Let the Beat Build #13: December 2013
1. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” - Simple Minds. JW: Well, we did it. We made a full year of playlists. This year’s listening has been overwhelmingly defined by Spotify usage and the making and existence of these playlists. This is in large part to the waning brand magnetism and utility of iTunes, and the fluidity of Spotify. There are still open issues of fair use and benefit for the artists which I’m sure will get addressed (if not satisfied) in time. And the somewhat claustrophobic inability to branch, fork, remix these lists in an expansive way. But the duel auteurship of the last year’s worth of listing, bullshiting and hyperlinking has been immensely interesting to me. In fact, the interoperability of the app and the immense buy-in and value extracted on my end have made these playlists the soundtrack to my past year. It’s no secret that I fetishize soundtracks themselves. They add a layer between the heart of a story and its audience that is insulating and formative while also augmenting and expressing outward the nuance of that core story. In this spirit, I’d like to steer my selections to soundtrack songs that have done for films what LTBB has done for me.
What is a more iconic soundtrack song than “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”? It’s not only an awesome song, but is almost a character in the film. It represents the amalgamated “misfits” as they are now, for a fleeting moment, all one. It also represents a time and place in music history, and more boldly fits into the subgenre of “John Hughes Music” which we might could make our own survey of. John Hughes used specific music to frame all of his suburban Chicago teen narratives in a way as effective as Boogie Nights, Dazed and Confuzed, even Can’t Hardly Wait. This song, and Hughes’ choices make these stories period pieces in real time, not retroactively. And that is as significant as the lighting, location or wardrobe.
2. “Magic Man” - Heart. KW: Heart was supposed to be on last month’s playlist. Like most of the world, I don’t actually remember the seventies, but I remember realizing at a pretty early age that Heart was deep seventies, like instant seventies. I remember one summer when my brother, sister, and I listened to a lot of Heart, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin (especially Physical Graffiti), Queen, and Alice Cooper. But I digress. I really enjoyed The Virgin Suicides, which made great use of the kind of “instant seventies” I’m talking about, which still gets me every time I hear Heart in the car, which is often. I could talk for a while about my perception of the seventies as a child, as this distinct thing that I felt fading away by the time I became conscious of it. And while I’m on that Sofia Coppola trip, Lost in Translation was an important movie for me. More about that later.
3. “Sweet Emotion” - Aerosmith. JW: I just really don’t know if Aerosmith would ever make it on to another list.
“Spill The Wine” - War. JW: And I mean this in absolutely the most respectful way, this one is dedicated to your wife. You mentioned it is one of her favorite songs of all time. And I really like it too. Once I realized War had more than one song, this quickly became my favorite. And this is going to serve as the surrogate for Sister Christian(which I only like listening to on special occasions), both of which come from the “Boogie Nights” soundtrack. Sister Christian is the spine of one of cinemas all-time greatest scenes. In what many people have heard me preach is a perfect movie and one of the few of that era. Eric Burdon has kind of a sublime grasp of good times. I was listening to Magic Man, and when the chimes come in at 3:17, and then the solos, and then the synth at 4:01 I thought, mullets must have been BLOWN in El Caminos all across America when that jam came out. Spill The Wine is the kind of shit to make you forget you’re high. And did you hear him casually mention “Hall of the Mountain King”? See: Atticus Ross & Trent Reznor. Does this playlist have scores too?
4. “Werewolves of London” - Warren Zevon. KW: In 2001 I went on a kick to watch every movie that had the word “American” in the title, starting with American Beauty. I think the second one I watched was American Movie. Anyway, by 2003 I got to An American Werewolf in London, which I watched with my sister at my parents’ house in Georgia while crashing there in between the long road trips I was doing back then. This was right around the time that Warren Zevon was all over the news because of his cancer diagnosis and his final album that had just been released. My sister suggested that I pick up Excitable Boy on the strength of “Werewolves of London,” which I had heard of but never heard. I had thought it would be in the movie, but it isn’t. I got heavy into Excitable Boy over the next few months, and the album had something to do with my decision to move back to New York City--I had been planning to move back to Texas, but I got lured back to NYC by Quinn Raymond’s invitation to form a band. I said I’d do it if our first project was making a Wu-Tang style rap record where we covered songs I dubbed “the old school white boy raps.” On the bus trip back to NYC, I listened to those old school white boy raps, which included “Rapture,” “It’s the End of the World As We Know It,” “I Know What I Know,” and “Werewolves of London.” We haven’t made that record yet. So “Werewolves of London” wasn’t on the soundtrack for An American Werewolf in London, but it was on the soundtrack to a big decision in my life. I once asked my wife why she likes “Spill the Wine” so much, and she said it’s like getting inside the head of someone who is completely crazy. “Werewolves of London” has that same quality in spades, but it has something else too: unadulterated absurdity.
