Tuesday, June 24, 2014


 John Williams Composer John williams: vida y obra.

Ollie, lover of transatlantic televisual feasts and art house cinema, decided to choose the theme of Sountracks.


Turns out that work will take me out of town this coming Wednesday. This makes me especially sad because the preparation for this theme was so enjoyable. In the end I settled for my favourite atmospheric soundtrack by Tindersticks. I really like "Maid's Theme". But the title track is really evocative too...


The second is what I'd describe as "best soundtrack to worst movie ever". The film being Porky's Revenge, I think it was really inspired to put on a new performance of "Blue Suede Shoes" by the guy who performed it originally.



Not quite your a-typical soundtracks for my selections, but you have to go for gut feel. The instantaneous firing of musical neurons that select something form the memory banks before your conscious self realises what is happening, yet magically agrees with a sage nod of the bonce.

One of the very first theme tunes to a television program to become a joyous ode to everyday life was the jaunty samba of the inimitable Mr Rossi. A marvelous series of early 70's animation that saw Mr Rossi and his side kick Harold, the dog, traverse life's and history's idiosyncrasies. Viva Happiness!! Especially in the native Italian.

Enzo Jannucci penned the ditty along with multiple solo albums, film scores, stage show scores, was an accompanying jazz pianist to the traveling greats, actor and cardiologist. Legend!


The second offering is from Anne Dudley, who surprisingly turns out was a member of the Art of Noise, but went on to become prolific in the film industry. With scores for The Full Monty, Crying Game, Buster, Les Mis and Amercian History X. Quite a diverse bunch. However, none of them, and I say none with vigour, have anything near a patch on the mighty theme tune for Jeeves and Wooster.  Fry and Laurie did Wodehouse proud with their cathode ray rendition of his most popular comedy duo, and the tune (including all relating incidental music) sets the scene most mischievously.

Who's calling me at this hour!? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7ZrWOGIbIE


So much to choose from! One could make a case for songs from a movie I've never seen (Sound of Music :-)) or one I've seen more than most (Rocky Horror) but they are both musicals so they have a bit of an advantage in the soundtrack stakes... My eventual theme-within-a-theme was light(ish) songs that belie the context they are used in.
To kick off we have a tune that was originally written in 1939 by Ary Barroso, was rearranged in 1969 by Geoff Muldaur and then used as the title track for a 1985 movie by Terry Gilliam... I like the movie however haven't watched it very often coz I find it very depressing and I need to be in a very good mood to sit through it... and I'm not in a very good mood that often as my work life reflects the movie rather too closely on occasion... Actually I'm pretty sure that everyone's life reflects the movie so maybe I just need to get over it... The song, and movie, is Brazil -


The second offering is again from an alternative and slightly dysfunctional future but evocative of a simpler time... The movie is Blade Runner and the soundtrack was written by Vangelis... which caused me a problem. Blade Runner was released in 1982, being a year after Chariots of Fire... and I was by that time well and truly over hearing Chariots of friggin Fire theme songs day and night. So, sitting in the theatre watching the opening credits and I see "Music by VANGELIS" splashed across the screen and thought well, that's that then, this is going to suck the kumara. Except that it doesn't. So, is it because Vangelis suddenly improved in a year, or was I so engrossed in the movie that they could have played anything and it wouldn't have mattered, or do I just to this very day dislike the Chariots of Fire theme tune with a passion others only dream about. The song is "One More Kiss, Dear", written for the movie but sounding like something from the thirties and it is the background to a scene where Deckard has just shot Zhora, is being told that he still has four to go, and then Leon finds him...



Step by Step -Jesse Winchester

Jesse Winchester had passed me by until I listened to The Wire soundtrack (the best TV series created to date, in my modest opinion).  This particular track was used to great effect at the end of Season 1 and set the standard for the famed series-end montage scenes.

His sound is an amalgam of folk, country and blues. This is one of his more bluesy tracks and works surprisingly well as a musical backdrop to Baltimore’s dysfunction. Sadly Jesse Winchester died last month, so a fitting opportunity to pay music club tribute to his talent.

