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Weekly Top Ten (8/10/18): Sound Tracking

Fight it (Image courtesy of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

My car stereo’s auxiliary button is having a tantrum, and so I am unable to keep track of the newer sounds of today. With that in mind, I started thinking back about songs that came to me in a dream, or rather from the dream-making machine, modern movies. These tunes aren’t strictly written for the films mentioned, but they each play a key role in my love and appreciation of that film. Plus, I don’t know how filmmakers find the right song, but then I guess that’s why many of us refer to them as geniuses.

Don’t scream if your favorite isn’t listed here. Remember, ten is the loneliest number.

10. “Everybody Knows,” Leonard Cohen. From Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan’s strange, unsettling Exotica. Like most of his films, this one is a spinning puzzle of plot and meaning. It never lets you feel good, even if you know the ending and what it all means. No one is as he/she seems. “There are just so many people you had to meet, without your clothes…That’s how it goes.”

9.Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Sissy Spacek. She’s been one of my favorite actors for decades, and she’s never better than portraying country legend Loretta Lynn. I did’t know until this film (which should have been Best Picture) that she could sing, too. I grew up listening to Loretta on Saturday afternoon country TV shows. Her story defies everything we think and feel about this genre, this life. Levon Helm plays her daddy in the film and later, he and Sissy toured with their movie band. Wish I had seen that, but they did hit SNL one Saturday night.

8. “Everybody’s Talkin’,” Nilsson. Maybe my favorite all-time American film, Midnight Cowboy (initially rated X), provided this classic tune. It’s s short one, and while when it first came on the radio, I thought it was merely okay, when I finally saw the film and heard the song in context, I thought I understood something I probably shouldn’t. Knowing what a Midnight Cowboy is, isn’t always a good thing for a small town guy. Dustin Hoffman’s best film?

7. “Ooh La La,” Faces. From Wes Anderson’s brilliant Rushmore. This song ends the film, a little ditty that Max Fischer asks the DJ to spin so that the couples can dance, to and fro, switching partners and understanding that what they know now might not be what they’ll know tomorrow, yesterday, or ever. I love the scene where Max’s father Bert claps, “That’s my Maxie.” Yes it is. “Poor young grandson…that’s the hardest way.”

6. “Theme from Shaft,” Isaac Hayes. I don’t have to explain why this song is great, do I? Of course, in 1972 when it first appeared, we couldn’t/wouldn’t go see Shaft at our local theaters, for someone might think we condoned Black filmmaking. That was the groupthink back in those days. Glad everything has changed for the better, for you know, “that man Shaft is a bad motherfucker.” He had to be. And Isaac Hayes? Man, that appearance at the Oscars alone was worth all his time and his voice.

5. “Moon River,” Audrey Hepburn. As she sang this Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer hit originally in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Hepburn showed that you don’t have to have the best voice to sell a song. She certainly sold me and many others. It’s still lovely to watch her. In Elizabethtown, Patty Griffin gives us her version, and I cry just thinking about it. Even the words “my huckleberry friend,” get to me.

4. “The Crying Game,” Boy George. I can’t believe that it’s been almost 25 years since this film drove audiences and critics crazy, no one wanting to be the spoiler, and yet everyone trying anyway. That the Boy sings this over the ending credits further cements the theme. My friend Randy Manzella and his family just saw George in Atlanta, recently, with the B-52’s opening. Crazy. I thought I knew all there is to know about my friends. Talk about films that make you think.

3. “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” Bob Dylan. From Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, another Sam Peckinpah gem. Haunting as so many Dylan songs are. Sad and mournful, but try to deny its simple power if you can. It was a hit on AM radio, too, which makes me think that our generation knew way more than I remember.

2.Just Like Honey,” Jesus and Mary Chain. I understand that May/ December romances are problematic, and that they are more so when the parties are already married to others. Look into Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, and when you are being honest, you’ll understand that monogamy’s a tough trick for many, and even when they practice it successfully, many couples/individuals dream of honey beyond. And, a kiss isn’t just a kiss.

So So Hard to get to the end, but I have to, and when I consider our age, our days, these modern times, I go back here:

NUMBER ONE

  1. Fight the Power,” Public Enemy. From Spike Lee’s greatest film, Do the Right Thing, we have a light tune about, well, listen and you’ll get it. It starts the film with Rosie Perez shadow boxing. It keeps coming back as “Radio Rahim” maneuvers his giant jam box. Oh man Oh man. While I don’t agree with all the lyrics, so what? Do I agree with “A Man Needs a Maid?” No no no. Make everybody see! We got to…

Next week, On the Beach.

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Terry Barr

Terry Barr

I write about music, culture, food, and my Alabama past in The Riff, InTune, FanFare, A Cornered Gurl, Rock n”Heavy, Counter Arts, and Flint&Steel.