5. “Born Slippy Nuxx” - Underworld. JW: “Inside the head of someone who is completely crazy” is that baby crawling on the ceiling. Most movies have that one song that that you think of, attached to the movie. For Trainspotting, it’s definitely Lust for Life. But this soundtrack has other strong contenders. Say for instance you were an Underworld fan. When you hear Born Slippy you probably think immediately of Trainspotting. I tossed Blur’s Sing onto the Diversions list because it is nearly as good an expression of the scene/setting of this movie.
6. “Cheree” - Suicide. KW: If I remember correctly, this song closes out Downtown 81. When it came on I got really excited because I had no idea who it was, and it’s incredible. Back then I had heard of (and even read about) Suicide but never heard them. I was watching the movie mostly because of Basquiat (but also James White and the Blacks, who are in top form in this movie). There is a lot of great music in that movie--in fact, the music is the only audio they didn’t lose (the dialogue had to be overdubbed, after Basquiat had died). Fascinating movie. Instead of the hopeless and dishonest dystopia of The Warriors, downtown NYC is grimy but beautiful, full of people finding moments of pure joy and revelation together. That’s what “Cheree” is about, if you ask me.
7. “Layla (Piano Exit)” - Derek And the Dominoes. JW: There are so many New Yorks. And so many movies where New York is a character. It’s almost unavoidable. Juice. Annie Hall. Escape From New York. King of New York. Moonstruck. Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy, Quicksilver, Krush Groove, After Hours, Batteries Not Included. The list goes on. Then it hit me, Goodfellas! Well, it didn’t hit me, I had a little help. This song sounds different without the murder montage, almost softer and oddly less sentimental. But I thought it was pretty great to find the track exclusively as the second part. And that’s how it’s listed. Look how many parts of songs are in this movie. This is no small facet of Scorsese’s genius. This isn’t MY New York, but these scenes are part of the collective memory. I might have seen this movie 60 times.
8. “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta” - Geto Boys. KW: Mike Judge is no slouch either. Office Space came along at just the right moment for me, deeply influencing my perception of the corporate world. I love how the movie could be set almost anywhere in the sprawl--a totally anonymous sameness. It’s perfectly reasonable, when in those circumstances, to listen to hardcore gangsta shit while destroying a printer with a baseball bat. It’s the responsible thing to do. Also, H-Town represent. (Note: it is incredibly difficult to pick a song from the Office Space soundtrack. “Down for Whatever,” “No Tears,” “Still,” there’s just too much good stuff on there.) JW: I'll be honest with you, I love his music. I do. I'm a Michael Bolton fan. For my money, I don't know if it gets any better than when he sings "When a Man Loves a Woman".
9. “What Would U Do?” - Tha Dogg Pound. JW: Let’s accept that all artistic expression is performance and that performance takes liberties. With that in mind, I’ll assert that even the truest G’s are not bound by facts or deep hood verification of every line they say. Whether it’s Prodigy talking about how he’s small but scrappy and will fucking shoot you or The Game set-claiming, we buy into their characters because they have an authenticity to them. It used to be called “street cred” then the rap game appropriated street cred and started calling it “street cred” only this time, the badge was blurred. The Geto Boys were of an era where the people rapping about being hard were hard. The end of that era is maybe marked by CB4 which both clowns and exults gangsta rap. The whole storyline is about a group that wanted to make it big, so they hijacked the street cred of a real gangsta. I expound on all of this to frame a space where after Boyz and Menace and American Me, the song I follow up Geto Boys with is from Natural Born Killers. On one hand, this song is totally bad ass and was of the last great DPG stuff to come out until Chronic 2001. On the other hand, this song was used to characterize the perception American culture held of rap, urban culture and all things scary by 1995. This perception was molded by the media via the gangsta-rapper via the record industry. And I think Oliver Stone uses it with intention. The NBK soundtrack itself has some amazing tracks on it. I’d say there’s no reason to exclude them from this list. There are widely believed associations between Snoop, Tha Dogg Pound and the Crips. What would I know? I’m from Dallas. But a song like this makes you wonder how much of that tough character is Sanyika Shakur and how much is Straight Out of Lowcash.
