Tuesday, November 19, 2013


hi there

this post, alas, is not about the mostly decent horror film called VHS, and indeed not about its sequel, which i have not seen yet. this relates to the actual thing that was VHS, it being the only practical way to watch films not broadcast on TV at home from the late 70s to the late 90s.

there exists a great deal of nostalgia and history for VHS, despite the fact that not one single sane person on earth misses the quality of them. VHS wasn't even the best video format - Beta was, easily, but VHS was cheaper and more widespread. this post then shall be a stack of memories, as well as a look at a few titles, all for random reasons.

why VHS now? well, my sorting and packing business of late, as regular readers will be aware of, has at last got to the stage of attacking a 20+ year VHS collection, a collection untouched for 7 or so years. most of it, then, had to go. and when i say most of it, here are two of the boxes that have been purged and slung, boxes like this also exist, or existed if you like.

with the overwhelming majority of my film collection upgraded to DVD, and a few upgraded again to that Blu Ray thing, the nostalgia thing just was not enough to warrant keeping most of the tapes any longer. however, as with tapes and records,where not everything recorded ever made it on to CD, or even that iTwat thingie, not every film that was released on VHS has made it to DVD.

i thus feel a need to keep a handful of VHS tapes. to be precise (sort of), these.

well, these and an ex-rental copy of Starstruck from Australia, which i packed up before i thought to take pictures, sorry. note, this Starstruck, not the Disney thing.

before we go on to have a look at a few of them, and have a few memories, here is a film i am not keeping, in the hope that it exists on DVD and i can get it at some point. i suspect it does. it's here to address certain observations from one Robert De Niro, and please note the comments around the next two pictures feature *** MASSIVE SPOILERS *** in respect of the film Taxi Driver.

in a recent interview, De Niro said that he would have liked to do a sequel to Taxi Driver, saying he would find it interesting to see what happened to Travis Bickle. he acted with some surprise to news that some fans interpreted the ending as saying Bickle was dead, as that was never the intention.

anyway, methinks De Niro forgets that he did make a sequel to Taxi Driver, with Martin Scorsese no less. well, it is sort of a sequel.

The King Of Comedy is a dark, frequently (despite the low age restriction) disturbing and rather funny parody of Taxi Driver. it was also well ahead of its time, which is probably why not many saw it at the time and it's become sadly overlooked if not forgotten over the years.

to say that the character De Niro plays in this one, Rupert Pupkin, is a darker soul than Travis Bickle is no overstatement. star of the show, however, is Jerry Lewis - who plays it straight and should have been an Oscar contender for his work here. the performance from Lewis gives every suggestion that maybe he was an actor that could have carried the infamous The Day The Clown Cried, but it is unlikely we will ever find that out.

so yeah, if you've never seen or even heard of The King Of Comedy, have a look for it.

on to some of the tapes i am keeping, then, and to start with two music ones that have not really surfaced on DVD. except that they sort of have.

if i remember right, Everything Live by the Manic Street Preachers did get a Japanese only DVD release, a DVD of somewhat debatable quality, in particular when looked at the cost of importing it from Japan. as the Manics love making some things exclusive to their Japanese fans only it is unlikely it will ever get a DVD release in the rest of the world, so the VHS of it stays. not ideal, but there you go.

musicians and VHS. back in the 70s, something of a rite of passage for any UK musician visiting New York was to call in at John Lennon's apartment and watch The Exorcist on video. this had all kinds of awesome to it. firstly, in the 70s this whole video business had not really made it to England on a wide basis. secondly, you couldn't see The Exorcist in England at all, as the censors had told Warner to "not even bother" trying to get a certificate for release, so widespread was its reputation. thirdly, that's the John Lennon inviting you round to watch a video. sounds better than, say, Ringo allowing you on to his premises to watch a DVD of Ringo, doesn't it?

as for the Frankie Goes To Hollywood video, Shoot!, well, the record label owning the rights to Frankie are quite expert in never getting a release quite right. the Frankie DVD that came along, Hard On, was sort of OK in a "this is all that is available so it will do" sense. it however missed a few things out. on this VHS, i think, that is not on the DVD, are "backstage banter" bits of footage of the band, apparently lifted from the obscure From A Wasteland To An Artificial Paradise laserdisc, and a different version of Relax, one that is somewhat less orgy related.

also, it is Frankie. asking me to throw out something Frankie related is a bit like saying you really do wish to feel how hard i can punch.

onwards, then, towards an oddity of 80s marketing that made sense at the time. the, if you will, ladies and gentlemen, 'video single'.

not many video singles got released, as it happens, as not many people bought them. i think the biggest seller was probably the I Want Your Sex by George Michael one, since no TV station would screen it. i don't have that one, or any others than these two.

