Six selections from Mark Kermode's Celluloid Jukebox
If you've not been listening to Mark Kermode's Celluloid Jukebox on BBC Radio 2 over the past couple of months, then you've been missing out on some predictably high calibre music and film opinions. The first series (hopefully of many) has now finished, but the last few episodes are still available on the BBC iPlayer here at the time of writing . There are also podcast versions of all six episodes available to download, but frustratingly these excise anything more than about twenty seconds of each track played (presumably for licensing reasons). Whilst it's always good to hear what Mr. Kermode has to say on the topic of cinema, this rather defeats the point of listening to a series about music in the movies.
To give you a flavour of the diverse and often rarely heard songs included throughout the episodes, below are six of my favourite tracks, one from each episode. Several of these come from films I've yet to watch, so don't be surprised if reviews of some of these crop up on the site sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Track: "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" - David Bowie
Film: Se7en, 1995
A running segment throughout Celluloid Jukebox is "David Bowie Corner" where Kermode plays a song by Bowie that has been used in a film. It's partly a tribute to the musician following his death in January this year, but also quite clearly an excuse for a Bowie fan to play tracks from throughout his career. All the Bowie songs are excellent, most being selections from his back catalogue that are less often played, and "The Hearts Filthy Lesson", which plays over the end credits of David Fincher's Se7en, is a prime example of both.
Track: "People Like Us" - Talking Heads featuring John Goodman
Film: True Stories, 1986
Each episode of Celluloid Jukebox has a loose theme which ties together several of the songs played by Kermode. The theme for the second episode is "actors singing in films", resulting in the inclusion of songs from films such as Lenny Abrahamson's Frank and the Coens' Inside Llewyn Davis. Perhaps most memorable, however, is John Goodman's excellent performance from True Stories, a 1986 directed by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. It's a film I'd never even heard of before listening to the series, but it's now one that I'm planning to watch soon.
Track: "Them Kinda Monkeys Can't Swing" - Slade
Film: Slade In Flame, 1975
Kermode mentions Slade In Flame more than once in the series, liking it so much that he describes the film as "the Citizen Kane of British music movies". To many of my generation onwards, Slade are probably best known as that band who live off the royalties of Noddy Holder shouting "It's CHRIIIIISTMAAAAS!!" every twelve months, but to my parents' generation they were one of the most successful bands of the 1970s with a string of successful singles and albums. Slade In Flame is a film I've heard of but never seen; based on the soundtrack and Kermode's championing of it, I may have to seek this one out too.
Track: "A Real Hero" - College & Electric Youth
Film: Drive, 2011
Even if Nicholas Winding Refn hasn't yet been able to replicate the success of Drive, it's a film that by its own merit deserves to go down as a modern classic. The soundtrack is one of the things that stayed with me the most after watching the film, and "A Real Hero" is one of the best tracks featured, so I was glad to hear Kermode give it some air time.
Track: "Funnel Of Love" - SQÜRL & Madeline Follin
Film: Only Lovers Left Alive, 2013
One of the more distinct approaches Kermode adopts at a few points throughout Celluloid Jukebox is to segway two or more versions of a song into each other. It sometimes works better than at others, but it always proves an interesting experiment when he does it. One of the best examples is when three versions of "Funnel Of Love" are played: the original by Wanda Jackson; a remixed version of Jackson's original which slows the song right down; and the version by SQÜRL, featuring Madeline Follin on vocals and used in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, which grew out of the remix.
Track: Jaan Pehechan Ho - Mohammed Rafi
Film: Ghost World, 2001
Not a theme as such, but something that Kermode does throughout the series is to play music featured in a film which has then been reused in another. This track by Mohammed Rafi is originally from a 1965 Bollywood film, Gumnaam, but Kermode plays it due to its appearance in Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World. It's also a track which demonstrates just how diverse the music that Kermode plays throughout the series really is.
If this article has whetted your appetite for more, you can find my list of every song played in the series and the films they're taken from on Letterboxd here.