Movie Music

I recently saw The World’s End, the latest of Edgar Wright’s Simon Pegg/Nick Frost movies. Thumbs up!

Something that really caught my attention was a very brief clip of  the 1990 song The Only Rhyme That Bites which samples the opening theme to the 1958 Western, The Big Country. Give it a listen; it’s one of the most spectacular and iconic pieces of movie music ever composed.

Epic movie themes have fallen from favor recently; when’s the last time you heard a film score that was truly memorable? And while people like John Williams and James Horner have done tremendous work in recent years, it seems more and more films use popular music to help tell the story — and in some cases act as a crutch to a lousy story.

Mosh Pit Hero

For much of the weekend it felt that I’d been beaten with a cricket bat. Cricket bat? Yes, cricket bats are funnier than baseball bats. Beaten with baseball bats implies extreme violence; cricket bats say it was jolly good fun.

At Mountain Park in Holyoke, there is a gently sloping hill where you can spread out a blanket or open up your folding chair and enjoy a pretty good view of concerts. But it’s soooo far away up there. These days, I prefer to be as close to the stage as possible. This is fine if you’re seeing The Decemberists, whose fans are mostly thoughtful hipstery artistic folks, but much more hazardous at a Dropkick Murphys concert like last Friday night.

Naturally, the area right in front of the stage opened up into a mosh pit, and I  must admit that I couldn’t resist jumping into the middle of things. Here’s what it looked like:

mosh

To say I got what I deserved would be an understatement. I was knocked on my ass several times, had my sunglasses broken, and I woke up the next morning with bruised ribs and a bump on my head. When in Rome, right?

So, the big question is something I’m asking with greater frequency lately: am I getting too old for this sh*t?

Segue Fever

Thirty years after the spinning my last record as a college radio DJ, I still hear music in terms of what songs go well together. That sort of segue, based either on a musical or thematic link, is what made commercial radio great at progressive rock stations in the 70s — and something that’s mostly disappeared in today’s tightly formatted radio where the DJ has little role in picking music.

Oh, well.

Anyway, I found this song by Lorde, Royals, quite striking — and much more compelling than most of the crap on mainstream radio. And it’s a nice match with The Imagined Village’s take on Hard Times in Old England, featuring Billy Bragg.

iScrewed

Here’s a news flash: iPods are not water resistant.

ipodI sort of ruined my iPod at a party we hosted recently when the skies opened up and drenched us (twice) with torrential rain. The iPod was feeding some portable speakers, and it seemed to be in a safe spot, but not safe enough as I realized when it fritzed out.

Yes, it went into the bag of rice, which is what everybody on the internet says to do with your wet electronics. I briefly considered prying it open to dry out; there are a lot of YouTube videos that show how to do this  — with a guitar pick of all things — but I chickened out.

So after the rice treatment it turns out that the darn thing still works, except the screen doesn’t light up. You can read the screen, it’s just very dark.

Serves me right for being careless, but it could have been worse; for example, I could have dropped it in the toilet. No bag of rice can fix that.

Guitar Hero

Did I ever tell you about the time I competed head to head on the same stage with guitar legend Steve Vai? Well, gather around the blog and hear this TRUE STORY.

When I was in 11th grade at Carle Place High School, the student association put on a big talent show. This was 1978, so naturally, it was done in the style of the Gong Show. I don’t remember too many of the acts, but my personal favorite was the group who dressed up as punks and lip synced God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols. They had fake safety pins in their lips and noses and spit raisins into the crowd to simulate big nasty loogies. It was tremendous.

Then it was my turn. Though I could barely play the guitar — and not play the harmonica at all — I went out as some sort of Bob Dylanesque troubadour and croaked out a folk song that I made up on the spot. They mercifully interrupted my strange and terrible tune in short order and gonged me out.

Near the end of the show, out walked senior Steve Vai, who plugged in his guitar and brought the house down with the Star Spangled Banner. I remember arguing once with Mr. Vai in the weight room that Todd Rundgren was more talented than Jimmy Hendrix, but that night Steve Vai would have smoked them both.

A few years later, Mr. Vai was touring with Farnk Zappa and I was preparing for my illustrious career in television. If I’d only known better, maybe I too could have taken guitar lessons from Joe Satriani and ended up a rock star. Satriani also went to Carle Place High. Something in the water, maybe?

I’ve Got a Name

In the summer of 1973, I walked up Carle Road, crossed the railroad tracks — stepping gingerly over the third rail — and went to see Jeff Bridges in The Last American Hero at Raceway Cinema.

Because of the two sets of tracks, there were actually two electrified rails to cross — a third and fourth rail if you will — and in those days it was perfectly normal for eleven-year-olds to use this as a shortcut. You’d step carefully onto the wooden beams that ran above the third rail and  over you went. I wonder if those things ever broke?

The movie was the story of racing legend Junior Johnson’s rise from running moonshine in North Carolina to NASCAR fame and fortune. Great flick — but my favorite part may have been the use of Jim Croce’s I’ve Got a Name over the opening sequence. I was a HUGE Jim Croce fan, so this was absolutely thrilling. I immediately went out and bought the 45.

When Croce died in a plane crash later that year, I hid in my room and listened to that record all day long. I cried and cried. Come on, I was eleven.

All this was deep in the folds of my aging brain until the song popped up on Pandora. It’s funny how music can move you so many years later, connecting you with a specific feeling from a certain time. A taste, a smell, a song — they flip on the lights in the dark corners of your head.

Who Wants Cake?

It would have been so easy to do the obvious thing here: the boilerplate “sexy girl” video full of models wearing short skirts and long jackets. Instead the director gave us something that’s almost like a documentary. It’s witty and entertaining — and says something about how we relate to music.