Doctors Of Madness ‎– Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms

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Tracklist

Waiting 4:04
Afterglow 3:49
Mitzi's Cure 4:50
I Think We're Alone 3:44
The Noises Of The Evening 8:33
Billy Watch Out 5:11
B-Movie Bedtime 3:16
Mainlines 15:44

Versions (12)

Cat# Artist Title (Format) Label Cat# Country Year
2383 378 Doctors Of Madness Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms(LP, Album) Polydor 2383 378 Germany 1976 Sell This Version
3170 278 Doctors Of Madness Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms(Cass, Album) Polydor 3170 278 UK 1976 Sell This Version
2383 378 Doctors Of Madness Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms(LP, Album) Polydor 2383 378 Australia 1976 Sell This Version
2383 378 Doctors Of Madness Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms(LP, Album) Polydor 2383 378 UK 1976 Sell This Version
2383 378 Doctors Of Madness Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms(LP, Album) Polydor 2383 378 Netherlands 1976 Sell This Version
MPF 1008 Doctors Of Madness Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms(LP, Album) Polydor MPF 1008 Japan 1976 Sell This Version
2383 378 Doctors Of Madness Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms(LP, Album) Polydor 2383 378 France 1976 Sell This Version
MPF 1008 Doctors Of Madness Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms(LP, Album, Promo) Polydor MPF 1008 Japan 1976 Sell This Version
POCP-2187 Doctors Of Madness Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms(CD, Album, RE) Polydor POCP-2187 Japan 1992 Sell This Version
OZITCD 0042 Doctors Of Madness Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms(CD, Album, RE, RM) Ozit Records OZITCD 0042 UK 1998 Sell This Version
AIRAC-1555 Doctors Of Madness Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms(CD, Album, RE, RM) Air Mail Archive AIRAC-1555 Japan 2009 Sell This Version
2383 378 Doctors Of Madness Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms(LP, Album, RP) Polydor 2383 378 Germany Unknown Sell This Version

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JeannieBrownbow

JeannieBrownbow

June 4, 2017
edited 4 months ago
referencing Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms, LP, Album, 2383 378
LATE NIGHT MOVIES, ALL NIGHT BRAINSTORMS...

... is the title of an LP recorded in 1976 in England, by a little known group (in the grand scheme of things) named the Doctors of Madness. It’s an appropriate title, since it certainly blows your mind and it is definitely the nearest any album I’ve heard has come to replicating the movie experience. In fact, it is the only truly FILMIC album I am aware of.

Joyously and justly, a box set of all the Doctors of Madness’s work, encompassing three albums and a plethora of bonus recordings, has recently been released by Cherry Red, the best record label in the world. All manner of goodies are generously served up with the aptly named The Perfect Past, but then these are generous-spirited people. I wish to concentrate on the Doctors’ debut album as the first and foremost reason why you simply must acquire the box set. The second album, Figments of Emancipation, is merely tremendous, while the third, Sons of Survival, a lowly ‘very good’.

I came upon Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms by accident – always the best way, of course. While leafing through my (considerably older) brother’s record collection, aged about 14, I was intrigued by four drawn characters sitting alone in a movie hall looking at themselves, one of them particularly striking with his emaciated features and peacock blue locks. They looked kinda cool and streetwise in a kinda contemporary way. It has since been remarked that The Doctors of Madness were the missing link between Bowie and the Sex Pistols (absolutely true but absolutely only a fraction of the truth) and that is exactly how they looked. Bowie (thanks to the very same brother) and punk (to the mockery of the very same brother) were my joint musical loves. I played the record. I loved it. My brother thought it was rubbish except for Mitzi’s Cure and that I was welcome to take it. Indebted to one of your rare moments of poor taste, bro.

