03 November 2011

Henry Mancini - Shot in the Dark

Just looking up some great earworms this evening and the master turns up once again - the magnificent Henry Mancini.

Let's have a listen...
Superb - you didn't think you knew it until you pressed play, did you?
Bit of history first - Enrico Nicola Mancini was a second generation Italian immigrant to the US.  His parents made him take piccolo lessons at the age of 8 and piano at 12.  Quite late for such a bizarre instrument (I started at 7 and still don't like it), however, young Henry must have been practicing a lot more that I did at that age as he ended up at the celebrated Julliard school in New York. Nice.  I believe a certain Mr Miles Davis also passed through those doors, although a little later, seeing as after a year Mancini was drafted.

After the war finished he went straight into the music business - as the pianist and arranger for the Glenn Miller Orchestra.  Nice.

He then joined Universal Pictures - scoring for such pictures as Creature from the Black Lagoon and It came from Outer Space.  Shame.  He did then meet someone who would change his life - Blake Edwards.  Nowadays, Edwards is not seen as a great master of the silver screen, but he has a great many films which shaped modern movie making - from Breakfast at Tiffanys to The Pink Panther movies.

Mancini had already scored The Peter Gunn theme and the first Pink Panther movie - and this theme, for the second movie sits somewhere inbetween. Let's see it in context - about 3 minutes in...

It almost writes all the cliches about themes in movies - muted surf guitar means spys and detectives and it hits you in the face. Then the vibrato reedy horn sweeps in playing the melody and then about 40 seconds in you can almost hear the rest of the horn section stand up and just blow... a little lazily, relaxed but in control.
Some great double stop lines from the punchy, but still mildly subdued horns letting us know that they are still in control. About 1.10 in and a low register sax takes a solo - sultry and smokey, giving the image of mystery and intrigue. 2 mins in and the horns really show who is boss after a brief refrain, and the magical 2 minutes 30  ends on really big "Big Band" chords - boom, boom, Ba-doom.

Catchy, memorable and simple - perfect as an earworm and and excellent for a soundtrack.

01 November 2011

On Holiday! - Later with Jools Holland sucks

Well, I'm on holiday North of the border, relaxing and getting out when the road isn't flooded. More sadly, I am  watching too much television.

Have I seen anything I can say was brilliant? Not really.
I did manage to watch all 4 hours of Guided by Voiced last ever gig - a bit of a mixed bag, seeing as he got progressively more drunk and incoherent as the night went on.  He remembered all the lyrics, but I was surprised he could stand, he was so drunk at the end.

So no video today, just a semi-drunken rant.  All that was on TV tonight was Jools "Smug dwarf" Holland and his self congratulatory promo-fest "Later"
What an unbearable git festival of record company promoted talent free shits.  It used to be that programs like this (remember the White Room) promoted genuinely talented acts, whether they were David Bowie or Seasick Steve.

This evening, however, I was greeted by Brett Anderson, clearly back on the brown, promoting a new soul-less solo song, Florence and the Machine, trying to sell her second album, after being briefed and coached by her record company to the point where she looked less flawed and human that this time last year and more like a carefully polished mannequin. He then had an interview with Mary J Bildge who managed to enlighten us that her new song "Was all about love - because it really is all you need"

The worst act was Pete Townsend though.  He was on promoting the latest re-release of Quadraohenia.
Nothing wrong with that - good film, good album. Things wrong with it - 1. having that half deaf old pederast play and sing it on his own.  OK, he is not a bad singer, but he is not Roger Daltery. 2. "Jools" decided to improve it by joining in on the old joanna.

Who the bloody hell told him he was any good? He reduces any piece of music into a jangly cover more suited to a primary school. He may think he is adding to the acoustic bandwidth by playing the piano. He isn't - he is deconstructing music to it's raw elements and sucking all the magic out of it. Jingly jangly bumpf. Christ - I watched Rambo 3 (Rambo talks the Taliban round to join him in the fight against communism) last night, and that added more to the magic of film than Holland does to music.

Anyhow, I'm on Old Jock Radio on Thursday - go to the website, join in and slate me as much as you like then.

All the best, wish you were here (apart from Jools Holland)