Soundtrack

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This started out as a project some 7 years ago.  At least 2 albums worth of demos in – of varying quality, style and lyrical obscurity – it was intended to make sure I write something outside whatever habits I was starting to lean on.  Films were the obvious choice of inspiration: the leisure activity of choice after music.
The initial plans were a list of rules worthy of Dogme ’95: – The song title should be the film title; – the lyrics should be drawn directly from the plot (if not the dialogue itself); – the key was to be the first letter in the title to fall between A and G (e.g. Five Easy Pieces is in F, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is in E); – and the atmosphere of the film (if not the actual score) should inform the music/ arrangement.
Limitations can unlock productivity but then again, as with all creative endeavours, rules are waiting to be broken.  Two songs each inspired by a cultural figure who had recently passed away – one a white, male wrestler, the other a black, female poet – do not relate to films at all but feel like they belong, if only to add variety.
The choice of inspiration was neither a list of my favourite films (The Godfather had drafted lyrics but was never completed) nor a neat canonic survey of cinema history, but just things that seemed to suggest themselves.  They span over half a century, include cult films, european arthouse and beloved blockbusters.
It is my hope that you’ll enjoy the songs, and then notice a bit of dialogue or pick up some extra atmosphere the next time you watch the films.  Maybe some will even seek out films they haven’t heard of before this album.
MDH
Michael Humphrey
Hither Green, London
Summer 2016

SUNSET BOULEVARD (Wilder, 1950)
What am I planning to do about it?
It seemed fitting to start an album about films with a song about a film about films…  I took some inspiration with the comparison between when the film industry moved into the sound era and left the old order behind, and when the music industry moved into the internet age and suddenly nostalgia acts seemed to be earning more than ever.
You and her, you and her
Til I met you and her, you and her

I was living car by car, drinking when I could with the hacks in Schwab’s drugstore
I had made it just so far, washing up and going dry, it wasn’t coming anymore
Then you and her come along
Good luck and so long

Norma Desmond on a nostalgia trip
But it turns out that it’s us that got small
And what am I planning to do about it?
I bet you do nothing at all

G n’ R, G n’ R, someone thaw out G n’ R, G n’ R
G n’ R, G n’ R, someone thaw out G n’ R, G n’ R

From a cannon, helmet on, see no time has passed, crushed bulbs on the tiled floor
Jon Bon Jovi, Elton John, since the lady’s payin’ serve me up a vintage whore
Digital radio
Set our tastes, we’d never know

Norma Desmond on a nostalgia trip
But it turns out that it’s us that got small
And what am I planning to do about it?
I bet you do nothing at all

Your sweet water-lily
Ever after happily
Floating in our Sunset Boulevard, Boulevard

And what am I planning to do about it?
I bet you do nothing at all


“DON’T WRITE THE NOTE” (Shakey, Johnson, 2008)
Hope should be enough
This is only very loosely inspired by the film chronicling Neil Young’s tour of his protest album Living With War with Crosby, Still and Nash: CSNY/Déjà Vu.  There’s a segment in it where the mothers of dead veterans release red balloons in memory of their lost children, and it seemed heartbreakingly hopeless to me.
Clothe your soul, Clothe your soul
Clothe your soul and throw away your favourite T-shirt
There’s been no goal, There’s been no goal
There’s been no goal since you finished doing homework

When something’s all used up you should just bin it
Hope should be enough but it just isn’t

Clothe your soul, Clothe your soul
Clothe your soul and warm your bones with something constant
There’s no more goals, There’s no more goals
There’s no more goals, no more recognised achievements

Take a red balloon, attach a message for me
Let it go in one year – but know it won’t reach me

Vomit with your earphones in
Sitting in the bathroom light
Remember the shape you’re in
When you’re here tomorrow night

Don’t write the note
Don’t write the note
Don’t write the note

Clothe your soul and throw away your favourite T-shirt
There’s been no goal since you finished doing homework
When something’s all used up you should just bin it
Hope should be enough but it just isn’t

Clothe your soul and warm your bones with something constant
There’s no more goals, no more recognised achievements
Take a red balloon, attach a message for me
Let it go in one year – but know it won’t reach me

Vomit with your earphones in
Sitting in the bathroom light
Remember the shape you’re in
When you’re here tomorrow night
Vomit with your earphones in
Sitting in the bathroom light
Remember the shape you’re in
When you’re here tomorrow night

