You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
I was watching Key Largo recently and thought, “There was a song about this film.” I wondered if there were more films that had songs written about them. So that set my wombat brain going (that’s the Australian equivalent of a little bear brain) to see what I could come up with.
To make it more of a challenge, I excluded film scores and songs that have appeared in films. I had to compromise a little. If I stuck strictly to “songs about films” I think I could manage two so there was a little stretching of the criterion for selection.
The first film to consider is Touch of Evil. This was made by Orson Welles. I saw it recently and realised that it’s a very ordinary film. I know that film buffs love it but it left me cold. I am saddened by that as it was made less than a decade after Orson appeared in the best film ever, The Third Man. And it wasn’t too long before that film that he made Citizen Kane.
Anyway, it produced a really good song called Touch of Evil by Tom Russell from his fine album, “Borderland.”
The gentleman on the right with the moustache is Charlton Heston.
Tom is not only a fine singer and excellent songwriter, he also writes a terrific blog. When I read his pieces I think I should give this away. Fortunately, he doesn’t write very often so I get over it. Perhaps I shouldn’t say that as you’ll all be heading over there instead.
Here’s Tom with the song.
I don’t know if Gene Pitney’s version of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was meant to be the theme for that film or not, but it certainly sounds like it should have been. It really conforms to movie themes, mainly westerns, from the fifties and sixties. That is, it gives away the plot.
There are films where you can go along just for the opening credits (and theme) and then leave as you know all about it (I’m thinking of you, High Noon, amongst others). This isn’t the case here as it wasn’t used in the film (but that’s the basis of this blog post, after all).
This was one of John Wayne’s best efforts (not forgetting James Stewart and Lee Marvin, marvelously nasty as Liberty).
Rio Bravo comes close to being my favorite western, yet another with John Wayne. Well, he was good at those. Not much chop in anything else though.
In this case, we have a singer who actually appeared in the film – Ricky Nelson. The song he sings didn’t. It’s called Restless Kid and was written by Johnny Cash. This is quite obvious when you listen to it; you can imagine Johnny singing it. This song is sung from the point of view of Colorado, the character Ricky played.
Also in this one were Dean Martin (playing a drunk, hmmm), Walter Brennan, Angie Dickinson, Ward Bond, John Russell – fine cast.
I think Bonnie and Clyde was the first of the run of great films made in the seventies. I know, it came out in the mid-sixties, but it looks as if it fits with those from ten years later. This was the first time that Faye Dunaway had impinged on my consciousness. I had seen Warren Beatty before but this one showed that he was more than just a pretty face. It may also have been the first time I noticed Gene Hackman.
Georgie Fame had a hit around that time with The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde. I don’t know if this was about the real Bonnie and Clyde or the film, but I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt so I can include it.
Georgie went on to become a really fine singer and keyboard player in jazz and R&B. He’s still playing well, better than ever, really. He occasionally appears with Van Morrison. There are few better doubles than that.
The Bruce Springsteen song Nebraska is not, strictly speaking, about the film Badlands. It’s actually sung from the point of view of the Martin Sheen character from that film.
I won’t say much about Badlands because I’ve pretty much forgotten it. I saw it when it was released and haven’t seen it since. I suppose I could hire the DVD and check it out but I’m not all that interested. I’ll just go with Bruce singing the song. More to my liking.
Returning to the one that started my train of thought, Key Largo. Entertaining flick with Bogey and Bacall. Also Lionel Barrymore and Eddie Robinson (playing yet another mobster). The song was also called Key Largo and it was recorded by Bertie Higgins.
I knew I had the tune in my collection somewhere but I hadn’t thought about it for years, let alone played it. I eventually found it. I must admit I know little about Bertie - his name was about it - and he was yet another of the one-hit wonders from the eighties (sorry Bertie). That being said, I rather like it. It’s also one of those songs that sticks in the brain. You have been warned.