P.S. Generally I think everyone believes Suge Knight is everything he presents himself to be.
10. “Cakes” - Kool G Rap and RZA. KW: I was at a party in a Barnard College dorm room back in the day when Wu-Tang came on. I was talking to the host when I stopped and was like “hey, wait, you like Wu-Tang?” It was a little bit like that scene in Half Baked where Thurgood thinks the girl he likes is a secret pothead too. Anyway, she says “why does that surprise you?” and I’m like “oh, I don’t know, upper class white girl from a fancy suburb of Boston” and she drops it like its hot, something to the effect of “don’t you know they market this stuff directly at upper class white girls from Boston?” Later I cut my hand while freestyle rapping. Great party. Where was I? Oh yeah. So Ghost Dog really holds up, I watched it again recently. I dig Jarmusch, and when he got together with RZA it was like bung bung. Whatever that means. RZA is a truly bugged out individual. What I love about this track is how it sits perfectly between blaxploitation soundtrack, indie film soundtrack, and just bangin’. It’s one of those many moments when you realize that Dirt McGirt was right. Wu-Tang is for the babies. Wu-Tang is for everyone.
11. “Crimson and Clover” - Tommy James and The Shondells. JW: I’ve read the first two chapters of The Tao of Wu about 3 times. RZA is a remarkable individual. I also impulse bought The Man With The Iron Fists special edition LP soundtrack and score. It’s pretty great. I don’t have a ton to say about this entry. The thread, for you listeners at home is Jarmusch/RZA Ghost Dog to Jarmusch/RZA Coffee and Cigarettes. Jarmusch is one of those NY artists who loves NY and knows NY. Not just loves himself in NY. Crimson and Clover is one of my favorite songs from when I was a kid. I thought it was romantic before I knew what romantic was. Like Rebel Without A Cause/Heavenly Kid romantic. I almost put Joan Jett’s version on the last mix, but, well, I just didn’t like it as much. Glad it found it’s way. You’re Bill “Groundhog Day Ghostbustin’ Ass” Murray!
12. “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?” - Nick Lowe. KW: Bill Murray forever. I have watched Lost in Translation many, many times. I had this strong identification with both characters that I couldn’t shake for a while. I wrote a song about it, and the line I like best: “I wanna be Bill Murray, but I know I never will.” Ah, the karaoke scene. “Brass in Pocket” almost landed here. But Bill Murray’s rendition of the Nick Lowe classic just kills. I’ve loved that song for a long time, getting into it (like most people) through Elvis Costello. Even back when I was just getting into Costello I knew it was a cover, but Nick Lowe was off my radar entirely, until I heard this one acoustic concert he did on the radio. He just dropped hit after hit, an unbelievably long string of great songs that I had never heard. Anyway, back to Bill Murray. The scene is a bit of a bridge between the character and the actor, as well as a bridge between the different ages of the characters. I mean, Murray in his youth was probably standing right there when Elvis Costello broke through to the US in his famous SNL appearance. The characters share the music of that moment, one part fascination, one part reminiscence.
13. “Bring The Noise” - Public Enemy. JW: When I think of “What’s So Funny ‘Bout…” I only think of one thing. This scene from Singles. Cameron Crowe is a brilliant historian of cultural moments. Though I was sad to see that his most impactful movies (Fast Times, Say Anything, Singles) don’t really hold up. Then I realized that what doesn’t hold up is the sympathy we have for the characters. What does hold up are all the nuanced moments and cultural details. All-American burger’s secret sauce. “I don’t want to buy, sell or process anything.” And the iconoclasm of mixing Costello/PE in college in the late 80’s/early 90’s. And of course, the soundtracks. In fact, the reason we had once loved (and related to) Crowe’s characters so much is the same reason we don’t now. They were so comprehensively imbued with the trends and behaviors and attitudes of that time and place, that we’ve grown out of them, just like the characters themselves would have grown out of themselves over time. It’s actually pretty amazing. Like an Andy Goldsworthy piece. The beauty of the grunge scene was ephemeral. And now it’s nostalgic, even retro. Fuck.
14. “Sabotage” - Beastie Boys. KW: This is its own soundtrack. What a video, and a moment in time.
