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.

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