Top Ten Movie Moments That Encapsulate How And Why I Love Music
here’s something about being a music fan that is almost irrational (or, as Cameron Crowe’s sage-like character Sapphire says to the down-hearted Russel Hammond in Almost Famous, “to love some silly piece of music so much it hurts”), at least it certainly seems irrational to an outsider. But, then again, what is rational about the fact that, 20 years after hearing it, “Walking On Sunshine” still makes me cack myself with happy laughter? It is—as many would protest—‘just a song’!
Trying to explain to people just why or how I love music is like trying to explain Pythagoras’ Theorem when you stopped taking maths classes in Year 8, or trying to justify why you would send one of your children to execution because you couldn’t save them both—nigh on impossible, in other words. It’s not something I can control, really, just an unfortunate affliction that keeps me whistling guitar solos because I can’t sing them and jumping on the dance floor if I hear “Ace Of Spades” (it’s a hair trigger, really).
So, happily for me, in the face of endless whined cries of “whyyyy?” from non-believers and agnostics, I’ve assembled a series of movie moments that I can slip into the VCR/DVD when I’m at a loss to explain myself. They’re not necessarily movies about music—although some are, unquestionably—but they are certainly moments that I feel an affinity to, moments that in some way help to illustrate what it is (for me) to love music so much. So sit back, and let the experts do the explaining for me.
Withnail & I
“All Along The Watchtower” isn’t even ‘in’ the film as such (it’s on the soundtrack, making it almost ineligible for this Top Ten), but when Marwood flips his sunnies down—just after the wrecking ball K.Os the house next door—and drives off, damned if he’s not the coolest thing ever committed to celluloid. My friends and family cringe (sometimes) when I wind down the car windows and pump out “The Immigrant Song”/”Oklahoma!”/”Be Faithful”, but Marwood knows why—you want everyone else on the road to know how Goddamn cool you are because of the song you love so much you have to blast the left-hand lane with it!
Actually, carrying on from before, there’s not much that could be considered cool about broadcasting “Oklahoma!” to the world from your car (unless you’re into all that reverse ironic un-cool cool jive). But when Jamie’s team is driving after the massive tornado and one van is singing along to “Oklahoma!” I realised that I wasn’t the only one out there who realises the value of hollerin’ a good show tune now and then.
That moment where Pete Venkman is supposed to be helping investigate Dana’s apartment and collect “samples” from baby Oscar, but instead he just picks up her cello and plays some stupid bass riff over and over again. You just know it’s the only thing Venkman’s ever learnt on the “guitar” otherwise he’d be able to keep it up for longer. I respond to this because—apart from the hilarious look on Bill Murray’s face and the demented demise of the three-second cello solo—it doesn’t matter how many times I pick up a guitar, nor how many songs I’ve actually learnt or would like to learn, I always start playing “Blackbird” by The Beatles—it’s still the only song I can play the whole way through. I love that.
Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey
Yes, yes, I know I’ve mentioned the end credits Wyld Stallyns moment before—and surely I’m destined to keep on mentioning it—but something deep inside me still believes that rock‘n’roll can save the world. I get all teary eyed whenever “God Gave Rock And Roll To You II” comes on, so when people ask me why I love rock‘n’roll so much, I just direct them to these three-minutes or so of cinematic bliss.
That Thing You Do!
The scene where “That Thing You Do” is played on local radio for the first time and all the Wonders (and Faye, too) hear it individually and all end up at Guy’s father’s shop, dancing around. I especially like the moment where Faye has her “Walkman” earphones in and suddenly starts running and jumping when she realises what song is playing. I’ve never been in a successful band, nor had my song come on the radio, but I know what Faye feels like. One time, I was coming out of Parliament train station and Quad City DJs’ “Come On Ride It (The Train)” came on my Walkman radio, and I ran up the stairs and jumped out into Bourke Street. I knew what Faye felt like—though I can’t say the same thing for the onlookers who must have been wondering what I was on.
You Can’t Take It With You
I love the moment in Frank Capra’s darling film where Essie’s learning to dance Swan Lake and Mr. Kolenkhov orders Ed to play “The Hungarian Dance” and yells, “I feel so good, life is running around inside of me like a squirrel!” while Donald and Reba jitterbug in the kitchen, Jake the crow flies around the room, Penny’s painting Mr. DePinna—and then the Kirby family turn up at the door. Whenever Mum comes home and I’ve got music on full blast, Video Hits is on the TV, Atti is drumming in his room, the dog’s barking and the kettle’s boiling and then she complains about never coming home to a nice, quiet, tidy house, I always remind her about this scene. To me, this mental, musical moment (in one of my favourite films) depicts everything I hold dear about music and family—and how the two always go together, at least for me.
There are so many moments in this film that I respond to (especially the “Walking On Sunshine” bit), but the ones that stand out for me are more to do with what I feel like when I don’t like music. Namely, “holy shi-at. What the fuck is that?” from Barry upon hearing Belle & Sebastian, and “Is that Peter Fucking Frampton?” from an agitated Rob. I can’t explain why I don’t like some songs or bands (well, actually, if you give me a pen and paper and five or so minutes, I usually can), but apart from anything else, it’s a very visceral, base reaction. Don’t believe me? Check your nose in the mirror, put on Jet’s “Rollover DJ”, and then check your nose in the mirror again.
Again, this film is an embarrassment of riches if you’re looking for moments that revolve around music, but there’s one that stands out particularly for me. Lester Bangs is on the phone to William Miller, with The Raspberries’ “Go All The Way” spinning on the turntable—then halfway through the song, he rips the record from under the needle and replaces it with The Seeds’ “Mr. Farmer”. Ask anyone who’s been to a party with me where I’ve ended up holding court from the stereo, I almost never let a song play the whole way through. I guess it’s probably because one good song gives you the idea of another, even better song, and you just want to one up yourself. Who knows? Lester did, evidently.
Truly, Madly, Deeply
When Nina ends up playing “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” on the piano with a dead Jamie beside her. Who knows why certain songs become “our” song? When I was dating my first ever boyfriend, we were in HMV one day and Edwyn Starr’s “War” came on the stereo system. He turned to me and exclaimed, “Clem! They’re playing our song!” From that day on, “War” was our song. There’ve been more since then, rarely falling within the usual bookends of Love Songs & Dedications. I never asked or cared why they were “our” song and I’ll bet Nina and Jamie would’ve had a hard time explaining Frankie Valli away to their friends.
Pretty In Pink
The bit where all of a sudden Ducky comes leaping into Ione’s store and starts dancing and miming to Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness”. I guess this doesn’t really explain anything, actually, but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve zoomed around record shops/supermarkets/clothing stores singing and dancing because a song I like is playing. Just ask my boyfriend, whose usual reaction is, “shoosh, Clem”. But maybe if I show him this to show him that I’m not the only one…
By: Clem Bastow
Published on: 2004-06-25