Don’t write the note
Don’t write the note
Don’t write the note
Don’t write the note
Don’t write the note


BREAKING THE WAVES (Von Trier, 1996)
I used up my voice with his name
Bess and the bells.
It was required that an airfield be built
Work was undertaken urgently
The runway stretched back to the barren hills
From the rocky edge of the stormy sea

Fuel tanks were topped up full and deep
The vessels thrown out courageously
Ten boiler suits for the maiden fleet
For the men to leave to mine the sea

Breaking the waves, with our runway stretched out towards the stars
Breaking like waves, rising up between you and I
Count the distance rolling by
Breaking the waves

The phone box quivered in the rain
As I waited for the first call to come through
I made my lips practise his name
Wait til they see what has happened to you

How much of us will there be left?
What of you will emerge from the rescue plane?
Anticipate and mourn bereft
I used up my voice with his name

Breaking the waves, with our runway stretched out towards the stars
Breaking like waves, rising up between you and I
Count the distance rolling by
Breaking the waves
Breaking the waves

I soldier on and we endure
Time passes over as we are
The ghost of life from death’s allure
I push your legs into the car

Breaking the waves, with our runway stretched out towards the stars
Breaking like waves, rising up between you and I
Count the distance rolling by


EPISODE 4 – A NEW HOPE (Lucas, 1977)
Red 5 standing by
Obi Wan, see this ship gets to Alderan
It carries the death star plan
This is our most desperate hour

A great disturbance felt in the force

If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine
A precise hit will cause a chain reaction
Just like beggar’s canyon back home

Red 5 standing by


FIVE EASY PIECES (Rafelson, 1970)
Seen your big fires, seen your small fires
In the final analysis, Jack Nicholson’s character in this film is one of the most cowardly and contemptible in all cinema, as cool as he seems on first watch.  Musing on taking the easy option, resting on your laurels, and hitchin’ a ride the hell outta there the minute the going gets heavy.
Five easy pieces, mmm
Let me show your lifestyle where the breeze is, mmm
Short-circuiting the pain, it’s tricky to maintain
Five easy pieces, where you headin’ to?

Tearing down the rocks since noon, he drove out of the plain
The clouds piled up like Blue-ridge mountains, tall before the rain
He drew a beat on a good time, hitched a ride on a honky-tonk freeway
Pick up some supplies and lose our clothes with the girls from yesterday

Rolling home, shaping up slow to apologise
As she washed and pressed her damp disguise
She told me, and she’s torn up
He’s tired of all these cracker lives
Hey, where you headin’?

Five easy pieces, mmm
Let me show your lifestyle where the breeze is, mmm
Short-circuiting the pain, it’s tricky to maintain
Five easy pieces, where you headin’ to?

Don’t you think it’s right that you should see him once before he goes
We never had that much to say, that’s something that we both know
He’ll sit and play a Chopin prelude, she’ll sing Tammy Wynette
She’s seen your big fires, seen your small fires and she ain’t give up yet

Can’t take much more of him sitting there like a stone
So roam across the floor alone
Don’t touch me if you don’t love me
Don’t ask for love in return Hey, where you headed?

Five easy pieces, mmm
Let me show your lifestyle where the breeze is, mmm
Short-circuiting the pain, it’s tricky to maintain
Five easy pieces, five easy pieces,
Five easy pieces, where you headin’ to?


THE HURT LOCKER (Bigelow, 2008)
The magazine lands in the sand
Apocalypse Now is in my top 3 favourite films ever, but this is a pretty perfect portrait of modern warfare.  Of course diffusing bombs is not new, and it’s interesting to go back and look at archive footage of bomb disposal teams in Belfast in the 1970s to see how similar the routine is.  What this encapsulates, devastatingly so, is the inevitable dissatisfaction with everyday life after a period doing something so much more intense (even if the intensity only sporadically punctuates long periods of hanging around waiting).
The things that you love just don’t seem so special
I act like I try but never can settle
Back in the desert they need me to work
At least that way I know it won’t hurt

Blaster one do you read me?  Break out the suit, you’re in the kill zone
Listen sir, do you hear me?  We will shoot you, put down your cellphone
Bleed out like a pig in the sand all alone

