This is the next entry in a series from 2012 that looks at the use of “needle dropped” songs, many of them popular tunes, in movies. Specifically, in more than one. Yet they are not officially considered part of a film’s score. A score consists of those orchestral, choral, or instrumental pieces some consider background music. Both music forms are equally utilized as cues by filmmakers for a specific purpose or to elicit certain reactions by the audience.
I’m fascinated by this in general, and movie soundtracks have long intrigued me. This convergence of the music and film arts I’ve spent much time toward. My wife can confirm this. Some (not all) movie soundtracks have incorporated those songs the director or music programmer showcased in their production along with the film’s score.
A few filmmakers have made it part of their work to incorporate well-known or popular song as a recurrent element. Why not? Music and movies make for a wonderful tandem, and I regularly watch out for them. As usual, I give credit to my blogging colleague over at Fog’s Movie Review for helping to ignite this series care of his excellent post, Tossin’ It Out There: What’s YOUR Favorite Song From a Movie?:
“… there’s a deep connection between the two arts, and sometimes that winds up creating an inseparable bond between the two in the viewer’s mind.”
For this, we’ll turn to the chief songwriter, vocalist, and producer of The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, and his reaction when he first heard his all-time favorite record, Be My Baby.
“When he heard the Ronettes’ song on the radio, Brian Wilson wondered aloud if he could match it. Wilson’s wife Marilyn reassured him, saying, “Don’t worry, baby.” Wilson remembered it when it came time to write songs with his DJ friend Roger Christian.” ~ Songfacts
Sharing similarities in key and melody with the famous Phil Spector-produced work, Don’t Worry Baby was primarily about duos. The singer about to race a rival, drag racing in relevance to his girlfriend, and the heart and soul relationship existing between the girl and singer. It’s why, after five decades, the song continues to work well with lovers. In this case, Wilson’s longtime hit from 1964 was used in tender, harmonious context for two very different movies, song versions, and the manner deployed in a pair of scenes.
Tequila Sunrise (1988)
The Beach Boys themselves actually performed the backing vocals for Phil and Don Everly on this tune.
While Robert Towne is lauded for his screenwriting, he’s underrated as a director. His wonderfully layered neo noir film, Tequila Sunrise, set in the distinct South Bay area of L.A., a prime example. Especially for Dave Grusin‘s splendid score, which included needle dropped tunes that hyped the mix. One of my favorite scenes, in a film filled with them, incorporated a couple tailor-made tunes. Although Crowded House’s Recurring Dream accompanies Jo Ann Vallenari down to Manhattan Beach to confront Dale ‘Mac’ McKussic, it’s The Everly Brothers’ cover of The Beach Boys’ hit (played quietly in the background) that centered on this duo. Jo Ann’s and Mac’s budding romance, in contention here due to his previous drug smuggling career, their feelings for the other signaled by this notable 60s strain.
Spoiler warning: for those who’ve not seen it, some key aspects of the next film are divulged below.
Deja Vu (2006)
This was also featured in Never Been Kissed and The Magic Belle Isle, but I prefer these two films better with the song.
Taking a different approach entirely, the late/great filmmaker Tony Scott (with scorer Harry Gregson-Williams) hinged his whole romantic sci-fi thriller, Déjà Vu, around Don’t Worry Baby. The song landed across several scenes, in fact. Its sly kickoff occurring during another superb Scott sequence, the film’s opening titles. Like Towne’s plot, this set of lovers have to overcome trouble ahead. And Ridley Scott’s younger brother was known for keenly displaying relationships between two people on most of his films. Moreover, the song focused on cars and a girl. In Scott’s hands, the tune would eerily match-up with the story of a detective, a vehicle (with a terrorist bomb onboard), and the girl killed as a result. Who the investigator falls for, post-mortem. While story and lovers coalesce by each film’s final scene, only here does time travel, and notably love, compel Brian Wilson’s lyrics to literally all come true:
She makes me come alive And makes me want to drive When she says "Don't worry baby" Don't worry baby Don't worry baby Everything will turn out alright
The entire series can be found here.