FILMING LOCATION SPOTLIGHT – “DALLAS”

On the final Friday of every month in 2021, Limelight Magazine spotlights the filming location site(s) we visited for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) films and TV shows. Today we spotlight three of the filming locations for Dallas, which aired on CBS from from April 2, 1978, to May 3, 1991, and on TNT from June 13, 2012, to September 22, 2014. The top photo is a screen shot taken from the TV show while the photo underneath is what the location looks like when we visited in May 2012 and September 2016. These locations are located in Parker, TX.

Mark Cherone channels Pete Townshend in Who celebration band SlipKid with brother Gary

BY CHRISTOPHER TREACY

Plenty of adolescents have been inspired to pursue the guitar because of Pete Townhsend. But only a few professional guitarists actually end up playing Townshend’s role in a Who cover band, and even fewer are good at it.

Enter Mark Cherone.

As a member of Hurtsmile with his brother, Extreme’s Gary Cherone, he gets to satisfy his ongoing itch to play original material, which has remained his primary musical ambition since attending Berklee College of Music in the mid-80s. This leaves him wide open to enjoy the duo’s other project, SlipKid. Dubbed “A Celebration of The Who,” the brothers Cherone get to channel their heroes with an invigorating showcase of tunes that highlights The Who’s undeniable genius, power, and passion.

Slowly emerging from the pandemic, SlipKid is playing at The Vault Music Hall in New Bedford, MA, on Saturday, January 29, 2022. Purchase tickets HERE. Johnny Barnes and the Nightcrawlers open the show.

Mark Cherone recently took the time to speak with Limelight Magazine about how this project came to be and what it means to him and his brother.  

LM: Do you remember the first time you heard The Who?

MC: I do. I remember. You know, since childhood I’ve grown to love many artists like all of us do, but The Who? The Who made me want to play guitar and be in a band. I saw their movie, The Kids Are Alright, in the theater in the late 70s, I was 10 or 11. A friend of my brother took me. And there it was on the big screen! I just remember seeing Pete Townsend slide across the stage on his knees during “Won’t Get Fooled Again” at the end of the movie, and I just thought he was the coolest person on the planet. I’ve loved him ever since, his whole career, I love his solo albums. I’m just crazy for him, still, and I love The Who. So SlipKid is really a labor of love. I’ve never been in a cover band, only original bands, which, looking back, seems a little odd. I kind of wish I had played in cover bands… maybe it could’ve helped my guitar playing.

LM: So, what were you doing while your brother was having success with Nuno Bettencourt in Extreme?

MC: I was also in a band. Actually, I was in a couple of bands before Gary and I started Hurtsmile with Joe Pessia around 2007. In the time during Extreme’s huge success, I was in a band called Flesh. And Nuno helped us out, helped get our album out. Extreme took us on tour, which was a lot of fun. Then, in the late 90s, I was in a band called Super Zero, which was another great band and fun time. We got two albums out on our own. A Japanese company put out some of our music, so we went over to Japan. And after that, I did another band where I was singing. Since then, I started splitting time between SlipKid and Hurtsmile, since they started around the same time.

LM: How did SlipKid come about?

MC: My whole career, I just dove into the original music thing. Looking back, I don’t know if that was wise, but it’s what I did. Many years ago now, Gary and I talked about doing some kind of Who thing and it just seemed like a cool idea. We talked about doing Tommy, which SlipKid has performed. It kept coming up when we’d see each other. At one point he called and said “Hey, I’ve got a drummer here… come down and let’s run through a couple of songs.” And it just snowballed right away. The very next week, he had a bass player. And the drummer then tells us, “I know a keyboardist that knows all the Who tunes,” and we were like “Get him over here.” So it just came together, and pretty quickly at that. When we’ve performed Tommy… let’s just say it’s a pretty big undertaking. Honestly, I’m not even sure how we pulled it off, but we did the entire thing. The audience seemed to love it and we had so much fun doing it. I really love being in this band.

LM: So, it looks like SlipKid was active for a while and then took a hiatus?

MC: Sort of, yes. This is the second coming of SlipKid. We got started a while ago—maybe 2006 or 2007? I honestly don’t remember, but it was around the same time Hurtsmile started. And we played out all around Boston and the surrounding area. Gary would leave and do Extreme tours and other projects, so we worked around that for about eight years. But then, at a certain point, we took a good ol’ break and we were kind of out of commission for a handful of years. Sometime in 2019, we said let’s try to get this set back up and running and do some shows. We were able to do two shows in January of 2020, and then the pandemic hit, so we ended up taking another year off.

LM: Since this is your first cover band, it must feel completely different to step into somebody else’s catalog. Is it almost a relief? Or, is it more daunting? Maybe a little bit of both?

