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  • Writer's pictureMaxwell Benner

Rupert Holmes' Widescreen



Two years ago my dad’s friend Paul invited my dad, my sister, and me on a day trip to Brooklyn to see his college friend Nick. We soon found out that Nick is actually screenwriter-director Nick Holmes, the son of my favorite musician, Rupert Holmes!!!!


Rupert is best known for his hit 1979 single "Escape (the Pina Colada song)" in his album Partners in Crime. He’s also an amazingly talented composer, screenwriter, author, and playwright; his play, Say Goodnight, Gracie was nominated for Best Play of 2003 at the Tonys. Nowadays, it seems as if he's been focusing on being an author. His fourth book, Murder Your Employer: The McMasters Guide to Homicide, just came out!


I had the absolute honor of meeting Rupert over the phone. He was insanely kind and thoughtful. He was excited to find I want to be a screenwriter and went out of his way to thoroughly answer all of my questions about Partners in Crime. So incredibly sweet. I've had the pleasure of getting to know Nick; like his dad, he’s naturally charismatic and just – awesome.


I love every piece of music of his. Genuinely, each manages to be unique in sound and tell a thought-provoking story, which makes sense knowing his background as a writer. Although Partners in Crime is an absolute classic, by far my favorite album has to be 1974’s Widescreen: Collector’s Edition. In this article, I will be defining the stories in 10 of the songs on Widescreen.



Widescreen

With the sentimental opening line, “There are songs that sound like movies”, Holmes makes it very clear that the overarching theme of the album is a collection of songs that sound like they should be movies, each telling a different story. In 2018 a compilation album literally called Songs That Sound Like Movies was released, including a lot of songs off of Widescreen. He often uses first person in his songs, sometimes even using his name. Regardless, it's clear that in each song he separately plays a character that has very little to do with the real singer-songwriter (the most prominent example being "Psycho Drama").


Celluloid - Flammable plastic thin sheets that used to be used for film that mostly stopped being used in the 1920-1930s

I believe this song is about a man infatuated with movies and he romanticizes them so much that it leaks into how he thinks the world should be. He repeats the line, “Oh widescreen wider on my eyes / Lie my mind with lies.” while adding slight variations each time. Here he's trying to convey that film has shown a broader more vibrant world that’s ‘wider on his eyes’ when in reality, that plane of existence doesn't exist. Using a play on words he states that he feels like movies have lied to him so deeply that it’s encompassed his entire brain. Pushing this point even further he says, “Life's a constant disappointment / When you live on Celluloid.” He connects his general unrealistic expectations to his own life, “Waiting for a girl to say the things / That I heard in the film last night, but she doesn't want to play the role / And she can't pick his cues up right”. He's pointing out that falling in love isn't like how it is in the movies and he wishes he had more control. He compares her actions to cues and her relationship with him as a role. He later asks the question, “Are we acting out a scene?”

Lyrics

There are songs that sound like movies There are themes that fill the screen There are lines I say that sound as if they're written There are looks I wear the theater should have seen But though I've made my life a movie The matinee must end by five And I must stagger out into the blinding sunlight half alive Wishing I were back inside the picture show There where it's always night Notice how the screen is wide The second row I'd sit around you tight Will I stay? Yes, I might Widescreen wide around my eyes Blind my mind with lies Find a world like nothing that I've seen Oh widescreen dreams are just my size As we walk from out the movie Do I look like Steve McQueen? Does the orchestra play chords When we start loving? Do we move just like slow motion On the screen? Life's a constant disappointment When you live on celluloid But my movie expectations are a dream I can't avoid Waiting for a girl to say the things That I heard in a film last night But she doesn't want to play the role And she can't pick her cues up right Will I dream? Yes, I might Oh widescreen wide around my eyes Blind my mind with lies Find a world like nothing that I've seen Oh widescreen take the world away Break me from the day Make me be what's not for real And make me feel like a star Make me what you are

Terminal

The song tells the story of a man riding the bus when a young woman catches his eye. They start to get along and she asks him to take off work. They spend the rest of the day together. Sharing this experience with this woman has made him snap out of his boring mundane reality. He longs to be with her for the rest of his life but has to leave to see his wife and kids. He returns to the terminal feeling ashamed that he hadn't stayed. He reminisces about that night admitting that he's now in a “terminal phase” believing he's nearly dead because he didn't give in to his passion. He sings a song to himself in an attempt to cope with the firey life he could’ve had.