Mangy cats and minarets as the night sun melts into the dunes
I wanna die comfortable, he won’t make it, a survivable wound
The magazine lands in the sand and he’s down

The things that you love just don’t seem so special
I act like I try but never can settle
Back in the desert they need me to work
At least that way I know it won’t hurt

I will not meet my enemy, not in paradise nor in this short life
Stop and cancel the mission, search his insides for another device
It’s a jack-in-the-box and I’ve locked myself in

Hurt, hurt, hurt…

The magazine lands in the sand and he’s down


ULTIMATE WARRIOR (in memoriam Jim Hellwig)
That the end was near in sight
He was exiled from the glitzy world of entertainment wrestling for a very long time, and reportedly expressed some fairly dubious political views.  But these things seemed only to  enhance the anti-hero persona.  He was invited back into the fold and delivered a speech (that in hindsight sounded like a prophetic farewell) to adoring crowds the night before he died suddenly.  A heady amount of bathos and travesty, and an uncanny real-life mirroring of the film The Wrestler (Aronofsky, 2008).
Ultimate means the final one
All improvements are complete
Warrior describes a fighting one
Fighting to the death before defeat

Let no-one say you lost the battle
Let’s just say someone killed the lights
You used up this life
You called it a night
But you never gave up the fight

Beat Hulk Hogan back in ‘Mania VI
Then bailed him out at number IX
Tie your arms up in yellow and pink
Show us a few of those running clotheslines

I don’t know if you knew this plotline
That the end was near in sight
You used up this life
You called it a night
But you never gave up the fight
You never gave up the fight


EPISODE 5 – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (Kershner, 1980)
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

Red 5 standing by
Do or do not, there is no try
Off to Degobah Luke must fly
To face his shadow in the cave

First Han, then Lando slip and are saved

Adventure, excitement, so we have seen
A true Jedi craves not these
A long time ago in a galaxy
Far, far, far away


SACRIFICE (Tarkovskij, 1986)
A prayer and a dream
Released the year of the director’s death, this is profound stuff.  To some it may seem overlong and pretentious.  In any case no blurb of mine will add anything to the discussion.
Plant a tree on a mountainside
Plant a tree by the sea
Wait for something, life expectant
Something real and important

We could find a way to alleviate – perhaps we could if it wasn’t so late
I would do anything, I have promised thee
Water the withering tree
Water the withering tree

And here again in the littered city, upturned cars and toppled chairs
The sleeping boy, oh what a pity, unruly water everywhere

A prayer and a dream

Sacrifice, burn down your home
Sacrifice, retrieve alone
Sacrifice, and don’t get taken
Sacrifice, and left forsaken
Is it still a sacrifice if we’re all gone?

The people are running for cover
Without their shirts on their backs
A long trip inside a celebration
We’ll take more care with our preparation

Re-do the garden in your own taste, wash your hands and place them on her waist
In the beginning was the word, the word of our Lord
Doors recoil of their own accord
Doors recoil of their own accord

And here again in the littered city, upturned cars and toppled chairs
The sleeping boy, oh what a pity, unruly water everywhere

A prayer and a dream

Sacrifice, burn down your home
Sacrifice, retrieve alone
Sacrifice, and don’t get taken
Sacrifice, and left forsaken
Is it still a sacrifice if we’re all gone?
If we’re all gone? If we’re all gone?


WINGLESS ANGEL (in memoriam Maya Angelou)
So, they shed tired talk of earthly things
This ended up being more about Tommy (a real person, but named changed) than about Maya.  But it is intended as a tribute to those people like Angelou whose words resonate so widely that when they die sadness is eclipsed by appreciation of the perfect gifts they have left over their lives.
Of all the things that Tommy said, the things I knew were true
Were the things he had to say about you
He had so many diamonds, goldmines dug in his backyard
But still he always tried too hard

You wore yours lightly
Their mirrors held you up, his dragged him down
Now you donate them, we won’t see you much around

When angels shed their wings
So they shed tired talk of earthy things
Tommy’s flappin’ in the street, preachin’ to everyone he meets
While you resolve to fly, to navigate the night
Unlike Tommy and me, still tryin’ to teach our feet

You didn’t even need wings to fill the sky

Presidents and holy men can talk a jumper down
They like the people’s feet kept safely on the ground
You didn’t shout and jump about, you didn’t talk real loud
That’s how we can still hear you now

