I was busted at the border babe
With 2 Keys in my shoes – yeah
And they gave me 30 years babe
To learn the Istanbul blues (Istanbul Blues)
I am the just and kindly ruler of my vinyl kingdom. I nurture and care for all my subjects equally, critical repute, cultural weight and monetary value mean nothing to me – in the land of 1537 all are entitled to consideration, cherishing and a protective polythene sleeve, on condition they submit to a strict alphabetizing. No wonder I am loved by all my records and hailed as a just and beneficent ruler.
Well almost all. In a cold and neglected corner (bottom shelf sort of behind the armchair) huddled together for comfort sit the excluded, the yet-to-be-chosen, the LPs-in-an-iron-mask. A small subsection of albums that I can’t decide whether to keep or to bin off. Occasionally one will be plucked from this purgatory, played and pronounced fit to join the throng, or charity-shopped out without mercy. Until last week that limbo was the fate of Giorgio Moroder Midnight Express Soundtrack*.
I picked up a good quality vinyl copy in a bit of a run down sleeve for next to nothing a while back, played it once and thought ‘that sounds nothing like the soul-destroying casual and systemic brutality and neglect I vaguely remember from Billy Hayes’ book that I read when I was 14′. In point of fact Midnight Express sounds far more like a light-hearted cop thriller set in a San Franciscan bath house circa 1978**. Which is precisely the reason I have decided to embrace it now.
It opens rather well with the single ‘The Chase’ which is one of the best things here by a Turkish mile. In fact that epic, striding prog disco beat is redolent of Cerrone’s masterpiece Supernature, which can only be a very good thing indeed. It is a delightfully synthetic confection, as in made by synths^ arranged by Harold Faltermeyer. I always imagine myself driving some sort of futuristic anti-grav sportscar to the sound of this song somehow, rather than bring brutalised in the prison showers. It is a great track but seems to belong to an entirely different film altogether. A hit, a very palpable hit, as some ninny once said.
Sadly ‘Love Theme’ is a bit of a miss. Bearing in mind that the love interest was only inserted in the film, there’s none in the book – barring a consensual same-sex encounter, or two in prison, which the film demurred at showing. Maybe that’s why Giorgio Moroder appears to have expended absolutely fuck-all energy and creativity on this baloney.
The instrumental version of ‘(Theme From) Midnight Express’ is better, sounding like a disco remake of the theme from The Third Man. Nothing says ‘triumph of indomitable will in the face of horrific adversity’ to me like disco toms. True story.
Now, the vocal version of ‘(Theme From) Midnight Express’ that closes the LP floored me. I had never heard of the vocalist Chris Bennett before but basically this song invented Goldfrapp in 1978. Genuinely. It would slot right in on Goldfrapp’s debut Felt Mountain; it just has that alpine-disco-torch-song thang going on, which I just assumed my faves had invented for themselves. Terrific stuff.
Inbetwixt this you get the ‘Istanbul Blues’ which I rather like but it actually makes Poison’s ‘Poor Boy Blues’ sound like a lost Robert Johnson original. I like it in the same way I like strawberry flavoured things more than strawberries sometimes, as an entirely synthetic kick that you love for its total inauthenticity.
There are also a handful of soundtrack-y tracks on Midnight Express, they’re okay, although Mr Moroder ventures into sub-Doctor Who turf with ‘Cacophony’. Fair enough it is at least three decades since I’ve seen the film and I am pretty sure there weren’t the Cybermen in it that this track suggests.
So Midnight Express just sneaks into the 1537 by virtue of the first and last tracks and I surely must now be granted permission to ascend to critical nirvana as the only person who has ever written about Giorgio Moroder without mentioning Love To Love You Baby and I Feel Love. Oh … rats!
PS: Maybe I should steal Aaron and Sarca’s idea of vetting stay/go LPs in posts. If anyone is interested, here’s the other ‘Get Shelved, or Fuck the Fuck Off!’ candidates from the dark corner behind the armchair:
*okay so, strictly speaking it is Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Composed And Produced By Giorgio Moroder, but do me a MF-ing favour!
**maybe the two oeuvres are linked by extravagantly glossy moustaches?
^see what I did there, I’m very good.