Regular curator of tunes Liz Buckley is not just about the music, you know.
Good Vibrations is a fantastically joyous film about a record shop and indie label, but, most importantly, it’s about a love of music and enjoying it all during the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Having worked in music for a love of it myself, I really admire the person who can do the same while being attacked for it from all angles.
I’m a huge fan of both David Holmes, who compiled the soundtrack to the film and scored the original music for it, and Terri Hooley, around whom the film centres. Hooley is a one-man musical Terminator, a hapless yet invincible self-mythologiser, getting through childhood despite losing an eye, running a record shop despite it being looted and razed to the ground countless times, and ultimately having (and losing) some of the best bands to come from 1970s Belfast and its surrounds.
Legend would have it that Hooley escorted the demo of The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks to the London-based John Peel, who loved it so much he played it twice in a row live on air. And then never, ever stopped playing it. Hooley, not the greatest of business men, infamously lost the rights to the band for £500 and a signed photo of the Shangri-Las. Which he never got.
Rather beautifully, at the premiere of the film, David Holmes arranged for him to finally be presented with such a photo. I bet he’s lost it.
An unusual choice perhaps, as I think the film largely stinks, but it’s not about the movie. The Trent Reznor-produced and curated soundtrack was a revelation to me. It was also the film that introduced me to a love of Leonard Cohen and I’m eternally grateful.
It’s an artful collection of song choices, as Reznor wanted to provide more than just previously released music. The tracks are inter-spliced with dialogue from the film, what Trent called “a collage or woven effect”. Only the singer of Nine Inch Nails, putting the sound of metal bands and gangsta rap to the backdrop of a serial killer movie could liken it to macramé.
The choices are superb, the tracks banding together in an unlikely gang and they ride the plot in leather lederhosen, just like NIN would want. The soundtrack’s been the template for many things that came to follow, the recent True Detective soundtrack for instance noticeably picking Detroit punk alongside the eerier Handsome Family with similar unnerving effect.
Trent Reznor’s gone on to make a lot of astoundingly good soundtracks to films I‘m not really that interested in and I’ve bought every one.
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – The Road (from The Road)
The Bootleggers feat Mark Lanegan – White Heat/White Light (from Lawless)
As part of the Bad Seeds, Nick Cave is responsible making a huge amount of records I would take a bullet for. Cave himself has gone on to write screenplays for The Proposition and Lawless, both fantastic films, and with Warren Ellis from the Bad Seeds, together they’ve written some of the most exceptional soundtracks of the last 10 years.
I’ll always be sad that Nick Cave’s screenplay for Gladiator 2 has never been realised (it exists and I must have it!) but as I cannot choose something that hasn’t been made, I’ll settle for the next best. The Road is the incredibly traumatic film of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cormac McCarthy book, a post-apocalyptic vision of a man and his son, trying to survive in a world that’s full of desperate people, driven to utterly desperate measures. It’s a devastating and bleak slog during which you feel utterly vulnerable. Yet the music accompanying the visuals is beautiful, soft and soaring, the effect of the images and soundtrack together giving you hope whilst making it all the worse: that people do have culture and beauty, yet are reduced to such levels as a result of starvation.
When I saw the film, I turned to the person I was with for moral support and they were eating a Boost. So I guess not everyone felt the same.
Just as The Road is supremely well judged in tone, a beautiful lone piano melody playing over a desert of misery, never overblown or sensationalist, Clint Mansell is a master of knowing how to let music help a film to be more than the sum of its parts. In Requiem For A Dream, Clint and director Darren Aronofsky tried layering several different types of music over the visuals, with hugely varying effect.
In the scene where Ellen Burstyn’s character is coming down off a speed pill for instance, they tried adding Public Enemy’s She Watch Channel Zero?!, Run DMC and even Queen to varying amusing effects. The rhythm and the pictures meshed well together, but as soon as Lux Aeterna was layered over it, the scene took on a whole new dimension. It was anything but fun. Mansell understands the importance of music in film to the extent that having written a feature-length soundtrack for The Wrestler, he allowed much of the score to remain on the CD alone as opposed to in the picture. Silence was Mickey Rourke’s close-up.
Duncan Jones’ Moon is a story of solitude, paranoia and claustrophobia and Welcome To Lunar Industries is a refrain, it becomes Sam Rockwell’s theme tune, it keeps him company as much as it overwhelms and isolates him. It defines him and also destroys him. Moon is a wonderful film, but its soundtrack is even greater and it’s rare for the two not to be discussed in the same breath.
Before you scoff, this won an Academy Award. Both in reality and in my heart. Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords is not just a writer and lyricist, comedian and songwriter, he is a modern-day poet. Let us turn to the lyrics: Am I a man or am I a muppet? / (Am I a muppet?) / If I’m a muppet then I’m a very manly muppet / (a very manly muppet)/ Am I a muppet (muppet) or am I a man? (Am I a man?) / If I’m a man that makes me a muppet of a man / (a muppet of a man)”.
I ask you gentle reader: what are we, but (Wo)Men and Muppets? I took a hipflask with me to see this film and drank a LOT of rum.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Requiem in D minor, K.626: 1. Introitus: Requiem (from Amadeus)
Recently, I sat next to a woman on the bus and immediately burst into tears as she was wearing the same perfume my mum had worn when I was growing up. My mum died when I was 17 and I hadn’t smelled that scent since. The perfume invaded my senses so suddenly and completely and had a stronger effect than any memory I hold dear.
I explained my somewhat extreme reaction and the lady very kindly wrote down the brand for me. Although it’s no longer manufactured, I managed to hunt down an unopened bottle on eBay and I keep the perfume in a drawer for days when I want to remember.
I feel the same about Amadeus. While my mum and I shared a huge love of music, her pin-up was Hermann Prey the opera singer, while I had posters of Iggy Pop. Yet on Boxing Day when I was 11, she became excited that Amadeus was on the big afternoon film, so we happily curled up together in one armchair and laughed and sobbed the whole way through it. We adored it and everything about that film is crystallised in my mind as connected to her.
I must have seen it upward of 30 times since, I’ve seen the plays (both the Broadway and National scripts), have the director’s cut and the record label I work for even put out the soundtrack, now I’m old and able to do such things. In the film version, Requiem In D Minor is written slowly in a deathbed scene, for Mozart’s own funeral. If you think I’ve ever seen that and not been destroyed by it, you’re quite mistaken. I love Amadeus and I miss my mum.
Both the Amadeus and Good Vibrations soundtracks are available from www.acerecords.com.
Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.