Saturday, February 2, 2008

Soundtrack Sunday: "Local Hero" (1983)

In between releasing Love Over Gold (1982) and the best-selling Brothers in Arms (1985), Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler found ways to keep himself busy without his band.

Sort of.

Because Knopfler's first soundtrack – and still the most beloved in many circles – is essentially a Dire Straits album. One track, "Freeway Flyer," includes the entire band except for drummer Pick Withers. And keyboardist Alan Clark actually plays on more tracks than Knopfler.

I love the movie (I'll get into that later). And I love the soundtrack. It was an essential study aid during my college years. It's a relaxing mix. But not so relaxing that it makes you stupid, like so much of what was being defined as New Age music back then.

For today's post, I want to focus on two tracks from the soundtrack. Which is, by the way, not billed as a soundtrack. It's called "Local Hero: Music by Mark Knopfler" But that's a misnomer. This is no "Music Inspired by…" (Yes, I'm looking at you, Jay Z) album. All the songs are featured in the movie and are essential in terms of establishing the film's overall mood.

The first track is the only one on the album to feature vocals: "The Way It Always Starts." And it's not Knopfler who sings, but Gerry Rafferty. Yes, the same guy from "Baker Street" and "Stuck in the Middle." It's a beautiful song that benefits from Rafferty's mellifluous voice perfectly blending with Knopfler's crisp guitar playing and Clark's airy keyboards. If this was released in the mellow 70s, this would have been a No. 1 hit. for sure.

Play "The Way It Always Starts"

But that was not Warner Brothers choice as the album's (only) single. The peculiar selection instead was the movie's theme song, "Going Home: Theme of the Local Hero", which is also a very solid tune and one that Knopfler still plays at concerts. But the song lasts nearly five minutes – and the first half of it consists of Knopfler and Clark aimlessly trading riffs. I mean, did Warner Brothers think this was when the DJ was supposed to give the weather and traffic reports? When the song finally kicks in, it's the late Michael Brecker who puts the song into high gear with a killer sax solo. Oh, and by the way the great Tony Levin (ex of King Crimson) plays bass.

Play "Going Home: Theme of the Local Hero"

Back to the movie: If you haven't ever seen it, I highly recommend it. It still remains one of my top five favorite movies. I mean, what other movie has guys from Animal House and Star Wars cavorting with Burt Lancaster on the Scottish moors? The story is about the owner of a Texas oil company (Lancaster) who sends one of his executives (Peter Riegert, Boon from Animal House) to Scotland to buy up a town where he wants to build an oil platform. The tiny town's defacto leader, a local innkeeper named Gordon Urquhart (Denis Lawson, Wedge Antilles from Star Wars) is only too eager to comply. Then the movie really takes off in unpredictable ways until the unforgettable ending.

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