Friday, June 22, 2012

another word on soundtracks

So, one of my kids is watching the movie, Paul, on the internet. And I hear it beginning to the strains of the new wave song, "Another Girl, Another Planet." And recently I was in the room when someone started watching Bad Teacher on DVD. That movie opens with Rockpile's "Teacher Teacher." In both cases, hearing this made me want to watch the movie. Never mind that I have both songs on CD, and otherwise had no interest in seeing the movie. Somehow, though, the inclusion of a song I like tells my brain that I'll like the movie. Even if I won't.

It reminds me how, two years ago, I was looking on Youtibe for Wreckless Eric videos, and found a scene from Stranger Than Fiction, in which Will Ferrell picks up a guitar in his date's apartment and starts singing "(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World." Video follows:
I remember seeing that, and my estimation of the movie shot up. I still haven't bothered seeing it, but still...

Friday, June 15, 2012

meet the xylopholks

I was walking through the Union Square subway station yesterday, and heard xylophone music. It was coming from a corner where there is often a musician or band playing as part of the Transit Authority's Music Under New York program.

Sure enough, I recognized the yellow and black banner identifying the performers as "Xylopholks." Playing under the banner were two people -- a man in a penguin costume (I would later realize it was a skunk costume, but my imprerssion was penguin) and a woman (I think) in a pink gorilla costume. The punk (that's penguin/skunk mix) was playing xylophone while the pink gorilla was slappinng a stand-up bass.

The music was happy and upbeat, kind of ragtimish. The xylophone was intriguing. I didn't have time enough to watch for very long, so I bought a CD ($5) and was on my way.

Rather than try to describe Xylophopholks, I'll let their website do it for them:
The XYLOPHOLKS are a dynamic group of musicians who mostly play novelty ragtime music from the 1920′s (featuring the xylophone!). They do so while wearing furry animal costumes. The XYLOPHOLKS wish to make people happy and perhaps even dance. Please feel free to contact us about providing music and entertainment for your events
Can't complain about that. Apparently, who plays in the group depends on what gig you catch. Here's them (or a proper subset of them) on their 5 Borough Bodega tour:

As to the CD? Not bad. I'd be lying if I said that, without the costumes, the charm is still all there. On the other hand, its pleasant music. Not generally a genre I'm into. It's the kind of stuff that I'm happy to listen to for a track at a time between other things -- i.e., as part of a mix. But I'm not interested enough to listen to the whole disc at once.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

israeli pop as spaghetti western theme music

Yesterday I posted about how I have gotten into the theme music from spaghetti westerns.

I neglected to mention that some of my favorite Israeli pop music sounds very similar to the spaghetti western music, and wouldn't feel out of place in those films.

A few examples follow:

First,שיירת הרוכבים ("Caravan of Riders"), an oft-covered song by The Duda'im:

The second one is called חמישה פחות אחד (which translates to "Five Less One"). It's by "Benny's Friends," It's in a sense, a toast to a missing friend. I assume it's a friend who died in war. Interestingly, the album with this song also has a cover of "Caravan of Riders"):
Finally, there's Ron Eliran, performing שארם -א -שיח ("Sharm-A-Sheikh" -- it's the name of a town in the Sinai). This was a song dating from the 1967 war, in which Eliran sings about returning to Sharm-A-Sheikh a second time -- he's singing in the first-person plural, as in "We returned to you a second time." The first time, presumably, was during the 1956 war. There is a Youtube video with the original hit version. But since it, like the two above, isn't really a "video" in the full sense, I've decided, for this song, to include a live concert version:

Now, don't any of those three songs sound like they could have been in a spaghetti western?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

spaghetti western themes

The Film Forum, an artsy movie house in Greenwich Village, has been having a spaghetti western festival. I spent most of Sunday with my son, watching the "Man With No Name" trilogy. That's after spending Friday with him watching thee other movies -- Hellbenders, Face to Face and Death Rides a Horse. This was kind of a followup to our taking a cinema history course at a local community college. The class, which ended a couple months ago, concentrated on spaghetti westerns.

Through this, I've been getting into the music from Spaghetti Westerns. Of course, there's the classic of the genre, Ennio Morricone's theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Give a listen:
That's a strangely copmpelling melody that combines latin elements with Duane Eddy-style twangy guitar. And the harmonica. But it's instrumental, which for me is a strike against it. In a sense it's more mood music than song. But interestingly it does build on the theme music from its predecessors, A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More.

In terms of real songs, I was drawn to the theme from Django, a film starring Franco Nero. The professor showed us a scene from that movie, which was enough for me to seek it out on YouTube. Really good movie. But my point in mentioning it here is that I love the theme song. Listen here:
In the theatre, between films, they were playing a ctachy song that I didn't recognize. I did, however, make a point of remembering the line, "There's just kind of man that you can trust. That's a dead man. Or a Gringo like me." When I got home I was able (with the help of the intertubes) identify it as a song from Gunfight at Red Sands:

Monday, June 11, 2012

16 × 16 =/= 14 × 18

I was in the car today, listening to Allan Sherman with a friend. The last song on Sherman's second album, My Son the Celebrity, is "Shticks of One and a Half a Dozen of the Other." It's a medley of bits, kind of like "Shticks and Stones," the medley that closed out his first album, My Son, the Folk Singer.

Give a listen:

That first bit, a partody of "Molly Malone" (AKA "Cockles and Mussels" or "In Dublin's Fair City"), contains the line "My Molly stands out 'cos she weighs eighteen stone" followed by the parenthetical comment, "That's 256 pounds." Problem is, it's not. A stone is (or, more precisely, was when the song was written) 14 pounds. So 18 stone is equal to 252 pounds.

I am guessing that Sherman's mistake came about by assuming that (x+a) × (x-a) = x × x and therefore that 18 × 14 = 16 × 16 = 256. That's an error that's common among the inumerate. I remember when I was in college, working on the campus newspaper. A friend enlarged a photo to 125% of its original size. Then shrank the enlarged copy to 75% of its size. He was puzzled that the final version was smaller than the original.

I know it's not really a big deal. But it still hurts my ears every time I hear that line.

As a consolation prize, let me share with you a video I found while looking for the one posted above:
If you want this to be relevant to this year's presidential election, note the bit that starts at about 1:05.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

the importance of soundtracks

Over Memorial Day, my family and I were in Baltimore for a drive-in movie. There's a theatre there that does an all-night showing for Memorial Day weekend and again for Labor Day weekend. It kind of drove home to me how important it can be to choose the right background music for a movie.

The first show was The Pirates! Band of Misfits. It wasn't a particularly good movie. But I loved the soundtrack. "London Calling" by the Clash, "Swords of 1000 Men" by Tenpole Tudor... It kept me interested enough to that I was watching just to see what would be played next. It reminded me of the Shrek movies, which had great choices in their soundtracks.

Dark Shadows, which was the last feature (they showed four movies), was set in 1972, so they needed period tracks to enhance the sensation that you were watching the 1970s. During dinner, the daughter puts Donovan's "Season of the Witch." That came out in 1966, so it fits. I also couldn't help noticing the T. Rex album, The Slider, which came out in 1972.

Anyone interested in "Season of the Witch" can hear it here:
Men in Black 3 and Think Like a Man didn't have much memorable in their soundtracks (though I'll admit that the latter was very R&B heavy and I'm not much of a fan of what constitutes R&B today).