Whilst any listener to both Earthling Society, and now Taras Bulba, will certainly pick up on any number of musical influences from the space rock of Hawkwind to the more esoteric deeper meanderings of Sun Ra, it is in the “movies” or film that Fred Laird finds much inspiration. Indeed, the last ES album featured a side long re-imagined soundtrack of a long lost cult film. It’s this kind of thing that led us here at Echoes And Dust to find out just what three soundtrack albums did Laird count as his most influential. It makes for some terrific reading, as we’re sure you’ll agree…
Angelo Badalamenti / David Lynch – Fire Walk With Me OST
I have been a huge David Lynch fan since I first saw Blue Velvet on VHS back in the 80’s. Although I had seen The Elephant Man, the ill-fated Dune and at the time (for a wee teen) the incomprehensible snooze fest of Eraserhead, it wasn’t until I had reached 18 when I started to look at movies as, not just entertainment, but as the ultimate art form. I became a rabid Lynchian disciple. Eraserhead and Blue Velvet were my old and new testament. I would wander around old deserted dockside factories late at night or the now bulldozed Ribble bus depot with it gargantuan wind clanging roller shutter doors, listening to the Eraserhead S/T on my Walkman. Scuttling like a Kafka bug with my Henry Spencer style hair erection (although truth be told I looked more like Stan Laurel). It was all very pretentious and arty farty.
The 90’s came and Lynch broke TV rules with his ground-breaking Twin Peaks series and became the toast of Cannes with Wild at Heart. His sudden fall from grace came from the prequel to Twin Peaks – Fire walk with me, a surreal, scary as hell head trip that puts 99% of all horror movies to shame. I couldn’t see why people hated it so much, it was a triumph to my eyes. A chiaroscuro of good and evil, love and loss and what made it all come together was the greatest soundtrack of all of Lynch’s films. The music initially gives a feeling of those Hollywood noir movies such as Out of the past, Key Largo or even the mighty Sunset Boulevard. The novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett also spring to mind. However, there is something more haunting, dislocated and surreal about Badalamenti’s music that reminds me of Raymond Chandler’s quote ‘The streets were darker with something more than the night’. A phrase that perfectly describes the ancient evil that lurks; in the midnight air, amongst the pine trees, the crossroads and the neon lit bars.
Ennio Morricone – For a Few Dollars More
When I was a child this was my go to album. I had ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ on one side and ‘For a Few Dollars More’ on the other. Weekends were spent in my makeshift cowboy outfit, riding the arm of the settee with the kitchen oven gloves as saddle bags. The living room would reek of sulphur from the caps fired from my two Woolworths Navy colts. Incidentally, they proved heavy enough for clubs as my elder brother found out one afternoon when I spilt his head open. Morricone would play on repeat but it was always had to be FAFDM.
What strikes me about the album now and the movie is its otherworldly quality. The music is desolate and haunting. The use of exotic instruments from music boxes to ocarinas could only be European in approach. The contrast too of the beautiful music to Leone’s ugly grotesque characters; with its hunchbacks, bandits, cold eyed killers lends a very surreal quality that out does El Topo without trying to be arty or pretentious.
One very memorable scene that sticks in my mind is where the seemingly hash smoking El Indio opens the pocket watch causing a flashback. The tune that emanates from the watch (Carillion’s theme) reminds me of Argento’s Suspiria a decade later. Another cool touch about the soundtrack was the discovery that New Order took chunks of the riff and incorporated into ‘Blue Monday’. An interview in Sounds or such like in the 80’s had Hooky citing the soundtrack as a major influence.
Popol Vuh – Bruder des Schattens Sohne Des Lichts
Before I heard of Popul Vuh back in the early 80’s I hired a copy of Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre from the local video store. Immediately drawn in by the amazing cover art but kind of put off by the fact it was dubbed, it starred Klaus Kinski (he was only ever in crap films as I recall at the time) and worst of all, it was German. I could cope with the Dollars trilogy because, although it was dubbed and starred the woeful Lee Van Cleef (remember his ninja series The Master?), it had Clint in it and he wore a poncho which was double cool even though me mam wore one. Anyhow Nosferatu was crap and it had no gore but it was creepy. Also, the dubbing wasn’t as bad as other foreign rubbish either.
Then I became a serious young man. I listened to Joy Division a lot and had an overcoat. I also got hold of a copy of Mark Johnson’s over-angst An Ideal for Living. I think it was in that book that Bernard Sumner/Albrecht claimed Herzog’s Nosferatu as his all-time favourite film. There was something ‘Evil and claustrophobic’ about it or words to that effect. Hold on! That German film? With Klaus Kinski from Codename Wild Geese? It was then that I immersed myself with everything Herzogian but the music still evaded me. It was Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love that really woke me to Popol Vuh. On the track ‘Hello World’ there seems to be either a homage or a sample to Nosferatu that immediately pricked my ears. It was the piece that opens the movie which was filmed at the Mummies of Guanajuato museum in Mexico. I checked the sleeve notes. Yes, Popul Vuh was mentioned and this guy Florian Fricke, oh and Werner Herzog too. I was smitten. But alas it was nigh on impossible to get the albums. It finally took a further 10 years plus before I got my hands on a copy as well as the other Popol Vuh albums. I have never looked back. They are as inspirational now as they were when my ears first opened to their ethereal world in 1985. All thanks to Kate Bush and Bernard Sumner.
Note: If you want to hear the title track in all its 19 minute glory, you need to get the 1992 Spalax version and not the truncated Nosferatu edition.