Did you watch the recent BBC drama, ‘Trial of Christine Keeler’? It’s set in 1963. But in the soundtrack, they play ‘Well Respected Man’ by the Kinks – a song not released until 1965. A little research would have come in handy, methinks. But it’s not unique.
I’ve lost track of the times I’ve watched a play or a film and somebody has slid the vinyl from its sleeve, placed it on a turntable, dropped the stylus into the groove . . . and out has come the wrong tune, or at least, to the eagle-eyed, a different tune from the one on the record that’s spinning. OK, it’s nerdish and we should be involved in the film’s narrative. But to anyone with any interest in records, it’s the first thing we see. It just comes naturally.
The key to identification is the record label. Artists and songs were signed to companies with label brands, and each brand was recognisable.
For instance, the Beatles’ early singles were on red Parlophone.
Later copies and re-issues were black. These changes are unique date markers – vinyl carbon dating if you like – as brands were revised over time and for reissues. Not just for the Beatles but records through the ages.
Which means people like me will notice if the actors are using a record with the wrong label for the song or a reissue that’s not contemporary with the period of the drama.
My defence is we are not alone. I once made a film where I used an archive clip of a steam train and dubbed a whistle on it, culled from the nearest BBC Sound Effects LP – Vol 1 RED47M, Side 2 Track 5. It seemed to be just right for the soundtrack. Not just right for railway enthusiasts, though. I was lambasted by viewers because I’d used the wrong whistle. I expect they’d have demonstrated the correct one for me if I’d asked.
So allow me the moral high ground. Art directors or their researchers – do your research and get it right, please. We’re watching!!