Monday 30 October 2017



open the wardrobe
see the bodies hung inside,
who shall I be today?
sometimes a rational decision
other times a capricious whim,
I need an upgrade of new flesh,
a delicious adornment, as a gown
to hold against myself in the mirror,
yes, I enjoy having a vagina
but sometimes I prefer a penis,
today I’m young, tomorrow perhaps
I’ll choose the wisdom of great age,
slip on the garment of colour-coded bodies
ebon or Byzantine gold, switching scenarios
one by one, tentacle-fingers, starfish eyes,
embroidered as a bishop, lizard scales,
webbed feet, ocelot fur, my eyes are flame,
my cheeks maps of unknown planets,
Asiatic tattoos or albino Hispanic
a Nordic dancer, a bantu nymph
I forsake fixed form to match my mood,
shrug off bodies to squeeze into new ones
some are winged, others silver filigree,
limbs protrude in careless afterthought
smile for an hour, frown a month away
blood circulates as rush of dark waters
as surely as ocean tides,
flip through bodies
how to decide,
who shall I be today…?

Thursday 26 October 2017



 Overview of: 
(1971, One Way Records, reissued BGO CD 165) 
(1993, Morgan Creek Records, reissued Polydor 519 6142) 
(2003 Live 2CD, Rude Girl Records) 

Drew Barrymore. Michael Jackson… Britney Spears. Child protégés have it tough. Janis Ian explains, in a cheek-and-tongue related fashion, ‘just how often I’m compared with Britney Spears’. In response to the ensuing hilarity she concedes ‘it’s an uncanny resemblance, I must admit. I did get a very good review in Maryland recently that compared me quite favourably with Britney’. Janis Ian – neé Janis Eddy Fink, began playing the Greenwich Village Coffee House Folkie circuit at fourteen. A year later she was charting high with her own “Society’s Child”, a bitter emotion-charged interracial love affair torn apart by adult intolerance and hypocrisy. White-girl-meets-black-boy – ‘they call you ‘boy’ instead of your name’, girl-loses-boy, girl-blames-society, all interpreted through one of Shadow Morton’s more sympathetic productions. As she replays it live it’s still a remarkably mature and stunningly powerful song.

‘I had my first hit when I was fourteen’ she narrates. Early fame, followed by the come-down, ‘a period of my life where it was pretty dark’ and ‘I’d had to move back in with my Mom. By the time I wrote this next song I was nineteen and in the words of one critic I was a washed-up has-been. I wanna thank him for making me angry enough to just write a truthful song’. That truthful song – “Stars”, the title-song of her 1974 album, tells the pain of early stardom making it almost as relevant, to stretch an analogy, to Britney as it is to Janis Ian. And she was well into her first of many come-backs, in a smoother Joni Mitchell vibe, but still impacting the ills of the world head-on. “This Train Still Runs” becomes a personal metaphor, her ‘baggage weighs a ton’ but ‘I’m not done’. ‘Present Company’ (1971) – her fourth LP, re-visits her early-seventies trauma, while ‘Breaking Silence’ (1993) updates the misery memoirs following a bout of violent marital breakdown and her newly-discovered lesbian self-awareness (she divorced filmmaker Tino Sargo, and subsequently married attorney Patricia Snyder). When someone yells out ‘we love you’ she responds ‘I didn’t spend all that money on therapy to disregard that’. Remarkably precocious and assured from the start, setting her sometimes precious poesy into sparse sensitive shimmers of instrumentation, with elements of confessional therapy giving it all a tense nervy edge, her albums can be unsettling.

Early titles like “Insanity Comes Quietly To The Structured Mind” and “Forty-Second St Psycho Blues” betray an earnest fragility she’s never quite kicked. She writes tear-jerking self-analysis in the first person, her biggest American hit – “At Seventeen”, is a painfully maudlin paean to acne’d misery, savagely introspective and to be listened to with a tear-absorbant Kleenex handy, about ‘those of us with ravaged faces, lacking in the social graces… inventing lovers on the ‘phone, who call to say come dance with me, and whisper vague obscenities’. She explains how, although the initial spark came from a ‘New York Times’ feature in which a debutante complained how ‘she’d learned the truth at eighteen’ – which didn’t scan so was age-revised down, the confessional song took her three months to write. The adolescent trauma she assumed to be so uniquely isolating went on to touch surprisingly universal sensitivities.

