Thursday, May 23rd

It was a week where part of a newspaper headline, “Guardiola’s Thirst”, prompted Steve Way to text me that it would be a perfect name for a Prog Rock Band (spot on!) and Bruce Springsteen gave us the bizarre “There Goes my Miracle”, sounding for all the world like one of the Righteous Brothers or, even, Englebert Humperdink. Which seems appropriate in Eurovision week. Also, we rewatched Diner and were struck by how much it must have influenced Tarantino, whose new film looks, uh, worrying and interesting in equal measure…

{ONE} HOW TO BE AFRAID 24 HOURS A DAY
The Design Museum’s Kubrick show is an extraordinary assemblage of materials, from camera lenses and costumes to pre-Excel shooting planners that are detailed and obsessive enough to induce mild panic. One of the captions talked of his use of music:

“Music, according to Kubrick, is one of the most effective ways of preparing an audience and reinforcing points that you wish to impose. The correct use of music, and this includes the non-use of music, is one of the great weapons that the film-maker has at his disposal. He scoured Billboard’s American hit parade from 1962 to 1968, adding authenticity to the soundtrack of Full Metal Jacket by using hits such as Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walking”, Sam the Sham’s “Wooly Bully” and the Trashmen’s “Surfin Bird”. Despite his reputation for historical accuracy, Kubrick used music by Franz Schubert for Barry Lyndon even though it was composed in 1828 – half a century after the events depicted in the film. “I must have listened to every album you can buy of 18th-century music,” he explained. “One of the problems which soon became apparent is that there are no tragic love themes in 18th-century music.” Kubrick also used music to provoke emotion in his actors. For Lolita, Kubrick played Irma la Douce to bring tears to James Mason’s eyes, while West Side Story had the same effect on Shelley Winters.”

The quote in the headline was an unused tagline for Dr Strangelove, by the way.

“Weird electronic music / non-dancing music”. “To Mother & Dad…” “Her soft mouth was the road to sin-smeared violence!”

{TWO} SOMETHING I FOUND INTERESTING ABOUT BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (AND IT WASN’T THE FILM…)
A dismal script and lacklustre direction hobbled Bohemian Rhapsody for me, but the Live Aid concert recreation at the film’s climax was pretty impressive. There’s an amusing split-screen (real/film) here… and The Hollywood Reporter had this fascinating insight into the lengths a movie production will go to get the sound right.

“Bohemian Rhapsody wraps up with a nearly 20-minute concert performance, revisiting Queen’s iconic 1985 Live Aid turn at London’s Wembley Stadium. The filmmakers worked tirelessly to re-create the sound of that day… it began with the original material from Queen’s performance. Then, recording and music mixer Paul Massey worked toward creating “an acoustic stadium feel” but not just through electronic means. When Queen (with frontman Adam Lambert) played London’s O2 Arena in July, he managed to get two hours with no audience to have the songs played through the Queen PA at full level. “We mic’d all around the stadium.”

He also was able to use that concert to finesse the crowd sounds. “Brian May stopped the concert at one point and said, ‘Who’d like to be in the film?’ So we had 10,000 people doing a single clap and then another and another.” Then Massey was thrown a curveball when he was told the film’s October world premiere would be at the SSE Arena at Wembley in London. “It’s 12,000 seats,” says Massey, who realized he’d have to take out all the stadium effects he had so carefully added to the mix. “Otherwise, it would just be a big reverb wash going on because we’d be playing back something that was including stadium reverb and then the stadium itself was going to create its own reverb.” He went back and mixed a drier version of the film – the only time that mix was played for an audience was at the world premiere. “One time only,” says Massey…

{THREE} MORE COUNTRY NEWS

I love it when someone creates a phenomenon and the world goes for something it didn’t realise it wanted the day before. And what it wanted this spring was Hip Hop Country, in the shape of the earworm that is Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road”. There was a period, after the great Southern Soul years when a couple of great black artists made country albums (of course, Brother Ray got there first in 1962), notably Bobby Womack and Millie Jackson, with BW Goes C&W (1976) and Just A Lil’ Bit Country (1981) respectively. But who knew that the current generation would match up the urban with the suburban like this, with a brilliantly conceived video featuring Chris Rock and Billy Ray Cyrus to boot…

There’s a cute piece at Rolling Stone by Josh Eells about Lil Nas X’s journey to the top of the streams: “Nas posted a few more songs, but they didn’t get much traction. “I could post a funny tweet and it would get 2,000 retweets,” he says. “Then I’d post a song and it would hit, like, 10.” One night around Halloween, he was browsing beats on YouTube when he found one by a 19-year-old in the Netherlands called YoungKio. Something about the track — built around an uncleared banjo sample from a Nine Inch Nails song — spoke to him. “I was picturing, like, a loner cowboy runaway,” he says. “Basically what I was going through, but in another lens.” Nas paid $30 to lease the beat, then spent all of November writing and rewriting his lyrics. He wasn’t too familiar with cowboy culture: While he’d worn Wranglers growing up (“It’s Georgia, everybody wore Wranglers”), he had to Google other Western lingo. He chose the title “Old Town Road” because “it sounded like a real country place. I was surprised it hadn’t been used before.”

{FOUR} I SAW THE LIGHT
This is fantastic – Leafcutter John making music against the clock with tiny torches. I once saw him playing a laptop with Polar Bear – absolutely riveting. From FACTmagazine: “For the past 20 years, John Burton – aka Leafcutter John – has been at the forefront of experimental composition, constructing his own technological systems out of hardware and software to make ornate, complex electronica. Ahead of the release of his seventh album on Border Community this week, we visited Burton at his studio to see what he could create with his one-of-a-kind setup in just 10 minutes, using Max, a home-made light interface and modular system to manipulate a collection of field recordings. The result – beautiful chaos.”

{FIVE} ALL THEY WILL CALL YOU…
Todd Austin made a terrific documentary on Woody Guthrie, Three Chords and the Truth. The segment on Guthrie’s song, “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” was possibly the most resonant part – he wrote it in response to the fact that radio and newspaper coverage of the crash, while naming the aircrew, did not give the passengers’ names, but instead referred to them merely as “deportees”. There was a clip of possibly the finest version of the song, Bob Dylan’s powerful Rolling Thunder performance with Joan Baez. And the film also pointed up the fact that for two years, Fred Trump was the Guthrie family’s landlord, at Beach Haven near Coney Island. Woody wasn’t too impressed with Old Man Trump – there’s an excellent Amanda Petrusich piece at the New Yorker for a fuller telling of the story, and of the song that Guthrie wrote about him.


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