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broadway, movies, and the music that sticks in your mind

It started with the Jesus Christ, Superstar lyrics I posted last week. It's been snowballing ever since.

I'm on a soundtrack kick. Not just movie soundtracks but Broadway shows, too.

(This is a very long post. If you read through to the end, there's a question for you to answer)

My mother was a show tunes fanatic. She still is, though she tends to be listening to Pink Floyd more often than Annie Get Your Gun these days. My sisters and I (who will vouch for this in the commets today, I'm sure) know the lyrics to almost any movie musical and Broadway musical to come down the pike since time began.

Today, I'm on the Hair soundtrack, thanks to a post by Kathy who got the Manchester, England song stuck in my brain.

Hair is basically an anti-war story. It's the 60's encapsulated, full of peace, love and - you guessed it - lots of long hair. I had this poster hanging in my room at one time, which my mother got from the program when she went to see the play. I remember how she stuck the program in the upper cabinet above the refrigerator, because it had the lyrics and the lyrics were dirty and coarse. Nevermind that my mom blasted the 8-track of the soundtrack during the day, I suppose she thought that if we didn't read the words, we wouldn't know what they were saying.

There was the short but succint words to Sodomy, which had me running to a dictionary to look up these words:


Father, why do these words sound so nasty?

Can be fun
Join the holy orgy
Kama Sutra

Without knowing it, my mother gave me my first "birds and bees" talk through and 8-track tape.

I also remember singing the song Initials over and over again, no clue whatsover what I was singing about:

LBJ took the IRT
Down to 4th Street USA
When he got there
What did he see?
The youth of America on LSD




My older cousin tried to explain not only the song to me, but the meaning of the entire show. It wasn't until I was in high school and the movie version came out that I finally understood it all. It was one of those message movies. Today, the message seems rather muddled and looking back at Hair, I see it more as a pro-drug statement than an anti-war statement.

There were other soundtracks, other movies made from plays that wove their way into my life.

West Side Story was one of my favorites. The romance, the intrigue, the action, the music - it was combined so beautifully, so magically that the tragedy seemed more romantic than tragic. I can still, to this day, sing the words to every song on that soundtrack.

The Music Man, Carousel, Oklahoma! We watched them again and again, listened to the songs over and over until the stories became my own and I would lay in my bed in the dark of night and pretend I was Maria, feeling pretty and witty, or Marian the librarian, completely smitten with Harold Hill.

The golden age of musicals has come and gone. Sure, they still make a few here and there (hated Moulin Rouge, loved Hedwig), but music has come to play an important part in movies nonetheless.

Oftentimes these days, movie soundtracks are promoted as heavily as the films themselves. Often rock or rap oriented, the soundtrack generally screams at you and interferes with the movie itself. I haven't seen many films in which the music is used to add to the story rather than just be there, like a pesky fly.

That's not to say the soundtracks don't stand out on their own. I own a whole collection of soundtracks that serve as more of compilations cds than anything to do with the actual movie they were part of. Spawn, Judgment Night, SLC Punk, Romeo and Juliet, The Matrix...it doesn't matter whether the movie rocked or not, at least the soundtrack does.

It's always better when the songs fit the movie. Goodfellas used music to its advantage, underscoring the drama and tension of the scenes by using carefully selected songs, especially the scene in which Layla was playing.

Before I write more, because I could write on these subjects until hell freezes over, I'll turn it over to you:

What are your favorite scenes from movies where music is used to emphasize a point or create an atmosphere? (using my Goodfellas example as a guide)


At the beginning of Independence Day, when they first receive the alien signal, someone is listening to REM'S "It's the End of the World As We Know It".

I've always loved the irony of that.

Three stand out: The soundtrack to "Pulp Fiction," especially the scene with "Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon". A more recent one is "Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood", where music is ued to evoke an era a time and place and defining moments..often very happy music in very dark scenes. Finally, "Southpark"....brilliant send-up of every musical ever done.

The first thing that popped into my head was "Lawrence of Arabia" when Lawrence returned from the desert to recover one lost man with the sweeping score building to a crescendo.

