Category Archives: Cinerama Holiday

Hard, Fast And Beautiful

In 1997, The Wedding Present went on hiatus and over the next year or so David Gedge created a new project called Cinerama. A place to pour his ideas for film soundtracks and pop songs that didn’t fit in with an indie rock group. It became a creative place for him and long-term partner Sally Murrell to indulge their musical whims.

One of the earliest tracks heard by fans was ‘Hard, Fast And Beautiful’. Along with ‘Honey Rider’, this track really summed up the startling change for me. Gone were the rock guitars, in came the strings. Gone were the jeans, in came the suits. Some fans didn’t like the new sound but some brand new fans were gained. Now nearly twenty years later, this song still feels fresh. Instruments come in one by one, gently nudging up against one another. The melody on the chorus must make even the hardest heart swoon. The song rises and it falls, over and over until tailing out with that delicate piano sequence.

Lyrically, things weren’t so different from what had come before. This was a song of yearning: a lost chance at love and happiness. The despondency in the early verses gives way to angst and almost self-pity but is there a chance of peace in the end? By coming to terms with the realisation of his feelings, the narrator is maybe on the first steps to recovery. In fact, the epiphany almost creates a sound of joy especially with those gorgeous female backing vocals right at the end.

There are only a few versions of this song but there are several that stand out. The original album version is one of the highlights of that debut disc. The Spanish version is, of course, ‘hermosa’. The Live In Los Angeles cd features the classic Gladys Knight opening but my favourite has to be the Peel Night version celebrating the great man’s sixtieth birthday. This features some marvelous Simon Cleave guitar which adds a nice burning intensity to the choruses. Every version though is neither hard nor fast but they are all beautiful.

Questions and Answers with David Lewis Gedge:

The title is borrowed from the 1951 tennis/drama/romance film directed by Ida Lupino. I know you are a fan of film but are you also a tennis fan?

DLG: I like the 2004 tennis/drama/romance film ‘Wimbledon’, too! I’ve seen that one about three times, ha, ha. But yes, I do like tennis. It was one of the only sports I actually enjoyed playing at school. I always thought that Ilie Năstase was the tennis world’s answer to George Best. That being said… the song has nothing to do with tennis… I just liked the title.

This track, along with others, really stood out for me among those early Cinerama songs. Where in your learning process of this new writing style did this piece fit?

DLG: I think Cinerama tracks tend to fall into one of two types. They’re usually either attempts at creating some kind of atmospheric cinematic soundscape or just me delving into pop song writing in the ‘classic’ or ‘traditional’ sense. This song falls very much into the latter category. It’s vocal led and has proper verses, bridges and choruses. I think it’s one of the best ‘songs’ I’ve written, to be honest.

The chorus with its soaring double-tracked vocals really hits the heart strings. Were there any pop ‘gimmicks’ that were ever ‘off the table’ for you at this time or were you happy to experiment wherever it led you?

DLG: I’m always interested in exploring different techniques; double tracking the vocal like that was suggested by the producer/engineer of Va Va Voom, Dare Mason. But there are a few pop gimmicks, as you call them, that I tend to avoid, yes… guitar solos, saxophone breaks, children singing, using a dozen notes in a vocal melody when a couple will suffice…

All these early Cinerama songs are credited solely to yourself so did they arrive totally constructed when you were in the studio?

DLG: Yes. I wrote all the Va Va Voom era songs at home, on my own. During the mid-to-late 1990s using computers to assist in the making of music became much more accessible to someone like me who has no recording studio engineering knowledge or experience. By that I mean that a) they plummeted in price and b) they also became considerably more user friendly. With the aid of some basic sequencing software and an Akai sampler I was able to record demos of those early Cinerama songs onto a digital 8-track recorder synched to my computer using drum loops, a keyboard, a micophone and my guitars. But, despite all the machinery, I still wanted Cinerama to sound like ‘a band’ so I decided to use session musicians for the ‘proper’ recordings. That was the process I used for Va Va Voom and most of This Is Cinerama. The musicians would come into the studio and listen to the demo and I’d explain what I wanted them to play. That was the other benefit of the technology, actually… the software enables you to print out a score for people like the strings players, so, again… even though I can’t score music… I was able to explain, by and large, what I wanted from the musicians. So they would come into the studio, hear the song for the first time and then record their part.

Dare was very helpful in a) sourcing some extremely talented players and b) helping me through the process because it was a completely new way of working for me. For all my previous records I’d been in a band and all the songs had been written, arranged and rehearsed a long time before we’d even set foot in the recording studio. The Va Va Voom sessions were much more liquid. Sometimes the session musicians would play it completely as I’d written it and sometimes they would say: “Well, I can see what you’re trying to do but the violin part would sound better if I did it like this.”

There was actually a funny moment during the recording of ‘Hard, Fast And Beautiful’ when we had the pianist in. I had a strong idea of how I wanted the piano part to be. I wanted it to sound like the soundtrack of a French film from the 1960s or 70s. But I can’t play the piano so I had to write the piece bit by bit on the computer… recording a few seconds of the right hand part, then a few seconds of the left… then moving on to the next section. It was a complicated process with all those overdubs but, when I was finally happy with it, I printed out the score and brought it along to the studio we were using to record piano. The pianist was a friend of Dare’s called Davey Ray Moor but what I didn’t know at the time was that he’s this hugely talented composer and multi-instrumentalist. He took one look at my score and said: “I can’t play this!” I asked why not, thinking that maybe we’d need someone with greater skills but he said: “Because they way it’s written I would need three hands!”

