Tag Archives: music

Thursday Tune: Johnny Cash – ‘Hurt’ (2002)

Is this the best music video of all time?

In my opinion, unequivocally yes. If you have not watched the above YouTube video, please stop reading, watch it and prepare to be moved – there’s no need to be a fan of Johnny Cash, or the exemplary ‘Nine Inch Nails’ original, but merely a human with a beating heart and brain capable of feeling emotions.This is painfully emotive music.

Done? Then let’s move on.

Before I discuss this sparkling example of a music television, I want to share a personal musing.

This is about our memories, the important ones. The experiences that are seared onto the psyche, the sort of memory you can smell, taste and re-visit as if they happened mere minutes before. Particular songs possess that magical ability to trigger those memories, and drag you back to times in your existence, good or bad, happy or sad

Some of my earliest memories revolve around being driven to lower school in my Dad’s old maroon Vauxhall Cavalier and the music that provided the soundtrack to those short journeys. If Mum was driving, a mix of ‘The B-52’s’, ‘Simply Red’ and ‘Marvin Gaye’ would boom from the tinny speakers. However, if Pop Bilko was at the wheel, ‘Pink Floyd, ‘Genesis’, ‘The Rolling Stones’, ‘The Who, and of course ,‘Johnny Cash’, served as my pre-school musical breakfast – that and a sizeable bowl of Ricicles…always Ricicles.

I was blissfully unaware that this early exposure to a rich and varied smorgasbord of singer types would result in their lyrics writing themselves in to the blueprint of my brainbox. Even today, if I hear ‘Invisible Touch’, the words reverberate effortlessly from my underappreciated vocal chords, similarly if ‘Comfortably Numb’ catches me off guard in B&Q, I am powerless to its charm and find myself chirping out the lyrics like a mental.

Essentially, there are songs for everybody that serve as emotional triggers.

“No shit Sherlock!” I hear you cry, well I don’t hear ‘you’ because ‘you’ is a computer, and computers can’t talk. Actually Siri can talk, but Siri is a disobedient, useless prick that mocks my requests for “Nandos near my location”, instead searching for “Banjo’s near my probation”.

Phew, slight digression. I recognise this blog is in risk of entering in to a massive, fiery nosedive so I’ll cut straight to the chase.

Johnny Cash’s 2002 B-side ‘Hurt’ reduces me to a blubbery husk. Here is a triple threat of revered musical royalty, a heart-breaking video and an already brilliant original song. I won’t pretend I had heard Nine Inch Nails original before hearing Cash’s interpretation, but both are flat-out outstanding. Lyrically, this is dark stuff, touching on suicide, self-harm and mortality but also in a bizarre way euphoric.

NIN’s original is a slow burner incorporating those hallmark industrial crunches and writer/vocalist Trent Reznor’s fractured, frail voice that overlays the morbid proceedings. It is excellent, but today is about Mr Cash’s interpretation.

Cash’s version is similar but manages to bring its own meaning and emotion to the lyrics. Calling this a cover seems unfair, both are unique and equally epic. Reznor penned the original whilst fighting with thoughts of suicide and depression. Cash knew his demise was near and his reading of Reznor’s lyrics gain new meaning.

They dont make ’em like him anymore.

The 2002 Cash cover was recorded and released just months before his death and it’s impossible to not consider this recording to be Johnny’s epitaph of sorts. The video, set in the now defunct ‘House of Cash’ museum, was long since derelict and coated with a layer of regretful dust. The artefacts from bygone years scattered amongst the video serve to effectively taunt the ageing singer as if to say, “that was who you once were, but this is who you are now.”

Director Mark Romanek said, “It had been closed for a long time; the place was in such a state of dereliction. That’s when I got the idea that maybe we could be extremely candid about the state of Johnny’s health, as candid as Johnny has always been in his songs.”

Stark images of rotting fruit pepper the video spliced between shots of Cash’s late wife, June Carter Cash, watching over her one true love. Tragically, she passed away three months after the video was filmed. Not a second or frame is wasted by director Romanek, each vivid image supplementing the beautiful music.

To watch Cash as a frail, clearly unhealthy and elderly man is difficult. This is underpinned by accompanying shots of a youthful Cash in vibrant Technicolor, bringing forth a jarring contrast of a vital young man that once was to the old man that now exists in his place. His eyes still flicker with the adolescent fire that once burned so furiously but are lined with salty tears as Cash depresses the keys on his piano. Each word appears to punch its way out of Cash’s mouth, the weight of the lyrics weighing heavy on his failing frame.

As the song builds and reaches a near din, I challenge you to not feel tingles. For me, this heady sensation then moves deep into my throat as an inevitable lump grows – tears sometimes follow dependent on where I am or what I am doing. As a fan of Cash, the video is tough to digest. The visual climax is deathly poignant and smacks of finality and closure. As Cash delicately closes the piano lid, we are fortunate to witness the ending to a fantastic and unforgettable career and life.

Widely recognised as the one of the best music videos of all time, Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ transports me to a particular moment in my life, one that I am loathe to reveal on this blog. Yet, my point remains, that music unlike any other medium does possess that freakish ability to trigger untapped sources of pure emotion.

R.I.P Johnny Cash – (February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003)

Below is a live video of the original version by the Nine Inch Nails, both are equally beautiful.