Her songs are diary entries with literary pretentions, one record sleeve frames her alienation through a shattered window against a wedge of books artfully contrived for their intellectual effect – Colin Wilson’s cod-philosophical text on the benefits of isolation ‘The Outsider’, Albert Camus in translation, always a dead give-away, and as a personal reference point, ‘The Greenwich Village Bluebook 1974-75’.

That said, ‘Present Company’ does catch her at something of a melodic low, joyless and humourless, with doses of compensation injected by the near-gutsy drive of “My Lane”, against the attractive “Here In Spain”, “See The River”, and “Can You Reach Me?” (‘…would you teach me to be free?’). ‘Breaking Silence’ is stronger, enveloping her predictable themes of cathartic pain, incest, and doubt in cracked and muted washes of highly personal acoustics with soft jazz touches. Among the titles is “Some People’s Lives” which she originally wrote for Bette Midler, and a wistful “Guess You Had to Be There” looking back at simpler sixties times.

Yet she’s capable of wresting humour from her own persona, chastising her enthusiastic audience ‘this is the Janis Ian show, you’re supposed to be depressed by now’. She throws ‘Purple Haze’ quotes into the complex instrumental work on the ten-minute “Take No Prisoners”. She adds scrabbled guitar-fret effects and ascending harmony-chimes to “Take Me Walking In The Rain”. There’s a Greek Leonard Cohen pacing to “Between The Lines”. And she moves from Joni Mitchell lightness, through falsetto feints, into the jaunty jazzy-jump of “Fly Too High” with punching horns and sax solo, prefacing it with ‘just ‘cos you guys thought we wouldn’t do any old songs’. Dance-miester Giorgio Morodor produced the original version for its inclusion on the soundtrack of the Jodie Foster movie ‘Foxes’ (1980). Then there’s “Cosmopolitan Girl” which even eulogises the benefits of a vibrator. But when she talks about the magic and the alchemy of song, of being born ‘with a talent’ and working ‘both as a woman and an artist’, she’s probably angling more towards the subtle eroticism of “Ride Me Like A Wave”, or the delicate gender-free fragility of the acoustic “Jesse”. From ‘Stars’, Roberta Flack later had a hit with “Jesse”. Janis co-wrote “Berlin” with Pop multi-tasker Linda Perry.

But the harrowing holocaust testament “Tattoo” stands starkly, and touchingly alone. But of course, like the young Drew Barrymore, Michael Jackson… or Britney Spears, the teenage Janis Ian was very much THERE, and it could be argued she’s still working her way through its consequences. ‘Not that I have anything against Britney Spears’ she explains carefully, with calculated pauses for effect. ‘I mean, what’s not to like? She’s young… she’s tall… she’s blonde… and she’s really rich’. Ending with a one-word punchline, ‘slut!’

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Instrumental Rock 'n' Roll: JOHNNNY & THE HURRICANES


Expanded Album Review of: 
(Smith & Co SCCD 2429, October 2010) 

There used to be a magazine called ‘Beat Instrumental’ which would have loved this two-CD plus one-DVD package. Its glossy black-&-white pages specialised in that wave of vocal-free groups who’s tuneful danceable novelty 45rpm’s scored highly in the international charts through the late fifties up to around the brink of the Beat Boom. Duane Eddy, the Shadows, Sandy Nelson, the Ventures, B Bumble & The Stingers, and – of course, sax-led five-piece Johnny & The Hurricanes. The irritatingly catchy “Rocking Goose” was blasted above the opposition by a squawking riff accidentally produced by leader Johnny Paris (born Poscik) when rinsing his tenor sax-reed in the washroom, blowing into it produced a comical gimmicky mutant rasp instantly seized upon to punctuate the precise 1:50-minute single. It became one of seven UK Top 40 hits issued, and hoarded here, on the black-&-silver London label.

