Posts Tagged ‘Springfield High School’

Masterpiece: Rushmore

13 January 2011

[Today: A much richer soundtrack...]

At their core, soundtracks are really just big budget mix tapes, designed to set a mood. In my opinion, the very best among them is Rushmore, an album that checks every box on the soundtrack wish list: its whole is much greater than the sum of its parts, it blends together seamlessly, and (most critically) it’s full of great songs you either hadn’t heard or hadn’t paid much attention to before. Assembled by director Wes Anderson and Devo founder Mark Mothersbaugh, Rushmore is a 56-minute master class on how to put together a killer mix tape.

The movie Rushmore is about a teenager named Max who has more smarts than common sense, and his interactions with the hyper-interesting people around him. The opening credits – a montage of the various high school clubs Max belongs to, including the Beekeeper’s Club – cracked me up because I helped found Springfield High’s first (and only) Peace Club. Like Max, I was a smart-alecky, love sick kid who didn’t have the slightest idea where he was going in life.

This soundtrack sets that mood perfectly, with a collection of British Invasion bands like The Kinks, The Who, and The Faces, along with forgotten gems by the likes of The Creation, Chad & Jeremy, Unit 4+2 and Cat Stevens, as well as offbeat additions by French chanteur Yves Montand and jazz saxophonist Zoot Sims. The whole thing is stitched together by short, upbeat yet baroque instrumentals created by Mothersbaugh on glockenspiel.

Wes Anderson originally envisioned the soundtrack as nothing but Kinks’ songs before coming around to the eclectic selections that eventually informed this album. That was a very good decision. When asked about working with Anderson, Mothersbaugh replied that “He makes great choices. He’s really into music. He’s interested in B-sides, things besides the hits. It makes for a much richer soundtrack than if you just make a deal with the record company about what they will give you.”

Rushmore is the opposite of a big-budget, paint-by-numbers Hollywood soundtrack. Anderson and Mothersbaugh’s soundtrack feels like it was built by hand, with loving care, from a great record collection. It’s an outstanding musical journey through the minefield of adolescence, and it gets my vote for the best soundtrack of all-time…

Listen: Concrete & Clay [Unit 4+2]

Listen: Here Comes My Baby [Cat Stevens]

Listen: Ooh La La [The Faces]

*****

Further reading: The 20 Greatest Soundtracks Of All-Time

Stuck In My Head: Rainbow In The Dark

17 May 2010

It sounds like an 80s’ cliché, but two very distinct social groups in my high school (Springfield High School, class of ’87) were the “jocks” and the “metalheads”. Like plenty of classmates, I had friends in many different groups throughout the school, but on a macro level, the jocks and metalheads were like oil and water. One of the standard-practice taunts for any athlete spotting a kid in a black leather jacket was to throw up the ol’ devil horns and shout “DIO!!!!!!” as loudly and sarcastically as possible. After awhile, they dispensed with taunting metalheads this way and began to salute each other with hearty “DIO!!!!!!s” echoing the halls (which, truth be told, I always thought was partly hilarious and mostly idiotic).

But in those jock taunts and salutes lies an impressive tribute to Ronnie James Dio, the metal namesake who passed away yesterday at age 67. For many people in my school, the madness and badness of metal was succinctly captured by the three letters of his last name. And even if there was some sarcasm behind those devil horns, Dio’s name was literally ringing out every day throughout my high school years.

RIP Ronnie James…

Listen: Rainbow In The Dark

Masterpiece: Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

24 May 2009

[Today: The Cure set some moods...]

The Cure | Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

I didn’t like The Cure one bit when I was in high school. Their music seemed like the soundtrack for all those overly-dramatic, woe-is-me poseurs who clustered just across school lines to smoke cloves and pout about life. But in 1987, two things happened that changed my outlook on this group: 1) I graduated from high school, and 2) they released Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. By spring term of my freshman year of college, I was toting around a cassette copy of the album in my Walkman™ and singing a completely different tune.

