Category: The Rolling Stones

Track-by-track: Beck, Nigel Godrich, Emily Haines, Bryan Lee O'Malley & Edgar Wright dissect the 'Scott Pilgrim' music


Fifteen pages into the first volume of Bryan Lee O'Malley's six-part Scott Pilgrim series, the characters break into song -- or at least they rock out as much as one can in a black-and-white graphic novel. Electric bolts shoot from the singer's mouth, O'Malley provides a chord progression and a teenage girl watching the rehearsal falls in love. 

As for the sound, the reader is informed it's "kind of crappy," but the rest is left to one's imagination. Such could have been the fate of Edgar Wright's big-screen adaption of O'Malley's tale of twentysomething hopeless romanticsAfter all, bringing rock 'n' roll to the big screen is not the easiest of feats, and with video game quirks and elaborate action sequences, it'd be easy to see how one could conclude that it would be best for "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" to just to do away with the rock.

As star of the film Michael Cera put it to our sister blog Hero Complex, "Whenever you see a band in a movie, the music is barely passable. It's like when you see a film, and someone is writing a book. Whenever you hear excerpts of the writing, it's just terrible. You're like, 'That's what they're writing?' It's kind of the same theory."

Early versions of the script, which is credited to Wright and Michael Bacall, did in fact do away with the music -- completely. With Cera's Pilgrim forced to do battle with the seven evil exes of the object of his obsession, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" has plenty of ground to cover without the rock 'n' roll.

"In the first draft of the script, there was this running joke that you never heard the bands," Wright said during a Q&A following a recent Los Angeles screening. "You heard the intro, and then it would cut to the next scene, and somebody would be going, ‘Oh my God, that’s the best song ever.’ That was a joke for a long time."

Beck At least until Nigel Godrich entered the picture.The famed producer, best known for his work with Radiohead, Beck and Paul McCartney, was entrusted to bring to life the sound of the punky Sex Bob-Omb, the fictional band in which Cera's Scott Pilgrim plays bass (poorly). Godrich made overtures to Atlanta punks the Black Lips, put ultimately persuaded close friend Beck to lay down sketches of a couple dozen garage rock songs. 

"I completely understand why you might downplay the music in the script," Godrich said. "It’s one of those things where it might be better to just not hear any music and to leave it to your imagination. Then it will be as good as it will ever be. But once a few inquiries were made, and it was clear that we could maybe get those people to contribute, it was an exciting prospect."

In addition to Beck, the "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" soundtrack, released Tuesday via ABKCO (also available in a digital expanded edition), features original songs from Broken Social Scene -- in full thrash mode -- as well as a previously unreleased cut from electro-rockers Metric. The 19-track album is rounded out by songs from the Black Lips, T-Rex, the Rolling Stones, Frank Black and, of course, Plumtree. Some of the bands in the film are referenced in the comics or were suggested by O'Malley, and others were selections from Wright. 

Pop & Hiss spoke to Wright, O'Malley, Godrich, Beck and Metric's Emily Haines, asking them to contribute to a track-by-track look at the songs in "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." It's the second installment of this blog's look at the music in the rock 'n' romance picture, as earlier Godrich and Beck spoke in detail about the thoughts behind Sex Bob-Omb

Track-by-track analysis is after the jump.

Continue reading »

Did the Rolling Stones' music go downhill after the Beatles broke up?

Rolling Stones-Nellcote 1972Reader Neil McCarthy responded to my recent interview with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards about the expanded reissue of the Rolling Stones’ 1972 album “Exile on Main St.” with an intriguing theory that’s been voiced by others over the years.

In short, McCarthy thinks the Stones’ music started on a downhill slide around 1970, when the Beatles broke up — and he suggests that was no coincidence.

“I've never felt ‘Exile’ was anything but a sloppy attempt to match the Beatles’ White Album. Understand, I love the Stones and loved them -- I was born in 1950 and early on (1965) 'knew' this is my group….Anyway their best albums, for me, were ‘Aftermath,’ ‘Between The Buttons’ (truly truly so underrated and, so, not listened to, but ohhh what a masterpiece) and ‘Beggars Banquet.’

“With the passing of the Beatles,” McCarthy wrote, “the Stones truly seemed to lose their footing in 'manning up' to produce truly great tunes.”

I don’t agree, because I think there were plenty of great tunes on the albums that came on the heels of the Fab Four’s breakup in 1970: “Sticky Fingers” (1971) and “Exile,” to say nothing of some top-drawer material on “Some Girls” (1978), “Tattoo You” (1981) and “Steel Wheels” (1989). And “A Bigger Bang” from 2005 ranks among my half-dozen favorite Stones albums ever.

