Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well! Aren’t we in for a treat?
Yes, prepare yourselves for another dose of the old ultraviolence as Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange returns to UK cinemas next month.
Presented by the BFI, the 1971 film starring Malcolm McDowell and based on the classic Anthony Burgess novel of the same name will be back on the big screen. It’s time once again for Alex and his gang of droogs to raise hell before feeling the long, cruel and experimental arm of the law.
'An ultraviolent turning point in the history of cinema, music and culture' – @NME
— BFI (@BFI) February 20, 2019
Last year, the word ‘Kubrickian’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary – meaning to possess “meticulous perfectionism, mastery of the technical aspects of film-making, and atmospheric visual style”. Arguably, A Clockwork Orange is the perfect example of this. The shockwaves of its influence are still being felt today; in film, fashion, culture and beyond.
Here are just 15 artists from the music world who have been shaped by this seismic piece of cultural history. Viddy this…
Always a sci-fi junkie, Bowie was taken with the dystopian aesthetic of A Clockwork Orange. So much so that he drew on the uniform worn by Alex and the gang for his stage costumes during his Ziggy Stardust era, and even opened his contemporary concerts with Beethoven’s ‘Ninth Symphony’ from the soundtrack.
Bowie also enjoyed Burgess’ invented language Nadsat. “Say droogie don’t crash here!” he shouts in 1972’s ‘Suffragette City’. He would adopt the twisted tongue once again years later on ‘Girl Loves Me’ from his final album ‘Blackstar’ in 2016 when he sang, “You viddy at the Cheena” and “Devotchka want ya goloss” (which translates to “You see the woman” and “The young woman would like your voice”, don’t you know?).
With its retro-futuristic vibe, it’s easy to imagine A Clockwork Orange being right up Lana Del Rey’s street, and she even borrowed the book’s term ‘Ultraviolence’ for her 2014 album and track.
“He hit me and it felt like a kiss,” she pines on the song, referencing the controversial 1960s hit by The Crystals. “I can hear violins, violins, give me all of that ultraviolence“. As Clare Preston-Pollitt of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation told MTV News at the time, it’s a use of language used “to examine the nature of good and evil and the importance of free will”.
Preston-Pollitt added: “It’s fantastic that A Clockwork Orange is still providing inspiration to such a diverse range of artists around the world over 50 years since its original publication.”
The video for Blur’s ‘The Universal’ is a blatant tribute to Kubrick’s film. Albarn’s eyeliner and crooked smile, the droogs in white suits, the hypermodern look; it’s a beautiful homage to the opening scene in the Korova Milk Bar and now iconic in its own right.
Gerard Way’s been known to dress up as Alex from time to time, but MCR’s own fictional renegade gang The Fabulous Killjoys from their final album ‘Danger Days…’ were also directly inspired by the movie.
“As a teenager, when you’re first discovering punk music, the first movie that you also discover is A Clockwork Orange,” he told The New York Times in 2010. “At the time it was the first movie that I saw that did not have a hero in it. Period, there was nobody likeable in this film. I had never seen a film like that.
“One of the things I liked about the book is the language. I came up with a lot of terms for ‘Danger Days’ that didn’t necessarily exist; I wanted it to feel exactly like the first pages of A Clockwork Orange.”
Countless synth-pop and new wave acts were inspired by the film’s futuristic and mechanical score, but perhaps none more so than Sheffield’s Heaven 17 – who share a name with the fictional band in the novel. The book mentions their namesake being at Number Four in the charts with the single ‘Inside’. Fortunately, they’d better them in reality when ‘Temptation’ peaked at Number Two in 1983.
Moloko also nabbed their name from the book and film, stealing it from the narcotic-filled milk drink Moloko Plus. They’re just as intoxicating, we’re sure.
Criminally underrated and often forgotten, Campag Velocet’s cosmic post-punk genius found them playing on the NME tour in the year 2000 above Coldplay (whoever they are). As well as the obvious references in the band’s name and much of their artwork, their 1999 track ‘Drencrom Velocet Synthmesc’ (once crowned NME’s single of the week) is loaded with plenty of Burgess’ Nadsat terms for drugs and naughtiness. Slooshy that gem below, with a real horrorshow fan-made video.
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the scene in the ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ video where a straight-jacket-clad Axl Rose is strapped to a device that stretches his eyelids open, forcing him to absorb the TV images of horror in front of him. Yup, it’s the Ludovico Technique used in A Clockwork Orange to get Alex back on the straight and narrow.
Maybe they could use it to convince Axl to make it on stage on time?
Before disappearing up their own arses with the critically panned flop musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, Bono and The Edge scored the acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of A Clockwork Orange. From it, the spacey and menacing ‘Alex Descends Into Hell for a Bottle of Milk/Korova 1’ appeared as the b-side to 1991 single ‘The Fly’.
A top hat, white shirt, suspenders and a dash of eyeliner – it’s been a cheap and easy emergency Halloween costume for the best of us. That includes Rihanna, who adopted the droog look for her 2011 video ‘You Da One’.
“I am like Clockwork Orange, going off on the town” rap NYC’s finest on this cut from 1989’s ‘Paul’s Boutique’, building up the perfect mood for a little danger with “Ultraviolence running through my head”.
Always set on following in Bowie’s footsteps, Gaga loves a bit of Kubrick. Back in 2010, she used the main theme from Wendy Carlos’s space-age score as her introduction for her live shows.
It’s a song called ‘Clockwork Orange’! Which is also the name of the film! This rarity from the California punks is a snarling and streetwise tale of a young renegade on an open-top, late night crime spree with Alex himself; “a wild dog speeding on the bastard sun, a downward situation and it stinks like a bum“.
So in love with A Clockwork Orange were Brazilian metal gods Sepultura that they wrote a whole bloody album about it. Just like the book and the movie, ‘A-Lex’, from 2009, is a brutal but insidious, and feels like a threat to public safety.
No prizes for guessing where they got the title for ‘Ultraviolence’, from their 1982 masterpiece ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’. Whether in New Order or led by Ian Curtis in Joy Division, the band have always been strongly influenced by the dystopian writings from the likes of William Burroughs, Aldous Huxley, T.S. Eliot and Anthony Burgess. Here, the darkness perfectly frames this twitchy burst of fear and paranoia.
A Clockwork Orange returns to cinemas on April 5, presented by BFI. Visit here for tickets and more information.
As well as a UK-wide re-release of A Clockwork Orange, there also will be a definitive two month season at BFI Southbank (1 April – 31 May, 2019) as well as the opening of Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at London’s Design Museum (April – September 2019).