On February 23, 1996, when the UK’s best-selling single was Babylon Zoo’s “Spaceman”, British theaters released Trainspotting, the second film by Danny Boyle. In the following weeks, while the place in the charts of “Spaceman” was being taken da “Don’t Look Back in Anger” degli Oasis, “How Deep is Your Love” dei Take That e “Firestarter” dei Prodigy, Trainspotting it went through the Cannes Film Festival, and then was released in the rest of the world. And within months, as the world got to know the Spice Girls, the film went on to gross over $ 70 million, roughly thirty times what it had cost.
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Based on a three-year-old novel by the Scottish writer Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting He got noticed for a lot of things: one was certainly his music. Already from its first scene, with the escape through the streets of Edinburgh of two heroin addicted shoplifters accompanied by “Lust for Life” by Iggy Pop, released about twenty years earlier.
A song that, among other things, had already been heard in the last seconds of the teaser trailer for Trainspotting, a Scottish slang term with many meanings: the literal “watching trains” but also being obsessed with something or addicted to heroin.
In recounting the complicated, often dramatic but sometimes funny stories of his drug addicted protagonists Rent Boy, Spud, Sick Boy, and Tommy, Boyle studied a soundtrack that became one of the most famous of the nineties. There were among others “Deep Blue Day” by Brian Eno, two different “Temptation” (by Heaven 17 and New Order), a cover of “Atomic” by Sleeper, “Sing” by Blur, “Mile End” by Pulp, Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” and Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”, famously associated with heroin, and chosen as background music for an overdose.
The song used in the ending, “Born Slippy .NUXX” by Underworld, became one of the most famous of the decade thanks to Trainspotting. It accompanies Rent Boy’s decision to betray his friends, grows in intensity as he does and stays until the end, when he smiles and retracts his mission statement at the beginning of the film, up to the credits (on the notes of ” Closet Romantic ”by Damon Albarn).
Come he wrote NME a few years ago, «the soundtrack of Trainspotting it was a great success, even apart from the film, for how he managed to bring together the British “club culture” of Leftfield and Bedrock, the counterculture of seventies rock and the emerging scene made up of bands like Blur and Elastica ». Second GQ, “The members of the ‘britpop generation’ knew they wanted to see the film even before they knew what it was about, even if they didn’t know the book and didn’t understand what the title was referring to.”
Matt Glasby, author of the book Britpop Cinema: From Trainspotting To This Is England, wrote that the general effect was that of “a set of songs that never get old, and that more than the songs of a film seem the soundtrack of someone’s life”. Always second NME, Trainspotting fu for music “a perfect snapshot of 1996”, a year that was “musically transformative” for the UK, during which Oasis dominated the charts but also a year in which the Spice Girls “came to trample all those guitars”.
The soundtrack of Trainspotting was released on July 9, 1996 (when the Fugees’ “Killing Me Softly” was at the top of the UK charts), revenge 700 thousand copies and was so successful that in October 1997 a second album related to the film was released, this time with songs that had not been included in the final version but which had nevertheless been used by Boyle in preliminary stages of directing and editing, or which Boyle said he listened to as sources of inspiration.
Of all the songs, the most successful was undoubtedly “Born Slippy”, for a few days the second most listened to single in the UK, despite being released a year earlier. “Born Slippy” (the original song without words) and “Born Slippy .NUXX” (which among the various changes also had a text) were in fact released in July 1995. The words of the remix version, recorded in a single session, added Underworld singer and frontman Karl Hyde, after a very alcoholic night, in an attempt to tell how a drunk sees the world “in fragments”. At the time Hyde had problems with alcoholism and explained that he did not want the song to become a kind of hymn, and that he had written it “to ask for help.”
Rick Smith, the other member of the Underworld, he told that Boyle had used their 1994 record (dubnobasswithmyheadman) as the “heartbeat” of the film, that is, to help maintain a certain editing rhythm. After accidentally buying the “Born Slippy” single, he realized it had to accompany the film’s ending. The Underworlds were hesitant at first, but Smith explained that it was enough for them to “watch the first 15 minutes of the movie to decide to let him use whatever he wanted.”
About his musical choices for Trainspotting, Boyle said, “We decided very early in production that we didn’t want a traditional soundtrack and tried to get inspiration from the masters. For example to Martin Scorsese, specifically to the soundtrack of his Mean Streets».
Welsh he told instead of «without the Clash and the Sex Pistols he could never have written Trainspotting“. Although in the film, and not even on the second disc of the soundtrack, there are songs by the Clash or the Sex Pistols. There are not even Oasis, although 1996 was a great year for them and despite their prominence in the Britpop so tied to Trainspotting. Apparently they asked him to be able to use at least one of their songs, maybe even to make one on purpose, but Oasis they refused the proposal thinking that it was a film about “trainspotter”, train enthusiasts.
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