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Whenever I hear this piece of music, I’m transported back to my childhood in the 1970s every bit as much as when I hear Get It On, All the Young Dudes or Rebel Rebel. Those were all singles that I’d buy, hear on the radio several times every day and see performed on Top of the Pops.

Funky Fanfare by Keith Mansfield wasn’t available to buy at my local Woolworths or any other record selling outlet. It wasn’t released as a single. I never heard it once on the radio and never saw it being performed on Top of the Pops.

I did though hear it – or, more accurately, an eighteen second clip of it – often enough on visits to the cinema, usually accompanied by the sound of popcorn being munched and Kia-Ora slurped. Even today, if I listen to it, it brings up in my mind’s eye that red, pink, orange, green and black swirling psychedelic background and animated white text that I must have seen hundreds of times as I’d wait expectantly to watch some double bill of kung fu flicks or American B-movies in my local – and long demolished – Caledonian cinema, with plumes of cigarette smoke rising from the right-hand (smoking) side of the theatre. Yes, the cost of admission and snacks was reasonable, and you often got two films for the price of one, but there were negatives about the film-going experience back then.

I had no idea who was behind the track and hadn’t yet heard the term ‘library music’. I’m still no expert on the subject but I do now know that this was a parallel musical universe where anonymous tracks were produced by work-for-hire musicians as a cheaper alternative to hiring a composer or using pre-existing music by known artists who owned the copyright to their tunes.

This suited many film production companies and TV and radio shows, but I reckon it’s safe to say that nobody chose to work in the field of library music (sometimes also referred too as stock music) to achieve fame and fortune. And not only that, their music could be used in some godawful movie in a way that its composer considered inappropriate.

These composers could surely never have imagined that some of this work would live on and still be appreciated decades after being recorded.

Albums of this speculative music were only ever pressed in very limited quantities to be sent off directly to potential clients. Nowadays these are prized possessions for crate digging enthusiasts and prices on eBay are soaring. Songs have been sampled by big name artsts. Albums have been compiled by companies like Trunk and Recur. A documentary on the subject is on its way and books written about it, such as David Hollander’s Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music. Such was that book’s success that an album has recently been released to accompany it on Anthology Recordings.

It kicks off with Funky Fanfare, which, if you’re younger than me you might recognise as being one of the few tracks be used in more than one film by Quentin Tarantino. In Kill Bill: Volume 1, it’s heard just after the appropriation of the Shaw Brothers’ SB logo against the frosted glass backdrop. It also opens Death Proof.

Before Keith Mansfield had forged his reputation in British library music circles, he had worked largely as an arranger, working with everyone from Robert Plant’s first band Listen to Roy Harper and Dusty Springfield.

keith mansfield

He also issued material available to the public such as his All You Need is Keith Mansfield album from 1968. This mainly featured his covers of big hits of the day like All You Need is Love and A Whiter Shade of Pale but also a few of his own compositions, Soul Thing and Boogaloo, the former being an early, less polished version of the track that became Funky Fanfare.

Mansfield might never have appeared on Top of the Pops in person, but he did have a hand in creating hits that were showcased on that high-profile programme.

In January 1968, sales of The Love Affair’s second single Everlasting Love shot through the roof. This later proved a little controversial as the band, apart from singer Steve Ellis, didn’t play on the record and later admitted this live on TV. Instead, Ellis sang along with a backing track supplied by the Keith Mansfield Orchestra.

The tune went on to become a British #1 and it wasn’t to be Mansfield’s last involvement with a chart-topper.

He also arranged Marmalade’s take on a Beatles’ track from the White Album, Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da. This became Britain’s first new number one of 1969. It isn’t a favourite of mine so, instead, here’s an earlier Mansfield arranged track, Marmalade’s breakthrough single Lovin’ Things:

Sadly, Marmalade singer and guitarist Dean Ford passed away on the final day of 2018, due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Dean Ford (born Thomas McAleese) 5 September 1946 – 31 December 2018.

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Morvern Callar (Soundtrack Sundays)

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Morvern Callar Soundtrack

Morvern Callar (2002)

After naming You Were Never Really Here as my favourite film of 2018, I thought I’d start 2019 taking a look at another Lynne Ramsay film, her second feature film Morvern Callar, in particular, the music utilised in the course of its 93 minutes run time.

Already known for her use of professional and non-professional actors, this was the first time Ramsay had worked with someone with a marketable reputation, Samantha Morton having recently worked with Woody Allen on Sweet and Lowdown and with Steven Spielberg on Minority Report.

In Scotland at least, some critics did criticise the fact that Morton was English and spoke with an English accent – one of a number of changes from the novel by Alan Warner – although Morvern Callar had been brought up as a foster child (as had Morton).

And talking of the 1995 novel, a buzz had been building up about it before it had even been published. Warner had a number of connections with Irvine Welsh. Occasional drinking buddies, they’d shared the stage at many readings and the pages of the many of the same litzines. Both had been featured in the Rebel Inc. anthology Children of Albion Rovers and Sceptre’s Disco Biscuits in 1997. And both their debut novels were made into movies by up-and-coming filmmakers.

