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Soundtracks That Helped Make the Movie

It’s a critical ingredient to any great movie: the soundtrack. Sometimes it’s just really good background music, but other times, the soundtrack can really lift the storyline. Here are four soundtracks that left an impression.

The Warriors (1979)

Hard to fathom that a flick about a bunch of reprobates running from an onslaught of New York City gangs circa the late 1970s would have you rooting for the former.  Yet, somehow, The Warriors pulls it off.

That’s in no small part to the use of one of the initial instances of an electronica music score, courtesy of  Barry De Vorzon.  Hey, he did compose the theme music which the TV soap The Young and the Restless has used now for nigh on four and half decades.

The great Joe Walsh provides rousing riffs for the film’s finish.  “In the City” (De Vorzon co-wrote the tune with Walsh) punctuates the closing credits as they roll over The Warriors strolling along Coney Island beach in the early morning, having miraculously cheated death all through the night.

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

I needed to see Straight Outta Compton because I understood that it’s a hell of a movie. And it is.

The exceptional performances in Compton (O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Corey Hawkins stand out in particular here) are thoroughly authentic. The hardcore rap and hip hop music power-punctuating this production have significantly influenced our culture to this day.  The N.W.A. tracks “Express Yourself” and “Quiet on tha Set” detonate a searing soundtrack.  To formally ignore such a superb chronicle of how this far-reaching genre came to be is nothing short of shameful.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Much of this soundtrack presented music I wasn’t familiar with.  It was an abundantly pleasant surprise.  Explosive works including “Now I’m Here”, “Hammer to Fall” and  “Who Wants to Live Forever” were off my radar.  These, along with several other classic Queen compositions, provide repeated listening enjoyment.

Rami Malek is glorious as the embodiment of the legendary Freddie Mercury.  Malek’s personification of one of rock’s all-time great showmen was electrifying in the movie’s grand finale recreating Queen’s blistering set at 1985’s Live Aid concert at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Not Fade Away (2012)

This tale of a bunch of 1960s suburban kids from New Jersey trying to make it as a big-time rock group really delivers. At once endearing and rousing, the film captures the raw essence and driving purpose of what rock ‘n roll is all about: the need to create, express, emote, vent, and release at full volume.

The Twylight Zones are actors who comprise the on-screen band.  Their rendition of “The St Valentine’s Day Massacre” by Little Steven Van Zandt (who served as Music Supervisor) is kick ass.

Original recordings of Leadbelly’s “Good Morning Blues”, “Pretty Ballerina” by The Left Banke, and the Bob Dylan ballad “She Belongs to Me” populate an eclectic song list.

Fade’s final scene is bound to make a lasting impression, with a mousy mini-skirted teenage girl dancing in the streets of Los Angeles.  Blasting over the end credits is a raucous studio rehearsal take of Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner” by the Sex Pistols.  These moments of pure exhilaration personify what rock music should always be: sheer fun, genuinely inspiring.

-John Smistad

Photo: Bohemian Rhapsody movie poster (fair use)


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John Smistad is a multi-published author living in the sensational south Puget Sound area of Washington state with his fabulous family. He is passionate about music, movies, sports and his Norwegian heritage. Uff da! John has enjoyed concert performances ranging from Paul McCartney to Melissa Manchester, The Stones to Barry Manilow. Rock on, man. Fun facts: John has no middle name (really) and once rode in a DeLorean he swears flew to the future. And back again. Hey, you don’t know.

7 comments on “Soundtracks That Helped Make the Movie

  1. Vision Quest (1985) is so much better because of the music. Lunatic Fringe (Red Rider) and Only the Young (Journey) help push the training and wrestling scenes so well…not unlike Rocky. Underrated 80s soundtrack and movie imo.
    Great article!

  2. TOTALLY agree, Bill. And filmed in Spokane, the town in which someone “rather” near and dear to me was born and raised.

    My mom.

  3. David Sloan

    Play the first 5 Queen albums in their entirety and prepare to be amazed. Their earliest work was their best by far, but only the “hits” generally make the best of compilations. (Or get radio play)

    I’d vote for Vangelis’ soundtrack to the original Blade Runner as my all time favorite. The music is an integral part of every scene, setting the mood and often driving the action.

  4. John Smistad

    I need to do this with the band’s first 5 LPs here, David.

    Also, Vangelis is cool. Atmospherically inspiring.

  5. Thanks, my friend.

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