El Topo Soundtrack

[front cover of El Topo soundtrack]Following up on the previous Holy Mountain soundtrack post by Colin, I humbly present the entire Douglas 6 reissued vinyl soundtrack to Alexandro Jodorowsky’s motion picture, El Topo (aka The Mole), often referred to as “the first midnight movie”.

Based on brief online searching, it appears neither the original Apple label release nor the Douglas 6 release are on CD yet but supposedly, according to this trailer there will finally be an official (hopefully North American NTSC) release of El Topo on DVD as well as Holy Mountain and Fando and Lis, so it would logically follow that the soundtracks for both could be released on CD. One can hope anyway. Here are the liner notes transcribed:

Composed by Alexandro Jodorowsky
Arranged and conducted by Martin Fierro

[photo of Martin Fierro]

EL TOPO blew my mind like it’s blown everyone else’s. But being Mexican I felt especially close to it, felt a very complete connection with it. So I think there’s a real organic relationship between what we’ve done with the music on our record and what the music is essentially about. The music, like the rest of the film, is very spiritual — Alexandro’s a very far out cat. What we’ve done with the music sort of takes up where Alexandro left off. In terms of styles and forms we take in many things that have been happening in music since the soundtrack was made, and that makes the music on the record more related to what’s happening on the street and in the society now.

The cats in Shades Of Joy, they’re all ”˜bad’ cats, with different backgrounds and experiences. And we can play a lot of different trips, from Rock to Jazz to Latin to Hillbilly to Country and Western. We got everything into the music — all the things we’re able to do. You see, all the tunes in EL TOPO portray a mood and have so many emotions to explore and develop. There is frustration and pain and love in them. There are pensive moments and happy moments. I took the songs and shaped them the way I saw fit. I think we succeeded in complementing Alexandro very well.

Martin Fierro

[photo of Alexandro Jodorowsky]

I believe that the only end of all human activity — whether it be politics, art, science, etc. — is to find enlightenment, to reach enlightenment. I ask of a film what most North Americans as of psychedelic drugs. The difference being that when one creates a psychedelic film, he need not create a film that shows the visions of a person who has taken a pill; rather, he needs to manufacture the pill

I think there are multiple influences in El Topo — I have them all: the influence of all the books I’ve read and all the films I’ve seen, of all the winds that have blown against my skin, of all the stars that have exploded during my lifetime, of each manifestation of the now manifested, of each flea that’s shit on me. Especially a flea I met in 1955. It shit on me in such an incredible way, that it changed my life. I’m sure that flea’s in my film

Alexandro Jodorowsky

[back cover of El Topo soundtrack]


I was a seed
Watching itself grow on a tree
I was the tree,
But feeling
Apart from it.

Earth and water
Came together
With my energy
And the fruits and branches
Were larger far beyond
What I had ever thought.

I sat there
Watching myself grow.

I wanted to leap up out of
The depths of the earth
And drop into the heart of the fruit
Be the future seed, one of them,
Not be the origin.

Alexandro Jodorowsky

Side 1

  1. The Desert is a Circle
  2. Man of Seven Years
  3. Flute in a Quarry
  4. Together

Side 2

  1. El Topo’s Dream
  2. Slowest & Saddest Waltz
  3. Freakout #1

Produced by: Alan Douglas — Doris Dynamite

Eddie Adams, Ken Balzell, Hadley Caliman, Jack Dorsey, Martin Fierro, Luis Gasca, Jackie King, Jerry Love, Mel Martin, Frank Morin, Ivory Smylie, Roger ”˜Jellyroll’ Troy, Howard Wales, Peter Walsh, Jymm Young

All selections composed by Alexandro Jodorowsky except Freakout #1, by Martin Fierro, published by Editions Douglas Music / BMI.

Label: Douglas 6

The New York Shakespeare Festival’s Threepenny Opera

[cover of Threepenny Opera soundtrack]While the best-known American version of Kurt Weill and Bert Brecht’s Threepenny Opera is the 1954 Off-Broadway production with Lotte Lenya, the definitive performance was put on in 1976 by the New York Shakespeare Festival.

The 1954 version was tremendously watered-down, both lyrically and musically. The instrumentation had been changed from Weill’s 1920s-jazz small band style to a much more conventional theater orchestra, and the timing was “fixed” — whereas in the original production, the lines were sung off-beat from the music (a deliberate decision by Brecht and Weill), the American show had everything fit perfectly. And Mark Blitzstein’s translation was largely bowdlerized: “Ballad of Sexual Obsession” became “Ballad of Dependency”, for instance. (Other English recordings are just too classical, taking the “Opera” part too seriously, or are simply abominations.)