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3SugB7SYaM

Long Time Woman – Pam Grier

This song was recorded for the 1971 B Movie ‘The Big Doll House’, Pam Grier, a future icon of Blaxploitation films made her one and only foray into the recording studio. It's a soulful and gritty track; the song's lyrics tell the first-hand story of a female inmate, serving a life-sentence.

The song was all but forgotten, until it was resurrected for the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino's film ‘Jackie Brown’, in which Grier starred.  A unique recording from the 70’s, which thanks to Tarantino found its way to a much wider audience. 

2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlfoJC__6pE



For this theme I went straight back to my youth and one of the first soundtracks I was exposed to, Rocky. I regularly heard each of the first 5 Rocky soundtracks through my cousin who was a big Stallone fan. Bill Conti did, for the most-part, a fantastic job on these soundtracks crafting instantly recognisable contemporary orchestral pieces mixed with music of the time. Ok so it's a bit of a double-edged sword in that the your feelings towards the films will probably slant your feelings towards the music, and the images in the films (running up steps in a grey tracksuit, punching slabs of beef, chasing chickens or topless beach running to remind you) coupled with the time they were released (late 70's and through the 80's) may make for difficult listening now, but if you can step away from all that and give the soundtracks a go of themselves, the quality and depth is rewarding. Conti didn't do too much of note outside of the Rocky movies (The Karate Kid, For Your Eyes Only). I've chosen the main theme (just pipping Take You Back - well worth a listen also), Gonna Fly Now. There are multiple versions, but I dig the one from the first movie with it's 70's jive feel and funky bass line.

I came across my second composer while watching the movie, Mr. Brooks. Soundtracks shouldn't distract, take from or otherwise grossly affect the movie they accompany, but in the case of this combo, I couldn't help noticing every time the music was used to illicit feelings and emotions in the viewer, a pretty cool thing since the movie is about serial killing. When I researched more about the composer, Ramin Djawadi, I realised he was responsible for the soundtracks of other TV shows and movies I love, Game of Thrones, Pacific Rim, the Fright Night remake, so I had to choose him, and went with the best, most atmospheric track from my entry to his work. From Mr. Brooks - The Thumbprint Killer...




Tracks: Alex Turner: It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind (Submarine soundtrack)

              Eric B & Rakim – Juice (Know the Ledge) (Juice Soundtrack)

Two completely different kids of track united by their link to teenagehood. Alex Turner’s wistful number (and the film it soundtracks) evokes that teenage feeling of life being big and momentous even if the town you’re living in is neither. The Eric B & Rakim track appeared on one of a whole swathe of thug life, hip-hop sountracked films that came out in the 90s, which my friends and I were obsessed with as teenagers, despite being weedy white boys whose lives in suburban London had nothing at all to with guns and crack.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


 Wellington city at night

Yes indeed, it was a confusing time at Music Club HQ. We deigned that Emma should select the theme because this was her last physical appearance before swanning off to address noble causes among warmer shores with less clothes. Declining the responsibility, our erstwhile one hit wonder, Catherine, decided to take the mantle. She decided on the theme of Cities. Then bailed.

First out of the trap this month is...


Entry 1
The song is Hungry Town from an album called Bonk by an Australian band called Big Pig... and that's important because those of you unfortunate enough to not grasp the depth of Antipodean vernacular will be saying "What's that got to do with cities?" It's simple enough, the antipodes of something is the opposite... so town becomes city and vice versa... ok, so maybe the humour isn't that deep either... but that's not the point.

The point is an Australian band from the late 80's whose main claims to fame were a) a lineup that played drums, percussion, percussion, drums, harmonica, keyboards, drums and drums and b) wore black butchers aprons on stage... Discogs lists them as Genre: Electronic but given that only one eighth of the group actually played something you could plug in I struggle with that description a bit. They only produced two albums before disbanding but they sure had some fun.

