Various Artists: Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels

Britpop, Britart and gangsta grooves... Steve Sutherland hears the 180g reissue of a collection of slick 'n' snappy tunes used as the soundtrack to a hit '90s UK crime caper

We've just cleared customs at JFK and the six of us have piled into a stretched limo laid on by a mate who's in New York working with The Spice Girls. Karen, the limo driver, takes us straight to a club none of us will ever know the name of. It's one of those exclusive establishments with a frontage resembling a hole in the wall. No signage or anything as gauche as that.

Cinematic Charade
Karen informs the doorman that we are, in fact, the Brit new romantic jazz-funksters Spandau Ballet, in town to do some promo. We are ushered in toot suite and shown to an inner sanctum where a variety of lush libations are dispensed. After an indeterminate time, our mate who works for The Spice Girls reckons it's time to get a bit livelier so we are herded back out to the limo and taken to a much larger but no less exclusive club, the doorman duly informed by Karen that we are, in fact, members of the cast of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, the hottest new heist movie in town courtesy of director Guy Ritchie who is being touted as the Brit Tarantino. Just like that we're in.


Manchester band The Stone Roses pictured in the mid '90s

It's a massive warehouse, lots of iron girders and concrete floors, oceans of dry ice and podiums upon which the go-go dancers strut their stuff. We bump into Massive Attack's Tricky in the corner, and duly proceed to have an exceedingly good time until the club closes at dawn. It's taken a while to find one of our number. We eventually spot him, sweating buckets, shaking his booty and cutting a rug, raincoat buttoned up to his chin. He's up there on one of the podiums, go-go dancing with the girls, not in the least concerned that he's only been in Manhattan for an hour or five and he's already lost his passport.

Ringside Royalty
Oh, sorry. In all the excitement I forgot to mention that it's March 1999 and we lads are in town for the World Heavyweight Championship boxing bout between the holder, Evander Holyfield, and the contender, Lennox Lewis which will take place at Madison Square Garden tomorrow night. After a few hours shut-eye and a livener or six we are in our seats at the Garden in time for the celebrity intros.


Sleeve of the original US release

The MC announces the presence of Mr Keith Richards who duly stands up when the spotlight picks him out and waves to the crowd. Cue pandemonium. The noise dies down and the MC then announces to the ladies and gentlemen present that Mr Jack Nicholson is also in the house. Jack rises imperiously from his seat, bows, and the roof damn near blows off. A couple of minutes of standing ovation later, he grins, flicks a cheeky salute in Keef's direction and sits back down. Round One to Jack.

Anyway, it's nearly fight time and suddenly the row of seats behind us starts to fill up. The occupants? They're only the blooming cast of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Honest to God. It's them. One of our number plucks up the courage to say howdy and admit that we had been them only last night. There's much laughter and 'bloody cheek's and, post fight, quite a few bevvies together in a neighbourhood bar.

That was the '90s for you. Everyone, it seemed, was, in the wise words of English dance group Stereo MC's, connected. You could stroll into any number of Camden pubs and buy a drink for someone who would be on Top Of The Pops a few days later. Britpop and Britart ruled the world, our dominion soundtracked by two movies that nailed the zeitgeist – Trainspotting and Lock Stock… Trainspotting had Underworld's 'Born Slippy', the definitive anthem, but Lock Stock... ran it close in appreciating a new lineage of cool between the past – mostly mod sensibility – and the present.


Dusty Springfield in 1966

Getting Away With It
The world was our playground and it was all there for the using and the taking; an attitude that led, within a year or two, to the explosive introduction of the iPod where all of music history was made available to be appreciated, as it were, on an even playing field. Meanwhile the ability to create playlists turned us all into DJs overnight. Everything was in the now, everyone – boys, girls, whatever – was a geezer, it was all about getting away with it and the Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels soundtrack was instrumental in blowing the bloody doors off.

Gold from the vaults included a couple of unimpeachably groovy James Brown tracks in The Payback (which was intended as the music accompanying a 1973 movie called Hell Up In Harlem but criminally rejected) and 'The Boss' (from the Black Caesar soundtrack, also 1973) cannily curated alongside Junior Murvin's Lee Perry-created 1976 reggae rebel anthem 'Police And Thieves' to bestow upon the movie some old school gravitas. Meanwhile, punk godfather Iggy Pop and his Stooges downright dirty 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' (1969) rubbed up rather nicely against Dusty Springfield's soft and smoky sexy 'Spooky' (1970) and set the tone that anything goes so long as it suits (you sir).


Priced £36.99, the 180g reissue of Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels is available at

Double Trouble
Representing new kids on the block were Ocean Colour Scene's sharply tailored 'Hundred Mile High City', bloke of the moment Robbie Williams' 'Man Machine' and, chillest of the chill, The Stone Roses' 'Fools Gold'. And just so all the i's got dotted, all the t's crossed and the message came over crystal clear that cool was alive and well and partial, now and again, to a little ultraviolence, the soundtrack boasted two versions of the gangsta pop chart goodie '18 With A Bullet'. There was Pete Wingfield's 1975 original and a svelte new nouveau-soul duet between Lewis Taylor and Carleen Anderson, who just happened to be James Brown's goddaughter. They didn't just chuck this stuff together y'know, and, with snatches of gor-blimey cockney gangster dialogue interspersed between tracks, the Lock Stock... album serves as a reminder in these downbeat times, that we were all once having it proper large.

As for the fight, Lewis beat Holyfield hands-down, but the bout was declared a split draw which even the then New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called 'a travesty'. Appropriately enough, daylight robbery.


James Brown performs on the ABC TV programme Music Scene in 1969

Re-Release Verdict
Originally released in 1998 as a CD on Island Records and a 180g double LP on Simply Vinyl [VLP 089], this recent reissue arrives courtesy of UK-based independent record label Proper Records [UMCLP064] and brings a faithful reproduction of the sleeve originally used for the Island CD release with the same track listing as the Simply Vinyl LP. Proper Records has also released a '25th Anniversary' issue of the album, which comes on red 180g vinyl [UMCLP050]. HFN