SO WE PUT IT ON A HORSE CALLED “IT’S GRIM UP NORTH”
Having just acquired Das Capital by Luke Haines, a reappraisal of his career as the leader of The Auteurs, rerecording a clutch of their songs with an orchestra behind him (and tossing out a few new ones), I have listened to it three times straight through (running on with this sentence). On my second go-around, I was walking the streets and riding the bus. The world blocked out as it so rightly is when one travels with music and headphones, I began to envision a grand musical, the sort of recasting of an artistic oeuvre that is so popular these days. It would feature European terrorists (a hate socialist collective), serial killers, and cruel and obsessive lovers—as well as a romantic streak.
The initial inspiration came from the secret introduction track—an overture, really, a combination of nine Haines songs, smashed together in one explosion of strings in under five minutes. Were this a musical, these would be the themes that would reoccur over the next 90 minutes, the conductor training his audience on what to listen for. As it is, these songs do not appear on Das Capital--but they should, and in our scenario there will be spaces for them. Just you wait.
After the overture, we meet our Hero, as he strolls onto the stage singing “How Could I Be Wrong?” He is at his lowest ebb. Nothing has worked for him, he is alone, he can’t imagine that he has misjudged life so completely. The city swirls around him, a timeless London or somewhere else vaguely European. There are lovers and other denizens of the night to tease him with their happiness. He happens into a club where he stops to watch the stage show. There he sees the Showgirl, and the song of the same name (“Showgirl”) becomes her theme. Time stops, the scenario of the lyrics plays out as he imagines what their future life will be like today. Perhaps she sings a bit of it, too, answering him.
When time returns, our Hero decides to meet the Showgirl, only to discover that she is the girlfriend of Rodolfo, a ringleader of a local offshoot of a notorious terrorist group, Baader Meinhof (a real group, which Haines wrote about on his side project of the same name, the best funk soundtrack to a '70s espionage film never made). They block our hero from his new love, singing their self-titled anthem. He answers with “Lenny Valentino,” adopting the name of a well-known tough guy who all believed dead. It’s a dangerous move, but the collective buys it for now. Hero will have to prove himself as Lenny. Showgirl knows he is lying, of course, and she is touched by his reckless bravery. “Starstruck” becomes her story, of how she grew up destined for the stage, and the chorus holds two meanings—how she is starstruck by Hero’s love for her (“starstruck over you, I’m struck dumb by you”), as well as the shambles her career has become (“I struck out my luck, I was always starstruck”). This will become their lovers' theme, and the lyrics will intertwine as they sing to each other throughout.
We break from the main scene to discover the truth about Rodolfo. As he sings “Satan Wants Me,” we learn that this is a being of true evil. He is more than a terrorist, he is not a political activist—as he stalks a child, we learn he is a killer. Before he can take another life, though, the locals take to the streets. One of them, distraught, sings “Unsolved Child Murder,” letting us in on the horror that has struck the city. Kids are disappearing, "presumed dead." It’s ruined everyone’s life. Perhaps Rodolfo can even join in on this, singing “sod this town and people’s pity, let’s get on with the nitty gritty,” where the song peaks, nearly exposing himself as the killer.
Back to Hero, adopting his role as Lenny. He performs “Junk Shop Clothes,” worried that his basic disguise will not be enough to protect him, that they will figure him out. (The lines “Lenny Bruce never walked/ In a dead man’s shoes/ Even for one night” really takes on some great meaning here.) There isn’t long to ponder, though, as his musings are overtaken by the narrative detailing the society our political terrorists are about to terrorize, “The Mitford Sisters,” begins to unfold.
Here the actual narrative of the Das Capital CD begins to unravel. I am not sure how “Bugger Bognor” would really fit in, and that is the only song before the finale—and thus not enough time to show the terrorist attack, expose Rodolfo, or resolve the romance. I imagine some of the sugary sweet elements of “The Rubettes” could be used for the love story (and perhaps how far Hero has gone from innocence), as well as “Housebreaker” and even “The Upper Classes” for part of the attack (though the latter may be too much coupled with “The Mitford Sisters”), and I envision a whole thing where Rodolfo goes in a murderous frenzy for “Back With the Killer Again” only to be taken down by the children themselves during “Kids Issue.” That takes up over half of the overture tunes, and does lead us to the big finish—“Future Generation.” With Rodolfo gone and Baader Meinhof crushed, Hero points the way to a brighter day.
Das Capital: The Musical. Just a weird idea. Certainly not too perverse for Haines, is it?
Quick note on a previous post: I misspelled Tarkovsky when discussing The Sacrifice, but only because it is misspelled on the DVD cover. Actually, it is and it isn’t. At the top of the cover, it’s right, but it’s wrong at the bottom. I checked the bottom when writing. Sorry. (Of course, no one noticed, or at least no one said anything.)
Current Soundtrack: Luke Haines & The Auteurs, Das Capital for the fourth time