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Monday Movie Review: ‘American Psycho’ (2000)


“I feel my mask of sanity is about to slip…” ~ Patrick Bateman

Last week I exploded the ultra-violent ‘Fight Club’, so as a gentle change of pace (NOT – 2007 Borat reference, geddit), this week I shall peer into the twisted, sadistic and also ultra-violent mind of serial killer Patrick Bateman in Mary Harron’s 2000 film, ‘American Psycho’ – I fully acknowledge there may be a theme developing here. Yet, I make no apologies for this, primarily because I am a stubborn twat and this is blog is called The Ross Report last time I bothered to check.

But before I go balls deep into my revered movie chat, I have a darkly humourous tale to relay regarding ‘American Psycho’ and my dear old Grand-papa.

It was Christmas Day 2007, as is Bilko family tradition, Grandad Billington stays over for the yearly festive shenanigans. This particular year I graduated from University. Carelessly, I had left a copy of my dissertation perched atop the coffee table in the living room. Curiosity getting the better of him, Grandad reached over and began a merciless 60 minutes reading through my life’s work. Being the dullard I am, I paid little attention – partly due to the beer induced fug I was blissfully ensconsed within but chiefly because I was sat in a brand new gaming chair lobotomising droids in ‘Halo 2’.

My dissertation was entitled, ‘Masculine identity, violence and homoeroticism in Chuck Palahniuk’s ‘Fight Club’ and Bret Easton Ellis’s ‘American Psycho’. Innocuous enough right? Well, kinda…

The dissertation.

As I stared blankly at the TV, I happily mused,”Oh, Grandad, what a good sport you are, reading my dissertation.”

After 30 seconds passed, the beer delay complete, my thoughts violently evolved and transformed into, “OH FUCK, GRANDAD PLEASE STOP READING THE DISSERTATION.”

For any mortal who has delved into Bret Easton Ellis’s original novel they will clearly understand the point I am getting at here, however if you are unitiated, the novel details a sociopathic yuppie killer who revels in violence, sex and his materialistic cravings. All three are interspersed with each other leading to jaunty little passages such as this:

“I tried to make meat loaf out of the girl but it becomes too frustrating a task and instead I spend the afternoon smearing her meat all over the walls, chewing on strips of skin I ripped from her body”.

And…

“I want you to clean your vagina. Sabrina (a call girl he has employed), dont just look at it, EAT IT!”

Both of which were quoted in my dissertation, amongst other filth.

Just as quickly as the blood rushed to my cheeks it dissipated from Grandad’s, and never again will I be that innocent little scamp of grandson he once knew.

Story time over.

Mary Harron’s film does a very decent job of translating Easton Ellis’s words to celluloid. The narrative style is painfully descriptive and at times incredibly monotone in it’s delivery – yet this is not a criticism in any way, as it is clearly intended to be read that way by Easton Ellis. However to truly embrace the character of ‘Bateman’ and to buy into the story, the novel requires patience. The film however dilutes this somewhat and focuses on several gory set pieces and also, I would argue, a softening of ‘Bateman’s’ character. Understandable considering this is a Hollywood re-imagining but still it is disappointing having read the novel beforehand.

The entire film is dipped in satire and retains a jet black humour throughout. Whilst it is memorable for Christian Bale’s performance as the lead, dancing to ‘Huey Lewis and the News’ as he stisfies his nocturnal bloodlust or sprinting maniacally around his apartment complex covered in claret, the film attempts to explode themes of homoeroticism and materialism. Partly it is succesful, the styling is faithful to the era and many of the memorable ‘rant’ passages from the novel find their way into the film. I wont go into further detail with regard to the themes (I did that in my dissertation and lost a head of hair as a result) but they are clear and evident should you choose to read the novel or watch the film. I would argue that those themes are not explored deeply enough in the movie though.

As for Mr Bale, this is career defining fayre. Before he battled Bane or larked about with The Joker, Bale logged the best performance of his career as ‘Bateman’. He is equal parts frightening, unhinged and hilarious.

A brilliant performance is ordinarily measured by whether you can take your eyes off of the actor – I could not. Even after countless re-watches, it is Bale I come back for. An ongoing joke between my friends references a particuar scene in the movie where ‘Bateman’ is porking one of his many prostitutes before shooting a glance at his wall-length mirror and flexing a ripped bicep. Hilarious? Of course, but it is also one of many brave, ultra confidence scenes performed by a then fairly unknown actor.

Harron captures the mood and vapidity of the 1980’s brilliantly. The clothes, music and yuppie culture are dialed up almost to a point of lampooning but do the job of re-creating the transparent atmosphere of Easton Ellis’s narrative. Great support is found in Reese Witherspoon as ‘Bateman’s’ on/off fiance and Jared Leto (who really needs to pack in this singing lark and get back to acting) as ‘Paul Allen’, ‘Bateman’s’ quasi-nemesis.

This is not a perfect film by any means, chiefly due to it’s heavy-handedness at times and glossing over of the true themes of the novel, but it is still a great watch, and worth seeing purely for Bale’s breakthrough performance.

However, if you are hunting for the true Psycho experience, get the book, brace yourself and enter the brilliant but fubar’ed mind of Bret Easton Ellis. Just dont lend it to my grandad when you’re done.

This is a prime taster of what to expect:

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