Monthly Archives: October 2008

Music For Films

Here’s a Gentlebear mix of favorite film music. I’ve included a lot of French New Wave, particularly music from Francois Truffaut films. It’s also heavy on the music of French composer Georges Delerue. 

You can listen to this mix doing the dishes; I’d prefer if you listened to it soaking in your bathtub in a drunken stupor, like James Mason’s Humbert Humbert in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita.

Here’s the track listing for Music For Films:


Trinity & Finale from The 400 Blows-  Jean Constantin 

Perhaps my favorite film music ever? The sad plucking at the end says it all.

 

Theme from The ConversationDavid Shire (00:01:05)

My first movie crush was Gene Hackman’s white-turtlenecked preacher hero in The Poseidon Adventure.


La Rupture Chez Prokosh from Contempt- Georges Delerue (00:04:56)

Repetitive theme which never grows boring. The movement in it is as slow as molasses. 


Fabienne from Stolen Kisses- Antoine Duhamel (00:07:50)

I love the wailing vocals in this track.


High School Lover from The Virgin Suicides- Air (00:10:06)

You’re probably thinking this is where the bear screws up, but I have to give major props to Air for creating this super moody modern soundtrack to this not-so-great Sofia Coppola movie. 

 

Charu’s Theme from Charulata- Satyajit Ray (00:12:40)

Why did Wes Anderson have to introduce this to me, off the Darjeeling Limited soundtrack, for which he pilfered awesome Indian soundtracks? I hate to give him credit.  I have travelled on first class trains in India, which were nothing like the travel these white boys experienced. No beautiful Indian attendant on the train would look twice at Jason Schwatrzman, much less screw him in the train pantry, I promise you that. Pure elite Texan white boy fantasy about the “other.” I hate Wes Anderson. 

 

Finale from Shoot The Piano Player- Georges Delerue (00:13:38)

I have a late recording of Charles Aznavour, the singer who played the protagonist in the film, singing an incredible song in English called “Pretty Shitty Days.”

 

A Cold Wind Is Blowing from Odds Against Tomorrow- John Lewis (00:14:34)

The character actor Robert Ryan is so scary in this movie (and every movie he’s in), and I earned a whole new respect for Harry Belafonte as an actor in this Robert Wise thriller from 1959. Wise is perhaps most noted for directing The Sound Of Music and West Side Story, but he could handle harder, more subtle material. It doesn’t get much grittier than this. Filmed in b&w, New York has never looked more cold and cruel. 

 

Thank God For The Rain from Taxi Driver- Bernard Herrmann (00:15:55)

“Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets…”

 

What Have You Done To It’s Eyes Rosemary’s Baby- Krzysztof Komeda (00:17:28)

Poor Mia Farrow, shooting this movie and dealing with possessive asshole husband Frank Sinatra.

 

Prelude- Fire Trucks from Fahrenheit 451- Bernard Herrmann (00:19:18)

Why did Ray Bradbury hate this adaptation?

 

Theme from Days of Heaven–  Ennio Morricone (00:21:11)

Richard Gere. Underrated.

 

Love Theme from Chinatown Jerry Goldsmith (00:23:12)

The horn in this track is kind of sleazy and I like it. 

 

Puppets from The Double Life of Veronique- Zbigniew Preisner (00:25:10)

I remember buying this soundtrack in high school and giving a tape of it to my writing teacher, who was very impressed that I had tracked it down. I remember carefully writing out the liner notes for him, I was so proud! Auspicious beginnings for this bear. 

 

Dream Sequence from The Conversation- David Shire (00:27:31)

This time a little darker.

 

Moon River from Breakfast At Tiffany’s-  Henry Mancini (00:29:58)

“We’re after the same rainbow’s end…” 

 

Theme from CarriePino Donaggio (00:32:34)

A great opening to the film, in the locker room showers.  Pino Donaggio also scored Don’t Look Now

 

Alone from A Night At The Opera Harpo Marx (00:35:24) 

Harpo Marx playing the harp makes me cry. 


I Had A Farm In Africa from Out of Africa- John Barry (00:38:19)

My sister and I shared a room and she played this soundtrack a lot. This, and the soundtrack to Peggy Sue Got Married, which I also dig a lot. 

