Over the last 40-plus years scores of filmmakers have used rock tunes to deliver undercurrents in their films, but no one has ever done this as masterfully as Martin Scorsese, the cinema’s ultimate rock-music maestro. No, this is not an original observation.
But here’s a semi-original one: What makes Scorsese’s rock-scoring so memorable is that once you watch a Scorsese passage that’s been perfectly blended with a well-known track (like that Goodfellas montage of Jimmy Conway murders underlaid with Eric Clapton‘s “Layla” or Harry Nilsson‘s “Jump Into The Fire” augmenting that classic cocaine-frenzy scene with Ray Liotta running around), the song always acquires an extra dimension of some kind — it becomes a stronger song for the association. As in forever.
Example #1: I’d always enjoyed Jimmy Castor‘s “Hey Leroy, Your Mama’s Calling You,” but it acquired a mythic element when Scorsese used it in that cranked-up Stratton Oakmont scene in The Wolf of Wall Street. It retains that association to this day.
Example #2: That Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore scene in which Scorsese takes us from a Gone With The Wind-ish yesteryear sequence with young Alice singing that Alice Faye song (“You’ll Never Know”) to Socorro, New Mexico circa 1974, and this is achieved with the playing of Mott The Hoople‘s “All The Way to Memphis.” It was this scene that sold me on Mott The Hoople — this plus “All The Young Dudes,” I mean.
Example #3, #4, #5 and “#6: The “Mean Streets” quartet — the “Be My Baby” opening credits, the Rolling Stones’ “Tell Me” scene in which Harvey Keitel enters the bar and says hello to everyone, the scene in which Robert DeNiro enters the same bar to the sounds of “Jumpin Jack Flash” and the “Please Mr, Postman” fight scene in that basement-level pool hall.
Example #7: The Mickey & Sylvia “Love Is Strange” moment in Casino when Robert De Niro decides that he’s gotta have Sharon Stone‘s hellcat hustler.
Big question: What non-Scorsese films have delivered phenomenal rock-tune scorings? List your top two or three.