Chuck Berry

Great Tarantino music moments


Quentin Tarantino is One of the biggest criticisms of the director is that he is too derivative and thus not original. In many ways that might be exactly why many people love his films. For me – it’s always the soundtracks. Tarantino’s use of music is incredibly well thought-out. If being derivative is a bad thing, at least it produces some of the most thoughtful soundtrack selections in film history. And these are some of the best:

1. Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” – Jackie Brown

It is no secret that this is my favourite Tarantino film. Most of that love is due to the perfection that is Pam Grier, but a lot of the love also goes out to the incredible soundtrack. The songs dip and bob between soul, rap and rock. While there are plenty of songs worth mentioning, it is Womack’s soulful “Across 110th Street” that completely captures the feeling of the film and the characters. It is used in the opening sequence, but more powerfully we see the titular character Jackie Brown singing along as she drives towards her uncertain future at the end of the film. Totally powerful and completely right.

2. Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” – Reservoir Dogs  torture scene

In his second directorial turn, Tarantino uses this Scottish classic during which Mr Blonde tortures a bound policeman. Like many good, terrible scenes a song is used for sharp contrast of pain and pleasure. It’s usually a song that many people have good memories attached to or feel a certain way about the song from the way it fits into culture – lyrical content aside (American Psycho’s use of Huey Lewis and the News or “Singing in the Rain” during the rape scene in A Clockwork Orange would be other great examples). Tarantino said that during auditions he wanted the actors to either use “Stuck in the Middle With You” or choose one themselves but there really wasn’t any choice better. There really isn’t.

3. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich “Hold Tight” – Death Proof crash scene

Death Proof is one of those Tarantino films that have fallen on the wayside, which is kind of shame because it’s pretty fun. And it’s got a killer tracklist. Smith’s cover of “Baby It’s You” and a lap dance to “Down in Mexico” by the Coasters (oh and that AMAZING credits tune by April March) are just some of the stand outs in a really solid list of songs. Arguably, though, the most memorable scene is early on in the film to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich’s (say that two times fast…or at all) “Hold Tight.” The chorus of repeated “hoooold tiiiiiight” seems to only be mocking the young girls as they hurtle towards their impending doom.

4. Luis Bacalov and Rocky Roberts “Django” – Django Unchained opening credits

“Django” was originally written for the 1966 Italian spaghetti western starring Franco Nero (who also makes a small cameo in the 2012 film as the rugged Amerigo Vessepi). There really could be no other song to open a film that pays homage to the Westerns of the 60s. The song in grand and sprawling: an epic song shown against the harsh tribulations of American slavery.

5. Chuck Berry “You Never Can Tell” – Pulp Fiction Rabbit Jack Slims’ twist contest

This is a scene that needs no introduction, but if you’ve had your head in the sand for two decades you’re missing one of the best dance scenes in any John Travolta – neigh – any film. There is a constant coolness that runs through the characters of the 1994 film and Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega are the coolest while twisting away to this classic Chuck Berry tune. Many songs could probably replace “You Never Can Tell” but would it ever really be the same?

Spin it Sunday Pt. 3 (not on Sunday)

It’s been a couple weeks since the last Spin It Sunday, but fear not: it has made a come back with some excellent San Fran rock (and on a Tuesday, imagine that).

Today’s album is 1976’s Shake Some Action, the fourth album for the San Francisco band the Flamin’ Groovies. It was their first on Sire Records and a clear diversion from their previous work on Kama Sutra. Some people could argue that the album’s predecessor Teenage Head was better, but there’s pop-punk charm  on Shake Some Action that’s so sweet to love. Listening to the album is just so right – so groovy and 70’s.

On the album, 7 of the 14 tracks are covers, but that doesn’t mean the album lacks originality. It actually works. The psychedelic feel to Gene & Debbie’s “Sometimes” ditty is incredibly inventive. Goes to prove that a love song always has a good chance of crossing the Genres River. Other covers are quite surprising, but a reminder that bands might have better taste in music than we mere mortals do (example: “Saint Louis Blues,” the Chuck Berry version).

That’s not to say that the originals aren’t as strong. “Shake Some Action” and “Yes It’s True” are about just as classic, if only a little underestimated. The album moves smoothly between psychedelic, rock ‘n’ roll, and 60’s British Invasion.

I’ve already mentioned this quote before from Mickey Leigh’s I Slept With Joey Ramone, but it’s one of my favourite moments of published music writing:

“…Arlene and I spontaneously embraced and locked lips in a steaming kiss – and that was it. That was all it took. Something clicked on, or off or both. When I kissed her, every light in the place went out – except the one shining on her. Like it or not, I was in deep. I was a goner. I can still hear the Flamin’ Groovies “Shake Some Action” playing in the background.”

What Mickey has to say about the moment he fell in love is an absolute picture of what it feels like to listen to Shake Some Action. The album, especially the title single, is so an album to love and dream to. That’s why when I purchased the vinyl in Greenwich a couple months ago, the clerk broke his sullen disposition to grin and remark, “God! Fantastic this album!”

Shake Some Action is a the very definition of a hidden gem. Worth plucking out of the vinyl collection if you’re lucky to stumble upon a copy. Take a listen and enjoy a nice moment of 70’s

The band recently finished a tour, and have a new EP out. They don’t run a website, but you can keep up-to-date with them on their Facebook page here.

Special shout-out to my wonderful, sick, poor boyfriend who took this photograph for me.