From Toledo, Ohio, the group got together at Rossford Catholic High School with the intention of playing back-up to local vocalists. As the Orbits, they became a big club draw in the Midwest region, and amiably agreed to help out singer Fred Kelley when he scored a Detroit audition with ‘Talent Artists Inc’. Kelley failed the audition, but the group were signed by hawkish Detroit A&R entrepreneur Harry Balk who leased them to newly-formed Warwick records in their own right. The details of the contract would hurt for decades, ensuring the group saw little remuneration for their hits.

The first – the frantic dance-disc “Crossfire” in April 1959, was recorded in Detroit movie theatre ‘Carmen Towers’ to get the desired reverb effect. The second, a rocked-up version of old Cowboy song ‘Red River Valley’ retitled “Red River Rock” was the first to front their prominent pop-pop piping Hammond-organ style enlivened with bursts of rough sax. It also became their first cross-over to the Euro market. Once the formula was devised, it was open to endless variation. Interchangeably smart-suited with slicked-back quiffs, their line-up was fluid from the start, with Royaltones’ drummer Bill ‘Little Bo’ Savitch replacing Don Staczek, who in turn had replaced original drummer Tony Kaye. Nevertheless, the group up-switched to New York’s Big Top label, recording in their Bellsound Studios, where organ-player Paul Tesluk also helped out by adding his distinctive sound to fellow Big Top label-mate Del Shannon on the hits “Runaway” and “Hats Off To Larry”. The group also backed Del on tour, and shared his manager, Irving Micahnik. All the while, their live music, and ‘B’-sides, took on a harder edge, not that it mattered. Hits continued, with the attention-grabbing Sergeant-Major’s shout opening “Reveille Rock” – ‘alright you guys, rise and shine!’ then ‘Wake Up!’ With Johnny & The Hurricanes playing up a storm, who could sleep? There are stinging guitars driving “Sandstorm” ripped up by greasy coarse-edged sax, through to the lumpy rhythms of “Old Smokie” in July 1961, by which time Paris was the only constant figure, using the group-name as a convenient trademark.

‘Record Mirror’ proclaimed the highly-marketable “Rocking Goose” ‘the last of the true rock hits’. Perhaps, for instrumental-freaks, they were right. Paris knew his stuff. He’d started out imitating Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins, before the example of Bill Haley’s honking saxist Rudy Pompilli redirected his talents into the new ‘Rock thing’. After Johnny & The Hurricanes were dropped by the majors, he formed his own label – Atila, to market more of the group’s music. He toured, including sharing a Hamburg bill with the Beatles, taking different Hurricanes line-ups well into the 1970’s.

At their peak, singles were the predominant Pop currency, with cash-in albums hastily thrown together and sometimes – whisper it soft, with tracks produced by session musicians when the group itself was touring. Some – including Del Shannon, claim that the band got a first hear of their latest record by tuning into their Volkswagen tour-bus radio, and then had to learn it. In subsequent interviews Paris always denied this. No, there were guest players drawn in to help out, but the essential Hurricanes’ ‘meaty stuff’ was always there. Well, maybe. But there were other scams. Their jaunty hit “Beatnik Fly” was revamped from an 1846 minstrel song ‘Jimmy Cracked Corn’, a traditional ‘public domain’ property for which management duo Micahnik & Balk claimed writer credits (as Tom King & Ira Mack). Check out the back-catalogue, and the tight-fisted duo repeatedly rebranded out-of-copyright tunes as a conniving strategy to siphon away yet more lucrative royalties. There again, it was the dawn of Rock, there wasn’t an extensive repertoire of original material to draw on. And Blues and Folk continually reinvents its past in new guises, if with greater credibility. And ultimately… does it Rock? Yes, it Rocks! Even so, while the hits still carry an undeniable supercharge, it’s debatable whether anyone but the most ardent reader of ‘Beat Instrumental’ would really want quite such a comprehensive anthology of their back-catalogue.


