Friday, April 10, 2015


WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY BACK IN 2008, I BEGAN AN (INFREQUENTLY) REOCCURING FEATURE ON THIS BLOG CALLED "THE FIVE SONGS".  I sadly haven't done a new one since 2010.  But since this is the 10th anniversary of this here blog, I thought I'd revive it.  Now, I doubtless let it fall by the wayside after I created my audio blog "BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA" where I could post all the songs I wanted.  However, the actual concept of "The Five Songs" wasn't about posting audio but conceptually choosing a block of five songs which somehow went together.  If you click on the label "The Five Songs" at the bottom of this post, you can see all the previous instances as well as a "Mission Statement" explaining the concept.  Basically, the idea was inspired by Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Five Mystical Songs", the songs must be carefully handpicked by me from only songs I actual own and any reader of this blog may suggest a "subject" for a future "Five Songs" post which I may choose to "accept" if I think I can choose five appropriate songs for said subject.  

Since this is the 10th anniversary of this blog, I thought songs about the past would be apropos.  Some of you reading will no doubt think "Does ever look in any OTHER direction?"  The simple answer would be:  Nope, not really.  And until the present gets less tedious and more interesting (and as long as this 10th anniversary is going on), I don't see that changing anytime soon.  With that, "The Five Songs" brings you a group of ditties which I really resonate with and capture that "reminiscing about bygone days" vibe I'm looking for.  And for this week, you'll be able to listen to "The Five Songs" over in that box on the right hand column over there.  Just click on the first sound file and listen away (you can also have them play one after the other by selecting that little sprocket-looking icon and clicking on the autoplay thang.

  1. REMEMBER (CHRISTMAS)  by Harry Nilsson  -  Ever since I was a child I've loved this song.  And it happens to be from one of my favourite albums of all time, too.  Me parentals bought this album new upon release and it spun quite often in the old wood-paneled living room on Linwood Avenue in Maple Surple.  The song, contrary to the parenthetical in the title, has nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas.  I suppose the word appearing in the parentheses is due to the use of "sleigh bells" in the song.  These are not meant to evoke the yuletide season per se but are instead, I think, meant to drum up feelings of nostalgia which are readily triggered by the sound of these sleigh bells and their associations with childhood Christmases.  But this is not a Christmas song, I swear!  It's also not about STAR WARS despite it's opening line:  "Long ago/Far away/Life was clear/Close your eyes".  These words hopefully cause the listener to immediately open themselves up to remembering as the dreamy instrumental piano brings us to the line:  "Remember/is a place from long ago/remember/filled with everything you know/remember/when you're sad and feeling down/remember/turn around".  This, to me, warns that in our seemingly endless surge towards this "future" that everyone's so concerned about, it's important to stop and turn around towards our past so that we don't forget what brought us to this point and what formed us as human beings.  I have to stop myself from simply printing ALL the lyrics to this magnificent song but here's the next important line:  "Remember/life is just a memory/remember/close your eyes so you can see".  There's something of the "stop and smell the roses" philosophy going on here which I think is very important.  This is such an exquisite jewel of a song that I'm still shocked to this day that it's not as famous as the Beatles' YESTERDAY.  And no, that overplayed song will not appear in this "Five Songs" list.  The endless, blind drive toward setting goal after goal after goal (which this current society seems to value above all else) does not leave room for what it means to be human; and what is the use of working yourself to death if you're not living an actual conscious life every day?  It's not getting to some end goal that's important; it's how you live your life on the way.  "Remember/life is never as it seems/Dream".
  2. LOOKING BACK by Nat King Cole  -  This 1958 song has Nat seemingly veering into a little country and western area.  If that might seem a little odd, it's also quite odd that this is the only song in these five "looking back" songs which is about regret and the mistakes we make throughout a lifetime.  "Looking back over my deeds/I can see signs a wise man heeds/and if I just had the chance/I'd never make that same mistake again".  Songs about looking back might seem the opportune time to think about where we went wrong or what we'd do differently but that's not what I wanted this "five songs" group to be primarily about.  There may be a small aspect of that to it but overall these songs to me are more importantly about memories and what make us who we are. 
  3. NIGHT MOVES by Bob Seger  -  This is exactly what I'm talking about.  Probably the ultimate "coming of age" song, Seger raps rhapsodic about his teenage years.  That time when we're somewhere between being a kid and being an adult.  This theme will be revisited in the very next song, funnily enough!  But right here, Bob Seger really takes us on a trip in the wayback machine to the high summer of life.  In fact, the frequent repetition of the lines:  "in the summertime/in the sweet summertime" drives this point home quite vividly.  This is an intensely summery song; however, Bob Seger is looking back into his past so he doesn't leave it all rosy-coloured glasses on bright sunny summer days. At the song's three minute mark, he seems to break from his reverie: "I woke last night to the sound of thunder/how far off I sat and wondered/started humming a song from 1962/ain't it funny how the night moves/just don't seem to have as much to lose/strange how the night moves/with autumn closing in".  And at that moment in the song, where he's brought it down to an almost hushed quiet with no accompaniment but a softly strummed acoustic guitar, Bob Seger brings the song to an complete stop for a few seconds.  One of the most arresting moments in pop music.  Before once again restarting the song.  This particular song goes out to my friend and co-worker Angel who likes to torment his girlfriend by randomly breaking out into a chorus of this song at the most unexpected moments!
  4. 1979 by Smashing Pumpkins  -  Once again, we're back to that "coming of age" thing and vivid flashes of memory this time from Billy Corgan's adolescence.  Corgan too has said that this song arose from a vivid memory of him sitting in his car in the rain at a traffic light during his teenage years (between being a kid and being an adult once again) with the strong feeling of waiting for something to happen but nothing's quite happening yet.  "The street heats the urgency of now" really captures that odd moment at the end of high school when we seems to be idling (like Corgan's car in the rain) in a momentary holding pattern before we burst forth into the "real world" of forming a grown-up life for oneself.  The future stretches out before us at that age and we have that feeling of immortality:  "With the headlights pointed at the dawn/we were sure we'd never see an end to it all". 
  5. IN MY LIFE by the Beatles  -  And I'd like to end the five songs with this perhaps obvious but I think vital choice of perhaps the finest song about looking back at one's life.  "There are places I remember/all my life/though some have change/some forever not for better/some have gone and some remain".  We all know the song.  There's really no need to quote the whole thing; which I could very easily do.  The crux of the song, to me, is sort of a conquering of death through memory.  There's that old cliché that those we've lost live on through our memories of them and, to me, that's something of the truth.  It's the closest we can get to still having them with us.  That's why our memories are so vitally important.  To me, the song loses its way when John Lennon veers off into the rather typical "love song" territory that Bob Dylan criticized the Beatles about; that is, how he suddenly starts singing to a girlfriend that, above "lovers and friends I still can recall/some are dead and some are living" he loves her more than any of them.  I think he'd find, after the passage of time and the probability that whomever he was singing too probably didn't stay in a relationship with him for very long (at that young age) and that those "people and things that went before" are still just as important memories as they ever were.  A momentary infatuation which hasn't lasted the test of time can't really compare with those past important people and events which remain with us in our memory throughout a lifetime.  If this momentary woman Lennon is singing to, in fact, lasts to become that important, she will still not supercede those others but will join their ranks as equally important.  There's more than enough love in the human heart to go around!
So there you have it:  The Five Songs look back into the past.  As I've said, it is our memories that make us who we are.  Our memories also keep alive those who are dead and past places and events which don't exist anymore.  Please consider making a donation to the fight against Alzheimer's Disease.  This terrible disease not only robs a person of the very memories that make them who they are but it also robs those of us who love them of that very person we love long before they leave us.  Please make a donation today.   