[photo of Ellen Greene and Raul Julia, in costume]When the famous theatrical producer Joe Papp revived the show twenty years later, he made a point to be as faithful to the original as possible. He used a much better translation and restored song verses that had never been published (one about “the ghastly fire in Soho” in “Mac the Knife” and a disturbing one about Jenny’s forced abortion in the “Ballad of Immoral Earnings”). The show also went back to the original orchestration, even ordering a custom-built acoustic Hawaiian guitar (as only electric ones were available at the time of production).

The cast was top-notch, featuring a young Ellen Greene (best-known for her later performance as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors) as Jenny and Raul Julia playing a charismatic, rascally, menacing Macheath — the best performance of that character that ever has been or ever will be.

The cast recording was issued by Columbia in 1977 and, naturally, has never been reissued on CD. It featured some highly-informative liner notes by Papp and Stanley Silverman (from which I cribbed much of the information for this post), which included a good, concise description of Threepenny‘s revolutionary appeal:

… From that moment in 1928 when the banjo entered playing lowdown jazz in “Ballad of Mac the Knife”, following a sophisticated neo-classical overture, the course of music history was ineluctably altered.

Update January 22, 2007: MP3s removed per request of BMG Classical.

Act 1

  1. Overture
  2. Ballad of Mac the Knife
  3. Peachum’s Morning Hymn
  4. “No They Can’t” Song
  5. Wedding Song for the Less Well-Off
  6. Cannon Song
  7. Liebeslied
  8. Barbara Song
  9. First Threepenny Finale: Concerning the Insecurity of the Human State

Act 2

  1. Polly’s Lied
  2. Ballad of Sexual Obsession
  3. Pirate Jenny
  4. Ballad of Immoral Earnings
  5. Ballad of Gracious Living
  6. Jealousy Duet
  7. Second Threepenny Finale: What Keeps Mankind Alive?

Act 3

  1. Song of the Insufficiency of Human Endeavor
  2. Solomon Song
  3. Call from the Grave
  4. Ballad in Which Macheath Begs All Men for Forgiveness
  5. Third Threepenny Finale: Appearance of the Messenger on Horseback
  6. Ballad of Mac the Knife (reprise)

Cary Grant Sings FCC Regulations

[photo of Cary Grant]Here’s another fun one for you DJs out there: the FCC’s 1939 station identification regulations — as sung by Cary Grant.

This is from the second episode of the NBC radio show The Circle, broadcast on January 22, 1939. NBC assembled a top-drawer cast — Grant, Ronald Colman, Madeline Carroll, Carole Lombard, and Groucho and Chico Marx — and put together a show in a round-table format, where all the stars were members of some sort of club. Much to everyone’s surprise, the show almost immediately flopped, only lasting a few months.

Grant singing is inherently amusing — check out his performance as the Mock Turtle in the 1933 Alice in Wonderland — but having him sing FCC documentation with full orchestral accompaniment is another level altogether. Truly to be treasured.

I’ve posted just the song MP3 and also the entire show, which has some other entertaining moments, like a routine where Chico owes Groucho money.

Disco Killed the Radio Star

Recently there was a post on BoingBoing about a Bollywood video cover of I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and it reminded me of one of my favorite Bollywood finds — a videotape that I got from an Indian grocery I lived near. The catchy “Disco Disco” label first caught my eye, but the contents turned out to be better than I could have imagined: a compilation of solidly 80’s era Bollywood music videos. No plot developments, no Hindi dialogue I can’t understand; nothing but wall-to-wall music videos with guys dressed like forgotten Jacksons brothers singing in front of giant light-up Rubik’s cubes. Yesssss!

Buried in this kitschy mess was the video below. It’s a cut from the movie Disco Dancer (the title clip of which starts out the tape) but they don’t give the title for this song, so I’m calling it “Disco Killed The Radio Star” since it’s basically a take on The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star”. This is — well, not a cover, exactly — but the distinctive piano and “Oh-wah-oh” backup singing makes it the cheap, copyright-free “Hey, that reminds me of”—version of the song. And considering the root ersatzness of the Bollywood aesthetic, that make it even better.

Leo Diamond: Skin Diver Suite

[cover of Skin Diver Suite]Harmonica virtuoso Leo Diamond was in a couple novelty combos in the 1940s and early 1950s, and then signed with RCA Victor for a series of solo albums. This is the first one, Skin Diver Suite. It’s irresistable for the cover alone, but side one (“The Skin Divers”) is surprisingly experimental; a 20-minute collage of 1950s orchestral glissandos, home-on-the-range–style Americana, and sound effects of water splashing. It’s the Lumpy Gravy of easy listening.

This was recorded just a little too early to be stereo, which is a shame; it would have been a great entry in RCA’s “Living Stereo” series.

  1. The Skin Divers
  2. April Again
  3. Melinda
  4. Wendy
  5. Reminiscing Interlude
  6. Ride the Dark Hills Home
  7. All I Desire