This is the next entry in a series from early 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.”
This next entry centers around a track released forty-seven summers ago this month. From the crowning album for one of the great American bands to span the revolutionary Sixties and the tumultuous Seventies. Creedence Clearwater Revival, or CCR, heralded that sweet mix of “swamp rock” — rockabilly, folk, and R&B — teens couldn’t resist. So when The Beatles broke up in early ’70, they’d pick up the baton and vault hit singles every bit as artistically catchy up the now accustomed pop charts.
Much of CCR’s success lay with bandleader, lead singer-guitarist, and principal songwriter, John Fogarty, and his fingerprints are all over1 Cosmo’s Factory. Yet, the turbulent time reflected here, too. The Vietnam War, going on for Americans from the early ’60s, which wouldn’t end till 1975, had split the country in opposition and support. Many of Fogarty’s lyrics found purchase over there as well as at home. Though not intended as a protest song2, Run Through the Jungle struck a chord.
The Big Lebowski (1998) also used the song to highlight Walter’s bizarre ransom plan.
Interestingly, two recent features needle-dropped the rock song, utilizing its two-fold import in havoc-filled, contrasting 1973 storylines.
Free Fire (2016)
Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury scoring the rest.
Ben Wheatley an English director of feature films, TV comedy shows, adverts and idents, animated shorts and internet ads. With Kill List and High-Rise as current credits, the Brit is clearly making a name for himself. His prolonged shoot-out movie, Free Fire, recalls Reservoir Dogs‘ deceit, mayhem, and dialogue, surely. Even applying period music3 to evoke its Seventies time frame and mindset in what is the cinematic equivalent of a “circular firing squad.” Run Through the Jungle used as a heady prelude accompanying the principals as they head into an abandoned Boston factory. Where a South African gunrunner, an IRA arms buyer, and their American enablers hope to do business. Even the scene’s “dick-measuring” tête-à-tête among the men and lone woman4 emphasized the movie makers intent at underlining Fogarty’s original purpose of the tune: our prickly gun preoccupation5.
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Can’t say I was acquainted with Jordan Vogt-Roberts, as a director or producer, or seen The Kings of Summer or Single Dads before this. Not all viewers thrilled with his MonsterVerse venture (read Jay’s and J.D.’s thoughts on the matter). Yet, the fusing of “…the hallucinogenic madness of Apocalypse Now with King Kong (1933)” somehow worked for me. Perhaps, because I grew up during that “police action.” The storyline pitting era soldiers, government types, and rationale against something they did not understand, let alone have a chance to defeat on its own tuft, a spot-on intersection of hindsight and déjà vu. Acutely positioning the song to escort the split force in their hardships. Totally on their own, suffering losses, and simply trying to get the hell out of Dodge. Deftly analogous of so many grunts in a futile struggle, traipsing unfamiliar terrain, just looking to survive it all. Signifying through sight and sound why Fogarty’s title and lyrics resonated “in-country”6 and stateside.
The entire series can be found here.
- “John Fogerty played the harmonica part. Like the vocals on “Down on the Corner,” he recorded it after recording the actual song and dubbed it in, because it went from harmonica to vocals so quickly and he couldn’t remove the harmonica from his mouth fast enough.” ~ Songfacts ↩
- As compared to Who’ll Stop the Rain, the #188 on Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. ↩
- Should be noted, only Run Through the Jungle would be contemporary for ’73 as the other prominently needle-dropped songs, Do the Boob and Annie’s Song, came out in ’77 and ’74, respectively. ↩
- The other common denominator of these productions, beyond just this song, was Actress Brie Larson, who did these films back-to-back. ↩
- John Fogerty said: “I think a lot of people thought that because of the times, but I was talking about America and the proliferation of guns, registered and otherwise. I’m a hunter and I’m not antigun, but I just thought that people were so gun-happy – and there were so many guns uncontrolled that it really was dangerous, and it’s even worse now. It’s interesting that it has taken 20-odd years to get a movement on that position.” ~ Songfacts ↩
- The irony is the scenes of mountains, rivers, grass fields used for “Skull Island” were mostly shot in Vietnam (Ninh Binh, Quang Binh, et cetera). ↩