Jarvis Cocker, Jonny Greenwood and Phil Selway played Hogwarts in the fourth Harry Potter film – here’s how the band came together.
The Harry Potter franchise is not one of those known for original songs, largely relying upon score instead. Yet it’s the soundtrack to 2005’s Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, a more serious and action-packed outing in which the titular boy wizard reluctantly becomes the youngest participant in a dangerous inter-school tournament, that boasts three original songs by Jarvis Cocker.
Where David Yates’ later instalments would include a Muggle-friendly needle drop from The Ordinary Boys here and introduce a young audience to Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds there, this instalment gives us a bespoke Hogwarts supergroup who perform live at the school’s Yule Ball, a Christmas prom seemingly designed to help organisers determine which children to kidnap for a forthcoming task. Amusingly, Ron Weasley is eventually judged to be of more interest to Harry than any prom date.
Described in JK Rowling’s book as “all extremely hairy and dressed in black robes that had been artfully ripped and torn”, popular wizarding world group The Weird Sisters are not hugely important to the 636-page mystery, which pivots upon several new characters who never appear in any other instalments. So, while Ludo Bagman, Bertha Jorkins, and Winky the house elf come away easily in the process of adapting from page to screen, it’s easy enough to slip a wizard rock band in if you’re already having a school dance.
First, there was the matter of getting the band together.
At first, it looked set to be Franz Ferdinand’s gig. In October 2004, the band’s singer Alex Kapranos told MTV “there’s a section where there’s a band of ugly sisters playing and I think […] some members of Franz Ferdinand may be the ugly sisters in the band.” Ultimately, the band had hoped to film their scenes before their 2005 tour got underway but had to withdraw when Warner Bros’ schedule clashed.
It was all change behind the scenes on the Potter franchise too. The great John Williams wrote the music for the first three films in the series, arguably peaking with his brilliantly baroque score for Alfonso Cuarón’s Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. Even by Williams’ standards, his dance card for 2005 was pretty full, with scores for Star Wars Episode III, Memoirs Of A Geisha and two Steven Spielberg films, War Of The Worlds and Munich, all on his to-do list that year. He was simply too in-demand to return to write a fourth Potter score as well.
And so, incoming director Mike Newell’s regular collaborator Patrick Doyle took over scoring duties on Goblet Of Fire, bringing a more classical style to this darker instalment and only carrying over Williams’ iconic ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ motif from the previous films. When the producers put out a call for songs for the Weird Sisters to perform, Doyle invited Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, with whom he had previously worked on the music for Great Expectations, (Cuarón’s 1998 version, not Newell’s later one in 2012 – it’s a small world in literary adaptations, innit?) to submit some tracks.
Later admitting that he mostly hoped to score some cool uncle points with his sister’s children, Cocker duly submitted a couple of songs and these were picked to be in the movie. He hadn’t expected to be asked to act in the film but found himself cast in the role of Weird Sisters frontman Myron Wagtail as well. Doyle and Newell also secured the acting services of Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and Phil Selway to play the Weird Sisters’ guitarist Kirley Duke and drummer Orsino Thruston, respectively.
With Cocker already in place, Pulp’s Steve Mackey joined the cast as bassist Donaghan Tremlett and All Seeing I’s Jason Buckle (with whom Cocker had formed electro duo Relaxed Muscle) played rhythm guitarist Heathcote Barbary. Buckle also co-wrote the group’s main dance-y number ‘Do The Hippogriff’ with Cocker.
That’s not a bad line-up for what amounts to about 60 seconds of screen-time in the finished film. In a 2020 interview with Stereogum, Cocker recalled that he bought his own costume for filming, which amounted to two or three days of “all these extras screaming at us as if we were the Beatles.”
Despite their relatively short amount of screen time, the film gives us snippets of two of the three tracks that Cocker composed for the soundtrack.
The most prominent is the aforementioned ‘Do The Hippogriff’, which got a full-blown music video in the special features of the film’s disc release. The effect is a bit like Pulp doing a more kid-friendly pop song than they ever did at the peak of their popularity, with lyrics about Boggarts and other magical creatures, rather than girls, sex, and supermarkets.
The other track that we hear in the film, ‘Magic Works’, is the slow number that plays out ironically as Harry, Ron, and Hermione have a terrible time of it and other couples enjoy themselves a bit more. This one, along with ‘This Is The Night’, feels much more in keeping with Cocker’s material at the time the film was released. Centred on magic as an abstract rather than any specific Potter-branded references that might make Warner get all proprietary, these tracks could as easily have slotted into his debut solo album ‘Jarvis’, which came out in 2006.
Speaking of litigation though, the producers hit a stumbling block in September 2005, a couple of months ahead of the film’s release, when Canadian folk band Wyrd Sisters filed a lawsuit against Warner, Cocker, Selway, and Greenwood for infringing upon their name. Curiously, they didn’t sue Rowling, who presumably got the name in the book from the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
While the case was being argued, the producers cut all mentions of the Weird Sisters name from the film and merchandising. Indeed, the music video for ‘Do The Hippogriff’ has a nifty bit of ADR where Warwick Davis’ Professor Flitwick brings the group on stage as “the band who needs no introduction”. The lawsuit wouldn’t be settled until five years later in March 2010, when it was settled for an undisclosed sum.
Cocker would later contribute ‘Fantastic Mr Fox aka Petey’s Song’ to the soundtrack of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox, as well as lending his voice to the character Petey (Professor Dumbledore actor Michael Gambon voices Farmer Bean and curtly tells him “That’s just weak song writing. You wrote a bad song, Petey!”). Meanwhile, Greenwood has gone on to compose some incredible scores for Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, earning an Oscar nomination for Phantom Thread and being robbed of one for There Will Be Blood on a technicality.
Though we were well past the heyday of film tie-in singles finding chart success by the time Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire hit cinemas in November 2005, it’s easy to imagine some of the (Legally Not) Weird Sisters’ songs might have had some crossover success in the UK charts had they been granted a single release. Heck, 2005 was the year Crazy Frog had a UK number 1 with ‘Axel F’, so it’s not outside of the bounds of possibility that a catchy Potter spin-off single from a supergroup of well-known names might have charted.
To play us out, here’s that music video for ‘Do The Hippogriff’, which features Jarvis doing his Jarvis thing, and a bit where Davis crowd-surfs over some excited children…
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