 

Brouillard from Jules And Jim- Georges Delerue (00:41:22)

Brouillard is French for fog. This track sounds like fog- then, fog lifting into the day. 

 

Love Them from KluteMichael Small (00:44:51)

More of the same kind of horn as in Chinatown.  MIchael Small also scored Arthur Penn’s Night Moves, which I’ve always wanted to get my hands on. Sleazy 70s detective drama, all three of them. 

 

Le Desepoir de Muriel from Two English Girls- Georges Delerue (00:48:33)

Death music. Music death. 

 

Prologue from The Thin Blue Line– Philip Glass (00:52:25)

With creepy dialogue and gunshots from the film.

 

Tears In Rain from Blade Runner- Vangelis (00:56:55)

“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…” 

 

Closing Theme from One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest – Jack Nitzsche (00:59:42)

Great use of theremin from Nitzsche, who among other things, wrote the terrific song “Needles and Pins.” 

 Download the mix here. UNFORTUNATELY, THIS MP3 WAS REMOVED BY REQUEST. Shoot.

Music For Films (01:03:49)

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Sad Songs They Say So Much

147 years ago today, the Civil War Battle of Ball’s Bluff went down in Virginia. It was a defeat for the Union, and resulted in the only death in the battlefield of a U.S. Senator, Colonel Edward Dickinson Baker. 

Today is my birthday, in itself no big deal except that I’m 33, the age when Jesus bit it. I don’t think I’ve been receiving any messages from God concerning a higher calling, thankfully. I’d be content to lead the rest of my life drinking whiskey, Michelob Ultra, or Coors, and writing this stupid blog. Also, making love and/or having sex with an attractive partner. I jest. 

I’ve made a mix of some of my favorite songs. They’re all kind of a drag. I like to spend some part of my birthday contemplating my existence for the past year; I guess this is it. Disclaimer: I am not suicidal. 

Here is the mix, clocking in at  01:09:33. (MP3 REMOVED BY REQUEST)

Sad Songs Say So Much

 

Track listing below, with corresponding pictures and video, which I hope you enjoy. 

“Vanity of vanities..“- James Mason, from Book of Ecclesiaistes

 

Dust-Filled Room– Bill Fay

In the dust-filled room she wished that the cigarette could last forever…

 

Flying On The Ground– Neil Young

… But if crying and holding on, and flying on the ground is wrong, then I’m sorry to let you down- but you’re from my  side of town, and I’ll miss you.

 

Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise– Phosphorescent

I won’t be alone, I won’t be waiting by the phone, I won’t be dreaming of you dreaming of me, anyway…

 

Looking For A Friend– David Blue

I never really had a friend of my own, I once I had a woman, I thought we were close.

 

First Girl I Ever Loved– Incredible String Band

Well I never slept with you, but we must have made love a thousand times…

 

Beware of Darkness– George Harrison

Watch out now, take care, beware of falling swingers…

 

Big Louise– Scott Walker

In a world filled with friends, you lose your way…

 

Blues Run The Game– Nick Drake

When I’m not drinking, baby, you are on my mind…when I’m not sleeping, you know you’ll find me crying…

 

I Watched My Dreamworld Crumble– Hank Williams

You promised, darling, that we’d never part…

Angel Cake & Wine– Hoyt Axton

I’m born to dine on angel cake and wine, and nothing ever shined on me…

 

Love Is Just A Four Letter Word– Joan Baez with Earl Scruggs, in his living room

Yes, I know now, traps are only set by me…

 

Seems Like Old Times– Diane Keaton, from Annie Hall

…and it’s still a thrill to have my arms around you.

 

I Don’t Know Where I Stand– Fairport Convention

Picked up a pencil and wrote ‘I love you’ in my finest hand, wanted to send it, but I don’t know where I stand.

 

Send In The Clowns– Frank Sinatra

I thought that you’d want what I want, sorry my dear.

 

It Was A Very Good Year- Frank Sinatra

It was a very good for year for city girls who lived up the stair, with all that perfumed hair… and it came undone, when I was 21.

 

Still I Dream Of It– Brian Wilson

A little while ago, my mother told me Jesus loved the world. And if that’s true then why hasn’t he helped me to find a girl, and find my world…


Rich Kid Blues– Marianne Faithfull

Love’s just a story, a story without words. Words are almost never seen and never even heard.

