Editor's note. This week director Jason Reitman is guest blogging at West Coast Sound. Reitman, whose new film, Up in the Air, was nominated for
five six Golden Globes this morning (including Best Director and Best Screenplay nominations for Reitman … congrats!), is also a pretty big music head, as you'll see below. Yesterday he wrote on some of his early soundtrack influences.
A Seconds Thought
by Jason Reitman
As much as I loved my second car, from day one it was missing a very important feature. One that I doubt matters to many other people. In fact, it's probably only evidence that I should be on daily medication. While my car had a decent sound system that I tested to extreme a few times, it lacked a read out of the minutes and seconds of the CD track on the digital display. Now, perhaps I'm a little too numerical. I believe the medical condition is called O.C.D. I mean, I can't be the only one who checks how many seconds an intro is or at one minute does the band go into their second chorus…? Right?
Every once in a while, there's a song that I love not start to finish but rather as a matter of anticipation leading to a single great moment. Think of the handclapping 35 seconds into Steve Miller's “Take The Money And Run” or “Beastie Boys don't let the beat droooooooop…” 2 minutes and 33 seconds into “Intergalactic”.
For the sake of a subject that probably doesn't get a lot of ink, here are a few of my favorite anticipatory song moments.
0:59 “You Showed Me” by The Turtles
It's an otherwise traditional pop song, but right before the first minute clocks in, the song becomes almost musical theater. It's self-conscious and dramatic. It happens more than once in this song, but this if the first time and it always moves me. Reminds me of a similar move in the song “Blue on Blue” by Bobby Vinton.
2:37 “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” by Jimi Hendrix
Okay this one is a little strange, but the way Jimi squeaks his guitar into the following verse sounds exactly like a DJ scratch. Listen to it a couple times. It has the unmistakable wicky wicky of a turntable. Perhaps Hendrix invented tuntablism.
4:57 “Surface To Air (Live)” by Chemical Brothers
This one requires good sound. Bump this in your car or on Stay-Away-big-can headphones. If you play it at the right volume you can actually use it as a defibrillator.
2:23 “How I Could Just Kill A Man” by Cypress Hill
I love when Hip Hop songs contain unusual and unnecessary instrumental sections. “Bust A Move” has a classic one of these 2:44 in. They carry an odd sense of arrogance as if the producer was saying 'I've got so many great beats, I'll just toss in a second one for free'… Pete Rock is the king of these, as he often starts a song with a killer beat, only to dispose of it a few measures in. The unusual left turn of the Cypress Hill track is punctuated by the almost bouncy nature of this pause in a song otherwise dedicated to the justification of homicide.
2:17 “Slam” by Onyx
“I'm a B-Boy standing in my B-Boy stance.” I listen to this song just so I can hear these words… Although in my mind, he is saying B-Boy Pants.
3:33 “Paranoid Android” by Radiohead
There's no reason this musical move should make sense. And yet it's perfect. I love this kind of unexpected transition in movies as well as music. A violent tonal shift and your heart just goes with it.
3:02 “Breaking The Girl” by Red Hot Chilli Peppers
What is that? Cowbell? What rhythm is that even in? Seriously, no one wondered why they suddenly introduced all this mallet work in the last act of the song? Don't get me wrong, I dig it. I just wonder how these decisions happen.
1:56 “Love The One You're With” by The Isley Brothers
Everyone knows the CSN version of this song. I prefer the Isley Brothers cover and for one reason – The scream that happens at 1:56. You can't just jump to it. You need to listen from the start, hang in there, and let it build so when the scream happens, it feels like a release valve.
1:58 “Peace Frog” by The Doors
Wait Jim… Jim, seriously, where are you going…? This song was so good, why are you talking about the fucking dead Indians again…? Come on, I was really digging this one! And then 1:58 happens.
3:08 “Black Water” by The Doobie Brothers
Everyone knows it. It's the barber shop quarter breakdown in the middle of a country rock song. Again, who had the balls to suggest a dixieland four part acapella?
1:15 “My World Is Empty Without You” by Diana Ross & The Supremes
It's the one moment in the song where the underlying bass line is accompanied by saxophone with no vocals. Yes, I have a problem.
3:27 “Scenario” by Tribe Called Quest
Busta Rhymes – Raaa! Raaa! Like a dungeon dragon.
0:28 “Moments in Love” by Art of Noise
This one is subtle, but the song is following such a mathematical idea, that when it repeats the same note at :28, my hair stands on end. Again, this one could just be me.
0:00 “Fire from the Observer Station” by Dennis Brown
I love that this song has a false start. It's completely unexpected and completely works. The song is so naturalistic, that I never know it's coming no matter how many times I've heard it. Also note worthy is the echo effect at :22 of the same song.