Sunday, June 19, 2011

Update/New Blog

I know it has been many moons since posting my last update. After much consideration, I have decided to add a new blog. Don't worry dear readers, I will still continue to post reviews, articles, etc. I have dedicated this new blog to one of my many passions, rock and pop music. If you're curiosity is getting to your head, you can view my blog at

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Syd Barrett: A Foundered Genius of Rock and Roll

My memory of Pink Floyd dates back to my early childhood of staring at my dad’s copy of Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl, completely fascinated by the album’s artwork. Of course it would be years later into my adulthood that I would listen to the album in its entirety. One track that remained on repeat during my drives to and from work was Brain Damage with it’s haunting theme of madness echoing through my speakers. I have heard the name of Syd Barrett through conversations with my dad. “Yeah the song Brain Damage is about Syd Barrett,” my dad said, “He was the founding member that went crazy.” Years later, another conversation sparked between my dad and brother about Floyd and I was insisted on giving Piper At the Gates of Dawn a listen. Curious to their recommendation, I purchased the album and the rest is a magical odyssey bound by music. I found Barrett’s songs to be incredibly intriguing to the aural senses and I yearned to learn more about this enigmatic figure.

During the mid sixties Pink Floyd was all the rage amongst the free thinking hipsters of London with the guitarist/front man as their psychedelic messiah. The US had Jim Morrison while the UK had Syd Barrett as its elusive star. Like his American predecessor, Barrett had all the assets of a bonafide rock idol; a keen eye for songwriting, a charismatic stage presence and an exquisite taste in fashion. Another attribute that Barrett possessed that served as a blessing and possible curse was he was physically beautiful. With his stunning model good looks, Barrett was the envy of masculine music seekers and highly desirable amongst fawning women. Just as his star was on the rise; the stress of maintaining his image paired with copious amounts of acid ingestion began to weigh down on Barrett. While on a promotional tour in the US, his mental stability cracked and he left the group shortly thereafter. Barrett would later go on to release two solo albums; The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, both heralded as absolute gems in the music community. The newfound attentions of celebrity proved to be too much pressure for Barrett and after being in the spotlight for only a short period of time, he turned his back and walked away from it all. He moved back with his family in his hometown of Cambridge, changed back to his given name of Roger and spent the rest of his life staying far away from the public eye.

There have been countless sightings of Barrett over the years after his sudden departure, including the infamous story of him showing up at the recording of Wish You Were Here. The ironic twist is that apparently he appeared in the studio while the band was recording Shine on You Crazy Diamond, their grand tribute to the psychologically fragile founder. The tragic part of the situation was Barrett’s physical state, the person that was once regarded as one of the most beautiful men in the world was reduced to a hollowed shell of his former self; bald and overweight. In fact, with his drastically changed appearance, no one in his former band even recognized him. Could it be that the tortured artist resented his own beauty to the extent that he shaved his hair and gained weight as a form of rebellion? Who knows -- but from what Roger Waters and the other band members have said about him, it would seem to be a very Syd-like gesture.

Many people have their theories about Barrett’s mental state. There are those that claimed that he was schizophrenic while others claim that he fried his brain on LSD. While their theories make logical sense, I personally believe that the reason for his behavior -- his retreat into drugs, his eventual breakdown and flight from the limelight -- could be summed up in this simple reason: the man did not want to be a celebrity. For all we know, Barrett would have been perfectly happy with having minimal success as the darlings of the underground. It is clear that his former bandmates desired more than just playing small dive bars in London. Why else would they have wanted to embark on tackling American audiences? Barrett was an artist, someone who was passionate about his craft but became disillusioned by success; it was that disillusionment that would completely taint his desire to express himself musically.

It’s possible that he learned first hand the dangers of rock and roll excess. After Barrett completed his two solo albums, the Rock and Roll community was shaken to its core by the deaths -- in rapid succession -- of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. Could it be possible that the deaths of so many rock icons finally pushed him over the edge? Many people will vehemently state that Barrett was already out of his mind and completely tuned out from reality by then, but there are those that will disagree about his psychological condition. In an interview with Iggy the Eskimo, the naked woman on the cover of The Madcap Laughs and Barrett’s girlfriend at the time, she claims that he was in a very collected state of mind around her. "People talk about Syd's madness and his dark side, but I never saw it,” she said, "We had a wonderful giggly time. There were no sinister moments.” If this is the case, then there is no doubt that Barrett must have been aware of the senseless tragedies that had befallen his famous predecessors. Therefore he went into a frenzied thought that he would end up just like them if he didn’t escape the business.