MC: It’s been interesting and wild. These are songs that we’ve been singing along to, on the radio, in the car, for decades. And then you go to learn the chords and discover surprises like really weird chord changes, and you have to wonder, like, ‘why would he go from here to here??’ But, you have to learn it. I ended up developing an even greater appreciation for Pete’s writing when I had to figure out the chords and pay attention to the arrangements in a new way. A lot of the stuff on the radio is very square—you know, eight measures for this, eight measures for that, eight measures for the other. Pete does these weird nine-measure, ten-measure solo sections, just really odd. We asked each other, ‘should we straighten this out and make it square?’ But we decided to perform the songs as they were written, which has made it more challenging, but it’s helped us with Hurtsmile because we will take more chances with progressive arrangements thanks to learning this material.

LM: How did you go about creating a setlist? I imagine it’s a tough call whether to stick with crowd-pleasers or indulge in deeper cuts that might be more satisfying to you, but maybe not for the audience.

MC: I think we’re such Who fans that we have to kind of ask ourselves, “I love the song, but does everyone else love this song?” except for the most obvious ones. And we do have to stick close to the vest on a majority of the set, so we don’t lose the audience. But we throw in as many deep cuts as we can without being self-indulgent. We decided on a mostly chronological approach. There are a few things out of order, but for the most part, it’s kept chronological, so it shows the band’s musical evolution.

LM: The song “Slip Kid” was originally written as a vague warning about the music business, amongst other things. Was that the context in which you chose the band name?

MC: No, not really. It was an aesthetic choice. It’s the sound of it, the punchiness of it. I don’t think we brought in the lyrical content of that particular song, but we’re aware of the band’s rebellious edge. We don’t even call it a tribute band, we refer to it as ‘A Celebration of The Who.’ We go up there and we try to channel the visceral piss and vinegar of The Who without smashing our instruments, you know? More than imitating or paying tribute, we’re celebrating this incredible catalog of music.

The Vault is located at 791 Purchase Street in New Bedford, MA. The venue is set within a former bank building featuring original vault doors and a truly historic feel. Patrons have raved about the superior acoustics and intimate setting.

Please note that one MUST BE 21 or OLDER with Valid ID for Entry.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – BLACK ‘N BLUE’S ‘WITHOUT LOVE’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

BLACK ‘N BLUE – WITHOUT LOVE (1985)

More than three years ago, I wrote about Black ‘N Blue’s third album Nasty Nasty. In the opening of the article, I mentioned that the album had more of a raw production sound to it after a more streamlined sound failed to break the band to a bigger audience.

That attempt at a more streamlined sound was this second album from the band. While I’ve known of the band for decades, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time checking out their music and so as I listened to Without Love for this article, I was hearing it for the very first time. I guess thirty six years from the album’s original release qualifies as being late to the party.

While the band’s timing and material is usually cited as the reason for why they didn’t become more well-known, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this album. I do like a real melodic hook to the rock I listen to, so as Without Love opened with the track “Rockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, I was quickly taken with the track. It’s a fast paced rocker (a description that fits most of the eleven songs on the album) that has a great instaneous hook that draws you in.

Black ‘N Blue didn’t quite follow that opening song up strongly with the next two songs on Side One of Without Love though. The album’s title track is good but doesn’t quite thrill me the way the first song did and “Stop The Lightning” was shoulder shrug inducing for me, just a “meh” kind of track.

But the first side does come back to form strongly with the song “Nature Of The Beach”, which is an ode to living life on said beach. It’s got a great feel to the music and I like the lyrical / vocal take from Jaime St. James. As for the side closing “Miss Mystery”, that’s a song that has such a catchy delivery I found that I wished it had become a hit for the band.

While I wasn’t totally sold on the entirety of Side One, when I flipped the tape over I found that I really loved Side Two.

The second side of Without Love kicks off with “Swing Time”, which much like “Rockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is a side opening rocker guaranteed to hook you fast. I loved the song.

While I thought the “Bombastic Plastic” song title (and ensuing use of it in the chorus) came off sounding a bit silly, the music for the track more than made up for it. The song “Strange Things” opens up with a slower delivery that deepens the music’s feel and as it goes on, a more rocking tempo takes over. The opening part of the song seemingly hinted at a kind of cinematic type of song which I think would’ve played out great. That said, I liked how the band took both styles in the song and melded them into one great song.

There’s a definitive stomp to the groove driven bluesy rock sound on “Two Wrongs (Don’t Make It Love”). For those who love that overt blues rock sound in their music, you will love this one.

Black ‘N Blue’s cover of the Aerosmith song “Same Old Song And Dance” came out rather well. It pretty much plays it straightforward with how they perform the track, but the weird thing is that I’m not sure how many members of the actual band were involved in the recording for this one. If you look at the liner notes, other than vocals and lead guitar, it seems everything was played by guest musicians (including noted music producer Bob Rock on rhythm guitar). Call me crazy but what’s the point of doing a cover if most of your band doesn’t appear on the track?

