The Tramp's Jukebox Puri: The Burning Train

Welcome back to the Tramposphere. Despite the inaugural Jukebox Puri being probably the most heinously overlooked post yet it is my great pleasure to bring you another mindbending track from the musically outrageous world of Bollywood. This week we'll be trying to comprehend exactly what was going on in the minds of the crazed souls responsible for the title track from 1980s blockbuster hit The Burning Train.

So, where to begin? Just like the tune featured in the last instalment of Jukebox Puri, I was first introduced to the track The Burning Train by former stalwart of the Glasgow disco gutter and now sadly missed curry comrade Mr A Fleming. The mighty Flemado had managed to pick up a copy of the soundtrack whilst touring the former colony with The Suave Sav and delighted in exposing me to its joys as he recounted tales of his travels. Boasting a formidably awesome cover and a much more reasonable price tag than it commands in the UK, he naturally snapped it up in an instant. But what of the actual piece in question?

Starting out like the orchestral introduction to a 1970s Royal Variety Performance the track quickly reveals how it means to go on as the big band fades into cheap funk and a Popcorn-esque electronic bleep kicks in, closely followed by a formidable squelchy electronic bassline. Then the vocals arrive ... from outer space. It seems that composer R D Burman, pictured left, had a) just taken delivery of a brand new vocoder, b) taken a large dose of psychedelics and c) had no-one overseeing the creative process. It doesn't take long to realise that the only lyrics are "the burning train," that they're alternately sung by both a male and a female, and that they are heavily vocoderised. Imagine sitting down to watch Runaway Train, for example, in your local cinema and the theme tune just being "runaway train, runaway train, runaway train, runaway train." It's fair to say you'd be bemused, then totally wigged out. Surely you should either have proper lyrics or none at all? Adding to the weirdness of the whole thing is the fact that the male singer abruptly switches style halfway through and starts channelling Louis Armstrong.

All in all, The Burning Train gets two thumbs up from The Tramp - it may not have the sleazy sensuousness of Dance Music but for pure vocoder madness it secures a place in The Tramp's wigged out Jukebox of fun. For your own (higher quality) personal copy click the link below:

The Burning Train MP3

More musical madness from The Tramp's archives there... but what do you think? Does The Burning Train rock your boat or derail your tram of thought? Answers on a postcard (or preferrably in the comments section below).


The Tramp said...

What about that mental harmonica too?

A little update to this piece for the fanboys: I was speaking to Mr Fleming this morning and he noted that Madlib (rapper/producer/dj/cratedigger and vinyl collector extrordinaire) is a massive fan of The Burning Train. Under his alterego Beat Konductor he put out two volumes composed from Bollywood OST samples, the first of which featured a sleeve based around the original Indian sleeve. More info here:

RD Burman said...

Thank you for your kind words, sir. I have read about your Curry Club with interest and believe it remarkable that no-one has yet made a joke about "the burning strain" that your expeditions must cause.

All best,

RD Burman