Lyrics

I've come back this morning to where I first came alive

Here within this terminal where the buses arrive

I was a commuter on the 804, worked for a computer on the 19th floor and...

You came down the aisle of the bus and you sat by my side

Shoulder up to shoulder we shared that 9 o' clock ride

Oh my heart was screamin' as you left your seat

Followin' your movements I was at your feet and...


Oh down into the terminal both of us filed

So, we entered the terminal just as you smiled


"Won't you leave off work for the day?" you asked of me then

So I phoned in sick on the way to the home of a friend

We were all alone from 10 AM 'til 3

Really thought the fire had gone out of me but

You awoke the sleep of my life from gray into red

Made the weary wonder of Wall Street rise from the dead

Could have held her body my entire life

But I had to get home to the kids and the wife and...


So I left for the terminal where I began

Baby no, I wouldn't have left if I'd been half a man


So here I am this morning where love had asked for the dance

Here within this terminal where I passed on a chance

Lord, I'll never find her though I've truly tried

Probably she's found another bus to ride and...

I am now about to begin the last of my days

I'm within what others would call a terminal phase

I myself can only say it's livin' dead. Ridin' to the office with a song in my head that goes...

La da da...

And you know it grows

La da da... La da da…



Talk

A man reflects on his relationship and past interactions with a woman he's clearly passionate about. He regretfully thinks about how he wishes he didn't talk so much and how he believes that’s what led to the relationship’s demise.


Personally, I believe that the point of view of the man is way off. He thinks that his talking was the issue when in reality, the woman most likely just wanted a sexual relationship rather than a romantic one. She says, “I don’t really want to know you / All I want to do is show you” Directly she's stating that she’s looking for a kind of relationship where they don't need to know each other too well (possibly a sign of avoidant attachment style?). Thinking back, he asks himself, “Why did I begin to talk?” He asks her a couple of questions that are what you’d expect coming from someone nervously trying to make a meaningful connection.

Lyrics

When she said, "I don't really want to know you All I wanna do is show you" Why did I begin to talk? When I said, "Tell me do you like linguine? Have you seen the new Fellini?" That's when she began to walk Well, if there's smoke in her eyes You would think that I'd get wise But I can't let my love do the speakin' Talk All I do is talk Can I say the word that my heart is sure of? Oh talk I'm up to here with talk Every sound you heard held me back from your… love This is it-now is when I oughta hold her But I wait, you're growing older Even though she's in my reach So we sit looking at the television Listening to a politician Making a helpless speech And it's soon close to dawn And my baby starts to yawn So I say goodbye in the lobby Talk All I do is talk Can I say the word that my heart is sure of? Oh talk I'm up to here with talk Every sound you heard held me back from your love Oh talk All I do is talk Can I say the word that my heart is sure of?


Our National Pastime

The song tells the story of a man meeting a woman at a baseball game. He then takes her home and they have a basic conversation. The plot is quite simple but I think there’s a much deeper meaning behind its simplicity.


Overall I think the song is trying to nod at cliches of American culture. Our national pastime is referring to sports and thats confirmed by him meeting the girl at a baseball game. He compares his ability to try to get her to come home with him to a pitch and while making his case he says, “You are blond – I am tall / And I think that says it all”. When envisioning the ideal American woman in the 1970s most definitely two things would’ve come to mind, blond and thin. Blond attractive women have always been a staple of American culture, while men being tall clearly represents masculine ideals.


