By Adam Bunch
THE LAST WALTZ HITS THE BIG SCREEN
It all started in the early 1960s, when a musician from Arkansas moved to Canada. Ronnie Hawkins brought his backing band, The Hawks, with him to play the raucous nightclubs of Toronto’s Yonge Street strip, but over time most of them returned home and were replaced by Canadians. Before long, drummer Levon Helm was the only American left. He was joined by Toronto’s Robbie Robertson, London’s Garth Hudson, Stratford’s Richard Manuel and bassist Rick Danko from the tiny hamlet of Green’s Corners.
It was in 1964 that they left Hawkins and struck out on their own. For a while, they were playing as the Levon Helm Sextet, then as Levon and The Hawks, then as the Canadian Squires…. But they would change their name one more time before they became famous. In 1965, a folk singer from Minnesota came to Toronto to see them play. He offered them a job – and so, they became Bob Dylan’s backing group and called themselves, quite simply, The Band.
They spent the next decade as one of the most popular rock ’n’ roll outfits on the planet, but it all came to an end in 1976. They called their final show “The Last Waltz.” The Band took the stage at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco and were joined by a long list of all-star guests, including Hawkins, Dylan and fellow Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. The whole event was filmed by director Martin Scorsese and turned into one of the greatest concert films of all time.
It was during this week in 1977 that The Last Waltz premiered on the big screen for the very first time.
“THE WEIGHT” BY THE BAND IN THE LAST WALTZ
BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS CLIMB THE CHARTS… AGAIN
The Band weren’t the only future Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees making a name for themselves on the 1960s Yonge Street strip. It’s also where David Clayton-Thomas got his start, serving as the powerfully lunged frontman for rhythm and blues outfits such as The Shays and The Bossmen. In 1966, at the same time The Band was first teaming up with Bob Dylan, Clayton-Thomas followed the legendary blues singer John Lee Hooker to New York City, where he stayed on after their gigs together were over. Eventually, he was recruited to become the new frontman for Blood Sweat and Tears, who had broken up after their first album.
Now, with Clayton-Thomas giving the group new life, they released a second. The self-titled record was a smash hit; it even edged out The Beatles’ Abbey Road for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. The album’s first single, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” climbed all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The second single, “Spinning Wheel,” did the very same thing. And it was during this week in 1969 that the third single, “And When I Die,” broke into the Top 10 on its way to becoming the band’s third straight single to climb all way up to No. 2.
“AND WHEN I DIE” BY BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS
By James Sandham
It’s been a busy week-and-a-half here in Toronto as the Toronto International Film Festival opened and the whole circus that accompanies it rolled into town. Between the film stars, the rabid fans and the hundreds of film screenings that just wrapped up this past Sunday, it’s been hard to think of anything but movies (sorry, “films”) lately.
Amid all of the celebrity and glamour though, there does seem to be one element of the medium that often gets overlooked – I’m talking, of course, about the soundtracks. Sometimes they can be just as important as the actors and films themselves, so this week I thought we’d take a look at some of the best music in movies.
When it comes to music in movies, Tim Burton’s 1988 comedy-horror classic Beetlejuice not only stands the test of time, but it also completely obliterates much of the competition. This is due, primarily, to the incredible sounds of Harry Belafonte. What makes the music in this movie unique – the film features Belafonte’s songs “Jump in the Line,” “Man Smart (Woman Smarter)” and, of course, “Day-O” (below) – is the integral role it plays with the action – often to iconic effect.
Harry Belafonte – “Day-O”
Bruce McDonald’s Hard Core Logo, an adaptation of Michael Turner’s novel of the same name, was released in 1996 and is generally regarded as one of the greatest movies to have come out of Canada.
Featuring Headstones vocalist Hugh Dillon as Joe Dick, a fictional punk band’s frontman, the mockumentary focuses on the self-destruction of punk rock. As such, punk music plays a huge role in the film and, even though the band is fake, the music they play is amazing.
Hard Core Logo – “Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?”
Sometimes the music in a movie is more than just the soundtrack, it’s the movie itself. As far as the concert movie genre goes, The Last Waltz has to be one of the best. This film features the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 1989 inductees, The Band, playing their last show (or at least their last show with the original members – Robbie Robertson left to pursue a solo career after this) at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The Band is accompanied by such musical luminaries as Bob Dylan, Ronnie Hawkins, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters and others. The film was directed by Martin Scorsese and is regarded as a classic.
The Band – “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”
Once is an Irish film that was released in 2007, starring musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. It tells the story of a Dublin busker (Hansard) and his struggles while performing on the street. With the love of an unnamed Czech flower seller (Irglova) who he meets while busking, his music is given the strength to shine. The song below won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Original Song. If you’d like to hear more, a live musical version of the movie is set to be staged at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre beginning in November of this year.
Once – “Falling Slowly”
Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, the film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s cult hit novel, had such a good soundtrack that it came out twice: the first album was released in July 1996, just after the movie’s debut, and then another album came out in October of the following year. Featuring a veritable who’s who in excellent music – including Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Primal Scream, New Order, Lou Reed and Pulp (below) among others – it’s no wonder they needed two releases to cover it. Awesome tunes for an awesome movie. And now… fade to black.
Pulp – “Mile End”