24 October 2006

Hedwig and the Angry Inch Soundtrack

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is, hands down, the best soundtrack in my CD closet — better than Saturday Night Fever, better than Garden State, yes, better than Grease. Well, there is Help! and A Hard Day’s Night, and Pete Townshend’s rock operas rock … so let’s say it’s my favorite soundtrack of the last thirty years.

Movie synopsis, courtesy of Wikipedia: Hedwig and the Angry Inch is an off-Broadway musical theater play (1998) and film (2001) about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by a transsexual singer. The text is by John Cameron Mitchell and the music and lyrics are by Stephen Trask. The story draws on the life of Jayne County, the original transgender rocker, the androgynous glam rock era of David Bowie (who produced the original run of the show), early punk rocker Iggy Pop, and the gender bender fashions of the early 1980s. The show was repeatedly workshopped by Mitchell and Trask at New York's famed Squeezebox Club before opening at the Jane Street Theater (located in the Hotel Riverview) on February 14, 1998.

What makes the soundtrack great? It has some of the best rock and glam and punk tunes released in 2001. The music is as much a character of the film as are John Cameron Mitchell and Michael Pitt and Miriam Shor. But it works on its own, too; in fact, I fell in love with the album a month or two before I saw the film. (Damn, I wish I’d seen the stage play.)

John Cameron Mitchell penned the lyrics and Stephen Trask wrote the music. Mitchell sings all of Hedwig's songs, while Trask sings the Tommy Gnosis tunes. And Bob Mould plays guitar. How cool is that?

Hedwig and the Angry Inch — the movie and the soundtrack — have long been part of my wannabeau litmus test, along with R.E.M., Patch Adams, Letterman vs. Leno, and The DaVinci Code. I don’t know if I could fully love a man who didn’t enjoy the movie or soundtrack. Deep, aren’t I?

Forget that this is a soundtrack. Just listen to the songs. It was hard to pick just three; I feel guilty for not including “Origin of Love” or “Midnight Radio” or “Nailed” or “Exquisite Corpse” or … well, you get the idea. It’s that good, kids.

“Angry Inch” gives you the background of Hedwig and her angry inch. I hope you’ll be singing “Six inches forward / And five inches back / I got an angry inch” all day long.


There are certain songs I must listen to while getting dolled up for a night on the town. “Wig in a Box” is one of those tunes. I get to have a little cabaret moment as the eyeliner dries, singing and dancing and prancing all over the townhouse. I’d love to be Miss Beehive 1963. (That’s not Rachel Griffith in the video; it’s John Cameron Mitchell.)


The Tommy Gnosis version of “Wicked Little Town,” sung by Stephen Trask, is the loveliest song on the album. It’s on my Sunday morning playlist; the sadness and heartache and letting go is perfect for those early morning drives.


The Hedwig love doesn’t stop with the soundtrack. Wig in a Box, a tribute album from 2003 that benefited the Harvey Milk School, includes the best performer list in years: our beloved Minus 5 with Cyndi Lauper, Rufus Wainwright, Frank Black, Robyn Hitchcock, Bob Mould, Sleater-Kinney with Fred Schneider, The Breeders, Spoon, Yo La Tengo with Yoko Ono, The Bens (Kweller, Folds, and Lee), They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Richman — even Stephen Colbert. Click the link and buy a copy; it’s brilliant.

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34 Comments:

At 10/24/2006 02:09:00 AM, Blogger patrick said...

love this album thanks to you. miss you and your music recommendations.

 
At 10/24/2006 02:21:00 AM, Anonymous m said...

ok, you get to be miss bee hive 1963 and i get to be miss farrah fawcett from tv...

 
At 10/24/2006 03:52:00 AM, Blogger barista brat said...

this summer i saw donovan leitch play hedwig.

it was pretty out there - and pretty fun.

 
At 10/24/2006 07:28:00 AM, Blogger Ben Heller said...

I can see who Juliette lewis models herself on just by watching the first video.

 
At 10/24/2006 07:42:00 AM, Blogger gizmorox said...

I saw this performed all cabaret style at the local gay bar in VT a couple years back. You haven't lived until a 6'2" man in fishnets fondles your head mid-performance.

