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A trek for sounds of ‘Shrek 2'

Special to The Times

Whatever the quest undertaken by the green guy in “Shrek 2" turns out to be, the search for music for the animated movie has proved to be nearly as much of an adventure.

Most of the collection is taken care of, with some enticing elements. Young Australian singer Butterfly Boucher was recruited to do a version of David Bowie’s “Changes,” and the results impressed Bowie so much that he stepped in and made it a duet. The duo Frou Frou did a dark version of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘80s cheese-fest “Holding Out for a Hero” for the soundtrack album (the movie version is sung by actress Jennifer Saunders).

Tom Waits contributed a new version of his “Little Drop of Poison” (in the film, Captain Hook performs the song at a piano in a bar). Pete Yorn offered a version of the Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love” for an action sequence. Joseph Arthur, Jem and the Eels wrote new songs for the film.

And, matching the giddiness standard set by the cast’s sing-along of “I’m a Believer” for the first “Shrek” movie, there’s a film-closing version of “Livin’ la Vida Loca” sung by Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas.

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Then there was the crucial opening title song, which would be the featured single from the soundtrack. The producers had something ready to go, something perfect that had been in place for months.

But at the last minute, the song was withdrawn when representatives of the artist and the film could not agree on terms of a deal.

“We were coming down to the wire and we had the song we’d been living with for months fall out,” says the film’s music supervisor Chris Douridas, who would not disclose the original act’s name.

So just two months ago, with the album due in stores May 11 and the movie opening May 21, Douridas had to start the hunt again.

“We went to 25 bands to write something to replace it,” he says. “It was just about every band you could think of.”

At that point, Weezer’s “Island in the Sun” had been used as a model for the desired selection, and bands were asked to approximate its tempo and tone. In stepped Counting Crows.

“They came in and watched the opening sequence and submitted a song,” Douridas says.

The song, “Accidentally in Love,” perfectly fit the bill. But it was a raw demo recording, and as the decision was being made to use it, the band headed for its European tour. Last-minute arrangements were made to clear the group’s schedule, and producer Brendan O’Brien flew to Europe to marshal a frantic recording session.

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“They canceled a Brussels show and Brendan went over to record it in a day,” a relieved Douridas says. “You can imagine my joy at getting to the end of this and seeing something we can stand behind as strongly as this. It’s a great new song, the opening of the movie that hits you right when you walk in.”

Why be an activist?

Once upon a time it was a given that pop musicians would take stands on issues of the day. And it wasn’t just Joan Baez and Phil Ochs, but also mainstream acts who commented both in interviews and in song on war, civil rights and the environment.

So while on the Tell Us the Truth tour last year -- with Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, Audioslave’s Tom Morello and others -- singer-songwriter Jenny Toomey was a bit miffed that every interview and news conference seemed to start with the same inquiry.

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“The first question we were asked every single time was, ‘Why be an activist?’ ” says Toomey, who was perturbed that the issue was even raised.

“It ignores the entire history of the civil rights movement and the role music played in that,” she says. “It ignores the Vietnam movement and the culture wars of the ‘60s. It ignores the role of punk rock in a critique of capitalism and commercialism. It ignores hip-hop and race issues.”

In addition to being a musician, Toomey is executive director of the Future of Music Coalition, a not-for-profit think thank in Washington, D.C., that works to educate musicians and the public about issues shaping policy in the music world.

That uncomprehending question will be a centerpiece of the organization’s fourth annual policy summit convention, to be held May 2-3 at George Washington University.

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A session titled “This Panel Kills Fascists” will address the history of and current reasons for activism among musicians, both in terms of larger social issues and such matters as media ownership that can directly impact the music world. Panelists scheduled include Artemis Records Chairman Danny Goldberg, Hip Hop Summit Action Network political director Alexis McGill and punk band Anti-Flag member Pat Thetic (representing Punkvoter.com).

Speaking up, Loudon and clear

One musician upping his activism is Loudon Wainwright III. The veteran troubadour recorded his song “President’s Day” at a March 27 show at McCabe’s in Santa Monica and has decided to make the track available for free download in hopes of swaying voters in November.

“It is my sincere hope that those of you who like the song and approve of my plan will assist me in spreading the word about ‘President’s Day’ in order to inform and/or inflame any swing voters out there who remain at all ambivalent or apathetic about the current administration,” he says in a statement.

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Rockin’ with Barbie, sort of

Alanis Morissette has said she changed the lyrics on a new song in order to get radio airplay. New York singer-songwriter Jennifer Marks also has changed the lyrics to one of her new songs. But rather than radio considerations, Marks altered some lyrics to “Live” for Mattel considerations.

The song is on a DVD that the toy company is packaging with a new Barbie doll. But the lyrics about work, overdue rent and a cold shower didn’t quite track for the Barbie set.

So Marks has altered the words to be more age-appropriate. The job-related gripes now deal with school and homework, and the shower is just a shower, with no temperature specifics. However, Barbie apparently needs a little buzz, because there still is a reference to breakfast including a “cold cup of coffee.” Maybe it’s decaf.

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