John Cale & Brian Eno – Spinning Away (1990)
Glorious pop music although I now recall with much ire where I first heard it, tacked onto the final scene and end credits of Danny Boyle’s 2000 film adaptation of Alex Garland’s The Beach.
The film itself I recall as being as fairly enjoyable but it wanted to have its artistic/commercial cake and scoff it It was a slick, Leonardo di caprio vehicle filled with exotic Thailand locations, drug&sex filled backpacker hedonism, a hip soundtrack with hints of an edgy drama which examined the paranoid, cult-ish, quasi-imperialist flip side of said hedonism by way of heavy-handed, hopeful allusions to Apocalypse Now.
Ultimately, it cops out preferring to end on a ludicrously false note of nostalgia and optimism in a ‘arent Western backpackers a well-intentioned but wacky, free-spirited lot?’ kind of way and Di Caprio’s dickish, self absorbed Yank protagonist comes out of it scot-free despite causing and being involved in murder and violence with plenty of sunny Polaroids of his experiences and this gorgeously upbeat tune is misused to bolster Boyle’s bullshit finale.
So forget all of wot I just wrote and enjoy the song as it is in the context of John Cale and Brian Eno’s 1990 album Wrong Way Up which could bring sunshine into the greyest corners of the earth*.
*Play this at someones funeral, maybe even your own to liven up things a bit. just a suggestion.
Well, it seems futile to try and sum up the Late Dame Bowie’s cultural and musical influence; many more eloquent and knowledgable than I will no doubt have already expressed their thoughts and poured out their emotions. So like many other fans and admirers, I will try and sum up what he meant to me.
When I think of David Bowie as an artist and performer,this video and song, the immense, overpowering brilliant ‘Heroes’ crystalizes everything that was great about the man who fell to earth. His ideas the images/changes he conveyed, to all of those who have ever felt strange, unloved, outside, who long to transcend, transform. reinvent themselves into some iconic ideal of glamour, sexual ambiguity, beauty and creativity brought hope, possibility and daring into the pop mainstream, influencing and inspiring countless generations of not just musicians and artists but us, the audience and by extension the respective cultures and society we were born into.
He explored notions of identity, alienation, transformation, fluidity and sexuality through a mercurial synthesis of music and style throughout the decades of his career and he had one of the all time great singing voices in pop music, a rich, deep, flexible instrument that could strain and crack with grand emotion, hip attitude and theatrical forboding; anthony newley, scott walker and lou reed rolled into one
So, here is the ideal of the rock star, David Bowie at his most glorious and iconic; untouchable, magnetic, disturbing, alien and even now, I still want to be like him when I grow up.
You are the cosmos. RIP.
Chvrches – Leave a trace (2015)
Chvrches 2013 début The Bones of What You Believe was a most triumphant, splendid and effervescent slice of bittersweet scots synth pop symphonies,making everything else released that year sound like stale shit on a stick.*
(*not entirely true, use of hyperbole should be taken with a tonne** of salt.)-(**i’m just exaggeratin! a tonne??!!no,a pinch will do mind, watch the cholesterol)
If Irn-Bru made electronic pop that could make both dance and cry, then it might sound a bit like this but maybe with less artificial flavourings, sugar because it is a bit too much though if I’m being honest, I may be pushing the stereotypical Scottish cultural signifiers a bit far mind.
Any road, ‘Leave a Trace’ is the second single from Chvrches upcoming sophomore album entitled Every Open Eye, released on September 25th through Virgin/Glassnote through iTunes, Spotify, the bands website and the usual crowd. delivery systems.
George Harrison (1970)
Nina Simone (1972)
Isn’t it a pity
Now, isn’t it a shame
How we break each other’s hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other’s love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn’t it a pity
Song lyrics are often dismissed as just doggerel, meaningless piffle, dumb, gibberish, vacuous, sounds stitched together to fit a meter, suit a rhyme, fill out a melody and that is not entirely the case and in fact, lyrics can be used in different ways in music of all genres, I don’t want to pigeonhole most of pop or rock music. That’s for cultural elitist snobs and critics to do. Do they still exist? In fact, they might. The written word when wielded by a folk rock poet statesman/woman brings ’em out but when a New pop sensation says something amidst the glittering artificial sounds then the same heads will dismiss outright.
This second paragraph is less wordy and pompous I promise, more in keeping with the simplicity of the late Mr Harrison’s words in his majestic lament from his 1970 double album, All Things Must Pass, which could be its other title so sharply does it reflect on the futlity of our actions and how some of us can foolishly see love, respect, time as an infinite resource that is our birthright to abuse, waste, cherish, even embrace. The truth is another thing. Without the mess, the desperate actions, the sadness where in the world would we be? Sans music like this, that’s where. There’s a song in that notion unless some broadway/west end hack hasn’t got to it first. ah, they probably have.
* a comment on nina simone’s version? fucking intense, more than a performance, a spiritual inhabitation that is heartwrenching, a first person witnessing of mans criminality to man.
Spoon – Do You? (2014)
The first single from the Austin, Texas bands upcoming album They Want My Soul, released on August 5th, Do You? is the perfect gateway drug for those still uninitiated to the sonic pleasures of Spoon; an uptempo ditty with a nagging vocal hook and gorgeous, sonic details weaving in and out, this is deconstructionist modern new wave pop at it’s finest.
MTV 80’s Idents
As a child of the 1980’s, the flashy, cinematic and garish music videos endemic of the decade were all-pervasive and along with movies, cartoons and comic books fueled my dream life. In an era when transatlantic travel and even European travel was less common and before the online revolution, pop culture exported from America felt like exotic, strange, intoxicating transmissions from a dream planet far, far away with MTV the prime exporter and exponent; stylish, iconographic images and sounds of glamour, heartbreak, longing unabashed hedonism, escapism, seize the day opportunism, glorified individualism, airbrushed sexuality, overwrought romanticism, good times and most of all, freedom. Freedom to be whoever and whatever you wanna be!
Phil Oakey & Giorgio Moroder – Together in Electric Dreams (1984)
A grand, cheap attractive illusion – to this kid anyway – living underneath grey Dublin skies, concrete playgrounds and a sense of never being allowed to overreach your grasp and the notion of one day travelling to the USA only happened to the ridiculously fortunate and those whom were deemed ‘cool’. Well, at least this was a limited , extremely naïve view of the world, how I saw it and partly imagined it through my dumb childish eyes.
Reckless (1984) Director – James Foley
Of course, these shiny, loud, flashy things that entranced my younger self were very often a cynical cross marketing, synergistic ploy by corporations to sell records, film tickets, concert tickets and appeal to youth culture but leaving aside the machinations, trend chasing and politics behind the image and idol-making which have only accelerated with the inevitable evolution of communication technology, marketing strategies, globalization and the likes blah blah blah…i’m getting away from the point here aren’t I?
John Waite- Change (1982)
So I guess what I’m saying is strip the adult cynicism away, the transience nature of fashion and taste and what’s left? For those daydreaming 80’s kids or at least this kid America and it’s music was a sense of purity, escapism, big show off gestures and acting out, becoming a superhero in your own bedroom and your own world, winning the girl, rising above and proving everyone wrong; exceptionalism and romance wrapped up in hook laden three-minute songs and elaborate, ridiculous film fantasy’s. To be ‘cool’ and respected by friends and enemies…adults? They barely existed in these feverish scenarios. Thinking back, it was really an extreme, early form of narcissistic behaviour but the world only existed through this gauzy visual and aural ephemera, sensory, erotic overload sending my heart and head spinning with notions above reality.
Madonna – Crazy For You (1985)
Is this a mini essay on my youth? A nostalgic wallow in what was and shall never be? Well, in all honesty all of this looking back was triggered by a John Waite song from 1982 called Change that I’ve listened to over and over and which features in the current Anchorman sequel. It was also used way back in 1985 on the soundtrack to a Matthew Modine wrestling flick called Vision Quest or as it was titled on these shores Crazy For You after the hit single Madonna recorded especially for the movie. The songs typical 80’s impatience, its adrelanized catchiness, the mixture of confidence and doubt, optimism and heartache contained within summoned up feelings that felt long-buried.
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) Director – Howard Deutch
But not only did it provoke an undiluted emotional response, it also made me aware that what was regarded as a decade of questionable cultural merit for so long now in retrospect now feels like a more innocent, sincere, thrillingly irony free period. Or maybe I’m still dreaming, my prozac hasn’t kicked in and I need to wake the fuck up; my scattered, deranged, sentimental musings simply the symptoms of an ageing fool clinging to the past as a crutch to rationalize his current state.
You decide, reader…. you decide.
P.P. Arnold (1968)
Merrilee Rush & The Turnabouts (1968)
Nina Simone (1972)
Juice Newton (1981)
The Pretenders (2009)
Blaring from a tiny transistor radio, the tinned music accompanies a lowlife debt collector as he goes about his dirty business intimidating luckless money lenders on the grimy streets of 70’s New York. The music echoes his fractured, confused psyche as personality shifts between criminal and musician, tough guy and sensitive lover.
In James Toback‘s riveting 1978 cult classic Fingers, Harvey Keitel potrays a promising classical pianist with a sense of style who is violent, uses intimidation tactics on his customers and who appreciates the craft and emotion of classic bubblegum pop such as Chip Taylors’ Angel of the Morning’ as much as the studied classical brilliance of Beethoven .
Angel of the Morning was written by Taylor – brother of Jon Voight and uncle of Angelina Jolie incidentally- back in 1967 and when it became a US hit for Merrilee Rush & The Turnabouts in 1968, it already seemed somewhat of a relic of pop’s recent past with it’s stately, grandiose arrangement and the trembling, all or nothing emotion of the female vocal recalls the heightened pomp of a Phil Spector production; it could almost be a female version the Righteous Brothers 1964 classic ‘You’ve Lost that Lovin Feelin’.
By the time it hit, Taylor had already written two stone cold rock n roll classics for The Troggs in 1966, ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Anyway That You Want Me’ and his song would prove to be an American hit again for country and pop singer Juice Newton in 1981. Curiously, the song has never been much of a chart success in the UK with P.P. Arnold’s version the most successful to date, reaching the Top 30 in 1968.