Yesterday was so miserable and unpleasant I was feeling like that Joe Bftsplk guy in Li’l Abner that had the rain cloud over him all the time.
Then I remembered– it was Sucksgiving Eve. So of course it would be a crappy day.
Sucksgiving is a holiday– more properly, an anti-holiday– created years ago right here at CBR by my old friends Tim Morrison and Jim MacQuarrie. It’s always on November 22nd, the anniversary of the Kennedy shooting and the birthday of Rodney Dangerfield, because the assassination sucked and Dangerfield gets no respect. You can read more about it here.
There’s no point in carrying on about why yesterday sucked so hard. Suffice it to say that I was on a work-related errand of dubious viability that involved trying to drive through Seattle during rush hour in the sheeting rain, dodging every wild-eyed motorist trying to get away from work early for the weekend, all the while praying that the firm I was endeavoring to reach wouldn’t be closed by the time I got there, and of course they were. There was a lot of cursing and wishing ill upon the other drivers on the road, most of whom have apparently never experienced weather. And so on. I’m sure you’ve had days like that.
So when I finally got home, I didn’t have the energy left to even work up a good online rant about it. Especially when I sat down at the computer and saw my news feed was filled with stories about public figures behaving in such a way that they deserved the kind of what-the-hell-were-you-THINKING-you-DUMBASS? head smack you see on NCIS all the time.
It was the kind of day that felt like everyone in the world deserved a head-slap, including me for being fool enough to get out of bed that morning.
Those are the days when it’s time to break out the cinematic mayhem. If I can’t slap the stupid out of people, well, I can at least watch it happen.
I already wrote about the therapeutic value of fictional violence here a couple of months ago. But I was having kind of a loose conversation about it online with our own Pol Rua while I was goofing off on YouTube looking at clips, and I suddenly realized something else about that particular variety of comfort food.
A lot of it, for me, is the music.
There’s something about that pounding bass-n-bongos thing you used to get in action-movie and TV show soundtracks that is, for me, inexplicably comforting. It always says to me, oh, you are getting yours now, buddy. JUSTICE IS COMING.
My love for that kind of soundtrack probably started with the old Alex Toth superhero cartoons from Hanna-Barbera. Like this groovy tune from the original Space Ghost.
Pol reminded me that there was no theme music that promised adventure more than the opening credits of Jonny Quest.
That’s another one I never get tired of.
There was a lot of that in the live-action stuff too. I grew up in the swinging sixties when spy music was a HUGE thing. And it was all built on that same bass rhythm. Like this one– Run Spy Run from The Man from UNCLE.
And of course Mission: Impossible. In our house we’re especially partial to the fifth season remix of the theme… a little nastier, a little jazzier.
Truthfully, we just like the fifth season anyway… or, as we call it in our home, Groovy Mission Impossible with Pimpin’ Ascot Spock.
Whenever I put on the DVDs I still can feel the echo of the huge adrenaline rush I got at age twelve when I first saw Steve Austin doing his bionic thing on The Six Million Dollar Man, and the music was a big part of that. The original theme by Dusty Springfield was a horrible embarrassment, but when Oliver Nelson redid everything for the hourlong version of the show, it was amazing. Here’s the full version of that theme, as shown in this clip from the first episode of that show I ever saw, “Population: Zero.”
One more from Mr. Nelson– the badass theme he did for this fight scene with Monte Markham, the deranged Seven Million Dollar Man.
As Mr. Markham says, “It’s WILD!” You’ll note that it’s once again all about the bass line and the bongos. Man, I just love that. I can’t help it… to me that’s what superhero action music sounds like.
Movies too– I think a lot of the power of the Baseball Furies fight in The Warriors comes from the music.
It’s the kind of thing I hear in my head when I read comics, even. I’m absolutely convinced that pounding jazz with a heavy bass line is what should be playing when Manhunter is tearing up a roomful of clones….
…or when Shang-Chi and Shen Kuei throw down…
…and of course when it’s Batman knocking around a roomful of guys.
Pity you don’t see this sort of thing much any more. As TV shows get shorter and more commercial breaks are inserted, many producers have dispensed with cool opening credits sequences (and the attendant theme music) entirely. In an effort to get some of those storytelling minutes back, these days it’s usually just a title card and a blare of horns or something, with the credits running as a crawl under the first few minutes of the actual show. Moreover, the shows themselves tend to run less music overall. And movies as well; since John Williams brought it back with Star Wars and Superman, films tend to be much more orchestral and classical in the soundtrack department these days.
It’s weird– as fight scene choreography has itself improved, the jazz music that used to feel so integral to it has largely disappeared. I still enjoy the staged mayhem on shows like Arrow or Agents of SHIELD, but I miss the music that would have played beneath those scenes back in the day. Fight scenes are fun, but fight scenes with jazz are the BEST. And now they’re gone.
Which kinda sucks. But then, that’s Sucksgiving for you.
See you next week.
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