Of course, if you want the true spark track that drives my enjoyment of Without Love, look no further than “We Got The Fire”. This song is a killer rock track that shows off the band in spectacular fashion. While I have a ways to go in exploring all the songs Black ‘N Blue recorded, this one is definitely a song that would make my best of list for sure.

It’s strange that an album that was so relatively unpopular back in the day that the band overhauled their sound the next time out would be one I enjoyed so much. I believe it is available on CD and I just might find myself upgrading because Black ‘N Blue’s Without Love is one hell of an entertaining release!

NOTES OF INTEREST: The band co-wrote the title track and “Miss Mystery” with Jim Vallance, the longtime songwriting partner of Bryan Adams.

Vallance played “Simmons drums” on “We Got The Fire”. The song featured Loverboy singer Mike Reno on backing vocals and Toto’s Steve Porcaro as one of three musicians credited on keyboards for the track. Adam Bomb contributed “additional guitars” to the song as well.

The band’s cover of Aerosmith’s “Same Old Song And Dance” being included on the cassette edition of Without Love seems to have been forgotten in terms of online research. I looked at the Wikipedia entry for the album and the song is only listed as a bonus track for the CD version.

BLUE OYSTER CULT FOUNDING MEMBER ALBERT BOUCHARD TO PERFORM “IMAGINOS” AT NARROWS CENTER WITH BAND

Albert Bouchard

If you are a fan of Blue Oyster Cult, you are in for a treat! Albert Bouchard, who is one of the founding members of the band, will be performing a rare concert at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA, on Saturday, January 15, 2022. He will be playing with a full band songs from his Imaginos saga and other Blue Oyster Cult classics. Guitarist Paul Bielatowicz, of Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy, opens the show. Purchase tickets HERE.

Albert Bouchard is best known as one of the founding members of Blue Öyster Cult. The original band sold millions of albums for Columbia Records with such classic songs as “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and the #1 hit on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart “Burning For You.”

​As a songwriter, Bouchard wrote many BÖC songs including the very popular “Astronomy” which was covered by Metallica on their 1998’s release Garage Inc. and the live staple “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” which he also sang lead vocals.

Bouchard’s famous cowbell on “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was the basis of the popular SNL skit with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken, which has gained over 13 million views and spawned the phrase “More Cowbell.”

Last year during the pandemic, Bouchard released a reimagined version of his old band’s 1988 classic concept album, Imaginos, aptly titled Re Imaginos. The second record of the Imaginos saga, Imaginos II — Bombs over Germany (minus zero and counting), was released on October 22. It continues the story based on the writings and poems of late Blue Öyster Cult manager, producer and songwriter Sandy Pearlman about an alien conspiracy that comes to fruition during the late 1800s and early 1900s through the actions of an evil character named Imaginos.

The new album features guest contributions from longtime Blue Öyster Cult members Eric Bloom and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and the group’s former bassist, Joe Bouchard, and current multi-instrumentalist Richie Castellano, as well as from Dictators guitarist Ross the Boss.

It also features new versions of a variety of early Blue Öyster Cult songs, including “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” “The Red and the Black” and “Dominance and Submission.” Click HERE to check out Bouchard’s new music video for his reworked version of “OD’d On Life Itself.” This is one of the many songs we expect him to play at this show.

For this special show at the Narrows, Bouchard will be playing many songs from the Imaginos saga live for the first time with a full band. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime show!

Paul Bielatowicz

ABOUT THE OPENER – PAUL BIELATOWICZ

Paul Bielatowicz is best known for his virtuoso guitar work with some of the biggest names in progressive rock. He’s played, recorded and toured with Carl Palmer (ELP), Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic), YES, Todd Rundgren, John Lodge and The Alan Parsons Project.

In 2014, he released his debut solo album Preludes & Etudes, featuring solo electric guitar arrangements of virtuoso classical showpieces. When COVID 19 halted all touring, Paul spent the best part of two years working in the studio, writing and recording music for three albums… one of those projects is this soundtrack to the classic 1922 Nosferatu film. 

The Nosferatu Live show brings together a variety of musical styles and instruments (guitars, keyboards, analog synths, vocals… even a Theremin) in an exciting theatrical production that breaths new life into the undead classic!

The Narrows Center for the Arts is located at 16 Anawan Street. Tickets to this show can be purchased online HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Thursday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – JUDAS PRIEST’S ‘RAM IT DOWN’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

JUDAS PRIEST – RAM IT DOWN (1988)

In the week leading up to the writing of this article, thanks to a big storm I had no power for 3 days. So my original plans to pull a cassette out of The Big Box of Cassettes and write about that was kind of sidelined.

I couldn’t really do any research on an album I wasn’t familiar with already. So this week’s write up on the Judas Priest album Ram It Down comes from my own personal cassette collection and it is an album that I am indeed rather familiar with. I still had to do some research but at least I knew the album beforehand. In fact, it was the first Judas Priest album I ever bought. And that might be at least part of the reason why it still stands the test of time for me and remains one of my favorite albums from the band.