But I bounced McCarthy’s theory off a couple of people close to both camps for their reaction.

First, “Breakfast With the Beatles” host Chris Carter, who said, “Actually, I think that the Stones got better as the Beatles broke up.

Beatles 1969

“From 1968 on to …what, “Tattoo You,” they were top shelf," Carter said. " ‘Beggars [Banquet]’ to ‘Exile’ is the most perfect five-LP run of any band ever (including [Get Yer] Ya Ya’s [Out] … and including the Beatles!”

Then I ran it by Don Was, who has produced several Stones albums in recent years, including “A Bigger Bang” and the bonus tracks on the “Exile” reissue. Was, who started following both bands from the first time their music reached U.S. shores in the 1960s, said, “I've heard the 'loss of Beatles competition' effect theory bandied about in reference to Brian Wilson as well ... not sure that I buy in.

“There is a limited window of time in which one can go into the studio and engage in an intense daily pursuit of fickle radio play and the latest fad,” Was said. “It becomes a pointless bore and a grind; eventually, it becomes indistinguishable from the job you joined a band to avoid in the first place! Not to mention that there's an endless supply of bread, girls, bad drugs and yes men that accompany success and conspire to dull the competitive edge.’

“Great as they were, the Beatles (and just about everyone else, as well) imploded under the circumstances,” Was noted. “It's testimony to the awesome strength, toughness and talent of the Stones -- and Bob Dylan, for that matter -- that they've not only endured but maintained a very high level of consistent quality for an additional 40 years. For what it's worth, after bearing firsthand witness, I see it as a herculean feat.”

Any dissenters out there in Stones -- or Beatles -- land?

-- Randy Lewis

Top photo: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at Nellcote, France, circa 1972. Credit: Dominique Tarle / Universal Music Group

Bottom photo: John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in 1969. Credit: Apple Corps Ltd.

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Rolling Stones: Mick and Keith remember making 'Exile on Main St.'

Exile on Main St. cover

The Stones were on a remarkable creative roll when they went to work on “Exile on Main St.” In the four years before it was released, they’d put out what remain as three of their best studio albums: “Beggars Banquet,” “Let It Bleed” and “Sticky Fingers,” as well as one of the most celebrated live recordings ever, “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!.”

There were downs as well: Guitarist Brian Jones had been fired from the band in 1969, then drowned under mysterious circumstances a few months later. During the band’s performance that December in Altamont in Northern California, Hells Angels hired to provide security stabbed a fan to death, an incident that sent the hippie euphoria from “three days of peace and music” at Woodstock a few months earlier crashing back to Earth.

And then there was the whole tax problem that spurred the group, along with many other British entertainers, to establish homes elsewhere to escape the 90%-plus income tax rate that George Harrison had famously groused about in the Beatles’ 1966 song “Taxman.”

“It affected everyone,” Mick Jagger told me recently as we discussed the factors that went into the making of “Exile,” which comes out Tuesday in an expanded reissue that we explore in depth in Sunday's Arts & Books section. “You made light of it at the time, but when you look back, it was quite disruptive in a lot of ways. You got on with it, but it was quite a difficult period.”

Continue reading »

Rolling Stones' 'Exile on Main St.' expanded CD, documentary coming

Rolling Stones 1972-edit 
Rolling Stones fans will have the opportunity for a new listen, and look, at the group’s 1972 double album “Exile on Main St.,” with an expanded CD reissue and a new documentary coming in May.

“Exile,” widely considered at or near the pinnacle of the group’s recorded repertoire, will be reissued May 18 both in the original 18-track configuration as well as in a deluxe edition containing 10 recently discovered bonus tracks recorded during the same period. Among the previously unreleased tracks are “Plundered My Soul,” “Dancing in the Light,” “Following the River” and “Pass the Wine,” plus alternate takes of “Loving Cup” and “Soul Survivor.”

The documentary, “Stones in Exile,” will air on the USA Network in the U.S. and on the BBC in the United Kingdom. It is directed by Stephen Kijak, who also directed “Scott Walker: 30 Century Man.” An air date has not been set.

“Exile on Main St.” spent four weeks as No. 1 in 1972, yielded the top 10 single “Tumbling Dice”  and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Assn. of America in 2000, 28 years after its release.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of the Rolling Stones in 1972. Credit: Norman Seeff / Universal Music Enterprises


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Recent Posts

Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: