Released today in 1984: Sexcrime (1984)

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The feature film of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, starring John Hurt as protagonist Winston Smith, was released in the UK on October 10th, 1984. The controversy regarding its soundtrack has already been referred to on this blog. To expand on this: director Michael Radford objected to the music supplied by Eurythmics; he had already approved a conventional orchestral score composed by Dominic Muldowney. While some of Muldowney’s compositions were included in the finished cut, Eurythmics tracks replaced them in many key scenes at the insistence of the studio, Virgin Films. For example, Eurythmics’ single Julia was played over the credits at the film’s close. “The film which is currently playing in London is not the film I made,” Radford told those present when he accepted the award for Film Of The Year at Evening Standard British Film Awards in November 1984. He claimed the music from Eurythmics had been “foisted” on him to make the film more commercially appealing. He asked that British Academy of Film and Television Arts exclude it from consideration for the following year’s BAFTA awards owing to his dissatisfaction with the version that had been theatrically released. It was only at this point that Eurythmics became aware of the problem, having accepted the commission to write songs for the score from Virgin Films in good faith.

Orwell’s novel remains relevant today. Plenty of column inches were used in the year itself to discuss which aspects of modern life he had correctly anticipated, and we’re still doing it today. The themes of censorship and surveillance in particular are constantly in the news, although they have been since the Second World War, and would have been anyway regardless of Orwell – many of the concepts he describes were inspired by events and actions taken during the conflict. But it’s useful shorthand to describe anything that appears to invade privacy as ‘Orwellian’, as we understand this to mean something not just intrusive, but arbitrary and excessive. In the novel, Winston’s job involves re-writing past newspaper articles, so that historical records always support the government’s current position. Previous versions of books and newspapers are destroyed, so if someone remembers things differently to what officials are currently passing off as the truth, there is no way to verify it. It could be argued the recent Google “right to be forgotten” ruling is only one step away from this.

Words, phrases and names from the book have also passed into our language. The unseen character Big Brother is a household name; the internationally syndicated television show named after him is based on the concept in the book of being under constant scrutiny. Room 101 is also a commonly understood phrase and has a British television show named after it. “Doublethink” and “thoughtcrime” are used when discussing governments, organizations or individuals whose actions are believed to be totalitarian; we often add the suffix ‘speak’ to words (as in the novel’s “Newspeak”) to describe linguistic concepts, such as management-speak. Portmanteau words

Orwell himself remains an important literary figure. The first substantial volume of his poetry was published last week.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Oct. 22
HEAVEN 17 Let Me Go (Virgin VS532)
Billy IDOL White Wedding (Chrysalis CHS2656)
DALI’S CAR (Peter Murphy) Judgement Is The Mirror (DOX DOX1)
EURYTHMICS Sexcrime (1984) (Virgin VS728)
David SYLVIAN Pulling Punches (Virgin VS717)


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