There were, of course, sociological reasons for Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms’ lack of success at the time of release, as the album, put simplistically, was stylistically stuck in a place somewhere between the lumpen progressive rock that prevailed in mid-seventies UK and the about-to-explode punk rock movement. I should qualify the first half of that sentence; there is nothing ‘prog rock’ or ‘lumpen’ about this extraordinary work, but there are acoustic guitars, electric violins, exquisitely complex songs, long instrumental breaks where every note and nuance counts (not just the musical jerking off of the prog scene) and worst of all if you were a punk rocker at the dawn of the Sex Pistols, LONG songs. Early punk was Stalinist in its purity; it had to be to flush away the indulgence of the preceding years. Joe Strummer openly admitted he ran The Clash in a manner reminiscent of the moustachioed Georgian despot. Why, in retrospect, the album isn’t generally viewed as an art punk classic to be mentioned in the same breath as Television’s Marquee Moon or Roxy Music’s eponymous first LP is frankly a mystery to me. I would love to see the artists involved (sadly, one has passed away) receive the recognition and pecuniary rewards the work deserves. Perhaps the record will be proclaimed as genius posthumously in the manner of so many classical compositions. The care which went into producing the album is certainly reminiscent of the classical genre; yet it has a punk soul.

Due to the filmic nature of the album, I rarely listen to isolated tracks from it. There is most certainly a journey involved in listening to it from start to finish, accompanied by a string of images, the clarity of which eclipse any which I see when enjoying other albums; hence the very definite comparison with a movie. Just to give you a few examples of my personal response to the record; I see a frantic, 1920s, Parisian dancehall in the first track, the exhilarating Waiting, which storms in with a furious, glorious burst of punk violins; a room so bare as to suggest a retreat from bedlam (but within the walls of Bedlam) in I Think We’re Alone Now; sinister ships and wild coastline in The Noises of the Evening (Anglesey, though most likely a romanticised version, is uppermost in my visualising here); gloomy corridors, dodgy misfits (‘leather boys, sailor boys, Christian boys’) and urban decay in Billy Watch Out and all manner of horrors and wonders in the final track, Mainlines (what a masterpiece!), notably a remote train leading to wilderness and terror. Images of the bleakest imaginable brutalist architecture, the likes of which probably don’t really exist and are exaggerated archetypes from the part of the brain that knows fear, loom dismally as the denouement encroaches. This image of awful tower blocks is in a sense a testament to the power of the album to evoke pictures, though also perhaps a comment on the way I listen to music – that is to say, it was only after many (I would estimate over twenty) plays that I cottoned on to the fact that there was the haunting presence of Nazism in Mainlines. In fact, it’s bloody obvious, given the first line, ‘this is the place where the rats come to die’, a reference (I imagine) to Goebbels’ vile anti-Semitic propaganda, and a line a little later where a hotel bellboy is wearing jackboots. Yet even such references as these didn’t penetrate my imagination. The theme of the abandoned, isolated railroad and perhaps a reference to ‘Animal Farm’ instinctively made me see the Communist nightmare for years. In fact, both dystopias and other nightmares are present in the song – yet the lyrics in themselves, while fascinating, deeply poetic and often obscure throughout, are only a small part of the work. As in most great pop music, the sound of them is at least equally as important as the meaning. I admit, there are lines I can make little sense of. In a nutshell, the power of the shots outweighs the force of the narrative – the two together are absolutely astonishing.

Despite the fact that I have said that the album needs to be listened to in order and preferably in its entirety, we must beware of labelling Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms a ‘concept album’. The term is generally a negative and much-maligned one, referring once again to progressive rock and its pretensions and grandiose, ultimately empty statements, perhaps perfectly and beautifully parodied by the scene in Spinal Tap where a pathetically small version of Stonehenge descends limply to the stage. I should add that ‘concept album’ is a term that has been applied to Kate Bush albums before now – after all, there is nothing inherently wrong with simply writing a clutch of songs with a coherent theme. In Bush’s case the LPs in question have been largely unmitigated artistic successes and if there was a challenger to Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms for the greatest album of all time, then in my view she would have a couple of contenders. Then again there was Yes…

Not that there aren’t recurrent themes in Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms. There is a continual feeling of danger, dystopia and paranoia, while drugs, religion and debauchery come frequently to the fore. The scenes are in turn pastoral, magical and urban. An undercurrent of compassion and humanity is present throughout; the singer is clearly concerned about the apparent wrecks he sings about, like Mitzi in Mitzi’s Cure and Billy, Hopper and Nancy in Billy Watch Out. The man in question, singer and songwriter Richard (or Kid as he was known at the time) Strange, goes about his business with an emotional range that suggests he has put every last drop of energy he possesses into making this wonderful record. He sings with an interesting and very mild rhotacism, which makes him instantly original and recognisable.

