Tag Archives: Daft Punk

Rocks In The Attic #795: Paul Williams – ‘Bugsy Malone (O.S.T.)’ (1976)

RITA#795One of my favourite podcast finds of 2019 is Soundtracking With Edith Bowman. I already subscribe to a couple of soundtrack podcasts, but this one blows everything else out of the water. Presumably using her BBC connections and credentials, Bowman manages to secure interviews with directors and composers, issuing a weekly podcast complimented by score or songs from each guest’s work.

There are currently 161 episodes – yes, I’m late to the party on this one – and so I’ve been making my way through them from the beginning. The other day, I listened to her second interview with director Edgar Wright (episode #47), who threw out this gold nugget of information: the composer and performer of the Bugsy Malone soundtrack, Paul Williams, played Little Enos Burdette in the Smokey & The Bandit films.

RITA#795bIt feels like one of those facts that I should have known growing up, one of the things your Dad tells you as you sit in front of the TV watching Bugsy Malone and Smokey & The Bandit back to back on Boxing Day. But if that ever was mentioned to me, and I don’t think it was, it sure has slipped my mind into adulthood. When Wright mentioned it, it was a like a piece of jigsaw connecting in my brain.

Williams has a small roll in Wright’s Baby Driver – one of my favourite films of 2017, hence the mention in the podcast. He also pops up in 1974’s Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, the Smokey & The Bandit sequels and a couple of Muppet movies. I always knew him as one of those ever-present character actors in film and TV; I just didn’t know that he was a musician and that two films of my youth were so connected. After decades of alcohol and substance abuse, Williams has been an advocate of rehab and recovery, co-authoring Gratitude and Trust: Recovery is Not Just for Addicts, with Tracey Jackson in 2014.

RITA#795aHis unique voice, all over the brilliant Bugsy Malone soundtrack, is one of the reasons he was selected as a guest vocalist on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories album, co-writing and contributing lead vocals to Touch, and co-writing Beyond. “Back when I was drinking,” he explains, “I would imagine things that weren’t there and I’d get frightened. Then I got sober and two robots called and asked me to make an album.”

Bugsy Malone is such a great film, and one I really need to show my kids. It’s got that weird production design – the film was a US / UK co-production – that you wouldn’t normally get out of Hollywood. The abstract splurge guns, I fear, wouldn’t pass muster with most studio executives, yet it’s a touch of brilliance. Of course, it’s a pivotal role for Jodie Foster who would go on to appear in Scorsese’s slightly more grown-up Taxi Driver the same year.

The songs are fantastic, and that’s coming from somebody who doesn’t really do musicals. Some of my best friends from secondary school went to a different primary school than me, and their school did a production of Bugsy Malone, starring my old friends Lyndon as Fat Sam, and Vini as one of the barber customers who gets splurged. It was always spoken highly of, among students who attended that school, and it’s a production I wish I could travel back in time to see.

Hit: Bugsy Malone

Hidden Gem: My Name Is Tallulah

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Rocks In The Attic #681: Daft Punk – ‘Alive 1997’ (2001)

RITA#681Live albums by EDM artists don’t make a great deal of sense, but this release really works.

Originally released as a fan-club only download in 2001, the album presents an uninterrupted (except when you flip the record over, obviously) 45-minute set from the Daftendirekt tour in support of their Homework debut, complete with whoops and cheers from the attendant punters.

Recorded, bizarrely, in Birmingham of all places, the tour dates throw up a couple of surprises for what became a globally successful duo. The tour started in Manchester, at the Academy – a venue I know like the back of my hand – and took in such glorious locations as Hanley, Leeds and Nottingham. It’s difficult to imagine Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo in any of these places, where presumably they frequented pubs and kebab shops to fuel them on their tour.

In fact, I probably prefer this album to Homework itself, which I have always felt a bit dry and a bit too Detroit. In fact, this set is so good, my 4-year old just said “Daddy, this music is making my bottom dance!”