I didn’t really know much about the band until I got this album. Pretty much my first memory of the band was when I was attending Boy Scout camp (try not to laugh at that notion) and one of the counselors had a cassette holder full of Judas Priest cassettes. I didn’t hear any of them at the time but I remember seeing the line up of albums in the holder. I don’t remember the counselor’s name but he was a huge fan of the band as you might imagine.

Of course, my lack of knowledge about the band was turned around when I got the Ram It Down album. Before I’d even listened to any of the music, I was struck by the stunning artwork. I love the visual of the fist crashing down from the sky onto the planet (presumably Earth itself).  You can’t say it doesn’t catch your eye.

But for all that I love the art, when the album started I found myself immediately hooked. Right from the Rob Halford scream on the title track that opens the album, this was an album I knew I was going to love. But it wasn’t just that scream that made the “Ram It Down” song stand out to me. The song’s rip-roaring frenetic pace captured my imagination as well. The speed at which the guitars pummelled your ear drums was just relentless.

The track “Heavy Metal” is the kind of anthemic rocker you might expect from Judas Priest if you have any kind of history with the band. I loved the killer guitar solo that powered the intro to the track. The fiery pacing of “Love Zone” and “Come And Get It” made the tracks winners in my eyes back in 1988 as well as when I listened to it for this article.

When I decided to write about the album, I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was working on an article that would be as hard as iron and as sharp as steel. Which is of course a lyrical line from the Side One closing number “Hard As Iron”. The song has a nice little edgy feel to it and Halford delivers those vocals superbly.

The first side of the album is just one great track after another in my book and there’s not really much of a let up when you flip the tape over to Side Two.

For me, the song “Blood Red Skies”, which opens the second side, is one of my favorite Judas Priest songs. I loved the way the band established the song with a moody atmospheric opening part. But as the vocals kick in, you can’t help but imagine that the song is the blueprint for a science fiction screenplay or novel set in some kind of dystopian future. After the first verse of lyrics, the song does grow into more of a straightforward rocker but in all, this is just an incredible song.

I’m also a big fan of “I’m A Rocker”. It’s another anthem track, this time paying tribute to the rock and roll lifestyle but it can also be easily adopted by the metal fandom as their own musical declaration of intent too.

I don’t know how the rest of the Priest fanbase feels about the band’s cover of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” but I’ve always kind of liked the song. It was done for the comedic movie Johnny Be Good starring Anthony Michael Hall but it also ended up on Ram It Down as well. The thing I vaguely remember about the song is that upon its release there was an article that had the band saying if they didn’t like how the song turned out as they recorded it, it never would’ve seen the light of day. I have no idea where I read that but it has stuck in my memory all these years.

The song “Love You To Death” is a bit slower in tempo than most of the other songs on Ram It Down but it still has a beat to it that kind of makes you want to stomp your feet to it. And the inclusion of the sound of a whip in the mix drives home the fact that the song can have more than one meaning to it.

In the more than three decades since the release of Ram It Down, I’ve always considered the album closing “Monsters Of Rock” track to be the one real down note about the album. It always seemed so plodding in nature that it just felt completely out of place alongside the rest of the material. And while the song certainly hasn’t changed tempo in all these years, for some reason as I listened to it for this piece, I found myself struck by how much I was actually appreciating the song. Perhaps it just hit me just right this time, the result of years of listening to the song. But I really was quite surprised to find myself enjoying the song. It was almost like I was “finally” hearing it for the first time.

Ram It Down was my first Judas Priest album and to this day it remains one of my favorites. It is just chock full of great material fueled by a killer rhythmic foundation, screaming guitars from Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing and the vocals of the Metal God himself, Rob Halford. If you can’t appreciate the greatness of this album, I just don’t know what there is left to say to you. But in all honesty, you really have to give the album a new listen and I think you’ll discover that it is just as strong an album as the more readily acknowledged classic albums from the band.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Despite not being overly well received by critics, the Ram It Down album did achieve gold certification. The 2001 remastered CD edition has two live songs included as bonus tracks. (I own that remastered edition as well as the cassette edition.)

Two songs recorded during the Ram It Down sessions that didn’t make the cut for the album did eventually get released on the remastered CD editions of other Judas Priest albums. The song “Thunder Road” appeared on Point Of Entry. Meanwhile, the song “Fire Burns Below” showed up on Stained Class.

According to the online information about the album, though he is credited on the album, drummer Dave Holland didn’t play on many of the Ram It Down songs. The band opted to use a drum machine for the most part. This was the last album he was a part of with Judas Priest. Holland passed away in 2018.

Original magazine advertisement for Judas Priest’s Ram It Down.