 

Baby Blue– 13th Floor Elevators

The empty-handed painter from your streets is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets…

 

Myself When I Am Real– Charles Mingus

Corporate Rock Sucks

I found the SST Acoustic compilation in a cut-out bin (remember those?) at Lakeside Mall outside of New Orleans. Cut-out bins were especially inviting to the teen music enthusiast I was in 1992. I spent all my money from my after-school job on compact discs, which we were told would last forever. I also remember finding the first Sonic Youth album on cd, with the SST label, before Sonic Youth sold their back-catalogue to Geffen. Both of these records were instrumental to me finding my way in the “indy” or “alternative” scene throughout the 1990s. I can’t express how much SST Acoustic turned me on to good music.

Sadly, I had most of the cds I worked so hard for stolen in 1995 by a bunch of drag rats, an affectionate term for the homeless punks who lived on Guadalupe (the drag), in Austin. I thought they were my friends! Getting high with strangers did not make said strangers immediate friends. It was a hard lesson for this bear to learn. 

SST Records was founded by Greg Ginn, a ham-radio enthusiast, who began at 12 years of age selling surplus WWII-era radio equipment by mailorder, out of his home in Long Beach, CA.  SST stood for “solid state tuners.” The picture above is not of Greg Ginn, but I’m sure he would have made fast friends with this kid. 

Naturally, Ginn the amateur radio enthusiast grew into a punk.

 

Ginn formed the band Panic in 1976. Unable to find anyone to release their songs, he took it upon himself to release the EP. The band, now dubbed Black Flag, put out the first SST release Nervous Breakdown in 1979. The rest is, as they say,  history. 

 

SST became the home to The Minutemen, fIREHOSE, Sonic Youth, Saccharine Trust, The Dicks, Meat Puppets, Husker Du,  Angst, Bad Brains, Screaming Trees, Negativland, The Descendents, Dinosaur (Jr.), Soundgarden… the list goes on. SST grew as a label, but due to  inability to pay their artists, promote, or distribute as much as major labels, their roster thinned out in the latter part of the decade. Other indie labels, like Sub-Pop, which benefitted from the surge of grunge in the early 90s, far outperformed SST, which was essentially surviving off reissues of the label’s early successful bands. 

Here are some of my favorite tracks off the SST Acoustic compilation:

The Minutemen, known for their short and sweet message songs, offer this sad one off their last album. When frontman D Boon died in a car accident, Mike Watt and George Hurley formed fIREHOSE. 

Stories- Minutemen

The beginning of my admiration for J Mascis and Lou Barlow: 

Poledo- Dinosaur Jr.

This Husker Du song made it on many of my mix tapes. How many break-up tapes across America do you think this song ended up on?

Never Talking To You Again- Husker Du

Grant Hart, formally of Husker Du, released some pretty rad solo stuff. “The Main” appeared in a slightly different version on the album Intolerance. This is a song about Hart’s heroin addiction, with references to Thomas De Quincy  (who wrote Confessions of An English Opium Eater in 1822), and Christiana, former name of Oslo and setting for Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, a first-person narrative of a deluded, starving artist at the turn-of-the-century.  The Hamsun reference might be a stretch, but that’s how I’ve always read into it. I think he always mentions Pigalle, the arrondissement of Paris famous for the red-light district popularized by Toulouse-Lautrec’s artwork.  

The Main- Grant Hart

The poster on the wall for the cover for fIREHOSE’s “if’n”  is of label-mates Husker Du. 

The song “In Memory of Elizabeth Cotten” is tribute to the actual North Carolinian folk singer Elizabeth Cotten, who had recently died. Here she is singing her song “Freight Train” with Pete Seeger.

Singing background vocals is lesbian singer/songwriter Phranc. 

In Memory of Elizabeth Cotten- fIREHOSE

Sadly, the original SST store is no longer, but you can buy these albums at the online SST Superstore, which is here. They have pins and stickers and t-shirts as well as music. I always wanted an SST t-shirt.

It should be noted that Gregg Ginn is brothers with the artist Raymon Pettibon, who was an original member of Panic, and did much of the artwork for Black Flag and other SST bands. Below is a Pettibon zine released by SST Publications, before Pettibon added another “t” to his nom de plume.