Entry 2
FGFC820 formed in 2004 by a couple of New York based DJ's. Style is Electronic/Industrial/EBM but being DJ's you can in theory actually dance to it... assuming you can dance in the first place, but I'm guessing writhing about in some semblance of time to it would be acceptable as well. Three albums to their credit to date, all themed around America's "War on Terror"... so no forseeable shortage of material there then...

The song is taken from their second album, Law & Ordnance, and is called 'Hello, Baghdad'.



 Deciding on a literal association of the urban built environment, I selected Two Banks of Four for my first offering. The song Skyline Over Rooftops from the album City Watching is an evocative beast. It suggests, through acid jazz laden bass lines and broken, groovy beats; late summer afternoon, gazing out over a busy east end of London from the melancholy shelter of your neglected high rise block of flats - a muffled city sound scape and a birds eye view. The melody and vocals paint a hazy vista, the lure of excitement on the near horizon yet some strange inertia that means the sun will set, the street lights will automatically flicker on and a police siren will rise and fade into the distance.


Cities are also redolent with hopes and dreams; Grasping the nettle and throwing yourself headlong into the hustle and bustle; Hedonism, promise and limitless possibilities. Combine that ethos with some 60's flair, a big swinging jazz ensemble and the enthusiasm of Mr Georgie Fame and you have his excellent tune, City Life. It's easy to go dystopian when thinking about cities, but this tune makes me want to book a table at Ronnie Scott's, light up a cigar, tap the foot between big swigs of whiskey and paint the town red.



For the theme of Cities (a great theme by the way), I went with a theme within a theme, that of live Irish traditionally-influenced tracks

The first is The City of Chicago by Christy Moore, who happens to be a Kildare man like myself. What better reason! Christy's live performances are legendary in Ireland although due to health issues they have become less frequent in the last 10 years (I've never seen him live unfortunately). This track is about the Famine, probably the toughest time in Irish history (1845-1852, approx. 1 million died & another million emigrated). It's about the hope and anguish felt by those who emigrated to America and how, despite their new lives in the big city, they remember fondly and with hurt their remote homelands.

My second choice is Rainy Day in Soho by The Pogues. Whether Shane McGowan is singing at his drunkest or least drunkest, more teeth endowed or less teeth endowed, tracks and performances like this show why he's held in such high regard as a song writer and performer. The track, originally produced by Elvis Costello, is a beautiful ballad about love past, present, and possibly lost. However I have found interesting arguments about the likelihood of some or all of the song being about alcohol, demonstrated in the references to the gingerlady and the measure of my dreams. Whatever the case, it's a beautiful song set in Soho, London.



Nantes – Beirut.

So the literal double-header; a band named after a city performing a song about a city; pretty easy pickings when apparently Beirut’s lead singer, Zach Condon has a self-professed fascination with city names.  Discovering Beirut was like discovering a whole new musical landscape filled with accordions, rich percussion and brass, creating a European/ Balkan/ Gypsy soundscape. Nantes has such a wistful sound and conjures up fantasies of roaming around Europe, consuming red wine while nursing a minor heart-break, from which one will recover after a slight period of reflective melancholy, before, hopefully, another   romance presents itself. 

No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn -The Beastie Boys.

A brilliant musical parody of the rock band touring lifestyle; partying hard from city to city (for some reason Motley Crue springs to mind). Although maybe not quite as anthemic as “Fight for your Right”, the guitar riffs and solo played by Slayer’s Kerry King make this one of the Beasties more legendary tracks. 


  Tracks: Joey Beltram – Energy Flash and Inner City – Good Life

 The dark-yet-soulful, pulsating industrial vibe of these tracks exemplifies what Detroit techno was and is all about. Unlike a lot of other urban genres in America, Detroit techno wasn’t from any kind of ghetto – it was produced by the kids of middle class African Americans who migrated to Detroit to work in (at the time) high tech industries. This may account for the futuristic quality of the music, as well as a discernable sense of displacement/alienation, though anyone reading this may take these sociological musings with a pinch of salt.