You spoke for Tommy
He read your words to us, he wanted wings like you
You sent the message, but he never understood

When angels shed their wings
So they shed tired talk of earthy things
Tommy’s flappin’ in the street, but still scuffin’ his feet
While you resolve to fly, to navigate the night
Unlike Tommy and me, still tryin’ to teach our feet

You didn’t even need wings
You didn’t even need wings to fly, to fill the sky


WILD STRAWBERRIES (Bergman, 1957)
Chasing the time away
This was among the first to be written therefore it is in D, or the intro and chorus is anyway, and the song simply chronicles the salient images of the plot.  The wild strawberries are the “rosebud” of the story, that burning emblem of innocence lost that reminds us that we shouldn’t ever sacrifice too much for empty accolades.
Confirmed pedant, guilty of guilt – I can’t understand the charges
Fiftieth jubilee doctorate – your duty is to ask for forgiveness

He’s taking the car, that’s not what we planned
She’s going back to Evald, to stare at his hands
Don’t bother telling me, if the news has been cast
We have our principles, he’ll pay it at last

Birds and leaves and spilt wild strawberries
Look once more in the mirror alone
A screaming moon with lighthouse clouds
Birds in black branches flap at their homes

Wild strawberries chasing the time
Mild memories, meek and unkind
Wild strawberries chasing the time away

An empty morning walk, in an unknown place
The box tips open, lean and see your own face
It peers down at you, hands behind its back
The clock has no clues, it stares right through you

An empty white cradle, a nail exposed
Surgical masterpiece, desperate repose
Birds and leaves and spilt wild strawberries
Look once more in the mirror alone

Wild strawberries chasing the time
Mild memories, meek and unkind
Wild strawberries chasing the time away

Wild strawberries chasing the time
Mild memories, meek and unkind
Wild strawberries chasing the time away

Confirmed pedant, guilty of guilt – I can’t understand the charges
Fiftieth jubilee doctorate – your duty is to ask for forgiveness


MAGNOLIA (Anderson, 1999)
I got a lot of love to give, I just don’t know where to put it
The film is famous (notorious) for the raining frogs at the end.  I don’t think it’s that important to decide what the frogs are all about, but for me the film is about regret – and in the song Magnolia is like the alter-ego to genuine contentment.  Some of the many memorable characters achieve contentment by the end, some are left in magnolia.
Magnolia has found me
Magnolia for the world to see
So what is your message?  Instruct me to set my navigations
So what should I write up on my arm?
Magnolia has found me

You know that story about a game-show host who got sick and died?
You know he cheated on his wife?  He gave me some advice but it was lies
When the intensity comes, well it makes him feel stupid and unkind
You know that story about the lucky men still smiling in the end?

Well Magnolia has found them
Magnolia it surrounds them
So what is your message?  Instruct me to lower my expectations
So what should I write up on my arm?
Magnolia has found me

You know those people, the kind of people who wait too long to answer?
They rarely get the question wrong, but the points have already gone to the other
I’ve gotta lot of love to give, I just don’t know where to put it.  Well, take heart
‘Cause I told this story to a guy in Hollywood and he understood

‘Cause Magnolia had found him
Magnolia for the world to see
So what is your message?  Instruct me to set my navigation
Just what should I write up on my arm?
Magnolia has found me


KILL BILL (Tarantino, 2003, 2004)
I need Japanese steel
Two parts condensed into one noisy musical-manga of a song.  Gratuitous. 
Your concern must only be vanquishing thine enemy
Hold your peace for Bride Arlene, I’ll do my bestest to be sweet
She’ll suffer ‘til her final breath – that much I can guarantee
5-point exploding heart technique, I’ll have a glass of water please

Revenge is a dish best served cold

The shooting of Vernita Green, Yakuza O Ren Iishii Ii
You know that for a second there I thought this would be easy

Kill Bill – don’t call me kiddo
Kill Bill – say ah ree gah toe
Kill Bill, Kill Bill – I need Japanese steel I have vermin to kill
Kill Bill, Kill Bill – I need Japanese steel I have vermin to kill!

