Gilbey on Film: rock on

Follwing the release of rock parody "Get Him to the Greek", here's the Top 10 songs in the Fictional

Get Him to the Greek is a hit-and-miss affair. Jonah Hill is Aaron Green, a timid record company stooge; and Russell Brand reprises the role of Aldous Snow, the extravagant and ridiculous English rock god and lead singer of Infant Sorrow, who falls spectacularly off the wagon shortly before a high-profile comeback gig in Los Angeles. (Brand previously played Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, in which Hill was a different character -- a starstruck and possibly lovestruck waiter.) It is Aaron's job is to do whatever it takes to get Aldous from London to LA in 72 hours, although I couldn't fathom why there were only three days between the tickets going on sale and the gig itself. Oh well... It's essentially a debauched spin on My Favourite Year, with Brand in the Peter O'Toole role, and apart from the Hill/Brand rapport (they have the unforced tomfoolery of siblings) its choicest moments come in the digs at rock-star pomposity, which are no less hilarious for being so easy-peasy.

A running joke revolves around Aldous's atrocious single "African Child", with its accompanying video featuring the singer as a "white African space-Christ" and giving birth to an African baby. Those images may be freakishly funny, but the lyrics are no worse than anything in "Russians" by Sting, "Zombie" by the Cranberries or Culture Club's "The War Song" ("War, war is stupid/ And people are stupid").

There's a ripe tradition of fictional musicians conjured up within the alternative universe of cinema. If they're vivid enough, they achieve a life beyond the movie that spawned them -- think The Rutles or Spinal Tap, both of whom produced such lovingly crafted pastiches of their respective targets that the music itself acquired an autonomous worth. With his forthcoming Scott Pilgrim vs the World, released in August, Edgar Wright has taken the unusual step of assigning a different band or musician to write the music for each of the film's various fictional band; Beck, who has already scored one behind-the-scenes triumph this year by writing and producing Charlotte Gainsbourg's album IRM, has been given responsibility for the hero's band, Sex Bob-omb, so it'll be interesting to see, or rather hear, how he bends his talent to suit a group which, in the original graphic novel at least, are hopelessly undistinguished.

For now, here is my Top 10 from the Fictional Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame:

1.The Juicy Fruits: "Goodbye Eddie Goodbye" from Phantom of the Paradise (1974).
Written by the great Paul Williams (best known, cinematically speaking, for his Bugsy Malone soundtrack). Williams also appeared in Phantom..., Brian De Palma's wacko rock spin on The Phantom of the Opera, as the toxic producer Swan, the very essence of slimeball.

2. Ellen Aim (Diane Lane): "Nowhere Fast" from Streets of Fire (1984)
A big hot chunk of operatic jukebox rock by regular Meat Loaf collaborator Jim Steinman. All that's missing is a title with parentheses.

3.Steve Shorter (Paul Jones) in Privilege (1967)
The rock star as crypto-fascist instrument of the State. It's a long way from "Do-Wah-Diddy" for Manfred Mann's Paul Jones.

4. Randy Watson (Eddie Murphy) and Sexual Chocolate in Coming to America (1987).
"You can't take away my dignity..."

5.The Hong Kong Cavaliers in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)
Meet Buckaroo (Peter Weller): speed racer, physicist, brain surgeon, leader of his own band of adventurers, Team Banzai... and, of course, jazz-funk maestro.

6.Turner (Mick Jagger): "Memo from Turner" in Performance (1970)
"I like that. Turn it up." Performance was much sampled on Big Audio Dynamite's "E=MC2", the band's tribute to one of the film's directors, Nicolas Roeg. (That film also lent Happy Mondays two song titles -- "Mad Cyril" and "Performance" -- on their Bummed album.)

7. Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor): "TV Eye" in Velvet Goldmine (1998)
Curt Wild was raised by wolves, subjected to ECT, but still remained able to knock out a damn good Iggy Pop impression. See also the perfect "Ballad of Maxwell Demon", by Bowie surrogate Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).

8. The Carrie Nations (nee the Kelly Affair): "Sweet Talking Candyman" from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970).
"I'd like to strap you on sometime..."

9 The Ice Plant: "Come Pet the P.U.S.S.Y" from Fear of Black Hat (1994)
Almost-forgotten hip-hop parody. The title is an "analagram" (sic) for Political Unrest Stablises Society -- Yeah!

10. The Rutles: "Goose-Step Mama" from The Rutles All You Need is Cash (1978)
Obviously.

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Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

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My quest for an elusive can of juicy Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie ends with a Dolmio pasta sauce

In Tesco, I was struck by the presence of a paella ready-meal in the chiller cabinet.