14. “Make Some Noise” - Beastie Boys. KW: The Beastie Boys have always shown a fascination with what’s new and what’s old. Up until “Make Some Noise” they tended to focus on other pasts, rather than their own. I haven’t watched this until today. “Sabotage” expanded what a music video could be, and “Fight For Your Right Revisited” does it again.
15. “Sweet Transvestite” - Tim Curry. JW: Shit this is a hard one. That FFYRR video is pretty amazing. All those Nathanial Hörnblowér joints are post-modernism at its finest. Referential, self-referential, self-self-referential-referential. And all of that. I thought about films that were made to showcase the music like Moonwalker. I thought about films that were made because of the music like The Wall. Rocky Horror Picture Show was made with the music, by the music. There is so much to discuss about this film, generally its external culture and cult-classic status. But the film itself is hilarious and twisted and liberating and cathartic. Much like FFYRR. And this song rocks. It’s like stuffing Freddy Mercury into Mick Jagger’s jeans and throwing on the back of Meatloaf’s bike. KW: C-C-C-combo Beat Build: “Jump Into the Fire” in Son of Dracula.
16. “All the Young Dudes” - World Party. KW: This is how I got into this song--from Clueless--a movie I didn’t even like. But it had an undeniable soundtrack. It was years before I heard the famous version (Mott the Hoople’s) and more years before I heard the Bowie original. The Bowie version is my favorite. But I was digging around and I noticed that Karl Wallinger was the music director for a production of Rocky Horror. Bung bung. I watched Clueless again years later and it’s actually pretty good. Also, they love “All the Young Dudes” out in the suburbs. I hear it all the time now. JW: This is so perfect.
17. “Little Green Bag” - George Baker Selection. JW: Alright Ramblers. Let’s get ramblin. There are songs you know and songs you know you don’t know and in between are the doors. Tarantino has always had the gift for seeing sentimental and kitsch value in songs (and films) that were fleetingly popular or under the radar. Who the hell is George Baker? (Side note, I had been mulling Baker St. He’s sort of a crate-digger in that way. It’s pretty noble. Stuck in the Middle With You and Coconut were probably the most memorable musical takeaways from Reservoir Dogs, but this song really grooves and is a strong opener for the movie. And he knows that. That’s why he put them together and framed it within the iconic slo-mo walk.
18. “Flowers on the Wall” - Statler Brothers. KW: I’m going to come out and say it: the Statler Brothers are terrible. But this song is great, maybe the only bright spot in their entire boring, oversung career. My father loved to sing this song. I have fond memories of jamming out to this while driving around Houston, with all the other great songs on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack for company. JW: “Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain...Kangaroo…”
19. “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” - Kenny Rogers. JW: “Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man.” Also a bright spot of his career, sadly dwarfed by the purgatorian resilience of The Gambler. I admit to hearing this song for the first time during this movie. I think I thought it was Dylan. I just really didn’t know enough Kenny Rogers to expect this jam. But his chicken is delicious. KW: It’s too good to be Kenny Rogers. Also, Kenny Rogers was hilarious in Reno 911. But fuck “The Gambler,” seriously.
20. “In Dreams” - Roy Orbison. KW: And here we are at David Lynch. I remember reading some interview where Orbison was asked what he thought of Blue Velvet. He answered that he originally didn’t want them to use the song, but eventually he agreed after talking to Lynch about it, and that he thought the scene and the entire movie were deeply strange. There’s not a single song that fits Lynch’s work better than this song.
21. “Save Me” - Aimee Mann. JW: Aimee Mann - 1, Rammstein - 0. I don’t know that Aimee Mann (you have to say her full name) fits all of PT Anderson’s filmography the same. But Save Me IS Magnolia. Both the song and the movie grew on me. Both are tender and melancholy and hopeful and futile and ethereal and tragic. I just watched There Will Be Blood last night and remembered how interesting and unique Jonny Greenwood’s score was. If you have a week or two, I’ll tell you how great I think Paul Thomas Anderson’s work is. KW: I own the There Will Be Blood score. Jonny Greenwood is the John Cale of our time, and Lou Reed said John Cale was the Beethoven of our time, and James Murphy, and James Murphy, and James Murphy. I got stuck in a loop there.
22. “Anyone Else But You” - The Moldy Peaches. KW: I wanted to find a way to put “My Rollercoaster” on this jam. This is where that’s supposed to go. But “Anyone Else But You” is the blood flowing through Juno. Also, “All the Young Dudes” is on the Juno soundtrack. Worlds colliding.