Johnny ‘Paris’ Poscik (sax), Paul Tesluk (accordian, then organ), Dave Yorko (lead guitar), Lionel ‘Butch’ Mattice (bass), Tony Kaye (drums). Later members include Lynn Bruce (drums, replacing Savich)

April 1959 – ‘Crossfire’ c/w ‘Lazy’ (US Warwick 502) Billboard no.23

July 1959 – ‘Red River Rock’ c/w ‘Buckeye’ (US Warwick 509) US no.5 – (UK London HL8948) no.17 10th October 1959. With new drummer Don Staczek

October 1959 – ‘Reveille Rock’ c/w ‘Time Bomb’ (US Warwick 513) US no.25 (London HL9017) UK no.13 26th Dec 1959. With third drummer Little Bo Savich

February 1960 – ‘Beatnik Fly’ c/w ‘Sandstorm’ (US Warwick 520) US no.15 (London HLI9072) UK no.15 13th March 1960. ‘Beatnik Fly’ based on tune also known as ‘Blue Tail Fly’

May 1960 – ‘Down Yonder’ c/w ‘Sheba’, reviving ‘Way Down Yonder In New Orleans’, their first for US Big Top label (London HLX9134) US no.48. UK no.12 5th June 1960

September 1960 – ‘Rocking Goose’ c/w ‘Revival’ (London HLX9190) US no.60 (‘Revival’, based on ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’, was also US no.97). UK no.18 14th October 1960 (reissued as HL10199 c/w ‘Beatnik Fly’)

December 1960 – ‘You Are My Sunshine’ (Big Top 3056) US no.91

December 1960 – ‘Stormville’ LP (London HAI 2269) UK LP chart no.18, with ‘Milk Shake’, ‘Cyclone’, ‘Hungry Eye’

March 1961 – ‘Ja-Da’ c/w ‘Mr Lonely’ (London HLX9289) US no.86. UK no.17 24th February 1961

April 1961 – ‘Big Sound Of Johnny & The Hurricanes’ LP (London HAK 2322) UK LP chart no.14, with ‘Mr Irving’

June 1961 – ‘Old Smokie’ c/w ‘High Voltage’ (London HLX9378) UK no.12 28th June 1961 ‘High Voltage’ is a re-working of ‘Stack-O-Lee’

‘Farewell Farewell’ c/w ‘Traffic Jam’ (London 9491) reviving ‘Now Is The Hour’

‘Salvation’ c/w ‘Miserlou’ (London 9536) a rocked-up version of folk-hymn ‘Bringing In The Sheaves’

‘Minnesota Fats’ c/w ‘Come On Train’ (London HL9617) titled after Paul Newman’s movie pool playing hero of ‘The Hustle’

‘Whatever Happened To Baby Jane’ c/w ‘Greens And Beans’ (London HL9660) movie theme

‘Money Honey’ c/w ‘That’s All’ (UK Stateside SS347)

‘Rene’ c/w ‘Saga Of The Beatles’ (Atila 211)

‘I Love You’ c/w ‘Judy’s Moody’ (Atila 214)

‘Wisdom’s Fifth Take’ c/w ‘Because I Love Her’ (Atila)

Johnny & The Hurricanes Live At The Star Club’ (Atila ALP 1030) with I Should’ve Known Better, High Heel Sneakers, Do You Love Me, Red River Rock, You Can’t Do That, Love Nest, You Really Got Me, Jambalaya, Beatnik Fly, Money, Time Is On My Side, Down Yonder, Satin Doll

‘San Antonio Rose’ (Germany only, Heliodor label)

1967 ‘The Psychedelic Worm’

The Best Of Johnny & The Hurricanes’ (London TAB 32) with Crossfire, Red River Rock, Lazy, Buckeye, Walkin’, Reveille Rock, Time Bomb, Sandstorm, Beatnik Fly, Down Yonder, Sheba, Rocking Goose, Revival, You Are My Sunshine, Ja-Da, Traffic Jam, Old Smokie, High Voltage

August 1976 ‘Soda Pop Jive’ (DJM) compilation EP includes ‘Red River Rock’ and ‘Reveille Rock’, plus the Dixie-Cups and the Shangri-Las