And who was it that did Gnosis' vocals for the film? I thought I remembered it not being Pitt.

Trask has composed for a lot of other things since and is really just a beautiful writer. My heart just about broke in half the first time I saw Hedwig. Good choice :)

 
At 10/24/2006 08:11:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

PATRICK: Glad you're still enjoying the album. Keep warm.

M: Or I may want to be that punk rock star of stage and screen.

BRAT: It's so hard for me to imagine anyone other than John Cameron Mitchell in the role; I've probably watched the movie fifty times.

BEN: He does have a bit of the Juliette going on, doesn't he?

GIZMOROX: Now that's a performance I would have loved! I've heard someone else sang Gnosis' songs, but I couldn't find it with a quick Google.

 
At 10/24/2006 08:28:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

BEN: If you haven't seen this, you should rent it. This weekend. I think you'll enjoy it.

GIZMOROX: You need Wig in a Box. Send me an e-mail with your address if you want me to send you a copy.

 
At 10/24/2006 10:23:00 AM, Blogger Peter said...

Wasn't Sleater-Kinney supposed to have a part in that project? Either way, great call again. I loved the movie and that tribute album sounds amazing. Frank Black and Stephen Colbert on the same album? WOW

 
At 10/24/2006 11:59:00 AM, Blogger barista brat said...

beth - on youtube i saw three different korean hedwigs.

i love this movie as well. i bought the soundtrack eight hours after first viewing the film.

 
At 10/24/2006 01:07:00 PM, Anonymous DJ Cayenne said...

A little glam is a great way to start the morning. I love Rufus Wainwright's cover fo the Origin of Love on Wig in a Box. It's a song he was born to sing.

 
At 10/24/2006 04:14:00 PM, Blogger kfluff said...

Isn't it awesome too that the tribute album proceeds go to the Harvey Milk School? How great is that?! I don't see Frank Black doing cover songs for my crap high school...

 
At 10/24/2006 06:40:00 PM, Blogger Grant Miller said...

"Help" and "Hard Day's Night" barely count as soundtracks since the songs were crafted before the film.

 
At 10/24/2006 07:30:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

PETER: Sleater-Kinney are on the Wig in a Box tribute album, performing "Angry Inch" with Fred Schneider of the B-52's.

BRAT: It seems like your kind of movie ... since you're so damn cool. And I gotta see the Korean Hedwigs!

DJ CAYENNE: You know, every song Rufus sings sounds like he was born to sing it. I love Mr. Wainwright. And his sister. And his mama and aunt. And his daddy.

KFLUFF: Yeah, I wish Peter Buck would do something to benefit my high school ...

GRANT MILLER: Well, that's true ... except I had the actual Help! soundtrack, with the orchestrations. But you trumped me. Sort of.

 
At 10/24/2006 08:33:00 PM, Blogger Coaster Punchman said...

Funny you should mention this movie and soundtrack - I loved it when I watched it, which was only once. I've been meaning to watch it again and/or listen to the songs. Too bad I'm lazy; I could be having a lot more fun.

 
At 10/24/2006 08:53:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

CP, you need to hire me as your social director. I can be Julie to your Captain Steuben.

 
At 10/24/2006 09:21:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

This is one of my all time favourite films and soundtracks too Beth although strangely I wasn't aware of the tribute album.

Along with being one of the funniest and saddest films, just as entertaining is the feature length documentary on the dvd.

 
At 10/24/2006 09:24:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

I really need to pick up the DVD, Dale. I watch Hedwig every time it's on IFC (quite often, actually) ... but that means I generally come in 30 or 45 minutes into it. And I have to see the doc!

Wig in a Box is on the list.

 
At 10/24/2006 11:48:00 PM, Anonymous DJ Cayenne said...

Beth: I love Rufus on things like this, but I haven't found the album of his that does it for me. I bought Want, and I was listening intently, trying very hard to like it. Mrs Cayenne walked by and asked why I was listening to Billy Joel. Ouch.

 
At 10/25/2006 02:45:00 AM, Blogger Ben Heller said...

Beth, I will I promise. I've got a pretty free weekend so Hedwig here I come.

I came back to watch the first video again. The pouting look ! I really want to super impose a picture of Juliette Lewis there.