If anything, Barrett’s mental breakdown actually saved his life. He was one of rock‘s luckiest men, in that respect. All he wanted was a tranquil life without the burden of being a superstar and that’s exactly what he got. In the end, he outlived many rock icons that would succumb to their own excess (Keith Moon, John Bonham, etc.) He is very lucky that he didn’t end up a casualty like Kurt Cobain -- a man who after less than four years in the spotlight was found dead in his home, with most of his head blown off by a shotgun and a massive dose of heroin in his bloodstream.

Unlike most rock stars that drift from the spotlight and try to make a comeback by plastering their face on reality TV a la Bret Michaels, one thing is for certain: Syd Barrett is a legend whose legacy will never fade. The youth of the new generation, yearning to experience that musical dream, are becoming inspired by Barrett to pick up the guitar and start writing songs. Syd Barrett was a genius who never fully understood the impact that he had on millions of people when he was alive. Sadly, our hope of him coming to terms with his iconic mark on the music world ended when he passed away five years ago -- but although he’s no longer with us, I’m sure his spirit has been given closure on his past and he has his Fender Esquire in his hands playing that great gig in the sky.

* quote from Iggy the Eskimo is from an interview with Mojo magazine. The article and interview can be found here

Saturday, December 4, 2010

In Memoriam: Ingrid Pitt (1937-2010)

Okay so I'm over a week late at reporting this. I haven't had access to my computer so cut me some slack. I am deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Ingrid Pitt, the sultry goddess of gothic horror. I just watched The Vampire Lovers for the first time last night. She bewitched me, she looked so stunning with her lovely brunette locks and beautiful gowns.

To my understanding she was a very sweet woman who loved her fans. In fact she was supposedly planning an Ingrid Pitt fan convention before she passed. RIP Miss Pitt! The world of horror will not be the same without your seductive presence.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Essential Music for Halloween

Besides my undying love for horror movies, I am also a huge fan of the music. To me the musical score is just as important in creating that eerie ambiance to a film as the images themselves. Since Halloween is exactly a week away, I thought I would list some highly recommended tunes to add to the Halloween party playlist. I wish to thank the lovely Brittney-Jade Colangelo at Day of the Woman for inspiring me to put this list together.

Christopher Komeda - Fearless Vampire Killers

John Harrison - Creepshow

Goblin - Tenebre

Fabio Frizzi - Zombi 2

John Carpenter - Prince of Darkness

Keith Emerson - Inferno

Christopher Young - Hellraiser

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Horror Movies for Newbies: Halloween III Season of the Witch

So for this first installment of Horror Movies for Newbies, I thought I would take everyone back to a treasured film from my childhood. A film bound by controversy from the beginning but not the kind of controversy that brought attention to films such as The Human Centipede or A Serbian Film because of its disturbing nature. Instead this film is taboo for its title and the franchise it’s supposed to be representing. In the past, members of horror movie message boards across the globe have expressed that this film is one of the worst horror films of all time. I on the other hand consider this film to be one of the greatest horror films of the 1980s. Anyone who likes to hate on it does so only because it’s so far from what they were expecting: a Halloween movie without Michael Myers? BLASPHEMY! The film in question is Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

I have scoured many horror movie message boards reading fans’ responses to what they consider the worst horror movie of all time. A majority of the responses were on Halloween III and all of their answers are the same, “There’s no Michael Myers, therefore it sucks.” Okay, here’s my question to those that bash the film: have you actually sat down and watched the movie? Now I am a big fan of the Resident Evil games, but I actually watched the first film with my expectations set aside and thought that the film was fairly decent, even given how little it actually had to do with the first game. So are you going to give an automatic knee-jerk judgment on a film because it strays from the pattern set by its predecessors?