Hit: Da Funk

Hidden Gem: Daftendirekt

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Rocks In The Attic #411: Tame Impala – ‘Currents’ (2015)

RITA#411I don’t often buy contemporary music, but when I do…

This is the third release from one-man-band Kevin Parker, a resident of Fremantle, Western Australia.  Parker seemingly listened to Tomorrow Never Knows by the Beatles on a loop throughout his childhood. Who can blame him? What else is there to do in Perth anyway? Chase flies? Work on your tan?

That isolation from the rest of Australia – and from the rest of the world – has seen other artists sprout out of Fremantle, namely Bon Scott from the mighty AC/DC. There’s even a statue of Scott erected in the harbour in Fremantle. I wonder if Parker has seen that statue since it was built in 2008. If he has, I wonder what he thought about it. Given the hipster mentality, I’m guessing he thinks it’s just about the worst thing that could potentially happen to somebody. If they proposed it, he might die from embarrassment, and then they’d definitely have to build one in his honour. How awful…

Tame Impala’s third marks a slight departure from the garage rock sound of Innerspeaker and Lonerism. There are noticeably more synths this time around, but essentially it retains that similar sound – rotating soundscapes, dreamy vocals and what feels like a never-ending toy box of musical instruments. The drums sound more programmed rather than played, and so it’s not a million miles away from where Daft Punk were moving to on the more chilled out moments of Random Access Memories. The Less I Know The Better sounds like it could have been on Ladyhawke’s debut album – and in fact a decent chunk of the album has that lovely, dreamy ‘80s pop thing going on, in the vein of Cliff Martinez’s score for Drive (2011).

Since buying Currents, I’ve hardly had it off my turntable. Opening track Let It Happen is currently my favourite song of the moment – almost eight minutes of Kevin Parker giving the world an update on where his head is at the moment. Here’s to album number four.

Hit: Let It Happen

Hidden Gem: The Less I Know The Better

Rocks In The Attic #284: Daft Punk – ‘Discovery’ (2001)

RITA#284This album was bought for me by my Irish girlfriend, and that thing they always say about long-distance relationships is true. It also doesn’t help when her father dislikes you purely for being English. Talk about a hurdle to overcome! There’s a sticker on the back of this record that states ‘This item is reserved for MS CATHY MURPHY, No address supplied’, and I’ve kept it on there as a reminder of my frequent visits over to Wexford.

I can’t remember why Cathy bought it for me – I presume it was my birthday – but I was definitely in to Daft Punk at the time. I think I already had their first album on vinyl, something I bought not to long after I found the 12” for Around The World – an early DJing tool of mine. Homework, the debut album, is a little too Detroit for my liking – the singles are good, but a lot of the album tracks are repetitive knock-offs, pointless to listen to unless you’re in a club.

Discovery is a step forward, towards a more disco-oriented sound. They also seem to have spent a bit more time crafting the album, although it does outstay its welcome near the end of its sixty minute running time.

This was probably the last I heard of Daft Punk until I heard the Tron soundtrack. I sidestepped 2005’s Human After All – I think I had outgrown dance music by that point – and thought their star had faded. The music in Tron is undoubtedly the best part of the film (and I love their little cameo, even though it could be two stage hands in those helmets), and is a great taster to their return to form on this year’s Random Access Memories.

Hit: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Hidden Gem: Nightvision

Rocks In The Attic #235: The Who – ‘The Who Sell Out’ (1967)

RITA#235A well-intentioned satire on commercialism and consumerism, or a rare mis-step by The Who in an otherwise flawless run of albums leading up to their first masterpiece, Tommy?

This album isn’t without its highlights, and the cover is fantastic, but I do think that for all its good intentions, it’s a step backwards after A Quick One. The final song on that album, A Quick One, While He’s Away, points towards the direction Townshend would go with Tommy and Quadrophenia, but The Who Sells Out tries to do something else. It is a concept album – well, it’s more of a concept album than Sgt. Pepper’s (released a few months earlier), in that most of the album deals with the subject of advertising, but the songs just aren’t as good as they are on those two later albums.

I do like the ultra-compressed effect they use on the radio announcements between songs (making use of a device called the Sonovox), and I’m sure Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter would appreciate this too – a similar effect is employed on Daft Punk’s Homework debut.

Hit: I Can See For Miles

Hidden Gem: Armenia City In The Sky