In my observation and based on no data whatsoever, I’d say 75% of people don’t end up making a living doing what they originally envisioned as younger people. My major in college was Journalism & Mass Communications. I always wanted to either write or somehow be involved in television production (off camera). I did end up doing some freelance music writing in the ’90s for The Philadelphia Weekly, No Depression and a few other publications, but then my focus went more toward music itself. And here I am now, a VP-level E-commerce & Digital person. Makes total sense, right? Right.
But one job that I’ve always dreamt about through the years, regardless of what my profession was at the time, was that of a Music Supervisor. That’s a fancy title that basically means “the guy who picks music for large film or TV productions.”
Music normally plays a background role in films and TV and helps set a mood for the scene. A horror movie or a thriller will have a certain intensity, a deeper aura. A romantic comedy might have a lighter bed of music behind it. But I’m not really talking about background music (although a Music Supervisor does handle that). I’m talking about the use of popular songs in film, when it takes the lead to help tell the story. Used well, it can take what I’ve always thought of as a weak or overplayed song and turn it into a song I love, because it becomes tied to a memorable scene from a great movie. How? Because it stamps a visual into my head and I “see” and hear that song differently forever. Or maybe I’m just easily influenced.
And I’m not talking about the iconic ones – the “Layla” scene in GoodFellas, when The Doors “The End” plays during “Apocalypse Now” or “The Sound of Silence” for “The Graduate. Those are too easy. Let me give you a couple of examples of the ones I think about:
Lately, it seems Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” is the song that is getting some kind of re-awakening. While laid up with COVID this week, I watched the entirety of HBO’s excellent “Euphoria” and their use of this song was really well-executed. I’ve never been over-the-moon about the song, but now that I have this image burned into my brain, I’m suddenly really enjoying it more than I ever thought I would.
The 1999 movie “The Virgin Suicides” is a movie that has stuck with me since I saw it. It’s wonderfully shot, a little trippy, odd, and their use of Heart’s “Magic Man” when introducing the character of Trip Fontaine transformed the song for me. I never really liked it until I saw it tied to this scene in this movie. Now I have it on certain playlists and enjoy the song very much, movie or not.
Lots of people’s minds also go right to Quentin Tarantino, whose use of music in his films is pretty superb. Major hat tip to THAT Music Supervisor, whoever it is. The one everyone thinks of is Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” which is the song used for the memorable John Travolta/Uma Thurman dance scene. But the song I’ve come to love is The Statler’s Brothers “Flowers on the Wall” in this scene.
Anyway, there’s so many more to choose from, but these pop into my mind right now. The power of video and storytelling really does have a way of turning songs I’m indifferent to into songs I love. I’d love to hear about some songs that you’ve come to appreciate after you seen them in a film or tv show.