tag:blog.wileyjones.com,2013:/posts đŸ˜¶ 2019-07-03T13:04:40Z Wiley Jones tag:blog.wileyjones.com,2013:Post/1427302 2019-07-03T12:55:51Z 2019-07-03T13:04:40Z Stranger Things 3 - Soundtrack Wishlist

With Stranger Things 3 we return to the fictional Hawkins, Indiana in the summer of 1985. Just a few hours from where my parents were enjoying one of their last real adolescent summers in a small town in Illinois.

When we sat down to watch Strangers Things with they were a little freaked out at first, simply because of how precisely it resembled what they remembered about growing up in a small rural community in middle America. It also didn't help that Steve and Nancy were accurate depictions of my father and mother—I mean, my Dad's name is actually Steve. They kind of even look like them, my Mom joking wether Steve Jones or Steve Harrington had more ridiculous hair.

We watched the whole first and second seasons together and they were just amazed by the show how the captured the time. The posters from Jaws and John Carpenter's The Thing that were in Mike's basement were also on the walls of my Dad's childhood bedroom. He instantly made some observations about the interior of Dustin's house; hideously-colored carpeting and tacky wood panelling left over from a "trashy wannabe-disco"-chic from the delusions of the early 70s decorating trends.

But what was most eerie to them was the way they could recall certain moments when they had been listening to the exact songs that were played in the soundtrack. When "Whip It" came on my Dad groaned. My Mom did the about same when they played Cyndi Lauper. But they played the Furs, the Police, the Clash, and Foreigner and my parents would pause it and be like, "Okay, this is too weird. When I used to work late shifts at Pizza Hut...." and they launch into some story about a time and place that they hadn't been able to recall so viscerally in thirty years.

Experiencing their nostalgia secondhand is also an interesting byproduct for me. Minus the few newer artists my Dad would get into, I grew up listening almost exclusively to 60s rock, 70s punk, and 80s alternative. As a result, when I hear Prince or the Police playing I don't think of the 80s—I think of my childhood.

My parents and I have waited with great anticipation for the next season of Stranger Things, so we were pretty excited when the official Netflix premier announcement was released. The screen flashed 'Summer of 1985' and my mom immediately noted, "it's going to have a killer soundtrack."

This isn't a "prediction" list

1985 was certainly a defining year, arguably of the second most important of the entire decade, behind 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet Russia. In 1985 Gorbachev takes office, dozens of artists come together for the recording of "We Are The World" and the LIVE AID fundraising concert, a hole in the ozone is found, Microsoft releases Windows 1.0 to the world, and The Breakfast Club plays in theaters across the country.

Some the top albums from that year (based on chart popularity and release) include:

  • Purple Rain - Prince
  • Born In The USA - Bruce Springsteen
  • Like A Virgin - Madonna
  • Songs From The Big Chair - Tears For Fears
  • Make It Big - Wham!
  • No Jacket Required - Phil Collins
  • Brothers In Arms - Dire Straits

Funny enough, the soundtrack to Miami Vice was also a hit that year. Produced by legend and electronica genre forefather Jan Hammer, it utilized the synthesizer for a futuristic and spacey vibe that is so integral to the sound of Stranger Things and ultimately what many people think of when they think of "80s music".

So now I'll dive into some thoughts on tracks I think we might see, tracks we deserve to see, and tracks we absolutely will see. I've tried to avoid all of the trailers to preserve the purity of the viewing experience, so we'll see how this compares in a couple of days.

Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen

ST3 is being launched on the 4th of July and I'd assume that's coupled with the timeline of the episodes, the same way previous seasons have been coupled with autumn and Halloween. Excluding the Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful, I don't think there is a more patriotic-sounding song than "Born In The U.S.A." Although we know now that Springsteen meant it largely as a skeptical commentary on nationalism, it doesn't really matter because it was one of the biggest songs of the year and ultimately the decade. I have a strong feeling that in the first episode this song will be playing either as people participate in a 4th of July parade or as fireworks close out with something foreboding happening in contrast to the music.

