Bomb Collar- The Melbourne Fringe Production Saga Pt 4
We Don’t Need Another Hero was the lead soundtrack single from 1985’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. It was performed by the legendary Tina Turner, who also featured in the film as the inscrutable Aunty Entity. The music video has Turner performing the song in full costume as her character, which seems only appropriate as the song is doing something very unique and very great.
Out of the ruins
Out from the wreckage
Can`t make the same mistake this time
We are the children
The last generation
We are the ones they left behind
And I wonder when we are ever gonna change
Living under the fear, till nothing else remains
We don`t need another hero
We don`t need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond
What an incredible type-rope walk between generically ballad-y pop lyrics and extremely specific references to the story world of the third Mad Max film! And then the way the the end of the chorus just goes ‘fuck it’ and just talks about escaping Thunderdome as if of course you’ll know what that means. (also the song canes)
This is an obsession I’ve kept coming back to- fleshing out a genre storyworld through the restricted prism of conventional pop lyrics. Bomb Collar is an attempt to do this across a whole show, the words to the songs being every bit as vital to an understanding of the character and his circumstances as as any dialogue spoken in between. Also I’ve still tried to craft each song so that it convinces as a stand-alone unit of pop songwriting.
Bomb Collar is the latest and most refined of my many attempts to pull off this same trick. But why? In a world where the accepted standard for a ‘concept albums’ involves using the same character names across a few tracks and then explaining things in the liner notes, why am setting myself such strict parameters? Why take so many steps toward stage musicals without just jumping all the way in?
I do love musicals. So do you. Yeah, yeah, most of you will tell me you hate or dislike musicals, but every single one of you has at least one that you love. Disney films way count. You can tell me that it makes no sense to you for a character to tell you their feelings and thoughts through song but meanwhile that’s what every song you’ve ever liked listening to is doing.
So musicals are factually great. But for a neurotic structuralist like me they’re a little bit too open a format to work in. The divisions between Song and Book a little too free. Also the dominant musical aesthetic of modern musicals is a little lacking in grit even for a pop-pushover like me.
Cabaret shows always have the advantage of intimacy, and an expectation of doing a lot with a little. It’s a tighter format and one that supports a single-character narrative, so I was easily drawn to it. I particularly love a good period cabaret show, one where the songbook of an era is used to mirror a characters’ experience. But I’m a songwriter, I want to write new songs, and I’m not the best candidate to capture a bygone period anyway. So…
I realised that there was a period that I could write the traditional songbook of and create a period setting for- the future. In the same moment I realised that the challenge would be to extrapolate a folk song tradition from a starting point of todays’s chart pop music. I would also have to map those songs to a sci-fi protagonist and make his story coherent and compelling to an audience.
And that is the amount of ridiculous restrictions that allow me to start writing something.
The first song I wrote is now the second song in the show. It’s a war anthem, about a legendary military leader in the Deep Ocean Colonies, and it’s designed as a sickly descendant of some of my favorite Shock and Awe Diva songwriters like Linda Perry (if you don’t know her, she’s written a lot of songs you really like). It’s called Red Song, here are some of the words.
She rode as the head
Of a dragon made of men
And her words, once a secret
Will never be again
She said join your voice
To the thunder that splits the sky
Say it’s not anybody else’s voice
Who you embrace as your own tonight
We are free to be enemies
We are free to be family too
But if we meet on the battlefield
We will see just whose cause is true