Song of the Week – Early Soundtracks by Rock Artists in Film

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Today’s post is the next installment in my series on rock music in films.  The last in the series covered rock in ‘60s psychedelic movies.  It was largely centered on soundtracks that included performances by rock bands.  Today’s post focuses on movie soundtracks written and performed by rock acts.

One of the best movies of the ‘60s was The Graduate (1967), starring a young Dustin Hoffman.  Directed by Mike Nichols, with a screenplay by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham, and also starring Anne Bancroft and Katherine Ross, it was a coming of age story and a box office smash.  The hip vibe of the flick was aided by the soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel.

The soundtrack recycled several songs from the first couple of Simon and Garfunkel albums that perfectly reflected the mood of the scenes that used them.  But there was one original, the major hit “Mrs. Robinson.”  This is the soundtrack version, not the hit that was on Bookends.

A year earlier, Francis For Coppola hired The Lovin’ Spoonful to provide the soundtrack to You’re A Big Boy Now.  Interestingly, YABBN tackled a subject very similar to The Graduate – a young man engaged in an affair with an older woman.

“Darling Be Home Soon” is a beautiful song that was covered with a gospel feel by Joe Cocker and was previously featured as a SotW.

The Spoonful also provided the soundtrack for Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1967).

There was a trio of films with notable rock soundtracks that came out in 1971:

Harold & Maude – Cat Stevens

Friends – Elton John

Percy – The Kinks

Like The Graduate soundtrack, Harold & Maude’s reused tracks from early Cat Stevens albums supplemented with some new material.  The most famous of the two new songs – “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” – was a SotW in August 2013, so let’s hear the other – “Don’t Be Shy.”

Elton John was considered for the role of Harold and was instrumental in connecting director Hal Ashby with Stevens.

Friends was John’s release between Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water.

“Friends” made it into the Billboard Top 40 and the soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy in 1972 for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture.  Despite those accolades, the Friends soundtrack album didn’t sell and could be found in the cut-out bins for a couple of bucks for years.

The strangest of these 1971 soundtracks was for Percy, by the Kinks.

“The Way Love Used to Be” is the best of the lot and was later included on The Great Lost Kinks Album (1973).  But it must be difficult writing songs for a story that is about a guy named Edwin that loses his penis when a man falls from the sky and lands on him.  When he gets a penis transplant, he names it Percy.

All of these soundtracks set the stage for rock music to be used to score films in the years to come.  A few examples of outstanding soundtracks by rock musicians are:

Mark Knopfler – Princess Bride

Queen – Flash Gordon

Richard Thompson – Grizzly Man

Ry Cooder – Paris, Texas

Peter Gabriel – Last Temptation of Christ

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Motel Blues, Loudon Wainwright III & Sitting in My Hotel, The Kinks

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There are dozens of songs written by rock bands about life on the road.  To name a few…

“Load Out”                              Jackson Browne

“Torn and Frayed”                   Rolling Stones

“Movin’ On”                             Bad Company

“Travelin’ Band”                      Creedence Clearwater Revival

“We’re an American Band”      Grand Funk

I’m familiar with a couple of relatively obscure “road” songs that chronicle life on the road with a different tone.  They are more emotionally impactful and depressing – and that’s what I like about them.

The first is “Motel Blues” by Loudon Wainwright III.

In this town television shuts off at two
What can a lonely rock and roller do?
The bed’s so big and the sheets are clean
Your girlfriend said that you were 19
The styrofoam ice bucket’s full of ice
Come up to my motel room, treat me nice

And ends…

There’s a Bible in the drawer don’t be afraid
I’ll put up the sign to warn the cleanup maid
There’s lots of soap and lots of towels
Never mind those desk clerk’s scowls
I’ll buy you breakfast, they’ll think you’re my wife
Come up to my motel room, save my life

Another is “Sitting in My Hotel” by the Kinks.

If my friends could see me now, driving round just like a film star,
In a chauffeur driven jam jar, they would laugh.
They would all be saying that it’s not really me,
They would all be asking who I’m trying to be.
If my friends could see me now,
Looking out my hotel window,
Dressed in satin strides and two-tone daisy roots,
If my friends could see me now I know they would smile.