Within the song, they have a conversation. Fictitiously, he bets that she’s an Aquarius, trying to create common ground using (assumingly) a topic he doesn't understand in hopes of wooing her. She corrects him and says she's a Leo and makes the random statement that, “Leos are very big on Women’s Lib”. He says he doesn't believe in it. She, unbothered responds, "Uh, somehow I didn't think you did". Women’s Lib represents the women's liberation movement (started in 1960 and continues to the 1980s) that hoped to secure better - more equal - rights for women worldwide. Widescreen came out in 1974, the direct middle of the movement. I believe him bringing this up is the biggest indicator that he's pointing and laughing at the lack of intelligence in these two people supposed to represent the iconic American standard. Although this song was released 48 years ago, nonetheless, the man still sounds stupid as all hell saying he doesn’t believe in women’s liberation. While in the process of trying to convince her to be with him, juxtapositionally, he’s saying she doesn't deserve equal rights. Hilariously finalizing the point with her asking what kind of wine she's drinking, he responds red, and she's satisfied with the answer.


The song concludes with the man asking for her name (somehow after their conversation and presumably being in his home… he still doesn't know her name). She tells him her name’s Karen and he responds, “That was my mother's name”. In a grand fashion, the music dramatically ends. The point of mentioning her name is the same as his mother is bringing attention to the repeating cycle of relationships /the male and female roles in relationships. He's essentially saying a situation like this has happened before. The man is in the role that his dad was when he met Karen (the man's mom).

Lyrics

I met her at a baseball game That got held up by August rain Beneath the mezzanine, I huddled up against her hand By then the rain had left the ground And Seger threw a few on the mound We stood to face the flag that flew above the Navy band Then the anthem began to blare through the stadium It rang through the open air And I knew this was the time to make my pitch Won't you come home with me? I've a room you should see With a warm waterbed And pillow for your head I've a robe you could wear And smoke we could share You are blond – I am tall And I think that says it all A quick glass of wine Then I'll feed you a line Nilsson will sing And you won't feel a thing Oh say you will stay with me, love Must I say "I love you?" "Well, how do ya' like my pad?" "Oh, it's great. I mean, I love purple." "I – I bet you're an Aquarius, aren't you?" "No. Actually I'm a Leo." "I knew you were one of those." "You know, Leos are very big on Women's Lib." "I don't, uh, believe in Women's Lib." "Uh, somehow I didn't think you did." "Let me just turn on the hi-fi here." "Oh, that's pretty. Uh, what kind of wine is this?" "Oh, that's uh – that's red wine." "Red! That's my favorite kind." "Are you having a terrific time?" "Oh, yeah. I'm having a very terrific time." Oh, stay for a lifetime At least wait until the late show "So you didn't tell me your name." "My name is Karen." "That was my mother's name."


Soap Opera

The song follows a performer who used to in some way or another sing in the metropolitan opera. He sorrowfully reflects on the opera failing and his career ending once his, “voice went through a change about the same time as my skin.” He copes with this failure by watching soap operas which now has taken over his life, “Letting Bob and Shirley (the show's main characters) live my life for me. It's an opera made of soap using other people's hope.” Saying the opera’s made of soap could be a reference to how soap can temporarily clean your hands but it’s not permanent - it washes away. He’s trying to make himself better by mass-consuming soap operas but in the end, it's not going to end his pain. He’s so dependent that, “tomorrow's show ain't soon enough for me.” The speaker gives up on speaking about himself and goes into detail about the plot:

  • Shirley has finally given birth after carrying the baby for a year and it doesn't belong to her husband, Bob.

  • Bob was fired from his job as a surgeon because he developed a sudden fear of blood.

  • Judd is the real father but he doesn't want to be involved.

  • Bob has amnesia and can't remember his name or how he feels.

  • Shirley is cheating.

  • Bob's assistant nurse is going to poison Shirley.

  • Bob has become a farmer.

  • Shirley is sleeping with Bill and Fred.

  • The nurse and Judd are slowly feeding Shirley cyanide.

  • Shirley and Judd’s child grew fifteen years in only two and now unknowingly wants to be with her biological father.

