To celebrate the series premiere of 'Boardwalk Empire' in North America (Sept. 19 on HBO), helmed by Martin Scorsese, we take a fond look back at the iconic director's best music sequences. Not from his documentaries ('No Direction Home: Bob Dylan'), concert films ('The Last Waltz'), music videos (Michael Jackson's 'Bad') or features with original scores ('Taxi Driver'), mind you: We're talking about his mind-blowingly cool soundtrack sequences -- the jukebox moments, if you will, by someone who would certainly make a fine rock critic if he ever grows tired of this whole moviemaking thing.
'Be My Baby,' the Ronettes
'Mean Streets' wasn't his first film ('Boxcar Bertha' and 'Who's That Knocking at My Door' came out before it), but in retrospect it certainly feels like Scorsese's arrival as a filmmaker, in that his style, talent and enthusiasm seem totally confident. And as an arrival, we're hard-pressed to think of a better entrance than this opener, as Harvey Keitel lays his head on his bed to the opening shotgun drumbeat of the Ronettes' 'Be My Baby' (produced by Phil Spector in 1963) accompanying the home video footage of Keitel in Scorsese's native Little Italy in Manhattan.
'Like a Rolling Stone (Live),' Bob Dylan and the Band
'Life Lessons,' from 'New York Stories' (1989)
Scorsese's contribution to 'New York Stories' (which compiles shorts by himself, Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola) stands out in a number of ways, not least of which being how its short run time is packed to the brim with tunes, including Procol Harum's 'A Whiter Shade of Pale,' Cream's 'Politician' and Ray Charles' 'Night Time Is the Right Time.' We're partial to Dylan and the Band's energetic live 1974 take of 'Like a Rolling Stone' as Nick Nolte's gravel-voiced SoHo painter spitefully creates his latest work.
'After Hours,' penned by then-26-year-old Columbia University student Joseph Minion, has pencil pusher Griffin Dunne following a crush, Rosanna Arquette, whom he met in a coffeeshop. As Dunne heads down to her neighborhood, one of his many misadventures is propelled by this flamenco number. And if you've ever used taken an insane cab ride in NYC, it's re-created rather well here.
'Rubber Biscuit,' the Chips
'Mean Streets' (1973)
Yes, the trick used here where it looks as if the camera is strapped to Harvey Keitel's body was utilized in John Frankenheimer's 'Seconds' six years earlier. But this scene, set to the goofy 1956 doo-wop novelty song by New York teens the Chips, feels much more vibrant and loose, as Harvey Keitel stumbles drunkenly through a party and eventually passes out.
'Then He Kissed Me,' the Crystals
The mother of all tracking shots, Scorsese's three-minutes-plus single take brings us through the backrooms of Rat Pack haunt the Copacabana -- and past doormen, a couple making out and the bustling kitchen -- as Henry and Karen (Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco) embark on their first proper date in 'Goodfellas.' Expertly orchestrated by any means, to be sure, but when set to this Phil Spector-produced 1963 hit from the Crystals, this film scene reaches an intoxicating high, equal party romance and cool.
Biopics and period dramas are all well and good, but apparently we weren't alone in craving another gritty crime flick from Scorsese ('The Departed' nabbed the Oscar for Best Picture as well as Best Director, Scorsese's first). With another crop of classic rockers (and a new setting in Boston), we get to sit back and watch the Stones, the Beach Boys and Badfinger set to violent yet undeniably cool scenes like this one featuring this 1968 one-hit wonder, where Leonardo DiCaprio goes off on a pair of thugs. That, frankly, will never get old.
'Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo,' Orchestra of Bologna Municop Thetra
'Raging Bull' (1980)
It's the only classical selection on this list, but it's one that's so beautiful we had to include it. Another impressive tracking shot, as the music swells while De Niro heads through the roaring crowd and into the ring, Scorsese makes a nice contrast between the gorgeous song and the unbridled anger of De Niro's Jake LaMotta.
'Jump Into the Fire,' Harry Nilsson
It's a day filled with snorting coke, dropping off guns, eying a possible Fed helicopter and, of course, making an Italian family dinner. Ray Liotta's gangster Henry Hill is losing it, and Nilsson's out-of-left-field 1971 druggy rock stomper provides a perfect backdrop. Bonus points for how the sequence teases the Who's 'Magic Bus' and then ends with the midsection of the Rolling Stones' 'Monkey Man.'
This is the scene that inspired too many youngsters to count to pick up their cameras and enroll in film school. The slo-motion, the camera zooming in on Keitel along the bar, the drenched-in-red lighting, the Stones' cocky, urban 1968 number ... Imitated? Countless times. Duplicated? Only by Scorsese himself.