Sitting in my hotel, hiding from the dramas of this great big world,
Seven stories high, looking at the world go by-y.
Sitting in my hotel room, thinking about the countryside and sunny days in June.
Trying to hide the gloom, sitting in my hotel room.

For those of you not up on your British slang, daisy roots are boots.

Apparently, life on the road isn’t all fun and games and often result in loneliness and isolation.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – If You Wanna Be Happy, Jimmy Soul; First I Look at the Purse, J. Geils Band; When I Turn Off the Living Room Light, The Kinks

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A few weeks ago I had the idea bouncing around in my head to write a post about my favorite misogynistic, politically incorrect songs.  The deal was sealed when I was at a fantastic wedding in New Orleans last weekend and one of the songs that DJ Pasta played at the reception was on my list — Jimmy Soul’s “If You Wanna Be Happy” (#1, 1963).

If you don’t know the song, it has the lyric:

If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So from my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you

And has a spoken work dialog that goes like this:

Voice #1  Say man!
Voice #2  Hey baby!
V#1  I saw your wife the other day!
V#2  Yeah?
V#1  Yeah, an’ she’s ug-leeee!
V#2  Yeah, she’s ugly, but she sure can cook, baby!
V#1  Yeah, alright!

Now you can’t be too sensitive about this, because it’s all meant in good fun.  But at a wedding reception?

Then there’s “First I Look at the Purse.”  The original was recorded by The Contours of “Do You Love Me” fame.  It was released on Motown’s Gordy label in 1965 and was written by Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers and only managed to reach #57 on the Billboard Hot 100.

But the J. Geils Band rescued the song, put it onto their eponymous 1970 debut album, and released it as their first single.

This one has offensive lyrics such as:

Some fellas like the smiles they wear
Some fellas like the legs that’s all
Some fellas like the style of their hair
Want their waist to be small.
I don’t care if their legs are thin
I don’t care if their teeth are big
I don’t care if their hair’s a wig
Why waste time lookin’ at the waistline?
First I look at the purse!

The last song I’ve selected for this little theme (though I’m sure there are many more that fit it) is “When I Turn Off the Living Room Light” by The Kinks.

“… Living Room Light” was released on The Kinks’ The Great Lost Kinks Album.  This 1973 set was a collection of previously unreleased tracks in the Reprise vaults that the label put out after the band had moved to RCA.

More demeaning lyrics:

Your nose may be bulbous, your face may be spotty
Your skin may be wrinkled and tight
But I don’t want to see you, the way that you are
So I turn off the living room light

All intended with tongue firmly in cheek, so don’t be offended.  Just giggle a little!

Enjoy… until next week.


Song of the Week – Picture Book, The Kinks

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1967 was the year of psychedelic music – Pink Floyd’s The Piper…, Surrealistic Pillow, Disraeli Gears, Hendrix, and of course, Sgt Pepper.  But soon a change was comin’.  In late December 1967 Bob Dylan signaled a new direction with his release of the country influenced John Wesley Harding.  A couple of the best albums released at the beginning of ‘68 included The Band’s Music from Big Pink and The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo – both very early examples of what would eventually come to be called Americana.

Even the superstars of rock, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, would take heed with The Beatles (The White Album) and Beggars Banquet, released within two weeks of one another in late 1968.  Both turned away from the psychedelic stylings of their predecessors for a more organic, back-to-basics approach.  And songs from both of those classic albums have already been featured as Songs of the Week.

Another great album from that golden anniversary year of 1968 was The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society – released the SAME DAY as The Beatles.  That was one helluva trio of record releases to end the year!

The Kinks, never a group to follow fashion (they mocked it!), put their own very nostalgic, British twist on “Americana,” including today’s SotW, “Picture Book.”

Some of the lyrics seem especially prescient in these days when every moment of our lives seems to be snapped in a photo and posted to social media.

Picture book, of people with each other, to prove they love each other a long ago. 

Picture book, your mama and your papa, and fat old Uncle Charlie out cruising with their friends.

Picture book, a holiday in August, outside a bed and breakfast in sunny Southend. 

Picture book, when you were just a baby, those days when you were happy, a long time ago. 

Head Kink Ray Davies said of the cut  “The whole magic of that track is that 12-string guitar and the snare drum with the snare off.”

You Millennials may remember this song from a really cool commercial for HP digital photo products that came out in 2004.

Enjoy… until next week.