TWISTED SISTER GUITARIST JAY JAY FRENCH BOOK SIGNING AT PURCHASE STREET RECORDS IN NEW BEDFORD, MA

BY SEAN MCCARTHY [SUBMITTED STORY]

A piece of rock royalty is coming to New Bedford.

As the guitarist and founder of the world-famous metal band Twisted Sister, Jay Jay French has been to the rock star mountain top. But as the band’s manager, he has established himself as an industry giant with a career that has lasted long beyond the band’s heyday.

 And now French’s rare perspective has been made available in the book, Twisted Business: Lessons From My Life in Rock ‘N Roll. The New York rocker will be making an appearance at Purchase Street Records in downtown New Bedford this Friday night from 6 p.m. to 8, for a book-signing meet-and-greet. For $30 fans can receive a copy of the book, signed in person by French. Reservations for the event can be made by calling (508) 287-8688. Purchase Street Records is located at 767 Purchase St.

“My introduction to the business world was being a teenage drug dealer in Central Park,” French says. “You learn how to deal and negotiate with some very interesting people, there’s always the potential of getting arrested, getting ripped off, or worse. But at that age it’s all about sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.”

 French’s drug-dealing career ended after a near-fatal overdose.

“I lost a lot of my friends to the drug scene,” he says. “I got out of it because I thought I was going to destroy my world permanently. So when I got into the music business it wasn’t’ my first rodeo.”

Twisted Business is a book that can be enjoyed by musicians and business people as well as fans of the band. Today French has found further success as a motivational speaker for Fortune 500 companies as well as non-profits. He still benefits financially from managing the Twisted Sister brand.

“This book will teach you the art of reinvention, which can apply to anybody, not just the music business,” he says. “In the beginning it was about being a musician, but I eventually started seeing things from a business perspective. Eventually the music became almost secondary, I became a businessman who was also a musician.”

French says that Twisted Sister has had continuing success despite rock music being replaced as the most popular form of music in America.

“Rock has been replaced on the charts by hip-hop, rap, country, and female pop. There’s almost no rock on the charts any longer. It had a good 50-year run, a revolution started by the Beatles. It inspired a lot of people and changed a lot of attitudes, it’s extraordinary music.

“Twisted Sister became successful because we changed with the times, we did what we needed to do to survive. If you look back at the bands that came out in 1973, we’re joined by bands like AC/DC, Judas Priest, and KISS. We’re all still here because there’s been an ongoing evolution with our music and our relationship with our fans.”

He says that the band members of Twisted Sister still communicate “every day.” And while there are no plans for more shows, they will be releasing a double vinyl Live/Greatest Hits album, “Tear It Loose,” in the end of Novermber.

French also hosts a podcast, “The Jay Jay French Connection,” where he interviews authors, writers, musicians, actors, producers and managers.

He says he’s “grateful” that some of his music is still enjoyed by young music fans, particularly the international mega-hit, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

“If you ask a 10-year old kid if he knows Twisted Sister he might not, but if you ask him to sing ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It,’ he probably can. That’s very gratifying.”

FILMING LOCATION SPOTLIGHT – “HALLOWEEN” (1978)

On the final Friday of every month in 2021, Limelight Magazine spotlights the filming location site(s) we visited for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) films and TV shows. Today we spotlight some of the filming locations for Halloween (1978), which was directed by John Carpenter. The top photo is a screen shot taken from the film while the photo underneath it is what the location looks like when I visited in August 2012 or October 2015. These photos were taken in Pasadena, CA.[Please note that we were planning to visit at least a dozen more filming location for this movie in 2020 but our trip was cancelled due to the pandemic. We hope to finish this project in 2022].

ALAN HOWARTH TO PERFORM AT THIS YEAR’S 20TH ANNUAL HORROR MOVIE MARATHON AT THE COOLIDGE

BY CHRISTOPHER TREACY

Alan Howarth [Submitted photo]

Alan Howarth’s sound designs are ingrained in pop culture.  

The sound you hear when the Starship Enterprise appears in the Star Trek films? That’s Howarth. When the little girl calls from within the television set in Poltergeist? Howarth. That musical sense of foreboding that overcomes you when Indiana Jones faces a cobra in Raiders of the Lost Ark? All Howarth. 

And if you happened to see jazz fusion pioneers Weather Report in the late 70s, you might recall marveling at co-founder Joe Zawinul’s next-level keyboard setup. That, too, was Howarth’s magic, working as a touring technician to keep Zawinul’s complex array of synths in running order from night to night — no small feat in the pre-digital age. 

As an adolescent, Howarth was always more interested in visual art, but music ended up in the driver’s seat. Eventually, he married the two things, creating music to soundtrack images. Nowadays, he’s also drawing sketches of some of the famed movie scenes he’s celebrated for scoring — an unexpected full-circle connection to his creative roots. Howarth will have some of his sketches for attendees to view when he performs a set to kick off the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s 20th Halloween Horror Marathon at 11 p.m. on Saturday, October 30th. Purchase tickets HERE.