Assassination of Black Mambo, Massacre outside El Paso
Daughter she survived the hit, I wonder if the mother knows
It’s not sadistic is it Kiddo, not like paedo Matsumoto
Relief, regret, they should have known the force of Beatrice Kiddo

Revenge is a dish best served cold

This is my finest ever sword, I say this without ego
It seems Hattori Hanzo has broken his retirement oath

Kill Bill – don’t call me kiddo
Kill Bill – say ah ree gah toe
Kill Bill, Kill Bill – I need Japanese steel I have vermin to kill
Kill Bill, Kill Bill – I need Japanese steel I have vermin to kill!


EPISODE 6 – RETURN OF THE JEDI (Marquand, 1983)
Midi-chlorians and destiny
Samurai and afterlife
Outlaws and Nazi dogfights
Ancient Rome and atom bomb
Opera and the Vietcong
Drones and clones, rebellion
Lovers, twins, redemption
DVDs and merchandise
Meddling with C.G.I.
Pirates, prophets, chivalry
Let’s have another trilogy
Midi-chlorians and destiny
Star wars and space diplomacy
Over Endor: Darth Sidious
All the while he’s been watching us
And preparing the impetus
Planting envy and fear

Compassion for Vader you bring
It will be your undoing it seems

But no more training do you require
Already know you that which you need
In the end it’s your suffering that speaks
To the goodness inside him that sleeps
And the Jedi return


THE BALLAD OF THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (Hooper, 1974)
Things happen they don’t tell about
I added “the ballad of” to the title late on, to emphasis what the song is.  This one, rather than tackle the film, is a cautionary tale, that stops at the point of the film when things get really ugly.  It is in ballad form, and like ballads of old, is intended to preserve a story and impart a morale – don’t go messin’ round old houses!

A short account of tragedy one summer day befell
A band of five road-trippers is my duty to tell
Saturn squats in retrograde, the smoky sun presides
The radio sets the grizzly scene of this doomed and desperate drive
Reports of rotting body parts exhumed and re-arranged
Loved ones crowd the cemetaries to check relatives’ remains

Two stinking heads wired to the stone, a dozen empty crypts
The artist roams throughout the night, uprooting he exhibits
A drunkard rolls and laughs and chokes, pissed prophet gets no heed
“Things happen they don’t tell about” – outlines the local creed
There’s some that merely scoff and laugh, his mind is off its tether
There’s others who have heard the truth, they laugh, but they know better

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Escaping through the dawn
Now, if you value life and limb
You better listen on

Driving past the slaughterhouse, Franklin’s eyes are wide
Recounting and remembering the business from inside
The old technique had used the sledge, some took more than one lick
Some were even skinned and prepped while they recoiled and kicked
The others turn their ears away and pass the red outhouses
Sally denies her heritage but her memory arouses

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The ugly bits are true
And if you try to look away
It’ll sneak up behind you

The hitcher used to wield the sledge before the jobs were lost
He offered blurry polaroids before they knew the cost
He snatched the knife and showed his red, offered dinner at his place
He sprinkled firedust on the print and burned a friendly face
He waved a camera like a rifle, they begged for him to go
He drilled the knife on Franklin’s arm and danced along the road

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
In their midst we’re strangers
Don’t be making any friends
Before you check the dangers

The house held dark and leafy gloom, its happy days had passed
The cameras showed us just how far as they lurked behind the grass
The spiders tapped a warning, the laughing didn’t fit
Don’t go messing ‘round old houses, some folks here don’t like it
Rustling little sculptures talk to tiny hanging bones
Folks here like to be left alone and some will let you know

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Listen careful for the clues
Screen all advice the locals give
Because they might be after you

Abandoned cars and pots and pans are hanging from the trees
The loud but decoy generator had promised gasoline
A foolhardy and so naive faith in a friendly redneck welcome
Had forgotten all the leading up encounters in the sun
The camera stalks in muted signs as they pace towards the door
After knocking number 1 persists and gets just what he’s asking for.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
At sunrise he will dance
I hope you get the message
I hope you stand a chance

Don’t enter uninvited
Don’t use the garden swing
Don’t check on suspect animal noises
Don’t forget to watch your step
Don’t disturb the chicken
Don’t eat the barbecue
Don’t look at the sculptures
Don’t borrow the flashlight

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Escaping through the dawn
Just dive aboard a pick-up truck
And go until you’re gone


All songs and sounds written, performed, recorded and produced by Michael Humphrey – MDH

Thanks to KiKi for design help and to Biggy for all the other stuff

(c) 2016

0 797776 411450

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