers are both delicate and gentle love songs which would become painfully ‘gooey’ if handled in the wrong way, but Bread’s treatment turns them into moody, drifting, un-possessive reflections on love and desire.

A very pretty album that has a wide appeal to dreamers and romantics of all ages. And we’ve all got a soft, receptive side, haven’t we?

CATCH BULL AT FOURCat StevensIsland ILPS 9206

After bringing out three of the best singer/song-writer albums around, I find this new release a great disappointment.

The production and the arrangements are still inventive, their playing a
inventive, the playing and singing are as good as before, but somehow this time out the songs as a whole evade being anything more than mere background music. The obvious failure is the songs, or rather the words they are comprised of. They are either trite and pretentious, and are often very boring and uninspired.

I know that Catch Bull At Four is high in the record charts on both sides of the Atlantic, but Steven’s reputation is enough at present to understand why. If he is to maintain his position of popularity he must make better offerings than this.

Father and Son and Where Do The Children Play? are still as good as ever though, so I’ll play the earlier albums till Cat brings out something as excellent as those.

BRUCE RUFFINRhino Records SRNO 8001

After recently beginning to acquire a liking for reggae music, I find Bruce Ruffin’s first album a rather mixed collection of failures and successes.

Mad About You, which reached the lower parts of the singles charts, is the opening cut, and is one of the best songs, even if it rather corny. Other tracks worth listening to are Save The People on side one, whilst Rain, We Can Make It and Colourless World on the reverse side are good. The rest are rather ordinary but quite painless.

This record is the first album to appear on EMI’s new reggae label. It is not an unpleasant attempt, but could have done with a little more thought and versatility.

WHO CAME FIRSTPeter TownshendTrack Deluxe 2408201

Peter Townshend, leader of the Who, claims that this is not his first solo offering. It is, in Townshend’s opinion, a mixture of unissued Who tracks and songs previously only available on a limited edition album dedicated to his late guru, Meher Baba.

Apparently the group and its leader are having a difficult time working out what they should do next. They are still one of the most exciting rock groups to see ‘live’, but on the recording front they still haven’t produced anything significant since Tommy, which is, if you remember, the rock opera.

Many of the tracks on this labum are reminiscent of earlier work, whilst the others seem a little more than fillers. I also find Townshend’s slightly ‘holier than thou’ attitudes a little pretentious, no matter what his good intensions are. Let’s See Action, also available as The Who’s latest single, is the most rewarding track.

Who fans will no doubt have heard this and already passed their own judgements by now, but there is very little to interest anyone else on this sadly disappointing record. Townshend is capable of better things.

HOMECBS 64752

Home is CBS’s latest entry for the rock and roll bigtime. What immediately strikes you about them is the interplay between the two lead guitars, which they use to great effect throughout the album.

Basically they are still in with the minor league of English bands, of which there are plenty at present, but they show the promise of progressing, much as Wishbone Ash over the last two years, have worked hard at getting the acclaim they are beginning to achieve.

Back to the album. The opening track, Dreamer, is a good start. But they don’t keep to this high standard throughout the rest of the record. Often the bass is inaudible, although it is to the fore on Rise Up. The vocals tend to become monotonous and make most of the songs sound rather the same.

Fancy Lady, Hollywood Child is an exception to this though, in fact the words and singing far outshine the playing on this track.

Although at times intriguing, side two doesn’t work as well as the previous side. The songs are too weak to hold up to the extended treatments they receive. Things pick up on the last cut, Lady Of The Birds.

Home have faults but they still have a lot going for them. If in a year’s time, they haven’t vanished off the scene, they should be a band to be reckoned with.

By the way, there’s a nice friendly hand on the front cover photograph

SOME TIME IN NEW YORK CITYJohn Lennon & Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band with Elephant’s MemoryApple PCSP 716

I’ve left reviewing John Lennon’s (plus) new double album (priced at £2.90) till last as it is, for me, incredibly difficult to write about. His last two solo albums were a lot easier to come to terms with. This double set is quite definitely something you accept as a further extension of Lennon or you dismiss it (demand that it be removed from the turntable immediately). So please accept the sketchiness of this review as being my dilemma rather than failings of the records.

Personally I enjoy it and think it a valid contribution, but at times I must admit that I find it difficult to take. You see, it’s pretty ‘alternative’ to the previous albums. The first record is studio recorded. The structures of the songs are a lot simpler, the lyrics being very direct. Also very political. Included is Woman is The Nigger Of The World, which caused such a stir in the States when it was released as a single. Other tracks are Sunday Bloody Sunday and The Luck Of The Irish. The cliche ridden sentiments expressed in these two cuts are extremely militant, and I can imagine a lot of people being unable to take such a radical stand about the depressing situation in Northern Ireland.

The second record consists of tapes of two ‘live’ performances. One is from the Filmore East in 1971. and also features Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention. The other was recorded at London’s Lyceum in 1969. This record is called Live Jam LP and that’s exactly what it is.

On both records Yoko Ono is very much in evidence. Yoko’s performing talents are a very debatable point which is best not gone into here. If you’ve found the solo Lennon outings rewarding in the past, give this a listen, otherwise…

STOP PRESS: Heathmen and Younger Men

BLACKPOOL: More than 30 delegates from the Conservative Party conference turned up for a discussion on homosexuality run by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality during the party’s annual conference here.

Most of the delegates at the meeting were Young Conservatives and an informal resolution was passed asking the Government to think of lowering the age of gay male consent from 21 to 16.

Among those taking part were Toby Ryde, CHE’s vice-chairman, Gini Bone, of CHE’s London Women% Group and Ian Harvey, former Tory MP for Harrow, and non-executive vice-president of CHE.

Although no firm proposals came out of the meeting, a spokesman for CHE told Gay News: “We were very pleased with the meeting.”