“When we were approached about the idea of bringing out Alan Howarth for this event, we jumped at the chance, because it just worked perfectly,” said Mark Anastasio, a.k.a. ‘Midnight Mark,’ Program Manager and Director of Special Programming at Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre for over fifteen years. “And we were thrilled that he was willing to perform as part of this show. People love the scores that he’s created and to hear some of them live with a packed house full of horror fans is going to be quite something. Halloween III: Season of the Witch, [which he scored with John Carpenter], was already locked in as one of the two films we’d be revealing early, so it just made total sense.”

Howarth is best known for his spooky sound signatures at the intersection of sci-fi and horror, but his musical interests began with an accordion found in the attic of his Cleveland-area childhood home. Music became more than just a hobby after a one-off high school gig (playing sax) yielded an $80 payout—big money at that time.

So began a series of serendipitous events that shaped the trajectory of his career. Playing bass in popular Cleveland bands, one of which opened for The Who, eventually led him to Los Angeles. There, an earlier connection to the band Weather Report resulted in attaining the keyboard technician job that put him on the road for several years, beginning in 1976. Four years later, based on his job with Weather Report, an old Ohio friend working at Paramount Pictures recommended Howarth as a knowledgeable ‘synth guy’ for some work on the first Star Trek movie. In the wake of completing that project, Film Editor Todd Ramsay offhandedly put him in touch with John Carpenter, but Howarth was not expecting to become the tech-yin to Carpenter’s creative-yang. 

Actually, at that time, Howarth was taking classes on film scoring at UCLA Extension. A lot of guys would’ve probably quit the classes, but for Howarth, working with Carpenter was like a dream internship on steroids. 

“John and I are the same age,” Howarth said over the phone from Newport Beach, California. “He’s from Kentucky and I’m originally from Cleveland, so we’ve both experienced life through a Midwestern lens and on a similar timeline. But he’s John Carpenter, right? I mean, he’s a trained musician from his dad, his dad was a concert violinist and also taught music. In our first meeting, he came over to my house and we sat and just talked for about three hours. I showed him some stuff in my little dining room studio, and we were excited. And at the end of that meeting, he goes, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,” and so just like that, I’m now scoring with John Carpenter on Escape From New York. It was my first score! And I had all the gear, but John wasn’t interested in gear. Several times I tried explaining to him how something worked and he’d say ‘Alan, I don’t really want to know about that stuff. That’s your job’.”

In the forty years since, Howarth collaborated with Carpenter on a half dozen more genre classics (Christine, Halloween II, Halloween III, Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness, and They Live) while moving further into his own scoring career (another trio of Halloween films, amongst others). 

From left, Alan Howarth and John Carpenter working on the score for Halloween III: Season of the Witch in 1983. [Submitted Photo]

When he’s not scoring, he’s often called on to create effects or sound designs — mini-themes ­— for specific moments in films. This is his specialty, taking visual cues and effectively representing them sonically— merging his passion for visual art with his musical abilities and technical chops. As a result, his designs have been featured in everything from National Lampoon’s Class Reunion to Beetlejuice,  Phantasm II, and the Back to the Future sequels. Howarth’s team won Academy Awards for their sound effect work on The Hunt for Red October and Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

While the tone of his work remains largely ominous (but not solely—more on that later), how he creates it has shifted over time. Like most everyone involved in music production, Howarth has learned to use Digital Audio Workstations (Ableton Live, Garage Band, Logic Pro, Pro Tools, etc.), which have become an industry standard. As a tech-enthusiast, he’s stayed abreast of the changes from the very beginning, and he was even involved in the development of what we now know as “surround sound.” Most of the digital shift, he says, has been positive.  

“The editorial aspect of digital is a huge improvement,” he said, explaining that the cut-and-paste nature of digital recording ends up requiring less musical skill, but it makes his job easier. When he and Carpenter did Escape from New York, they couldn’t synchronize the videotape with the audio recorder. Literally, it was just a matter of pushing play on both consoles at the same time, letting them freewheel and the pair would work on the score that way. The other thing Howarth would sometimes do is record the dialogue from the video to one track of his multi-track tape recorder, so he could turn the video off and still know where he was in the movie. 

From left, Alan Howarth and John Carpenter working on the score to Escape From New York in 1981. This was Howarth’s first collaboration with Carpenter. [Submitted Photo].

Lately, an appreciation for analog sound is fueling a revival of sorts. Howarth says that the sound of analog synths and analog tape that he and his contemporaries were using forty years ago — emulating avant-garde artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze — has become sought after. As a result, popular software has emerged to recreate those textures. What’s more, he’s now being asked to work on vintage equipment. 

