Sam Mendes
WED MAY 27, 2009

* Chris Douridas

Academy Award-winning Director Sam Mendes says his life has been “lived out in songs” – from the tune his father sang to him at bedtime to the track that was playing while his first child was born. In his Guest DJ set, he shares a realization inspired by seeing an artist who refuses to cater to his audience, as well as a dance party starter from him school days and a song that defines college rock. Sam’s current project is the movie Away We Go.

For More:


1.) Bob Dylan – Mr Tambourine Man
2.) The Only Ones – Another Girl Another Planet
3.) Lloyd Cole – Are You Ready to be Heartbroken
4.) Rufus Wainwright – Barcelona
5.) Van Morrison – Caravan


Chris Douridas: Hi, I’m Chris Douridas, welcome to KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. I’m here with director Sam Mendes. Hi Sam.

Sam Mendes: Hi Chris.

CD: Today we’re going to be playing excerpts of songs that have inspired him over the years. It’s good to see you Sam. You and I worked together on American Beauty.

SM: We did, I have a large collection – still — of the cds you put together for me for that movie and I even listen to them occasionally.

CD: And your latest project is “Away We Go” with Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski. There’s actually a scene from this movie where Maya Rudolph is singing, in sort of a lullaby form, “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

SM: That’s right and that’s my first selection. It’s actually a song that reminds me of my childhood. My dad sang me to sleep with this song, the reconstructed hippie that he was and still is — big Dylan fan, an English teacher and lecturer. A lover of music and I suppose a lot of my musical tastes come from my dad and then when my son was born I used to sing him to sleep with this song as well, until I got to the point where I couldn’t sing it without bursting into tears like a sentimental old fool.

Song: Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”

SM: When it came to this moment in the script — and I was working on the script with Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida who wrote it together and are husband and wife — I suggested we have a scene where Maya sung her niece to sleep, she’s pregnant with a child, and to show the kind of mother she would be. I suggested she sing this song because it had some other meaning for me and also it’s one of the most beautiful songs ever written, I think.

CD: That’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” the Bob Dylan version of a song that is actually featured in acapella form in the film “Away We Go.” Director Sam Mendes is with us in the studio, it’s KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Now Ive never heard of The Only Ones- I’ve don’t know this song.

SM: For me, this is my school days. I know nothing about The Only Ones except this one single and that, I suppose, makes me only one stop short of being as ignorant as you but this reminds me of my school days and school discos and parties and stuff. It was one of those songs that when it came on at parties everyone got up on the dance floor.

Song: The Only Ones’ “Another Girl, Another Planet”

SM: The Only Ones were just the tip of the iceberg which included the Jam and the Clash and the Buzzcocks and the whole of the English New Wave scene of the late ’70’s, early ’80’s, which was really my generation of music. Music is never quite important again as it is when you’re 17 years old, you know, and I’m still drawn to stuff that sounds a little bit like that. You’ll find me listening to the Kaiser Chiefs or the Raconteurs or what have you. It’s kind of one degree to the left or to the right of the Buzzcocks or the Clash, you know, and The Only Ones is definitely of that era for me. I was very effective on air guitar for the guitar solo on “Another Girl, Another Planet.”

CD: Just a sample of “Another Girl, Another Planet,” by The Only Ones. It’s Sam Mendes’ Guest DJ Project here on KCRW. This next one on the list is by Lloyd Cole. We’ve been supporting his entire career here at KCRW, he’s been down here a few times.

SM: I love Lloyd Cole, I don’t know why he’s not as popular now as he once was. His first album Rattlesnakes was one of the first albums I bought when I got to university and I don’t think I took it off the turntable for about a year. It just sort of defines a sort of slight lyric, lyrical self consciousness a bit and the acoustic guitars and the sort of ambient synth, to me just defines the whole idea of college rock, but I love it.

Song: Lloyd ole’s “Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?”

CD: You know Camera Obscura has put out a song called, “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken.”

SM: Really? *chuckles*

CD: Sort of a response to that.

SM: Yeah, and any song that has the lyric, “Read Norman Mailer or get a new tailor,” is gotta be good by me.

CD: A taste of Lloyd Cole’s “Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?” It’s part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. I’m Chris Douridas with Sam Mendes. I have to say, I was a little tickled when I saw the next song on your list.

SM: There was a history here – you gave me the album, you gave me Rufus Wainwright’s first album and said ‘This is good, you should listen to this,’ and I said, ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ This song reminds me of making American Beauty, the whole album I played endlessly during that period and I tried, through you, to get him to write an original song and he said, “No.”

CD: I know! I couldn’t believe it!

SM: ‘He said no?!’ *chuckles* ‘But he’s a new artist, what is he doing?’ And subsequently, I’ve met Rufus and he said to me, ‘You know, I don’t know what I was on when I saw American Beauty, it was the worst mistake of my life!’ But I’m glad to say it hasn’t put me off his music and I think that somehow the mood of this, the atmosphere of this, is incredibly beautiful. It’s a beautiful song and it reminds me very much of when I was directing the kids — Ricky and Jane, the characters played by Thora Birch and Mena Suvari and Wes Bentley –and there was a whole section that, had I left in the movie, which was a video taken of Jane by Ricky that did have this music on it, so it still feels very much of that period for me.

Song: Rufus Wainwright’s “Barcelona”

SM: You know, he stayed with us all through the ensuing eight or nine years and he read in an article — and this is factually correct — that my wife and I had had Rufus’ album Want One on in the birthing room when she was giving birth to our son, Joe. So Rufus wrote on the cover of Want One, in a little speech bubble coming out of his head, ‘To Kate, push!’ *chuckles* and sent us a copy of the album so we cherish this copy of the album.

CD: An excerpt from “Barcelona,” by Rufus Wainwright, it’s part of our Guest DJ Project here on KCRW. I’m Chris Douridas, our guest in the studio is Sam Mendes, and we’re going to close with a rather iconic figure.

SM: Van the Man.

Song: Van Morrison ‘s “Caravan”

SM: I put this on the list because I went to see him about a month ago and I was blown away. I’ve seen Van in concert before — he’s not the best tempered live performer, he’s always in a bit of a mood — but he was on fire and I just thought it was one of the great gigs I’ve ever seen. What really moved me and inspired me was that he was just himself. He’s the most uningratiating performer in the sense that he doesn’t care, or appear to care, about how he looks, what his relationship to the audience is. He doesn’t say a word, he just does his music, he speaks through his music — and the music was inspired on this particular night.

I suppose in a way it was a big moment for me to watch someone simply being themselves and continuing do what they love and letting the work speak for themselves. And if there is a mantra for anyone in a creative life, I suppose that should be it.

My life has lived out in songs rather than in photographs. I don’t keep a lot of things. I’m not a hoarder, I’m not a memory junkie. I don’t like to gather my memorabilia and stuff like that. I don’t have posters on the walls of movies. I sort of cancel and continue, but music, for me, is the way I retain memory best.

CD: We’re closing with an excerpt of “Caravan,” by Van Morrison. It’s KCRW’s Guest DJ Project, I’m Chris Douridas our guest is Sam Mendes. Thank you so much for being here.

SM: Great pleasure Chris, really.

CD: For complete track listing and to find these songs online go to

Link to original article online

Publication: Web

Publication date: 27/05/09