Sounds like

1. Moderna popklassisker

Thanks to a recommendation from Jackson of Capture, I’ve been working my way through the episodes of Hitlåtens historia, a Swedish TV series about the stories behind modern pop classics. A couple of the episodes are subtitled, but with the ones that aren’t, it doesn’t really matter. All the profiled artists speak English, and with 80% of Swedes being fluent in English, the programme doesn’t rely on overdubs so it’s really easy to follow along with the interviews, even when you can’t understand the minimal Swedish narration.

It’s easy to look at the subjects of some of the episodes and dismiss them as naff, but one of the best things about Sweden (and much of Western Europe) is they don’t have the same obsessions over cool as we do. So they happily dig into “Take My Breath Away”, the sappy love theme from Top Gun but – oh – it was written by the mad genius Georgio Moroder so there has to be a good story or two in there. Ditto for “Wind of Change” – when both Russian metallers and German housewives are singing along, something powerful is a-happening.

Peter Saville explains why the holes in the "Blue Monday" single cover were such trouble.
Peter Saville explains why the holes in the “Blue Monday” single cover were such trouble.

Here are the episodes, all available free to watch online until mid February. No longer online, but the memory remains?

  • Episode 1: Berlin “Take My Breath Away”, in which it is revealed that Giorgio Moroder got his auto mechanic to come up with the words for the song.
  • Episode 2: New Order “Blue Monday”, in which it is revealed that the amazing yet complicated diecut record sleeve caused it to lose 10p on every copy sold.
  • Episode 3: “Killing Me Softly with His Song”, in which it is revealed that the song was based on a poem written original singer Lori Lieberman fangirling over Don McLean.
  • Episode 4: Scorpions “Wind of Change”, in which it is revealed that this Cold War anthem was inspired by a game-changing massive international hard rock concert in Moscow.
  • Episode 5: Fatboy Slim “Praise You”, in which it is revealed that the original song, “Take Yo’ Praise”, was a secret civil rights anthem.
  • Episode 6: Soundgarden “Blackhole Sun”, in which it is revealed that the titular phrase came from a misheard news report.

2. Miami sound machine

According to the New York Times’ dialect map quiz, I sound like someone from yonder down south Florida way. I’m not sure what that accent sounds like, but I’m imagining it being like a cross between Don Johnson in Miami Vice and Pitbull. I’m sure if I actually went to Miami, I would not sound like a local. But then Miami has always seemed like one of those places that attracts random people from all over, all with secrets, so perhaps I would fit right in.

3. A room with several views

In the gap between Christmas and the New Year, when I was in the midst of a sleep-deprived cat-sitting zombie-like state, I watched the documentary film Room 237. It looks at all the different conspiracy theories that surround Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining.

The idea is that Kubrick is a control freak and a perfectionist, so nothing in the film is there by accident; everything is deliberate. So when a single frame makes it look like an in-tray on an office desk is protruding from a man’s groin, it must be deliberate sexual statement, not just a coincidence spotted by someone who’s seen the film too many times. Because if Kubrick hadn’t wanted the desk penis there, he would have reshot the scene, right?

The film itself is excellent. The various conspiracy theorists and overthinkers are never seen on screen. We just hear their voices, going into detail of their favourite thing. All this is illustrated by extensive footage from The Shining, as well as other Kubrick films. And it’s just as well. If the film didn’t illustrate the cryptic maze of the Overlook Hotel’s corridors, I’d be forced to watch The Shining and plot out the illogical geography myself. And then I’d probably obsess over it and start formulating my own theories.

The thing that all the theorist seem to be missing is that when The Shining was released in 1980, home video was in its infancy. Back then, if you wanted to watch a movie over and over again you had to pay to see it in a cinema. It wasn’t until a few years later that people could rewatch The Shining and obsess over all the posters, canned goods, luggage and corridors of blood.

And then there’s the guy who organised a screening of The Shining playing backwards and forwards at the same time. This reminds me of the screenings of The Wizard of Oz with Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon as the soundtrack. But at least the Oz/Floyd experience is honest about being a stoner favourite.

In the end I was just all a bit sick of the conspiracies. It reminded me of the worst bits of film studies at tech. If you look for hidden depths and secret meaning everywhere, soon enough you’re going to start making stuff up. Sometimes an in-tray is just an in-tray.

Leave a Reply