I know you love Terry de Castro’s backing vocals and she certainly shines on this piece. What is it about her vocals you love?

DLG: I do love Terry’s backing vocals but Va Va Voom was recorded before I met her. All the female singing on here is by Sally Murrell who hadn’t ever sung on a record before! She did a beautiful job…

I love the ‘Gladys Knight’ section on the Live In Los Angeles version – did you get that reaction often?

DLG: Ha, ha… yes, I suppose so… it’s a popular song. The difference between ‘Hard, Fast And Beautiful’ and a lot of my other songs is that the beginning is very quiet so you can clearly hear the audience reaction. On that occasion I was taken right back to hearing Gladys Knight And The Pips’ ‘The Way We Were’ on an LP my mum used to play all the time in the 1970s.

Do you have fond recollections of those days – when most of your gigs were low key and filled with hard-core, cult followers and/or new fans to Cinerama?

DLG: It was an interesting time. I was forging ahead into some kind of a new territory for me and so I was extremely appreciative of any support from those fans who came with me, while, at the same time, being excited to meet people who’d never liked The Wedding Present. The only frustration was that I didn’t have the resources to re-create the ‘full’ Cinerama sound live… I mean like we did in London a couple of years ago for the Live 2015 album. We only really used the full mini-orchestra on sessions for John Peel in those days.

Official Lyrics:

And guess what I found
It’s a letter that I started writing when you walked out

It says that I won’t miss you because I’ve met someone who’s more exciting
But that wasn’t true

So how did I lose you?
The last thing you ever wanted to do was to hurt me but I’d still accuse you

And I couldn’t know I’d never feel the same way with another
So I let you go

Yeah, I’ve got a girlfriend
She’s beautiful, considerate and, yes, I do love her
But I’m not going to pretend that she’s ever going to be the one

Because now I know that it was you all the time
How could I ever think it wasn’t true?
Now I’ve stopped trying to tell myself that I’ve grown out of being in love with you

And deep in the night I lie awake and think about you
Of course it’s not right

But what can I do?
I can’t sleep in this bed without you
If you only knew

Yeah, I’ve got a girlfriend
She’s beautiful, considerate and, yes, I do love her
But I’m not going to pretend that she’s ever going to be the one

Because now I know that it was you all the time
How could I ever think it wasn’t true?
So now I’ve stopped trying to tell myself that I’ve grown out of being in love with you

Because now I know that it was you all the time
How could I ever think it wasn’t true?
So now I’ve stopped trying to tell myself that I’ve grown out of being in love with you

[Written by Gedge and published by Cooking Vinyl Publishing]

Studio Versions:

1 – Va Va Voom album track [Cooking Vinyl COOK CD 150] – released 27/07/1998, recorded Spring 1998; TIME: 4:59

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar, producer); Sally Murrell (backing vocals); Davey Ray Moor (piano); Anthony Coote (bass); Che Albrighton (drums); Abigail Trundle (cello); Rachel Davies (violin); Dare Mason (guitar, producer)

2 – Spanish version released as ‘Dura, Rapida Y Hermosa’ on the Superman 7″ [Scopitones TONE 007] released 23/04/2001; and later included on Cinerama Holiday  [Scopitones TONE CD013] released 23/09/2002; TIME: 4:27

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar, producer); Sally Murrell (backing vocals, keyboards); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass); Kari Paavola (drums); Steve Albini (engineer); Dare Mason (mixer/overdubs) [translation by Anne Foley]

Live Versions:

1 – John Peel’s 60th Birthday version; TIME: 5:09

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Sally Murrell (backing vocals, keyboards); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass); Bryan McLellan (drums); Philip Robinson (keyboards, backing vocals)
Recorded at the BBC Maida Vale Studios, London, UK on 31/08/1999, first broadcast on 02/09/1999
Released on John Peel Sessions  [Scopitones TONE CD 006] 02/04/2001 and later as part of Cinerama – The Complete Peel Sessions

2 – Los Angeles 2000 version; TIME: 5:00

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass); Kari Paavola (drums)
Recorded at The Knitting Factory, Los Angeles, USA on 05/11/2000
Released on Live In Los Angeles [Scopitones TONE CD 009]  06/05/2002

Live:

Hard, Fast And Beautiful was part of Cinerama’s first set on 22/07/1998 at the Camden Falcon, London, UK and stayed in until 2001. It reappeared briefly on the setlist in 2003. Then with the return of The Wedding Present, it didn’t appear again until around 2011 when Cinerama started playing as a support group at the Edge of the Sea and Peaks festivals. It was played as part of a set with a full orchestra at some shows in the Summer of 2015.

Video:

Va Va Voom version:

A nice live video from ATEOTS 2011 featuring Charlie on bass guitar:

The aforementioned version with full orchestra in 2015: