Have you ever heard a song–in a movie, during a movie trailer, on the radio–and immediately you were hooked? Like, WHAT IS THAT SONG sort of hooked? Of course, you remember what you can of the lyrics and quickly Google them, find the tune, download it, listen to it eight hundred times over. Yep, that’s how it’s done.
Well, have you ever had that incessant itch for WHAT IS THAT SONG (yes, it’s necessary to be in all CAPS, trust me), only you can’t find the song to save your life. This happened to me in 2004. I literally just barely figured out what the song was. So let’s do this Tuesday Tunes, yo.
Name That Blues Tune
So, now 13-years ago, I watched Metropolis for the first time. This was a Japanese anime feature film that was loosely based on the 1949 manga of the same name, which was inspired by the 1927 silent film.
(Sideline tidbit, but the author of the manga is actually the same guy who authored Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka. What can I say? He digs robots.)
The film uses robots and humans to discuss a theme of class struggle in a dystopian future. Robots are viewed as the lowest form of society, and the lower human class blames them for taking their jobs. During the celebration for the newly constructed massive skyscraper called the Ziggurat, private detective Shunsaku Ban and his nephew, Kenichi, travel to Metropolis to arrest a mad scientist wanted for organ trafficking.
When they come upon the exploded wreckage of what used to be the scientist’s lab, they find a girl who, unbeknownst to them, is a robot, Tima. Tima and Kenichi become separated from Shunsaku Ban, dropping into the sewers, and in their journey back to the street level they are hunted by a band of anti-robot crusaders.
Metropolis is a fantastic movie on its own, but the music is what really hooked me. Composed by Toshiyuki Honda, the soundtrack consists mainly of New Orleans-style jazz music and instrumental score. It is beautiful and fits the imagery of the film perfectly. The epic finale scene uses Ray Charle’s, “I Can’t Stop Loving You” so perfectly that it sort of makes your cry. I think that’s what most people remember from watching Metropolis.
Now, for me, I loved another scene the most. There’s a certain scene of Tima sitting on a rooftop, listening to a radio in her hand. It’s sort of this mega-artsy-symbolism scene, so it’s incredibly beautiful and, in my mind, displays the innocence of Tima who herself is completely unaware that she is not human.
The song playing during this scene was my WHAT IS THIS SONG moment in Metropolis.
Honestly, looking at where I found the information now (no joke, it’s literally written out in the Wikipedia article), I don’t have any idea what took me so long to find it.
I think it’s due to the fact that the song, titled “St. James Infirmary”, was sung by a Japanese artist, Atsuki Kimura. In his rendition, it made it difficult to hear certain lyrics correctly. Where he was saying “white table”, I heard “white devil”. I also didn’t understand that he was saying, “St. James Infirmary”–if I had hear that, I would’ve found this song SEVERAL years sooner.
Maybe. Considering I didn’t figure out to look at the soundtrack listing until just now, maybe not?
Of course, this isn’t really Kimura’s fault, blues is difficult to pull off without having to worry about pronunciation. And dude, his rendition of “St. James Infirmary” is beautiful.
Is there a song that you could never figure out what it was?