Thursday, March 02, 2006

Number 33: David Holmes

Don't Die Just Yet (Go! Beat GOLCD6)
Chart debut: 10th January 1998
Writer: Serge Gainsbourg

As some may have divined from the gap in postings here, the choice of a Number 33 single wasn't the easiest in the list: it may be worth explaining that I roughed out a list of possibles before I started, but reserve the right to chop and change until publication point. In fact, I've broken a self-imposed rule here by including a track I don't own in its single version.
David Holmes (born 14th Feb 1969 in Belfast) had already demonstrated some of his interest in fusing hip-hop sounds with the atmosphere of movie soundtracks (as well as his aversion to the apostrophe!) with debut album This Films Crap Lets Slash The Seats, but it was the follow-up set Lets Get Killed that made him a name to be reckoned with, and brought him a Top 40 hit with this surpising Serge Gainsbourg cover. This is, in fact an instrumental version of 'Melody', the opening track from Gainsbourg's Histoire De Melody Nelson (Holmes claimed that he'd hired someone to translate the lyrics but decided against recording them due to their "pervy" content). The choice of title (including, you may notice, the first ever David Holmes apostrophe) was presumably intended to suit the mood created here; the lack of vocals aside, the arrangement is close to Gainsbourg's version, but the atmosphere is slightly more ominous, though it retains the funk tinge thanks to guitar and bass work of former Warm Jets member Paul Noble.
The album is a fascinating work as a whole - there are no conventional vocals, but the basis is tapes Holmes made whilst walking the streets of New York at night in 1996. It's dark, yes, but in its way a more compelling and endearing portrait of NYC than any number of more conventional tributes (well, as far as I know anyway - I've never been there myself and there's too much swearing for me to play this to my Granny). There are tunes you'll know too: not only is 'Radio 7' another renamed cover version (of the James Bond theme), but 'Rodney Yates', 'Gritty Shaker' and the other hit 'My Mate Paul' have been almost ubiquitous in adverts, trailers and similar. Holmes also used some of this material on his soundtrack to Ocean's Eleven. For some reason, I'll always remember Mary-Anne Hobbs playing a track on her late-night show in the early days of September 1997 and not being allowed to announce the album title.

By the way, the single included a slightly shorter edit of this original version, a remix by Arab Strap (audible, at time of writing, here) and one by Mogwai which had to be withdrawn due to sample clearance issues.

Official website: - or see Gritty Shaker for slightly more info. His profile at Yahoo also has the video for this track.
YouTube if you want to: video
Where to get it: Lets Get Killed.

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