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Various - Nowhere Boy: Original Soundtrack

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 29 / 1 / 2010

Various - Nowhere Boy: Original Soundtrack
Label: Sony Music
Format: CD


Flawed, but fascinating double CD album which compiles together songs from the recent John Lennon biopic 'Nowhere Boy' and also some of the songs that influenced the Beatles

The premise behind this compilation is that it presents the music that influenced a young John Lennon and the other future-Beatles. It soundtracks ‘Nowhere Boy’, an excellent and moving film that takes Lennon from his first attempts at learning guitar until he makes his way to Hamburg for the first time. The key aspects of the film are Lennon’s relationship with his mother, the aunt who raised him and with Paul McCartney, the younger, posher and politer kid who shares his passion for music, and – having lost his own mother – understands Lennon’s loss. But, rock and roll – the first truly ‘teenage’ craze – plays a key role. Of course, the Beatles’ enduring influence is largely due to the fact that they widely extended the scope of popular music beyond rock ‘n’ roll. In the film, the young Lennon decries an older man’s enthusiasm for jazz, and swaps a jazz single for a record by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (available here), but by the mid-60s, his band had enthusiastically embraced a wide range of genres, in the process inventing a new one. Lennon made himself unique by twisting his surreal sense of humour into his music, and by adopting radical chord structures far removed from the simple blues patterns his 50's heroes relied on. Nevertheless, rock and roll injected a new energy into popular music, and allowed melody to be the sole focus of a song without that song becoming sappy. The complication covers two discs. The first is the film soundtrack, including some songs performed by the actors from the from the film and the second an extra selection of late-50s classics. It’s hard – listening to the music in isolation – to appreciate the impact it would have had on Lennon’s generation, and their parents. Compared to punk rock or metal, it is tame. But, of course, context is everything and, to Aunt Mimi and her equivalents, this music was entirely alien. Having said that, there are moments here that still sound sharp – not least the aforementioned Screamin’ Jay – and they are placed in context against Dickie Valentine’s slushy ‘Mr Sandman’. Watching ‘Nowhere Boy’ helps you see the impact of this music on its audience, but listening to the compilation, I was struck by how lively and fresh these songs still sound, even if they no longer sound radical. Its also clear that there have been bands much more closely influenced by this music than the Beatles, who quickly abandoned it for a new form of pop music. On disc two, there are two songs ('Roll Over Beethoven' and 'Money') that the Beatles covered, but you’ll most likely be more familiar with two that were re-jigged by the Clash ('I Fought rhe Law' and 'Brand New Cadillac'). And, compared to Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones, the direct link between this music and the Beatles is rather thin. Ultimately, this compilation is flawed because it doesn’t really tell the listener the full story about the influences of the Beatles, or about the rock ‘n’ roll scene of the time. The inclusion of so many songs recorded for the film is a mistake. When the actors are in front of your eyes, it makes sense to see them singing these songs. And the covers aren’t bad. But, is there anyone who really wants to hear a 2009 cover of ‘That’ll Be The Day’ by a pretend band over the Buddy Holly original. Even stranger is the inclusion of their covers of early-Beatles obscurities ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ and ‘Hello Little Girl’, both very minor compositions that did not merit official release when the Beatles recorded them. This compilation contains some excellent music, and demonstrates that many fans of 60s pop are being fairly lapse when not listening as carefully to its 50's precursors. However, anyone looking for a comprehensive guide to the music that inspired the Beatles in their early years would be better off seeking out the originals of the songs you can hear the real Fab Four cover on ‘Live At The BBC’ and ‘Anthology One’.

Track Listing:-
1 Jerry Lee Lewis- Wild One
2 Dickie Valentine- Mr Sandman
3 Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats- Rocket 88
4 Elvis Presley- Shake, Rattle & Roll
5 Wanda Jackson- Hard Headed Woman
6 Screamin' Jay Hawkins- I Put A Spell On You
7 The Nowhere Boys- Maggie May
8 The Nowhere Boys- That'll Be The Day
9 Eddie Bond And The Stompers- Rockin' Daddy
10 Eddie Cochran- Twenty Flight Rock
11 The Nowhere Boys- That's Alright Mama
12 The Nowhere Boys- Movin' And Groovin'
13 The Nowhere Boys- Raunchy
14 Big Mama Thornton- Hound Dog
15 Gene Vincent And The Blue Caps- Be-Bop-A-Lula
16 Aaron Johnson- Hello Little Girl
17 The Nowhere Boys- In Spite Of All The Danger
18 John Lennon- Mother
19 Chuck Berry- Roll Over Beethoven
20 Bill Haley And His Comets- Rock Around The Clock
21 Little Richard- Rip It Up
22 Elvis Presley- Baby, Let's Play House
23 Buddy Holly- Peggy Sue
24 Buddy Knox- Party Doll
25 The Bobby Fuller Four- I Fought The Law
26 Vince Taylor And His Playboys- Brand New Cadillac
27 Dale Hawkins- Susie-Q
28 Shirley & Lee- Let The Good Times Roll
29 Barrett Strong- Money (That's What I Want)
30 Fats Domino- Ain't That A Shame
31 Lloyd Price- Lawdy Miss Clawdy
32 Frankie Vaughan- These Dangerous Years
33 The Del-Vikings- Come Go With Me

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