Friday, September 14, 2012

SIGHTSEERS: Talking About The Soundtrack

A huge part of the fun in Ben Wheatley's Sightseers is its terrific soundtrack, with many songs used as commentary on the hilarity and depravity within.

If you were sentient in the 1980s or even if you weren't, chances are you've heard Soft Cell's ginormous hit "Tainted Love." What you may not know is that it's a cover of Gloria Jones's 1964 song, written by Ed Cobb, which became an underground smash in the 1970s when Northern Soul was all the rage. Miss Jones was also later romantically involved with T.Rex's Marc Bolan, and performed on several of that band's albums.

But back to Soft Cell. The version used in Sightseers is actually the EP version, which goes right into "Where Did Our Love Go?" yet another cover, this of the1964 hit by The Supremes. Soft Cell may have covered well-known radio hits, but their own creations were considerably more salacious. (See also: "Sex Dwarf.")

Wheatley cleverly opens Sightseers with the Soft Cell version and ends it with the Gloria Jones version, a bookending that makes the phrase "tainted love" funny at first and then both funny and sinister later on.

Skipping ahead, past Francoise Hardy's "Amour Toujour Tendresse Caresses" (not on YouTube), there's another tune that became popular through a cover version, in this case, Vanilla Fudge's "Season of the Witch." You may know the Donovan version from 1966, but Vanilla Fudge's 1968 cover is perhaps creepier, especially in the context of Sightseers and Tina's witchy behavior.

It gets even weirder with Neu!'s "Lieber Honig" (translating to "come to me"). Even if you've heard Mrs. Miller or The Shaggs,  you may still be distressed by this track. As one YouTube commenter notes, " I love? Neu!, but this might honestly be one of the worst vocal performances ever... lol." It's definitely . . . something.

However, Neu! is a band that has serious diehard fans despite the fact that they were never hugely famous. You can find out more about them on their official website.

Next up is "Ah!" from Popol Vuh, another German group from the 1970s, considered one of the earliest ambient groups. When you think about the fact that Brian Eno was just making his first solo albums in 1972, the year "Ah!" was released, it kinda blows your mind.

Things take a turn for the classical and British with the stately "Nimrod" from Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations. Elgar was a British composer during the early 20th century, appointed "Master of the King's Musick" in 1924. So says Wikipedia.

There is also a performance of Henryk Wieniawski's "Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Opus 22" (that's a mouthful) with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and Marat Bisengali on violin. This version is not on YouTube, but another one, featuring Rudolf Koelman and the Fremantle Chamber Orchestra is.

Not one to stay too serious for too long, Wheatley ends the movie proper with Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "The Power Of Love" which is absolutely ridiculous in the scene in which it appears in Sightseers. To quote Tina Turner, "what's LOVE got to do with it?"

Anyway, if you only know of Frankie Goes To Hollywood from those FRANKIE SAY RELAX T-shirts from the '80s or "Relax" from the Body Double soundtrack (and every radio station and club for much of the 1980s), you're really missing out

They were such a great band, and real pioneers in British pop music and particularly in gay culture (as were Soft Cell, actually). As a bit of an extra treat, you should definitely check out their cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run."

If you want to hear all this great music, you're in luck! There's one more screening of Sightseers on Sunday!

Sun., Sept. 16th, BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA 7:00PM


  1. It's an hillarious movie, I totally recommend it.

    I watched the movie yesterday in Sitges Cinema Festival (Barcelona, Spain) I was looking for the "power of love" song.

    Thank you very much for your post!

  2. I see the movie right now - your investigation is great. Thank you! In the meantime Francoise Hardy's Amours Toujours is on youtube ;-)
    Best, S.