There I was, minding my business, picking up some groceries when the background music in the store came into focus and I recognized the strains of Eric Clapton’s Layla playing softly in the background.
And immediately what popped into my head wasn’t what I’d be making for dinner tonight, nope, instead it was the image of poor, stupid, Frankie Carbone dead in a meat locker.
Martin Scorsese famously used this classic rock song in his 1990 gangster picture , Goodfellas, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who can’t hear the song without thinking about the movie. And it didn’t matter that Clapton and Jim Gordon’s creation has a well documented life outside of Scorsese’s film, in my (admittedly movie addled mind) the two will forever be linked.
The pairing of the perfect song in the perfect scene does something more than provide some background noise. The right combination elevates the song and the movie, or in some cases, the song fills in a layer of meaning or emotion into the scene. A combination that becomes something bigger than the sum of it’s parts — and that’s pretty freaking cool if you ask me.
So for this installment of The List, I’ve provided some of my most memorable song and movie partnerships…
If I had to pick a ‘best’ in song selections in the movies this one would be a top contender.
You don’t need me to tell you that Scorsese created one of the definitive crime films of all time with Goodfellas, and if you do need me, well then I guess you can consider yourself told. The piano coda that plays over top of the montage of murder of some of the characters that you’ve gotten to know over the last hour makes you feel something for those characters no matter how flawed (or brief) their time in the story may have been.
Not to mention it’s pretty impressive that Clapton’s ode to unrequited love is a standout in a soundtrack that has some of the greatest songs in popular music history.
2) Sister Christian – Boogie Nights (NSFW Language)
Like Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson has a way of combining sound and image so that the two elements help each other out to create an emotional moment. In the case of the Anderson’s Porn epic, Boogie Nights a somewhat cheesy rock tune (and wedding music staple) by Night Ranger works as an emotional soundtrack to the moment when Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) has been brought low by his bumbling sidekicks.
The song is so synonymous with the movie in my mind it almost doesn’t sound right without the cherry bombs popping off in the background.
3) Lust for Life – Trainspotting
If you’re going to have a movie about heroin addicts, you’ve got to have at least one Iggy Pop song on the soundtrack, and Lust for Life is a pretty damn good Pop song to choose. In Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel, the relentlessly upbeat tune combines with the lyrics about falling off the wagon and rolling into the gutter every now and again a fitting backdrop to Renton’s (Ewan McGregor) on and off love affair with addiction and his urge to “… stay in here all day dreaming about heroin and Ziggy Pop.”
4) Hip to Be Square – American Psycho (warning clip is NSFW)
Proof positive that Bret Easton Ellis’ creation Patrick Bateman is certifiable is his affinity for the particularly torturous musical number, Hip to Be Square from Huey Lewis and The News. In Mary Harron’s adaptation of Ellis’ novel, Christian Bale (as Bateman) launches into a manic lecture on the merits of the song’s love of conformity and camaraderie, of course he presents this theory while he’s preparing to commit a gruesome murder so you should probably take his musical review with a grain of salt. And I still can’t stop from imagining the look of glee on Bale’s face as he buries an axe into his rival’s head when I hear the song’s opening bars..luckily that doesn’t happen too often.
5) Goodbye Horses – Silence of The Lambs (NSFW)
I’m willing to say that I have a fairly extensive musical knowledge, but my first encounter with Q Lazzarus’ 1988 song was in Jonathan Demme’s thriller Silence of The Lambs, so the song is forever linked to the image of Buffalo Bill performing in a kimono while his victim awaits. Once again you have a song that will forever be connected to it’s cinematic application. Because the song may be about the infinite possibilities of rising above this earthly plain — I’m pretty sure the first thought you have when you hear those opening synth beats isn’t The Bhagavad Gita.