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- Posted by Jason Anderson
If Quentin Tarantino's movie career can be encapsulated in a single blast of music, it's the twang-laden rumble of Dick Dale's 'Miserlou.' Energizing the opening credits of 'Pulp Fiction,' it's a hard, fast piece of retro cool set in an eminently modern (and post-modern) context. Plus, it's exciting as hell. Few other filmmakers have been so renowned for their ability to find just the right piece of music to set a mood, accent a moment or send a scene into overdrive. Let's take a chronological gander at Tarantino's greatest hits, from 'Reservoir Dogs' to 'Inglourious Basterds.'
And at the end of the list, check out the premiere of one of the songs from 'Basterds': Sam Shelton singing 'The Man With the Big Sombrero,' plus an exclusive interview with Tarantino himself on how the song came to be.
1. Stealers Wheel, 'Stuck in the Middle With You' ('Reservoir Dogs')
The soundtrack for this bloody heist pic is dominated by selections from fictional oldies radio station K-Billy's Super Sounds of the '70s, with comedian Steven Wright serving as DJ. The sole smash by Gerry Rafferty's band offers slyly comedic commentary as Mr. Blonde shimmies his way toward the cop whose own hearing will soon be impaired by the sudden removal of his ear. What could be worse than being stuck with Michael Madsen's razor-wielding psycho? See the Stealers Wheel video >>
2. Chuck Berry, 'You Never Can Tell,' ('Pulp Fiction')
This infectious boogie-woogie from the legendary rocker scores an indelible dance number that is itself chock full of references to similar scenes. The framing, camera movements and Uma Thurman's Anna Karina-style hairdo act as an homage to Godard's '60s pics 'Vivre Sa Vie' and 'Bande a Part.' It's also impossible not to think of John Travolta's performance as a 'Saturday Night Fever' tribute. How appropriate that his fancy footwork here would restore Travolta's long-lost luster.
3. Urge Overkill, 'Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon' ('Pulp Fiction')
Tarantino was hardly the only rapacious ironist at work in the '90s -- Chicago trio Urge Overkill recorded this melodramatic cover of Neil Diamond's 1967 hit two years before Tarantino used it as Mia's overdose soundtrack. That the obsolete piece of stereo equipment Mia plays it on is not a turntable but an ancient reel-to-reel machine adds another Tarantinian twist.
4. The Delfonics, '(Didn't I) Blow Your Mind This Time' ('Jackie Brown')
Though Tarantino's least popular film upon release, his low-key adaptation of Elmore Leonard's 'Rum Punch' has proven to be one of his best loved, in part because of its impeccable '70s R&B soundtrack. Tarantino chose most of the music while writing the script and the sweet Philly Soul vibe feels embedded in every frame. Of course, Tarantino saves his greatest love song for Jackie and Robbie, two weary souls deserving of the comforts offered by the Delfonics' pillow-soft slow jam. See the Delfonics live >>
5. The 126.96.36.199's, 'Woo Hoo' ('Kill Bill Vol. 1')
An all-female Japanese garage band with a love of American surf rock is something Tarantino would have invented if it didn't already exist. Founded in 1986, the 188.8.131.52's were plenty seasoned by the time they portrayed the house band in the Japanese izakaya where the Bride (Uma Thurman) comes to exact vengeance on her Asian adversaries. They played three songs -- including an Ikettes cover and this instantly memorable sing-along -- and probably regretted going barefoot once the blood started spewing.
6. Quincy Jones, 'Theme from Ironside' ('Kill Bill' Vols. 1 and 2)
A "sting" is a piece of musical shorthand directors and composers use to emphasize a character's presence or create a quick rise in tension. For the Bride to truly kick ass, she needed one. Though Wu-Tang Clan's RZA wrote much of 'Kill Bill''s sprawling soundtrack, the squelchy sting accompanying the Bride's biggest moments was recycled from '60s cop show 'Ironside.'
7. Ennio Morricone, 'L'Arena' ('Kill Bill Vol. 2')
Since Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns form a big part of 'Kill Bill''s DNA, it was only natural for Tarantino to make use of their composer Morricone throughout his two-parter. The scene when the Bride busts out of her coffin is the most dramatic evidence of Tarantino's jones for vintage Morricone (in this case, from 1968 western 'The Mercenary'). Though he hasn't written new music for Tarantino's films, the 80-year-old composer is scoring Brian De Palma's 'Untouchables' prequel.
8. The Coasters, 'Down in Mexico' ('Death Proof')
This song wasn't featured in the film when screened as the 'Grindhouse' double feature with Robert Rodriguez's 'Planet Terror.' Since both were released with phony "missing reels," it wasn't until 'Death Proof' hit DVD that audiences got to see Vanessa Ferlito give a raunchy lap dance to Kurt Russell's villain while the Coasters' lyrics added narration to her gyration. Tarantino rescues another punchy R&B classic from undeserved obscurity, but most strip club DJs still stick with ZZ Top (or so we hear). The following video is intended for mature audiences.
9. David Bowie's 'Putting Out Fire With Gasoline (Theme from 'Cat People')' ('Inglourious Basterds')
In Tarantino's WWII thriller, he again pilfers earlier film scores, including the works of Morricone, Lalo Schifrin ('Mission: Impossible') and Elmer Bernstein ('The Magnificent Seven'). But the movie's most thrilling musical moment is a montage set to another borrowed song, 'Putting Out Fire With Gasoline.' Recorded by Bowie and Giorgio Moroder for the 1982 horror remake, their Anglo-German collaboration is perfect for 'Inglourious Basterds'' cosmopolitan nature -- and Bowie's intimations of fiery doom nicely set up the film's incendiary finale. Watch 'Cat People' trailer >>
10. Tarantino makes an inglourious appearance as Elvis on 'Golden Girls'
This actually counts as Tarantino un-coolest musical moment. Look for his familiar face in the middle of the back row of Elvis impersonators in a 'Golden Girls' episode from 1988. Originally included on Presley's 'Blue Hawaii' album, 'The Hawaiian Wedding Song' has survived this travesty and continues to bring joy and happiness to married folk everywhere, including Sophia Petrillo. See Tarantino as Elvis >>
And last, but not least, in this exclusive interview clip, Tarantino gives a glimpse into the process of selecting 'The Man With the Big Sombrero' for 'Inglourious Basterds.' Plus, a clip from the film, featuring the 'Sombrero' tune.