Johnny &The Hurricanes: the Collection’ (Castle CD-CCSCD 182) with Red River Rock, Down Yonder, The Hurricane, High Voltage, Rene, Walking, Rocking Goose, Hot Fudge, Ja-Da, Reveille Rock, Honky Tonk, Rock-Cha, Beatnik Fly, Sheba, Crossfire, She’s Gone, Thunderbolt, Bean Bag, Buckete, Cut Out, Old Smokie, Rockin’t, You Are My Sunshine, Catnip

1981 ‘The Jets’ (EMI EMC 3356) authentic UK Rock ‘n’ Roll trio assisted on this album by Blockheads Mickey Gallagher & Davey Payne, plus Johnny Paris

Monday 23 October 2017



 First published in 1956, ‘The Twenty-Seventh Day’ 
was John Mantley’s only significant contribution 
to the Science Fiction genre, does it still 
stand up to re-reading, despite its flaws…?

 ‘The Twenty-Seventh Day’ opens precisely between four and five o’clock – Pacific Standard Time, on Thursday 18 July 1963. As the novel was first published in 1956, this still places the action a safe margin into the future, and John Mantley hazards a few minor global changes that have occurred between these two dates. The novel’s events naturally take the reader through the spread of the title’s twenty-seven days to Tuesday, the thirteenth of August. In real-historical time, this was the space when the audacious Great Train Robbery took place in England, and in international politics the Cold War thawed a little. Following President John F Kennedy’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech in divided Germany, the Moscow Test Ban Treaty was signed by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in an attempt to limit nuclear weapons testing. 

Yet this is very much a Cold War novel, in which ‘we’re scared to death of the Russians, and they’re scared to death of us’. Only the astrophysics are dubious. ‘You must realize by now that we are not of your world’ explains the alien who has snatched five random humans from Earth. ‘We come not even from your universe, but from another sun in this Galaxy, from what the people of Earth call ‘the stars’.’ And the five people plucked by the aliens into their saucer, are direct from central casting. Literally in the case of square-jawed all-American hero Jonathan Clark – a ‘first-string reporter on the ‘Los Angeles Telegram’,’ appropriately played by the amiable Gene Barry in the 1957 movie version of the novel. He’d launched his film career with Sci-Fi shocker ‘The Atomic City’ (1952) following it as Dr Clayton Forrester in George Pal’s classic ‘The War Of The Worlds’ (1953), which led to a cameo in the 2005 remake. While, as TVs gunfighter ‘Bat Masterson’, his easy masculine charm captures Mantley’s character to perfection.

Eve Wingate is an impossibly pure English rose, snatched from the Torquay beach in her decorously brief two-piece bathing-suit (astutely targeting the imaginings of a young male readership). Their bantering attraction, with amusing Anglo-American misunderstandings thrown in to spice up the dialogue, adds the necessary romantic subplot. Professor Klaus Bochner, a ‘short, round-faced, rosy-cheeked man with a halo of white hair’ is the obvious Albert Einstein figure, there to provide cod-scientific explanations as required about what’s happening to the diverse group. Can faster-than-light travel set time into reverse, so their trip into space – and return to Earth, is literally instantaneous? Su Tan is a lightweight addition, from the brigand-ravaged Ho Chin foothills. At one point, faced with the bodies of her dead brother and father, she’s even described as ‘inscrutable’. The fifth abductee is Ivan Godofsky of the Soviet Red Army, stationed at a highly secret military installation in Vladivostok. Together the five forge ‘the world’s first pact among its simple peoples to preserve the dignity of man’.

Their courteous alien captors are an ancient race, faced by extinction brought about by their sun’s imminent nova. With admirable moral restraint, the Galactic Federation forbids them seizing another inhabited world, but should the warlike nature of the people of such a world cause them to destroy each other, then subsequent colonization would be judged blameless. And if the aliens accelerate that process by gifting five randomly-selected humans with instant armageddon-weapons…? So each of them is given three small capsules sealed into a black box which only they can open, and which will deactivate only after twenty-seven days. A test. A riddle. Once returned to Earth, Eve promptly dumps her capsules into the depths of the English channel, while Su Tan – little more than a cipher, kills herself, causing her capsules to dissolve into dust.

