Woodstock

We seem to be celebrating a lot of 50 year anniversaries right now, which tells you that the late 1960s was a great and historic time for culture of all types.

Next year, 2019, is 50 years since the Woodstock festival.

Now, remember, there were no mobile phones in those days, no web, and the UK had three television channels and a few radio stations. I do remember, I was 15, hearing about it and I certainly remember seeing the film. It was an 18 certificate, at the Capitol in Scarborough. A group of us went, and the only one not admitted was the only one old enough to actually go.

The lengthy film recorded the three days and peace, drugs and music very well. There is now a nearly 4 hour director’s cut available. It was shot using 16mm cameras, but the presentation (in some places) was on 70mm, using all kinds of fancy optical tricks to have multiframed parallel events on screen. And the sound was good, for the day.

Estimates seem to vary about attendance, which soon became a free-for-all. 400,000 is a popular number, but it’s only a guess I think. It was notable for the generally good, well-behaved atmosphere. More than anything, it was an anti-Vietnam war protest.

But what is interesting is who played, mostly American of course, some largely forgotten, here in the UK at least, and many dead as you would resonably expect after 50 years (Cocker, Hendrix, Garcia, Joplin, half of The Who, Havens and so on). Some are still going unchanged, Crosby, Stills & Nash for example.

Ah, happy times, and a moment in cultural history. However, it is sobering to realise that the even was closer to World War II (25 years) than it is to now (50 years). Could it happen now? No, for financial reasons, and because we are more cynical and more restless.

Rain

It was announced today that actor Douglas Rain has died at the age of 90.

Although not a widely recognised actor, Rain had a pivotal role in a film we are celebrating just this year, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Mr Rain was the voice of HAL the computer.

It was the perfect voice, cold and slightly expressionless yet somehow at the same time, the one character in the film you really feel for. HAL’s confusion over his part in the mission is beautifully expressed by the actor.

Mr Rain rarely, if ever talked about this work on this film.

The Beatles

I don’t know who looks after the interests of The Beatles these days. Neil Aspinall used to, but he has been dead some years.

Anyway, Giles Martin seems to have taken on the mantle of re-mixing Beatles’ music for modern times. Mr Martin’s qualification for this is that he is the son of original Bealtle producer George Martin. It also assumes that these classic albums of the 1960s need remixing and that there is a demand for such stuff.

The latest is the double album The Beatles. Some people call it the white album, because of its cover.

Looking on YouTube and elsewhere you see a lot of people unboxing this new product celebrating 50 years since the original release. I don’t get the point of unboxing, at least some parts of it. A twenty minute discussion of the ruggedness of the cardboard box it came in isn’t of interest, but sometimes a look at the contents can be, making you realise that replica tickets, coasters and the rest are pretty useless.

Some other YouTubers have reviewed the new mix. There is one classic clip where the person tells us 10 things you never knew about the album. The first was ‘did you know that it’s really not called the white album at all?’ Well, yes, anyone who has even a vague interest in the product must surely know that.

Another YouTuber has posted four lengthy videos reviewing each and every track. He starts by saying, of the new version, that everything is clearer, stronger bass etc (he means louder, in the way of so many didgital releases – push the levels to the max), and says he mentions this at the outset as it applies to the whol album, so he doesn’t have to repeat it 30 times. Then he goes over each track and for many he says ‘I have nothing to say about this track at all, other than it’s clearer than the original with stronger bass…’. He also gets many track titles wrong. How can you have confidence in someone who cannot even get the basics right??

I would question the need for this new product, but you might say, as someone indeed did, we need a modern didgial version to suit current tastes.

Well, first of all, it’s not just a re-mix. Parts have been removed and replaced, eg the mellotron part on The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill. It’s the stereo elements that have been re-done. I have an original mono lp, and it still sounds great. It is more coherent than the stereo version, and for nearly all Beatles’ albums, was the one they wanted you to judge. I didn’t like the previous thing Martin did. Subtleties were lost, it was too loud and in your face. However interesting the extras are, you won’t listen to them more than once or twice.

And boy is it expensive, in all the versions available.