Ever get one of those days when you just want to consume? Sometimes it’s food, and sometimes, for me, it’s music. Well today is one of those days, and in the spirit of January I’ve opted for the latter carb-free option.
It all started with my new Christmas box set obsession: The Sopranos. I know I know, I’m about 10 years late to the party, but WHAT A SHOW. And the use of music is superb.
Ranging from the mainstream to the obscure, the juxtaposition of sound and visuals is both inventive and effective. In any given episode you could hear a mixture of Bruce Springsteen (who’s E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt plays a major part in the show), Frank Sinatra, Mazzy Star, Shania Twain, and Giacomo Puccini.
So whilst this blog post is not exactly of-the-moment, for me it’s a perfect example of how music should be used in a TV series. And I’ve spent the entire day (and most of this month) listening to that music.
Each episode starts with the down-and-dirty bluesy theme tune ‘Woke Up This Morning’ (Chosen One Mix) by English band Alabama 3. With its gravelly vocals and cathartic gospel chorus, it perfectly prepares you for the nitty-gritty drama ahead.
Series creator David Chase is largely credited with selecting the music, explaining to Vanity Fair in 2003 how the episodes were usually shot before choosing the songs, although occasionally scenes were matched especially to pre-selected tracks. Whether it’s the Kinks’ ‘Living on a Thin Line’ playing whilst a soon-to-be-murdered stripper dances, or Otis Redding singing ‘My Lover’s Prayer’ whilst Adriana sits at Christopher’s bedside, there’s a perfect song for every moment. But the best is definitely saved till last.
Nick Lowe’s poignant ‘The Beast In Me’ closes the very first episode, helping his version to become as recognised as Johnny Cash’s. And ending on a high note, the last ever song to be played on The Sopranos is Journey’s classic ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. This exposure helped the song to become the biggest-ever catalogue track on digital platforms in 2008, with sales exceeding 2 million. Not even Tony Soprano could argue with that figure.
My top 10 Sopranos playlist:
- ‘Woke Up This Morning’ (Chosen One Mix) – Alabama 3
- ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ – Bob Dylan
- ‘Goin’ Down Slow’ – Howlin’ Wolf
- ‘I’m A Man’ – Bo Diddley
- ‘Frank Sinatra’ – Cake
- ‘Look on Down From the Bridge’ – Mazzy Star
- ‘The Beast In Me’ – Nick Lowe
- ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ – The Flamingos
- ‘It Was A Very Good Year’ – Frank Sinatra
- ‘Core ‘ngrato’ – Dominic Chianese version