The Darth Vader theme from Star Wars is also pretty evocative.

Not really a "song", but the zither music in The Third Man: playful, sinister, perfect (...but it's sort of ruined Spongebob Squarepants for me).

The first thing that came to my mind was John Barry's sweeping score for "High Road to China", especially the flying sequences.

The other movie where the music really made an impact on me was "Streets of Fire". which was really made by its soundtrack.

And who forget John Cusack standing below Ione Skye's window, serenading her with a ghetto blaster belting out Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" in "Say Anything..."

In "Star Trek: First Contact", when Zefram Cochrane blasts off with "Magic Carpet Ride" blaring, that's a great music moment (smile).

Cowboy Bebop has lots of those moments too - especially Spike falling out the stained glass window to "Green Bird", Spike chasing Ein's dognapper to "I Want It All Back", or the haunting music at the end of the final session.

The Buffy The Vampire Slayer musical was tremendously well done - by far the closest I've heard anyone come in decades to the magic of the classic movie musicals.

Goodfella's is probably one of my favorite examples. I love that part of Layla.

My wife and I love "O Brother Where Art Thou?" The scene with John Goodman and our heros at the cross burning I believe has "O Death" by Ralph Stanley in the background. It's not what I would call a favorite song, but it is very effective in that scene. The whole movie is like that.

I think the soundtrack to "Jaws," was one of the most beautiful and brilliant things ever written. Unfortunately, John Williams plagarized quite a bit from Richard Strauss (tone poems in particular) in a few of his soundtracks, including "Jaws," "Superman" and "Star Wars," but the original and stolen melodies in "Jaws" are amazing. The soundtrack completely defines the movie.

And I don't even much like John Williams.

It was his magnum opus, in my opinion.

Harold Ramis teaching his English class "Da Do Run Run" in Stripes.

I agree with most of the above, and I have a few movie and TV soundtracks to add:
Blade Runner
"Once More, With Feeling" (Buffy musical episode)
Xanadu [my guilty pleasure]
Any South Park soundtrack (movie or TV)

I loved the soundtrack from The Full Monty. Using disco was brilliant. No one admits to liking those songs but they always seem to get everyone on their feet when they're played at a dance.

And the soundtracks from Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz still make me smile. I associate them so closely with the movie, I can close my eyes & picture the scene the music is from.

The soundtrack to "Over The Edge" (an incredibly fantastic 1979 young-Matt-Dillon movie about troubled teens in a supposedly perfect pre-planned suburban community) is amazing.

It had Cheap Trick, the Ramones, the Cars... amazing and occasionally non-mainstream rock music provided the soundrack to one of the first teen movies that was actually well-made and convincing, and is still not available on DVD, much to the chagrin of the film's modest number of dedicated fans.

Check it out on IMDB if ya want:

The Big Chill is the one that started that for me. My dear departed lUUUUUUUved Sleepless in Seattle. Don't hate me for this, but.....The Way We Were epitomizes movie nostalgia for me. (dammit, the fucktard CAN sing)

Geoff, I can't believe someone else remembers that movie! Every once in a while it shows up on a cable channel at 3am.

Don't know if it's quite the same but I love Mortal Kombat. yah, I know... Anyhow, the techno is used as the background music, and it just rocks! There are so many more but that's the one that comes to my mind now. I had forgotten about that beginning in Indpendence Day - at the time I remember getting a huge kick out of that one.

My favorite mystery movie of all time, the Zero Effect, uses Nick Cave's "Into My Arms" to great effect.

And I loved the use of "London Calling" in the latest James Bond flick.

I thought the soundtrack used in Last of the Mohicans really emphasised the storyline AND the incredible scenery. I still love that movie. Could be because Daniel Day Lewis looks good wtih long hair, though.

I commented over at my blog. Didn't want to take up too much space. Plus I have no shame about trying to draw traffic there.

Alex, you rule. 'Zero Effect' is a great frigging movie, and yet 9 out of 10 people I ask, tell me they have never seen it.