After all, ‘it didn’t seem so very difficult for five people to keep a secret for twenty-seven days.’ Until the aliens broadcast their names through every available 1950s media, making the five custodians of the ultra-powerful devices hunted targets.

The Four-Square paperback edition emerged in 1961. I bought a pre-owned copy during one of my frequent forays around Hull second-hand bookshops, probably attracted by the fluidly surreal cover-art painted by Josh Kirby. By then the superpower balance had become, if anything, even more incendiary, with the imposition of the Berlin Wall bringing international tensions to a precarious brink. Philosopher Bertrand Russell led sit-down CND demonstrations as he dourly predicts ‘the human race may well become extinct before the end of the century. Speaking as a mathematician, I should say the odds are about three to one against survival.’ All of which makes Mantley’s scenario even more vitally relevant. I was impressed. Radioactive fallout was in the air. We breathed it in. There was a constant awareness that ‘if the button is pushed, there’ll be no running away, there’ll be no-one to save, with the world in a grave’. The novel touched my existential fears. I’d already written my own future-fiction about Martian incursions following the nuclear war of 1966.

Born in Toronto, Ontario, John Truman Mantley (25 April 1920-14 January 2003) was a writer, actor and media activist. As a jobbing TV screenplay-writer on Westerns and Cop-shows, he worked with ‘The War Of The Worlds’ director Bryon Haskin, to script ‘The Outer Limits’ episode “Behold Eck!” (3 October 1964), in which a two-dimensional being runs amok in Los Angeles. His other genre-credits include a 1981 eleven-episode stint as executive producer on ‘Buck Rogers In The Twenty-Fifth Century’. He also tried out with a couple of short stories, welcomed by ‘Science Fantasy’ editor John Carnell as ‘a Canadian writer new to this medium’. The first of them – “Uncle Clem And Them Martians” (no.17, February 1956), is narrated as a humorous hillbilly tall tale about Clem whose ‘genius ain’t due to no sort of education nor nothin’ like that’, who nevertheless builds a perpetual-motion machine in his barn. There’s a walk-on part for Albert Einstein, then Clem dissolves some weirdie crystalline aliens after ensuring sandpaper in their shoes has rasped off their surface coating, so saving the world from their sinister intentions.

A second story, darker in intent – “The Black Crucible” (no.22, April 1957), is set in Freeland, a survivor enclave by the Great Slave Lake in northwestern Manitoba. With the world reduced to a radioactive wasteland in the wake of a forty-minute nuclear war, five people – obviously a significant number for Mantley, must reach the ‘Grail’-world of Venus. Enlivened by onboard romance, the young mixed-race crew die one-by-one from cosmic rays, until only Clayton Steele arrives to bury Carla in the ‘warm golden’ Venusian sand. Stilted and overwrought, it fails to show Mantley at his best. Although ‘The Twenty-Seventh Day’ was his debut full-length novel, he followed it with ‘The Snow Birch’, a tortured romance set in Canadian forests, it was adapted into the 1959 film ‘Woman Obsessed’ for Susan Hayward. His screenplay ‘My Blood Runs Cold’ was then filmed in 1965 with heartthrob Troy Donahue, as an escaped murderer who claims reincarnation links to a woman he meets following an autowreck.

Meanwhile, once the alien’s cross-channel announcement alerts the world that five humans from opposing nations each have an invincible weapon, the novel takes on elements of a political thriller, crossing Ian Fleming with John Buchan’s ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’ (1915). Are the fugitives alien stooges, brainwashed into complicity as part of the monster’s take-over of the world? Amid panic and terrors of Martian invasion, Eve flies to California under an assumed name. Once there, she and Jonathan escape hysterical mobs and Los Angeles roadblocks to reach his mountain cabin where they enjoy an idyll long enough to establish their emotional involvement. Although they sleep chastely in separate bunks! For Dr Bochner, caught up on the New York lecture-circuit, things are not so clear-cut. He’s obsessed with using his research expertise to crack the alien code and tap into the immense energy resources that the capsules represent, to the extent of neglecting his health. He winds up hospitalized, where he’s first traced by the government, and then survives an assassination attempt by Russian agents.

