A-ha! Alan Partridge movie Alpha Papa gives airtime to forgotten pop classics


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The Independent Culture

His musical tastes famously extend from Abba to Wings, “the band The Beatles could have been”. But Alan Partridge’s elevation to the big screen is set to bring a new lease of life to a host of artists unfairly excluded from pop’s hall of fame.

The soundtrack to Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, which receives its world premiere in Norwich on Wednesday, will deliver an unexpected sales boost to a collection of one-hit wonders, 70s novelty hits and soft rock obscurities hand-picked by the spoof DJ, created by Steve Coogan.

The long-awaited film, co-written by Armando Iannucci, sees Partridge caught up in an armed siege at his current employers, the North Norfolk Digital radio station.

Songs by 70s folk rockers Steeleye Span and art-pop duo Sparks play a crucial role in the plot and are included in the soundtrack album released by Warner Music next month.

The biggest beneficiary is likely to be London singer Andrew Roachford, whose 1989 funk-rock hit Cuddly Toy provides the musical accompaniment to the opening credits, as Alan performs the track in his own inimitable fashion whilst driving towards Norwich city centre.

Roachford said: “I said they could use the song on the condition that Alan sings it in tune – but they said ‘This is Alan Partridge we’re talking about’. It was only going to be used for ten seconds at first in the synopsis but it kept expanding.”

Roachford, 48, continues to tour and release albums but Cuddly Toy, which became an international hit, is his only UK top ten single. The song became a steady-seller, shifting several million copies since its release.

The singer said: “It’s a song I wrote early on and it’s stood the test of time. It was a tongue-in-cheek song written for students to get drunk to when we played live so it’s appropriate it’s on a comedy film. Alan Partridge is a fantastic character. I’ve met a few local radio DJs like him.”

Declan Lowney, the Alpha Papa director, told The Independent: “Steve (Coogan) came up with a lot of these obscure soundtrack choices at the last minute. He really knows his music. The Sparks song was a last minute addition and we found Cuddly Toy when we were driving between two locations. Steve said ‘Put the camera on in the car and I’ll come up with something’. We didn’t know he was going to sing Cuddly Toy while driving along but it turned out great.”

The film features an a cappella recording of Gaudete, a 16th century Christmas carol which became a No 14 hit in 1973 for the electric folk group Steeleye Span. The single is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung in Latin.

Anthemic rocker, You’re The Voice, the sole top ten hit for Dagenham-born, Australia-based singer John Farnham in 1986, is dusted down for the film.

Wide Eyed And Legless, a 1975 Christmas hit for Welsh guitarist Andy Fairweather Low features along with Couldn’t Get It Right, the sole top ten entry for late-60s Stafford boogie merchants The Climax Blues Band.

The film’s producers asked Marillion, the prog-rockers who hit big in 1985 with Kayleigh, for special permission to create a running joke around a fictional portrayal of the band’s drummer.

A spokeswoman for the band, a going concern for 34 years, said: “They showed us the clips. They were really funny so we said ‘yes’. We know Marillion are seen as ‘uncool’ but we were delighted to be a part of it.”

The band, who receive a special credit on the film, hope to discover a new audience. “They invited us to the Leicester Square premiere (which follows the Norwich event) and we’re going to give away a free CD introducing the band’s music to Alan’s fans.”

The climactic scenes of Alpha Papa are played out to the operatic Number One Song In Heaven, a 1979 hit for Sparks, the experimental duo formed by oddball Californian brothers Ron and Russell Mael.

The soundtrack also features Andrew Gold, a collaborator with 70s soft-rock stars 10cc, the US band Chicago and one of Partridge’s personal favourites, Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey.

However, the Partridge selection includes one surprising addition. The US minimalist composer Philip Glass appears with a selection from Koyaanisquatsi, his soundtrack to the 1982 dialogue-free, art-house film which consists of time-lapse footage of US cities.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa goes on general release from August 7.

Sing along with Alan... Alpha Papa – the soundtrack:

Philip Glass – Koyaanisquatsi

The Police - Roxanne

Roachford - Cuddly Toy 

Climax Blues Band – Couldn’t Get it Right

Chicago - Hard to Say I’m sorry

Calvin Harris (Feat. Kelis) - Bounce

Jakob Liedholm - Swede Love 

Andy Fairweather Low - Wide Eyed And Legless 

Sam Fonteyn - Pop Looks Bach (Theme from Ski Sunday)

Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman

The Outlaws  - Swingin’ Low

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Enola Gay 

Bryan Ferry – Let’s Stick Together 

John Farnham - You're The Voice

Sparks - Number 1 Song In Heaven

Steeleye Span - Gaudete

The Human League - Don’t You Want Me

Shirley Bassey – Goldfinger

Carly Simon - Nobody Does It Better

Hot Chocolate - It Started With a Kiss

Andrew Gold - Never Let Her Slip Away

Denis King & the South Bank Orchestra -  Galloping Home (The New Adventures of Black Beauty)