Everybody Wants To Rule The World - Tears For Fears

It's hard to say which song off this album should be picked. Arguably the most iconic usage of a song from Songs From The Big Chair was of the "Head Over Heels" school montage from Donnie Darko, which is set in 1988. While this is my favorite song from the album and also in my top five favorite scenes in film ever, but for that reason alone I think it's unusable.

Allow me a second to enter some meta-commentary territory on this regarding Simple Mind's "Don't You Forget About Me". Is it a 'good idea' for a film/TV set in a specific time (in this case 1985) to use a song from a film that was made in that specific time? The Breakfast Club came out and "Don't You Forget About Me" skyrocketed to number one on the charts in the spring of 1985 but I can't see the Duffer brothers wanting to use it in ST3, because it's too blunt. They've managed walk a razors edge that uses the borderline-fetishy 80s-hypernostalgia as a substrate for doing something new and captivating. Using the iconic moments from actual 80s-era films isn't something that they're going to stoop down to and nor should they.

While any number of songs from Songs From The Big Chair are viable, this song aesthetically deserves to be in the soundtrack, simply for it's indistinguishable riff that is inseparably tied to the 80s. I could see it not being included because it's just too popular, but it really deserves to be in there... "Welcome to your life... there's no turning back..." I bet you're hearing that chugging bassline.

Like A Virgin - Madonna

Also in the spring of 1985 we saw Madonna's first tour—geniusly named the "Like A Virgin Tour". I said something about bluntness, what was it? Anyway. Her second album was an unadulterated smash and was ultimately her defining work. From the trailers that have been released thus far it seems like there's a bubblegum-cotton-candy pastel visual aesthetic to the Starcourt Mall which will be a main location in the ST3 narrative. Is there a better song to play as teenagers run around a foodcourt in neon leggings, Chuck Taylors, and Reebok hightops? No, there really isn't.

The Perfect Kiss - New Order

The Duffer brother clearly like New Order, something easily noticed in ST1. I was going through the New Order discography trying to guess what song might appear in ST3 and I noticed something interesting. New Order's Low Life was released in 1985 and contains a song "Elegia", which upon listening some of you might recognize as a song used in ST1, which is set in 1983. Now this kind of is loose-timeline is acceptable all things considered because it's an instrumental song and it's only observed by the audience and not the characters (I'm sure there a technical word for that). Also it was used perfectly to set the mood of Will's funeral ("Elegia" is Greek for "elegy") and even more the song was originally written as a tribute to the life of Ian Curtis, Joy Division's singer who tragically committed suicide, ultimately leading his bandmates to go on to form New Order.

New Order's sound is extremely aligned with the 80s synth aesthetic the Duffer Brothers have carefully cultivated for the show. I really could imagine any of the songs from Low Life being used, but "The Perfect Kiss" represents the best of the eclectic electric sound New Order has to offer. The track has a sheer massiveness and intensity in the outro (check out the frog noises and cowbells). It's one of the few songs I know that exists that is cinematic and danceable at the same time. However I'm going to generalize a bit here beyond a specific prediction and assert that we certainly see at least one New Order song in the ST3 soundtrack and I wouldn't be surprised if it was one of their more popular singles that were prior released prior to 1985. In particular "Bizarre Love Triangle" or "Thieves Like Us".

When Love Breaks Down - Prefab Sprout

We've already shown that the Duffer Brothers are not particularly concerned with the actual historical popularity of the tracks that are chosen, and if anything they've leaned toward New Wave and Alternative of the era. "When Love Breaks Down" is a wonderful upbeat ballad from Britpop band Prefab Sprout's second album Steve McQueen.

Every element of the song is a perfectly crafted representation of 80s pop ballads. Soft synth chimes coming from the iconic Yamaha e-pianos that ubiquitous on pop records of the era. Airy synth choruses that are so painfully characteristic of the mid-80s. Massive delay and reverb filling the space around the not-so-challenging lyrics of 'love gone bad'. Overall, it's a really warm and bright track (feels like a good hug), I think it could be spliced into some summer-love romantic narrative in the show to great effect.

