Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Swivelheads, The

I am not that prone to taking an interest in songs from movies; most of them are generated from a symphony orchestra, and if it's something from pop culture, I rarely tend to like it.

There was one instrumental, though, that I liked. It was kind of from pop culture, but the main point of that is that it was from the pop culture of the mid-80s. It was from the movie Ferris Bueller's Day off.

When I heard it, I had no idea what it was, who played it. It was just the backing music to the running scene of the main character leaving his girlfriend in her backyard and trying to beat his older sister home, ending as he jumps over a fence into his backyard in slow-motion.

It has these fast middle-eastern drums, a little bit of brass, a fast bass, and a bright guitar, among other things. Oh, and a bit of sax. Tenor.

Much later, I would be reading a Wikipedia article on the The English Beat. I'd heard of them through knowing a lot about (here we go) Madness. 

Here's some intertwining history:

In the early days, the late 70s, Madness would become known as one of the bands of 2-Tone, which was started by Coventry-based band The Specials. Interestingly, I have heard about The Specials way more often than I have heard of Madness; they show up more often when referring to England's first ska revival. They were quite popular, and them and Madness were close. They had similar style and interests. I will read about or hear about The Specials a lot more often than I ever even hear of Madness at all when Madness lasted three years longer, achieved success that lasted longer and changed and matured with the times. But the reason I will hear more about The Specials is probably just because of that; they stuck with their ska-based roots, were pioneers of the revival, and brought it altogether to begin with. They worked with their contemporaries like Madness and other artists of the time, including Rhoda Dakar of the Bodysnatchers and several members of The Go-Go's (I wrote about them on here already). 
After The Specials disbanded, their members went on to other projects. Three of them, Terry Hall, Neville Staple, and Lynval Golding created Fun Boy Three, and they ended up writing a song with The Go-Go's called 'Our Lips are Sealed,' which The Go-Go's would then go on record as a single. The Three would also appear in the music video for 'Driving in my Car,' a single by, here we go again, Madness.

I talk about all this prologue because all these bands eventually fueled into one another and had some sort of connection, which I find very interesting. The English Beat (just known as The Beat in the UK) was another contemporary band to the aforementioned acts and formed in 1978. The went until 1983 before breaking up. Again, the individual members would go on to create other interesting bands whose songs I would eventually take a liking to, with good examples being Big Audio Dynamite (I made a 'clip video' to their song E=MC2) and Fine Young Cannibals (I wrote a review of their song 'Good Thing' here). Of all the original ska and 2 Tone bands and their contemporaries, Madness were the only ones not to disperse and attempt to create 'supergroups' with other members from recently dissolved bands they were close to. They instead tried creating mini-bands out of themselves (Suggs and Chas Smash created 'The Fink Brothers,' then 'The Madness' along with Chris Foreman and Lee Thompson, and Foreman & Thompson created both 'The Nutty Boys' and 'Crunch'). None of these smaller duos and bands went far or continued after producing on single.

In 1983, The English Beat would produce an album called 'What is Beat?' On this album would be an instrumental called 'March of the Swivelheads.'

When I read the Wikipedia article on the band, like I began saying before all the history preamble, I'd read that during the time after they'd broken up, their instrumental 'March of the Swivelheads' would be featured in Ferris Bueller's Day off and gain a sudden re-surge of popularity. I quickly went to the page on the film, and located the song in the 'songs featured in the movie' section.

Then I went to it on YouTube, and that was it.

It's a nice song and has a lot of worldly musical influences. The brass is kind of fun, I like the meandering bass line and the beat. The guitar invokes a very bright yellow-green texture and makes me attribute the word 'zesty' to it (because my synesthetic imagery of that word produces similar, summary colors). I like the sound of the drums, both the middle-eastern ones and the snare drum, which makes me think of a beam of daylight across the floor from an open door, looking south during the afternoon.

It's just a very dynamic, fun song with a lot of influences to it, which I like. The variety it has. The sound. And due to the film, it kind of makes me of the afternoon after school, while either going home from it or whatever.
Around about two and a half minutes into the song, there's this slamming sound, like someone slamming something down, and I immediately attributed the effect to someone slamming a plastic cup down on a counter.
I tried that myself, and the sound was so similar, I'll bet you someone decided to slam a plastic cup down once or twice while they were recording. It's very ingenious of them, to try that. It's another thing I like.
The tenor sax is very nice too.
The title itself makes me visualize a line of miniature tripods, with ball-pivot heads, marching along while their flat heads rotate and swivel along. It's a funny image to me.

Once again, another great thing I like is, well, gee, that director had a great taste for music for his films. Other than 'March of the Swivelheads,' songs from both General Public (The Beat's next incarnation of its members) and Big Audio Dynamite also feature. The films of John Hughes, including this big icon of one, all used songs from artists that weren't far from Madness at all, which therefore connect the film, indirectly, to them. Later, in 1983, the two vocalists of The Beat, Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, would guest-vocal on the Madness song 'Victoria Gardens.' Maybe I go too crazy about that band too often, but I just like it when they are somehow connected to something. They always are. It's always remote and hard to see or notice, but they are. None of their songs are in the film nor are they in any other of the films of that director, that I know of. But he has good taste.
It's why he's the only one who's had me take a liking to a song from a motion picture. 'March of the Swivelheads' is great - it's dynamic, always changing, filled with variety, and is just fun and cool and soothing to listen to.

Justin C.

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