Is this a portrait of Barbra Streisand?

The Windows Of The World Are Covered With Rain…

If you haven’t seen The Rain People, an early Francis Ford Coppola film from 1969, I highly recommend it. It has one of my favorite actresses in it, Shirley Knight.

She also played great supporting roles in Richard Lester’s awesome films Petulia (1968) and Juggernaut (1974). Below are trailers for both films. The Petulia trailer is particularly misleading, while the Juggernaut trailer is true to the nature of the film; it’s a disaster movie from the 1970s about bombs on a cruise ship, with an all-star international cast (Omar Sharif!), but it’s a much better film than contemporaries The Poseidon Adventure or The Towering Inferno (I’m not saying these are bad films). Both of those movies scared the hell out of me growing up. 

Now, Shirley Knight plays somebody’s mother on Desperate Housewives

I’ve always had a penchant for the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song “The Windows Of The World.”  Maybe because behind all the corny lyrics about rain being angel tears and such, this is really an anti-draft, anti-war song. 

The windows of the world are covered with rain,
When will those black skies turn to blue?
Ev’rybody knows when boys grow into men
They start to wonder when their country will call.
Let the sun shine through.

The windows of the world are covered with rain,
What is the whole world coming to?
Ev’rybody knows when men can not be friends
Their quarrel often ends where some have to die.
Let the sun shine through.

There’s just something in the tone of the song that is truly heartfelt and sad. Isaac Hayes prefaces the song with this bleak oulook on his Live At The Sahara Tahoe double-album: “Listen to the lyrics. If the world had windows, it would be rather polluted, it’d be cluttered, it probably would be drenched with tears from the sky.”

Dionne’s is the first and definitive version.

The Windows Of The World- Dionne Warwick

I wish I could have seen an Isaac Hayes live show in the 1970s.

The Windows Of The World (live)- Isaac Hayes

You know it’s a good song if Scott Walker covered it. 

The Windows Of The World- Scott Walker

The Anita Kerr Singers version is amazing. She sang, produced, and arranged. Totally innovative.

The Windows Of The World- Anita Kerr Singers

I had the luck of eating at The Windows of the World, the restaurant that was in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, during my first visit to NYC when I was a teenager. This was rather exciting. I felt very sophisticated. I think my parents let me order a glass of wine.

The view, without rain:

R.I.P. Godfather of Rocksteady

Alton Ellis died this week from lymphatic cancer, at the age of 70 in his adopted city of London, his primary residence since 1973. He continued to perform until nearly up to his death. 

Ellis, dubbed The Godfather of Rocksteady, is said to have released the first real rocksteady record, “Get Ready-Rock Steady,” which basically incorporated a slowed-down ska beat. The bassist didn’t show for the recording session of the song, and Jackie Mitto, primarily a keyboardist, could not keep up with the frenetic ska rhythm. The slowed-down syncopation allowed Ellis to drag out his vocals, emphasizing the smoothness of his voice.  

Rocksteady was a short-lived genre, as it was usurped within a few years by reggae and the popularity of artists like Bob Marley. It emerged out of the phenomenon of young people from the Jamaican countryside making their way into the ghettos of Kingston, creating rude boy culture, which rebelled against post-independence optimism. Essentially, rude boys were juvenile delinquents who leaned toward political rebellion vs. complacency. While many rocksteady artists were fighters, Alton Ellis was more of a lover, singing several songs, like “Dance Crasher,”  which denounced rude boy violence. 

Ellis had over twenty children, cementing his reputation that he was definitely more of a lover. 

Here are some choice Alton Ellis cuts:

Ellis recorded many duets with his younger sister Hortense.

Breakfast In Bed

An odd choice for the Kingston-born Ellis, covering the Bee Gees song (an odd song in itself for the British-born, Brisbane-raised brothers):

Massachusetts

A song saying, “Hey, don’t break up the dance!”

Dance Crasher

Here’s Ellis covering “It’s A Shame,” most famously sung by The Spinners. Stevie Wonder and his under-rated wife Syreeta wrote the song about their breakup (see my Syreeta homage Come Give Me Your Sweetness from August 2008). 

It’s A Shame 

Sunshine, Blue Skies…Please Go Away!

