Ok, welcome to Round Three of this barnstorming battle between movie posters and album covers. Or, more accurately put: that slightly awkward middle bit where you wait for me to get a bit of a shift on, and I try to summon up a half-baked joke or three to keep us all amused. (Finger’s crossed Jon’ll fix it.)
Here’s where 16 gets chipped away to eight.
Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here beats Badlands (1973)
Damn you, innate sense of fair play! My heart says Badlands, but my head says different. What a fierce dilemma – two irresistible forces pulling me apart at the seams and rocking me to my very core (oh, that actually feels quite nice…) Badlands has a car, a boy, a girl, and a gun (only the last two of which Jean-Luc Godard once said you need to make a movie), and has a spot-on capsule summary of the plot at the top (“…In 1959, she watched while he killed a lot of people.”) Nevertheless, at the risk of repeating myself, the Pink Floyd cover includes a man on fire. That kind of thing is pretty cool, isn’t it?
Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run beats The Clash’s London Calling
Here’s the thing. Even if you’re howl-at-the-moon crazy enough not to love both these albums with the hot intensity of a schoolgirl watching One Direction on TV, you’d still have to acknowledge the undisputed place they take at the top-table of album cover excellence. (Don’t fuck with me on this, it’s true.) So choosing between them ain’t exactly easy. My tie-breaker has to do with subtext (yeah, I know, bear with me…). The Clash show us that rousing part of rock and roll that is raw, raucous, and wild. Hedonism. The boss, on the other hand, shares something else that’s equally vital, but maybe, just maybe, a touch tougher to acknowledge. The whole showy business also depends on a little thing called “friendship.” Hats off to that.
Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen… beats Patti Smith’s Horses
Well, for one thing, Ladies and Gentlemen…, the album, is one of my all-time favourite records of 1997. Whereas Horses is miles off the pace in the best album of ’75 stakes. (Smith recklessly releasing it in the same year as Blood on the Tracks, Born to Run, Physical Graffiti, Wish You Were Here, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, A Night at the Opera, Toys in the Attic…) And, for another, when it gets right down to it, the latter could feasibly be confused for a random snapshot of a random person standing against a wall. Even if the picture was taken by hipster photographer and pal of Andy Warhol Robert Mapplethorpe.
Manhattan (1979) beats Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica
Fish-face versus Gershwin, love, and the city that never sleeps (says the amazing Woody Allen documentary, Woody Allen: A Documentary, this shot was captured early – to get the right kind of light and to avoid a surfeit of passers-by). It has to be Manhattan. If only for so successfully romanticizing a city that always smells of trash. (If you disagree, it can only be because you live there and don’t notice anymore!)
Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew beats Trainspotting (1996)
Not exactly its fault, I admit, but Trainspotting doesn’t quite have the same enigmatic cool it used to. It’s become too familiar – almost to the point you forget its iconic line-up is mostly made up of heroine addicts. (Still Danny Boyle’s best film, of course.) Bitches Brew, however, never stops looking fantastically freaky. And the bit at the very top, in tiny writing, says “Directions in music by Miles Davis.” Fucking-A, Pop Idol and co: put that in your bowl of runny shit and drink it.
The Cameraman (1928) beats Sun Ra’s Space is the Place
Space might well be the place, Sun Ra, but if we have to go there with you I’m not altogether sure it won’t also be a bit like a terrifying acid trip. No question, your album is a work of maverick genius if ever there was one. But you, sir, are surely a tad on the comprehensively deranged side of things. For instance, you seem to be wearing the kind of outfit that other, non-jazz maestros might plausibly plump for were they to be in the business of ceremonially slaughtering virgins. Sometimes, you know, you just want to watch someone falling over a lot. Instead.
North by Northwest (1959) beats Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures
Another mighty tough call this one – at least in part because the promoters of North by Northwest lacked the singular conviction of Joy Division. Ready to pack ’em in at the local picture-house, they had at their disposal the boundlessly brilliant poster I’m including in this little competition. And yet… they all also dicked around with this –
and this –
None of which are half as good, and one of which greedily combines crop-dusting plane and Mount Rushmore to the (difficult to achieve) detriment of both. Hey ho. I guess if you’re gonna shoot one out of four, you might as well make the ‘one’ magnificent.
Il Conformista (1970) beats The Exorcist (1973)
Just in case your drawing a blank, let me bring you up to speed as objectively as possible. Here goes: Il Conformista is, out of all films ever made, the one with the best cinematography. This poster makes me think of that and therefore has to win. As has been said many times before, you can’t argue with facts. Nor, for that matter, two pretty ladies dancing.
Holy mackerel, suddenly it’s all square at four-apiece. That literally means it literally couldn’t be any closer.
Here’s Round Three:
Separating some of these could basically have been one of the twelve tasks of Hercules. Sure we can all agree on that. Nevertheless, my friends, I will do exactly that. And I will do it tomorrow. Till then…