The only thing in the world more immediately transformative than music is that imagined extra step at the top of the stairs; everything else comes in waves. No matter how dramatic the on-screen moment, it is the synergised jolt of music and action in unison that stirs up the reticently stored reserves of adrenalised emotional response. This is a quality that famed British movie critic, Mark Kermode, has been quick to accredit over the years.
Thus, when Kermode pieced together a ramshackle tour of his cinematic record collection via his BBC Radio Show, The Soundtrack of My Life, the assorted favourites were very notable indeed. The esoteric mix is a snapshot of the smorgasbord of cinema that has inspired him over the years, with tasty treats from barely known British movies and Hollywood blockbusters alike.
Kermode’s adoration for music in movies is profound. He even still owns his very first soundtrack, a beaten-up vinyl copy of Dougal & The Blue Cat, which he begged his mother to buy for 99p back in 1970.
Amongst his very favourites is Peter Schickele’s score for Silent Running, in which an astronaut is given orders to destroy the last of Earth’s botany housed in a spacecraft after flora went extinct on the third rock from the sun. “Peter Schickele was best known as musical satirist P.D.Q. Bach but was discovered by [director] Doug Trumbull because of his arrangement work on the albums of Joan Baez,” Kermode explains. “Along with the wonderful orchestral score the soundtrack album features two songs sung by her.”
Elsewhere, amidst his favourites is the Newcastle United FC walk-out anthem ‘Local Hero’, a track that comes courtesy of Geordie guitarist Mark Knopfler. The atmospheric guitar work originally featured on the film of the same name. Local Hero is a 1983 Bill Forsyth film that depicts the story of an American oil company who send an executive to buy up an entire village, however, to use the most ubiquitous phrase in synopsis history, ‘things don’t go as planned’. “I love Local Hero and my vinyl copy of the soundtrack was played to death until it was nothing more than a spiral scratch. An enduring favourite that benefits hugely from the input of ’80s musician Mark Knopfler.” As Knopfler concluded on the show, “For me it’s. the perfect example for the music of the film being the place setting.”
This ability for music to capture the atmosphere of a time and place in cinema was a factor that he eulogised once again in There Will Be Blood. For the Paul Thomas Anderson story of oilmen clashing and cultist religions, he declared: “I remember watching the film and about 20-30 minutes in thinking, ‘I’m not distinguishing between the sound effects and the music.’ It all sounded like all the sound was coming out of the landscape, that is the highest compliment.”
For There Will Be Blood, Johnny Greenwood, who scored the film, even declared that Anderson “even cut some of the film to the music which is so the wrong way round.” The result is a hand in glove marriage of sound and vision that Kermode found enthralling and perfectly simpatico in equal measure.
Kermode is also happy to admit that some soundtracks surpass the movie that they are scoring, which is the case with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me scored by Angelo Badalamenti. Kermode declares that the flopped David Lynch cinematic spin-off of the classic TV show was “one of the most overlooked films of the ’90s,” and that it was “an absolute disaster as far as the critics were concerned.” The soundtrack, on the other hand, has slowly gained admiration over the years and at the forefront of the growing fan list is Kermode, who describes it as “one of his favourites”.
See the full list, below.
Mark Kermode’s favourite vinyl soundtracks:
- Silent Running scored by Peter Schickele
- Local Hero scored by Mark Knopfler
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me scored by Angelo Badalamenti
- There Will Be Blood scored by Jonny Greenwood