The Soundtrack To High Fidelity

Author: Bruce Jenkins   Date Posted:9 October 2018 

The Soundtrack to High Fidelity

What are your Top 5 all-time favourite Soundtrack compilation albums?

Could be a great discussion starter for a Friday evening kick-back session, but in this instance we’re referencing the soundtrack for High Fidelity, the film based on Nick Hornby’s 1995 book.

High Fidelity, you may recall, is the story of record shop owner Rob Gordon (John Cusack) and his struggle to grow into an adult relationship. It is also about vinyl obsession and music geekiness. And passion. And rock one-upmanship. And bloody good music.

In a film (and book) that regularly uses ‘Name your Top Five…’ for comic effect, you’d better get your own soundtrack songs spot on, right?

The 2 LP set that is the High Fidelity OST (released in 2000) does just that.

From the cover homage to A Hard Day’s Night through to the inclusion of Jack Black singing Marvin Gaye, this soundtrack demonstrates that a film compilation can stand on its own two feet and entertain extravagantly. It manages to be both fun (“Who loves the sun” by the Velvet Underground) and poignant (Dylan’s “Most of the time”), and whilst staying consistently in the zone of tuneful melancholy (as does Cusack’s character in the film), packs in quite a variety of artists. From Love (a cut from their lesser known Full Sail album) to Stereolab (the oddly named but groovelicious “Lo Boob Oscillator” from early compilation Refried Ectoplasm) there is plenty to choose from and enjoy. Only one track struck a dud note for this listener (Royal Trux seemed way out of place) and that is an excellent hit rate for a compilation.

Glancing at the artists, you’d think the songs cover pretty much every decade from the sixties to the turn of the century. And this is true: every decade is represented. What is fascinating is to look at the years more closely. If we divide it up, still in ten-year lots but from mid-decade to mid-decade, this is the tally of tracks for each period:

1965—1974             6 tracks

1975—1984             1 track

1985—1994             1 track

1995—2000             7 tracks

So 87% of the material comes from either the mid-60s to mid-70s or the last five years of the twentieth century. Is that because the Rob, the story’s protagonist, was born around 1965? Were the filmmakers trying to catch both a thirty-something audience and Boomers? Does it matter? Probably not, but it’s just the sort of thing Rob Gordon and his chums at Championship Vinyl would argue about all week. And I know just the soundtrack to play while they bicker. Cue up side one, track one, “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators!

 

© Bruce Jenkins 2018

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