The last time I addressed you from my bully-beef pulpit I was going to write about my all-consuming yen for a Fray Bentos individual steak and kidney pie, but as there wasn’t one to hand to mouth, I related the electronic cigarette incident at Pizza Express instead. This week, I can report that I have attempted to secure one of the meatylicious treats – and once again failed.

Mr Vairavar, who keeps the convenience store immediately beneath my flat, did have a Fray Bentos minced beef and onion pie on his shelves (and very attractively priced it was, too, at £1.99) but I knew that it wouldn’t hit the suety spot. I had already undertaken a smallish tour of supermarkets in the environs, and although I hadn’t secured the elusive pudding I still found plenty of food for thought.

In Tesco, I was struck by the presence of a paella ready-meal in the chiller cabinet. All convenience foods rely not on a specific ingredient, but rather on its absence: time has been left out, usually in favour of some artificial flavouring. I think of paella as a dish to be
prepared over hours, possibly an entire day. Cooked in the warm south, beneath the canopy of a leafy bower and before an azure sea – coaxed into full and piquant fruition by some adipose and moustachioed duenna, while almond-eyed kiddies dangle from her skirts and the menfolk sit around drinking harsh Rioja, smoking black tobacco and spitting.

Mind you, human ingenuity has been diminishing the temporal component of our cuisine for a long time now: in the Middle Ages salt was the preferred preservative, but by the 1900s tinned meat was being despatched from Fray Bentos in Uruguay and making the long voyage to dock in the British duodenum.

Also on Tesco’s shelves was an extensive selection of pasta sauces. All the usual suspects were there, including Loyd Grossman’s and several variations on the Dolmio theme. It had been a bad week for the Dolmio brand, what with Mars Food, which owns it, feeling it was incumbent on it to place a label on these sauces (and its other products) warning punters that they aren’t “everyday” foods but should be eaten only “occasionally” – say, once a week.

I stood in the aisle, my dreams macerated at my feet. Not eat a Dolmio pasta sauce every day of the week (and even twice daily)? What kind of freshly preserved, heavily sugared and salted hell was this? I have clung on for years to a vision of the good life, summed up for me by Dolmio pasta sauce adverts of the early 1990s, in which a tumultuously happy extended Neapolitan family chows down at a long table laid out under the spreading boughs of an olive tree: old crones and rosy-cheeked bambini, voluptuous girls and their blushing beaus, the entire assembly benignly surveyed by a greying paterfamilias, a role I reserved (don’t laugh) for myself.

True, I can actually count the number of times that I have eaten Dolmio pasta sauces on the fingers of one leprous hand, but as with most commodity fetishism – contra Marx – it’s the thought that counts. So, I bought a jar of Dolmio sauce and bore it home as a sort of edible time capsule; if it isn’t an “everyday” food, I reasoned, I could wait for the Apocalypse to crack off the lid.

I considered buying a jar of Loyd Grossman sauce as well. I’ve no idea if it’s any good but I met Grossman once, in his capacity as chairman of English Heritage’s blue plaque committee. He’d invited me to unveil the plaque for the short story writer H H Munro (whose nom de plume was Saki), which was to be sited on a property on Mortimer Street, London, now tenanted by a firm of accountants.

A scaffold had been put up outside so that the plaque could be mounted, but Loyd and I still had to crawl over one of the partners’ desks in order to reach it. I found him to be a warm and genuine man with no side at all – only a bottom, with which I was nose-to-tail during the desk-clambering. So, that’s the problem I have with his pasta sauces: instead of associating them with joyful consanguinity, I think of systematic pederasty. (Not, I hasten to add, because of Loyd Grossman’s bottom but because Saki had these proclivities and, according to his biographer, whom I met the same day, the writer kept a scrupulous menu of his conquests, including details of their, um, portion size.)

The next stop was Lidl – always a bizarre experience. The last branch of Lidl I’d visited was situated exactly on the death strip of the old Berlin Wall and surrounded by silver birches that looked to be precisely 25 years old. It was sheer foolishness to expect this outlet to have one of the elusive Fray Bentos individual steak and kidney puddings – its stock is discounted stuff that it has picked up cheap.

Fun fact: founded in 1930, Lidl was originally called Schwarz Foods but being referred to as “Schwarzmarkt” would have been a bit of a liability, especially once war was declared, and so the name was changed. There were no black-market puddings here but almost an entire aisle stacked with serrano hams! I would have bought one of these time-infused meats . . . but I had my Dolmio end-of-the-world to look forward to.

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism