Wednesday, April 21, 2010

classic album : 1984 (for the love of big brother)

well, this one could just about fall into the category of "forgotten albums" as easily as it could classic. for a variety of reasons, the soundtrack for the magnificent 1984 film version of 1984 recorded by the Eurythmics hasn't been released or re-issued for some 15 years now.

note i say recorded by and for - as director Michael Radford wasn't really taken with the band, he re-edited the film to exclude most of the music they had made for it. this is hardly the first strange run-in with Orwell's masterpiece a musician has faced. Bowie planned a musical based on 1984 only to have the Orwell Estate refuse him permission to release it as an adaptation. he quickly knocked it into the form of the Diamond Dogs album and, showing that he was perhaps a bit cleverer with words than the Orwell Estate gave him credit, soon embarked on the cheekily named 1980 Floor Show.

as for the Eurythmics' attempt at capturing a musical experience of the book for the film adaptation, the "hard luck" they ran in to was that Virgin commissioned them to compose and record without gaining approval from the director. as said above, Michael Radford was unhappy with what they did, and after the initial run of the film soon re-edited it, replacing much of what they had recorded with some orchestral pieces.

irrespective of this, the soundtrack album was issued - in part, presumably, to generate some commercial interest and success for the film, but mostly, you would hope, because it is one of the greatest works of music from the decade.

the nine tracks take the titles from the more indelible parts of the book - doubleplusgood, Greetings From a Dead Man, Room 101 and so forth. the music itself manages a rather interesting trick. for those well versed with the book it strikes one as haunting and perfect in capturing the mood of the part the music relates to. in addition to this, though, it's surprisingly and indeed startlingly catchy music that you can dance to.

whereas you cannot get the tune of doubleplusgood out of your head for many hours after hearing it, the above is best exemplified by the single taken from the album, sexcrime (nineteen eight-four).

now, the mind boggles as to what people unfamiliar with the book or film made of that title exactly, but trust me, it fits in perfectly. it's a great dance tune - notable in particular by the exceptional 12" mix of it - and at the time not all that many Top Ten singles featured lines like "how i wish i'd been unborn / wish i wasn't living here".

i can, to a certain degree, understand Michael Radford's rejection of the soundtrack presented to him by the Eurythmics. whereas it doesn't feel particularly dated today, it does sound very much like it was recorded in 1984, and not for the 1984 envisioned in the book. the somewhat frenetic paced beats of some of the tracks would certainly not have fit all that well as the background to certain key scenes.

understanding why Radford dropped the Eurythmics soundtrack, however, does not in any way mean approval or appreciation of the way he handled it. he for some reason went very public with his disapproval, including a rather harsh denouncement of the soundtrack and the band at a televised awards ceremony.

it's not like Mr Michael Radford is known for his good sense and ability to spot all things good, of course. lest we forget he was bitterly opposed to Richard Burton being cast in the part of O'Brien. the film turned out to be Burton's last, but his performance in it - as troubled as it was with well documented cases of his ill-health being problematic when filming - stands as one of his greatest ever.

if you are a fan of the Eurythmics and for some reason don't have this in your collection then it's time to add it. for everyone else, this is far from a plain film soundtrack and is well worth a listen. with no CD issued of it in the last 15 years, rather buy a copy now before it disappears all together.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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