So much of the writing done about the films of Wes Anderson focuses on their visuals — and with good cause. We’ve featured pieces on everything from the design of their settings to the symmetry of their shots to their quotation of other movies. You can’t talk about the aesthetic distinctiveness of Anderson’s work unless you talk about its visual distinctiveness, but you also miss out on a lot if you focus solely on that. We mustn’t forget the importance of sound in all of this, and specifically the importance of music.
Casual Anderson fans might here think of one kind of music before all others: the British Invasion. The Creation’s “Making Time” in Rushmore, the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” in The Royal Tenenbaums, and, to take the concept in as Andersonian a direction as possible, Portuguese-language covers of David Bowie songs in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
But getting the clearest sense of the music might require temporarily separating it from the movies. To that end, we offer you “From Bottle Rocket to The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a Spotify playlist by Michael Park bringing together 172 of the songs included in Anderson’s eight features so far, coming to over nine and a half hours of immaculately curated, 20th century counterculture-rooted music, from not just the Stones and Bowie-via-Seu Jorge but Horace Silver, the Kinks, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, Elliott Smith, Yves Montand, Nick Drake, and the Velvet Underground. (To listen, you need only download and register for Spotify.)
While you listen, why not read through Oscar Rickett’s Vice interview with Anderson’s music supervisor Randall Poster? “Wes always talks about how those guys would wear coats and ties on the cover of their records but that the music was so aggressive and rebellious,” says Poster of the director’s lasting penchant for the British Invasion. “I think that corresponded to [Rushmore protagonist] Max Fischer because he was this kid who, underneath it all, was looking to break through. The music speaks to his character, who is out of time with the world, and I think that’s a running theme in our movies and you can see it with M. Gustave in Grand Budapest Hotel, who is holding on to a more mannered, genteel era.” And what current works of art have expressed genteel rebellion, or rebellious gentility, so well as Anderson’s?
For all their serious brooding and biting digs at the establishment, the members of Pink Floyd were not above having a little fun with their image. Take this 1975 comic book, created by their record cover designer Storm Thorgerson’s company Hipgnosis for the Dark Side of the Moon tour. A “Super, All-Action Official Music Programme for Boys and Girls,” the 15-page oddity—pitched, writes Dangerous Minds, “somewhere halfway between ‘professional promotional item’ and ‘schoolboy’s notebook scribbling’”—includes several short comic stories: Roger (“Rog”) Waters is an “ace goal-scorer” for the “Grantchester Rovers” football club. Floyd drummer Nick Mason becomes “Captain Mason, R.N.,” a “courageous and smart” WWII naval hero, and David Gilmour gets cast as stunt cyclist “Dave Derring.” The juiciest part goes to keyboardist Richard Wright, whose salacious exploits as high roller “Rich Right” complete the proto-Heavy Metal vibe of the whole thing.
Perhaps most fun is a silly questionnaire called “Life Lines” that asks each band member about such trivia as age, weight, height, “philosophical beliefs,” “sexual proclivities,” “political leanings,” and “musical hates.” Most of the answers are of the flippant, smartass variety, but I think they’re all sincere when they name their favorite movies: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, The Seventh Seal, Cool Hand Luke, and El Topo. I’ll let you figure out who chose which one. (Click the image above, then click again, to enlarge.) The penultimate page includes the lyrics to three new songs the band was working on at the time and playing live during the Dark Side of the Moon Tour: “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” and two unreleased tracks, “Raving and Drooling” and “Gotta Be Crazy”—which later turned into “Sheep” and “Dogs,” respectively, on the Animals album.
The comic takes the goofiness of Beatlemania-like merch to a much farther out place—somewhere “beyond the 3rd Bardo.” One member of the International Roger Waters Fanclub, who kept his program comic book for decades after seeing the Dark Side show in San Francisco, writes “I was so wasted on acid at the show, I don’t know how I held on to anything.” Hipgnosis, and Floyd, surely knew their audience. You can download the whole thing here, in high resolution images. See much more Pink Floyd tour memorabilia at the fansite Pinfloydz.com.
When American society relinquished cigarettes, American cinema lost one of its most dramatic visual devices. You still see smoking in the movies, but its meaning has changed. “A cigarette wasn’t always a statement,” wrote David Sedaris when he himself kicked the habit. “Back when I started, you could still smoke at work, even if you worked in a hospital where kids with no legs were hooked up to machines. If a character smoked on a TV show, it did not necessarily mean that he was weak or evil. It was like seeing someone who wore a striped tie or parted his hair on the left — a detail, but not a telling one.”
These two short films show American auteurs keeping the cinematic centrality of the cigarette alive well after its heyday had ended. At the top of the post, you can watch Jim Jarmusch’s 1986 short Coffee and Cigarettes, which stars Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni sitting down for and talking about those very same consumables. It began a long-term project that culminated in Jarmusch’s 2003 feature of the same name, which comprises eleven such coffee- and cigarette-centric short films (one of them featuring Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, another featuring Bill Mur) shot over those eighteen years.
While one might naturally have met a friend specifically to enjoy caffeine and nicotine in the mid-1980s, a decade later the situation had changed: only in America’s seedier corners could you even find a coffee-serving establishment to smoke in. Paul Thomas Anderson used this very setting to begin his career with Cigarettes and Coffee below. Eschewing film school, he gathered up his college fund, some gambling winnings, his girlfriend’s credit card, and various other bits and pieces of funding in order to commit this short story to film.
It worked: Cigarettes and Coffee scored Anderson an invitation to the Sundance Filmmakers Lab, a setting that allowed him to adapt the short into his feature debut Hard Eight. Like Cigarettes and Coffee, Hard Eight stars Philip Baker Hall, a favorite actor of Anderson’s that he went on to use in both Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Thematically, this tale of a group of low-living but in their own ways hard-striving characters all connected by a $20 bill presages the themes that, in his pictures of higher and higher profile, he continues to work with today.
And can it be an accident that Anderson has, in the main, set his films in past eras that not only accepted smoking, but expected it? Jarmusch, for his part, seems to prefer milieus at increasing distance from our everyday experience, amid urban samurai, assassins in foreign lands, immortal vampires in Detroit, that sort of thing. So if these filmmakers want to keep using smoking, they have ways. I just hope coffee doesn’t fall out of style. That would bring about a world that, as a filmgoer and a human being, I doubt I’d be prepared to live in.
George Harrison “never thought he was any good” as a guitarist, says his son Dhani, and so “he focused on touch and control… not hitting any off notes, not making strings buzz, not playing anything that would jar you.” Harrison himself put it this way, in typically self-effacing, mystical fashion: “I play the notes you never hear.” Of course, as most every thoughtful guitar player will tell you, these are exactly the makings of a good—and in Harrison’s case, great—guitarist. A dime a dozen are players who can play speed runs and flashy solos, who have learned every lick from their favorite songs and can re-produce them exactly. But it’s the sensitivity—the personal “touch and control” over the instrument—that matters most, and that can make a player’s tone impossible to duplicate. Harrison’s playing, Dhani says, “is the reason no one can really cover the Beatles faithfully…. At some point there’s going to be a George Harrison solo, and that solo is usually perfect.”
I would certainly say that is the case with the guitar solo in “Here Comes the Sun.” Oh, you’ve never heard it? That’s because the song, as it was originally released on 1969’s Abbey Road didn’t have one. For whatever reason, George Martin decided to leave it out, and the song, we might agree, is perfect without it. But the solo—rediscovered by Martin and Dhani Harrison—is also perfect. You can hear a version of the song with the solo restored at the top of the post, courtesy of Youtube user Kanaal van DutchDounpour. And above, see Dhani, Martin, and Martin’s son Giles rediscovering the solo, which Martin had forgotten about, while playing around with the master tracks of the song in 2012. (The second video first appeared on our site that same year.) At 1:01, the solo suddenly appears. Martin leans in and listens attentively and Dhani says, “It’s totally different to anything I’ve ever heard.” It’s unmistakable Harrison, the “liquid quality” Jayson Greene identified in a Pitchfork appreciation, more evocative of “a zither, a clarinet—something more delicate, nuanced and lyrical than an electric guitar.”
Impossible, I’d say, to duplicate. Even the younger Harrison—perhaps the most faithful interpreter of George’s music—finds himself fudging his father’s solos when covering his songs, playing his own instead. Harrison, says Tom Petty, always had a way of “finding the right thing to play. That was part of the Beatles magic.” He may not be remembered as the most virtuoso of guitarists, he may not have thought much of his own playing, but no one has ever played like him, before or since. See Harrison play an acoustic rendition of “Here Comes the Sun”—sans solo—above at the concert for Bangladesh.
(Note: some readers have pointed out that the solo at the top of the post sounds out of tune. We do not doubt that it is George Harrison’s playing, but it has been edited and possibly even sped up to match the final mastered recording. This is not a professional remix, but only a rough recreation of what the song might have sounded like had the lost solo been included.)
The secessionist battle cry has long captivated Civil War scholars. A fixture of literature as well as eyewitness accounts, its actual sound was a matter of conjecture. It lent itself to colorful description. Phonetic renderings could not hope to reproduce the chilling effect:
Of course, the Rebel Yell is far from the only sound to have struck a note of dread during The Civil War. Hoofbeats, the crackle of flames, a white voice commanding you to leave your hiding place…
By the time the harmless-looking grandpas in the archival footage above donned their old uniforms to demonstrate the yell, the war had been over for sixty-five years.
