Friday, December 01, 2006

Viva Las Vegas! Viva Brazil! Viva Terry Gilliam!

Less than a day after the post, somebody e-mailed me the correct answer (no wiki/no google I am told) to Cover Riddle #5, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Written, of course, by Hunter S. Thompson, illustrated by Ralph Steadman, and adapted by Mr. Terry Gilliam into a film starring Johnny Depp. Depp is included among the "friends" of Oasis and he plays guitar on the track if I remember correctly.

So, my top 3 Viva Las Vegas [originally by Elvis Presley] covers:

1. Dread Zeppelin - Viva Las Vegas
Most people probably don't take Dread Zeppelin as serious as I do, but I think they managed to take a novelty concept and make it work quite well. An Elvis impersonator fronting a reggae Led Zeppelin cover band... okie dokie, crazy but I like it. I think they're still around, but I basically stopped listening to their stuff after "The Fun Sessions" (quite good), a Dread Zepp cover album of classic rock songs, the first to stray from Led Zeppelin material. This is one of their best Elvis/Led Zeppelin mash-ups as Viva Las Vegas clashes with Zeppelin's Custard Pie.

2. Dead Kennedys - Viva Las Vegas
I don't really have anything to say about this, except that it's over-the-top goofy yet vaguely unnerving in a "scary clown" way. It's also really good. This cover was actually used in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as well.

3. Bruce Springsteen - Viva Las Vegas
The Boss covers The King.


And now on to the real reason for my post:
One of the highlights of this past summer's 2-month trip to Europe was getting to actually meet TERRY GILLIAM, the American member of Monty Python and one of my favourite directors, at the Filmmuseum in Brussels. Twelve Monkeys is one of my favourite all-time films, so this opportunity was just absolutely crazy for me. I just happened to be in Brussels for a couple days and I found out he was going to be previewing Tideland three days later on June 6 (6/6/06). Fate methinks? Of course, I changed my plans to go to Amsterdam and did everything in my power to go to that screening. In the month preceding this event, the Filmmuseum was having a mini-Gilliam retrospective, which included screenings of all his films and select Gilliam-approved picks. So the night before Tideland, I was lucky to be able to see the 60's Czech version of Baron Munchausen which was a clear influence on Gilliam's version.

I was actually quite bummed out on the day of the screening because all attempts to get tickets failed since it had been sold out for weeks in advance. In fact, some old Belgian ticket guy chastised me for being so stupid as to think I could actually secure a ticket. Bwahaha, I sure showed him later! Since I couldn't get into Tideland, I decided I'd go see Jabberwocky, Gilliam's first post-Python film, which was showing next door for only €2. I was hoping that Gilliam would possibly show up at Jabberwocky since the Tideland screening wasn't until later in the evening. And guess what? He did. Following Jabberwocky, Terry came out in a typically Gilliam-esque Hawaiian shirt and briefly talked about the making of the film. Actually it wasn't quite a Hawaiian shirt, but it was loud, garish, and most people would not be caught dead in it, but Terry wears these sorts of shirts very naturally. So I guess that puts him in the same company as Weird Al.

The major coup for me was after his brief talk... He was whisked away to the lobby, but I was near the front so I quickly followed and luckily he wasn't off to Tideland quite yet. I gingerly approached and asked him to sign my copy of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, which I had been carrying around Europe as train-reading material. To understand the sheer magnitude of this event, you have to understand that Neil Gaiman is my favourite author (see sidebar)and Terry Gilliam has on/off been planning to make Good Omens for years. Upon seeing what I had in my hands, he exclaimed "Oh! Look what he has." (or something to that effect) and he told me that this was his next project once the financing comes together, though hopefully this doesn't end up like another Lost in La Mancha. And that is the tale of how Terry Gilliam signed and doodled in my paperback copy of a Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett book in Belgium. Damn sweet.

To make a long story longer, I did actually weasel my way into the sold-out Tideland screening/film talk despite not speaking any Flemish (and scant French). Standing around with a lot of other unlucky schmucks who didn't have tickets, I was one of the last people to squeeze into the €30 event after a bunch of no-shows didn't claim their tickets. Bonus! One of the most memorable days of my life.

Now, Brazil covers! The details of the original are not completely known to me, but I vaguely remember that "Brazil" is the English title of an older Brazilian song, the title of which I don't know.

Some variations on Brazil from the soundtrack of Terry Gilliam's 1985 cult classic:
The National Philharmonic Orchestra with Kate Bush - Sam Lowry's 1st Dream/Brazil
The National Philharmonic Orchestra - Central Services/The Office
The National Philharmonic Orchestra - Bachianos Brazil Samba
Geoff Muldaur - Brazil

The Arcade Fire - Brazil
I just heard this cover for the first time recently... It starts off fairly normal, then some wonderfully sinister strings creep in. I love it!

8½ Souvenirs - Brazil
A band I discovered recently from their sweet cover of After You've Gone.

The Toronto All-Star Big Band - Brazil
During a street jazz festival in Toronto this summer, I saw this awesome youth orchestra crank out classic standards including this one. This album version is from an earlier incarnation of the band.

Beirut - Brazil [live]
Live accordion-based cover. I'm pretty sure I nicked this from over at Mocking Music.


Bubba said...

Major props on the Dread Zeppelin. I love those guys also, although I haven't heard anything since Fun Sessions either. Tortelvis was a vastly underrated genius.

Pie said...

good omens is such a sexy book.

noitall said...

have you ever noticed the similarity between the beginnings of these songs (brazil & viva las vegas)? maybe you already mentioned that and i missed it. this link also makes note of it:

Fongolia said...

Now that you mention it, it does seem obvious but I honestly never noticed! It's probably because I listen to more covers of Viva Las Vegas than Elvis Presley's version, in which the connection is much more pronounced. That's bizarre seeing how I put together this entire post devoted to both songs from a Terry Gilliam angle while completely missing that musical similarity. Thanks.