What makes this work so truly remarkable is the presence of the electric violins provided by bowmaster Urban Blitz. The string parts are mind-blowing, death-defying, other-wordly brushstrokes of genius. Again, the Doctors sit just the right side of the fence, where genius generally sits, since this is another example of something that could be seen as anti-rock and roll or overly pompous; I have been repelled by the use of electric violins on records before. The violins do not sound classical, they do not sound folk, they do not sound Irish, they do not sound neo-classical; they just sound bloody cosmic. They are a fairly constant yet never intrusive presence – only one song, the gripping punk blast of B-Movie Bedtime, is virtually shorn of violins. The production of the instrument is as astounding as the bow work and its wondrous melodies. It soars, it sears, it scrapes, it screams, it stabs, it quavers, it comforts, it terrifies, it oppresses and it liberates. It is heavenly and earthly and hellish. There are dozens of notable violin parts of countless hues, but perhaps my favourite moment is a seven note explosion which occurs in I Think We’re Alone Now. It is just breathtakingly, impossibly beautiful and it never ceases to thrill me. In fact, I never tire of any of the album, such is its perfect emotional balance.

I Think We’re Alone Now is perhaps the most downbeat track on the album. Afterglow is also slow but unimaginably lovely, melding joy and sadness amidst the pleasant fogs of post-coital morning comedown – well, that’s what I see, anyway. The former song talks openly of depression and contemplation of suicide, to a backdrop of the wrong people trying to help you and only making things worse. Yet I don’t find it depressing; on the contrary, I find it uplifting and this is what I mean when I refer to emotional balance. The aforementioned and godlike violin part occurs a tantalising three times amidst these lines:

‘They just make me feel it’s all been a waste of time.
They just make me feel I’m in a surrealist pantomime,
They just make me feel there’s no more to talk about.’

The following line is,

‘They just make me feel it’s the only way out.’

Hardly cheery lines, you’ll admit, yet the violin hovers in quasi-religious ecstasy. Now don’t get me wrong, I love early Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, but due to the somewhat intense and admittedly superbly realised pounding of a particular place in the emotional spectrum, you really have to be in the mood to listen to them. Not so with the Doctors of Madness. I’m not picking on Nick, whom I absolutely revere, but am just using him as an example.

The violin transcends the concerns of the narrator in spectacular fashion. The band are sculpting these amazing, depressive songs that would already make for a classic work, yet over the top a heavenly violectra soars in sympathy with the suffering of the words, but also apart and joyous. I’m not sure any one musician has influenced a band’s album more than Urban Blitz.

Lennon & McCartney? Good, but hardly Strange and Blitz!

I recently read a review which intimated that Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms was a difficult, depressing album. It said that the most optimistic line in it was ‘we’ll just have to sit back and hope for the best now.’ While I’m not criticising the reviewer, who was full of praise for the record, wrote his or her piece well and is clearly on the side of its creators, I feel the point was missed about the emotional balance. That, or I hear things that aren’t there. That would fit nicely in with the omnipresent paranoia of the album.

Then there is the crescendo; oh, Lord, that crescendo! Mainlines, the final track, a thirteen minute trip through nightmares of fascism, communism, perversion and ‘reversal boys’, whoever they are. Following a long, introspective pause in which the violin culminates in a dark orgasm of geese-like screeching, one feels the narrator may be at his lowest ebb. Then, after a brief revisiting of the ‘reversal boys’ the song slips softly into a refrain of,

“Mainline trains could never find drivers to run a service out to here.”

Then suddenly you question whether the trains couldn’t run here because it’s such a good place rather than such a ghastly one.

The build up is majestic, aided by some amazing drumming by sticks man Peter Di Lemma (what a f***ing great, straight up punk name, concocted presumably before Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious). It’s enough to make you weep tears of joy though, when this part, via a splurge of bass, erupts into a classic rock and roll finale of descending chords over which the extraordinary Blitz possibly eclipses even his violin work with a glorious, triumphant electric guitar solo. Possibly.

This is a truly staggering end to the album. It’s like the Ancient Mariner stepping into the light of his complete and utter redemption. All the pain that has gone before is conquered and buried, at least for the time being, by these few minutes of rapture. The best moment for me is when the bass, impeccably played all the way through the album by the late, great Stoner, moves up an octave. The effect is one of blinding gentleness, tenderness and mercy. The confirmation that the Universe is benign, after all.

Right, I’m off to listen to it once again, sure to find something new; some spellbinding detail I hadn’t quite noticed before...