The Tortures of Being “Stuck in the Middle”: Reservoir Dogs’ Stealers Wheel
“Stuck in the Middle with You” was developed by Stealers Wheel members Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan. Ironically, they were working on the song in a restaurant during a company meeting, where both men were sitting together between businessmen of the music industry. “We all sat at a huge long table, like one of those scenes from the Last Supper.”(1) Both men had their rough experiences with the music business. Taking their strong feelings towards the industry, Rafferty and Egan took the event to their advantage and created the piece. “Well, I don’t know why I came here tonight, I got the feeling that something ain’t right, I’m so scared in case I fall off my chair…” This influenced the song and the music video, which was shot in a vacant warehouse. In one of the rooms there was a deranged clown, a woman, and a large man who were continuously reaching over Gerry Rafferty for food. These figures were definitely representations of the people and some of the experiences the men dreaded. The song was a hit in the 1970s, and the band even tried to make another just like it, however the band’s popularity later receded, and eventually broke up. But along came Quentin Tarantino who used the song and its concepts for Reservoir Dogs, giving the band more recognition. The song made the film even better, and the film made the band more successful. (2)
Scene from Stuck in the Middle with You Music Video.
Let Me Tell You What Clowns are About: Tarantino’s Version of Stuck in the Middle
Reservoir Dogs opens in a diner with eight mobster men sitting at a round table. The camera slowly scopes out each character then stops on the leader Joe Cabot, who is mesmerized by an address book containing the names of other individuals who he previously collaborated with. At this point, Joe Cabot was meticulously developing his plan for a heist. On the other side of the table, Mr. Brown eagerly insists on explaining what Madonna’s Like a Virgin is about. Mr. White, in between both, jokingly snatches the book from Cabot and voices how annoyed he is. Stuck in the Middle with You greatly applies to this scene. “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…” or “I got Madonna’s big dick coming out of my left ear and Toby the jack- I don’t know what coming out of my right.” Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan mentioned how American artist Bob Dylan and his paranoid lyrical style also led them to coming up with the line; it was a joke teasing Bob Dylan of his artistic structure. Quentin Tarantino used this idea to his advancement more than once, the joking table scene being the first, which was indeed the men’s Last Supper, and, more seriously, the gun showdown in the movie’s final scene. Again, Mr. White is stuck between the boss, Joe Cabot, and comrade Mr. Orange; this time, torn between a life or death situation. Joe Cabot enters the warehouse and exclaims that Mr. Orange is an undercover cop. Mr. White faithfully believed that Mr. Orange could not be a cop, and firmly stood against Cabot’s accusation. Joe Cabot pulls out his gun and aims it at Mr. Orange, Mr. White aims his gun at Joe Cabot, and Nice Guy Eddie Cabot aims his gun at Mr. White. “Joe if you kill that man you die next. Repeat. If you kill that man you die next.” Suddenly, Joe Cabot shoots Mr. Orange…
Reservoir Dogs’ opening scene.
The most unforgettable collaboration between Stealers Wheel and Reservoir Dogs is the movie’s infamous torture scene. Mr. Blonde is left alone in the building with Marvin Nash, a cop the men were holding as hostage, and suffering Mr. Orange. Psychopathic Mr. Blonde turned on the radio to “K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend” and Stealers Wheel Stuck in the Middle with You begins to play. Mr. Blonde wanted to make use of his time and thought it would be fun to torture the helpless officer. Mr. Blonde sings and dances around the facilities. He then takes his blade and slashes at the face of the man. Even more gruesome, Mr. Blonde holds the man still as he cuts off his ear. He even tauntingly speaks in the severed ear asking, “Hey, what’s going on? Can you hear that?” Afterwards, Mr. Blonde makes his way to the car, but as he walks out of the building the diegetic sound stops. This gives us a moment to digest what is actually happening in the film and follow the story line. The stopping of the sound seemed that the Mr. Blonde had to act more professional when leaving the building because of the possibility of being caught. Mr. Blonde then returns and the song reached this line: Please, please, while Marvin Nash was in the midst of begging for his life. “Are you done?” Mr. Blonde says. It appeared that the song, from Nash’s perspective, was going to be the last thing he would’ve heard; his Last Supper. However, the song was mainly focused around the psychopathic Mr. Blonde, who indeed had his last bit of fun, after being shot down by Mr. Orange. The music and the scene were perfectly collaborated, making this moment and the film the most unforgettable of Quentin Tarantino’s pieces.
Mr. Blonde torturing Marvin Nash.
The Influence of Music on Movie Production
“One of the things I do when I am starting a movie, when I’m writing a movie or when I have an idea for a film; is, I go through my record collection and just start playing songs, trying to find the personality of the movie, find the spirit of the movie.”(3) When it comes to film production, it is a producer’s goal to develop pieces that will immediately grasp the audience’s attention. Apart from his incorporations of excessive combat in his films, Quentin Tarantino holds the soundtrack as a very important aspect for a successful, attention grabbing movie.
(1) Admin. “QT Talks About Music in Movies.” The Quentin Tarantino Archives. 12 Sept. 2008. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. <http://wiki.tarantino.info/index.php?title=QT_Talks_About_Music_in_Movies.
(2) “Gerry Rafferty Biography.” Redstone-Tech. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. <http://www.redstone-tech.com/gerry_bsb/gerrybio.htm>.
(3) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reservoir_Dogs>.