In those pre-Guantanamo days there’s a touching belief that the US will not resort to extreme interrogation methods. Ivan Godofsky is less fortunate. Once identified, he’s flown to Moscow to meet the Great Leader – a tyrant who assumed absolute power following the post-Stalin thaw (maybe anticipating Putin?), and Ivan is subjected to misinformation, truth drugs, and psychological torture. Essentially idealistic and well-intentioned, he’s finally coerced into surrendering the capsules, enabling an unopposed Soviet expansion of power. Confirming all the worst 1950s paranoid fears of the global communist conspiracy.

As the countdown races towards the final moments of the twenty-seven days, again, there are false steps that don’t quite ring true. Despairing of ever deciphering the alien conundrum, Bochner hears the ‘still small voice from within’, with jarring religious implications quite at odds with his previous rationalism. This enables him to decipher the science, and see that the capsules are not simply weapons of mass-destruction, but reprogrammable tools. As John Brosnan points out in his review of the movie, it makes for ‘a finale which is chilling in a way that the makers did not intend, the capsules selectively kill ‘every enemy of human freedom’’ (in Peter Nicholls ‘The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction’).

There’s a persuasive argument that the Cold War itself was an evolutionary test imposed on the human race, not by extraterrestrial intervention, but by its own ingenuity. As Professor Bochner generously concedes, ‘in spite of our record, the Aliens have not tried to judge us. They have merely shoved into bold relief the choice which had faced us since Enrico Fermi made the first atomic pile.’ With the world poised on the brink of thermo-nuclear mutual annihilation, it’s only through a mix of chance, political expediency, and maybe even a little wisdom, that our species managed to scrape through the test. In real-world time the Soviet Union collapsed and the Berlin Wall was ripped down as the century closed. In John Mantley’s novel that happens overnight as Bochner releases the modified power of the alien capsules, inaugurating a new age of global harmony.

In a brief epilogue, with Mantley struggling to portray genuine otherworldly strangeness, the aliens snatch five beings from an even more distant world called Glehl, and the test begins again.


John Truman Mantley (25 April 1920-14 January 2003)

THE TWENTY-SEVENTH DAY (1956) Michael Joseph ‘Novels Of Tomorrow’ 12/6 with cover art by Peter Curl, also issued as the twenty-eight edition of its Science Fiction Book Club. Paperback Four Square Books (1961) 2/6p with cover art by Josh Kirby.
Reviewed by Leslie Flood in ‘New Worlds’ (no.53, November 1956), ‘full marks for originality, characterization and story-telling’


Uncle Clem And Them Martians’ (Science Fantasy no.17, February 1956), ‘portraying science as a hound to be leashed and kept at heel’

The Black Crucible’ (Science Fantasy no.22, April 1957), ‘the voyage of the ‘Pilgrim’ to discover a new homeland planet for the survivors of a ravished Earth’

THE TWENTY-SEVENTH DAY (Romson Productions/ Columbia Pictures, July 1957) Producer: Helen Ainsworth. Director: William Asher. Screenplay by Robert M Fresco from the John Mantley novel. With Gene Barry (as Jonathan Clark), Valerie French (as Evelyn ‘Eve’ Wingate), George Voskovec (as Professor Klaus Bochner), Arnold Moss (as the Alien), Azemat Janti (as Ivan Godofsky), Marie Tsien (as Su Tan), Stefan Schnabel (as Soviet General), Paul Frees (as newscaster Ward Mason). Includes stock footage from ‘Earth Versus The Flying Saucers’ (1956). Music by Mischa Bakaleinikoff. 75-minutes. John Brosnan says ‘this SF morality tale (many of them found their way on o the screen during the 1950s) is more optimistic about mankind’s inherent goodness than most of the others’ (in Peter Nicholls ‘The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction’)