VINYL CHAMPIONSHIP

Well, we’re back home and the vinyl has all been shelved. About a tonne.
Sadly, that’s not all required in moving house. There are the CDs too. AND setting up the stereos.
Vinyl Connection will continue in due course, but in the meantime, here’s a piece written for Discrepancy Records that I imagine will evoke filmic images for many readers.
So how about this for a discussion starter: Which did you prefer, the Nick Hornby novel or the John Cusack film?

What are your Top 5 all-time favourite Soundtrack compilation albums?

Could be a great discussion starter for a Friday evening kick-back session, but in this instance we’re referencing the soundtrack for High Fidelity, the film based on Nick Hornby’s 1995 book.

High Fidelity, you may recall, is the story of record shop owner Rob Gordon (John Cusack) and his struggle to grow into an adult relationship. It is also about vinyl obsession and music geekiness. And passion. And rock one-upmanship. And bloody good music.

In a film (and book) that regularly uses ‘Name your Top Five…’ for comic effect, you’d better get your own soundtrack songs spot on, right?

The 2 LP set that is the High Fidelity OST (released in 2000) does just that.

From the cover homage to A Hard Day’s Night through to the inclusion of Jack Black singing Marvin Gaye, this soundtrack demonstrates that a film compilation can stand on its own two feet and entertain extravagantly. It manages to be both fun (“Who loves the sun” by the Velvet Underground) and poignant (Dylan’s “Most of the time”), and whilst staying consistently in the zone of tuneful melancholy (as does Cusack’s character in the film), packs in quite a variety of artists. From Love (a cut from their lesser known Full Sail album) to Stereolab (the oddly named but groovelicious “Lo Boob Oscillator” from early compilation Refried Ectoplasm) there is plenty to choose from and enjoy. Only one track struck a dud note for this listener (Royal Trux seemed way out of place) and that is an excellent hit rate for a compilation.

Glancing at the artists, you’d think the songs cover pretty much every decade from the sixties to the turn of the century. And this is true: every decade is represented. What is fascinating is to look at the years more closely. If we divide it up, still in ten-year lots but from mid-decade to mid-decade, this is the tally of tracks for each period:

1965—1974             6 tracks

1975—1984             1 track

1985—1994             1 track

1995—2000             7 tracks

So 87% of the material comes from either the mid-60s to mid-70s or the last five years of the twentieth century. Is that because the Rob, the story’s protagonist, was born around 1965? Were the filmmakers trying to catch both a thirty-something audience and Boomers? Does it matter? Probably not, but it’s just the sort of thing Rob Gordon and his chums at Championship Vinyl would argue about all week. And I know just the soundtrack to play while they bicker. Cue up side one, track one, “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators!

Originally published at the Discrepancy Records blog in October 2018.

19 comments

  1. I read the book when it first came out and loved it. Despite being a John Cusack fan, I’ve somehow never managed to see the movie. Am I remembering correctly that mix tapes feature prominently in the book? I consider mix tapes one of the sorry victims of advances in tech. Sharing a digital playlist isn’t the same as lovingly (and sometimes painstakingly) recording a compilation of tunes and then presenting the object of your affection with an actual, physical object. And congrats on the move!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed, JBD. Home made CD-Rs were fun too. I actually played a couple of mine recently — they were all I could put my hand on in the chaos! — and enjoyed both the memories and the ‘Huh?’ moments. 🙂
      The film is pleasant enough and JC is quite beguiling.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The novel is streets ahead of the film. That’s usually the case. A film adaptation is just one person’s view of the novel. I watched some of the film again a few months ago and was disappointed. Bit blokey. I’ve watched three episodes of the Zoe Kravitz series on ABC and realised that it’s not meant for me. Too much swearing, casual or otherwise, for a fuddy duddy like me. (Even the c— word.) But good to see the story told from a woman’s point of view, and given a contemporary soundtrack (with more swearing!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Vin. Thanks for dropping by. I agree regarding both the general principle of book over film and the specific example of High Fidelity. Films usually aim for a broader audience—the sheer cost demands it—meaning, in this case, more genial and less challenging. Having said that, when I reread the book a year or two ago I was dismayed by how blokey IT was.
      Having only seen the ABC trailers for the TV version, I can’t comment yet.

      Like

  3. Statistical analysis by decade? Top 5s? Debate over book vs. film (and High Fidelity at that)? A Bruce blog post? Yes please to all of the above!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw shucks Geoff.
      I can see, with that neat précis, that we are in your zone. So fess up: book or film?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Full disclosure: the book has been near the top of my ‘to read’ list for far too long. So at the moment, alas it’s a film victory by forfeit.
        I don’t own the soundtrack (yet) either but by the sounds of it, it could actually be a 3-way battle: book or film or soundtrack?!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha! (Don’t know what I mean by that, but it seems portentous). Book is recommended for Summer 2020. And given your diverse tastes (somewhat as a result of your eponymous blog, I imagine) you probably would really enjoy the OST.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I will report back once the book is read & soundtrack is heard – as I saw it first, I anticipate the film may emerge victorious, but it may end up being a 3-way photo finish!

            Liked by 1 person

  4. For a beat you had me worried there, Bruce. But, yes, the CD’s and setting up all the equipment pretty much completes a house move, doesn’t it? Glad you got it all done. 🙂

    Sadly, I only saw the movie and never read the book. My Nick Hornby reading is defaulted to a pitiful one: “About a Boy,” which is a very good book. But I should catch up already. Thanks for the reminder. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Although I’ve been with Hornby since Fever Pitch (where I’d recommend the film over the book, unless you are potty about UK soccer), honesty compels me to observe that not all his novels are winners, Marty. High Fidelity IS, however, partially because the central character is less likeable than John C. In a literary sense, About A Boy is the strongest, I reckon. And the film the weakest (of those I’ve seen).
      Thanks, as always, for visiting, Marty.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Congrats to what sounds like a move to a different house!

    Strangely, despite the topic and that I generally like John Cusack (my wife’s a huge fan!), I don’t recall watching that picture. I used to be much more into movies when I was young than I’ve been for the past 20 years or so.

    While my music streaming provider offers the soundtrack, you can only listen to some of the tunes, which is kind of annoying.

    As for my top five favorite soundtracks, they would be “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Help”, “Magical Mystery Tour”, “Yellow Submarine” and “Let It Be”!😀

    On a more serious note, two that come to mind I really enjoy are “The Commitments” and “The Blues Brothers” (the first one). That being said, I do like the music of all the aforementioned Beatles soundtracks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, thanks for the Beatles chuckle, Christian. Those two others are excellent also.
      We did a group post on Soundtracks a while back, with ten or fifteen bloggers around the world posting on a favourite OST during the same ‘Film [Soundtrack] Festival’ week. It was fun. Maybe we should do it again.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Just watched that again earlier this year. Like both the book and the film equally…have to go with that Beta Band scene. That’s the stand out for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a terrific scene, Bill. And none the worse for being an ‘addition’. That CD of the first 3 Beta Band eps is great too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        Yeah, wish I had seen the Beta Band. I don’t know how much people really “got” them. Like they were extraterrestrial or out of time.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Agreed. I loved them – the combination of melodic wistfulness and experimental weirdness rang my bells most pleasingly.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. jprobichaud · · Reply

    I enjoyed both, film and book, though I haven’t really given the soundtrack a listen without the film.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did too. Jack Black nailed Barry!

      Liked by 1 person

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