Well, here is a bit of trivia for you that may help you to understand the reason Halloween III is so different. After Halloween II was released in 1981, John Carpenter devised the idea of turning future Halloween installments into a collection of spooky stories set on Halloween night. While the idea sounds intriguing at first glance, I suppose it was only natural for the audience to expect that since the first two movies had both focused on the same characters (Laurie Strode, Michael Myers, Dr. Sam Loomis), the next sequel would feature more of the same. When John Carpenter and company gave them something completely different, no one knew what to think, and the film tanked at the box office.

I’m gratified to see that the film has since developed a cult following, and that it’s beginning to get some real recognition: now sells Halloween III T-shirts, and well-known Internet personality Brad Jones (of “Cinema Snob” fame) has cited it as one of his favorite horror movies. Now with the audience understanding why the film is so different in the first place, they’re beginning to take a second look. If you can overlook the fact that it is “supposed” to be an official installment, Halloween III is an effective horror film that really exposes the dark side of this fun, beloved holiday.

Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) is called in to see a patient that has been brought to his hospital. The man is passed out with a Halloween mask in his tight grasp; he wakes up in terror to the sound of a commercial for Silver Shamrock Novelties, the manufacturers of the mask he’s holding. Just minutes later, the man is found dead in his room with a crushed skull. The man’s daughter Ellie (Stacy Nelkin) comes looking for answers, and Dan teams up with her to work out the mystery of her father’s death. Their investigation leads them to Silver Shamrock’s headquarters and factory in Santa Mira, a quiet and perfectly normal small California town -- which, like all small towns in horror movies, hides an ugly secret.

Atkins and Nelkin give fantastic performances as Dan and Ellie. You feel for Ellie in her search for the reasons behind her father’s death, and Atkins portrays Dan as a man with grave concern and the determination to seek results. He could have chosen not to meddle in this unforeseen situation, but he instead risks everything to uncover the truth. His desperation leads him to explore the unspeakable grounds of the factory and unmask Silver Shamrock’s mysterious plan and the perpetrator behind it. Ellie is right beside him all the way. She does not lose courage as they discover Santa Mira’s bizarre quirks (shady townspeople, security cameras on ever corner, et cetera). In fact she risks blowing her cover as she runs towards her father’s car on the factory’s lot, right in front of the building‘s security staff.

Of course, Halloween III’s strongest asset has to be the villain himself. All right, so you don’t have Michael Myers quietly accosting people and butchering them to death, but the baddie here is certainly a worthy substitute. Dan O’ Herlihy was best known for playing likable characters like Grig in The Last Starfighter, or even the Old Man in Robocop. Here, playing against type, O’Herlihy churns up a deliciously wicked performance as Santa Mira’s prized and feared leader, Conal Cochran -- the CEO of Silver Shamrock. His presence is intimidating even without the business-suited, zombie-like security drones that swarm about him. His cold yet calculating demeanor, and the venom in his soft voice, are enough to make an audience cringe in trepidation. If you can sit through his speech to Dan about the reason behind his scheme, with that cold and iniquitous tone in his voice, and not felt a chill go down your spine… you’ve got guts, my friend! I consider Cochran’s monologue one of the most memorable and chilling scenes of the entire Halloween series, next to Dr. Loomis talking to Sheriff Braddock about his first meeting with Michael Myers. It is a travesty that Conal Cochran is not on any mainstream lists of Most Terrifying Villains, because he most definitely deserves that honor.

Halloween III
offers everything that a newbie could appreciate: an intriguing storyline, an incredible cast, and a fabulously haunting soundtrack by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth. There’s also some nice special effects to appease the gorehounds, but the content is not so overtly graphic as to turn away the squeamish. And all of this is capped off by one of the most unnerving endings I have ever witnessed in a horror movie, which you are going to have to see to believe. In conclusion: Leave your Michael-based expectations at the door and give Halloween III: Season of the Witch a try. I promise it will not disappoint.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Future Updates/ Attn: Horror Fans

To all of the horror followers out there, I apologize for the lack of horror content lately. However I do have an idea in mind of what I will be offering. My previous Horror Movies for Newbies list is only limited to eleven and there are an array of wonderful films of the macabre that deserve to be recognized. So dear viewers I will be implementing Horror Movies for Newbies into a regular column here on Lady Ash Presents. I will include the classics as well as films I feel deserve attention from the masses. Of course I will continue to include reviews to films that I have not seen.

... stay tuned.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Genius of Rik Mayall part 3: Dancing Queen

There is no denying the fact that Rik Mayall knows how to make an audience burst into laughter. Even in a film with touchy subject matter like Drop Dead Fred, Rik still utilized his trademark goofy facial expressions, lively body language and animated voice to make audiences giggle profusely. Even though Rik’s niche was as a comic for the past twenty years, he was no foreigner to straight acting. Rik grew up in a household that lived and breathed theatrical arts. His parents were both drama teachers and he spent a good deal of his childhood on the stage performing in his parents’ plays. After graduating high school, Rik majored in drama at the University of Manchester where he would meet longtime business partner Adrian Edmondson and the rest is humor history.

After achieving major success in comedy, Rik would follow in the risky footsteps of such noted comedians as Robin Williams and Denis Leary by trying on the dramatic mask. In 1993 and 1995 Rik starred in his own collection of six one hour long dramas titled Rik Mayall Presents for ITV. Even though the series had its share of humor, it was a huge departure from Rik’s more energetic approach. Each episode contained a different element that steps far away from the slapstick, boisterous fare that made Rik a household name in the UK. From the dark and twisted Briefest Encounter to the rich and provocative The Big One, each episode had a unique theme. While the latter was set to the beat of a grittier tune, Dancing Queen is the lightest and best of the bunch, a soft hearted tale of love and friendship that blossoms between two unlikely people.

Neil (the lovely Rik) is a wealthy and sophisticated gentleman that is getting married. The night before the wedding, his friends throw him an extravagant bachelor party. His friend Nigel (Nathaniel Parker) hires a stripper named Pandora (Helena Bonham Carter) to dance at the party. After a drunken induced haze, Neil wakes up on a train next to Pandora (whose real name is Julie). As it turns out, Nigel and his mates drugged Neil and loaded him onto the train as a practical joke. Their plan to get the groom back home has backfired, and Neil is left stranded far away from home on his wedding day.

In the role of the unlucky Neil, Rik shows the audience that he can do more than rely on a hyperactive persona to entertain. In Dancing Queen he proves that he can provide the chops of a legitimate straight actor. His portrayal makes the audience despise Neil at first for his snobby aggressive behavior. Eventually his act of desperation grasps onto the heartstrings and never lets go. In one moving scene, he is seen on a beachside in an emotional breakdown with his arms up in the air screaming about wanting to get married. The way Rik made that poignant delivery was touching and genuine. From the look in his sad expressive eyes to his distressed cries, you experience the pain that Neil is enduring. Here is a man who has been through hell on what is supposed to be the most special and important day of his life.

Rik and Helena ignite chemistry together as Neil and Julie, two people who could not be any more different. Neil was brought up in wealth and refinement while Julie is an independent, carefree woman that lives the seedy lifestyle of a drifter. Despite his snobbish attitude towards her, Julie still maintains her caring personality. In fact it could be agreed that her act of kindness might have saved Neil’s life. As he is on the beach in an emotive state, the fear lingers in the back of the our minds that his misery might drive him to the nearest solution, to walk off into the sea and drown. Luckily Julie would emerge like an angel to rescue Neil from a fateful death by speaking words of encouragement. In the end it is clear that he has fallen in love with her, which sets the backdrop to one of the most exquisite conclusions I have ever witnessed in the show. Julie is twirling an umbrella in her hand while cheerfully dancing to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” on the boom box while Neil is racing down the coastline in his BMW to reach her. In one shot, Neil peers through the window in admiration watching Julie dance. Rik looked so stunning in that moment and the lighting upon him really exemplified his beauty. His smooth complexion, his sparkling eyes, the way his hair swayed in the breeze, Rik looked so beautiful it‘s breathtaking.

Romantic comedies are not my cup of tea but Dancing Queen captured my heart. I believe that if older American women watched it, they would admire it as much as Four Weddings and a Funeral and put Rik up on a pedestal next to Hugh Grant as the loveable Englishmen they wish to marry.