With my cousins Jimmy & Kathy!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015


AT THE RISK OF THIS BEING SOMETHING OF AN ANTI-CLIMAX,  I WROTE EXTENSIVELY ABOUT THESE STORIES IN EARLIER POSTS SO THERE'S NOT MUCH I CAN ADD ABOUT THE DETAILS OF THESE TWO STORIES.  But the sash of Rassilon and the fishbowl of Morbius must be awarded to crown the winner of my greatest classic DOCTOR WHO story of all time.  Therefore, it seems like there's nothing for it but to cut to the chase!  You will recall that the final match-up is between two number one seeds:  THE SEEDS OF DOOM versus PYRAMIDS OF MARS.  So there's nothing more to it than to announce that the winner of the greatest classic DOCTOR WHO story is:


Sorry, MEGLOS fans.  Hey, I said "cut to the chase" back there.  Harrison Chase, that is.  See what I did there?  Ahem.

 But seriously, ladies and jelly babies, I've watched and rewatched SEEDS OF DOOM for decades (and I just, in fact, watched it AGAIN last month for this field of 64) and it's always superb!  Interestingly enough, I see that on the wonderful, hilarious and indispensable  "ADVENTURES IN SPACE WITH MY WIFE" blog, the notoriously hard-to-please Sue Perryman gave SEEDS OF DOOM a 10/10 score.  Sue has spoken the eternal judgment:  "That was excellent!  What do you want me to say?". 
When husband Neil asked for elaboration, Sue replied:  "I’m not happy about the Brigadier being stuck in Geneva again. Are aliens attacking Switzerland? If not, where the hell is he? And Benton should have been there at the end with the weed killer. But apart from that, it was great. It’s a proper drama. There aren’t many characters in this, but the ones we do have are all brilliant. We get to spend lots of time with them and the actors are playing it totally straight. I love their little back-stories and quirky mannerisms; I really care about them, even the Butler was great. It reminds me of a Hammer Horror film with loads of really good character actors in it. I can’t really fault it – the direction, the music, the lighting, the performances. Yeah, you could repeat this on BBC1 tomorrow and people would still enjoy it."  I couldn't have put it better myself! 