Sussudio - Phil Collins

What about Phil Collins? What about Phil Collins.

No Jack Required was released as a permanent divergence from his brand as being a former prog-rocking lead Genesis and established him as pure purporter of pop. Nothing wrong with any of that, it's just was what it was. We saw the same thing happen with former Genesis bass player Mike Rutherford and his new band Mike & The Mechanics (who I also have listed below). But the reason I've selected this is because the show is set to take place on July 4th, 1985 and Sussudio was number 1 on the charts that week. That would be like not including the "Old Town Road Remix" in the timepiece set in the summer of 2019. Hmm.... did I just make a strong argument for why Sussudio shouldn't be in there?

Hounds of Love - Kate Bush

I've gone back and forth over which Kate Bush song I think should appear on the soundtrack and I really feel that it has to be the title track of her 1985 album Hounds of Love. The song employs a few major devices that lend itself to an ideal soundtrack-track for ST3 in particular. Right of the bat, the song begins with the verses:

It's in the trees 

It's coming

When I was a child

Running in the night

Afraid of what might be

Hiding in the dark

Hiding in the street

And of what was following me

Sounds familiar right? Not to mention the "cinematic" orchestral sounds present in the track. Staccato cello stabs and pounding distant drums driving beneath droning strings all come together to craft an energy that has a uniquely curious intensity. What would be really, really cool would be they remixed the song into a more uptempo synthwave arrangement. Imagine instead of the strings and cellos it's the replaced with the synth sounds of the Stranger Things theme. A gritty warbling synth horn blaring above a thick AF bass while Kate belts it out with her particularly divine creepiness. 100% yes.

All I Need Is A Miracle - Mike and the Mechanics

This song is so cheesy that it's perfect? It's too perfect and that makes it's cheesy? I don't know, but Mike has a ridiculous voice for being a bass player and wraps the best (and worst) parts of 80s pop music into one song that could be a great filler into a soundtrack that's trying to ground itself in a very distinct musical timeframe.

This Charming Man - The Smiths

If there's going to be a Smiths song (which there should be) it really, really should be this one. Given the Vonnegut references and The Clash cassette, self-proclaimed 'weirdo' Jonathan Byers' character seems like the kind of guy who would be really into Morrissey and The Smiths. And what better song to summarize their high-quality danceable quirkiness than the jangle-pop ABSOLUTE BOP that is their 1984 smash hit "This Charming Man".


Regardless of what songs do or don't show up in the soundtrack I'm pretty sure I'll be on the edge of my seat for 7+ hours aggressively fist-pumping as #Milleven, Hopp, and our boy Steve save Hawkins from total destruction from another dimension set to the beat of the best the 80s have to offer.

Happy viewing (and listening)!

Wiley Jones
tag:blog.wileyjones.com,2013:Post/1278752 2018-04-30T16:23:46Z 2018-04-30T17:14:29Z Apr18 playlist

Here's a playlist of the tracks I had on replay during April. It's a particularly long one, as I got in a lot of listening time this month. Most weeks I spent bustling around the factory floor with my headphones in to try to block out of the sound of the sonic welding. Here are some notes on new releases, throwbacks, and a quite a few psychedelic tracks.

Lots of old Tame Impala because I was watching a few videos on Kevin Parker's guitar tone and it reminded me that InnerSpeaker is ridiculously good.

New ZHU is absolute fire. Will be one of the best dance releases of the year.

"Rude Boy" from Mr. Twin Sister might have been the track I listened to the most this month.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra released a new album (which I need to listen to more) but made me remember how awesome their previous albums are.

Post Animal with brand new hypnotizing psychedelic sound on When I Think Of You In A High Castle.

Haven't give the new Kali Uchis enough time yet because I put that Steve Lacy feature on repeat! She wants my hundred-dollar bills, she don't want love! I'm sure more of these tracks will be on my playlist next month. Might end up being one of the best albums this year.

MGMT released their first good music in a decade. Why didn't they start making emo stuff sooner? "Hand It Over" is genius.

