People often look at me like I have two heads when I tell them that my favourite movie is Time Bandits.
What?!? What the hell is Time Bandits?
In fact, it’s a movie that came out in 1980, was pretty popular, (grossed in the neighbourhood of $45 million) and is an epic journey of bizarre proportions.
The IMDb sums it up thusly: A young boy accidentally joins a band of dwarves as they jump from era to era looking for treasure to steal.
It’s a little more involved than that, of course. The scene shifts from modern day England to the Battle of Castiglione and Napoleon to the Middle Ages, to Ancient Greece, the Time of Legends, the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness where the Supreme Being, in the guise of a bureaucrat, finally materializes, and dispenses with Evil.
This is a colourless, if not accurate, description but the movie is brilliant.
After all the hi-jinx, poor Kevin, (the little boy) is wandering on his street, perplexed. His parents have blown up in a mysterious explosion, (Supreme Being says, minutes earlier: Be careful with that stuff. That’s concentrated evil.), a crowd is gathering, his house has burnt down and he is calling out to his mom and dad.
And the music starts.
The music to which I refer, is a song, which George Harrison contributed to the movie, (it was produced, after all, by his company, Hand Made Films). The song is called Dream Away. It appeared on his album ‘Gone Troppo’,(1982) which turned out to be his last studio album for five years, until Cloud Nine, (1987).
The song is a great song. And that is an understatement. Perhaps because I love the movie so much, and the lyrics are a summary, lyrically, of the action in the movie as stills from the movie flash by, I also love the song.
But there is more to it than that. It’s a well-crafted song, meaningful, refers, symbolically, to a life cycle, (more about this and George Harrison music later in this George Harrison series of blogs) and has one of those melodies that is at once hopeful and filled with melancholy.
These are the best songs – hopeful yet melacholy. They are all too rare, (which is why, I suppose, they are all the better), and, when one can write a song like that, it is a song to be cherished. (Other examples of hopeful, melancholy songs, by my definition, would include:
Along Came Mary – Roger Hodgson, Hide in Your Shell – Supertramp, Spread Your Wings – Queen, Ten Years Gone – Led Zeppelin, Back Seat of My Car and Too Many People, both from Ram, by Paul McCartney. There are others I should put here but am forgetting and others that I have forgotten about all together – songs that were important and have drifted forever into the ether.)
I remember where I was when I heard Dream Away for the first time on satellite radio. Yes, a seminal event indeed.
The song has that particular instrumentation that George Harrison was fond of, (before he began collaborating with Jeff Lynne, formerly of ELO, which produced another unique sound) and, if you like, you love it. If you don’t, you hate it. I like it and, ergo, I love it. When you listen to George sing, it’s hard to believe he spent a life time smoking. His voice is soft and gentle as he takes you on a guided journey through whatever world to which one of his songs is referring, in this case time travel through time holes, robberies with international criminals, Supreme Being, Ogres and Evil.
This is the song that began my habit of sitting through the credits when I go to a movie, or watch one on television. The credits are sometimes interesting, when you recognize that someone you’ve heard of did something in the movie, but it is also a time when many producers play a great song, (as in, during the credits of The Song Remains the Same, Led Zeppelin’s great concert movie from 1976, when they play the studio version of Stairway to Heaven, followed but utter silence – great moment). It is also a time to gather your wits, think about what you just saw, wait for the crowd to thin out.
Dream Away is the conclusion to a movie that explores such themes as reincarnation, good vs evil, the existence of a Supreme Being and if He created the world in six days how did he do it, doing the right, (or wrong), thing with the tools you have, trust, friendship, persistence, and, underlying all this, silliness.
Dream Away, by George Harrison. As the song says, so I do.