Who hasn’t run up steps without Bill Conti’s classic ode to trying hard, the Rocky Theme ‘Gonna Fly Now’, soaring through their head, or spun around at the top of a hill belting out Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s soaring blue sky-classic ‘The Hills are Alive’…
Can you go for a swim in the sea without hearing ‘duh-nuh… duh-nuh… duh-nuh… duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh’ – John Williams’ creepingly stubborn build of bass notes – or take a shower unaccompanied by Bernard Herrmann’s stabbing shrieks of a slashing violin clashing against the steam.
Then welcome, welcome to the latest We Love… as, over the next few weeks, our collection of movie-loving muzos put on their tight-white trousers and flowing dresses and profess their love for music in film in:
The Blues Brother
‘… the soundtrack is a focal point of the film and plays a central role in the story telling of the film…’
I was first introduced to The Blues Brothers by my parents who had always loved the film. The homage to the blues genre might’ve passed me by then as a youth, and I don’t even remember liking it very much afterwards.
But I soon began to realise it was one of the funniest films I had seen, with Jake and Elwood’s increasingly farcical run-ins with the law and over the top car chases.
Over the years I found myself being drawn back to it time and time again, with it never losing its hold over me. The infectious energy of the music immediately permeating my soul as soon as the opening bars of She Caught the Katy kicks in…
The Blues Brothers Band existed a number of years before the 1980 movie. It started when Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi performed as a musical duo on a Saturday Night Live sketch in January, 1976. The personas of Jake and Elwood Blues and the outline for the movie’s story was teased out during downtime at Aykroyd’s blues bar.
After a number of successful sketches on SNL, the pair gathered a band of established musicians from the blues scene of Chicago, Memphis and New York and released an album, Briefcase Full of Blues, in 1976.
The 1980 movie could (unfairly) be described simply as a vehicle for their music and despite the movie’s bonkers plot being very much secondary to the movie’s music, it’s still very funny. One highlight being Jake and Elwood’s run-ins with a particular brand of right wing political nut-jobs – “I hate Illinois Nazis,” laments Elwood.
But it’s the love for blues music that really shines through and stays with you after watching. Music performed with real energy by people who live and breathe blues and soul. The musical cameos are a roll-call of R&B, soul and blues legends, including Ray Charles (whose scene-stealing Shake a Tail Feather being a highlight), Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway and John Lee Hooker.
Belushi had been sniffily criticised for not having the vocal talent to live up to the songs he was singing. But he more than made for it by throwing his heart and soul into every tune. Together with Aykroyd’s backing vocals and harmonica, they bring a tremendous passion and enthusiasm (despite their continual deadpan facial expressions throughout) to a range of blues and soul numbers. Each one is a stone-cold classic from a rich and varied back catalogue of blues music.
Even now, from the moment Jake and Elwood Blues show up and right up until the final credits roll I sit there with a ridiculous smile on my face and my foot-tapping wearing a hole in the floor.