Tuesday, August 27, 2013

strike up the music

The opening track on the Groundhog Day soundtrack is “Weatherman” written by Harold Ramis and George Fenton. It’s “a cheesy pop number” just like Ryan Gilbey calls it in his critique of the film. Its lyrics are so on the nose, it kinda loops back around to being awesome. Lyrics like this:

Predictions show a steady low
You're feeling just the same
But seasons come and seasons go
I'll make you smile again
If you don't believe take me by the hand
Can't you feel you're warming up, yeah, I'm your weatherman

The best line, and perhaps most indicative of Phil Connors being a god, is this one: “For you I'd turn it into spring.”

Of course, the film starts with track 2, “Clouds,” a rather unassuming bit of music that dares you to get distracted away from the film. Then, of course, Bill Murray gets on screen and your attention is back.

Next comes the obvious, “I Got You Babe” followed by “Quartet No. 1 in D – The Ground Hog” which is the nice pleasant music playing in the bed and breakfast dining room (right now, as I type this, in fact).

In the movie, we move on to track 7 at this point with the “Pennsylvania Polka” but for some reason—I’ve never designed a soundtrack album so I don’t know the ins and outs of why you might put some tracks out of order—the soundtrack gives us “Take Me Round Again” and “Drunks” first.

You probably never even notice “Take Me Round Again” as it’s just playing in the background during the bowling alley scene. (Had to pause the movie for a moment to listen to the song for these lyrics—cannot find them online, which is weird.) Anyway, it’s got lines like this: “First you made me love you / I didn’t want to love you.” Easily applied to Phil Connors, but also like a lot of country songs, easily applicable to just about anyone. But, the titular phrasing in the song implies a cyclical nature to coupling, and (I hope) was chosen for the film because of that. It’s all about repetition:

Round and round and round we go
Even though my heart is breaking
Down and down and down I go
Until you take me round again

“Drunks” is the music playing while Phil’s in the car with Gus and Ralph.

There’s music playing at the bar on that first February 2nd, but it doesn’t appear to be on the soundtrack. Not sure what it is. There’s also some incidental music—like the stuff when Phil is panicking on the third morning—that isn’t on the soundtrack.

So, anyway, the soundtrack gets to “Pennsylvania Polka” after the stuff from Day 3 (“Take Me Round Again” and “Drunks”) even though we’ve heard it three times by then. “Pennsylvania Polka” was written by “America’s Polka King” Frankie Yankovic. The opening lines could be taken as a metaphor for the entire plot of Groundhog Day:

Strike up the music the band has begun
The Pennsylvania polka
Pick out your partner and join in the fun
The Pennsylvania polka

And, I think the song tells us all about those “hicks” Phil refers to.

While they're dancing
Everybody's cares are quickly gone
Sweet romancing
This goes on and on until the dawn
They're so carefree
Gay with laughter happy as can be
They stop to have a beer
Then the crowd begins to cheer
They kiss and then they start to dance again

Track 8 gets on with “You Like Boats but Not the Ocean,” music from the end of the “god” scene and right after. Then things go pretty much in order. “Phil Gets the Girl” plays when Phil is with Nancy [and when Rita comes to his room on "date night"]. And, “Phil Steals the Money” follows. We don’t get the Spaghetti Western bit…

(I should try to pull some of the incidental stuff off the movie and insert it for a more complete soundtrack.)

…or the background music from the restaurant scenes.

We get a track, “You Don’t Know Me” but not Ray Charles’ song—to repair this egregious absence, I added it (and fixed the order of other tracks) by making a Groundhog Day playlist on my iPod.

(And, that’s where I must stick that incidental music if I can grab it.)

Anyway, “You Don’t Know Me,” aside from pre-echoing a line we’ll get from Rita not long after, has some great lyrics, from the beginning (with some nice romantic lines)—

You give your hand to me
And then you say, "Hello"
And I can hardly speak
My heart is beating so

And, some indicative of Phil’s attempt to “know” Rita. As much as he works at knowing every little thing about Rita and still doesn’t know her. To be fair, the lyrics imply the singer is the potential pursuer but he’s “just a friend.” Not quite Phil and Rita territory, but still, Rita certainly doesn’t know the depth of Phil’s efforts to get with her.

And anyone can tell
You think you know me well

No you don't know the one
Who dreams of you at night
And longs to kiss your lips
And longs to hold you tight

I’m not sure the “You Don’t Know Me” that’s on the soundtrack is even in the movie, though it is pretty good, an acoustic version of the song with a guitar center.

And, wow, I just noticed as the movie has caught up to my rambling. “Phil Gets the Girl” plays over both the scene with Nancy and when Phil gets Rita into his room. Aside from the fact I must now repeat the track on my playlist—

(But, then, don’t I have to repeat “I Got You Babe” as well? That could get annoying. I mean, who wants to hear that song over and over and over?)

—I find it interesting that, musically, these scenes are given the same treatment. This supports the notion that Phil’s attempt to get Rita—however much more complicated it may be than his seduction of Nancy—is still just Phil being Phil (the same guy who had already seduced 49 locals in the original screenplay).

The next track on the soundtrack is “The Kidnap and the Quarry.” It should be obvious where this fits. The big chase scene. The music itself certainly has some energy to it, just like “Drunks” does. Interestingly (and apparently just by chance if we believe Stephen Tobolowsky’s telling of it), this is the brightest sequence in the film, done on a sunny day, while “Drunks” is at night, so the most energetic the film gets, musically is at its visually darkest but thematically fun, and it’s visually brightest but arguably thematically darkest. And, that sentence got away from me.

Incidental music as Phil kills himself—not on the soundtrack. Not even the nice bit as he dives off the Pennsylvanian Hotel.

And, then should be “You Like Boats but Not the Ocean” but the soundtrack already had that, so it’s on to “Sometimes People Just Die.” A much softer bit that actually flows pretty well right out of “You Like Boats but Not the Ocean.” The film showcases “You Like Boats but Not the Ocean” again as Rita lies sleeping beside Phil.

Then the soundtrack gives us “Eighteenth Variation from ‘Rapsodie on a Theme of Paganini.’” Not Phil’s version. That comes after, with the rest of his piano bit at the banquet.

(“18th Variation from ‘Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini’” deserves an entire entry in this blog and should probably get one soon, so let’s move on.)

Then, the soundtrack gives us a couple more tracks—“The Ice Sculpture” and “A New Day” before the big Nat King Cole finish: “Almost Like Being in Love.” I think I’ve already commented on the lyrics to this song, a la Claire Bacha, but it’s worth mentioning again. The “almost” here is a sure sign—especially coupled with Phil’s line “We’ll rent to start”—that we’re not entirely ending on a non-cynical note. Sure, it’s a happy ending. But, it is (deliberately) not perfect.

Or, we could take these lyrics to refer not to whatever may be forming between Phil and Rita—for this film does its best to not be a simple romantic comedy anyway—but to what has formed between Phil and the whole world around him. Certainly, we wouldn’t call that “being in love” but it’s close:

What a day this has been
What a rare mood I'm in
Why, it's almost like being in love

There's a smile on my face
For the whole human race
Why, it's almost like being in love

All the music of life seems to be
Like a bell that is ringing for me
And from the way that I feel
When that bell starts to peal
I would swear I was falling
I could swear I was falling
It's almost like being in love

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: I know it’s cheesy, but I’d like to hear that bell also.

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