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Book Review:Taming Your Own Gremlin

by Lang Reid

I“Self Help” books have not been my forte, I must admit, other than those wonderful Haynes Manuals which taught the reader how to disassemble a 1953 Hillman Minx in several easy lessons. “Tap the yoke gently and the bearing should appear,” was one classic phrase I learned from Mr. Haynes. Mind you, nothing about what to do when it didn’t (and never was going to) appear. So when I was presented with this book, Taming Your Own Gremlin by Rick Carson (ISBN 0-06-052022-1), a remake of a twenty-year-old self-help book, I have to admit I was biased before I opened the covers. However, as they say in the classics, “Never judge a book by its cover,” so I did not and kept reading.

According to the blurb, Carson has been extremely successful with his Gremlin farming practices and even runs his own “Gremlin Taming Institute” in Dallas, which must say something for either Carson, the American Gremlins or living (or dying?) in Dallas.

The book is divided into 14 chapters, covering sadness, sex (that should sell the book), self, strategies, choices and as they say in all the late night TV ads, “and much, much more.”

So help me, I waded through every one of those chapters, learning that I had to breathe through my toenails or something equally as daft, while repeating, “I am taming - My gremlin.”

The book has its narrator, the Gremlin Tamer Rick Carson himself, and whilst he has some seemingly good sense things to say, he does it in that particularly nauseating, “father to child” fashion. At time I could almost taste the hot buttermilk as I turned the pages. So goody-goody it hurts. (But don’t worry, it’s only while reading.)

Of interest is the list of ways not to conduct your life - all of which describe the way things are done in Thailand, such as “Smile when you are angry and sad” and “Never disagree” - wonder how we survive!

The book is illustrated with dated quaint pen and ink line sketches of gremlins doing what gremlins apparently do. This ensures that all those with a reading age under 12 years has something to enjoy between those covers, by which I will never ever again judge a book. (I actually liked the cover.)

The review copy was made available by Bookazine and it had the hefty RRP 550 baht. In the beginning it says, “This book is not intended to guide you to enlightenment, to eternal bliss or to riches. It will, however, help you to enjoy yourself more and more each day. It is simple and practical and I hope that reading it gives you much pleasure.” In many ways, that has been totally accurate. I am as unenlightened and impecunious now as I was before I began reading. However, I do not need to spend 550 baht to learn that earth-shattering fact, but apparently some people do. I must admit too, that it did give me a new mantra that I found I could repeat while reading the chapters, “I am not buying - This book!” I didn’t.


Music CD Reviews:Ian Hunter’s Overnight Angels

by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****
After the critical success of Hunter’s previous solo album, “All American Alien Boy”, 1976, but commercial failure, Ian Hunter decided it was time to get a proper band to record the follow up album. But before a band was put together and after a chance meeting in a late night New York bar, Ian Hunter had made a deal with famous American producer Roy Thomas Baker (“Rolling Stones”,” The Cars”, and most famously for giving “Queen” that smooth sound) to do his next album, which was a good start.

Miller Anderson had recommended the services of bassist Rob Rawlinson, who, after the break-up of yet another line-up of “Chicken Shack”, was looking for a worthwhile cause to ply his trade. Ian Hunter had long admired the skills of “The Glitter Band’s” talented but underused keyboard player Peter Oxendale, so he was coerced away by not only being given the keyboard role, but that of musical director.

Dennis Elliot had been a long time friend of Ian Hunter, so in a schedule break with “Foreigner” he moonlighted on the drum stool for the sessions only to be replaced by the time the band went on the road by one of the true wild men of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Curly Smith.

Finally a new guitarist had to be found, and while in America and looking for a Rock ‘n’ Roll guitarist ... why not go for the best? Earl Slick, who had just finished sessions with David Bowie on his ‘Station to Station’ album, was brought in, if you like, as the icing on the cake.

With the band ready and the songs written, the band went into Le Studio Morin Heights, Quebec, Canada, with the intention of laying down a classic Heavy Rock Ian Hunter album as a re-action to the lightweight ‘All American Alien Boy’.

Three days after recording started the house that Hunter had rented for his band’s entourage to stay in, caught fire, completely gutting the building leaving all the occupants escaping with their lives but little else, including musical instruments (shades of “Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’). Both producer Roy Thomas Baker and engineer Gary Lyons were hospitalized and were still feeling the effects of their ordeal during the recordings that followed. So it is not surprising there is a bit of a dramatic edge to all the songs.

The set opens with ‘Golden Opportunity’ in barnstorming fashion, commencing with a lengthy instrumental section, which takes various interesting twists and turns allowing Slick to show off his guitar playing, (slick by name and slick by nature), before settling into the main tempo and pattern of the song. As the guitars bring the song to a shattering conclusion, Roy Thomas Baker shows why he was in such demand as a producer. He wonderfully goes seamlessly from one song into another by going straight into the Hunter lyrically acidic piece ‘Shallow Crystals’, Ian Hunter’s criticism, laid firmly at the door of some unfortunate in his past.

Next comes Hunter’s Tour de Force. In the title track one of the finest and heaviest tracks ever laid down in the studio, the opening creeps in with some muted power chords and some sonic drumming before the whole band comes crashing in with Hunter ranting over the music.

“Charged by the light of some Mariners lantern,

Spitting out coals with triangular sparks,

Can’t you hear the scream of the Overnight Angels as they play.’’

The song rocks along in fine style with plenty of guitar pyrotechnics from Earl Slick and studio wizardry from Roy Thomas Baker as he switches the guitar and vocals from one speaker to another. No wonder the song was taken as the main theme to the horror Movie ‘Asphaltnacht’.

Immediately following this was the beautiful ‘Broadway’, Hunter’s ode to all that is good about the music scene in America. After this the album’s single comes rollicking in, a nifty little song showcasing the abilities of Peter Oxendale. It was selected as “Sounds” single of the week back in those heady days of 1977. ‘(Miss) Silver Dime’ would also have made a fine single apart from it’s obvious storyline, which would have made it impossible to get any airtime on the government controlled radio stations.

‘Wild ‘n’ Free’ with its pace of a runaway locomotive and its marked return to ‘Brain Capers’ era “Mott the Hoople”, is the song that demonstrated to the emerging New Wave of Punk Rock that their debt to Ian Hunter and “Mott the Hoople” was un-questionable, and they had a long way to go to catch up with Hunter’s biting, cynical lyrics, and wild, raunchy rockers.

‘The Ballad of Little Star’ is a loving tribute to Native Americans. ‘To Love a Woman’ closed the album in uncharacteristic style for Hunter being a simple Pop/Soul flavored love song, a very pleasing ending.

Columbia Records have just seen fit to re-release ‘Overnight Angels’ and a fine job of re-mastering they have done too, giving the original recordings an extra shine and clarity. Plus, tacked onto the end as a bonus track we get the last ever recording by the Overnight Angels, ‘England Rocks’. We all know what a little monster that turned out to be, when it was changed to ‘Cleveland Rocks’ and put on Ian Hunter’s following album “You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic”. It was later used as the theme song to ‘The Drew Carey Show’, but here you get it in its original brash short sharp shock version.

Musicians

Ian Hunter - Guitars, Piano, and Vocals

Earl Slick - Guitars

Peter Oxendale - Keyboards

Rob Rawlinson - Bass

Dennis Elliot - Drums

Songs

Golden Opportunity

Shallow Crystals

Overnight Angels

Broadway

Justice of the Peace

(Miss) Silver dollar

Wild ‘n’ Free

The Ballad of Little Star

To Love a woman

England Rocks

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]