Every once in a while the perfect song will come on during the perfect scene of a movie. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it's magical, kind of like a solar eclipse. From that point on, whenever you hear that song you'll think of the movie, and whenever you think of that movie the song will play in your head.
In most cases, both the song and movie would be just as iconic on their own, but when put together, they create something bigger than we could possibly imagine (a la Ambrose and Byong Sun from Kicking and Screaming). For example, while Booker T. & The MG's "Green Onions" is a keyboard classic that was already well-established before The Sandlot, its presence in the movie gave it new life (if you don't believe me look for the "The Sandlot brought me here" comments on YouTube).
To clarify things, these songs do not include original songs/scores (sorry Hans Zimmer and John Williams), but rather songs that were in existence before the movie. We each chose five of our favorite movie scene/song combo.
Kanye West, "Can't Tell Me Nothin'" - The Hangover
I’m not one to solemnly lament on the passing of time, but damn, The Hangover came out eight years ago.
It still speaks to me the same as it did when I was a freshman in high school. I recently realized that I was the real life version of poor Stu, crushed under the weight of a heartless ice queen of a girlfriend before bravely telling her she was a terrible person down to her core. My exit was a bit less cinematic, but I like to think I really laid it down like Dr. Faggot.
Personal parallels aside, Hangover had a fantastic soundtrack, ranging from Usher to Phil Collins. The obvious gem though, was Kanye’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”. If you have been keeping up to date on Lampin’, and I detest you if you haven’t, then you know that this is my sixth favorite Kanye song.
Between you and I, this song may have never cracked the list had it not been for the boys cruising in the ‘65 Mercedes 220SE with a head full of steam towards Vegas. And the fact that it drops right after the iconic if not now a bit tiresome “reh-tard” joke from Allen makes it all the more enjoyable.
The song queues up a nice little desert montage, ending with the gang checking into Caesar’s. The feeling you get during the song clip is incredible. Looking back after the movie is finished, one realizes that all the laughter at stolen tigers, found babies, and Asian micro-penises was mightily boosted by this song setting the scene. In my most humble amateur opinion, they should have rolled the opening credits at “laaaa la (YEEEA) la la, wait til I get my money right” because that’s where the true story begins.
Cat Stevens, "Peace Train" - Remember the Titans
First of all, what a soundtrack in RtT. I was considering a few songs from the movie for this list, but this one was far and away the most appropriate and meaningful. Standing alone, the song is good, but not extremely memorable or classic compared to some of the other tracks we have listed. But what a hell of a scene this was.
If you haven’t seen the movie, it follows a de-segregated high school football team in Virginia in the early 70’s amidst riots and gaping inequalities between blacks and whites. In this scene, we see Julius visit Gerry (sorry, that’s actually how you spell his name) Bertier in a glaringly white neighborhood. A cop rolls up on Julius, at which point Julius figuratively and/or literally pisses himself, thinking that he is in for a beating or at least a reprimanding, only to receive the officer’s compliments on the other night’s win.
At a point in history of such racial violence and unrest, it was so refreshing to see a normal human interaction in tune to the overtly hippie Cat Stevens track. Julius goes on to hug Gerry’s ex-racist mother, who once forbade her son from seeing Julius. The song serves as a beautiful reminder that there is nothing that really separating us all as people and that we must board the Peace Train if we are to progress as a society.
John Farnham, "You're the Voice" - Hot Rod
Despite the fact that John Farnham may not be a household name pop-rock artist of the 80’s, this song is a perfect fit. Allow me to set the scene. The big day. The bike jump. Protagonist Rod's stepfather Frank is dying. Rod walks the street alone towards the defining moment of his life. Longtime friends join his side in stride. A large following develops behind them á la Rocky. The mob turns into a racially diverse choir. A feeling of oneness and inspiration is ripe in the air. Chaos ensues. A window is broken. The SWAT team arrives. A car is flipped in a matter of seconds. A man is maliciously thrown out of his wheelchair.
All the while, we are listening to a corny, melodramatic, overemphasized 1986 failure of a hit song. Pure genius. And yes, I’m that guy that is always trying to convince people that Hot Rod is actually a great movie.
Ben E. King, "Stand By Me" - Stand By Me
If you ever want to know what it feels like to be a 12 year old-boy, look no further than this ‘86 classic directed by Rob Reiner, adapted from Stephen King’s novella, The Body.
There are some songs that just poke at a pressure point on your soul, whether you want them to or not. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know when in the movie the song plays (editor's note: an orchestra-version of the song plays throughout the movie, and the actual version plays during the final credits). I would venture to guess it’s somewhere towards the end, but I don’t have the emotional strength to watch the movie at this time.
