Monday, December 29, 2014

Psychobabble’s 2015 Wish List

Four years ago, I posted my 2011 wish list here on Psychobabble. A couple of these indulgent dreams came true, such as the long-awaited release of Island of Lost Souls on DVD and the even longer awaited release of the deleted scenes from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. That the majority of those wishes I made in 2010 did not come to pass has done nothing to kill my lovely, lovely dreams for 2015. Here are some things I’m hoping will exist next year, some far-fetched, some within the realm of possibility. 

1. E.C. Horror Comics Reprints by a Publisher Other than Dark Horse

OK, so it is cool that the intermittent anthologizing of E.C.’s infamous horror comics of the fifties has not croaked despite "The E.C. Archives" changing publishers several times, but what began with a fairly acceptable level of digital meddling by Gemstone Publishing in 2006 has gotten way out of hand in the hands of Dark Horse. Carlos Badilla has recolored these classic comics with a heavy hand that leaves them unacceptably modern and soulless. I would love to see a company like IDW, which does not screw with original coloring whatsoever and even prints on textural, comic-style stock (as opposed to Dark Horse’s glossy pages), tear the property out of Dark Horse’s greasy hooves. As Dark Horse has more E.C. anthologies on tap for 2015, I understand that this is one of the most unlikely wishes on this list, but it’s no more out there than my wish to breathe underwater, which I’m also hoping will come true next year. Keep your webbed fingers crossed.

2. Beatles Singles Box

From the far-fetched wish to the inevitable one, Capitol/UMe has been giving us so much superior-quality Beatles long-playing vinyl over the past couple of years that I’d wager the probability of them rereleasing the short-playing records is pretty probable. The original picture sleeves and a neat classic 45s carry-case are givens. The only stumbling box might be a relative lack of interest in singles, but if R.E.M. and The Turtles can get the singles box treatment, I don’t see how the most popular group in the galaxy would get passed up. I do think we’ll have to wait until after Capitol/UMe reissues The Beatles’ U.S. albums on vinyl (likely with the original bad echo and bad duophonic mixes the recent CD box lacked), but can that be far away?

3. Rolling Stones in Mono

The Beatles’ mono albums have been reissued on CD and LP now. So isn’t it time that ABKCO acknowledges that it controls the back catalogue of the second most popular band in the galaxy, and that like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones believed their mono mixes to be their ultimate ones? There actually is quite a bit of mono Stones out there. Their first few stereo albums were hodge-podges of stereo and mono mixes. Then there’s the 1990 Singles Years box set that collected mono mixes of all the band’s biggest songs. Yet there’s still a ton of unissued mono music as The Rolling Stones continued to favor the format through Beggars Banquet (there is a mono Let It Bleed, but like Abbey Road, that incarnation is a fold-down of the stereo mix). This release seems like a given, but unlike so many other record companies that exploit the shit out of their properties, such as 1980-era ABKCO, 2014-era ABKCO is reluctant to exploit the Stones to a fault. Which is also why we still need…

4. Stones Sixties Outtakes Anthology

…to get their sixties-era outtakes released for the first time. Deluxe editions of such seventies albums as Exile on Main Street and Some Girls tidied up quite a few leftovers from that decade (unfortunately, with a lot of jarring, newly recorded vocal tracks added). Of course, ABKCO doesn’t own the Stones’ seventies-era recordings and continues to keep a tight grip on cool things like “Looking Tired”, “I Can See It”, and “Five Part Jam”. Some sort of Metamorphosis Volume Two collection, or better yet, a full-blown box set is necessary to clean out the vaults. 

5. Who Reissues Campaign

Another crazy thing that has never happened is the release of The Who’s entire back catalogue in its original mixes and with superior mastering. This is crazy because the work is already done. Japanese Whooligans (and fans with money to burn from elsewhere) have been enjoying these CDs for years on SHM-CD (a possible sham format that promises superior fidelity but only dogs know for sure). The campaign by UMe Japan saw all those original albums and compilations issued with their proper mono and stereo mixes, nicely remastered by Jon Astley, packed with bonus tracks, and encased in neat mini-LP sleeves. Why these releases have not been available domestically is a mystery, but with renewed interest in The Who in light of their fiftieth anniversary, it really is time that stateside UMe takes advantage of tapes already in its vaults. My theory is that the release of a lot of this material on the Who Hits 50 compilation this past year might mean that this is one of the less far-fetched wishes on my list.

