The Big Sleep

There’s a film channel on Freeview called TCM which shows a random selection of movies. Recently I noticed that they were scheduled to show The Bog Sleep and The Maltese Falcon so set the box to record both.  I was a big fan of film noir back in the 80s and early 90s, watched both these films and others, especially those with Humphrey Bogart in them. I read some of Raymond Chandler’s novels. This week there was a night when everyone was out and I settled down to watch The Big Sleep.

Bogart plays a private detective Phillip Marlowe hired by General Sternwood to settle a problem with some gambling debts one of his daughters (Lauren Bacall) has accrued. Carmen (Bacall) wants to stop him. She suspects that what her father really wants is to find Sean Regan, who vanished in mysterious circumstances a month earlier. From there on in the plot thickens to involve a bookseller, some blackmail regarding indecent photos of the younger Sternwood daughter, a very flirtatious scene in the bookshop and implied sex, a casino belonging to Eddie Mars, several visits to a house where the body of the bookseller Joe Geiger is found, a beating for Bogart, some resolution of plot issues, Bogart and Bacall suddenly falling in love and the death of Eddie Mars, shot by his own men when Bogie tricks him into going outside. All good film noir stuff.

The film was made during the war- there are a few wartime moments such as a female taxi driver and poster of FDR- but its release was delayed until 1946 so the studios could rush release all the war films they’d made. It was criticised on release for being difficult to follow and confusing. Marlowe sometimes makes deductions that aren’t shared with the audience. The death of chauffeur Owen Taylor is unexplained. It’s not especially confusing but there is a lot of back and forth, people going to and from places rapidly. There’s little character development, it is all plot. And it does look old- really old. But Bogart and Bacall are superb, the lighting is dramatic, there’s a grittiness about it that appeals and script is witty and fresh. Everyone, Bogart especially, smokes constantly.

A couple of pop culture things leapt out. Firstly the line ‘now wait a minute, you better talk to my mother’, taken by Coldcut, who have been posted here several times this week now, and used in their 1987 remix of Eric B and Rakim’s Paid In Full. Paid In Full (Seven Minutes of Madness Mix) was a pioneering example of the art of the remix, a record that gave Eric and Rakim a hit, spliced in vocals from a recent hit from Ofra Haza and introduced the world to the much used ‘This is a journey into sound…’ sample.

Paid In Full (Seven Minutes Of Madness Mix)

When Marlowe (Bogart) visits Eddie Mars’ casino Vivian (Bacall) is singing (backed by The Williams Brothers including Andy). The song is And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine, a jazz song written by Stan Kenton. One of the lines she sings refers to a girl being ‘a sad tomato’- the lines go ‘she’s a sad tomato/she’s a busted valentine’.

In 1994 Michael Stipe would use the same line in R.E.M.’s Crush With Eyeliner, a line that has always jumped out at me as being such an odd expression. I’ve no idea if Stipe got it from The Big Sleep or from a different version of the song but it seems reasonable to assume he watched the film late night on tour in a hotel room. Stipe follows it with ‘she’s three miles of bad road’.

Finally, as this picture shows, the younger of the two Sternwood girls must have been one of the inspirations for the look Ridley Scott gave Sean Young in Blade Runner (Martha Vickers, second right).

Autumn Leaves

While digging around the hard drive looking for yesterday’s Coldcut meets The Orb collaboration I found this.

Autumn Leaves (Irresistible Force Mix)

Coldcut released Autumn Leaves in 1993. Mixmaster Morris remixed it into Balearic ambient bliss- waves lapping on the beach, strings and slow motion bleeps and then a vocal floating in on the breeze, ‘but I miss you most of all my darling/when autumn leaves start to fall’. Autumn Leaves was written in 1945 by Yves Montand and Irene Joachim, a jazz and pop standard recorded by a host of artists from Nat King Cole to The Everley Brothers, Doris Day to Bing Crosby.

Then I remembered the photo I took and used for a blogpost last year and thought it would be perfect for this song. Round here the leaves have started to fall this last week, covering the pavement with faded greens and browns, rusty yellows and golds before the rain and feet turn them all to mush.

Monday’s Long Song

October half term. A week off for me (or wee calf in the punchline to Drew’s joke on Twitter last week). Monday’s long song this week is less a song, more a mini- mix courtesy of Coldcut and The Orb, who spend fourteen minutes and twenty six seconds with each other’s record collections, tracks and samples live on the air at Kiss FM, New Year’s Eve 1991. Coldcut were just getting their Ninja Tune off the ground, The Orb were about to take off.

