Sound & Vision: ASHES TO ASHES - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Sound & Vision: ASHES TO ASHES

Chris Morley heard a rumour from ground control.

Time now for us to fire up the Quattro ( as we examine Ashes To Ashes, the early 1980's based police procedural drama television series which served as the sequel to Life on Mars.

Instead of Sam Tyler waking up in 1973, having been the victim of a road accident in 2006, we have Alex Drake (played by Keeley Hawes), a police officer in service with the London Metropolitan Police, who is shot in 2008 by a man called Arthur Layton and inexplicably regains consciousness in 1981.

The first episode of the series reveals that, in the present day, Drake has been studying records of the events seen in the series Life on Mars through reports made by Sam Tyler after he regained consciousness in the present. Upon waking in the past she is surprised to meet the returning characters of Gene Hunt, Ray Carling and Chris Skelton, all of whom she has learned about from her research, the trio having transferred from the Manchester setting of Life on Mars (Manchester and Salford Police) to London.

Just as he had done for Life On Mars, Edmund Butt returns to contribute the theme, courtesy of what sounds like a bank of period-appropriate synthesisers!

The soundtrack features contemporary songs by artists of the period. Across its three series we also get to wrap our ears around the likes of Dexy's Midnight Runners, the Stranglers, the Jam, Adam & the Ants & Billy Joel...

As a bit of a curio, Billy Joel's Uptown Girl was released in 1983, but it featured prominently in episode 3.2, set four months before the song's release! A number of other songs used in the series were, like Alex Drake, also out of time, such as Japan's Ghosts in series one, Duran Duran's Is There Something I Should Know? in series two, and Two Tribes by Frankie Goes to Hollywood in series three.

In a nod of respect to the music innovators of the day, a scene in the second episode of the first series, The Happy Day, was set at The Blitz (a weekly club-night in Covent Garden, London) and featured Steve Strange playing himself performing Fade to Grey by Visage.

Just like it's predecessor, the title for the series came from a David Bowie track. The video of which also features a certain Mr Strange...

Ashes to Ashes was the lead single from Bowie's 1980 album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) and became his second UK No. 1 single. It's innovative video, directed by Bowie and David Mallet, was at the time was the most expensive music video ever made, and one which helped to kick start the whole New Romantic movement.

The creators of the television series, Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah, chose the title Ashes to Ashes because they thought of it as "that year's big Bowie track". They also borrowed the famous Pierrot iconography from the video of the Bowie single as part of the programme's visual design, and in the first series's finale, a car bomb goes off at the line "One flash of light".

The final episode of Series 3 plays out to another David Bowie track, Heroes.

It's a fitting song to soundtrack the final episode as we discover that the Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes world is a form of limbo or Purgatory, for "restless dead" police officers. These restless dead include the main characters Gene, Ray, Chris, and Shaz, all of whom died in violent circumstances. The revelation of their deaths comes as a surprise to all except Gene, who knew they were all dead but who had forgotten the circumstances of his own death, due to the passage of time.

All except Hunt "move on" as he takes it upon himself to act as a psychopomp or "ferryman", to all of his officers, helping them on their way to The Railway Arms (their euphemism for Heaven). Gene returns to his office, where a newly dead officer arrives, demanding his iPhone (implying that he is from the present) and asking where his office has gone, in a very similar manner to the arrival of Sam Tyler in the first episode of Life on Mars. In fact, Gene's last words — "A word in your shell-like, pal" — are the same as his first words to Sam Tyler in the first episode of Life on Mars.

For us, though, time to pull into Baker Street next - sax solo not courtesy of Bob Holness as Stuart Maconie would have had you believe through his former NME column!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad