Tag Archives: Edgar Wright

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 #674: Wilson Pickett – ‘The Midnight Mover’ (1968)

RITA#674Aside from Mustang Sally, In The Midnight Hour or The Land Of 1,000 Dances, Wilson Pickett doesn’t get half the credit he deserves.

The Midnight Mover was largely co-written with a then-unknown Bobby Womack, and finds Pickett trying his hardest to continue his successes of the previous couple of years. The title of the album – and its lead single – is a clear allusion to his 1965 hit In The Midnight Hour; he even name-checks the song in the fade-out of side-B’s Down By The Sea.

Ever since seeing Edgar Wright’s 2017 film, Baby Driver, I’ve kept my eyes peeled for songs about girls called Deborah. There’s more than you’d think! Not only did Wright overlook Pickett’s Deborah for his soundtrack – opting instead for Debora by T. Rex and Debra by Beck – but Pickett sings his song partly in Italian, something you’d never expect to hear from a soul screamer from Alabama.

Hit: I’m A Midnight Mover

Hidden Gem: I Found A True Love

Rocks In The Attic #619: Bob James – ‘Sign Of The Times’ (1981)

RITA#619Here’s a sign of the times. I was watching Walter Hill’s 1978 heist film The Driver the other day; part of my ongoing fascination with Edgar Wright’s wonderful Baby Driver from this year. I was watching the film in bed on Saturday morning, and my four-year-old jumped into bed and started watching with me.

There’s a scene towards the end of the picture where Ryan O’Neal’s character steps into a phone-box in the train station to make a short call.

“Look – he’s getting into a lift,” Isobel said.

“No,” I said. “It’s a phone-box. He wants to call somebody.”

Thus began a short conversation around the wonders of modern technology, and the fact that in 1978 when you’re made arrangements with criminals, you couldn’t just call them on your Samsung Galaxy. She thought it was a lift / elevator simply because of its shape and the fact that he stepped inside it.

The simple phone-box has all but disappeared from our screens this century; it made a final death rattle in Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth from 2002. That film seemed like the last preposterous variation on the ‘peril within a space’ movie trope kicked off by 1987’s Die Hard (peril in a building), and copied by 1992’s Under Seige (peril on a boat), 1994’s Speed (peril on a bus) and countless others since.

Try and think of the last time a character in a film – set in the present day – made a call in a phone-box. It’s virtually impossible, simply because it just doesn’t happen anymore. But before the advent of cheap mobile phones around the turn of the century, it was commonplace.

The phone-box used to represent a form of safety. I’ll never forget the opening credits to television’s The Equalizer, when the panicked woman ran from an unseen antagonist into the illuminated security of a phone-box. And what would Bill & Ted have used as a time-travelling device if phone-boxes weren’t around? (We may find out the answer to that question if the long-rumoured third film ever gets made – perhaps it will be a smart-phone after all).

I’m not sure what any of this has to do with Bob James, but it saves me writing about those horrible photos of him inside the record’s gatefold cover.

Hit: Hypnotique

Hidden Gem: The Steamin’ Feeling

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