 
At 10/25/2006 07:03:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

DJ CAYENNE: Mrs. Cayenne doesn't know what she's talking about. Love the Rufus. Did you see him at the Botanical Garden last summer?

BEN: Let me know what you think about Hedwig.

 
At 10/25/2006 08:47:00 AM, Blogger sKincarver said...

Check out Type O Negative's cover of "Angry Inch" on their Life Is Killing Me album.

It will make you jump around the room and break stuff.

 
At 10/25/2006 01:28:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Beloved sKincarver, I keep hearing about the Type O Negative cover; I'll have to download it this evening and let you know what I think.

 
At 10/25/2006 08:49:00 PM, Blogger Coaster Punchman said...

No way, I'm Issac or I'm not playing.

CP

 
At 10/25/2006 08:49:00 PM, Blogger Coaster Punchman said...

That would be "Isaac."

 
At 10/25/2006 11:21:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Of course. I should have known you'd want to be the randy cocktailer. May I bring Dale along as our Gopher?

 
At 10/25/2006 11:35:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

The doctor got a lot more action than Gopher didn't he? I'll go but only if I can be Doc and spend a LOT of time with both of you. Wicked little town indeed you're running Beth!

 
At 10/25/2006 11:40:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Dale, I forgot how you love to play Doctor. Okay, who's up for Steuben?

 
At 10/26/2006 08:19:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

I wonder if Grant Miller will lend me his lab coat? Not that I'll have it on for long.

Captain Ben?

 
At 10/26/2006 08:30:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

You'd look smashing in that lab coat ... but do you have the ears to pull it off?

Capt. Ben would be a lot of fun. But who's our Gopher?

 
At 10/26/2006 09:58:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

Maybe Haahnster = Gopher?

 
At 11/01/2006 04:45:00 PM, Blogger The Girl with Moxie said...

I am very much in love with Hedwig too! I also saw the stage show with Donovan Leitch - Beth, I tell ya, he did an excellent job as Hedwig. Bijou Phillips played Yitzak and she was great, too.

I really wish someone here in LA would turn Hedwig into a long-running show...such a powerful story about identity, self-worth, and sexuality. We could use more positive reinforcement on those topics around here and I think Hedwig offers that.

 
At 1/12/2007 06:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is high praise, to be sure, and I'm certain that both JCM and Stephen Trask would appreciate it--though Stephen probably far less so, since you do not accurately credit him with writing BOTH the lyrics and the music to the songs in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. JCM did not write the songs; he did of course write the spoken-word portion of the play ("the book") and the screenplay--and he sang the songs--but he didn't write a word of the lyrics. (He did cowrite a song on the Hedwig / Harvey Milk album with Trask, though, called "Milford Lake".) Trask is always being shortchanged for his work on the project, and now he cannot even get credit where it's due! In the Wikipedia article you quote, it clearly states that Stephen wrote the songs (both lyrics and music), even if it trots out the fallacious myth that the story is based on Jayne County's life (it's actually based on the life of JCM's babysitter from when he was a teenager living on a midwestern military base where his career-army father, a general, was stationed).

 
At 1/12/2007 06:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is high praise, to be sure, and I'm certain that both JCM and Stephen Trask would appreciate it--though Stephen probably far less so, since you do not accurately credit him with writing BOTH the lyrics and the music to the songs in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. JCM did not write the songs; he did of course write the spoken-word portion of the play ("the book") and the screenplay--and he sang the songs--but he didn't write a word of the lyrics. (He did cowrite a song on the Hedwig / Harvey Milk album with Trask, though, called "Milford Lake".) Trask is always being shortchanged for his work on the project, and now he cannot even get credit where it's due! In the Wikipedia article you quote, it clearly states that Stephen wrote the songs (both lyrics and music), even if it trots out the fallacious myth that the story is based on Jayne County's life (it's actually based on the life of JCM's babysitter from when he was a teenager living on a midwestern military base where his career-army father, a general, was stationed).

 
At 4/17/2007 05:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hedwig's ok, but the real jayne county is a thousand times better, as can be found in county's 1994 auto biography Man Enough To Be A woman,or on the www.jaynecounty.com site..

 

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