London Transport Lost Property Office window, Baker Street
Albums (one featuring BB King’s leg, I’m pretty sure) left at Archway in ’69 (disappointing to lose Abbey Road just after you’d just bought it, I’d imagine), and singles, including Harry Belafonte, abandoned on a number 24 bus in ’66.
Driving from Antwerp to Utrecht we listen to Serial, which is as gripping as everyone says it is. It’s well edited, and the sound and music are really good – due to composers Nick Thorburn and Mark Henry Phillips (who also mixes the show). You’re totally drawn into this murder case from 1999, as Sarah Koenig picks at the court records, talks to the perp on the cell (literally) phone, cold calls players in the case and hires detectives to double check the police work. Highly recommended. As the miles pass I wonder why I recognise the street name that keeps cropping up: Edmondson Avenue. Then I realise that Serial is set in Baltimore, where the dream sequence in Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest takes place: “I dreamed I was sitting on a bench, in Baltimore, facing the tumbling fountain in Harlem Park… Fire engines went out Edmonson Avenue.” Mark and I recorded a, um, sound collage version [in the music player on the right] of the excerpt, inspired by an abortive attempt to read Hammett’s short stories into a tape recorder for my mother. I realised pretty quickly that it’s incredibly hard to do, which is why they use actors, who have the discipline and the skill. I took an easier route: just the dream scene over a glitchy soundscape.
Thinking about Dash
James Ellroy on Hammett: “It’s the language of suspicion, alienation and the big grasp for survival. It’s a constant jolt of physical movement and conversation. Hammett’s heroes move and talk, move and talk, move and talk… Red Harvest was published in 1929. It’s a coda to the Boom and a prophecy of the Depression. The Op [Hammett’s detective] witnesses and largely precipitates a hallucinogenic bloodbath in a Montana mining town. He pits labour against management and cops against crooks. He… bluffs his way through uncountable interrogations and acclimatises himself to fatalities in war-zone numbers. He drinks laudanum and wakes up with a woman knifed to death. His actions create a momentary peace in Poisonville. That peace will soon shatter. It doesn’t matter. He’s moved on already…” My brother-in-law once interviewed Ellroy and asked him to sign a book for me, as he knew I was a fan. In a copy of Dick Contino’s Blues, he wrote: “Fear this book! James Ellroy.”
Is there another house as famous in Rock Mythology™ as Big Pink?
Nice journey from the Village to the West Saugerties, narrated by Jeff (“Rock and Roll… phew!”) Bridges over “This Wheel’s on Fire”. A more interesting take is here, as Garth Hudson, getting on now, revisits Big Pink’s basement, currently owned by Don & Susan Lasala. It’s great to actually see the inside as it is (and was, pretty much) and there’s a wonderful couple of moments near the end, where Garth does what Garth does, which is play transcendentally beautiful piano. I remember Barney emailing me excitedly in about 1993, sending a realtor’s advert with Big Pink listed at about $275,000. We were, sadly, unable to come up with this amount of money. It remains a great regret of mine.
“Now the lesson is over, and the killing’s begun…”
Taking a cue from the excellent Mogwai soundtrack for French TV Series The Returned, the subtle use of music in The Missing adds layers of meaning to the story. I was reminded of Troy Kennedy Martin using Willie Nelson’s “Time of the Preacher” from Red Headed Stranger in his state of the nation thriller Edge Of Darkness in the 80’s. In The Missing we have multiple Robert Johnson songs (“Me and the Devil”, here in its Gil Scott Heron incarnation, “Sweet Home Chicago” in a cover version heard in a bar, which is dismissed by the creepy pederast Ian, who paints disturbing pictures to Johnson’s epic “Crossroads”). Another thread is French chanson: Aznavour was in last week’s episode, and the part of the French cop Julien is taken by Turkish-born French actor Tchéky Karyo, who has an occasional recording career singing typically French-Middle-Aged-Man songs (rather nicely, I should add). The opening credit theme is by by Belgian post-rock band, Amatorski, (I don’t know any of this stuff, you understand, I’m just saving you the work of looking it up, should you have wanted to). Oh, and the closing song varies: one week, Emiliana Torrini’s crepuscular take on “If You Go Away”, the next Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman”.