Clearly, the point of going into the plot and discarding his own life is a satirical comment on how absurd soap operas are while simultaneously emphasizing his investment and infatuation.

Lyrics

There was a time when I saw myself a flood-lit figure on the stage The Metropolitan Opera, the Daily Critic's latest rage But my voice went through a change about the same time as my skin Now the opera is gone and what is left is getting awfully thin There was a time when I saw myself a superstar upon the stage In someone's rock and roll opera, but then my throat began to age And I wound up working nights with afternoons when I'm awake So I watch the daily dramas as my life becomes a coffee break Here's the story up to date: Shirley's found another mate Though she'll wind up with her husband in the end But her husband's got no life He can't make it with his wife Though his secretary's more than just his friend It's a day-to-day routine and I watch the TV screen Letting Bob and Shirley live my life for me It's an opera made of soap using other people's hope And tomorrow's show ain't soon enough for me There was a time when I saw myself a clean-cut cowboy on the screen A spurs-and-saddle horse opera, but that's a long-forgotten dream So I watch Let's Make a Deal and win the jackpot in my brain Then it's time to watch the show that's got my cerebellum half insane Here's the story down to earth: Shirley's finally given birth She's been carrying the baby for a year Though it don't belong to Bob Who's been fired from his job as a surgeon 'Cause he's got this sudden fear He can't stand the sight of blood Meanwhile Shirley's mining Judd Who's the father of the kid but he won't give And tomorrow's show will say what they left out yesterday And that gives me one good reason I should live Here's the story in a shell: Bobby's mind is shot to hell 'Cause he can't recall his name or how he feels He's a lost amnesiac While his wife is in the back of her station wagon notching up her heels Meanwhile Bob's assistant nurse has some poison in her purse And she's gonna slip into Shirley's soup Good old Judd thought up the scheme Good old Judd is Shirley's dream But old Judd don't want to share her chicken coop And the nurse would like to keep Shirley's body six feet deep in her grave And chase him to the Baltic Sea For she sees herself his wife to poor Bob Who's found a life as a farmer since he lost his memory So to give a resume: Bobby's bailing up the hay While his wife is in the straw with Bill and Fred But she don't feel great inside It's that dose of cyanide that the nurse and Judd will feed her til she's dead There's a baby who just grew fifteen years in only two And she has her eyes on Judd who is her dad But of course she can't know that She just knows just where it's at As her mother says, “It's good to be so glad.”

Psycho Drama

"Psycho Drama" isn't a song at all. It's moreso an audio-only movie. The sound effects are lively and immersive. Rupert has an absolutely beautiful speaking voice and he is a phenomenal voice actor.


The main character, Holmes can't remember anything about himself or where he is but he remembers a woman who smells of lavender. He says, “I've seemed to have left my memory in another town or another time”. He finds himself walking through the doorway of a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist says, “You’ve chosen a good place to collapse on the couch of the most brilliant psychiatrist lifestick has ever known.” Holmes insists that people are out to kill him but he can't remember who. The doctor pulls a gun on Holmes demanding to know where the wax figurine of the Kaiser is. He accuses Rupert of being a detective. Holmes jumps out the window of the 37th floor onto a foam rubber trolley car.


A familiar promiscuous woman approaches him, she smells of lavender. She flirts with him and then walks away. Grossman and his old companion Carl find Holmes on the street and want to discuss the whereabouts of the wax figurine. They both pull guns on him but the woman saves him by pulling a gun on all of them. She takes him and drives away.


They arrive at her Uncle's huge creepy house thats cursed; anyone who spends the night will die a suspicious death of a gruesome nature. She wants Holmes to protect her Uncle. A butler greets them, informing them that her uncle is dead. The suspects are all put in the study. Rupert goes to investigate. He has a plan. To trick everyone, he gives a speech about how he knows the identity of the killer already (he doesn’t). Just as he is about to say the name, the woman turns the lights out, gunshots are fired, and everyone’s dead. He comes to the conclusion that he himself is the killer. Grossman and Carl reveal themselves and they admit to the crimes. They pull a lever and Holmes falls through the floor.


