It’s been a minute since Whale Week. I’ve pondered my next theme. and I’ve landed upon a big one. You see being obsessed with pop music is really quite an immature thing. So I thought about my motivation. Why does a grown arsed man such as myself write this stuff? Why am I spending hours talking about music that excites me and weaving it into a narrative about my life? The truth is Wise Old Tree Steve does this for the little cherub faced Steve For The Deaf who is still in there somewhere. My Id. My 13 year old self. Psychoanalyze that all you want. This is kids stuff. Literally.
When I was a kid (in the 1980’s) one thing I really loved before I loved Rock Music was Action Movies. See for most of the decade we didn’t have a VCR (a video, the UK back then we called it a video) so films were a B.I.G big deal. We had to go see them. At The Cinema. Or when the TV Times told us they were going to be on. Or at friends houses (everyone else seemed to already have a video by ’88 when we got one). So this week that’s what we’re going to talk about. 80’s Action Movies, and the truly mostly terrible songs from them.
Where are we to begin? There can be only one place. “Here we are, born to be kings, we’re the princes of the universe”. Highlander Man. What a film. That was my kind of movie. Sword fights, lightning bolts, time travel, Queen on the soundtrack. Scotland! What’s not to love? Truth of the matter is Princes Of The Universe is a terrible song. Especially by Queen’s standards. Terrible. So too is Gimmie The Prize (Kurgan’s Theme). They’re half baked barely finished pieces of music compared to much of this bands songbook. Less than fully made up rock songs that swerve in tempo and melody where the editor of the film needed them to. They don’t quite hang together like a good Prog, Metallica or Wildhearts tune would when needing to go from a 4 to the floor stomp to a polka. They’re more just bits of riffs and some pompous ideas for their lyrics.
Bad songs, but great memories. Even if the uneven mixing of film dialogue and foley effects replace guitar solos or middle eights in places. Come on what do you want? A chord progression or a growled “It’s better burn out than to fade away”
A Kind Of Magic was Queen’s 80’s high-point commercially. It has not aged too great. Sure the title track has been played a billion times and will be played a billion more. There were other singles. Friends Will Be Friends is a bit pants while One Vision is a top drawer rock single but neither is actually in the movie*. Who Wants To Live Forever is a belter of a torchsong ballad, but the rest?
It works edited to sparks flying off swords and the fab four Freddie hangs out with stomping about under NYC’s Silvercup sign. Is that a bit of double product placement? Silvercup got the finale Big Bad Vs MacLeod swashbuckler and a Queen Video in return for their investment. What even is Silvercup? Turns out after a cursory google it is (not surprisingly) a gigantic soundstage studio in NYC. Soundstages are a big part of Highlander. You’ve only got to see the painted sky behind the destroyed castle ruins as The Kurgan (massive unit Clancy Brown playing a sort of Goth Punk wrestler shaped Darth Vader who quotes Neil Young**) runs Sean Connery through to see that no real battlements were harmed during the making of this movie.
Most bloggers and or pub bores when talking about this film will do the whole “The World’s most famous Scotsman playing an Egyptian while Frenchie Christopher Lambert plays a Scot” exclamation gag. Well not this one. I have to say, as a kid watching Hodgekins get buckshot in his arse, Fazeal swinging swords in Madison Square Garden’s car park and wee bonnie Heather curling up and dying while imagining the sun on her face and the boots Connor made for her, I felt I’d run the full gamut of emotions watching this in 1986.
There’s considerable visual flair in this particular 80’s actioner. The transition shots between time zones are particularly nifty. The Mona Lisa in modern day NYC, the fish tank, the WWII battlefield all cut in beautifully. The sweeping opening shot from the back of the Garden into Connor stood stock still among a crowd thousands is another. This music video MTV sheen more than makes up for the accents. There are plenty of wires on show under the cartoon lightning bolts though. I revel in it to this day. One of the best things about this particular eighties gem is that it’s been left alone in splendid isolation. No cheesy sequel spoiling the original concept, no cheap spin off TV series and no modern remake. Yep left well alone. Highlander is an action movie that stayed true to it’s strap line. I SAID… NO SEQUEL. NO SPIN OFF. NO REMAKE! Right? Right. There can be only One! You heard the man.
With heart, faith & steel we shall embark on seven fairly lousy songs, from movies of questionable quality, In The Name of The Ro… Hang on wrong Sean Connery Movie.
*Movie Nerd Factoid #1. One Vision wasn’t in the Highlander movie despite being on the soundtrack album but it was in the movie Iron Eagle. Which is not a patch on Highlander. However Hammer To Fall from Queen’s previous album The Works is in the Highlander movie… For some reason.
**Movie Nerd Factoid #2. The line of dialogue quoted in the song sample is a Neil Young Lyric. Meaning Queen have to give a co-writing credit to old Neil for a line of movie dialogue in the soundtrack section of their song