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FROM THIS EPISODE

Alan Cumming is a true entertainer whose flair for the dramatic is on full display in his Guest DJ set – from his selection of a “super intense” aria to the song that accompanied him down the aisle. Alan has found fame in film (X-Men United), on Broadway (Cabaret) and is making a special appearance on the hit CBS Series The Good Wife this week.

For More: www.alancumming.com
www.cbs.com/primetime/the_good_wife/

Tracks
1. The Proclaimers - Letter from America
2. Maria Callas - "Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana" from La Wally
3. Kate Bush - Breathing 
4. Shane McGowan - You're the One
5. Rufus Wainwright - Poses

Transcript
Marion Hodges: Hi I'm Marion Hodges and I'm here with acclaimed actor Alan Cumming. He has found fame working in films like X-Men United and on stage. He won a Tony for his role in Cabaret and also created his own traveling cabaret show I Bought a Blue Car Today -- while still finding the time to appear on the hit CBS Series The Good Wife. Today, we will be playing excerpts of songs he's selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. And first off, I just want to say hi Alan and welcome to KCRW. 

Alan Cumming: Thank you. Hello. 

MH: And let's get right into it. It looks like we've got a song from your fellow country men The Proclaimers. 

proclaimers.jpgAC: Indeed. This is a song that was The Proclaimers first, sort of, hit. It's called "Letter From America.” And I think they're amazing, and they're still amazing. But they're really great because they were the first sort of, you know, rock-y pop - or however you want to call them - band from Scotland that I heard that actually performed in their own voices. And this is something I always think is really stupid, when British people who talk like me or talk with an English accent - and suddenly when they start singing they always sing in an American accent. I think that's stupid! 

It's been a great thing for me doing my show that I sing all the songs in my own voice like this. I think that's a great way to take your personality and connect more with an audience because of that. So I first thought about that whole notion because of The Proclaimers. And I just really love them. And this song's really great because it's all about sort of -- it's a pop song about many things -- but a lot about the industrial heart of Scotland being destroyed and everyone going away. So you know - you don't get too many of those. 

Song: The Proclaimers’ “Letter to America” 

MH: We just heard from The Proclaimers with Letter From America. What are we going to hear next? 

MariaCallas.jpgAC: Now we're delving into the classical world with Maria Callas. And it's an aria from this opera, which I always think is a very funny title, called La Wally. Because in Britain, if you're a "wally," it means you're kind of a bit of a dope. So this is the opening song from the Opera and it's called "Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana” and it's about her saying good bye to this person. That she's going away, away from the clock tower and everything. 

And I just - I just think it's so - I mean, Maria Callas is such an amazing performer and also she's very passionate and her fans are very passionate. I just think this is one of these arias that is so super intense, almost too intense. Sometimes, a sign of if I really like someone, or if I'm having a kind of crazy night and we come back home, I might sort of a have a test about someone -- is to put the headphones on them and play this really, really loud. And if they don't freak out then…they must be dead. 

Song: Maria Callas’ Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana 

"Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana" from

MH: Alright we just heard from Maria Callas from the Opera La Wally performing a piece called “Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana.” I'm here with our Guest DJ Alan Cumming and next we have a track from Kate Bush. She's a very theatrical performer and singer and you've picked the song “Breathing.” I'm very curious to find out what your connection is to that song. 

KateBush.jpgAC: Well, I just think Kate Bush is amazing. She was very influential on me actually when I was a little boy because of the fact that, as you said, she was so theatrical and in a time when it was quite packaged, structured, and formulaic pop, she was this hugely different and really innovative artist. I just thought she was amazing. I was very inspired by her. Also, this song is about nuclear war – about a child inside a mother's body who's talking to her about the fact that there's been this nuclear war. So, it's pretty intense stuff. And when you're in your early teens, and you're just starting to realize what's going on in the world, and there was all this during the Cold War and all this awful, scary stuff going on. So really, this song really resonates with me. The fact that someone was actually making this, sort of, protest song about this and doing it in such an amazing and artistic way. I, on many levels, related to it. And I just think she's a really brilliant artist. And I don't know that people know her so well in this country. I don't think she really broke in the way that she did in Britain. 

Song: Kate Bush’s “Breathing” 

AC: A few years ago I was going to make a film in London and I asked her if she'd write the music. So, I actually had this communication with Kate Bush that was just one of those times when you think, ‘I cannot believe this is happening in my life. I cannot believe that Kate Bush is answering my emails and stuff like that." And then, the film didn't end up happening. You know the thing is, it's so hard not to -- as I know because people do it to me a lot -- "geek out." Even when you think you've got it together and you're going to "geek out" in a kind of strained, orderly way -- you can't. And I'm so glad I never actually met her it was all just by telephone or by email. I would have just wet myself if I met Kate Bush. 

MH: Alright, well on that note, let's listen to Kate Bush performing the track “Breathing.” 

AC: And I'll try and not…pee. 

Breathing - Kate Bush 

MH: What are we going to hear next?

Shane.jpgAC: “You're the One.” And it's sung by Shane Macgowan from The Pogues and Maire Brennan. And it's quite a slushy love song. And why it's significant to me, is that it was the theme song for a movie I was in called Circle of Friends, this Irish film. My friend Pat directed it. I was just so excited that Shane Macgowan was going to be singing the theme, so I just really always liked it and thought it was a really beautiful. It's just this sort of thing about saying "You are it! You are definitely the one!" And I just love that phrase and I kind of used it to ensnare my husband. And so when we walked down the aisle when we got married in London we had a string quartet playing “You're the One.” 

Song: Shane Macgowan and Maire Brennan’s “You're the One”

MH: Well, we just heard Shane Macgowan from The Pogues and Maire Brennan performing “You're the One” from the Circle of Friends soundtrack from 1995. Alan, tell us what you brought to play for us next. 

Rufus.jpgAC: The next song I'd like to play is by Rufus Wainwright. It's called “Poses.” And I think Rufus is a great artist and - he's a friend of mine actually - and I just admire him so much. The album that this one came from, it was called “Poses,” I thought was just genius. It was a really - I remember when that came out - it was just an amazing time. I think Rufus is so unusual in that, for an artist, and especially an artist who writes his own work, how, kind of unprecious he is about it. 

There was a benefit thing for this theatre company that I had for a little while. I was going to sing at the benefit. I was going to sing one of Rufus's songs. And then Rufus came along and said he would also sing at the benefit. So, he performed and then I came on and I was like, ‘It's kind of awkward, because I was going to sing one of your songs. I won't sing it now." And he said, ‘Oh no, I'll play it for you, I'll play it for you.’ 

So he did his songs, and then he stayed on. I came on and he played the piano for - it was actually “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” off the album. But the reason I like this one so much, aside from it being so beautiful, is that after September 11th I went to upstate New York with a friend of mine, once all the bridges and tunnels were open again. He had a house in the Catskills and the place next door, this kind of rickety little cottage on this land, really overgrown, was for sale. And I drove up the little lane to see it and all the branches were coming over in front of the road and then banging on the window of the car and Rufus was playing and just as this song, “Poses,” kind of, really sort of climaxed there was this cottage which I then bought and is now my country retreat. So every time I walk up that road now, I always think of this song. 

Song: Rufus Wainwright’s “Poses” 

MH: Alan, thank you so much for joining us here in the studio today and sharing some songs. 

AC: Thank you. It's been nice to hear those songs again. 

[PLAYLIST GOES HERE]

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