On the surface, we here at Lampin' are a couple of happy-go-lucky jokesters, but beneath our rugged, masculine exteriors lies a more sensitive side. Sure, I could have gone the easy route and chose “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile, but sometimes, one must ponder true friendship and its often fleeting nature. To me, this song represents the memories I’ve made with friends over the years who may or may not still be in my life. “Stand by Me” as a movie and song are a comforting reminder that we will always have those memories to cherish and teach us life lessons.
The Dropkick Murphys, "Shipping Up to Boston" - The Departed
Makes me proud to be Irish. Sure I’m only ⅛, but when this song comes on, I’m Brian Scalabrine in a kilt doing a jig atop a bar playing the bagpipes while drinking a pint of Guinness. A bit too stereotypical, sure, but that was the best way to illustrate how this song makes me feel.
Let’s just take a second to appreciate what a lord Martin Scorsese is and his ability to perfectly mesh an acute mood in his films with timeless songs (“Gimme Shelter” in Goodfellas, “Mrs. Robinson” in Wolf of Wall Street). Also, this is one of the greatest casted movies ever. Nicholson, DiCaprio Matt Damon, AND Marky Mark Wahlberg?? (editor's note: Marky Mark is overrated.)
Quality of the movie aside, this song is badass. It makes me think for a second that being an overweight, freckled Irishmen who wears a cab driver hat would be something to be immensely proud of. While I proclaim to despise Boston sports fans in general, I will admit there’s a certain element of grittiness they possess. This song is Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS between the Yankees and Red Sox, it’s Tom Brady taking over a game in the fourth quarter, only to childishly complain on the sideline moments after. When placed at the beginning of an epic and fast-paced Boston mob film, this song is perfect in setting the stage for one of the greatest last-minute plot twists of all time.
Dr. Dre, "Still D.R.E." - Training Day
In terms of setting the tone for a film, this scene is unparalleled. No matter what came next it was automatically going to be epic. To this day, I am torn to whether I hate or love Alonzo, and every time I'm on the verge of hating him I think of this scene and once again become unsure of myself.
I graduated college seven months ago and since then I have been dreaming of getting my own office simply to utter the phrase "you in the office baby," every single time someone walked in. I would also have a voice-activated speaker that would play the "Still D.R.E." instrumental upon my utterance of the phrase. Would it get me fired? Probably. Will I have my own office in the foreseeable future? Probably not.
The Pixies, "Where Is My Mind" - Fight Club
I hope I wasn't alone in Googling "song from Fight Club" immediately after seeing this scene for the first time. However you want to interpret the ending, there is no doubt the "Where Is My Mind" is the perfect song for it.
The epic guitar riff paired with the buildings collapsing is almost hypnotizing. While it may be corny for movies to have songs that perfectly describe the scene (see the Music Supervisors subhead from this Suicide Squad writeup from The Ringer), "Where Is My Mind" is an elegant, not-so-literal choice that begs the question, 'where is Edward Norton's mind?'
Derek & The Dominos, "Layla (Piano Exit)" - Goodfellas
One of the best scenes from one of the greatest films ever made. I don't think I can stress how much I love Goodfellas. One way Goodfellas is a cut above the rest is that it's not only great at a movie level but on a soundtrack level as well. The '50s doo-wop mixed with the classic rock is one of the most iconic collections of songs ever used in a movie and is why it is ranked No. 15 on Rolling Stone's25 Greatest Soundtracks of All Time.
The piano coda to "Layla" is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written and it contrasts the first half of the song perfectly. Ray Liotta's voice over the blissful piano and guitar is so calming. Everyone says they'd want Morgan Freeman to narrate their lives but I wouldn't mind having Liotta as my personal narrator. "You're gonna like this guy, he's a good fella." I'd do unspeakable things for Liotta to say that about me.
Booker T. & The MG's, "Green Onions" - The Sandlot
The Sandlot is another movie with a retro soundtrack that matches its retro setting. There are plenty of songs to choose from here, whether it's The Drifters' "There Goes My Baby" and "This Magic Moment" or even "Tequila" by the Champs. However, "Green Onions" takes the cake simply because it's the most memorable.
While a lot of it has to do with the actual scene, the music accentuates the kids' classic shit-talking highlighted by Phillips' "we play on a real diamond Porter" and of course Ham's classic "you play ball like a girl" haymaker.
I never knew the actual name of the song as a kid. All I knew was that it sounded kind of like ZZ Top's "La Grange" but less rock and roll-ish. That all changed when I was playing GTA San Andreas and it came on mid-police chase. From that day on "Green Onions" became a part of my heart.
The Coasters, "Down In Mexico" - Death Proof
While our inaugural post ranked Death Proof dead last among Tarantino flicks, this is up there with some of the most unforgettable Tarantino scenes. Arlene's lap dance oozes sex appeal and The Coasters' soulful voices in the background are all for the better.
While there are probably better songs used in other Tarantino movies (Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction both have stellar soundtracks) this particular scene paired with this particular song trump them all.