Here's a throwback. Los Lobos with "Mas Y Mas" on their '96 album Colossal Head. David Hidalgo is a badass guitar player and his more experimental project Latin Playboys has two albums from the '90s also worth checking out.

I've been a psychedelic-rock kick lately and Dr. Dog appeared in some the playlists I was searching through. I'm in love with the vintage guitar tones mixed in with the angsty new age punk vocals. All the themes are horrific and dark, but the tone is so bright. Same goes with the Ceramic Animals track on there.

I don't know what Chaz Bundick Meets The Mattson 2 is supposed to mean, but their track "JBS" is a phaser masterpiece. Smooth tones with a springy delay and a gorgeous major-minor-suspended chord progressions.

If you've got monthly playlists send me the info! Always in search of good things I haven't heard.
Wiley Jones
tag:blog.wileyjones.com,2013:Post/1274863 2018-04-20T06:07:21Z 2018-04-24T03:33:46Z Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd"
I wanted to round out my exposure to classic film and so I've recently spent some time watching the "greats". The internet recommended Elia Kazan's works as a starting place. I've watched a lot of movies but am far from knowledgeable enough to describe myself as someone who's "into film", but even I've heard of many of Kazan's films. A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata, On The Waterfront, East of Eden.. the list goes on. He's responsible for introducing Marlon Brando and James Dean in film, has won countless awards, and played a role in un-blacklisting Zero Mostel following all the Hollywood 40s/50s communist scares. A man absolutely worth reading more about.

While his critically acclaimed films, On the Waterfront particularly, were all absolutely incredible, I haven't been able to stop thinking about one of his less popular films, A Face in the Crowd, based on a short story from Budd Schulberg.
     At the time it was released it received no love from the Academy nor any film festivals, overall landing with mixed reviews. The film is most known for introducing the world to Andy Griffith, one of the most poplar television figures ever.
     Without giving a whole synopsis, the plot is centered around a drifter Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes (Andy Griffith) who becomes a powerful radio and TV personality, with the help of Marcia Jeffries (Oscar-winner Patricia Neal), by presenting himself as a man of the common folk. Eventually, he has the ear of powerful military figures, politicians, Koch-like business moguls, and the rest of that ilk. Eventually this power consumes him and the people around him and destroys everything. It's an excellent commentary on the power of the media and influence of personalities, as well an intimate view of fame disfigured relationships and the moral decay of power. Neal's performance is terrific and she executes the darkening character arc flawlessly. As for Griffith, it's a one-of-a-kind performance, one that shaped his entire career, but more on that later.

Image result for a face in the crowd

A couple of my favorite quotes...
Rhodes discussing campaign politics with a Senator and his advisors

Rhodes: "We've got to face it, politics have entered a new stage, television. Instead of long-winded debates, the people want slogans. "Time for a change" "The mess in Washington" "More bang for a buck". Punch-lines and glamour. Yes, Mr. Furness, even glamour."
Furness: "My papers have supported Worthington Fuller...from the first day he ran for office, he's not a grandstander... a backslapper or a baby-kisser."
Rhodes: "That’s exactly what he's got to become."

Rhodes and Marcia discussing his upcoming dinner party with some of the Washington elites

Rhodes: "The biggest men in the country are coming to my banquet...to get things rolling. I've got an admiral, two governors...some investment house boys and a cabinet minister."
Jeffries: "Which one? 
Rhodes: "I don't know. I told the general to pick one."
Jeffries: "They're coming to your party?"
Rhodes: "Honey, if I ask them, they've got to come. They'd be afraid not to come. I could murder them, like guests."
Jeffries: "I'm afraid it’s true."
Rhodes: "What’s true?"
Jeffries: "Right here, tonight, you might have that much power."

The poignant revelance to today's current political and mainstream media climate is unmissable, making for a foreboding and eerie viewing experience. If Rhodes had run for office it would have been flat out prophetic. The real haunting part for me comes in the final scene when Marcia and one of Rhodes' former writers Mel Miller (another Oscar-winner, Walter Matthau) confront him.