There’s a clear sense of occasion. The old fellows’ pipes are impressive, though one begins to understand why there was never consensus regarding the actual sound of the thing.
Linguist Allen Walker Read concluded that the yell—aka the “Pibroch of the Confederacy,” a vocal legacy of blue painted Celtic warriors facing down the Roman army—was a stress-related, full body response. Ergo, any hollering done after 1865 was a facsimile.
At least one veteran agreed. In Ken Burn’s Civil War documentary, Shelby Foote recalled how one of them refused to oblige eager listeners at a society dinner, claiming he could only execute it at a run, and certainly not with “a mouth full of false teeth and a belly full of food.”
It drove all sanity and order from among us. It served the double purpose of relieving pent-up feelings, and transmitting encouragement along the attacking line. I rejoiced in the shouting like the rest. It reminded me that there were about four hundred companies like the Dixie Greys, who shared our feelings. Most of us, engrossed with the musket-work, had forgotten the fact; but the wave after wave of human voices, louder than all other battle-sounds together, penetrated to every sense, and stimulated our energies to the utmost.
Note: Anyone with an Amazon account (at least in the US) can watch this pilot in HD for free here.
This week, The New Yorker officially celebrates its 90th anniversary with an expanded edition that revisits its many accomplishments since it first printed copies on February 21, 1925. Led by David Remnick, only the magazine’s fifth editor, The New Yorker has a rich past. But it has a future to consider too. Recently, the magazine launched the pilot of The New Yorker Presents — a “docu-series” that brings The New Yorker aesthetic to film. The 30-minute pilot (above, and also free on Amazon here) “features a doc from Oscar winner Jonathan Demme based on Rachel Aviv’s article ‘A Very Valuable Reputation,’ writer Ariel Levy interviewing artist Marina Abramovic, a sketch from Simon Rich and Alan Cumming, poetry read by Andrew Garfield, and cartoons by Emily Flake.”
If you like what you see, you’re in luck. The show, produced by Amazon Studios, has been greenlit for a full season. According to Real Screen, the new episodes will debut exclusively on Amazon Prime’s video-on-demand service in the U.S., UK and Germany later this year. When the episodes are out, we’ll let you know.
In November, we presented for you a quick way to download The Complete Sherlock Holmes — not knowing that, a few months later, a lost Sherlock Holmes story, seemingly attributed to Arthur Conan Doyle, would be discovered in an attic in Scotland.
The story, The Guardian writes, was “part of a pamphlet printed in 1903 to raise money to restore a bridge in the Scottish border town of Selkirk.” Discovered by the historian Walter Elliot, the tale entitled “Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, By Deduction, the Brig Bazaar” can be read below, thanks to Vulture.
In 2013, a US judge ruled that Sherlock Holmes stories now belonged in the public domain. The same would appear to hold true for this happily discovered, 1300-word story. You can find more Sherlock Holmes stories in our collection of Free eBooks.
“Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, By Deduction, the Brig Bazaar”
We’ve had enough of old romancists and the men of travel” said the Editor, as he blue-pencilled his copy, and made arrangements for the great Saturday edition of the Bazaar Book. “We want something up-to-date. Why not have a word from ‘Sherlock Holmes?'”
Editors have only to speak and it is done, at least, they think so. “Sherlock Holmes!” As well talk of interviewing the Man in the Moon. But it does not do to tell Editors all that you think. I had no objections whatever, I assured the Editor, to buttonhole “Sherlock Holmes,” but to do so I should have to go to London.
“London!” scornfully sniffed the Great Man. “And you profess to be a journalist? Have you never heard of the telegraph, the telephone, or the phonograh? Go to London! And are you not aware that all journalists are supposed to be qualified members of the Institute of Fiction, and to be qualified to make use of the Faculty of Imagination? By the use of the latter men have been interviewed, who were hundreds of miles away; some have been ‘interviewed’ without either knowledge or consent. See that you have a topical article ready for the press for Saturday. Good day.”
I was dismissed and had to find copy by hook or by crook. Well, the Faculty of Imagination might be worth a trial.
The familiar house in Sloan Street met my bewildered gaze. The door was shut, the blinds drawn. I entered; doors are no barrier to one who uses the Faculty of Imagination. The soft light from an electric bulb flooded the room. “Sherlock Holmes” sits by the side of the table; Dr Watson is on his feet about to leave for the night. Sherlock Holmes, as has lately been shown by a prominent journal, is a pronounced Free Trader. Dr. Watson is a mild Protectionist, who would take his gruelling behind a Martello tower, as Lord Goschen wittily put it, but not “lying down!” The twain had just finished a stiff argument on Fiscal policy. Holmes loq—
“And when shall I see you again, Watson? The inquiry into the ‘Mysteries of the Secret Cabinet’ will be continued in Edinburgh on Saturday. Do you mind a run down to Scotland? You would get some capital data which you might turn to good account later.”