23. “Pretty In Pink” - Psychedelic Furs. JW: I’m thinking about the difference in the dreams, problems and concerns of Andie and Juno. That’s what makes a high school movie an expression of its times. Having problems is timeless. What they are and how they’re dealt with is deeply linked to the DNA of the generation they portray. Now, Ferris Bueller and Pretty In Pink exist at the same time as Sixteen Candles. But what about Can’t Hardly Wait or Say Anything. Similar scenarios, similar tropes, similar deus ex machinae. Anyone Else But You is figuratively representative of the type of love we see Juno capable of, ultimately finding that quirky happy place with Paulie Bleeker. Pretty In Pink is the love song sung by the ubermench amalgam of Andie’s perfect men to Andie’s best most confident independent self. I just reread this whole thing. The brownies is strong with this one. But I’m gonna let it ride.
24. “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack” - Liars. KW: I watched 50/50 a couple weeks ago. It got to me. “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack” was the perfect song for 50/50, like “Pretty in Pink” was the perfect song for Pretty in Pink. 50/50 has something to say about how we deal with our problems now. But also, it’s hard to imagine this movie being made in, say, 1986.
25. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” - Procol Harum. JW: Certainly the organ signifies church-like somberness. But the glissando pops you to the cascading drums, revealing the soulful explosion. It’s like a yuppie/baby-boomer version of Second Line. Sentimental, mournful, indulgent, occasionally bombastic. The Big Chill is about reconciling your spiritual self with your actions. Kevin Costner’s corpse is a mummy that they stuff with all of their righteousness and facade and secret wishes. The shiva is where they get it out of their system and move forward. They move forward with their lives because they buried all of their shpilkis with Alex. Second Line, shiva, mummies, what’s next?
26. “Streets of Philadelphia” - Bruce Springsteen. KW: I remember hearing this song when it came out and thinking it sounded dated even then--quite a distance between this and, say, “Insane in the Brain.” But hot damn this is a great song. And the dated production actually kind of works now. People like to hate on Springsteen’s late eighties / early nineties stuff. As I’ve gotten heavy into Springsteen over the last decade (wow, it has been a decade since I bought Born in the U.S.A.), songs like this one have crept up on me and stuck around. The best soundtrack songs capture the essence of the movie while also capturing something of the larger zeitgeist. “Streets of Philadelphia” contains our fear of the disease and each other that was so heavy back then, when there were no effective drugs to control AIDS, when our culture showed a disturbing lack of empathy for victims of that horrible disease. The song appeals to us to care for each other when we are suffering. It’s wonderful. In Colorado a few years ago, I had a high altitude dream where I met Springsteen and told him how much I like many of his songs from his “lean years.” In particular, I told him that “Atlantic City” and “Tunnel of Love” were two of my favorites. Warren Zevon said that Springsteen is exactly the guy you think he his, gracious and big-hearted. That’s what he was like in my dream too. I sound like a teenage girl in the eighties. That’s right.
27. “Wave Of Mutilation (UK Surf)” - The Pixies. JW: That was a beautiful post. I agree. I can’t volley back something of equal socio-political import. But I’ll take this baton: “The best soundtrack songs capture the essence of the movie while also capturing something of the larger zeitgeist.” This song, is the keystone of the Pump Up The Volume Soundtrack. That soundtrack for me, was the beginning of the 3rd wave of EVERYTHING. That soundtrack was the zero point where I first met, ready?... The Pixies, Soundgarden, Sonic Youth, Bad Brains, Leonard Cohen (by extension), Concrete Blonde (for what it’s worth), Cowboy Junkies, and to a lesser degree, Above The Law. Those first three alone would have been worth it. Also, that movie challenged suburban American fascism through the instrument of a split personality reticent nerd/dynamic hero. In 1990 we had finally accepted the idea that Reaganomic Paternalism was A. not the solution and B. not for everyone. We were fed up with “Just Say No” and the corporatization of “Just Do It”. We were pushing against the walls. And we were pushing to see where the structure would relent. And we found it. Grunge happened after that. Gangsta rap happened after that. And… Emo happened (albeit way later) after that. This is the sweet spot between “Ire” and “Emo”. A band with power cred, slowing it down to dream fantastical about El Nino (before we even talked about El Nino) and longing. The off-handed mention of mutilation resonated with the feeling that alternatives to the status quo were freaks and they were seeking out their compatriots far and wide. Or, you could just defer to the comments section. KW: Fucking gold. JW: Either way, this song was IT for me. It’s more or less the reason I started this playlist this way. And it’s responsible for my musical taste for the last 20+ years. Enjoy. KW: Oh you’re bringing up that old gangsta shit. Let’s do this.
