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.”
For the start of a new year (and era), this series entry will center on an apocalyptic song by one of the key groups in the British punk rock wave; released just as the 1970s were coming to a close. London Calling would mark the next decade1 over with a distinct verve care of what many perceive is The Clash‘s greatest hit2:
“The Clash’s recording of “London Calling” cleverly crossbreeds anthemic hard rock with reggae by juxtaposing slashing, staccato guitar riffs with an undulating rhythm section beat as Strummer lays down a snarling vocal that delivers the lyrics with a combination of passion and fervor” ~ Donald A Guarisco
The 1980s saw a major rebound in socioeconomic terms, partially due to advances in technology and a worldwide move to unfettered laissez-faire capitalism, for the better and worse3. And with the Cold War very much in effect — by virtue of that nuclear sword still held precariously above our necks — all of it no doubt given agency by songwriters Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. As seen in their lyrics:
London calling to the faraway towns Now war is declared and battle comes down London calling to the underworld Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls
Intimacy (2001)and Billy Elliot (2000) also used the song to highlight their era
What I find equally interesting is moviemakers would not incorporate this notable tune into a movie soundtrack till the new millennium. And the two feature films that immediately come to mind astutely needle-dropped London Calling to ingrain a Celtic perspective to the proceedings, musically. Yet, to also highlight the false flag operations in their espionage scenarios, even though they were released fifteen years apart.
Die Another Day (2002)
Via British Airways, of course.
The 20th film in the James Bond franchise is not a favorite of mine4, and as my blogging colleague Will tweeted, “Die Another Day was the rightful death of a formula long exhausted.” Still, before Daniel Craig righted the ship, the Lee Tamahori-directed film did have a couple of highlights5. One being the splendid introduction of the Bond villain care of the scene where OO7 returns to the UK capital. Drinking his favorite beverage6 as he reads about Gustav Graves7. All pulsed, appropriately, by The Clash in the only needle-dropped moment of the entire movie series. Culminating with the mysterious billionaire entrepreneur parachuting (in a Union Jack chute8, mind you) to a press conference held at Buckingham Palace. Seemingly, quite British.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
All of the above turned on its head with the introduction of the equivalent British agent in David Leitch‘s Atomic Blonde. If 2006 updated the Bond series, Lorraine Broughton single-handedly hammered those expectations on her mission to West Berlin in the waning days of the Wall and Soviet Union. Having survived her intriguingly fraught objective, she cleverly positions herself to withstand scrutiny by MI-6 in the killing of British station chief David Percival. Deftly pinning his identity to the double-agent, Sachel, in her after-action debrief with her superior and the CIA. Capped off with London Calling as she heads to a celebratory tea with the Queen before jetting to Paris days later for one final meeting with the West’s Cold War-adversary, the KGB. And like Gustav, signaling she’s not as British as she seems9.
The entire series can be found here.
- London Calling would rise to #11 in the UK by January 1980, yet the single fell off the charts after 10 weeks. It would re-entered the chart twice more, spending a total of fifteen non-consecutive weeks on the UK Singles Chart. ↩
- The song’s worldwide popularity ignited by the era’s music videos, as seen here by the group’s short. ↩
- Maybe not a prime example, I totally bought into the technical revolution of Compact Disc. Began to look upon that old turntable of mine, and records, with a little disdain…and Reagan said those tax breaks to the rich would trickle down to me, too. ↩
- Plus, Die Another Day has the worst Bond theme song ever. Thanks, Madonna (who would also receive a Razzie for her performance as Verity, the fencing instructor, in this same movie). ↩
- A decent villain and henchman in Toby Stephens and Rick Yune, and of course, Halle Berry in a swimsuit. ↩
- Vodka, dry vermouth, and ice cubes in a cocktail shaker; shaken vigorously, strained then poured into a serving glass. ↩
- He being the alter ego of rogue North Korean Colonel Tan-Sun Moon. ↩
- In a call back to the opening scene of, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). ↩
- The other clue being Lorraine’s change of hair color. ↩