Train In Vain Spotting: Danny Boyle Picks His Favorite Clash Albums − And Disses Phish

Frank DiGiacomo

Danny Boyle is a big Clash fan. The Slumdog Millionaire director came to New York Tuesday night to talk about the way he uses music in his films — including his latest, Trance — and, in the process, revealed his love of the late, lamented British punk band.  

During his conversation with Rolling Stone film writer Logan Hill at the 92Y's Tribeca outpost, Boyle revealed that he has attempted to fit the Clash's 1978 song"White Man in Hammersmith Palais," which he called "the greatest song ever written," in  "like 10 films", but has yet to be able to find an appropriate place for the ska-inflected tune.

If you're not familiar with "White Man in Hammersmith Palais,"  you should be. Check it out here:

Danny Boyle's Favorite Clash Albums

After the Q&A session, while Boyle signed autographs for fans, I asked him to name his favorite Clash album. Clearly, he loves the band because he couldn't settle on a single work.  "The first one, probably," Boyle said, referring to the rockers' 1977 debut, The Clash.  But, he quickly added that he also loved the band's experimental, politically controversial triple-album Sandinista!, in part because, he said, the massive 36-song collection, which was sold at a reasonable price, was designed "to fuck off the record company." Finally, Boyle said, "London Calling is a great album, too."

During his conversation with Hill, Boyle said he's found that the best movie-music choices "drop into your lap."  For example, he explained, the idea to set the closing scenes of Shallow Grave to Andy Williams' "Happy Heart" came when, during filming in Scotland, Boyle heard the song during a black cab ride and remembered that the tune was a favorite of his father's. And Boyle's discovery of the Underworld B-side "Born Slippy" while browsing records at HMV in London led to the song being used during a key scene in Trainspotting and a decades-long collaboration with the electronic group's Rick Smith.

Smith, who worked with Boyle on the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics and composed original music for Trance, joined Boyle on stage for the conversation, and, near the end of the discussion, the audience got to see a tense clip from Trance that was an extended variation of this video:

What the 92Y audience got to see is James McAvoy attempting to taser Vincent Cassel. It ends badly.

Not A Phish Fan

Hill also got Boyle to talk about his dislike of Phish. Despite being the favorite band of Aron Ralston, who James Franco played in 127 Hours, the filmmaker said the jammers left him cold and aren't on the soundtrack. "I tried with Phish," Boyle said.  "I bought everything and listened to it multiple times...but I found it very, very difficult."

Indeed, Boyle went so far as to say that nobody does music better than his fellow countrymen and women. "I think we are really brilliant at music," he said. "We're rubbish at films, actually. It's not really in our DNA. But music is."

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