When was the last time you left a movie theater humming a tune written specifically for that movie? I can’t remember offhand; my guess is probably Ghostbusters. Maybe Fletch Lives. There’s always Tarantino films, but he not only licenses catchy songs, he licenses catchy theme music as well. So yeah, I left Kill Bill humming ‘Theme from The Green Hornet’, ‘Theme from Ironsides’, and cues from White Lightning, but none of those were composed specifically for that movie. Also, I didn’t see O Brother, Where Art Thou? in a theater. I will admit that John Williams’ work in the latter day Star Wars stuff was solid — to say the least — but I think I always left them feeling a little bummed that overall they weren’t a little better, and it hadn’t occurred to me that they might well be the last movies made with lush, capital ‘S‘ Scores.
Well, I’ll tell you the last time I left the theater intrigued by music: it was the last time I saw the trailer for The Hobbit. I have been hot to see that music, on the basis of the dwarves’ song alone. I got into music as a kid because of movie music, only to mature in a movie world where increased reliance on visual effects meant decreased reliance on the audio. I think it’s because all the money goes into something money people consider sensible — such as computers making cleanly realized, if somewhat flat-looking scenes of mayhem and destruction — leaving little to go to an original score. It must not make as much business sense as licensing a bunch of tunes that already occupy real estate in the pop-cultural collective and, until recently, selling that to consumers in a jewel box with a movie’s ‘brand’ on it.
But anyway, the dwarves’ song. Under the Lonely Mountain, as I believe it is known in nerdlore. I’ve only seen the trailer about 3 times, so I could only remember about half the melody—
— but that half of melody also sounded like one of my very favorite tunes by Hee-Hawg Herman: ‘Dirty Old Town.’
But wait. It gets worse. I got up uncomfortably early yesterday morning, got ahold of the music from the new Hobbit movie, and since no one was up to bother me, learned to play it.
Mmm-hmm. Went and put the movie music to the book verses. And why not? There’s a lot of apocalyptic imagery in there. On the one hand, visions of the apocalypse were all part of your pop-culture landscape if your parents listened to country music radio in the lat 70s-early 80s; the most popular of these songs is Bocephus’ ‘A Country Boy Can Survive.’ Not only is it the rare Bocephus tune in which Bocephus doesn’t name-drop his famous friends and father (unless his ‘friend in New York City’ was actually George Balanchine), it’s opening line is ‘The preacher man says it’s the end of time and the Mississippi River is a-going dry.’ So obviously this version of ‘Under the Lonely Mountain’ is the work of a loon hard-wired for deep weirdness.
So, as far as it goes, I think I sound uncomfortably like Jandek. So here it is, Waiting World, the one-man mash-up of Ernest Tubb, Hee-Hawg Herman, Jandek and J.R.R. Tolkien. I wouldn’t burn any show-bidness ‘juice’ performing this out live, or inconvenience myself with a hellish open-mike night somewhere, but I’ll inflict this on the world this-a-way. Click it or don’t, but I’ve warned you what you’re in for.