 

“I Wish It Would Rain,” arguably the most morose Temptations song, was written by the recently departed Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, with lyrics provided by Roger Penzabene. Distraught after finding out his wife was cheating on him, Penzabene wrote of a man who’s locked himself inside, and hopes that “raindrops will hide my tears and no one will ever know that I’m crying when I go outside.” It was the #1 R&B single for three weeks in February and March of 1968. Sadly, Penzabene did not get to enjoy the success of the single, as he commit suicide on New Year’s Eve that year, apparently never able to overcome the end of his marriage.

The Temps version of the song, under the technical prowess of Whitfield, is a feat of production, replete with sound effects of birds flying in the sunny, torturous skies. 

I Wish It Would Rain- The Temptations

The Cougars, a Toronto group of Jamaican transplants in the late 1960s, did an amazing version of “I Wish It Would Rain,” which in my mind trumps the original, with a great organ intro and bass drum heartbeat plip-plopping like raindrops.

I Wish It Would Rain- The Cougars

In 1972, New Orleans gospel singer-turned-secular soulman Johnny Adams released a single of “I Wish It Would Rain,” which became a favorite on DJ John Peel’s radio show. I was working in a music store in New Orleans when Adams died at the age of 66. Though he had brief national success in 1959, with the single “I Won’t Cry” with Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack on the farfisa organ, he was much more successful on the local level. I remember many mourners buying his music after he died on cancer in 1998, his family burdened with medical bills, due to him being uninsured. 

I Wish It Would Rain- Johnny Adams

And from a female perspective, we have the inimitable Gladys Knight and The Pips taking a stab at the song. She wails on this one more than usual.

I Wish It Would Rain- Gladys Knight & The Pips

It’s a shame the Temps are lip-syncing here, but at least we get to see their fantastic moves.

There are more versions of the song, including a version by Marvin Gaye that’s the b-side to “Let’s Get It On,” but they’re lackluster compared to these.

Please Don’t Confront Me With My Failures, I Have Not Forgotten Them

 

Jackson Browne wrote “These Days” when he was only sixteen years old. Within two years, he had left California for New York, was backing up The Velvet Underground on guitar, and was sleeping with Nico, who would record “These Days” on her solo album Chelsea Girl. 

These Days- Nico

I remember watching The Royal Tenenbaums and hating Wes Anderson for including one of my favorite songs on the soundtrack to a movie about such vapid people. I wish Wes Anderson had worse taste in music, because I hate his films. See my post on The Mamas & The Papas for more vitriolic discourse on Wes Anderson.

And read this excellent article, about Anderson’s mishandling of race from Slate.com:

Unbearable Whiteness by Jonah Weiner

Browne, only 18, made some recordings, which came to be known as the Nina Demos, while crashing on couches and playing music in New York in 1967.   “These Days” was originally called “I’ve Been Out Walking.” It’s amazing that such a young kid could write this song, from the point of view of someone living with unbearable regret and loss. 

I’ve Been Out Walking- Jackson Browne

Browne later recorded the song as “These Days” on his second album For Everyman, for which he enlisted many friends to contribute: Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Elton John, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Joni Mitchell, and even Bonnie Raitt and David Crosby on harmony. 

These Days- Jackson Browne

Others covered the song throughout the 1970s. Here are a few:

These Days- Tom Rush

These Days- Gregg Allman

These Days- Ian Matthews

As an aside, Ian Matthews played with Fairport Convention in the late sixties, and released some awesome stuff in the early seventies. Here is he is doing an accapella cover of The Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron.”

Da Doo Ron Ron- Ian Matthews

And Neil Young’s “Tell My Why.”

Tell Me Why- Ian Matthews

Here’s a video of Browne live in 1977,  singing his 1972 hit “Doctor My Eyes” off his eponymous debut album, and segueing into “These Days.”

It’s funny, my first memory of Jackson Browne was that he was Daryl Hannah’s boyfriend. He apparently took a shine to her when she was at one of his shows and still in high school, and recruited his roadies to bring her backstage. They dated from 1978 to 1992. Here they are with Bonnie Raitt. 

I really loved Daryl Hannah in Splash when I was a kid.

To think, there was once a time when Tom Hanks was still bearable to watch.