Beatle Of The Bulge
:: Bryan Ferry - She's Leaving Home ::
:: Keith Moon - When I'm Sixty-Four ::
:: Richard Cocciante - Michelle ::
:: Status Quo - Getting Better ::
:: Peter Gabriel - Strawberry Fields Forever ::
:: Frankie Valli - A Day in the Life ::
In 1976, 20th Century Fox released a strange film called All This and World War II that consisted of newsreel and war movie footage edited into an abridged, chronological version of the events of World War II, all juxtaposed with Beatles covers performed by a number of 70’s recording artists. Critics tore it apart, no one went to see it, and Fox promptly yanked it from screens. Only bootleg copies are available today on DVD. I haven’t seen it, but it sounds fucked up and tasteless enough to make me want to. Some scenes I’ve read about include Hitler relaxing on his mountaintop retreat in Berchtesgaden while Helen Reddy sings, “Fool on the Hill,” German tank footage played in reverse as Rod Stewart croons his cover of “Get Back,” and the Battle of Midway to the tune of Elton John’s rendition of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
The soundtrack is four sides of orchestrated Beatles, performed by The London Symphony Orchestra and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, with artists on each song for vocal duties. I’ve posted my favorite cuts from the album.
First up is Bryan Ferry, fresh from temporarily disbanding Roxy Music, singing “She’s Leaving Home.” This song was juxtaposed with footage of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) mobilizing and shipping out to war. Keith Moon gives us a fun little version of “When I’m Sixty-Four.” The poor guy made it to exactly half that age when he died. French-Italian opera singer Richard Cocciante’s version of “Michelle” is impassioned and incredibly over-dramatic, but I like it because it’s ridiculous. Status Quo’s “Getting Better” plays in the film as the U.S. gets mobilized to enter the war and save the day. It’s got some cool vocoder effect thrown in. The best song on the album is Peter Gabriel’s version of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” This is, I believe, his first solo outing after leaving Genesis. He weirdly closes his throat throughout the song’s delivery, making it sound as if a Muppet were on vocals at times. It was played in the film while Neville Chamberlain holds up his ill-fated peace treaty with Germany (Living is easy with eyes closed / Misunderstanding all you see). And finally, Frankie Valli makes his first appearance on my turntable since I was a wee lad and bought the Grease soundtrack, doing a version of “A Day in the Life” here. The impact of the final piano chord in the original is reduced to a whimper here with a light guitar strum. It’s a testament to how great this song is that even Frankie Valli couldn’t ruin it, though he does try. This song was juxtaposed with footage of the D-Day invasion in the film.
Trivializing war is crass, but the film sounds a hell of a lot more interesting than the Sgt. Pepper’s movie that came out two years later in 1978. And I’m digging the music here over the Sgt. Pepper soundtrack. Why, just the mere memory of Steve Martin singing “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” like a maniac makes me physically nauseous. All This and World War II’s soundtrack was to make its first appearance in compact disc form this past summer, courtesy of Hip-O-Select - Universal’s obscurities re-issue imprint - but its release has been delayed due to manufacturing defects. Keep on the lookout for it if you like what you hear here.