Nautical Rock: Pirate Radio Takes Pop to the High Seas

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Pirate Radio , the latest movie by Love, Actually director Richard Curtis, isn’t just set to music—it’s suffused with it. On a ship off the British coast in the 1960s, a pack of rowdy men (and one woman) blare triumphant rock and pop to an English audience strangled by the government’s soporific blandness. On the boat, in cramped quarters in the middle of the sea, the DJs live out some very rock ’n’ roll fantasies, with everything from The Kinks to Otis Redding always in the foreground. Curtis spoke to Paste about some of his favorite songs in the movie. “I wanted the film to be ecstatic,” he says. “I wanted to pull in everything at all ?moments.”

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – The Beach Boys
“‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ happens in the movie when everything is really awful—we were so tempted to put in a big dramatic song. What’s so wonderful about pop music when you have something awful or ghastly in your life [is that] a song can cheer you up.”

“So Long, Marianne” – Leonard Cohen
The song plays during an improvised scene in which two shipmates console a luckless lover. “That’s my favorite scene in the movie because I didn’t write it—it’s like a gift to me,” Curtis says. “I might even say that Leonard Cohen is the funniest man I’ve ever seen in concert, which is odd, because his music is so miserable. He’s just full of really good jokes.”

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” – The Who
Why an anachronistic song? “I couldn’t resist the temptation. I thought, ‘Oh, well, we’ll get one letter from a bloke from Paste magazine.’ I just couldn’t really resist it. It’s amazing how modern The Who sounds—how big and aggressive those guitars sound. We wanted something meatier and dynamically different from the rest of the film.”

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