There’s all sorts going on in here, opera, cockerels crowing, thumping rhythm tracks, voices dropping in and out of the mix, Denise singing ‘rama lama lama fa fa fi, I’m gonna get high til the day I die’, Neil Armstrong’s famous line as he steps down the ladder on to the moon, the vocal line from Roach Motel’s Movin’ On. Sampledelic fun for your Monday morning.

Coldcut Meets The Orb 

I Belong To Glasgow

Well, that was a lot of fun. Myself, Drew (Across The Kitchen Table), JC (The Vinyl Villain), Stevie (Charity Chic Music), Dirk (Sexy Loser), Brian (Linear Tracking Lives), Walter (A Few Good Times) plus various friends of JC’s (Aldo, Colin, Carlo) and Drew’s (Stiff, William) managed to pull the bloggers weekend off, a bunch of middle aged men loose in Glasgow city centre. I think we all had moments leading up the weekend when we thought ‘will this work?’ and ‘what if we don’t get on?’, and had people say to us ‘you’re going away to meet men you only know from the internet- are you mad?’. Dirk and Walter flew in from Germany. Brian came from Seattle. Seattle! I drove up from Manchester. The Glaswegian contingent were generous and genial hosts. We stopped in various pubs and bars. We shopped for records. We did football and culture. We saw Glasgow in glorious sunshine. All was good. It just goes to show that friends you make on the internet can become friends in the real world too. It will definitely happen again sometime.

There’s a post over at The Vinyl Villain today featuring a band who won’t have cropped up too often on our music blogs, an Imaginary Compilation Album for Coldplay, that is partly ribbing us music bloggers and our obsessions (and quite right too, we take music far too seriously sometimes). While sitting outside a pub on Saturday lunchtime it was suggested that we could all follow suit and post songs by Coldplay today. It may even have been me that suggested it. But I don’t think I can do it. Sorry. Actually, I’m not sorry. I’m not posting anything by Coldplay. Is this any use? Cold (cut)…

Kick Out The JamEs (Speng)

… and (Kid ‘n’) Play

Last Night

Autumn Leaves

My diary tells me it is now officially autumn. This Coldcut track remixed by the Irresistible Force and produced by Mixmaster Morris is a wonderful sprawling piece of ambient house (some use the phrase chill out but I can’t bring myself to do it). At first it doesn’t sound that autumnal but as it unwinds and the vocal comes in, the sense of seasons changing and the sun diminishing becomes overpowering.

Autumn Leaves (Irresistible Force Mix)

Cold Cuts

I was flicking through the random music TV channel again- you can tell I’m off work- and out of nowhere this came on…

Doctorin’ The House features some of the more obvious samples you might associate with Coldcut, squashed into a three minute forty five single, with Yazz singing the refrain and doing the dancing. It was in the top ten for four weeks in 1988. To be honest, this single has its charms but I’m a little ambivalent about it.

Whereas their 1995 double cd Journeys By DJ 70 Minutes Of Madness is brilliant- inventive, audacious, witty and fun. And a dancer. It takes in their own Beats And Pieces and mixes in Red Snapper, Junior Reid, Jedi Knights, Depth Charge, the Dr Who theme, Plastikman, Moody Boys, Photek, Masters At Work, Mantronix and dozens more. Turntablism can disappear up its own backside sometimes but this is peerless.

Heavyweight Clash

Godzilla v King Kong, Superman v Batman, Pacino v De Niro, Pele v George Best- there’s something about the dream heavyweight clash that isn’t quite as satisfying as it should be. But you might find that Coldcut v The Orb actually delivers. A fifteen minute trip recorded live for Kiss FM, the two outfits rifle through each other’s record boxes and samples to create something that sounds a bit like both and something a little bit new. I don’t know exactly who did what or how they executed it but…score draw and a whole load of fun.

Coldcut Meets The Orb


You Go To Your Girl’s House And I’ll Go To Mine

Eric B and Rakim’s Paid In Full (the Coldcut Remix) is one of those hip-hop party records that always, always sounds great. That’s not to say that one should attempt to dance to it at your youngest brother’s wedding the Saturday before Christmas done up in suit and tie, possibly a little too early in the evening and there being few other dancers thus leaving yourself a tad exposed upon the dancefloor- but I like to think I got away with it. No, I don’t what those people were laughing at either.

Paid In Full (Seven Minutes Of Madness- the Coldcut Remix)

Say Kids!

Say Kids What Time Is It? was Coldcut’s first record and more or less invented cut-and-paste, sample based music making. It’s still an astonishingly inventive record, filled with the possibilities that new technology and a decent record collection presented them with. After this came Pump Up The Volume and Theme From S’Express. The future is now twenty four years old.