This is the album where The Cure synthesized all the best parts of their sound, and took that sound into several new directions at once. Kiss Me contains two of their best-loved songs – ‘Just Like Heaven’ and ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ but the record is a start-to-finish marvel that signaled they had reached musical maturity. Robert Smith could still spit his lyrics like a petulant child (“I hate these people staring/Make them go away from me”) but the music here often provides an upbeat counterpoint to his gloom and doom. Kiss Me also contains several winding instrumentals that meander and weave like songs for an elegant opium den, while stitching together the violent mood swings at the heart of the album. But above all else, what distinguishes Kiss Me is that it’s a great guitar album, with a complex, layered sound that matches the emotional depth of the lyrics.

During my freshman year of college I took a class called The History Of Film, and during spring term the professor showed Salvador Dali’s absurd/surreal movie Un Chien Andalou (“An Andalusian Dog”). The film is basically a string of beautiful nonsense, repetitive film loops, and disturbing imagery, such as a man towing a dead moose on a rope and a woman slicing a man’s eyeball with a straight razor. Because it’s a silent film, I chose to watch it with Kiss Me playing on the Walkman™, and the album provided a first-rate soundtrack for Dali’s lunacy. The next day the prof told us that he had been showing the film for 25 years and we were the first class that hadn’t walked out early en masse. He was convinced it was because our brains had been trained by MTV to deal with Dali’s quick-cut nonsense. A nice theory, but I know that I stuck that film out – and actually enjoyed it – because I had The Cure in my ears.

Listen: Icing Sugar

Listen: If Only Tonight We Could Sleep

Listen: The Kiss

Doubleshot Tuesday: Raising Hell/Swass

28 April 2009

[Today: Getting hip before the internet...]

Run-DMC | Raising Hell
Sir Mix-A-Lot | Swass

Back in the olden days of the 1980s, information about bands didn’t travel the straight line of internet wires – instead it took the winding back roads of word of mouth and personal recommendation. Cool new music was often cloaked in secrecy and enjoyed by a select group of those ‘in the know’. Now anyone with a DSL hookup and sufficient determination can be ‘in the know’ about anything, especially a new band or album. Distribution channels being what they are today, the ideas of ‘alternative’ and ‘indie’ are almost oxymoronic, and life in a small town probably isn’t quite as boring as it used to be.

But before the internet, the idea of alternative music was very real. Around my high school (Springfield High – Go Millers!) fans of groups like The Cure and Depeche Mode were sequestered away in secret societies, where membership was hard-earned and meant being a virtual outcast from the rest of the student body (it also meant buying and using copious amounts of eye-liner, regardless of gender). But in truth, discovering anything that wasn’t on the FM dial or MTV was akin to getting into a speakeasy with a secret knock and password. Metal, punk, hip-hop, and other non-mainstream genres were years away from anything approaching national marketing, and finding out even basic information about underground bands required a level of proactive effort that would stun anyone who takes AllMusic.com for granted.

And yet the stodgy old coot in me misses the days when it was harder than a couple of mouse clicks to find out everything about a band. Hip-hop started filtering into my circle of friends around 1986, a full two years before Yo MTV Raps! hit the airwaves, so any clues about rap were relegated to word-of-mouth, “listen to this” experiences. There’s no question that, because it was exotic music that lived on the fringe of the mainstream, hip-hop had extra appeal for teenagers in a slow-paced small town, and by my senior year (1987) it was definitely in the mix at every clandestine keg party. In particular, Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Swass, LL Cool J’s Bigger And Deffer, Run-DMC’s Raising Hell and the Beastie Boys’ Licensed To Ill served us and served us well.

How far is the South Bronx from Springfield, OR? It’s a distance that can’t accurately be measured in miles alone, but the gap is significantly smaller than it used to be.

Listen: Raising Hell [Run-DMC]

Listen: Posse On Broadway [Sir Mix-A-Lot]

Listen: The New Style [Beastie Boys]

Listen: Get Down [LL Cool J]


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