“The last two scores I’ve done—one was a movie called Hoax (2019) and the other is Cosmic Dawn, which will be out in the spring—both directors asked me to do what I used to do in the 80s with analog synthesizers,” he said. “So, it was technically somewhat limited, but now it’s a style. Back then, we got the most out of the technology because that’s all we had. Now, with digital, the possibilities are limitless, which can actually make things more difficult. I had lunch with Brian Eno one time and he was talking about producing records for other artists and he said that what he does now is limit the use of technology. Before he starts work on an album, he sets parameters, like real drums only or only analog synths or… anything to make the universe of digital possibilities more finite. He said it provides a sense of direction because the limits of the past have proved to be a good way to go, artistically.”

No doubt, the folks at the Coolidge Corner Theatre would wholeheartedly agree with Eno: they prefer to run 35mm film prints. As a registered NFP for over thirty years, Anastasio says it’s one of the main factors in keeping the venue’s programming unique. But staying true to an analog vision in the digital age comes with challenges. 

“The main challenge with that, in this day and age, is the expense,” he said. “Shipping rates across the world have increased. And 35mm prints are heavy. So it’s more expensive than ever to show 35mm, but it’s something we still do here and we do it well so that we’re able to maintain relationships with studios and archives in order to borrow what is becoming increasingly rare. Film on film has become a rarity. But I think a lot of our audience comes out to watch these movies in their original format and they appreciate it.”

Anastasio says the Halloween Horror Marathon is a 100% 35mm program right down to the trailers that will run between films. He explained that a distributor who owns the rights to a film they might want to license won’t necessarily have a 35mm print of the film in stock, forcing the Coolidge to have to go to a private archive or to private collectors — folks that have salvaged these 35mm prints from destruction. That process fetches an additional fee.

For the Marathon, five of the seven films will remain a secret until they’re actually up on the screen. Anastasio also points to the challenging endurance test involved for his projection team, led by Nick Lazarro, formerly of Kaiju Big Battel, and Thomas Welch.

“But it’s also a ton of fun,” he said. “And I do think that there’s something really special for our audience members, to be able to spend an entire night inside of a place that they love so much. This is a way of reminding our audiences that this is their theater. It’s such a beloved community space and they support us by coming to our shows, and by donating. So having a night where they can sleep over and feel as though it’s truly home is special.”

If there’s something that (thankfully!) isn’t particularly challenging for the Coolidge, it’s making sure that patrons have the safest possible environment to enjoy their unique programming. 

“We’re not messing around when it comes to the safety of our guests,” Anastasio said, and he’s not kidding. In addition to requiring masks and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within a 72-hour window, he explained that the Coolidge went a step further, upgraded their HVAC with high MERV-rated filters and new, state-of-the-art Continuous Infectious Microbial Reduction (CIMR) Systems technology. In the most basic terms, the CIMR system scrubs the air, “creating charged, ionized compounds of safe, self-regulating ultra-low level hydrogen peroxide,” that kills airborne pathogens. Apparently, it’s the same system used at the Pentagon and the Department of Defense. Additionally, they’re blasting their ventilation ducts with UV light, which also works to kill pathogens. All told, it seems like spending the night at the Coolidge is a safer bet than most hotels. 

Anastasio also clarified that the smaller theatres will be open for guests to enter should the big room begin to feel too full. 

Alan Howarth enjoys performing his scores in front of live audiences. [Submitted photo]

For his part, after a long period of performing very little, Alan Howarth is excited to bring his stage show to an appreciative group of genre fans, particularly on mischief night and in celebrating 20 years of Halloween marathons at the Coolidge. When he performs live, he creates an amalgam of his most famous scores and sound designs with cleverly edited visual accompaniment from the related movies. 

Alan Howarth greeting fans at the merchandise table after a concert. [Submitted Photo]

Of his most recent work, a project with Oliver Stone’s son Sean Stone on a politically charged docuseries, The Best Kept Secret, sounds most riveting. Amusingly, Howarth was told to dial back the dark, menacing score he initially provided because it made the series too heavy. In the end, he used lighter tones to set up an interesting contrast, which reveals his other side: there’s more to Howarth than witches, ghosts, and goblins and spaceships.

“I’m really into meditation and spiritual things, and I’ve done two meditation CDs, Paradise Within and Indigo Ra,” he said. “I also collaborated with a jazz buddy of mine named John Novello who has a very famous band called Niacin. That project is called Luna Tech. All of that stuff is up on Youtube, so folks can check it out for free. I want to do more work like that, that’s not all dark and black. These are the sunshine and flowers and beauty projects, y’know?. One of my clients for many years, before the internet, was Scripps Institution of Oceanography,” based in San Diego. “They had an annual video that they would distribute to the donors showing what they were doing each year, and I scored all that stuff… the fish in the reefs, and the oceans and the winds and the climate. I have a whole other part of me and my work that nobody knows about.” 

The Coolidge Corner Theatre is located at 290 Harvard Street in Brookline, MA. Tickets for the 20th Annual Horror Marathon with Alan Howarth live can be purchased HERE.

One of three posters for this year’s 20th Annual Horror Marathon at the Coolidge Corner Theatre designed by Mark Reusch.

THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – DANGEROUS TOYS’ ‘HELLACIOUS ACRES’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

DANGEROUS TOYS – HELLACIOUS ACRES (1991)

More than four years ago, I wrote an article in The Cassette Chronicles series on the self-titled debut album from Dangerous Toys. And while I loved the three hit tracks and one other song a lot, I felt most of the rest of the tracks on the album fell a bit short.

I don’t recall that I ever owned the Hellacious Acres (which is just a great album title!) when it was first released. So it didn’t surprise me when I looked at the track listing on the back cover of the cassette liner notes and discovered I didn’t automatically remember any of the songs.

Of course, that proved to be somewhat inaccurate as I listened to the album. The second song on Side One of the album is “Gimme No Lip” and given that it was released as a single and had a video made for it, I know that I had to have seen and heard it back then. I guess I’ll have to chalk it up to just not hearing it much over the years and I’d forgotten that the song was on this album.

That was the only faulty memory problem with the album however. I didn’t recall hearing any of the other songs and that’s a pretty good thing because it let me discover that Hellacious Acres had plenty of great material to offer.

Side One opened with “Gunfighter” which might conjure up some kind of Old West image in your mind. And given the mood setting style of the song’s intro, you would at first be proven right. But after that intro, the song pretty much explodes into a hard hitting rocker that is about as far away from the days of dueling in the streets as you can get. Combine the relentless pace of the music with vocalist Jason McMaster’s rapid fire vocal delivery and you have just a fantastic song on your hands.

The rest of Side One seemed to channel an underlying sense of chaos as the band would continue on their hard driving pace with songs like “Sticks & Stones” and “On Top”. The latter song is fueled by sex-drenched lyrics but it is a pretty good track all around. While the band was on fire on the side closing “Sugar, Leather & The Nail”, I didn’t quite find myself drawn to the song that much.

When Dangerous Toys slowed down the pace a little for the song “Best Of Friends”, it still had a bit of an edge to the music. The song dealt with memories of a lost friend and while it did capture that nostalgic kind of feeling, it left out much of the sappiness and kept the song from being a full-on ballad.

The second side of the album opened with the song “Angel N U”. Tempo wise, the majority of the track moved from a mid-to-up tempo kind of groove. And it wasn’t bad. But when the song blows up into an almost out of control fiery pace over the last portion of the song, it didn’t work that much for me. It felt like having a bucket of cold water thrown on you. Up until that over-the-top ending, I was enjoying the song.

When a band covers a classic track, they seem to always feel a need to do something that puts their own stamp on it. Hearing Dangerous Toys cover Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” had me wondering what they were thinking. What made that song such a classic was just how perfectly constructed the song was and how the finished track sounded. But this version of the song is just BAD! The band completely overplayed the music and took any kind of charm the original had. Feel like making love? No, this cover made me feel like fast forwarding the tape.

Thankfully, the last three songs of Side Two did a solid job of redeeming those two mistakes. A video was made for the album’s second single “Line ‘Em Up”, a fast paced rocker that catches your ear pretty quickly and you ride the wave of enthusiasm the band has in their performance. You can say the same thing for “Gypsy (Black-N-Blue Valentine) which just conjures up this cool vibe when I listened to it.

The album’s closing song “Bad Guy” is an amped up rocker that leaves you both exhilarated and exhausted with how the band attacks on all fronts.

While the self-titled Dangerous Toys album may have had the “hits”, I think Hellacious Acres might just have offered more when it comes to the top-to-bottom track listing. Yes, there were some tracks that didn’t really do it for me, but for the songs I did like…just WOW! It’s the 30th anniversary of the album’s release and you’ll find Hellacious Acres is just jam-packed with fiery aggressive rock and roll that will have you rocking out hard and fast!

NOTES OF INTEREST: After not playing on the first album but being pictured on the back cover, guitarist Danny Aaron did play on Hellacious Acres. However, it would be the only Dangerous Toys release he appeared on as he left the band during the tour for this album.

With the self-titled album having enjoyed some mainstream success (it would eventually be certified gold, the disappointing sales of Hellacious Acres found the band’s record label dropping them while they were out on the Operation Rock & Roll tour with Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Motorhead and Metal Church.

While there had been previous statements from Jason McMaster that there wouldn’t be any new music from Dangerous Toys, according to Wikipedia guitarist Scott Dalhover said in 2018 that they were working on new music. Also, in 2019 the band performed their first new music, the song “Hold Your Horses”, in 24 years. Still, there’s been no new officially released music made available. The band is still playing the occasional live show, though I imagine that like most bands they didn’t do any shows in 2020.

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