Yeah, Geoff, I also remember that movie well - I must have watched it ten times back when my family first got HBO.

As for more recent stuff, I think Cameron Crowe has a really good sense of how to integrate soundtrack music into certain scenes. Cat Stevens' 'The Wind' playing while Penny Lane dances in the empty concert hall in Almost Famous, John Cusack holding the boom box playing Peter Gabriel's 'In Your Eyes' outside Ione Skye's house in Say Anything.

Tears For Fears' 'Head Over Heels' was used to great effect recently in Donnie Darko.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High . . . Judge Reinhold has his little stroke fantasy about Phoebe Cates getting out of the pool and taking her top off, while The Cars' "Moving In Stereo" plays on the soundtrack. A great, great moment.

And is there a better movie musical sequence in all of musical history than Gene Kelly's dance for "Singing in the Rain?" I don't think so.

The rape sequence in "A Clockwork Orange". Little Alex singing "Singin' In the Rain" while kicking the old man. Dim singing "ready for love" over and over during the actual rape.

Horrid, repellent, and painful to watch. And one of the most effective uses of music in film that I've ever seen.

And yet, surprisingly, it didn't ruin "Singin' In the Rain" for me. Thank goodness.

I just watched Donnie Darko (for the twentieth time) yesterday. The ending, when they use a very slow version of Tear's for Fear's Mad World (is that what you were referring to, Kevin?) is mesmerizing. The music plays perfectly into the scenes.

I was thinking about the beginning of the movie where all the kids are going into the high school, and how keyed-in certain cuts were to the beat of the song - but yeah, that usage of Mad World was great, too.

Jon Brion's instrumental music in Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love is excellent (he probably did Boogie Nights, too, but it's been so long since I've seen that), but the use of pop music in Magnolia is inspired. The song playing every time William H. Macy's character is driving is so right, Supertramp songs playing in the bar makes me so happy, and Aimee Mann completely makes the movie. Oh man. I love that movie.

The music in The Big Lebowski (Dylan, Costello, and especially Kenny Rogers) is great, too.

How about "(Always Look at) The Bright Side of Life" at the end of Monty Python's Life of Brian? The effect of all those people up on crosses singing the jaunty little tune is quite....jarring.

For more recent movies, Lilo & Stitch uses its music quite well. Many of the Elvis tunes are not background, but actually part of the action. The Hawaiian pieces in the opening and the surfing scenes are also great fits.

I can't hear Stealer's Wheel (sp?) Stuck in the Middle of You without thinking of Reservoir Dogs and cops losing an ear. That whole movie has a great soundtrack.

In a similar vein, Bill Clinton has completely f'd up Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow for me for the rest of my life.

Read alot of really good suggestions, so I won't bother restating them.

Two of my personal favorites are Eric Serra's score to The Professional. It adds so much to the feel of the movie.

The other is just a simple moment from Con Air after they have taken over the plane and the camera focuses in on Nicholas Cage for the line "Does your conscience bother you, tell the truth." Cheesy, but I dug it.

A cigarette later, there is one that I forgot to add. It isn't a moment during a movie, per se. I think Radiohead's Exit Music(From a Film) is the perfect capper for Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet.

Paz, I once wrote a short story based entirely on that Radiohead cd.

The music from The Omen scared me more than the actual movie.

"Dueling Banjos" from Deliverance Can't hear it without thinking, "Squeal like a pig" Poor Ned!

My mother was also a huge musicals maven, and I grew up watching and listening to them all, too.

And yes - I can't stand her politically, but I LOVED Funny Girl with Barbra. "I'm the Greatest Star" and "Rain on My Parade" were great scenes.

And anyone who has been to Philadelphia - don't tell me you didn't want to run up "those" stairs singing "Gonna Fly Now"!

Magnolia. I didn't know Aimee Mann before the movie, was kinda annoyed by the use during the movie, then haunted (in a good way) afterwards. like it or hated it, it was a significant use of music. i loved it.

Pretty In Pink. Defined the coolness of the movie more than Duckie Dale.

