Saturday, November 14, 2009


By Larry Harris (with Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs)
(Backbeat Books, USA, 2009)

In the 1970s, no independent record company embodied the fast paced, drug fuelled, hedonistic lifestyle of the decade as much as Casablanca Records. Founded in 1973 by the enigmatic Neil Bogart, Casablanca was America’s premier disco label, even though their biggest (and first) signing was the New York glam rock band Kiss. As a kid growing up a huge Kiss fan, I was always fascinated by the exotic look of the Casablanca label design…it appealed to me not only because I was a film buff who loved Bogie in Casablanca, but Casablanca’s was also the name of the sleazy Fitzroy Street disco which I used to frequent as an underaged patron (I can still picture the huge front door with it’s intimidating peep hole, and the bouncer taking seemingly forever to size me up and down before the door would finally open to usher me in).

In And Party Every Day (its title taken from a line in the famous Kiss track Rock & Roll all Nite), author Larry Harris (who worked at Casablanca from its inception, becoming Vice President in 1976 before leaving the label three years later) charts the beginnings, rise and ultimate fall of the Casablanca label, tying it in inexorably with the era (accentuated by the various side bars which encapsulate major events and pop culture moments of the time).

After struggling to survive through the first three Kiss albums (the band were building a huge live following but record sales were sluggish) and suffering a major flop in a compilation album of classic Johnny Carson Show moments, Casablanca finally hit pay dirt in 1975 with the release of Kiss’ double live landmark LP, Kiss Alive! Rather than concentrate on other similar hard rock acts (although they did sign LA glam rockers Angel), Casablanca eventually focused much of their effort on the burgeoning disco and dance craze, signing artists such as George Clinton and Parliament, Donna Summer, Cher and the Village People to their roster of talent. At the height of their success, the label branched out into filmmaking, although their only notable achievement was the 1978 disco flick Thank God it’s Friday.

As much as it is a history of the label, And Party Every Day is also a biography of Neil Bogart, who was undoubtedly the energy, the heart and soul behind Casablanca, and whose decadent lifestyle rivalled that of rock journalist Lester Bangs. Like Bangs, Bogart’s time on earth was short, after he died of cancer in 1982 at the age of thirty-nine. Larry Harris and his co-authors Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs (who co-authored the extensive reference work Kiss Alive Forever: The Complete Touring History) as an energetic svengali, talented and full of passion and seemingly limitless energy, but also a man whose grand vision would often stretch a company beyond its means, and whose escalating drug consumption would cloud his own judgement.

Refreshingly, And Party Every Day comes off as something a lot more than just another Kiss related book. Naturally, the authors realise that the Kiss connection will be a prime factor in sales and promotion, and to that end they certainly don’t skimp on information and stories regarding the band (in particular, their early years as Casablanca’s initial act, as well as the disastrous 1978 Kiss solo albums, which saw over two million unsold LPs being shipped off the flea markets for quick, cheap sale).

But make no mistake that Kiss are just a supporting player in this book, which is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the history and workings of record labels, during a time where office furniture was literally covered in a layer of cocaine dust, Studio 54 was the place where record deals were made, chart positions were bought with money and drugs, and work was just one big party...with an ultimate price to pay.

Review Copyright John Harrison 2009


Thursday, November 5, 2009


1973/Italy/Directed by Sergio Martino


A prime example of vintage Italian giallo (a term derived from the series of mystery/crime pulp novels first published in Italy entitled Il Giallo Mondatori, taking their name from the yellow cover background), Torso is a brutal, at times shocking thriller about a psychotic killer doing away with young women from a local college campus. When four of the girls head for the supposed safety of a mountaintop country villa, the killer tags close behind and the terror continues.

Starring Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont and Luc Merenda, Torso can be seen as something of a template for the wave of slasher films that became popular in the late-seventies and eighties, and features some gruesome murders, groovy fashions, great locations, cool music (by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis) and lots of beautiful European dames! It has also been released under the titles Bodies Bear Traces or Carnal Violence and just Carnal Violence. The print of the film I watched this morning was from the DVD released in the US by Blue Underground, which replaces all the trimmed scenes of violence and gives you the option of watching the film in Italian or English dubbed language (although unfortunately there are no English subtitles for the Italian language track).

opyright John Harrison 2009