Some in the media even began touting Ramsay’s film along the lines of the next Trainspotting, or the female Trainspotting. I’m not sure if any of the folk responsible for this hype had ever read Warner’s novel.

They were very different books, and they would be very different kinds of film. Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting begins with a frenetic chase down Edinburgh’s Princes Street with Iggy Pop’s visceral Lust for Life accompanying the action together with Mark Renton’s Choose Life monologue. Morvern Callar starts with a near static female lying on a floor and caressing the back, bloodied wrist and hand of a man who we will soon discover is her dead boyfriend. Lights from a Christmas tree blink on and off, her face in darkness every few seconds. The only noise a whirring hum from the CPU fan of her computer, which displays a READ ME message on its screen.

Lynne Ramsay's Morvern Callar

This film is nowhere near as plot-heavy as Boyle’s film although, despite claims to the contrary, there is a storyline to Morvern Callar, albeit it is more of what Ramsay has called a ‘psychological journey’.

As Warner warned The List just before its premiere: ‘The first twenty minutes of the film are brutal; the seats’ll be snapping up at Cannes, I tell you. I really don’t see it doing a Billy Elliot; it’s too good a film.’

Morvern Callar is the story of a young Oban – although that town is never named in either the novel or film – supermarket worker who prints off a manuscript of her dead partner’s novel and sends it off to a publishing firm. But not before she deletes his name and adds her own.

She also empties his bank account and blows a chunk of the cash on visiting a tacky resort on the south coast of Spain with her best pal Lanna. But Morvern infuriates live for the moment Lanna with her distinct lack of any ‘mad for it’ hedonism once there. Indeed, it’s not too long before she decides that exploring the hinterlands of Almeria might be a more rewarding way to spend her time than with young lager-lager-lager Brits on tour.

Morton does a fantastic job portraying Morvern’s interior conflict throughout all this. The fact that she reveals so little only encourages viewers to concentrate harder in attempting to read her thoughts. Is she grief stricken and vulnerable? Or an amoral chancer? Or a bit of both?

I’ll go for the latter, but it’s hard to be sure. Ramsay has never been a director to offer everything up on a plate to audiences. Morvern Callar is a memorable character, but she’s far too inward, too elusive to ever dent the consciousness of a generation in the way Mark Renton, Begbie, Spud and Sick Boy managed to.

Music did play a big part in both films, though. Trainspotting featured a mainly indie and dance music soundtrack with a lot of big names like Blur, New Order and Underworld, while Morvern Callar, favours more generally left-field sounds, drawing heavily on the catalogue of the Warp label’s catalogue (Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin and Broadcast) along with German experimentalists Can and their bassist Holger Czukay – who Warner had dedicated his novel to – in a couple of solo outings. These are among the acts collected in the mix-tape cassette labelled ‘Music For You’ that her partner has left for her.

We’re also treated to the skewed pop sensibility of Stereolab, some Ween (the one track that fails to work for me) and even a dash of Gamelan drumming.

Some older acts, who the hipsters of the day would have approved of, are additionally thrown into the mix. The Velvet Underground’s perky oddity I’m Sticking With You is used to audacious effect (I won’t spoil it for you but just mention that the song’s title isn’t literally appropriate for the action). Reggae pioneer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry makes an appearance as does my favourite ever duet, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s Some Velvet Morning, which masterfully soundtracks Morvern in slow-motion, as she makes her way to the fruit and veg counter where she’s about to start a shift.

I’ve featured this one on here before, where I described it as ‘a hypnotic and surreal masterpiece that’s even a little disorientating and also to my mind a lot more psychedelic than anything the likes of The Grateful Dead ever recorded.’

The ending of the film, not surprisingly, is open ended with Morvern, seemingly alone in a noisy club.

Has she returned to Spain? Or is she still in Scotland? Could this even be a flashback? Again, Ramsay lets the viewer work this out for themselves.

In an echo of the opening scene, strobe lights flash across her face. Instead of any dance music, though, we hear the sun-drenched harmonies of The Mama and Papas’ Dedicated to the One I Love, which she listens to on her Walkman. Why? I have no idea but since it’s one of those songs that always make me feel happy I sense it likely suggests some kind of optimistic future for the character.

Sadly this track isn’t part of the soundtrack album issued by Warp and sadly too, the sync on the video below is slightly out here but the song is so glorious that I couldn’t resist including it here:

Quentin Tarantino has spoken recently of limiting himself to only ever directing ten movies. He’s currently working on his ninth.

Ramsay has made four full length features, her first Ratcatcher, in 1999. I would dearly love if she was more prolific but her oeuvre is so exceptionally consistent that I can’t complain. Quality over quantity and all that.

Hopefully, she’ll make more than ten films eventually although to do so she might require a similar kind of career longevity to Agnès Varda, who’s been making films since the mid-1950s and still going strong.

If you want to find out more about Alan Warner’s book Can’s Tago Mago, click here.