Growing up in the 70s, I was always a "horror kid" with a lesser-but-still-profound love of science fiction and fantasy.  On CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE (Channel 48) as well as the beloved Dr. Shock programmes MAD THEATER and HORROR THEATER (Channel 17) every Saturday afternoon, horror movies were routinely interspersed with science fiction films from those classic fifties romps (THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL) to all manner of other sci-fi goodies.  I grew up watching the occasional reruns of TWILIGHT ZONE and was of course a huge fan of STAR TREK (which was constantly airing on UHF all through my childhood years).  Certainly when the phenomenon of STAR WARS occurred in 1977, when I was 12 years old, I was also immediately captivated.  And there is no doubt that the importation of DOCTOR WHO onto U.S. television screens on PBS in 1978 owed something to Mr. Lucas' success; anything remotely "science fiction" was uber-in!  I've mentioned before how my Dad's friend Ronnie mentioned this cool show that just started airing on Channel 12 and how I should take a look at it.  I've also mentioned previously how the first episode of DOCTOR WHO that I ever saw was in fact the second episode of PYRAMIDS OF MARS which, owing to nostalgic importance alone makes it's second place showing here a bit of a shocker!  Of course, unlike STAR WARS (and to a great extent STAR TREK), DOCTOR WHO in the Tom Baker/Philip Hinchcliffe era (which were the first to air over here in the States and the first I saw) often combined it's science fiction with a healthy dose of horror:  the ubiquitous "watching from behind the sofa" cliché about DOCTOR WHO which made me love it all the more.  The Doctor, as played perfectly by Tom Baker, was unlike any hero I'd ever encountered in my baker's dozen-years of existence; he never used a gun and eschewed fisticuffs unless there was no other choice.  Instead, the Doctor outwitted his opponents often with a fantastic sense of humour (as only Tom Baker could bring to the character) combined with a quirky "alien-ness" and a pathological rebellious aversion to authority figures.  Could there be a better hero for any kid to follow on adventures?!?!?  I should say not!  Tom Baker was and always will be THE Doctor; those who came before him or after him, however superb and wonderful most of them are, will always be compared to Baker's example.  The fact that Tom Baker is a genuine British eccentric in real life, not just acting the part for a role, brought a lustrous sparkle to his performance.  The spark may have dimmed during the latter part of his tenure due to his disheartened exhaustion with the show but it still burst forth every now and then to remind us how truly perfect for the role he was. 

This having been said, the very concept of DOCTOR WHO is probably one of the richest in possibilities I've ever seen:  an alien runaway Time Lord "appropriates" a TARDIS and can travel anywhere in space AS WELL AS anywhen in time.  Oh, and he can also regenerate now and then so any actor in the role can be replaced with any other actor without missing a beat!  Does this make the possibility for stories anything less than infinite?!?  That's why, during this "field of 64" we've had everything from the (admittedly showing my leanings towards) horror episodes to straight science fiction to straight historical dramas.  There are very few television programmes which could feature stories like THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG and THE GUNFIGHTERS and THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI and THE AZTECS and THE MIND OF EVIL . . . all in the same TV programme!  Whereas another show might seem hopelessly schizophrenic, this refreshing mixture of all genres is par for the course in DOCTOR WHO.  This extends to the wide range of actors who have portrayed the Doctor in all his incarnations; all of them wonderful in their own ways even when, in the case of Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy, they were sabotaged by their own producer's seemingly unending string of bad decisions . . .  or, in the case of Paul McGann, who only got one shot at the role in a botched production.  McCoy, of course, had the show beginning to start getting things right (before the BBC sadly pulled the plug on him) and Colin Baker and Paul McGann have now proven how great they could have been with their superb audio work for Big Finish.  To any actor, to any writer, to any producer, to any director, to anyone involved with the show, DOCTOR WHO can be a limitless opportunity to tell the best stories one can.  The premise of DOCTOR WHO is so incredibly rich that it can be all that imagination and passion can make it.

Simply put, this show means a lot to me.  After all, it seems an inescapable  fact that I've been watching DOCTOR WHO without interruption for 37 years now.  Even during the time when the show wasn't being produced (and, for that matter, even in the years BEFORE it's cancellation), I was rewatching it on video and, latterly, dvd.    And I still find to this day an incredible "rewatchability" to all these DOCTOR WHO stories; because, in the final analysis, whether THE SEEDS OF DOOM beat PYRAMIDS OF MARS or not really doesn't matter because we don't have to choose.  We can watch ALL the DOCTOR WHOs we want (those that exist, that is) over and over again.  And that is more valuable to me than the key to time, the ring of Rassilon and K-9's dog whistle all rolled up into one!   

Monday, April 06, 2015




Happy viewing!

Doctor who - The Seeds of Doom Tribute

Doctor Who Episode Tribute No.71 - Pyramids Of Mars

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


Marvel's Bicentennial Calendar features Conan the Barbarian for April with art by Gil Kane.

DC's 1977 calendar features Ramona Fradon's portrayal of Plastic Man.

DC's 1978 calendar finds Aquaman battling Weather Wizard by the superlative Jim Aparo.

1975 finds the Avengers dominating the month of April at Marvel Comics.

The Bicentennial calendar by DC provides a group portrait of some of the greatest super-villains provided by Neal Adams & Dick Giordano.