Rhodes: Listen, I'm not through yet. You know what's gonna to happen to me?
Miller: Suppose I tell you exactly what's gonna happen to you. You're gonna be back in television. Only it won't be quite the same as it was before. There'll be a reasonable cooling-off period and then somebody will say: "Why don't we try him again in a inexpensive format. People's memories aren't too long." And you know, in a way, he'll be right. Some of the people will forget, and some of them won't. Oh, you'll have a show. Maybe not the best hour or, you know, top 10. Maybe not even in the top 35. But you'll have a show. It just won't be quite the same as it was before. Then a couple of new fellas will come along. And pretty soon, a lot of your fans will be flocking around them. And then one day, somebody'll ask: "Whatever happened to, a, whatshisname? You know, the one who was so big. The number-one fella a couple of years ago. He was famous. How can we forget a name like that? Oh by the way, have you seen, a, Barry Mills? I think he's the greatest thing since Will Rogers."

**Mel turns and starts to leave. Then, he turns back towards Lonesome.

Miller: Beanie!

**Beanie, who is manning the automatic appalause machine, instinctively pulls the switch, unleashing a massive abundance of cheers. The mechanical jubilation continues as Mel joins Marcia in the waiting elevator, leaving Lonesome alone in the empty penthouse with his broken dreams.

Although it provides a nice ribbon for wrapping up the film, it doesn't quite capture how distorted our current sad reality is, where celebrities and politicians can take should-be career deathblows and somehow get stronger. They are somehow impervious to their own should-be self-destructive ways. Kazan underestimated the blindness of tribalism, but can we blame him?
     What I find most interesting about this movie is the outcome of it for Andy Griffith. His performance as Lonesome Rhodes is captivating. Griffith even commented in some interviews that he was very afraid of the feeling he got from playing Rhodes, because he was too good at it, he could easily do exactly what Rhodes was doing in the film.

"You've got to be a saint to stand the power that box gives you."

Actualizing A Face in the Crowd, Griffith went on to make his self-named show, becoming the face of America of the 1960s. He became in institution in his own right just as Rhodes had been. Griffith understood the burden he was going to bear and believed he could do justice to the responsibility the massive national audience would place upon him. The resulting product was nine seasons of wholesome moral indoctrination starring the undeniably virtuous model American, Andy Taylor.
     Overall, A Face in the Crowd stands tall as one of the most powerful films I've ever seen. There are tons of excellent videos where Andy and other creators discuss the film and other related topics. Obviously watch the movie first, but these make the viewing experience that much more memorable. This particular video provided some thought-provoking points on how our retrospective viewing of the film is what makes it compelling due to our context with Griffith's Andy Taylor character as the anti-Rhodes.

If you haven't seen it, please do yourself a favor and watch the movie. It's available on Amazon to rent for $3.
Wiley Jones
tag:blog.wileyjones.com,2013:Post/1272546 2018-04-14T09:55:11Z 2018-04-14T09:58:41Z Richard Wright and "Us and Them"
I tend to find myself coming back to vulnerability as a topic. Great art either makes you feel vulnerable or is vulnerable itself, which allows you to connect to it. This is especially true of great music.

There was a clip of Wright playing a demo of the piano part from "Us and Them" with some commentary and it damn near made me cry.

"I love that chord, I don't know why. But it wouldn't work if it had gone up to an A. But that what music's all about..."

After hearing it stripped down and bare, "Us and Them" has taken on a totally new form for me, and consequently so has Dark Side of the Moon. I personally put DSOTM in contention with the "greatest", (Kind of Blue, Sgt. Pepper, Electric Ladyland) because it makes me feel so vulnerable. I've never been grasp the album, it's always been the other way around. The raw emotion would grab me and wrap me up to a point where I feel very small. Like an astronaut floating out in space. But hearing a track from the album sound so naked I found an edge to grasp. Now for the first time I can listen to the album and slide inbetween despair and triumph, wrestling with it track by track.

And now I wait for the sun to set so I can walk through the city at night and listen to the words of Roger Water's for what must be the thousandth time.

Wiley Jones