“I am very sorry,” replied Dr Watson, “I should have liked to have gone with you, but a prior engagement prevents me. I will, however, have the pleasure of being in kindly Scottish company that day. I, also, am going to Scotland.”
“Ah! Then you are going to the Border country at that time?”
“How do you know that?”
“My dear Watson, it’s all a matter of deduction.”
“Will you explain?”
“Well, when a man becomes absorbed in a certain theme, the murder will out some day. In many discussions you and I have on the fiscal question from time to time I have not failed to notice that you have taken up an attitude antagonistic to a certain school of thought, and on several occasions you have commented on the passing of “so-called’ reforms, as you describe them, which you say were not the result of a spontaneous movement from or by the people, but solely due to the pressure of the Manchester School of politicians appealing to the mob. One of these allusions you made a peculiar reference to ‘Huz an’ Mainchester’ who had ‘turned the world upside down.’ The word ‘Huz’ stuck to me, but after consulting many authors without learning anything as to the source of the word, I one day in reading a provincial paper noticed the same expression, which the writer said was descriptive of the way Hawick people looked at the progress of Reform. ‘Huz an’ Mainchester’ led the way. So, thought I, Watson has a knowledge of Hawick. I was still further confirmed in this idea by hearing you in several absent moments crooning a weird song of the Norwegian God Thor. Again I made enquires, and writing to a friend in the South country I procured a copy of ‘Teribus.’ So, I reasoned, so — there’s something in the air! What attraction has Hawick for Watson?”
“Wonderful,” Watson said, “and —”
“Yes, and when you characterised the action of the German Government in seeking to hamper Canadian trade by raising her tariff wall against her, as a case of ‘Sour Plums,’ and again in a drawing room asked a mutual lady friend to sing you that fine old song, ‘Braw, braw lads,’ I was curious enough to look up the old ballad, and finding it had reference to a small town near to Hawick, I began to see a ray of daylight. Hawick had a place in your mind; likewise so had Galashiels — so much was apparent. The question to be decided was why?”
“So far so good. And—”
“Later still the plot deepened. Why, when I was retailing to you the steps that led up to the arrest of the Norwood builder by the impression of his thumb, I found a very great surprise that you were not listening at all to my reasoning, but were lilting a very sweet – a very sweet tune, Watson – ‘The Flowers of the Forest;’ then I in turn consulted an authority on the subject, and found that that lovely if tragic song had a special reference to Selkirk. And you remember, Watson, how very enthusiastic you grew all of a sudden on the subject of Common-Ridings, and how much you studied the history of James IV., with special reference to Flodden Field. All these things speak, Watson, to the orderly brain of a thinker. Hawick, Galashiels, and Selkirk. What did the combination mean? I felt I must solve the problem, Watson; so that night when you left me, after we had discussed the “Tragedy of a Divided House,” I ordered in a ton of tobacco, wrapped my cloak about me, and spent the night in thought. When you came round in the morning the problem was solved. I could not on the accumulative evidence but come to the conclusion that you contemplated another Parliamentary contest. Watson, you have the Border Burghs in your eye!”
“In my heart, Holmes,” said Watson.
“And where do you travel to on Saturday, Watson?”
“I am going to Selkirk; I have an engagement there to open a Bazaar.”
“Is it in aide of a Bridge, Watson?”
“Yes,’ replied Watson in surprise; “but how do you know? I have never mentioned the matter to you.”
“By word, no; but by your action you have revealed the bent of your mind.”
“Let me explain. A week ago you came round to my rooms and asked for a look at ‘Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome.’ (You know I admire Macaulay’s works, and have a full set.) That volume, after a casual look at, you took with you. When you returned it a day or two later I noticed it was marked with a slip of paper at the ‘Lay of Horatius,’ and I detected a faint pencil mark on the slip noting that the closing stanza was very appropriate. As you know, Watson, the lay is all descriptive of the keeping of a bridge. Let me remind you how nicely you would perorate —
When the goodman mends his armour And trims his helmet’s plume,
When the goodwife’s shuttle merrily
Goes flashing through the loom,
With weeping and with laughter.
Still the story told —
How well Horatius kept the bridge,
In the brave days of old.
Could I, being mortal, help thinking you were bent on some such exploit yourself?”
“Well, goodbye, Watson; shall be glad of your company after Saturday. Remember Horatius’ words when you go to Border Burghs: ‘How can man die better than facing fearful odds.’ But there, these words are only illustrations. Safe journey, and success to the Brig!”
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