He hears a voice say, “You’ve chosen a good place to collapse on the couch of the most brilliant psychiatrist lifestick has ever known.” Holmes, again, insists that people are out to kill him but he can't remember who.


Studio Musician

The song follows a musician singing about how he’s sad that no one will ever hear his music. It’s very personal, using first and second person; It feels as if he speaks to each listener individually - just for them. Compared to the other songs on this album, the story isn't intricate whatsoever. The focus of the song seems to be the instrumental assisting the vocals to convey longing. He repeatedly mentions various instruments (English horn, strings, guitars, trumpets, woodwind, low brass, horns), and every time they intensify when mentioned. By far Studio Musician is the most beautiful song on this album.

Lyrics

I am a studio musician We've never met, but you know me well I am the English horn that played the poignant counter-line Upon the song you heard while making love in some hotel I am a part of you, I've never tried for fame You'll never know my name I am the strings that enter softly Or three guitars that glitter gold I am the thousand trumpet lines that were an afterthought Intended as a way to get a dying record sold I never ride the road, I never play around I play what they set down I'm a working musician, pulling my five a week I'm the voice through which empty men try to speak A studio musician Blowing the chance I seek And when the woodwind cushion rises I start to dream with the low brass bed And I reject the riffs and Hendrix licks they've paid me for That I've played before Instead, they want what I hear in my head But I awake to horns, the drummer calls to me "We're up to Letter D!"

I'm a man of the moment, pop is my stock-in-trade Singles, jingles, and demos conveniently made A studio musician Whose music will die unplayed


Remember Wenn

The song has no lyrics and maintains a gloomy rainy day feeling.


Holmes created and wrote Remember Wenn a comedy-drama series that aired in 1996. The show’s about a fake radio station in Pittsburg, WENN, during the golden age of radio and events during World War II. It went on for 4 seasons, totaling 56 episodes.


Patty Lapone starred in an episode of Remember Wenn and also played a crucial role in Beau is Afraid as Beau's mother. I saw a prescreening of Beau is Afraid in Brooklyn with Nick Holmes last April. The world is so small.

A comically blurry image of (from left to right) Nick, me, and my dad at Brooklyn's Alamo theater

Theme From Accomplice

The song doesn't have any lyrics and feels very different from the rest of the album. It stresses me out and makes me ill. It sounds evil but that was the intention.


It's unknown if it has any relation but in 1991 Rupert would go on to write a triller-mystery play called Accomplice that made it to Broadway.


Hi Honey, I’m Home!

This might be my favorite song of his just because of how catchy the tune is. It's extremely cheery and pokes fun at the sitcom genre.


Hi Honey, Im Home became a sitcom and aired in 1991; the theme song of course was Rupert’s song. The pilot introduces Mike Duff, a huge sitcom lover, who finds out that his favorite sitcom Hi Honey, I'm Home got canceled. His life is turned around once he discovers that some of the people from the show have moved next door. I’m glad to see that even the show has maintained Rupert's humorous views on sitcoms. In the end, the show ran for two seasons with a total of 13 aired episodes.

Lyrics

At the end of my day on the highway Never do i roam What on earth is sweeter then to greet her Hi honey i'm home That was once our theme song and the dream song of our honeycomb and the small fry fell out as id yell out Hi honey, i’m home! we were once a sitcom family on your black and white tv now were off the air been pulled from there dropped into reality Life was once much duller they put color in our mono chrome still she gabs all day and spends my money i find the situation funny doesn't life seem so re-runny Hi honey, im home! Hi honey, im home!

In the end, Rupert Holmes is an absolutely amazing composer, storyteller, musician, and performer. I deeply admire his ability to achieve so many different kinds of genres and stories. LEGEND.


Songs not discussed: "Second Saxophone," "Phantom of the Opera," "Bagdad," "Letters That Cross in the Mail," "Brass Knuckles," "No Small Affair," and "There You Are."





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