28. “I Love You Mary Jane” - Sonic Youth & Cypress Hill. KW: I’m pretty sure I had never heard Sonic Youth before this. It was on a boombox while we rode in the back of a truck to Galveston. That trip was major. It was the first time I heard Beck (Mellow Gold had just come out, twenty years ago this coming March). Also Leonard Cohen, Cowboy Junkies, Dinosaur Jr., Del, the Breeders, and maybe Cracker. I’d heard Cypress Hill before--I remember the one two punch of Nirvana on SNL followed by Cypress Hill a week later--but this was the jam that really hooked me on them. I never saw Judgment Night. I have no idea what that movie is about. I don’t know why the soundtrack pairs rockers with rappers. It doesn’t matter. This is the jam. JW: Denis Leary is the bad guy. Everlast is his right hand man. That’s all you really need to know. I was looking up some backstory on the making of this album, widely regarded as better/more important than the movie. I found this Christgau blog(?) to be pretty amazing. “This music knows lots of ways to say blunt; if the wordplay is minimal, that fits concept and movie, which ain't about a bobsled competition. Whoomp, there it is--beats the new Motorhead and the new Cypress Hill simultaneously. A MINUS” Funny. But look at the rest of the page in 1993. And see who he singles out as the “Dud of the Month”. Fuck that grandiose, ego-masturbator “Dean of American Rock Critics” AND his institutionalized racism and disconnection from “other” cultural experience. Lester Bangs should’ve poured Robitussin in his underwear drawer and stuck it all in the freezer. Was this the beginning of snark? KW: Robert Christgau. Fuuuuuuck him. Well, shit, Lou Reed said it better. His one man (coked out?) dialogue is rocking my world right now.
29. “Goin’ to Acapulco” - Jim James & Calexico. JW: Good things happen when you put artists together: The Travelling Wilburys, Sonic Youth and Chuck D, Santana and Rob Thomas Elvis Costello and The Roots (the verdict’s not back on that one yet). If you read any of the articles or interviews with Todd Haynes you can see that he absolutely labored over his love of Bob Dylan’s music and his love of music in general. So putting together this massive collaboration of talented artists covering many different eras of Dylan excellence. The whole conceit of the film is that there are many Dylans, both in real life and in the music. So having 6 different actors portray him seemed as natural as having 30+ musicians channel him. When describing the chemistry between fresh partners, would you say this song is Jim James + Calexico or Jim James + Bob Dylan? Or is it Jim James + Todd Haynes? Or is it all of them? Same for the Basement Tapes? For more information please consult your local library or Karl’s Syllabus<insert link here>.
30. “A Change Is Gonna Come” - Sam Cooke. KW: This is from Malcolm X, a movie about a man who was also incredibly aware of his own myth, and influences, and influence. He was a towering speaker, very influential on my thinking. I took a great class with Manning Marable, who recently finished what is probably the definitive biography of Malcolm. Lou Reed has that great song title, “Growing Up In Public.” That’s what I think of when I think of Malcolm X. Not many people are capable of doing that. You might add Dylan to that list. I read that Sam Cooke wrote this song after hearing “Blowin’ in the Wind,” just before Dylan retreated from political torch songs. It’s the perfect song for the scene, communicating the belief that history is bigger than us and contains us, that there is a reason behind our compulsion to struggle for the good, that the weariness we might feel will one day be worth it.
32. “Where Is My Mind?” - The Pixies. JW: This is a tough one to close out. MFL said, “Why don’t you pick a film you absolutely love and then pick a song from that?” And I think that’s pretty good advice. I was trying so hard to match the era of Sam Cooke. I was trying to match the broader cultural significance of what you wrote. I believe in that. Somehow Fight Club seemed to make sense. There’s a lot to unpack in that movie, notwithstanding making sense of the big reveals at the end. This song perfectly wraps up, in a cinematic way, the paradox of breaking something to fix it. And it grabs you around the chest and pulls you out of the tumult you’ve been fixated on for the last two hours. Walk out of the theater, connect the dots, recalibrate where your ideals sit with your actions. “...Continue to struggle for the good...”