6. “The Monkees” Blu-Ray

This year saw the momentous hi-def debut of one of the groundbreaking debutantes of ’66 with the release of “Batman: The Complete Original Series” blu-ray. Groovy! Now it’s time to give similar treatment to that year’s other innovator by bringing “The Monkees” to blu-ray. Currently, Mike, Micky, Davy, Peter, and Mr. Schneider continue to languish on poor quality DVDs that haven’t been remastered in a dozen years. Because the series was shot on film, it is a prime candidate for a fresh hi-def buffing. “The Monkees” could also use a new slew of extras, like alternate audio tracks featuring the songs that replaced the originals in reruns that aired between seasons one and two and then later on Saturday afternoons in the seventies. Maybe Criterion will even free Head from its America Lost and Found: The BBS Story set (which has limited appeal for Monkeemaniacs overall) for rerelease as part of an ultimate Monkees blu-ray box set.

7. Damned Biography

Aside from that Stones outtakes box, my dream of a really top-notch biography of my favorite punk band is the only thing I want to see so much that I’m recycling a wish from my 2011 list. Here’s what I said about this wish four years ago: “How has there never been a proper biography of The Damned, one of the foremost UK punk bands of the ‘70s, the band that gave the genre its first 45 and LP, helped spark the Goth movement of the ‘80s, and continues to tour and release good records in the present? They were hilarious, anarchic even by the standards of the ever-overrated Sex Pistols (who’ve been the subjects of countless biographies), and made incredible records— never mind Bollocks, Damned, Damned, Damned, Machine Gun Etiquette, The Black Album, and Strawberries are all infinitely better. Plus, Dave Vanian, Rat Scabies, Dave Vanian, and the rest were and are fascinating, engaging, colorful personalities. The liner notes in The Damned’s CDs provide a nice overview of the guys’ career, but some writer needs to finally give them their just respect and tell their tale in a much more complete fashion.” That wish didn’t come true in 2011. I’m hoping it will next year.

8. Star Wars Original Trilogy Blu-Rays

Depending on whom you ask, the possibility of the original, unadulterated, non-director-approved Star Wars seeing blu-ray release is either as unlikely as barracudas parachuting to the moon or something that will happen in 2015 to cash in on the release of The Force Awakens, the first Star Wars movie to feature the “real” Star Wars cast (Hamill, Fisher, Ford) since the original trilogy. For every Internet blatherer who says it can’t happen because the first Star Wars film (which is called Star Wars by the way) was not part of the sale to Disney, there’s another joker who comes up with some reason why it can. These licensing issues are beyond me, and frankly, they have nothing to do with making a wish. My wish is that Star Wars (that’s what the movie is called), Empire Strikes Back, and even Return of the Jedi are polished up blu-ray style without the comedy Jawas at Mos Eisley or the computerized X-Wings at the Death Star, without an unnecessarily bustling Cloud City but with the voice of Jason Wingreen, and without that vile musical number in Jabba’s palace but with (I can’t believe I’m going to say this) “Yub Nyub”. I don’t care if there are still hazy lines around the Tie Fighters or underneath the Landspeeder. I just want the movies to stop looking like a Laserdisc from 1993. The real movies.

9. “The X-Files” Blu Ray

I’m surprised I even have to wish for this. Come on. “The X Files” was one of the defining series of the nineties. The old DVDs look shitty. It has already been remastered in HD for TV airings (the aspect ratio has been rejiggered, but instead of complete information at the top and bottom of the screen, there is additional information on the sides, which is a bit of six-of-one/half-dozen-of-another as far as I’m concerned). Just toss the damn thing on some discs and put it out already. Jeez.

10. More David Lynch Blu-Rays

We end with what I believe to be less of a wish and more of an achievable goal. Up until this past year, Dune and Blue Velvet were the only David Lynch works that made it to blu-ray in the U.S. Then came the great flood of 2014: the short films, Eraserhead, “Twin Peaks”, Wild at Heart, and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. Huzzah! So let’s keep it coming in 2015. I am most eager for Mulholland Dr., the best damn movie of the 2010’s (rumors that Criterion has it in the pipeline persist), but I’d also be happy to see The Elephant Man, Lost Highway, and The Straight Story. I’m skeptical that blu-ray is the best medium for a movie that looks like INLAND EMPIRE, but hell, bring that one on too. And why stop there? How about “On the Air”? I’d even take “Hotel Room”, which was pretty bad. Are you listening, Criterion? How about you, Twilight Time? Or you, Warner Bros.? Make my wish come true in 2015, damn it.
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