the Sigue Sigue Sputnik one is as class as it gets with the band. you either like them or you don't. Sputnik had a minimum of two drummers on stage and on each song. if you don't get how awesome that is you don't get the band, really.

the video features what some may consider a "live" performance of Love Missile F1-11, intercut with interviews with fans celebrating all things Sputnik. one lady fan says that they are "the best thing since the Sex Pistols". i tend to shout and swear a lot at her, as this overlooks bands like Frankie, and indeed Adam And The Ants, who came in-between those two bands.

as for the Bad News one, well, it has like Sputnik not made it to a DVD release. i don't expect either of these video singles to ever get a DVD release, sadly. Bad News' video single is 10 minutes of Bad News brilliance, featuring their epic cover of Bohemian Rhapsody and a little documentary in regards of what they think of their record label. actually, it could be that the comments they make about their record label are why the label, EMI, are reluctant to actually release loads and loads of Bad News things. which is a shame, as they have lots of fans.

no way could i give up my Bad News video. it's brilliant, and Norman Bastard would twat me one if he found out i had given it away.

more music then, and two bands perhaps more popular - rightly or wrongly -  than Bad News and Sigue Sigue Sputnik combined.

I think that this The Complete Stone Roses video has footage on it that did not make it to DVD. however, now that i think a bit more, it did. there was a 2xDVD set called The Stone Roses, with one disc featuring the documentary here and the (let's be honest, awful) promo videos, with the other disc featuring the brilliant Blackpool Live thing. so i probably didn't need to keep this tape. whoops.

as for the Primal Scream one, i believe i got this off of my mate Shaun. it was made and released at the time of the album, which is to say it is not the recent Screamadelica anniversary tour thing. with the footage on this not on DVD anywhere it means i kind of have to keep hold of the tape. what would Bobby Gillespie say if he found i had thrown it out?

if you asked people of my age to answer honestly, i would wager that they would say they watched the same film more times on VHS than they did with the DVD or "download" of any film today. granted, this could be because we all had a lot less video tapes and only 4 TV channels. whilst that's a partial reason, it gives way to a real reason - because we had so few options, that's why a VHS of a film was cherished and appreciated.

these days, with cheap DVDs and even cheaper downloads (you know what i mean), people can cheaply build a collection of hundreds of films. there was a time when if you had four or five films on video you were considered to have an impressive collection. were those simpler times indeed better times? maybe.

a class thing with VHS was that illicit material just seemed better, no matter how poor the quality of the video was. bootlegs of films were class and owned like a badge of honour. and then of course there was porn.

i introduce that subject as my mate Spiros got quite excited when i told him i was going through my VHS tapes and getting rid of them. he asked if i still had his copy of Under The Rainbow. as it turns out, indeed i did, and here - reluctantly - is the most subtle picture i could take of it.

Under The Rainbow features, let us not hide away from it, midgets. that, i believe, is all i need to tell you. as for why i have it, Spiros went through a short-lived and indeed what many people considered to be an ill-fated experimental period where he gave heterosexuality a go. he gave it a fairly good go for a day or so, but just did not particularly care for what heterosexuality had to offer and did not like at all what he saw in this video he bought in-between purchasing Brut aftershave and trying to eat food with his fingers. so he dumped it on me, cheers for that.

moving on, and to a band i love but rarely mention here, The Stranglers.

there have been quite a few DVDs of The Stranglers out, but none of them have covered the ground of these two videos, in particular the superb The Old Testament collection. this tape, for a start, features solo videos from Hugh and JJ, with JJ's Freddie Laker in particular being a masterpiece.

The Meninblack In Colour is perhaps not as in your face as what one gets with The Old Testament, but there's still some ace stuff on it.

i imagine you are getting bored of this now, so the last two for you.

ah, Tin Machine. see several previous posts of mine, i guess - they were not a bad band at all, far from it. this is a solid, good live set from the band, even if it does feature rather too much of Hunt Sales on vocals for the more casual of Bowie fans.

chances of this making it to DVD? none, since getting their second album on CD is hard work in itself. one can only hope that Bowie really does do a "tin machine retrospective" set and throws this in to the mix on a disc. some of the Tin Machine promo videos were high budget, impressive affairs too. go on Dave, release them!

as for The Supergrass, it remains one of the funniest films i have ever seen. i have it on DVD, as part of the mostly ace Comic Strip Presents box set, but for some reason they have made strange and weird cuts to the film. not censorship ones, but what seems like "timing" ones. best i hold on to the VHS, then, with the full version of the film on it.

and i believe that will do, thanks.

many thanks for reading, and if you have some fond memories of the days of VHS, if not the VHS tapes themselves (note how i steered away from subjects like rewinding and tracking), you are not alone, it would seem!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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