Aaron, I think it was you that led me to the Bjork song in her movie. In that one scene....

ooh ooh, i also like David Lynch's use of Angelo Badalamenti, whose work stands on its own without the movie.

yep, i just came back to talk about Bjork's Dancer in the Dark. the most haunting, startling, horrifying moment is at the end when she's singing about how wonderfully escapists and magical musicals are, how nothing bad can happen in a musical, how everything's wonderful in a musical. she's singingit acapella, it's raw, it growls, its from deep pain, and then it's cut short.

she says she will never make a movie again because of the pain she went though in making that one. the emotional involvement was too much.

Just watched the 2000 version of "Hamlet", starring Ethan Hawke and Julia Stiles and set in modern-day New York City. Excellent adaptation. And, I specifically remember noting, excellent music. "Cello techno" might be a good description for one of the main themes.

Loyal Citizen Victor, stole my scene. But at least I know I'm not the only sick fuck in the world that smiles a little when Michael Madsen does the little dance inbetween mutilating the guy's ear and running out to the car for a can of gasoline.

Tee hee.

The end of The Wild Bunch. The four survivors load shotguns and pistols, start for the center of Aguaverde.

They march past a Mexican with a guitar strumming a romantic folksong. Martial drums come up louder and louder. By the time the Bunch reaches the plaza, voice and guitar are buried by thundering drums and clashing cymbals.

They turn a corner and stop. A hundred soldiers turn to look at them. The music dies. It's a great lead-in to a great climax.

The scene in Face Off, when, during one of the big shootouts (there are so many shootouts in John Woo movies) a mother puts headphones over her five-year old’s ears so he won't be frightened by the noise.

We see what he sees and hear what he hears as he watches the gunfight - "Over the Rainbow"

Almost all of the Ennio Morricone music from the Leone spaghetti westerns, but especially the music from from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Regardless of what I thought of his movies, I've always thought Stanley Kubrick made excellent choices with music. The final scene of Dr. Strangelove with "We'll Meet Again" playing while the world is blown up being a particular highlight. Great call on Over the Edge BTW, I love that movie. In a similar vein, I also remember being impressed with the music in Suburbia when I first saw it. But I was an impressionable young punk rocker at the time, maybe I wouldn't be so thrilled with the sounds of TSOL, the Vandals, or DI these days.
And don't forget Repo Man...

"I'm so Glad I'm not Young Anymore" from Gigi, perfectly captures the character played by Maurice Chevalier.

Also love "If Ever I Could Leave Y ou" from Camelot--Lance singing his year-round adoration for every facet of Guinevere's personality and self.

All the music from Big Chill.
Remember my name from Breakfast Club.
Blaze of glory from Young Guns.
Tubular Bells from the Exorcist, tell me you can hear that without thinking of the movie. If you say you can, you be lyin'.
Roxanne from 24 hours.
Low Rider from Gone in 60 seconds.
In the air tonight from Risky Business
Great balls of fire from - see below.....

And the winner is: You've lost that lovin feelin from what movie?

Everyone knew that song.

I'm a little freaked out that I remembered all those..........

Oh, and also the use of the Piazzolla throughout 12 Monkeys. And while I'm mentioning Gilliam, I always thought the many variations of the song Brazil in Brazil were used extremely well, especially the opening sequence.

I think that CD spent over a month non-stop in my CD player. Just talking about it makes me want to go pop it in.

I have yet to see Dancer in the Dark, but I really want to. I Have Seen it All is my only real exposure to it. That and knowing the basics of the plot.

I'm surprised no one mentioned the Graduate. I don't share musical tastes with my Eminem-loving classmates, but the Sound of Silence is one song everyone loves.

John Williams is my favorite modern composer: I love anything from the Star Wars serires. The Fiddler of the Roof is unforgettable. "Tradition!"

In the movie Donnie Darko, at the end (I won't say what's happening, and ruin it for everyone) they play the song "Mad World" done by Gary Jules, and the song's simple melody and thought-provoking lyrics are just gorgeous, and perfect for the scene. (That wasn't a run-on sentance, I swear ;) )